The Mystery of the Sodomite Suppression Act: How the Bible Inspired the Least Popular Proposition Ever!

Editor’s Note: Below is an op-ed I submitted to the local paper. It did not get picked up, and I am getting the impression that your typical mainstream newspaper finds it much safer to steer clear of this topic even when the information would shed light on a news story that many find perplexing and personally hurtful.

350xThe Sodomite Suppression Act initiative has left many political observers perplexed: What could possibly have motivated attorney Matt McLaughlin to propose capital punishment for homosexuality?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly to some, is the Bible.

Many would like to interpret McLaughlin’s initiative as a Swiftian satire and that he was trying to make some ironic point. The more compelling explanation actually comes from Cervantes: McLaughlin, having read a few too many ancient writings, is on a quixotic quest, tilting at windmills that only he sees as monsters.

McLaughlin, by his own account, has been a daily reader of the Bible since first grade. In 2004 he proposed and failed to qualify a ballot initiative that would have required California public schools to provide a King James Bible to every student.

McLaughlin’s latest initiative claims that God commands us to suppress the “monstrous evil” of sodomy or face “our utter destruction.” It takes its inspiration directly from Leviticus 20:13:

“If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death.”

I should explain my own particular interest in obscure Bible verses like this one. Around the time of McLaughlin’s Bibles-in-schools initiative, I started to hear more and more talk from Bible literalists like McLaughlin who sought to compel prayer in public schools. Out of curiosity, I decided to read the Bible cover to cover to learn what was really in it, focusing my attention on the verses that rarely get mentioned by preachers. What I discovered was that there are countless cringe-worthy passages that have conveniently been swept under the rug and that few people know are part of their own religion’s sacred texts.

For example, I discovered that the God of the Bible orders capital punishment for more than just male homosexuality. The Bible explicitly requires the death penalty for the following:

• Witchcraft

• Cursing your parents

• A man who fails to impregnate his widowed sister-in-law

• Gathering sticks on the sabbath

• A man sleeping with his step-mother

• Bestiality

• And at least 20 other less-than-capital offenses

By singling out gays and letting stick gatherers go free, McLaughlin reveals that he is motivated more by his own biases than he is by God’s ancient dictates.

Few Bible aficionados seem to be aware of these wholly unholy Bible passages, but to ignore their existence and their effect on some believers like McLaughlin is a danger.

Bible quotes like Leviticus 20:13 helped inspire Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to famously place partial blame on “the gays and the lesbians” for causing the 9/11 attacks. A few years back, some American fundamentalist Christians supported “kill the gays” legislation in Uganda. The Army of God is an American terrorist group that has promoted Bible-inspired violence against gays. Other Bible passages are complicit in the deaths of dozens of children who die each year from being denied medical treatment because of their parents’ interpretation of scripture. If you need more examples of the damage caused by literal interpretations of Bible verses, plenty of heartbreaking stories can be found at whatstheharm.net/religiousfundamentalism.html.

Unquestionably these fundamentalists do not represent your average believer, but they are on the airwaves and in pulpits spreading their extremist views and influencing eager believers like McLaughlin.

It is crucial to understand the Bible’s key role in inspiring this ghastly initiative. McLaughlin’s Bible literalism should be a warning for anyone attracted to such simplistic answers. Uncritical acceptance of any dogma fosters group-think and a my-way-or-the-highway attitude.

This kind of absolutist outlook played out on a national scale gives us extremists championing the use of the Bible as a legal blueprint for America. Played out on a global scale, it is a poison that has the potential to endanger us all with endless religious wars.

Fortunately, few Bible literalists interpret the Bible quite like McLaughlin does, though many may be surprised to find that the genesis for his horrific initiative can be found in the often overlooked passages of the best-selling book of all-time, the Bible.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

The Fundamentalists’ Science Class: Putting the Moron in Oxymoron

superintendent_chalmers_on_god_by_fiskefyren-d6niqe2Religion-based science classes sound like something you might find in rural Saudi Arabia or Pakistan…or North Carolina, U.S.A.

Public schools in Rowan County, NC have gotten help from Pastor Doug Hefner in teaching elementary school kids that the Earth was created in seven days and that the Bible has predicted scientific breakthoughs.

If only the Bible had included instructions on how to construct a simple microscope or even hinted at a non-geocentric universe! Instead the Bible has given us these scientifically dubious gems:

The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and put in his field, which is smaller than all seeds. —Matthew 13:31

People do set high expectations on their Messiah of choice, but Jesus would be the first to admit that he was a carpenter and was not speaking as an expert in botany.

