When Fred Phelps preaches "God Hates Fags," he's got a point. Phelps' legitimate point is missed by the Southern Baptists who condemn Phelps and the conservative religionists who frequent the comment boxes on GetReligion. It's also missed when gays do the usual round of ignoring Phelps as a wacko nutjob, or seeing him as typical of many right-wing religionists. He's far from typical, and it's because he's got a point.
That point is that if you take the Bible literally, there's a lot of hate it in. And there's a lot of teaching of hate against homosexuals. And yes, there are even passages that suggest that God will smite people that he hates. A Westboro Baptist Church spokesperson quoted the scripture of Malachi 1, "saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau." And then she said, "You are in this life either Jacob or Esau. There is no third category. If you are Esau (and the great mass of mankind is) God hates you and you are going to hell!"
Why is this interesting? Why is it important? Well, for starters, it is just a helluva lot more honest about what the Bible actually says than most Jews and Christians want to admit. God hates, says so in the Bible. He hates and smites his enemies, says so in the Bible. Bashes their babies heads on rocks, too. Demands the death by stoning of men who sleep with men as they do with women. Phelps is, in this really twisted sense of being a Truth Teller, willing to speak a harsh (if very partial) truth that the mainstream religionists and the progressive secularists don't want to hear. Sure there's a lot more in the Bible... a lot of messages that counter the hate... a vision of a God of Love... a vision of an accepting, affirming deity... but those images and ideas about God are just part of the Bible, not the whole text.
I'm not writing this post because I want to kiss butt with the fundies from Topeka. I think this is an important point to make because so many people today read the Bible selectively without realizing it, then point to Scripture as if it were really the infallible Word of God when it is nothing of the sort. How many mainstream conservatives rely on the Bible as a source of moral authority on issues like homosexuality when they aren't willing to advocate the stoning death of gays? I think they should put their ethics where their Bible is, and advocate what the Bible says. But they don't, and they won't. They lie to themselves about what the Bible says--they lie to themselves about the hate and evil it contains--they lie to themselves about the God they say they believe in--and then they turn on poor Truth Tellers like Fred Phelps and say that he's got the Bible wrong. Phelps doesn't have the Bible all that wrong; he's got a part of the Bible right that they don't want to look at, an ugly and twisted part, because they might have to face their own prejudices and question even the existence of God.
It sickens me, frankly, to see the Southern Baptists and other Christians "distance themselves" from Phelps and his clan without confronting the hate in their own traditions. It's easier for them to recite old canards like hate the sin and lover the sinner rather than deeply question the ugly roots of their religion. The Bible doesn't tell people to hate the sin and love the sinner; the Bible says, in more than one place, as the Westboro Baptists correctly say, that God hates the sinner. God sends most human beings to burn in hell for an eternity, and he probably enjoys watching them suffer (the sick bastard). That's a message that we should hear more of, not less. The more we hear about the obviously demented hate manifesting throughout the Bible, the more we can let go of sick ways of thinking and relating to the Bible as a source of flawless moral wisdom that have infested our culture.
The hate in the Bible in general and the anti-gay hate specifically is not a reflection of any Truth, Beauty, or Goodness anywhere in existence. It is a lie, the voice of human cruelty and evil masquerading as the voice of God. It is our duty as human beings--and my duty as an integral Christian--to wrestle with our sacred texts and to separate the voice of human hate from the voice of a God worth believing in.
Cross-posted to Rising Up