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Bible a Product of its Time, Culture

March 20, 2015

by Crystal Silva-McCormick
This article was originally published on October 19, 2014 by The El Paso Times
“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”
This devastating passage comes from the Christian New Testament. This passage, like others from the Bible, has been used to justify slavery and other egregious actions.
But, these passages stand contra to an ethic of love that most Christians feel Jesus taught and embodied. The fact is that the Bible is a product of its time and culture and some of its content does not always convey an ethic of love.
Time, culture and context are crucial when interpreting biblical texts and not all Christians will agree on how to interpret these texts.
So, for example, some might assume that Jesus never mentioned being gay or lesbian because he was simpatico with all that the Hebrew Bible said, while others might interpret his silence on the issue as evidence that it was not important to him.
Also, some Christians might focus on Matthew 25 or Mark 12:29 in understanding what lies at the core of the Christian life. These two passages tell their readers that caring for the “least of these” and that love of God and neighbor are the most important things to God and to Jesus, not who someone falls in love with and/or who they long to marry.
So, for Christians who use passages like these as a lens for understanding the rest of the Bible, supporting LGTQI persons is a given – a necessity, even.
For the duration of its history, Christianity has done its share to harm and malign others, especially gays and lesbians – all in the name of faithfulness to God and the Bible. Yet, we know that being gay or lesbian is not a choice, and that telling someone that who they are as an LGBTQI person is inherently wrong and sinful leads to self-destructive feelings and behavior, including suicide.
So, Christians should not imagine that Jesus would condemn our brothers and sisters from the LGBTQI community, or even tell them that who they are is wrong or sinful. The time for Christians to follow Jesus’ lead in extending love and acceptance is long overdue.
Also, those who have suggested that the biblical example of marriage has always been between a man and a woman have erred; they should go back and read about the great patriarchs of the Bible who often had multiple wives and concubines, something they would surely oppose.
Additionally, a previous writer suggested that acceptance of gays and lesbians would result in a collapse of moral order; yet there is no proof whatsoever that lack of moral order has even a remote connection to gay or lesbian relationships or marriage, so the point is moot.
Finally, a previous writer also said, “… the Bible does not call for homosexuals to be mistreated.” I assume that this writer is familiar with Leviticus 20:13, a verse that says, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable?”
If so, the writer should recall that the last part of the verse which says that two men who have had sexual relations must be put to death.
Apparently, this was reasonable for the time and culture for which the Levitical laws were written, but is certainly not reasonable for us now, nor is slavery.
The Bible, even with its treasures, carries warts and foibles. It must be read with caution, careful thought, and a lens of love.
Published with the author’s permission.