Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fags are Beasts?

It’s a never-ending job reminding the “Jesus Hates You” crowd that what the Supreme Court is up to these days is deciding a constitutional question, not enforcing a biblical notion.  They are out in full force in front of the Court steps with their “Jesus Hates Fags” signs.  The Advocate, the gay magazine of record, has a wonderful collection of photos juxtaposing earnest and terribly ordinary looking gay couples standing together in the midst of signs blaring rightwing truth messages.  Satan’s gonna get you!

Some of these photos really capture the circus nature of our culture war for the rights of LGBT people in this land of demons and wackos.  My favorite has to be the one above: a drag queen with rainbows shooting out of her eyes having a conversation with an over-the-hill (read: pot belly) guy in a camouflage jacket and cap with neon-red-orange letters demanding that she “turn or burn.” But the one that caught my eye was a quotation from 2 Peter 2:12 which tells us that “Fags are Beasts.”   Hmm, I says to myself.  Doesn’t sound like the Simon Peter I know.  You know, the guy who insisted on being crucified upside down because he didn’t deserve to be crucified the way Jesus was.  The guy the Catholics call their first pope.  That guy.

So I read his two letters written to “the strangers scattered throughout Pontus (Black Sea coast, NE Anatolia), Galatia (Central Anatolia), Cappadocia (next to Galatia), Asia and Bithynia (NW Anatolia).”   It came as no surprise that the sign carrier seems not to know the conventions for attributing quotations.  Simon, better known as St. Peter, doesn’t say that fags are beasts.  What the sign carrier has done, of course, is read the verse to suit his own purposes.  The verse reads: “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption…”  It's not so much about beasts who put their naughty parts in the wrong places as it is about beastly people who worship the wrong gods. 

To know what Peter is talking about, you have to go back to the beginning of the chapter.  “There were false prophets also among the people,” he writes, “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”  It’s the folk who deny Jesus, he’s talking about.  Non-believers.

The two letters turn out to be really interesting.   Here’s a man writing at a time and in a place where the Hebrew myths are in full bloom.  Noah, whom he identifies as “the eighth man” (who needs, was saved because he was a “preacher of righteousness.”  The rest, of course, aka “the ungodly,” had to endure the flood.  Getting rid of the whole world except for Noah, his Mrs. and his boys, didn't assuage God's anger.  Not long after he went on to turn the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes to make an example of them, this time delivering only Lot (like Mrs. Noah, Mrs. Lot has no moral value of her own and gets a free ride at first until she is stupid enough to get turned into a pillar of salt, as I'm sure you remember.  It’s an all-or-nothing world of total obedience or death.  

Peter goes on to tell us more about these people he’s going to punish.  “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government.  Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.”   Didn't quite understand what it means to “speak evil of dignities” so I checked a modern translation, which gives that verse (2 Peter 2:10) as "But specially those who go after the unclean desires of the flesh, and make sport of authority. Ready to take chances, uncontrolled, they have no fear of saying evil of those in high places."

So that's the crime.  Not just "unclean desires" but resisting authority.  Peter goes on.  “Having eyes full of adultery,” Peter writes of these sinners, “…a heart of covetous practices.”  Adultery?  Fags are beasts whose eyes are “full of adultery?”  Who would have imagined?  You mean the fags got married and cheated on their same-sex spouses?   Hmmm.

Peter finally gets specific about who it is he’s talking about.  “Cursed children,” he calls them, “which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of Unrighteousness.”  Balaam, I understand, was the guy who met the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land and tempted them astray – astray, meaning, of course, to carry on with the local women, the Moabites and the Midianites, and to worship the local gods and eat things sacrificed to them. 

It’s quite a journey getting from the worship of a god other than the god of the Hebrews to same-sex marriage, but I guess one should never underestimate a bible thumper who has his heart and soul in his work.

If this motivates you to haul out the family bible and check my references, take note of some the other interesting stuff that is in this letter Peter wrote to the faithful.  Because I've been reading around in the comparative religion literature and pondering the fact that Islam lacks the impetus for dividing the worlds of politics and religion into two separate camps, this too jumped out at me.  As history of religion scholars like to point out, Jesus was a working class slob who earned his bread as a carpenter and died young, while Mohammad married a wealthy business woman and became a general.  Which helps to explain that while Christ's message is about "render(ing) unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's (Mark 12:17)", Islamists have no such orders, but are commanded to establish a religious-run caliphate on earth instead.  Well, here's Peter saying the same thing in this epistle.  "Submit yourselves," he says (1 Peter 2:13), "to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him..."  He continues, "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward."  "Froward," by the way, is King Jamesian for "pain in the ass."

Hard to justify the American Revolution here, it would seem to me.  Wonder what the Patriots have to say about that.   And not just slaves should obey their masters "with all fear," but women too. 1 Peter 3:1 reads, "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands."  Forget braiding your hair, he tells them, or wearing gold, or gussying up in fancy clothes.  Be plain, meek and of quiet spirit."


And don't tell me the ladies of Cappadocia didn't pick and choose the parts of this letter they wanted to live by and the parts they wanted to attribute to some אַלטער קאַקער (alter Kaker) too old now to appreciate how much fun one can get out of life.  OK, so he was present at the crucifixion.  But really, girls!

But I digress.  I just wanted to make the point that sometimes when you see a Bible verse quoted, it may be a quotation the sign carrier would wish the Almighty had actually said, making it easier to project his fear and loathing of homosexuality onto some poor guy simply trying to get through life with a minimum of pain and discomfort like the rest of us, instead of what he (apparently) actually did say, which is stop whoring after false gods.  I doubt he actually said that either, since if there is an invisible force named Jehovah making the world go round, he/she/it probably doesn't give a fart whether you acknowledge him/her/it as its creator or not.

Judging from the picture, though, I can see why Jehovah might get ticked off having to watch a fat man dancing in a tutu.

But what do I know about these things?

both photos from the Advocate article mentioned above

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