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View Diary: Why do so many folks here use the term "Old Testament" as code for barbarism? (265 comments)

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  •  You replied (12+ / 0-)

    to my comment today, R in CT, which is fine by me.  I happen to be married to an Episcopal priest, and my father was a Methodist minister, so I am using this "Old Testament" as a pejorative but not intentionally as a slur.  

    As I hear and interpret conservative Christians, including would-be senators like Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, I think they selectively ignore most of the teachings of Jesus in favor of the selective laws and out-of-context verses from the Old Testament.  

    For Christians, the New Testament is supposed to supersede the Old Testament:  It's the new covenant based on Jesus' teachings, rather than the old covenant established with Abraham and those older dudes.  When I hear pseudo-Christians waxing misogynistic, I know they will have only parts of the Old Testament (and a few choice pieces of the Pauline Epistles) for evidence.  But certainly, the Old Testament has any number of rules about daughters who should be stoned to death if they lose their virginity.  Or how, if a daughter is raped, how much the rapist must pay the father to take her as his wife.  All sorts of ridiculous crap like that.  

    More broadly, in my experience, the classic authoritarian-because-repressed, fearful-of-modernity Christian almost never cites anything from Jesus as a guiding principle and instead relies much more heavily on the Old Testament.  It's not because the Old Testament is inherently hate-filled and authoritarian, but rather because it's so much easier to find that sort of ammunition.

    So, R in CT, when I accuse a conservative Christian of "going Old Testament," I mean it primarily as a criticism of the person, not of that part of the Bible.

    Binders full of fail!

    by deminva on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 04:21:32 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  But the OT doesn't support pseudo-Christians (5+ / 0-)

      It explicitly says the poor are entitled to a tax of the corners of the fields of people who own fields.  

      It explicitly says you have to redistribute wealth at the time of the Jubilee year.

      It explicitly says you must be kind to the stranger within your gate.

      It says that the Sin of Sodom was (not homosexuality, but) that the citizens of Sodom were prosperous and led lives of comfort while ignoring the poor and needy.

      It certainly does not say that if a woman is raped, her body will magically avoid pregnancy.  You misunderstand the punishment for rape:  the rapist has to support the woman for life, and he can't divorce her (but she can divorce him).  That's because other prejudiced men might refuse to marry her.  So the man is condemned to give monetary support, but meanwhile he can't get any other benefits of marriage.

      I'm not sure where you see fundamentalists disproportionately quote OT.  Mostly they quote all the Pauline "believe or burn in hell" stuff, or "if you believe, the Holy Spirit will automatically bestow righteousness on you".

      I think medieval Christianity was more misogynistic, but even if you don't accept that, I don't think you can argue that there's text in the NT that would encourage them to be less misogynistic.

      •  Since when has the text of the bible had anything (8+ / 0-)

        to do with those who believe in it?

        Most people haven't read the bible, not in any serious way that provides context and encourages thoughtfulness.  

        The problem comes from the christians-in-name who haven't actually -read- the book but constantly clobber anyone who they don't like with passages from it -- and these are generally from the OT.  Usually Leviticus.  Of course, they don't go around not eating lobster or not wearing cotton-poly blends or burning their house down if they find red mold in it (all things that Leviticus commands,) but they're sure as hell glad to use anything that ends with 'and their blood shall be on their head' against anyone they can.

        Basically, I see it as the fault of biblically illiterate 'Biblical Inerrantists/Literalists' who are quite a lot more ridiculous and intolerant about things religious than the average Jew is, going by my experience, because they're a whole hell of a lot more ignorant about them.  They're completely without the Talmud, which provides context (and tempers the most retarded parts of the Law, like just when you can put a kid to death for not respecting his parents.)  They're also almost entirely without the context of the mitzpah, which tempers and balances all the "don't do this, don't do that, or the wrath of man and God shall descend on you" stuff.  And they're perfectly willing to apply that standard to everyone, not just those of their demented flocks.  (I've never had a Jew walk up and scold me for eating pork or using electricity on the Sabbath or whatever.  I'm goyim.  It's expected that I don't do such things.  On the other hand, I've been assumed to be homosexual and scolded by crazy christian fundies 'cause I've got long hair.)

        With these evil idiots running around, spouting their gays-should-be-killed-'cause-the-bible-tells-us-so stuff, the backlash by some progressives against fundamentalism and the book they most commonly quote was inevitable, particularly since they are often not deeply familiar with it themselves.  After all, they don't hear any of the good parts, they just hear the most brutal bits.  When was the last time you saw a TV preacher advocating a Jubilee, or quoting any of the pro-poor-people/worker stuff that you mentioned?  They don't.  It's been effectively edited out of the religion for many people, because most just get their information about their religion from their preacher.

        ...I hope this makes sense and isn't too rambling to read; it got eaten by the computer twice and I'm too sick of it to edit more.  

        •  I agree in general. (4+ / 0-)

          But we here should not be using the "Old Testament" as a shorthand for all the ugly things that ugly people quote from it to try to justify their prejudices.  We don't attack "Obamacare" because the right-wing distorts it for their own agenda; we should do the same with Old Testament.

