Saturday, January 29, 2022
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Let’s thank God for separation of church and state

Whose version of Christianity is correct?

Christian denominations and spiritual leaders diverge on key doctrinal issues, ascribing themselves to many different Biblical interpretations.

Yet each different sect often claims that its interpretation is the only “correct” one.

As a Christian, I am disappointed that many of my fellow believers have overlooked the Bible’s central message of love, compassion, forgiveness and humility. Instead, they have become sidetracked with trivial minutiae.

Theological debates often boil down to egotism and control.

To understand any literary work, one must critically examine its context.

Languages and cultures change over time, and meaning is lost with interpretation.

How words are understood varies considerably between languages and cultures, and there is oftentimes not an exact translation from one to another.

Consider how a Shakespeare play reads to modern-day English speakers, and then consider taking a text written centuries before Shakespeare in a non-English language and non-Western culture.

The Bible was written in three different languages—Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic—over a span of several thousand years.

Our understanding of human sexuality and the idea of “traditional marriage” are social constructs of 20th century Western culture.

The verses in Leviticus that many cite as condemnation of homosexuality are actually part of an early Jewish legal code. The same passages also prohibit tattoos, sex during menstruating, declare eating shellfish “an abomination” and advocate stoning disobedient children to death.

The New Testament passages in the Book of Romans thought to condemn homosexuality are more likely a condemnation of temple prostitution. Some religious scholars believe these do not refer to homosexuality at all.

Keep in mind that the Apostle Paul, who wrote the Book of Romans, also justified slavery and said that women should submit to their husbands and not have a leadership role in the church.

Also keep in mind that sexual practices differed considerably in the ancient world. Pedophilia was rampant in ancient Greece and Rome, and married men of high social status oftentimes had sex with men of a lower standing. In the Old Testament, Solomon had 700 official wives and 300 concubines—hardly a traditional marriage.

The Bible has been used to justify everything from slavery, war, segregation, capital punishment and communism to pacifism, equality and free market capitalism.

Those who argue that their Biblical interpretation is the correct one often claim that others are simply reading the Bible wrong.

Trying to reason with them is pointless. They’re egoists who see themselves—not God, the Bible, logic, reason or science—as the source of truth.

The naïve arrogance of some Christians undermines the very teachings of Jesus himself, who butted heads with the religious leaders of his time.

Instead, he befriended fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors and others at the bottom rung of the social ladder.

If Jesus were alive today, would he hold up a “God hates fags” sign, or would he join forces with the It Gets Better Project and reach out to LGBT youth who have been bullied and rejected by their families, peers and religious leaders?

Perhaps the bitterness some members of the LGBT community show toward Christianity stems from years of being marginalized by the Christian establishment.

Instead of finding spiritual guidance, they have encountered hostility and condemnation.

They have been stigmatized and labeled as “sinners” and objects of God’s wrath for seeking the same loving relationship that straight people seek—except they are attracted to members of the same sex.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whose interpretation of the Bible is right (assuming there is a “right” interpretation). For that matter, it doesn’t matter whether or not one is a Christian, any other faith or no faith at all.

Americans can appreciate the separation clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof.”

Same-sex marriage should be treated as a civil rights issue, not a spiritual issue.

nzoschke@unews.com

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