Matthew 7:1

January 26, 2010

A recent article in the L.A. Times reconfirms that millions of dollars from churches helped pass Proposition 8, the constitutional ban on gay marriage in California. That well-churched pockets were so deep over this issue is now part of the battle. 

The Mormon and Catholic churches were the most eager to fund the intolerance, but there is evidence that Baptists and Evangelicals gave generously and also voted lopsidedly for their version of what marriage should be defined as.

Can there be true separation between the laws of the land and religious institutions if churches are working so vehemently to pass laws that derive their inspiration from scripture? Is the pious population now using California’s flawed proposition system to cherry-pick bible verses and turn them into law?

Apparently they are. Here in California a coffer full of cash, some scary campaign ads and slim majority can buy you a change in the constitution. That’s right, a 50.0001% majority can rewrite the California Constitution .

Last time I looked, constitutions were designed to guarantee minority rights and due process despite changing political climates – but that’s another story.

What’s interesting here in this Prop 8 battle is that the Bible has become the standard of law – not the greater good, not the Constitution – the Christian Bible.

Alarm bells should be ringing in everybody’s ears, including Christians themselves, because someday, some other Christians may want a line or two from the Good Book enforced that doesn’t quite jibe with their own views.

Gaze below into the future my children. For once we start pointing at bible verses to justify our laws, all hell will surely break loose.

At the risk of getting too entangled in the massive thicket of insane rules throughout the bible, let’s take a look at a few wacky biblical ideas – just from Matthew — that could be the next well-funded intrusion into your personal liberties.

Proposition D

Divorce is now illegal in all 50 states where there is a Christian majority.

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Matthew 19:6

Any devout Catholic who’s tried to get an annulment (they don’t like the “D” word) knows how the Church frowns upon divorce. If the Church (and God) thinks divorce is wrong, how can society possibly justify legal sanction for this awful practice?  Just because lots of people get divorced doesn’t make it right. What God hath frowned upon, let no man legalize.

Proposition $

No citizen’s income shall exceed 110% of any other citizen’s income.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:24

If you think Obama is a socialist, get a load of this! In order to please God and gain a seat near him in heaven, we must ensure that no one becomes too rich – at least compared to his fellow citizen. Therefore, Proposition $ will institute a tax and rebate system which will redistribute all the wealth in this country until everyone makes about the same amount of money.

Proposition 0

No one will be allowed to defend himself when sued.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

Matthew 5:40

Hereafter, there will be no need for defense attorneys. This civil court admonition in the Bible follows on the heels of the “turn the other cheek” passage which covers criminal court issues.

Of course, these examples from the New Testament are just the tip of the bad-law iceberg. A casual perusal of the Old Testament will reveal mountains of Draconian rules that most enlightened people would find ridiculous.

So why don’t we find some other sources for inspiration for creating laws? As far as the law is concerned, marriage is simply a contract between two people. Why not let those two people decide if they want to enter into the contract or not?

After all…

Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

Matthew 22:21

Comments:

#1 Kathy Orlinsky on Tuesday January 26, 2010 at 10:09am

Proposition $?  No problem, says Conservapedia as they rewrite the bible to suit themselves.

#2 Paul Robinson (Guest) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 at 11:40am

Your interpretations of biblical verse might make you feel like you’re all witty and astute, but are quite simply inaccurate - no theologian alive would interpret Matthew 19:24 or 5:40 the way you did.

The simple truth is, all laws are based on what a society collectively believes are appropriate based on their own value system.

Handguns are outlawed except in very special cases in the UK. Why? Because that’s what British people want it. Who is to say if that is “better” or “worse” than US laws on the same issue? Would you argue that the minorities in Britain who want handguns are being denied? Bear in mind the reason the law is as it is in the UK is because of a man walking into a school and shooting all the kids he could find.

Now, let’s talk about gay marriage in California. I’m of the view nobody is hurt by marriage, so there should be no legal obstacle on whether it is constituted by people of the same gender or not. However many people feel quite differently about the issue, and have democratically asserted their right to have same-sex marriage blocked in CA.

You might argue it is “the Church” who is behind all this and such groups should have no voice in forming laws, but it was in effect a masonic lodge (and freemasonry requires a belief in a God in a very protestant sense), who created the United States of America.

Because you disagree with this outcome, you seek the flaws in the process and have decided to blame the actors’ personal beliefs, but that’s fuzzy thinking. You should instead look to why the voters - atheist and otherwise - decided to deny a minority its rights.

#3 James Underdown (Guest) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 at 12:17pm

Paul,

Christian believers disagree about what many parts of the bible say and mean regardless of what theologians think. Indeed, there are many Christians who have no problem with gay marriage (divorce, contraception, etc) despite what the bible says. So even silly interpretations like those above can be taken seriously by many people.

What I’m really saying is that the U.S. Constitution should trump both religious beliefs and fickle majorities when it comes to being treated equally under the law.

You can’t say that a law-abiding group of citizens is not entitled to a set of rights (in this case marriage) simply because of their sexual orientation—which many would argue is God-given!

