Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Teen Suspended By School For Ripping Out Bible Pages

Just think of all those centuries in Christendom when no one was allowed to do these sorts of things which are found to be a bit shocking today because we all still take religion much, much too seriously. In fact, who would ever rip pages out of a book if they didn't take that book too seriously? Yes, I get symbolism and all that. But it doesn't surprise me that Isaiah Smith, the teen suspended from a Texas high school for tearing pages out of a Bible, is a Christian.

Smith is a gay Christian, and he tore out those Bible pages as a protest against anti-gay bullying to which he had been subjected at the school, and because he doesn't believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality. The pages he tore out, from Leviticus, contain passages which very strongly suggest otherwise.

I am against bullying, period, whether kids are being bullied because of their sexual orientation or their gender or their ethnicity or because of a handicap or because of any damn reason at all, I'm against it, strongly against it, we as a society can't have that sort of thing and still claim to be fully civilized, we have to deal with it. And Smith has guts for standing up to bullying, I admire that very much, and his making a formal public protest against it, as he did, is even better. A kid such as Smith making a protest such is this is not only standing up for himself, he's also standing up for other bullied kids he's never met, and encouraging them to resist bullying as well. That's all very, very good. I admire Isaiah Smith, I salute him, and I stand with him. Good for him. Good, good, good.

Okay. And now for the part where many of you may honestly wonder what my problem is. And vice-versa: some of you who will agree with the following may have been wondering up until now what my problem was. The thing is that Christianity does condemn and persecute homosexuality. Considered over the whole course of its history, Christianity must be considered the single greatest catastrophe for gay people in the history of the world. Yes, that's changing. Today many Christians are openly and passionately pro-gay-rights. And that's good. Very, very good. The question, pressed both by more traditional Christians and also by some atheists such as myself and by some other non-Christian onlookers, is: how Christian is this new gay-friendly attitude? And it is new: out of Christianity's whole 2000-year history, homosexuality has ceased to be condemned by some congregations for 2, 3, sometimes even 4 whole decades. And how has it been done? Exactly the same way Isaiah Smith did it: by tearing out a part of Christianity which had been there from the start and pretending it had never been there. Simple as that. Very inconvenient, if Christians had ever been terrible concerned about consistency, but of course they never have been. If consistency and logic had ever been big parts of religion, both Christians and also Jews would not only oppose homosexuality but also the eating of pork and shellfish and working on the Sabbath, when Christians and Jews can't even agree on which day of the week is the day of rest which most of them don't observe anymore anyway, because, in fact, these religions are fading away, being observed less strictly than they were. Which is a very, very good thing.

Many gay people in the US and other places have found welcoming places in Christian (and Jewish, and Muslim) congregations, where they can be out and be accepted for who they are. And that welcoming is a good thing. I'm not going to try to interfere with the good thing they have going there. It's not as if there's too much human love and understanding in the world just yet. Love and understanding are more important than theology.

But I'm still going to point out all the contradictions and denial and ridiculousness, still going to criticize religion per se. In the appropriate places and at the appropriate times, which will continue to be in many more places much more of the time than many reasonable people will think, and I will continue to hope that as reasonable people we can agree to disagree and both keep a sense of what's most important of all in human life -- such as being fair and decent and kind to each other -- and also keep a commitment to speak openly about what does and doesn't make sense. Because that's important too.

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