You can be like God: Bishop Robinson tells us what the Scriptures really mean
By Alisa Craddock
Here's a pop quiz for you. What was the original sin? Disobedience to God, of course, but what precisely is the nature of the offense? Let that question roll around in your mind. We'll come back to it later.
I recently listened to a speech on C-Span by Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first "openly gay" bishop, speaking to students of Nova University in Florida about the issue of religion and homosexuality (what else would he be talking about?), the civil rights of gay and lesbian people, and, most particularly, his view as a clergyman concerning the Scriptures as they relate to the issue of homosexuality. Never before have I heard such a tangled morass of deceptions from someone representing himself as a man of God. I found as I listened again and again to his speech that it was so laden with misinformation and outright falsehood that I became bogged down and found it difficult to choose which deceptions to focus on.
It would perhaps be best to preface my analysis of his speech by first quoting homosexual activist Dennis Altman, who wrote The Homosexualization of America, (Beacon Press, 1983) because no discussion of "gay rights" can be approached without recognizing the strategic advantage that has already been achieved by the "gay rights" movement in any debate involving homosexual issues. Altman states:
"The greatest single victory of the gay movement over the past decade has been to shift the debate from behavior to identity, thus forcing opponents into a position where they can be seen as attacking the civil rights of homosexual citizens." (my emphasis.)
By inference, from a Christian standpoint, in shifting the debate from activities to identity, one cannot "hate the sin" without apparently "hating the sinner", since the sinner has become the sin, and therefore, the gay activists who decry religious or civil "persecution" come off as victims of un-Christian-like bigotry and discrimination, which goes against Christian edict to love thy neighbor as thyself; this forms the foundation of Robinson's argument, indeed all argument against activities or speech intended to suppress the normalization of homosexuality. He stated early on that in his discussions with unchurched homosexual youth, that each of them, nevertheless, were acquainted with the word "abomination", and were "confident that God condemned them for their sexual orientation". In point of fact, this is not what Christianity teaches, at least not Roman Catholicism. It is not a sin to have a same sex attraction. It is only a sin to engage in same sex sexual activity. But if they persuade us that that's who they are, that that's what God made them, then how can He condemn them without being a cruel tyrant? How can we condemn their behavior without being "hateful"? The only conclusion, therefore, is that the mean ol' religious conservatives have misinterpreted the scriptures (for their own self-serving purposes) in order to rationalize their bigotry by claiming it is God's will. You see how it works? And so Bishop Robinson claims that 5000 years of Judeo-Christian teaching by those hand picked by God to bring his Law to his people, 5000 years of traditional understanding regarding the prohibitions against homosexual acts, is wrong, and he, Bishop Gene Robinson, and his fellow GLBT legion, have the true, enlightened interpretation, and stand ready to teach the rest of us the true meaning of Christian love. No self-serving agenda there…
There is still the problem, however, of the rather clear Scriptural prohibitions, and how to deal with them. Bishop Robinson framed his discussion on several questions, two of which I will enumerate here:
Robinson began by elaborating why he believed that the traditional understanding of Scripture is in need of "reinterpretation". He remarked about some passages in Evangelical translations of Scripture (he didn't specify which) that he claimed had relatively recently translated certain terms as "homosexuality" for words which were in their original language rather vague or ambiguous in their meaning (the word "homosexuality" did not exist at the time the Scriptures were written), and that he claimed referred to sexual relations with youths and temple prostitutes, [not, we're supposed to infer, adult, consensual same sex relations between committed, loving partners]. He then described several things of what through modern eyes seemed trivial but which the Scriptures nevertheless described as abominations, in order to lessen the impact and stigma of the word "abomination".
A point should be made here that, while the myriad demands of the Mosaic law (what we might think of as the minutiae of prohibitions and practices such as those of purification and worship, prohibitions against certain foods, the many details and requirements regarding sacrifice and worship to God) were lifted by Christ (replaced by his sacrifice on the cross and the institution of the Eucharist which is celebrated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass), the moral law remained, and it was this moral law he referred to when he said, "You are my friends if you keep my commands." In addition, St. Paul reminds us that homosexual acts between either men or women was evil in the eyes of God, and were a punishment for sin (the consequence of a civilization that had turned to idolatry and abandoned God's law—a pattern readily evident today). Here is what St. Paul wrote in Romans, Chapter 1 concerning immoral behavior:
"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with menand receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them." Rom 1:24-32.