In this zoology lesson we learn that when goats mate in front of striped tree bark, they have spotted offspring:

Jacob placed the striped branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches, and they bore young that were streaked, or speckled, or spotted. —Genesis 30:37-39

What should you do when you are bitten by a venomous snake? Consult the Bible:

And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he was made well. —Numbers 21:9

Now about those seven days of creation, is anybody else bothered that God created all those sun-dependent plants a day before he made the sun?

The earth brought forth grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with its seed in it, after their kind, and God saw that it was good. There was evening, and there was morning, a third day.

God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He also made the stars. There was evening, and there was morning, a fourth day. —Genesis 1:12-13,16,19

And lastly (though there are plenty more examples I’ll save for another time) here’s one Bible quote that has actually killed people, many of them being defenseless children who receive inadequate medical care from Bible-deluded parents who probably meant well:

And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick.
—James 5:15

Pastor Doug proudly defends his Bible-based science class as being scientifically valid by declaring, “I think this program dates back to the 60s.” Sadly, he is absolutely correct that he is teaching the youth of North Carolina science from the 60s. But not from the 1960s. From the 60s.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

The Preachy Cheerleader Banners We’d LIKE to See

For the last time, Texas: God doesn’t care who wins your high school football games! He does put a little money down on a just few NFL games each Sunday, but that’s it! He’s still beating himself up over all the money he lost betting on Notre Dame in the early ’80s.

Yet some people STILL expect God to give a damn about which team crosses the goal line more often. Recently a group of preachy East Texas cheerleaders have been in court trying to secure their right to display huge banners with Bible quotes expressing the basic theme that “God is on OUR side.” Most of us who graduated from middle school reasoned long ago that the idea of God taking sides in human sporting events is absolutely lu-di-crous! God would typically receive compelling prayer requests for victory from both sides, and would stay neutral. However, if one team prays WAY harder than the other team, or has awesome banners, some of us seem to believe that God might just be swayed.

In an effort to help these cheerleaders make even more awesome banners and find even more compelling Bible quotes, and thereby get God to cheat—I mean intervene—on their behalf, I offer the following suggestions:

So we know God can intimidate his enemies, but sometimes things don’t go your way. That’s when you have to send the Lord a different kind of message:

Other times you may need to send a different message to calm a rowdy crowd:

It turns out that the preachy cheerleaders claim that they take turns picking the Bible verses without any adult interference. If that’s really the case, someday we might just see one of these banners from the more mischievous members of the squad:

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has pointed out in an amicus brief to the court that this case is less about freedom of speech and more about school-sanctioned proselytizing.

“Cheerleading for the school is undeniably a school-sponsored activity and the banners displayed by the cheerleaders take place during a school-sponsored event.” They argue that if the girls had decided to have the players run through a pro-atheism banner, for example, the school would not allow that. If the cheerleaders were to attempt it, they would in all likelihood be run out of the state.

But was Texas judge, and Rick Perry appointee, Steve Thomas able to recognize the logic of the FFRF’s argument? Not in Texas. I’m sure it’s hard separating church and state down there, so I don’t expect any miracles when it comes to separating God/Jesus from Texas high school football.

Just imagine how Jesus, the peasant from Galilee who lived 2,000 years ago, would feel if he heard the news that his teachings were no longer allowed to be condensed to a single sentence with the sole intent of altering the outcome of the big game next Friday when the Kountze Lions take on the East Chambers Buccaneers. There’s only one Bible quote that would apply:

Jesus wept. —John 11:35

That’s the only Bible quote that came close. I searched but was unable to find a quote where Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, ‘What is this foot-ball that you speak of, how come my mom gets a pass named after her and I get nothing, and how come we don’t have actual college football playoffs yet? It’s 2012 people! Seriously, don’t make me come down there!'”

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

Answering Newt’s Prayer for Open Marriage

Newt GingrichProposing to your wife, that you would like to have an open marriage, is a shocking bit of news, according to Newt Gingrich’s second ex-wife. But surprisingly, one place where such concepts are definitely old news is in the Holy Bible.

In the laws of the Old Testament, polygamy is spoken of in very matter-of-fact terms, without any hint of disrepute:

If he take himself another wife… —Exodus 21:10

If a man have two wives… —Deuteronomy 21:15

A candidate who really believed the Bible would tell us that traditional marriage is between one man and one woman…and as many other wives and concubines as the man can attract and afford.

