Science, Sexuality, and Scripture: A Step Toward Compassion

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I was raised in a strict Fundamentalist Baptist home. I struggled free of that world, but I still have friends and family who are deep within it. I find myself increasingly troubled by their obdurate stand on scientific and social issues— the most recent being their rush to weigh in publically on human sexuality.

 

I want to ask them why they dig in their heels on dogma at the cost of compassion, why they refuse to change their minds even when the scientific evidence is well past critical mass. The truth is I already know why.

 

The root of the problem is a faulty view of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, one that defines revelation and inspiration as objects instead of events.

 

For the most part, Evangelicals hold to a view of scripture set forth by Fundamentalism. The original Fundamentalists were Harvard-trained theologians who wrote a series of books, The Fundamentals, as a response to Secularism and Modernism. They boiled the fundamentals down to five tenets, four about Jesus, and one affirming the inerrancy (entirely without errors of any kind) of scripture. I can remember sitting as a youth in church and hearing the preacher say, “If you can find one single error in the Bible, then you can’t trust any of it.”

 

Since that time, Conservative Evangelicals have viewed their scripture as God’s final—and therefor unquestionable—word on matters of not only faith, but also science and history. Paul’s statements about human sexuality in Romans and I Corinthians are not informed by his first-century Jewish perspective on those pagan cultures, but are the very words of God.

 

Biblical literalism led Martin Luther to defend the geocentric model of the universe because, as he saw it, scripture clearly states that god made the sun stand still and not the earth. This same faulty hermeneutics is at the heart of modern conservatives’ refusal to reconsider human sexuality based on findings in psychology, neuroscience, genetics and epigenetics.

 

Recent setbacks abroad notwithstanding, I believe—I hope—that eventually this view of homosexuality will fade into history. Future Christians will look back on it in the same way they themselves look back on Luther’s mistaken cosmology. Good people will no longer have to choose between supposed theological correctness and compassion. They will be free to do what Jesus did—come to the aid of those who are marginalized, discriminated against, harmed.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Then really the BIble is just a fairy tale. It’s all very fashionably relative. Makes it go down easier. All that persecution those apostles went through that Jesus said they would go through in his name. That was all because of the very nice watered down version of the Bible you speak about without all that nasty “absolute truth” in it. Because really Jesus is just a big purple dinosaur that sings, “I love you, you love me we’re a happy family” It’s called relative morality my friend.

    • The persecution of the apostles has nothing to do with what I’m talking about, nor does what you call relative morality, or Jesus singing about love and family (which he actually has a lot more to say about than homosexuality). The way Scripture is interpreted does change as our understanding grows–thanks to science. We know when we read in Scripture that the sun rises, runs its course, and sets, we should not read that literally, as people once did.

      Do you believe the earth is the center of the universe, or hell is at its center? Do you believe mental illness is really demon possession?

  2. I have always questioned inerrancy, the selection of the “official” books of the Bible and the Apostle Paul’s curious position as Jesus co-star, spirit-channeling show-stealer. Why Paul? Why the dude who wasn’t even there, whose letters are cited more than the Gospels, who gets more attention than some of the writers who were there is a mystery up there with all the other great Christian scandals. Man made the bible, and like nearly everything else men touch, they certainly had the power to screw it up. From The Killers to Toad The Wet Spockets, even pop lyricists are certainly not buying such a diversion from Christ’s messaging.

  3. Vic….is it possible to be compassionate towards all humanity while at the same time holding true to moral absolutes. In other words, is it feasible to love those with whom you disagree on a moral premise. I believe that was Jesus life. He did not advocate the tax collector or the prostitutes lifestyle by eating dinner with them or treating them with love and compassion and while Christians don’t always get this right they don’t have to abandon the truth they find in Scripture to show love and compassion do they?

    • Truth is the sticky word there. Is what Paul wrote in a letter to a group of new Christians a couple thousand years ago the inerrant word’s of God (did God say those things into his head, direct his hands)? Christians who believe this find themselves forced to cling to some pretty ridiculous notions (about the age of the earth just for one example) in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.