          The anti-gays especially have no basis to quote "old testament" for their position.  First of all, they misunderstand Leviticus even from a literalist perspective (and the OT was never meant to be interpreted that way, as the OT explicitly calls for judges to interpret and rule on the law).  It applied only to one sex act, and only for men, and only for Jews.  Any Christian who quotes Leviticus to prohibit even that one sex act is a hypocrite -- to be consistent they'd have to prohibit shrimp-eating!  Both are called "to'evah" (abomination).  But of course they don't prohibit shrimp-eating (which is far more common than gay sex).  They're just pretending to use Leviticus when they're really getting their viewpoint either from their own prejudices, or from Paul's epistles.  And of course on lesbian sex, they can't even find a peep in the OT for their position.

          However, it's not the case that you don't hear the good parts of the OT preached by Christians.  You just have to leave the TV megachurches most of which are pretexts to raise money, and visit real mainstream churches.  

          •  Paul (or Saul of Tarsus) was originally Jewish. (0+ / 0-)

            He knew Jewish law, so it's likely that the passages that he is credited with that the fundies use to condemn homosexuality did come from Leviticus. The Romans did  practice temple prostitution (and any other kind they could think of -- it was big business). And, many believe that he had a problem with his own sexuality (or sexual orientation). So ...

            •  Breathtakingly historically challenged (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              If Paul had been quoting Leviticus, it would still be in Leviticus. It isn't. There was no Roman temple prostitution, although there was a festival of Venus in which prostitutes had a special part, not involving sex at that moment. Unanchored speculations about Paul's supposed personal problems has nothing whatsoever to do with the Diarist's question about attitudes to Tanakh, even if there were anything to them.

              America—We built that!

              by Mokurai on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 08:30:04 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I didn't say (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                retch sweeny, millwood

                that he was quoting Leviticus. I said (or at least tried to) that those passages were probably because of the Leviticus passages. He would have known of them.

                There was clearly plenty of prostitution going on in Rome at the time (and, probably temple prostitution as well).

                Ron was speaking about Paul. I simply added to his comments what I knew and had heard. If you have a problem with the comment, that is simply too bad. Why don't you add to the discussion rather than simply criticizing?

          •  You don't get to tell me what term o use. (3+ / 0-)
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            millwood, CherryTheTart, ciganka

            I call them "OLd Testament CHristians" becuase ignore almsot all of the New in favor of the narrowest parts of the Old.  They ignore the parts that require them to DO something, and if you go after them with soem of the points you made--about when life begins, for example, or stoning women--they  tell you THAT part was superceded by the New. But when you tell them WHERE int he New it says life begins at conception or where in the Gospels it says gays are screws them up.

            ANd I think the term fits--they are about punishment and rules and disliking those who worship a different god or speak a different language--which is a BIG part of the Old Testament.

            The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

            by irishwitch on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 08:24:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  To be clear: Jews don't buy into a lot of that (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              millwood, davis90, CherryTheTart

              The Evangelical and Catholic position on abortion is not well rooted in the Torah or any other part of the Hebrew scriptures.

              The traditional Jewish view on abortion (which the rabbis knew about -- the Greeks and Egyptians both used abortifactents) is that harm to woman is a serious thing, but harm to the fetus is a property issue; see Ex. 21:22.

              The main problem here, I think is that Jews interpret their scripture with a spirit of leniency (as Muslims have historically interpreted the Qur'an, as well), but Christians, who have this extraneous concept of grace, like to think of G'd as a nasty bastard who without Jesus' protection will go totally medieval on your ass, and sent you to an eternity in a place of fire where the sun don't shine.

              Well, us Jews are not responsible for the parody that most Christian denominations make of what was originally an Iron Age collection of scrolls.  You can find wisdom in any number of places, or you can look at the same sources as bloody minded and intolerant bastards, and you will find plenty in the Hebrew scriptures to float your depravity.  As goes with many portions of the Qur'an.  But historically, both Jews and Muslims have figured out how to read their scriptures and make that more humane and measured judgment.

              Christianity, as what what started out as a Jewish heresy on one end, and merged with the state religion of the Roman empire, which had fought two major wars with the Jews, and a serious uprising of them in Alexandria as well.  Ragging on Jews was a lot safer than ragging on Romans, since the Romans had killed lots of Jews and removed most of them from their own country.  Christian interpretation of Hebrew scripture diverged early in Christianity's history (google Justin Martyr for a fairly early and egregious example).

              Jews are not responsible for the travesty many Christians have made of the Hebrew scriptures.  That many Christian sects interpret these texts in ways completely foreign to the Mishnah, Gemarah (collectively, the "Talmud") or the Midrash is not the fault of the Jews.

              As a Jew once said, "let he who is sinless cast the first stone".  Would that more Christians actually understand what that Jew said.  Or believed.

              As for the atheists and pagans who are commenting here... there's an old joke about a Jewish guy who washes up on a deserted island.  Five years later, when he's finally rescued, he's gone a little off, and his rescuers notice he's built three huts.  One is obviously where he lives.  So they ask him about the other two huts.  He says:  "that one's my shul (synagogue).  And that one... that's the shul I wouldn't be caught dead going to."

