Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

Archbishop Tutu had better find a new religion.

Gee — Archbishop Desmond Tutu has risen a couple of points in my estimation. He’s come out as a supporter of equality for gay people, saying he wouldn’t worship a homophobic god.

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” the retired archbishop said.

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” he said, condemning the use of religious justification for anti-gay prejudice.

Now for the bad news. What Tutu doesn’t seem to realise is that, according to the Bible, the god he worships is in fact terribly and deeply homophobic, in both the Old Testament and the New.

The Skeptics’ Annotated Bible has a longer version.

You know what happens when I mention this to Christians? I tell them about the Old Testament, and they say, “That’s just the Old Testament.” Then I tell them about the New Testament, and they say, “That’s just Paul.” Motherfucker, it’s all just Paul. There’s not a lot they can’t accommodate if they want to — and I’m glad they want to! I’m glad Christians are ignoring the bullshit in their Bible — but when you’ve thrown Jehovah and Paul under the bus, what’s left?

So I’m glad Tutu feels strongly about this, and he’s in a position to do some good on this issue. But his stand is at variance with the Bible, no matter how he tries to spin it.

Many modern Christians are trying to give God a makeover. They point out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. But this is misguided. Jesus would have been a 1st century rabbi. There’s no indication that he would have disagreed with the Torah, which (again) demands death for gay people.

Bottom line: If you’re Christian, you worship a homophobic god. By all means, be equality-minded. That’s just being a normal, good person. But if you try to claim a religious justification for your stand, you’re stretching it farther than the Bible will allow.

Here’s an idea for my equality-minded Christian friends: Since you’re getting your view from your own morality, and not the Bible, why not just skip the middleman in all other areas? Toss the Bible, and rely on your own good human morality, just like you do on loads of other issues.


  1. It might be good to understand how the Old Testament law was actually administered before saying that all of these death penalty items were "demanded." There is a death penalty for cursing your father or mother as well as the others in the long list. But there is no record of it ever being carried out. Because the OT system has no prisons, a severe last resort penalty hangs over the offending party like our probation system does today. "Satisfaction" being paid and directed to the victim was the preferred end result with a good citizen coming out the other end of the justice system and the severe penalties being avoided. –RM

  2. "He says you should be killed, but he doesn't really mean it" is not really redeeming.

    If you doubt that the death penalty was carried out in the Levitical system, recall the story of the man killed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath, helpfully retold here:

    • There are, of course, examples of death penalties being carried out, but the full sentence was not usually carried out, even as a five year sentence from our judges is usually turned into 3 years probation in our modern system. Our legal system comes from English common law which is close to the Biblical system. That is as opposed to Roman Civil law being the basis of other legal systems.

      Another example of using an extreme penalty to lead to a lesser punishment is General George Washington and his very careful use of extreme measures against soldiers, who had mutinied and were about to go to Philadelphia and overthrow congress. The ringleader was shot but the rest were "reprieved" at the last minute.

      I'll leave the example of cursing father or mother in the law but never carried out as far as we know as evidence of this practice of using severe measures as incentive to follow through on the preferred punishment. The victim is consulted as well in their system and gets all reparations, no government fines. In this case, no mother or father, as victims, would press for the death penalty for their child cursing them, but it remains a strong object lesson for respecting parents.

      As parents, we do it all the time. Grounded for a week gets reduced under good behavior to a day, or working in the garden for two hours, etc., etc., etc.

      So, I would see someone like Nero, who is guilty of far more than sodomy, getting severe punishment, rather than the boy next door struggling with homosexuality and definitely not a bad guy.

    • Interestingly, we have ring side seats to world events where the justice system gets messed up because capital punishment has been abandoned completely. As a new round of peace talks revs up, Israel has long ago renounced the death penalty along with many countries in Europe where most of their citizens come from.

      So, they collect terrorists guilty of murder in their jails. Then, the Arabs kidnap a couple of Israeli soldiers and force a trade for hundreds of their compatriots in jail so they can refill the ranks of the terrorists for the next round of attacks against Israeli civilians.

      With no jails, the OT system of justice must have the appropriate enforcement of death penalty laws in order for the whole system to work and not collapse into chaos. So, you are right, Daniel, that there must be some enforcement of the severe penalties under their dungeon-less system in order for the system of justice to work.

    • If you think I'm a supporter of capital punishment, you've misread me.

      I think it's ineffective, especially in crucifixion form.

    • We all hate crucifixion, of course.

      Here is a news article where over 1000 Palestinians were traded for one Israeli. Many of the Palestinians were serving "life" for murder 1.

      Ineffective to have capital punishment on murder 1, especially if you have no jails? I don't think so. This is the absurdity end of the scale in this example.
      "However, our correspondent adds, Israel has paid a high price for Sgt Shalit's freedom. Many of the Palestinians being released were serving life for killing Israelis with bombs and bullets. Mr Netanyahu wrote a letter, released by his office, to bereaved Israeli families telling them: 'I understand the difficulty in accepting that the vile people who committed the heinous crimes against your loved ones will not pay the full price they deserve.'"

      And then they will kill again, be rounded up to prison and wait until another Sargent Shalit is grabbed and on and on.

  3. Most modern bible readers have recognised that "something was lost in translation" on those verses. Gay-as-we-know-it didn't exist back then. "Gay" is the bible translator's best effort to define pederasty – the common practice of older men taking on adolescent boys in a type of “mentoring” relationship. A sexual relationship was an expected and normal part of the arrangement (not in place of but additional to women). When the adolescent became older, it was assumed he would enter into an arrangement with a younger male and the cycle would continue. Despite it being an abusive sexual relationship, it was a socially accepted expression of sexuality in Greek culture. Paul was condemning it for being abusive, not for being male/male (thus the mysterious absence of lesbianism).

    • That's interesting, especially the part about lesbians — I always just thought everyone was cool about lesbians.

      But two things: 1) I can accept that Greek-gay was not 100% the same as our-gay (e.g. no Grindr), but how do you know there was no gay-as-we-know-it? Not a single guy was into dudes?

      2) Paul does specifically call out lesbians.

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