Monday, March 28, 2011

Karen Armstrong and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah

Karen Armstrong, the former Catholic nun and self-proclaimed "freelance monotheist" whose agenda to break down dogma has been praised by Father Thomas Massaro of Boston College, has written that, "We also have a more complex understanding of sexuality than the biblical writers. Yet the Bible has to be read with care. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 condemns homosexual rape and the violation of the sacred rules of hospitality rather than homosexuality per se. It has nothing to say about the open, stable gay relationships that are essentially a feature of modern western society, and did not exist in their current form in the biblical world. Again, the rules against sodomy in Leviticus 18 and 20 are not legislating for ordinary human affairs. Throughout, the authors of Leviticus are chiefly concerned with temple ritual. The practices forbidden in these chapters featured prominently in the idolatrous religions of the near east, which, as we know from the Bible, the people of Israel found extremely alluring: ritual bestiality (as practised in Egypt), child sacrifice, and the cultic use of menstrual blood in sorcery. The verses against sodomy (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13) forbid temple prostitution: in the late seventh century, there had been a house of sacred male prostitutes in God's temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:7) It is this kind of worship, which defiles the land, that concerns Leviticus.

In the same spirit, St Paul's condemnation of the 'unnatural practices' of the Graeco-Roman world springs from a visceral disgust with idolatry, the root cause of all the disorders in Paul's long list (Romans 1:20-31). The Bible is not a holy encyclopedia, giving clear and unequivocal information; nor is it a legal code that can be applied indiscriminately to our very different society. Lifting isolated texts out of their literary and cultural context can only distort its message. Instead, we should look at the underlying principles of biblical religion, and apply these creatively to our own situation." See here.

Ms. Armstrong's argument has been thoroughly refuted.  As this website explains:

"The rejection of homosexual behavior that is found in the Old Testament is well known. In Genesis 19, two angels in disguise visit the city of Sodom and are offered hospitality and shelter by Lot. During the night, the men of Sodom demand that Lot hand over his guests for homosexual intercourse. Lot refuses, and the angels blind the men of Sodom. Lot and his household escape, and the town is destroyed by fire "because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord" (Gen. 19:13).

Throughout history, Jewish and Christian scholars have recognized that one of the chief sins involved in God’s destruction of Sodom was its people’s homosexual behavior. But today, certain homosexual activists promote the idea that the sin of Sodom was merely a lack of hospitality. Although inhospitality is a sin, it is clearly the homosexual behavior of the Sodomites that is singled out for special criticism in the account of their city’s destruction. We must look to Scripture’s own interpretation of the sin of Sodom.

Jude 7 records that Sodom and Gomorrah "acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust." Ezekiel says that Sodom committed "abominable things" (Ezek. 16:50), which could refer to homosexual and heterosexual acts of sin. Lot even offered his two virgin daughters in place of his guests, but the men of Sodom rejected the offer, preferring homosexual sex over heterosexual sex (Gen. 19:8–9). Ezekiel does allude to a lack of hospitality in saying that Sodom "did not aid the poor and needy" (Ezek. 16:49). So homosexual acts and a lack of hospitality both contributed to the destruction of Sodom, with the former being the far greater sin, the "abominable thing" that set off God’s wrath.

But the Sodom incident is not the only time the Old Testament deals with homosexuality. An explicit condemnation is found in the book of Leviticus: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. . . . 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" (Lev. 18:22, 20:13).

Reinterpreting Scripture

To discount this, some homosexual activists have argued that moral imperatives from the Old Testament can be dismissed since there were certain ceremonial requirements at the time—such as not eating pork, or circumcising male babies—that are no longer binding.

While the Old Testament’s ceremonial requirements are no longer binding, its moral requirements are. God may issue different ceremonies for use in different times and cultures, but his moral requirements are eternal and are binding on all cultures.

Confirming this fact is the New Testament’s forceful rejection of homosexual behavior as well. In Romans 1, Paul attributes the homosexual desires of some to a refusal to acknowledge and worship God. He says, "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 men and 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. . . . 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. 1:26–28, 32).

Elsewhere Paul again warns that homosexual behavior is one of the sins that will deprive one of heaven: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9–10, NIV).

All of Scripture teaches the unacceptability of homosexual behavior. But the rejection of this behavior is not an arbitrary prohibition. It, like other moral imperatives, is rooted in natural law—the design that God has built into human nature."

Ms. Armstrong has one thing right.  The Bible does have to be read with care.  This because ignorant and unstable people [and she would certainly fall into this category] wrest (or interpret) the Scriptures unto their own destruction.  Which is why we have a Teaching Magisterium to interpret the Scriptures for us.  Vatican II, in Dei Verbum, No. 10, reminds us that, "..the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether in its written form or in that of Tradition, has been entrusted only to those charged with the Church's living Magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.."

And what does this living Magisterium tell us about homosexual acts?  The Catechism couldn't be more clear: "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.'  They are contrary to the natural law.  They close the sexual act to the gift of life.  They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.  Under no circumstances can they be approved." (2357).

Why would Father Thomas Massaro promote the work of such a person? What do you think?

Related reading here.


Stewart said...

Dr. Jerry Maneker, an anti-Catholic bigot and radical homosexual propagandist, has also engaged in such scriptural revisionism. I know that you and JayG have done a masterful job of refuting this Christianophobe.

For those interested...

ACatholicinClinton said...

More and more individuals, and this includes those who profess to be Christian while engaging in homosexual acts or those who have a friend or relative who are homosexual and want to justify homosexuality, are searching for false teachers such as Maneker or Armstrong who provide them with the lies they want to hear.

2 Timothy 4: 3-5 warns, "For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.."

You are fulfilling your ministry Paul. God bless you for your fidelity and your heroic apologetics.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, verses 18 and 19, Jesus says to Peter [our first Pope], "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Isn't it amazing how the same people who reject papal infallibility as "unreasonable" most often believe themselves to be infallible in religious matters?

Which is more unreasonable or more difficult to believe: that Christ invested Peter and his successors with infallibility or the notion that everyone is infallible?

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