To get a sense of how commonplace polygamy is in the Bible, the following is a list of biblical characters who carried on with more than one woman, and it reads like one of those too-boring-to-read-out-loud genealogies from First Chronicles (seriously, do not try to read 1 Chronicles chapters 1-9 at your next Bible study group!): Abijah, Abraham, Ahab, Ahasuerus, Ashur, Belshazzar, Benhadad, Caleb, David, Eliphaz, Elkanah, Esau, Ezra, Gideon, Jacob, Jehoiachin, Jehoram, Jerahmeel, Joash, Lamech, Machir, Manasseh, Mered, Moses, Nahor, Rehoboam, Saul, Shaharaim, Simeon, Solomon, and Zedekiah.

In the scriptures, polygamy originated rather humbly with Noah’s father, Lamech:

And Lemech took two wives, one named Adah and the other Zillah. —Genesis 4:19

And it culminates in the harem of King Solomon:

Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines, and his wives led him astray. — 1 Kings 11:3

A man with a reputation for wisdom couldn’t forsee any problem living with 1,000 women?

In the New Testament, or as Rev. Lovejoy calls it, “somewhere towards the back” of the Bible, polygamy is definitely downplayed, though it was evidently accepted enough to work its way into one of Jesus’ parables:

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. —Matthew 25:1

Throughout most of the Bible, multiple wives pointed to a king’s increased social status. Perhaps a similar urge affected Gingrich and the most recent batch of America’s polyamorous politicians from both major parties, including John Edwards, John Ensign, Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eliot Spitzer, and David Vitter to name but a few.

Officially, it should be stated, Gingrich has denied calling for an open marriage, but his admission of the affair and his shoot-the-messenger reaction to the story has left some unconvinced of his innocence.

The Bible clearly treats polygamy as an allowable practice, and nowhere is it unequivocally forbidden by God. As the practice became socially unacceptable in the U.S., the religions that wanted to stay in business decided to go along with public sentiment, just like they did with other biblically supported issues like slavery, the killing of witches, and the prohibition of tattoos.

In making his open marriage request, maybe the old Newt was making a point that the newly devout Newt would appreciate: it’s not adultery if we can all just agree to call her a concubine. Sadly for him, even those who interpret the Bible literally are unlikely to follow what the Bible says on this issue.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

Boo! Unto Others

Angry RepublicansWho could have predicted that a rousing chorus of boos would erupt at a Republican Presidential debate at the mere mention of an ethical principle championed by Jesus and, maybe more importantly, Ronald Reagan.

Some in the crowd, having just heard Newt Gingrich’s gung-ho endorsement of killing America’s enemies, were in no mood to embrace Ron Paul’s call for applying the Golden Rule to America’s foreign policy.

To hear a crowd of nominally-Christian conservatives shout down one of the world’s best loved social precepts was like having them jeer at Betty White singing “God Bless America” to a box of puppies.

So as a quick refresher (as some people evidently need), Jesus was a big fan of the Golden Rule. Repeatedly throughout the New Testament you find quotes like this:

Do to others as you would have them do to you. —Luke 6:31

Before you think Jesus was just a pushover, there is this contrasting quote:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword! —Matthew 10:34

Regarding Newt Gingrich’s call to kill your enemies, a different Bible quote comes to mind from the ever-warring book of Joshua. God is so eager to let the Israelites continue the slaughter of the Amorites that he decides to stop the sun from moving in the sky for a whole day! (It probably would have been less taxing to just invent some night vision goggles.)

So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. Is this event not recorded in the Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. —Joshua 10:13

By the way, It doesn’t help you prove that the 36 straight hours of daylight actually happened, when you tell people to look it up in a book that no longer exists.

Depending on his mood, God can clearly take either side in this foreign policy debate, but how do other world religions feel about the Golden Rule? It turns out that Jesus was in fact a late-comer to this superlative maxim. As can be seen below, it is the closest thing we have to a universally recommended principle of human conduct, for some 4,000 years running.

