Lisa Miller this week, in the august pages of Newsweek, instructs us in, as the title of her piece confidently has it… “What the Bible Really Says About Sex”.
First, the arrogance of such a title – the surety of which so-called fundamentalists have been roundly rebuked by the more enlightened since Scopes – seems to be offered here without the slightest bit of intellectual humility or reserve.
If you are still waiting, as I patiently do, on Ms. Miller to write a coherent, relatively mistake-free piece on what the Bible actually says about anything, where she favorably enlists even one generally respected, mainstream biblical scholar to help build her case, this article reveals your wait continues. It is just another poorly reasoned article from her by any modest standard.
Here is her basic thesis.
1) The Holy Bible has some pretty steamy sex stories. Did you know that Song of Songs describes a man and woman bringing each other to sexual ecstasy in quite graphic terms? And it’s right there in the Bible!! And there are other crazy sex stories as well she tells us, such as Abraham fathering a child with someone not his wife. The madness is rampant in those seemingly hallowed pages, so be warned.
Seriously Lisa? We bible thumpers already knew that. And we learned it…. in Church! From Pastor Franklin himself… and Miss Judy, the kindly Sunday School teacher. Yes, we have long understood that an uncut movie of the Bible would be something most Christians couldn’t go see.
2) Until the “religious right” and other conservatives came along, it would seem that no one was really sure what the Bible proscribes regarding sexuality. In fact, she declares without flinching, “These battles over the ‘right’ interpretation are, of course, as old as the Bible itself.”
Really? Ms. Miller, is it true that Judaism and the Christian Church always had more questions than firm answers on what God lays out for us on sexual attitudes and behavior? The ancient Arian Controversy was not just about the relationship of the Father and the Son, but whether gay dudes could marry other gay dudes, right? It was just that the Father and Son thing got most of the press. Did Paul and Barnabas split ways in a huff over what “loving the saints” really meant?
3) Things that the religious right makes such big deal about are not even in the Bible. She helpfully explains to us that “traditional marriage” doesn’t even exist in the Bible. Good Lord!
Do you mean that the man in the grey flannel suit going off to his reliable 1950s job at IBM, only after tucking the morning paper under his brief-case toting arm and dutifully kissing his pearl-necklaced, stay-at-home wife on the check is not in the bible? Or do you mean that the idea that man and woman are to leave their mothers and fathers, cleave to one another and become an exclusive and permanent one-flesh union? Cuz, I’m pretty sure that second one is in there.
But curiously, for all her talk about how we cannot really be sure what the Bible says about human sexuality, she states that seemingly, even before those boorish religious righters high-jacked the Scriptures for their own political purposes:
“The Bible is stern and judgmental on sex. It forbids prostitution, adultery, premarital sex for women [I missed where it gives men a pass!] and homosexuality.”
So which is it? Either we have always had a pretty good clue on what God’s directions are for us sexually or we have only had disagreement on the matter, at least up until the 1980s when the Religious Right emerged and set the whole matter in order according their peculiar political views.
Pre-martial abstinence, sexual restraint, marriage binding mothers and fathers together in fidelity and monogamy, resisting divorce. When did these radical ideals get introduced into Christianity? Newsweek would have us believe such things were never a part of the larger teaching and practice of the Church. She indicates they are rather the unfounded special interests of a new and radical misguided few.
Just as Ms. Miller did with her so-called “Biblical Case for Same-Sex Marriage” a few years ago, her supposed case here is ill-informed, poorly articulated, contradictory and largely just self-constructed.
As Religion Editor for one of the world’s leading – and for some curious reason declining – magazine, her readers are not wrong to expect more from her. Miller offers them – left or right, believer or not – no real insight.