#4 Paul Robinson (Guest) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 at 10:28am

So, to be clear: you’re arguing that a document created out of deeply-held Puritan and protestant beliefs should trump those of other beliefs because it’s called “The US Constitution”?

Go and look at exactly WHY the constitution is written the way it is, based on the prior 200 years interaction between colonial America and the English monarchy, specifically the Catholic-leaning and hierarchical-Anglican-loving Stuarts. It as much a religious assertion as it is a political one.

I would suggest (meekly, as I am not a US citizen), the Constitution requires regular reassessment and editing as values change over time - for example, it is not all that long ago that it referred to the life of a black person as being lesser than that of a white person. Or at least, not that long in the European sense of history.

The point is laws are passed on the will of the people and at any one time reflect the values of a citizenship, and yes, whilst minorities must be protected, you must understand that the values people vote for or seek protection of will vary based on personal, subjective choice. These values change over time (and race is a good example in the US of such an issue where values have changed considerably over many decades).

Every generation can look back at history and condemn some part of it, whilst at the same time thinking of itself as innocent. I suspect the bans on gay marriage will one day be seen as this generation’s major failure much as we might consider McCarthyism as a previous generation’s.

However equally possible is that support for gay marriage may be considered this generation’s “faux pas” by future generations. We don’t know.

Either way, religion has always been found in the passing of law, and yet it has both built the USA and destroyed empires. It is not an enemy of the law and of common sense - it has always informed both at some level.

For the record, I would propose a constitution based on humanist atheism to be as faith-based as any other you could come up with, just a different kind of faith.

#5 James Underdown (Guest) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 at 1:51pm

The 18th Century Puritans would have found little to celebrate about in the U.S. Constitution. It is a profoundly secular document which gives power to the people and not to a monarchy or a church.

Indeed, the only mentions of religion in the Constitution are to prohibit government from establishing an official state religion and to prohibit religious-based oaths of office. The words God, Jesus, or Christ never appear in the document.

If the Constitution is, as you say, a religious assertion, where’s the religion in it?

You’re right about the Constitution being somewhat dynamic. Changes have been made over time that reflect more modern values. But it takes a great deal to change the Constitution.

Two thirds of the House and Senate (or of the state legislatures) must accept the proposal of an amendment, and 3/4 of the states must ratify it.

Amending California’s Constitution only requires a simple majority of what amounts to a referendum. It shouldn’t be that easy to shoot down rights that are arguable covered in the U.S. Constitution (i.e. the 1st and 14th Amendments, for example.)

#6 Paul Robinson (Guest) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 at 4:04pm

18th century Puritans were quite keen to NOT give power to a church, they are theologically “descended” from Lutherians: people who upheld exactly the view of monarchy and church as you suggest the constitution supports. In essence, they believed the relationship with God should not be “owned” by anybody other than the individual concerned.

I think you might enjoy reading into this area somewhat, because you’ll find it was central to the formation of the US Constitution (nearly all signatories were freemasons, which requires an individual to assert a very protestant/puritan view that “a God exists” without further definition), which in turn, despite not mentioning religious artefacts is based on quite Puritan values.

You might not see “God” or “Jesus” in the document itself, but that’s because Puritan values would not have allowed it! Much of the core though, is very close to a perfect Lutherian state *including* the separation of “church” and state.

#7 asanta on Thursday January 28, 2010 at 1:49am

I can’t wait until the adherents of the WBC become 50.001% of California’s population….(shudder). It’s bad enough that it is legal for them to show up for a visit to harass and intimidate school children as they plan to do Thurs and Fri afternoon.

#8 JohnnyCrash on Sunday January 31, 2010 at 2:33am

The old founding Fathers were religious rebuttal… Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, not Protestants or “puritans.”  The Enlightenment which spawned the authors of the U.S. Constitution came about by the fragmenting of the Catholic church’s powers (with help by Henry VII and others), the Protestant Reformation, and an overall diminision of religious thought.  Scientific thought was only then able to take the driver’s seat as the bible became available in the common languages (just being able to read it should’ve been enough to kill any belief in such foolishness), and the Church’s loss of control as many sects and factions splintered.  Historically, this trajectory was slightly reversed by spiritual revivals called the Great Awakening, and even worse, by the Second Awakening.  Without the Second Great Awakening though, we might not have been able to end slavery, but that is beside the point.

The fact remains that, whatever the Founding Fathers individual faiths (or lack thereof), the Constitution was meant to protect all people (minorities and majorities), pull religion out of government and government out of religion (afterall, look at Henry VII, Elizabeth, and all of that State Church mess they recently witnessed).

For further proof one only needs to crack a book.  Jefferson’s writing on church and state, whether in regards to the federal government or the Virginia state government or his personal letters, is plainly clear that he considered religion a “superstition.”  He likewise considered the bible a book of myths and rewrote it without all of the “magic” nonsense (come on, miracles ARE magic and fiction), culling only the good morality and ignoring the bad morality it contained.  Madison’s thoughts in the Federalist papers should be enough to establish the Fathers attempts to not only separate powers, but separate the influence of business and religion in government.  The common stance was that religion was personal and individual and had no business in government, which was for all people.