Baha’i: Choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself. —Lawh’i ‘Ibn’i Dhib, “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” 30

Brahmanism: This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. —Mahabharata 5:1517

Buddhism (560 BCE): Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. —Udana-Varga 5.18

Confucianism: Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. —Analects 15:23

Egypt (2000 BC): Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do. —The Eloquent Peasant

Greece (400 BCE): Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others. —Socrates

Hinduism (3200 BCE): One should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated. —The Hitopadesa

Islam: Not one of you is a believer until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” —Fortieth Hadith of an-Nawawi 13

Jainism: One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.” —Sutrakritanga 1:11:33

Judaism (1300 BCE): Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. —Leviticus 19:18

Sikhism: Treat others as thou wouldst be treated thyself. —Adi Granth

Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as our own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. —T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien

Zoroastrianism (600 BCE): That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself. —Dadistan-I-Dinik, 94:5

Is the Golden Rule the ideal military strategy? By itself, probably not, but it’s a reasonable start. I strongly believe in the Golden Rule, and I teach “Treat people the way you want to be treated” to my kids; however, I add my own corollary which is “But don’t let people walk all over you either.”

I’d like to take a second, before you think I’m just out to bash Republicans, to gIve credit where credit is due: a Republican candidate for President advocated we employ the Golden Rule in making foreign policy. Surprisingly, as it turns out, that was a pretty gutsy move. And after he wrapped up and had mentioned wanting to bring the troops home, many in the crowd applauded. So it’s likely that a small minority in the crowd that night were anti-Golden Rule.

But the issue still remains: why do some Christian conservatives, who like to claim this is a Christian nation, seem oblivious to certain sayings of Jesus? Several studies reveal that conservatives in general display less empathy than do other groups.* The Golden Rule is all about seeing things from the other person’s point of view and recognizing our common humanity. It could be that all Christians tend to avoid dwelling on the teachings of Jesus that don’t fit their worldview.

If they were paying attention, they would realize that Jesus’ version goes beyond some of the negatively-stated, do-no-harm-types of Golden Rules and is actually a positive, proactive version. But if they won’t listen to him, maybe they’ll listen to the words of someone they seem to love even more:

We might come closer to balancing the budget if all of us lived closer to the Commandments and the Golden Rule. —Ronald Reagan

* Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994). “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

Could 44 Adorable Jesus Fans Be Wrong?

As millions of Broncos fans hoped for a miracle in the playoff game against the Patriots, Focus on the Family aired an interminable 30-second ad featuring the most precious, interracial, GapKids models that you’ve ever seen, all basically condemning you to hell if you don’t follow Jesus.

Of all the quotes in the Bible to choose from, of course they cherry-picked John 3:16. That’s the verse that was popularized at 1970s and ’80s sporting events by The Rainbow Man (who is now serving three consecutive life sentences in prison!) and that for many Christians summarizes the whole Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16

I couldn’t help but picture how those same children would have looked giving voice to some of the Bible readings that always get left behind:

And when the letter came to them, they took the king’s sons and put them to death, all the seventy, and put their heads in baskets and sent them to him at Jezreel. —2 Kings 10:7

or

She lusted after lovers with genitals as large as a donkey’s and emissions like those of a horse. —Ezekiel 23:20

Even the most charming youngster in the world would have trouble finding converts with those verses.

But there was something beyond the choice of the verse that I found troubling: the use of children.

Why choose kids instead of adults? I see three reasons:

• Proselytizing kids sound so sweet and innocent. Adults sound pushy.

• Proselytizing kids appear to have less of a hidden agenda. Adults, i.e. the folks at Focus on the Family, definitely have an agenda.

• Listening to a child, we tend to let down our guard and listen to what they have to say. To an adult, we’re more likely to respond, “Sorry, not interested.”

So, besides being manipulative, what’s wrong with children as religious spokeskids? Because the kids are being used—used to send a message that the adults are actually making.

When a parent prodded her child to approach Michele Bachmann to make a powerful political point (being careful to capture it on video), it was a bit of a cheap shot (albeit a funny cheap shot).

If an adult wants to make an important statement of their principles, they shouldn’t hide behind their kids, who will often parrot even the most outlandish beliefs of the parents. The adults should make the case themselves. (I was tempted to make a parody ad with darling kids reciting one of the alternate quotes above, but I thought I should follow my own advice.)

As a general rule, I am not opposed to having kids in commercials selling me on the consumption-induced euphoria of toys, breakfast cereal, or underwear. But I bristle when they tell me to join their religion or suffer eternal torture. If that’s your message, say it. Don’t hide behind a sea of childhood sweetness as you tell the 4.7 billion non-Christians of the world that they’re going to hell.

Don’t Worry, Threat on Obama Is Just a Funny Bible Quote

Some of our leaders are admittedly not the most tech-savvy.

