It seems harsh that The United Methodist church may fire an Edgerton pastor who recently told her congregation that she is a lesbian who lives with a woman she loves. Her announcement caused 90 Methodist ministers to respond to certain church leaders with a letter saying:

“We simply cannot abandon the Bible’s teaching on the practice of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Your proposal would put us, who believe that same-sex relations are sinful, in the position of having to deny our consciences.”

Indeed, if her church literally obeys the Bible, the Rev. Cynthia Meyer will be lucky to come out alive as they consult Leviticus 20:13:

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

In no case, of course, would today’s Methodists kill the Rev. Cynthia Meyer. Conservative Christians today are personally more kindly than much of the Holy Bible they revere. Hating the “sin” of homosexuality but loving the “sinner,” they ignore Biblical commands to kill.

I grew up in a dear little Oklahoma Southern Baptist church, attendance about 80. My father wired the building and helped lay the sandstone walls. I taught Sunday school there, even told my class about Jesus’ advice to turn the other cheek, while the part-time minister I admired helped build B-47 bombers in a Tulsa factory. I came to love Jesus and the story of his life as told in the four gospels. I love much more in the Bible, including particularly Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon.

We are fortunate that despite their political power, conservative Christians today are — yes — too compassionate to obey the holy book many of them say is “inerrant.” Because if they did, countless more Americans would be dead today.

Concerning heterosexuals, church leaders might read Mark 10:11, which states that “whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her.” I’m sure they then will be too humane to obey Leviticus 20:10: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife … the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

If Christians obeyed, zealots would slaughter — based on this verse alone — a sizable portion of the adult U. S. population, all of the remarried and their spouses. Kindly conservatives will surely ignore Deuteronomy 22:21, which dictates the fate of the bride whose parents cannot bring forth the cloth that would serve as token of her virginity.

“Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.” The Bible condemns to death many whole classes of sinners, including “he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord” (Leviticus 24: 10-16); “whosoever doeth work” on the Sabbath (Exodus 35: 2); and “every one that curseth his father or his mother.” (Leviticus 20:9).

Nor do conservatives today obey Leviticus 25, which commands us to buy bondmen and bondmaids of the heathen around us.

“And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen forever.” Slaves, in other words. Neither would these Christians today — unlike the witch-burners of Salem, Mass., in 1692 — obey Leviticus 20:27: “A man also or a woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones.”

Conservatives don’t explain why — defying Biblical commands — they do not stone wizards, blasphemers, sabbath workers, homosexuals and non-virgin brides. Instead, they sometimes justify today’s more humane ethics by speaking of the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant,” the supposed harsh Biblical law before Jesus and the gentler era after.

Unlike the U. S. Constitution, however, the Bible contains no article specifying how it can be amended. With conservatives also it comes down to the same picking and choosing among scriptures, the same dreaded interpretation they deplore in our gentler Christianity. They choose to absolve many whom the Bible orders killed —but not homosexuals, who are condemned if not to death at least to exile.

Even the New Covenant makes problems for conservatives. Nowadays they must deal gingerly with the New Testament’s First Timothy, in which the Apostle Paul says he will “suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Paul adds: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression.”

In his Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul advocates submission to slave masters. In his Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 1, he condemns many offenders including homosexuals, “whisperers, backbiters, haters of good, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents … covenant-breakers.” In verse 32 Paul speaks of “the judgment of God that they which commit such things are worthy of death.”

I suspect that the Rev. Meyer and her partner, Mary Palarino, subscribe to a different view of scripture widespread among many Christians. They focus more on Jesus’ teaching that the first and great commandment is to love God, and the second to love our neighbors. That only he who is without sin should cast the first stone. That God loves the poor, and that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

I wish this couple well. I wish Methodists well and hope they will study the entire Bible, not just selected verses that damn so very many good Christians.

This story was originally published via the Kansas City Star on January 25, 2016

Charles Hammer

Charles Hammer was born on Tulsa's then very poor West Side, attended a good but all-white elementary school while black children living a block distant went to a two-room school with an outhouse behind.While a freshman at Tulsa University, he briefly became editor of the weekly West Tulsa News. Also while in college he wrote news for KTUL radio and later shot 16-millimeter news film for KVOO TV.His first job out of college was reporter-photographer for the Guthrie, Oklahoma, Daily Leader. Hammer spent most of his two-year Army service in Germany and there published in the Stars and Stripes newspaper. In 1958 he was hired by the Kansas City Star, where for the next 15 years he covered the Civil Rights movement, urban housing issues, tax giveaways and bad appraising by the Jackson County assessor.He was named in awards the Star received from Lincoln University in Jefferson City. He won the 1974 Kansas Bar Association award for reporting on law enforcement and also a Stanford University journalism fellowship. Later he taught journalism at UMKC while publishing two youth novels with Farrar, Straus and Giroux and co-authoring a history of collegiate sports,"Unsportsmanlike Conduct," with the retired NCAA executive director, Walter Byers.Hammer has lived 53 years in Johnson County, including 50 at his present home in Shawnee.Religiously, Hammer started as a deeply-believing Southern Baptist, evolved through Unitarianism in stages until, while he supports no dogma, he is a great admirer of Jesus and calls himself a Christian.
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