In the end, it matters little how these examples in Matthew are “interpreted.”  I am thoroughly tired of the interpretation arguments.  Most verses require no interpreting.  Leviticus contains laws prohibiting tattoos, wearing clothing made of two different kinds of fabric, and all sorts of absurdities - imagine using the bible to determine U.S. legislation!  Deuteronomy’s laws were supposedly written by god’s own finger and handed to Moses on Sinai and they contain laws on how to divorce your wife for no good reason.  Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 claimed Deuteronomy was only written by a man (Moses) not god, and he claimed it only proscribed divorce to satisfy “hard-hearted Jews” (the bible is rife with antisemitism).  He further used the fairy tales of Genesis’ Adam and Eve as proof against divorce.  If he really existed and really believed Genesis, he was truly a man of his primitive times.  Numbers 5 describes how to give your wife a magic concoction that would determine if she cheated on you or not, a side effect was abortion.  Also in Numbers, the Midianites were slaughtered, even the male children, but their little girls were kept as spoils of war - pick your evil: genocide or pedophilia.  Speaking of, Joshua describes a massive genocide campaign where it routinely claims men, defenseless women, and innocent children were killed.  Among the victims were giants (namely King Og as well as Anakim and Nephilim peoples).  While we’re on fairy tales, let’s not forget Eden’s talking snake, Number’s/Balaam’s talking donkey, Leviticus’ sacrificing goats for Azazel, the lord of goat-demons, or se’irim.  As far as how the bible sets laws for women, in every divorce law, men only are allowed to choose divorce.  They are allowed to buy slave wives and have multiple wives, women can only have one husband.  In Genesis, Judah has sex with who he thought was a prostitute (it was actually his daughter-in-law), later someone claims his daughter-in-law wasa prostitute, so Judah was about to burn her alive.  This law was also proscribed in later books.  Thou shalt not tolerate a witch to live likewise meant a burning.  Leviticus prohibits sex with your wife during her menstrual cycle, the penalty is death for both husband and wife.  Failing to observe the sabbath was also punishable by death.  Leviticus 12 claims that having a girl baby makes the mother more unclean than having a boy.  Hansen’s disease (leprosy) is treated as a magical curse, rather than a skin disease spread by bacteria.  God should know that, considering he supposedly created atoms.  Instead, he has you kill a bird in a jar over running water, smear it on a piece of wood, another live bird, and the leper.

Let’s not forget Jesus thrilling at the concept of sending people to an everlasting fire where they will “weep and gnash their teeth” forever.

If you don’t like Matthew, we can pick any bible book and it gets violent, racist, sexist, or plain silly (even discounting the giants and talking animals).  Why should anyone allow this disgusting book to dictate their morals?  Why should anyone use it to dictate OTHER’S morals?  Worse yet, why does anyone tolerate those who believe this brutal comic book to inflict it upon every citizen in their state by Constitutional referendum?  If big business spent the same money the churches have on Prop8 for something that steals other’s rights, you would be taking a different side and understand where we’re coming from.

If you don’t like the very secular document called the Constitution, you need not claim religion is “hidden within it” because a few of the signers believed in some sort of god.  Much of the drafting was done by Madison, and while he was officially an Episcopalian, you might benefit from reading his statements on the separation of church and state.  After 10 minutes of reading his words, you will see how disgusted he would be at lobbyists and Prop8’s method of becoming legislation.

#9 JohnnyCrash on Sunday January 31, 2010 at 3:24am

One final note Paul.  Madison, who was responsible for most of the Constitution said many things against religion, but this sums things up nicely:

“What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in NO instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.” (As President, “A Memorial and Remonstrance”, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785).

Here’s a few things that Jefferson said:

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness…

... proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it.” (Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1789)

Creating laws from one’s “religious opinions” and forcing them on others, is improper behavior for elected officials.  Jefferson compares it to bribery and said it betrays the public’s confidence.

If Muslims pushed a law into your State’s Constitution that forced your daughters to wear burqas, how would you feel?  How would you feel if a law reinstating the sabbath and its death penalty for failure to observe it was passed?  Religion has no business in legislature, it is a personal article for the individual, not a public article to be pressed upon all citizens.  What harm does gay marriage pose to you?  What liberties does it take from you?  To quote Jefferson, does it “pick your pocket or break your leg?”  Do you just disagree with homosexuality on a moral level?  I feel it is immoral to circumcize young Jewish boys incapable of consent, but that is the business of religious individuals, not legislation.  Morality is not the government’s job.

Anyway, it is interesting and fun to discuss both sides.  I enjoyed Jim’s comparisons from one bible book to how it might possibly be construed into legislation today.  Paul’s historical discussion was interesting as well.  I figured I’d try to add to the discussion with some more scriptures as well as some secular/historical quotes.

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