Sunday, July 26, 2015

My comments on other people's comments

And I thought I'd post them here so I could remember what I said and find it again.

I posted this comment to one of George Takei's FaceBook post which is based on an opinion piece he wrote for MSNBC, because I believe this is an important and timely issue that has been overshadowed by name-calling. The issue is the origin of human rights and dignity--the state or God. Takei was upset about one item in Justice Thomas' dissent in Obergefell. Takei was criticized as making a racist comment. He's no racist. I can understand his complaint, especially given his history in the Japanese camps of WWII, but I think he is confused.

I wrote: "I can appreciate walking back from the blackface comment, but this is not the central issue. I think you misunderstand Justice Thomas. He was not arguing that the government is not accountable; far from it. He was pointing out that its role is not to give rights, but to recognize and protect unalienable rights, which are endowed by the Creator, not by the state. A person has dignity because he or she is a human being, not because the government gave that person dignity. So it should be held accountable for not respecting that dignity that God instilled. Persons would have no more or less dignity if they lived in Soviet Russia, or Canada, or Nazi Germany, or France, or China, etc. Their human dignity and rights would be recognized and protected to a greater or lesser degree, but they would always be there. As Whitney Houston sang in perhaps her most famous number, 'No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity.'"

I'm not the only one with the same reaction--that we are created with dignity, not given dignity by the state. Wesley Smith posted at National Review Online: "Slavery did not strip its victims of their inherent dignity. It was evil precisely because they had inherent dignity. So does each and every LGBT human being."

The other comment I made was on the website of Bud Deiner, who was my pastor at Evergreen Christian Fellowship back in High School. Deiner is a gifted teacher and expositor of the Word and I have great respect for him. He currently serves as a missionary in South Africa.

He recently did a series on Bible verses that relate to homosexuality as a response to the spin from people like Matthew Vines who are distorting the facts. Deiner's insightful analysis of the Sodom and Gomorrah passage from Genesis 19 prompted me to make this observation:

One thing I'd point out as well is the wider context. Looking at the previous chapter (Genesis 18), we see what happened right before the famous judgment against Sodom was carried out. The three angels visit Abraham and Sarah and tell them that Sarah will be fruitful and have a baby by their next visit (vv 10-15) which caused Sarah to laugh. Immediately they turn toward Sodom to go investigate the outcry against the city (vv 16, 20-21).

Given the Hebrew Bible's penchant for parallelism and irony (especially in the J source, if you're into that sort of thing), I think a contrast is being set up between the two--the ways of blessing or of curse. Sarah's laugh is an added touch of the contrast between those who laugh with joy at God's miracles and those who laugh in the face of God's authority. Abraham and Sarah are childless despite many attempts and many years of prayer and heartache. The men of Sodom have fallen for a counterfeit sex that forgoes procreation, which is the intended natural end of the marriage act. 

The contrast is underlined in verses 17-19 when the angel of the Lord (thinking out loud) says, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?" He explains that he is making Abraham the patriarch of many nations and they need to be instructed in the ways of righteousness. The context implies that the reference at least includes a holy sexual ethic--the value of real sex versus the counterfeit. God can open the womb for the former, but his design is frustrated in the latter. The former seeks God's blessing, but the latter seeks God's curse. 

The answer is given in the action. The angels inform Abraham that they are going to Sodom to check things out. No word is said by them about punishment, so obviously Abraham has heard the rumors and assumes the worst. He begs and barters for God's mercy for Sodom and figures they are safe since God promises to spare the city on account of ten righteous (so at least nephew Lot and his family should cover it). Of course, the angels simply remove them from the city and that is the end of that.

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