But what happens when you combine the modern know-how of forwarding an e-mail with the intense anti-Obama attitude of Kansas’ Speaker of the House? You get Mike O’Neal, who recently e-mailed what he thought was a hilarious bumper sticker that suggested we should “Pray for Obama. Psalms 109:8.”

Let his days be few, and let another take his office. —Psalms 109:8

Some have taken offense that a prominent public figure would promote a Bible verse that urges God to execute the speedy demise of an enemy. You would think that a public official would think twice before suggesting anyone bump off a President. Rather than deviously sending out a threatening political statement, it’s much more likely that Speaker O’Neal was thoughtlessly giddy after learning a fact about his sacred scripture that some of us long ago discovered: the Bible contains some surprising and at times downright laughable little gems.

O’Neal defended the use of the quote by saying that he just meant the second half of the quote, not the whole part about the killing thing. What we’ve learned in this particular news story is that some conservative Christians, who often complain about people using such quotes out of context, are more than eager to use them out of context when it suits their purposes.

So what is the missing context of Psalms 109:8? If the phrase “Let his days be few” isn’t clear enough, the verse that follows makes it clearer than a Soldier of Fortune classified ad.

May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. —Psalms 109:9

So if Bible believers don’t have a problem exploring the Bible’s wild side, I’m sure that Speaker O’Neal won’t mind if I offer a few suggestions for a “Pray for O’Neal” bumper sticker. We’re all just having some fun here, right Mike?

1. Pray for O’Neal: Luke 6:35   But love your enemies, and do them good.

2. Pray for O’Neal: Psalms 34:13   Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

3. Pray for O’Neal: Psalms 38:5   My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.

You will notice that it is actually possible to find appropriate quotes from the Bible that don’t contemplate killing anyone. (Of course, you may have to search around a bit to find them.)

On the somewhat serious side, this does lead to an interesting legal situation:

• Psalms 109:8 threatens to shorten someone’s life.

• The verse is tied to the President of the United States.

• Biblical literalists undoubtedly believe God could make good on this threat if he wanted to.

• It is illegal to make physical threats against the President.

So are they allowed to make this threatening statement with impunity by saying that it’s just a joke? Have you tried making a threat on an airplane and then claiming it was just a joke? If so, I hope your flight crew had the absolutely best sense of humor in the whole, entire world and that you had a good lawyer all lined up.

So I do think that O’Neal’s usage of Psalm 109 was extremely injudicious, mean-spirited toward Obama and to those who respectfully pray for our leaders, AND it was meant as a joke. I also think that violence-encouraging political speech is to be avoided for the good of us all. But, on the other hand, if this episode indicates that Christians are willing to lighten up and explore the unconventional passages of the Bible, then welcome aboard!

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

God and SCOTUS v. Ministers: Discrimination Is Divine

The U.S. Supreme Court’s pro-discrimination decision in Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC finally brings U.S. law in line with the millennia-old opinion of Yahweh regarding the hiring and firing of church ministers.

As a quick summary, Cheryl Perich took an extended medical leave from her primarily secular teaching position at a religious school due to her narcolepsy. The Supreme Court determined that she fit the definition of a “minister,” and as such, granted the church license to fire her regardless of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections.

So did they fire her for teaching bad theology? Corrupting the youth? Giving poison to the faithful as Jesus recommended in Mark 16:18? No, they admitted that they fired her because she threatened to sue them under the ADA.

The idea that ministers are a special class of people with fewer workplace rights is as old as Yahweh himself. The God of the Hebrew Bible understood, like a Hooters manager, that it pays to be selective about whom you bring in to act as the face (etc.) of your organization. God himself made his preferences sparklingly clear in his own holy scriptures:

Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘Whoever he be of your seed throughout their generations that has a blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatever man he be that has a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that has a flat nose, or any deformity, or a man that is broken-footed, or broken-handed, or crook-backed, or a dwarf, or that has a blemish in his eye, or is scurvy, or scabbed, or has his stones broken. No man of the seed of Aaron the priest, that has a blemish, shall come near to offer the offerings of Yahweh made by fire. He has a blemish. He shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.’” —Leviticus 21:16-21

The Supreme Court’s ruling was too timid and politically correct to come out as explicitly anti-flat noser and anti-dwarf as God so boldly does.

It is helpful to be informed about God’s longstanding prohibition against ministers who are less than ideal physical specimens. It just may explain, for example, why in all my years in the congregation, I never saw one single scurvy, crook-backed, blind, dwarf preacher whose stones were broken.