Though Christianity seeks their repentance, not their death, for God desires that all should be saved, there is nothing ambiguous about these words of St. Paul. Funny, Bishop Robinson didn't mention this passage in his discussion of what the Bible says about homosexuality.
But we acknowledge God, they say. But do they really? Or do they simply invent the God they want. That, too, is idolatry. Robinson may make the argument that our understanding of homosexuality (supposedly through science) has nullified this instruction of St. Paul, but one has only to witness the events at the Folsom Street Fair to know that nothing has changed in the homosexual world since Biblical times, that this is an accurate description of the homosexual culture and lifestyle, the result of a culture which has abandoned worship of God and chosen instead to worship self. (And not only homosexual culture, but the entire youth culture is being sucked into self-destructive, shameful behavior.) Though individual homosexuals may strive to live their lives with some semblance of stability and civility, will try to find a way to live their lives as normally as possible, and we can feel compassion and even respect for those who do, this (so-called charity event) was an authentic expression of gay culture, just as all gay events reflect such boasting expression of sexual abominations and defiance of God's law and right moral order. It is hatred of virtue and hatred of God. It was the same in Sodom, in Rome during the time of St. Paul, and now in this country today. Can you not recognize the same deviance and defiance in modern gay affirming behavior?
In addition to the verse from Romans, homosexuals are warned in 1 Cor 6:9 that those who engage in homosexual relations will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Notice it said those who practice sodomy, not those with a same sex attraction. Also in 1 Tim 9-11, he writes: Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
So we have a clear prohibition against immoral behavior, including sodomy, in both the Old Testament and the New, and a clear indication that St. Paul was given the apostolic authority to speak the Gospel in Christ's name. There is nothing ambiguous about this. St. Paul was not speaking to theologians, he was speaking to the ordinary faithful, and the understanding of those teachings has been handed down through the apostolic succession since the founding of the Church. But Bishop Robinson has openly rejected 2000 years of apostolic interpretation and maintains he has the more enlightened interpretation. The fact that his interpretation not only embraces homosexuality, but nullifies in doing so the entire tapestry of Christian teaching regarding marriage and family, the husband/father as spiritual head of his family, of all sexual morality, and all submission to apostolic authority in spiritual and moral matters, makes it very destructive indeed. To put it succinctly, it erases the entire Gospel, because it turns the idea of good and evil, moral and immoral, on its head.
So what exactly did Bishop Robinson say, or rather, what did he do? Because what he said is not as important as what he did by saying it.
First, of course, he carefully laid the groundwork for a morally relativistic viewpoint by telling us his background, and then by saying that if it were a lesbian up there speaking, that her point of view would be wholly authoritative, though different from his own. So the Scriptures are to be interpreted according to ones own viewpoint based on one's own personal experiences, rendering each persons unique interpretation equally valid. Of course, this is nothing new. It's the "dictatorship of relativism" Pope Benedict spoke about, a dictatorship because such thinking is actually being imposed on us (but that's a future column). But note that Robinson tacitly invites each of us to question God. He implies there is no objective truth, no inviolable law. No authority except the authority of your own experience.
He incited his listeners to resentment of the Church, of the Scriptures, of God himself, and here's where it smacks of déjà vu: he suggests that the prohibition from Leviticus 18 (You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination) and 20 (If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them) was sexism—it was considered most degrading to be treated "like a woman". Here he appeals to women in the tradition of radical feminism, cultivating their resentment, and allying himself and his cause with theirs by creating in them a false sense of persecution, and stirring up division between God and woman. But that isn't what the scripture says. It says as with a woman, in other words, carnally. Further, Bishop Robinson was so busy stirring up resentment of God's apparent sexism, that he ignored the part about "Thou Shalt Not". More precisely, after having laid the groundwork for reinterpreting scripture in light of the culture and science of the time it was written, he was trying to persuade us that the idea of being treated "like a woman" was a culturally inspired bigotry against womanhood, thereby giving us permission to disregard it as no longer relevant in our modern age. But, of course, that means ignoring the words of St. Paul in Romans above. Does his technique of persuasion sound a little familiar? It should.
"Did God say ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?"