              Well, remember when you talk about religion, that for most of you, Christianity is the shul you wouldn't be caught dead going to.  The religion you reject for most of you was first and foremost a Christian religion.  Well, speaking as a non-Christian, I and my fellow non-Christians are not accountable for what in many cases are specifically Christian deficiencies.   Christianity is in many respects the very weirdest of the Abrahamic religions.  Virgin birth, three part deity, amalgamation of a messianic Jewish sect and Roman state religion.  And a notion of the deity as a vicious, Unforgiving Bastard who will condemn you to eternal fire if you look at Him wrong, or G'd forbid, don't believe in the Son God to save you from the Wicked Father God.  You might only think otherwise because it is more familiar to you than modern (i.e., Rabbinical) Judaism or Islam.  But if you do, you think wrong.  Most Jews read their scripture (as most Muslims read theirs) in a much more reasoned, measured way.  And not at all the way many Christians have elected to read the Hebrew scriptures.

              Again, as that Jew said almost two millennia ago, let he who is sinless cast the first stone.  And that bit about the mote in your neighbor's eye, and all that.   If you have a problem with how Christians have misappropriated Hebrew scripture, take it up with the Christians.

              [I]t is totally not true that Mitt Romney strapped Paul Ryan to the top of a car and drove him to Canada. Stop spreading rumors! -- Gail Collins

              by mbayrob on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 09:36:52 PM PST

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              •  I thought about mentioning that the Jews I've (0+ / 0-)

                known interpret scripture very, very differently from the way Christians I've done some reading, having been a librarian in a very heavily Jewish neighborhood with a good collection on Judaism, including Torah and commentaries. . But I figured I'd allow Jews to raise this issue since it's their bone to pick. I know that they're not literalists and that  the Torah is considered only half of the revelations--the other half being the commentaries which Christians frequently don't even know about.  Plus Jews aren't trying really, really hard to make everything fit with the New Testament by twisting prophecies into pretzel shapes your average Cirque de Soleil acrobat couldn't achieve.

                I actually am NOT a Christian though I was raised as one at age 20, 43 years ago, I left Catholicism (after ending  up with a minor in theology). I know how Catholics think, and after living in the SOuth for a total of 15 years with a high exposure to right-wing CHristians, I know how THEY thinkand beelive. I like to read theology and comparative religion. And as a WIccan in the Deep South, it's also a case of know your enemy.

                Just ot ake it clear. My comment about Old Testament Christians had nothing to do with what Jews beelive in any of the communities--but was aimed at right-wing CHristians who have a very selective reading  of both Old and New Testaments (when they talk about women being submissive, they leave out Ruth and Deborah and Judih and Jael--strong women, but, I guess allwoed to be since they were widows) with an emphasis on fearing God's wrath while maintinign at all tiems that  their god is a loving one, only  he lieks to send anyone who disagrees to hell.

                The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

                by irishwitch on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 07:38:09 PM PST

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        •  I like the comment about the Biblical literalists. (0+ / 0-)

          That's a BIG part of the problem.

      •  They read both Old and New Testaments (5+ / 0-)

        very selectively, picking and choosing. They don't much care for the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes or the parts in Leviticus that ban them from wearing poly-cotton blends and eating shellfish--and I don't think they really like or understand First Corinthians at all--but the like to quote Paul and Leviticus on women  being silent and obedient and women  having to prove they were raped and homosexuality. Overall they seem to prefer the OT god who is rather unforgiving, prone to temper tantrums if not propitiated enough, and given to teasing men like Abraham by forcing them to prove their loyalty  by sacrificing their offspring (note: Jeptha vowed to slay the firsy living thing he saw upon returning home if God gave thim victory; when it turned out to be his daughter, God didn't intervene--I've raised this with born-agains and said it seems to indicate YHWH doesn't really care abotu daughters and they're left fumbling because they don't know the story), WHo doesn't behave in what I would condider a basically decent human manner. They like a lot better than Jesus who tells us to care for our neighbor and forgive others and not to judge--which requires a lot more work than merely tithing and reading the Bible.

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 08:20:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The "OT god" is a New Testiment notion (0+ / 0-)

          Since I don't think you're a Christian (I refer to irishwitch), you should not uncritically assume that the way Christians read the Hebrew scripture is in keeping with anything other than Christianity.

          For a text as old, as long and as difficult as the group of books gathered as scriptural by the Jews, it goes without saying that it matters a lot what you bring to the table when you read and attempt to interpret them.  Christians bring a vastly different set of ideas to that table than most Jews did when the Temple still stood in Jerusalem, or that rabbinical interpreters brought to it over the succeeding 500 years.

          My guess is that while you probably do not define yourself as Christian, the ideas you bring to that table are to a large extent Roman Catholic.  As such, you look at the texts in a much different way than anyone from a Jewish perspective (modern or ancient) would bring.

          [I]t is totally not true that Mitt Romney strapped Paul Ryan to the top of a car and drove him to Canada. Stop spreading rumors! -- Gail Collins

          by mbayrob on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 09:47:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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