So go out and do your duty as an American and a supporter of Yahweh, and discriminate against a minister today! Here’s a handy checklist to print out and take with you. Be sure to bring along a medical professional to check for all of the following conditions.

Indications your minister is unqualified:

• Blemished

• Blind

• Lame

• Flat-nosed

• Deformed

• Broken-footed

• Broken-handed

• Crook-backed

• Dwarfed

• Eye-blemished

• Scurvied

• Scabbed

• Broken stones

Of course, turnabout is fair play. You should know that it’s not just ministers that God holds to very high standards. He has rules about the congregation as well:

No man whose private parts have been wounded or cut off may come into the meeting of the Lord’s people. One whose father and mother are not married may not come into the meeting of the Lord’s people, or any of his family to the tenth generation. —Deuteronomy 23:1-2   

I don’t foresee the day when churches across the country excommunicate every person whose parents aren’t married, but the ensuing outrage would prove the point that we all need to relearn from time to time: Discrimination is usually just not that big of a deal . . . until it happens to me.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

Would Jesus Tebow?

Tim Tebow sporting a brand new eye black tract (artist’s rendering).*

To take a knee and pray, in a public place, ideally with cameras rolling, (Tebowing as it’s known), is easily the most colorful Christian craze of 2011.

Mimicking the sideline prayer-time stance of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has caught the imagination of some sports/Jesus fans, but it begs the pressing biblical question: Would Jesus, in fact, Tebow?

While we can only speculate on how a miracle worker like Jesus would perform on the football field, we do know who would NOT be on the sidelines before the game, saying a prayer for all to see: Jesus!

How do we know that Jesus would be the first to throw a spiritual flag at Tim Tebow and friends? We have Jesus’ own words:

When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward. –Matthew 6:5-6

Not only would Jesus look on disappointedly, he’d instruct you to “Get a room!”

You have to understand how extraordinary it is to have Jesus comment directly on a current hot-button issue. Too often, Jesus and the Bible are brought in as authorities on a debate topic that is never specifically addressed in the Bible. In arguing over abortion issues, for example, people tend to interpret loosely related passages in order to support their pre-existing biases and ideologies. But here we have Jesus weighing in specifically on the issue of public prayer. Not only did he preach this, but he also lived it:

And in the morning, rising a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. –Mark 1:35

Just imagine if Jesus had taught that only people of OTHER faiths should not pray in public. I could imagine certain of his followers fervently enforcing that teaching. Why those Christians think that Jesus’ “Get a room” admonition doesn’t apply to them is puzzling. Publicly praying to the guy who said don’t pray in public is like punting when the coach just called for a 2-point conversion.

Keep in mind that not all Christians say “Amen” to Tim Tebow’s actions. There are countless Christians in the NFL who don’t make a show of their faith. So why have some Christians thrilled to the sight of this gridiron genuflection? There are three main reasons:

1. Success on the Field

Tim Tebow prayed and then won, prayed and then won, prayed and then won, (except when he prayed and lost). So any Christian who is eager to believe in the power of prayer would be thrilled by that record of success.

2. A Victimhood Mentality

American Christians have been trained to think of themselves as victims of religious persecution. Our country has incredible religious freedom, but it draws the line when it comes to the government choosing a side in all things religious. Conservative Christians despise government interference, yet somehow trust our government to help promote THEIR religion.

3. Biblical Illiteracy

Your average Christians don’t know their own Bible. Passages like Matthew 6:6 don’t get airtime in churches like the easier to preach passages do. In my book, Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve Never Been Told, I detail all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your preacher has left behind. By hearing everything the Bible has to say, including the parts that tend to make a believer cringe, we develop a deeper understanding of what the Bible is all about.

It’s not just the pleasant verses heard on Sunday. It’s not just Jesus talking about loving others. It can be amusingly outdated, disturbingly violent, stunningly unholy, and at times absolutely contradictory.

For example, the best contradiction to Jesus’ warning to only pray indoors comes from the New Testament:

I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing. —1 Timothy 2:8

So maybe we should show some understanding to Tebowers around the world. There’s a chance they’re just taking a little time out in silent reflection to try to make sense of the many contradictory, confusing, and comical commands found within the pages of their very own Good Book.

* The passage from Luke 14:26 in the photo above reads — “And turning round, Jesus said to them, ‘If any man comes to me and has not hate for his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even for his life, he may not be my disciple.’”