A. J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically: Addressing the Bible’s “Gay” Content Head-on
Leviticus says, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (18:22). It also says, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death” (20:13).
In Romans, Paul goes into an extended diatribe about those who worship different gods exhibiting sinful desires that caused them to engage in “sexual impurity,” and thus “abandoned natural relations” with the opposite sex (1:24-27). For these actions, these people “deserve death” (1:32).
How should a Christian follow these words? Or, perhaps a better question is should a Christian follow them?
The Bible has very little to say about homosexuality (it’s found in six primary passages, three of which I quote above)—Jesus never mentions it, unless you make the leap that when he mentions sexual immorality he’s referring specifically to homosexual acts. You would think it were a much bigger deal, given what a massive deal anti-gay people would have you believe through their words and actions. Therefore, I was curious how, or the extent to which Jacobs would touch this topic. He does.
In The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs actually has more to say about what the Bible says about homosexuality than the actual Bible does. I applaud anyone who has no personal stake in an argument but chooses to speak up in favor of those being targeted unfairly. He also covers the topic well.
First, he uses the issue to take a swipe at polygamists. Since the Bible discusses men who have multiple wives, it is only natural that he would seek out people who believe in multiple marriages: it’s right there in the Bible, so it must be endorsed, right? The person he talks to, a Pastor Don, despises the flack polygamists get in modern society. Particularly, he is dismayed that they are jailed “right next to criminals and homosexuals” (138). Apparently, Pastor Don is so far removed from modern society that he doesn’t realize that homosexuals are no longer jailed for being gay, but the point is made. If the Bible says being a polygamist is fine, why isn’t it legal?
Jacobs also, naturally, tackles the viral letter that responds to Dr. Laura’s homophobic rants (202). Famously, this former syndicated personality went on record to say that homosexuality is wrong because the Bible says so. I won’t rehash the fantastic response, but it is worth reading. But Jacobs does reference it effectively in order to point the absurdity of adhering to a sliver of Bible content while ignoring other, more prevalent parts.
Specifically, he explores how often the Bible mentions attending to the fair use of weights (in trade, not the gym) –six (230). He applauds the Bible’s mentioning of fair business practices, but, given that it appears as frequently as homosexuality, shouldn’t people be getting worked up about “improperly calibrated weigh stations” (230)?
He then mentions a subject that gets far more attention, racking up 247 mentions in the Bible: alcohol. To dig deep here, he refers to a conservative Christian’s study, which found that of these 247 mentions, 40 are negative, 145 are positive, and the remaining 62 are neutral. Granted, the endorsements outweigh the warnings, but 16 percent of the content suggests alcohol is a problem. I’ll carry his point even further: why aren’t Bible adherents out protesting at liquor stores, holding signs that advocate against alcohol consumption, as the Bible states. People who drink need more help than gays, simply because there are more of them that need saving.
The point to be made by his handling this content: By using the Bible to selectively target gays and lesbians, people are picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to follow. Given how much they clearly choose to ignore—as his experience demonstrates—you could say (I will say), this makes them hypocrites. If not, they wouldn’t stop at protesting, they would follow the Bible to the letter and kill gays and lesbians for their “transgressions.” Obviously we don’t—although ISIS is doing just that right now in the Middle East—and I would never advocate such an absurd and horrendous, intolerant response. We’re evolved, right? We don’t punish people the way people in the Bible did? Why stop the evolution of thought there?