The Bible Strikes Again
Since President Obama’s public announcement of his support for same-sex marriage last week, the response from the right has shown us yet again that the Bible continues to drag our society down. In several stories on radio and television I’ve heard people angrily denouncing the President’s stance saying, “It’s wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong!”
That’s it? That’s all you got? “It’s wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong.” Is it really that hard to think with a just a little more nuance? And how can we even begin to have a conversation with a mentality like that?
From time to time I have encountered conciliatory progressives who urge patience and moderation when dealing with the fragile psyches of the Bible believers who wish to impose their worldview on everybody else. After all, they will say, religion has a valuable role to play. As an inherently conservative institution, religion acts as a necessary brake or a corrective on those who would change society too quickly. I’ve heard that argument more than a few times. Change is good but it has to be gradual.
Why does all social change have to be gradual? I don’t get it. Who would possibly get hurt if same-sex marriage were suddenly legalized all over the country tomorrow?
The influence of the Bible was a huge reason slavery lasted until the 1860’s in this country. (Actually slavery persisted under the form of sharecropping well into the 1960s.) Why did the Land of the Free tolerate human bondage for so long? Partly because the Bible says slavery is OK. I’d be willing to bet the slaves wished that social change had been a little less gradual in their case.
On issue after issue–slavery, women’s rights, reproductive rights, Prohibition–the legacy of the Bible in American public life has largely been a story of oppression and social regression. The role of the Bible in American life is analogous to the role of the Koran in the Arab world. Any difference between the two situations is merely a difference of degree, not a difference of kind.
(Actually, I’m not saying that the Bible is totally worthless. In a post-Christian, secular society there are actually still good reasons to read the Bible, which I’ll get to in another post. )