THE BIBLE THAT ATE DOROTHY'S CANARY
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- The agony of my fellow Christians in the Episcopal Church would be almost comical if it were not so heartrending. I'd started this column when Bishop Robinson's election was suddenly delayed by two accusations of sexual misconduct. I telephoned Dr. Soup to beat the bushes for some substitute topic on which we could hold forth until the diocesan bishops in Minneapolis had made up their minds.
But two phone calls by a church official were enough to dismiss both charges as groundless. (If holding a man's hand while slapping him on the back constituted inappropriate touching of body parts, Lyndon Johnson would have been impeached once a week.) And now Bishop Robinson has been approved.
But the agony has only begun, and it will never cease as long as some fundamentalist can locate a passage in the Bible that, in his estimation, makes male homoerotic behavior a mortal sin. A fundamentalist is one who is sure that God himself would agree with him - if God had all the facts. The passages are well-known: Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination. (Leviticus 18:22).
Amazingly, those whose world seems to be based upon this verse violate the other abominations pilloried in Leviticus with gay (pardon the expression) abandon. They wear clothing woven from more than a single material! They actually accept interest on money that they allow the bank to hold (and lend) for them. (No fewer than seven places in the Old Testament forbid the taking of interest on a loan.) They eat shrimp, oysters, and ... but this is too disgusting to continue.
Besides, I am making a point that has been more succinctly made by the adage: The Devil can quote Scripture for his own purposes.
In the Apostle Paul's well-known prohibitions of homosexuality (e.g., in 1 Corinthians 6:9, Romans 1:18-32) there are very serious doubts about the translations from the Greek original. Concerning these, you might ask Google to furnish some information on "homosexuality and scripture."
But neither there nor in the numerous bits in the media that I have read have I seen anything about an absolutely fundamental fact of 1st Century world-view that strikes me as the best of all commentaries on the Biblical passages outlawing homosexuality, or indeed any form of male sexual activity aside from the standard missionary position with a woman.
In the first century of this era, it was thought that the semen of the male contained a complete human being - just very tiny. An entire person was there. The semen was to be deposited in the body of a female. She contributed absolutely nothing whatsoever of her own to this future human being. Her assignment was limited to warehousing the little person for nine months until it was ready to be born.
Dorothy Parker named her canary Onan because "he spilt his seed upon the ground." Onan's sin was double (and note that neither was the masturbation associated with his name): 1) by withdrawing prematurely, he failed to impregnate his widowed sister-in-law, as his duty demanded, but, much worse, 2) by ejaculating on the ground...he committed murder. (Genesis 38: 7-10).
Any disposition of the male seed in a manner other than that condoned by law and custom was homicide. Homosexuality was murder.
Today, enlightened men and women see the matter differently.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.