The woman answered the serpent, "Of the fruit of all the trees in the garden we may eat; but ‘Of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden,' God said, ‘you shall not eat, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
But the serpent said to the woman, "No, you shall not die; for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Now here's where that moral relativism kicks in:
"Now the woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for the knowledge it would give. She took some and ate it."
And so she defiesa clear prohibition decreed by God because it was more desirable to do as she wished than to obey, especially after the devil implied that God was keeping something from her, behaving unfairly toward her. And her husband followed her lead instead of obeying his Lord, and both were fallen. But it was called the "sin of Adam" (you might consider that a point in your favor, ladies) because he was the son of God, as the scriptures say. He was the real target of Satan, then as now; where Adam failed, Christ, the only begotten Son, has succeeded. And Satan is still trying to get at Him through the women. But God had a plan of his own.
Male and female he created them…A man shall leave his father and mother, and [cling] to his wife, and the two become one flesh.
And he said "Be fruitful and multiply."
Marriage and family are the foundation of Christian society. That is Christian law, but its wisdom is found in the experience of many civilizations that have collapsed under hedonism. Bishop Robinson's appearance at Nova University is a timely one, because Florida has acquired enough signatures to get a Marriage Protection Amendment on the ballot for the 2008 general election, and the battle is going to be a tough one for pro-family forces, because in the last election, Floridians voted for an amendment to require a super majority of 60% for any changes to the constitution of that state. Though many states have approved marriage protection amendments, few have done so with a 60% majority. I expect to hear a great deal of gay propaganda between now and the November.
People are so easily sucked in by a tear jerker story without looking any deeper. They are quick to buy into the idea that if two people are committed to each other, where is the harm in permitting a legal arrangement to allow them to function as a family. They simply cannot see the long range and broad consequences of changing the definition of marriage. Let me illustrate those consequences by quoting directly from the 1972 Gay Rights Platform for action at the state level. The platform sought, among other things:
Repeal of all legislative provisions that restrict the sex or number of persons entering into a marriage unit; and the extension of legal benefits to all persons who cohabit regardless of sex or numbers.
So, are we prepared to allow any kind of and number of groupings to enter into marriage? Are we prepared to see our children taught (beginning in kindergarten) that this is normal and acceptable? Are we prepared to see children placed in adoptive homes comprised of multiple "parents"? We say that we are for adoption instead of abortion. Would you be prepared to give a child up for adoption knowing they may be placed in such a home as one of these? Oh, you don't think it will happen? If you allow the redefinition of marriage for one kind of coupling, other groups of domestic partners of various types will immediately petition for equal treatment and there will be no legal reason to deny them. Further, if you pretend that such couplings (or groupings) are "normal" and "healthy", and protect them from discrimination, then there will be no legal reason to deny them the privilege to adopt children, who automatically become indoctrinated to the gay lifestyle by virtue of constant exposure to it. It does not take much follow through to figure this out, nor to figure out in light of this reasoning that we are being hoodwinked. It is not within the scope of this article to articulate (as I have often done) the consequences to children of destroying the natural family and of plunging us further into hedonism and self-indulgence, but neither can I argue against gay marriage without mentioning that there are consequences that go beyond the needs of homosexual persons.
This is not a civil rights issue. There is no right to redefine marriage and the entire culture for the rest of us, even in a "secular society". Marriage has a specific purpose and rightfully holds a special place in society. The family is the smallest unit of civilization. I don't need to describe the consequences of unwholesome families to anyone. The forces of feminism and homosexuality have been pounding away at the moral foundations of our society for decades, and can be seen in the divorce rates, in promiscuity and unwed pregnancy, in a culture of death, in increased domestic violence and sexual violence, in sexual abuse of children, in the death of authentic charity itself. And the key to all is the assault on Christianity – the Rock that stands in the way of complete destruction of our civilization. Don't take and eat of Bishop Robinson's apple. "Thou shalt not eat of it, lest you die." What part of thou shall not isn't clear? We're dying here, people. There is only one truth. Bishop Robinson doesn't have it.
So back to my original question--what was the original sin? The one that encompassed all the other sins into one? It was moral relativism. You can be like God. You can decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong. The Tempter is still around.
Alisa Craddock is a columnist and activist in the culture war, a convert to Catholicism, and describes herself as a Christian Libertarian. She may be contacted at alisa.craddock at hushmail.com.