Friday, March 23 , 2018, 10:31 am | Fair 60º


Randy Alcorn: U.S. Constitution Preferable to Scripture’s Selective Interpretation

The U.S. Supreme Court, the officiating crew in America’s bruising game of political rugby, made a game-changing call ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry.

The fans in blue and waving rainbow banners went crazy with jubilation. The fans in red and thumping their Bibles in bitter, petulant, protest howled, “Terrible call.”

Always adding an element of entertainment to America’s otherwise tedious left/right politics are those folks who will let go of rationality to grasp onto religious beliefs.

Frantic fundamentalist Christians fear that the same-sex marriage ruling is the harbinger of doom for their entire value system — a system that they contend underpins American civilization. Some of them vow to defy constitutional laws that they decide conflict with the Bible.

These devout dissidents fret that the nation is turning away from God and that same-sex marriage is ushering in the Sodom and Gomorrahization of America. They prophesize that same-sex marriage will precipitate permissive wickedness and perversion, including polygamous marriage.

To these alarmed Christians, I quote the eminent Bugs Bunny, “Unlax Doc.” Gay marriage isn’t going to bring down the republic or incite any god to inflict its wrath on the nation.

First of all, God is an idea not yet found to exist outside the human mind. As such, the nature of God is as good or as bad as the human imagination makes it, and is subject to all the foibles and fears, virtues and courage of humankind.

The former attributes are on full display by those outraged Christians overreacting to the gay marriage ruling, while the latter attributes are visible in the admirable reaction by noble Christians following the racist murders of church-goers in Charleston, S.C.

If the goal is to have a moral society with liberty and justice for all, which guiding document is preferable, the U.S. Constitution or the Bible?

Keep in mind that both are subject to interpretation. So, with each, who decides what is noncompliant behavior?

The Supreme Court ultimately settles questions of meaning, intent and compliance of and with the Constitution, but, who does that with the Bible? Well, just about anyone, but mostly clerics.

The Constitution, while not always perfectly definite, is concise, credible and coherent. It was written 226 years ago by authors whose identities, motivations, views and character are known. The Constitution allows for change through amendments.

The Bible, a ponderous work written in pieces over centuries of past millennia by numerous mostly unknown authors, is contradictory, credulous and confusing. It was filtered through at least three translations from its original Hebrew and Aramaic, and cobbled together by a group of self-interested Roman elites who wanted to ensure that it would be a document that affirmed their power and privilege.

And, even though written during the Bronze and Iron Ages, it has no mechanism for amendment.

But, with its many nooks and crannies of connotation to explore and rediscover, the Bible is conducive to convenient interpretations and selective emphasis.

For example, the Bible condemns divorce, yet Christians who fervently oppose gay marriage based on Biblical condemnations of homosexuality haven’t denounced divorce with the equivalent righteous indignation. While they vow to defy law allowing gay marriage, they don’t make much of a fuss about laws allowing no-fault divorce. Where is their outrage and defiance?

But, maybe they aren’t prejudiced hypocrites; maybe it’s just a matter of interpretation.

And yet, why do these homophobic Christians chide that gay marriage will lead to polygamous marriage? Where does the Bible condemn polygamy? In fact, it appears to condone it in the same Old Testament that pious Christians quote to condemn same-sex marriage.

Maybe it’s a matter of interpretation — or maybe it’s a matter of selective scriptural application that supports personal prejudices.

If it’s selective piety, then let’s select Romans 13:1-6:

“Every person must submit to the supreme authorities. There is no authority but by act of God, and the existing authorities are instituted by him; consequently anyone who rebels against authority is resisting a divine institution ...”

This bit of Biblical scripture goes on to say that government is God’s agent working for the good of the people and that those who resist it will suffer God’s punishment.

So, there you go, right from the word of God. You Christians vowing to disobey secular law rather than compromise your Christian values have a convenient way out. The word of God tells you not to rebel against government authority.

Or, maybe it’s just all a matter of interpretation.

If it is, the Constitution is a far superior choice than is scripture, if only because interpretations of the Constitution derive from a rational, disciplined, deliberative, judicial process rather than priests examining the entrails of ancient scriptures and pontificating on their meaning.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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