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Minister Warns of Religion Losing Credibility Over Gays

ThomasOliver "Buzz" Thomas, a Baptist minister, has written a great opinion piece for USA Today, warning Christians about losing their credibility over misguided interpretations of Leviticus and the Bible:

"As a former 'the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it' kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.

For many of gay America's loudest critics, the results are unthinkable. First, no more football. At least not without gloves. Handling a pig skin is an abomination. Second, no more Saturday games even if you can get a new ball. Violating the Sabbath is a capital offense according to Leviticus. For the over-40 crowd, approaching the altar of God with a defect in your sight is taboo, but you'll have plenty of company because those menstruating or with disabilities are also barred."

The piece is worth reading in its entirety. It's refreshing to hear a rational voice coming out of the Baptist church rather than a hateful one.

When religion loses its credibility [usa today]

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  1. Is this a voice of reason in the wilderness of radical christian hate?

    Posted by: Hoya86 | Nov 21, 2006 3:36:41 PM

  2. it is quite wonderful. i stumbled across this eleswhere. when i got to the end i was surprised to see it was a baptist, i am now looking forward to reading his book.

    Posted by: titus | Nov 21, 2006 3:42:18 PM

  3. thanks for posting this as i would've missed it otherwise. as a gay man who grew up in the southern baptist church, i was heartened to see that someone within that institution has the insight and courage to write about this in usa today, of all places.

    Posted by: Lyrical Robot | Nov 21, 2006 3:46:05 PM

  4. Andy, Thanks for picking this up. I too saw it in USA Today but did not think quickly enough to suggest it to you. You remain my one daily "must read".

    Posted by: rudy | Nov 21, 2006 3:46:13 PM

  5. I think it was on the Jon Stewart show that mocked a sign which read, "God Hates Fags and Shellfish".

    Posted by: Ted | Nov 21, 2006 3:47:19 PM

  6. That is really refreshing to read. I was booted out of an United Methodist congregation because I was gay. The remarks they made to me were based on Leviticus. Even I knew that Leviticus was Jewish holiness laws that did not apply to Christians. It probably only applied to the Levites.

    Posted by: Mike in the Tundra | Nov 21, 2006 3:54:06 PM

  7. That reminds me of a great episode of the West Wing where Bartlett rips apart someone who uses the religion as an excuse for hating gays just by quoting back the other laws of the Bible.

    Posted by: EireKev | Nov 21, 2006 4:12:38 PM

  8. There are nearly as many types of Baptists as there are readers of Towelroad (e.g., Southern Baptists, North American Baptists, Primitive Baptists, General Assemby of Regular Baptists). The only thing they all have in common is baptism by immersion (i.e., you get dunked). I don't know what "flavor" Thomas is, but there are many welcoming and affirming congregations in the American Baptist Conference. Not all Baptists are the bad guys.

    I am not any flavor of Baptist, by the way.

    Posted by: KJ | Nov 21, 2006 4:13:34 PM

  9. Amazing. Christians have been shown their serious erros and still they insist they're right. What about the other laws in Leviticus that every christian breaks?! That just proves they are wrong and hypocritical. But do they see it ? Nope.
    Sigh. Too many "christians", not enough lions.

    Posted by: Nikko | Nov 21, 2006 4:15:13 PM

  10. I read some of the comments on the USA Today site. Rev. Thomas is going to be hounded and persecuted. He's got guts but the nuts have guns.

    Posted by: JT | Nov 21, 2006 4:22:14 PM

  11. He is Southern Baptist - at least he went to the Southern Baptist seminary in New Orleans. He also works alot with the ACLU.

    Posted by: gryphon773 | Nov 21, 2006 4:23:12 PM

  12. The comments are scary! But did you notice that all of those who criticize Rev. Thomas actually fail to address his assertion that you can't pick and choose which parts of Leviticus you want to beleive as true? To do so whould require them to question all of their beliefs. It's quite frightening for them.

    Posted by: Anon1 | Nov 21, 2006 4:27:33 PM

  13. This is inspiring! I was saddened as I read the responses, although as Anon1 says, those doing the hating fail to address the other "laws" that actually apply to them. Can you imagine no football? Tell that to Odessa Permian High School! They hate the Gays, but they loves them some pig skin! Kudos to Buzz, and to Andy for bringing this to us!

    Posted by: Wayne | Nov 21, 2006 4:36:52 PM

  14. Here is a letter I created about a year ago using several sources that have always floated around this debate:

    An Open letter to the Vatican,

    Dear Sirs;

    With all the talk about the gays and gay marriage and with the bible clearly stating that homosexuality is an abomination, I have ended up even more confused about the whole darn issue. So the help me gain some clarity on the issue, I have a few questions:

    1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord--Lev. 1:9. But the problem is my next door neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. Given that she is college educated, speaks Spanish and Italian, plus she can really cook….what do you think would be a fair price for her in today’s market?

    3. I know that I can have no contact of any kind with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual cleanliness as it states in Lev.15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

    4. Lev. 25:44 clearly states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians? What is the difference?

    5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or can I have someone else do it for me?

    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination as is stated in Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this because I really love shrimp.

    7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear both contacts during the day and glasses at night. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here? What if I get RK or Lasik?

    8. Most of my male friends get their hair cut, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?
    Does a super cut count?

    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    10. My brother owns a farm. I know he violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14) Could I kill two birds with one stone (pardon the pun) and burn them on my alter?

    I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging. The world owes you a collective thank you.

    Derek Roberts

    Posted by: Derek | Nov 21, 2006 4:38:10 PM

  15. Fantastic to finally see one of their own calling out "Cafeteria Christians." In my not so humble but intimately familiar with Xtian extremists opinion, hammering this angle has vastly more potential for eventually getting many of them to dial back their selective absolutism a bit than arguing about what the specific Scriptural references to homosexuality allegedly mean or don't mean. Turn the argument from defense to offense. It's been done to some degree before—most memorably in the first [?] season of "The West Wing" when Martin Sheen's Biblical expert President hoists a Dr. Laura-type character on her own pious petard—but it's great to see it expressed in the pages of this mainstream, middle class paper.

    Posted by: Leland | Nov 21, 2006 4:38:15 PM

  16. Leland: read those comments in USA Today. They quote the very portions of Leviticus that Rev. Thomas says are taken out of context.

    Erikev already made the West Wing reference and he's to be trusted since he also watches Buffy.

    Posted by: JT | Nov 21, 2006 4:55:51 PM

  17. I'm not judging, really, but isn't it interesting that the Kelly/Clay/Rosie disagreement has attracted 82 comments, and this post has attracted 16?

    Just thought it was interesting.

    Posted by: Anon1 | Nov 21, 2006 5:03:51 PM

  18. Derek


    I personaly like the one about after having sex with your wife one must take a ritual bath and make a sacrifice of animals unto god to become clean in his eyes again (for the life of me, i can not remeber the verse)

    Anyway; why do we gays even bother? Why do we try so hard to reconcile ourselves to that outdated fairytale? Written by desert dwelling, non-bathing, flat world thinking, goat herding, very arab looking (no baptist would allow a bible writer in their home for diner for fear that they would be al queda), old men....

    The bible has the sun orbiting the earth for crying out loud in the book of joshua (it doesn't). Unicorns in the book of Job. Book of mathew has jesus saying all gentiles (non jews) are dogs undeserving of a healing = racism a messiah does not make.

    It is the fairytale that should be forced to conform to the modern era and us. Barring that, just toss it on the trash heap of history....along with the koran, torah, the baghdava gita, etc

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Nov 21, 2006 5:06:07 PM

  19. At least both are more worthy of comment than Jake's penis seen through shorts.

    Posted by: jmg | Nov 21, 2006 5:10:34 PM

  20. JMG, I see your point.

    Posted by: Anon1 | Nov 21, 2006 5:13:49 PM

  21. The reason those board comments at USA Today don't address this man's argument is because those "Christians" are not concerned with literal vs. figurative interpretation. They are quite comfortable with their hatred and intolerance and he is just a nuissance (to them) for calling them out on it.

    Many good intentioned Christians DO realize that Leviticus isn't the best justification for denouncing Gays. They mostly stay silent on the issue. It's the brimstoned-breathing hate mongers with their filthy miserable bigotry who continue to beat their Bibles in defense of their argument. And even if they are the minority among most Christians, there are too many of them.

    Posted by: mark m | Nov 21, 2006 5:22:40 PM

  22. This is interesting also as it comes at the heels of an interesting This American Life episode, titled Heretics, about another prominent Pentacostal Christian, and his changing views. Also worth a listen:

    Posted by: greg | Nov 21, 2006 5:46:36 PM

  23. Be careful what you guys wish for. I'm going to miss the Superbowl...

    Posted by: Anon | Nov 21, 2006 5:58:17 PM

  24. While it's refreshing to hear a voice of reason rising above the din of Christian hate speech, I'm not going to hold my breath that this voice of reason will have much (if any) effect on the vast majority of Christian bigots...

    Posted by: Robert In WeHo | Nov 21, 2006 9:17:27 PM

  25. All this makes me sort of ok with Orthodox Jews being less than ok with gays (read hate). At least they aren't hypocrites, they actually adhere to all those laws...

    Posted by: Lano | Nov 21, 2006 9:46:33 PM

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