I couldn’t really decide on a title, so you can pick whichever one you find less offensive. Or whichever one you find more offensive. I really don’t care…. Whichever one actually gets you to read this.
There are a whole lot of people out there who believe that the Bible was meant to be read more like an accounting ledger than a book of poetry. They firmly believe in the idea of Biblical Literalism & Inerrancy–Interestingly enough, two claims which the Bible does not make about itself anywhere in the text. So when people embrace this concept of strict Biblical inerrancy, if a verse says, “God told the Israelites to ______,” then they believe that God LITERALLY TOLD the Israelites to ______, and that we are to read the text with that understanding. So if the text reads that the Lord said to “go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys (I Samuel 15:3 NIV),” then God actually said that. God told them to kill all the women, children, and babies. God told them to do that. God did. God.
These are the sorts of folks who quote Bible verses about God’s command to kill gay people….
“If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.”
(Leviticus 20:13 NAB)
…. But mysteriously say very little about God’s command to kill disobedient children….
“Suppose a man has a stubborn, rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother, even though they discipline him. In such cases, the father and mother must take the son before the leaders of the town. They must declare: ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious and refuses to obey. He is a worthless drunkard.’ Then all the men of the town must stone him to death. In this way, you will cleanse this evil from among you, and all Israel will hear about it and be afraid.”
(Deuteronomy 21:18-21 NLT)
Now listen, I know when the Bible verses start coming out, people’s eyes glaze over. So here’s the deal: I’m going to put a big quote here in just a little bit…. But don’t freak out. If you don’t feel like reading it, you can just skip past it, and I’m going to write a short summary of what is said. And then, after you skip the text and read my short summary, you will probably think to yourself, “NO FREAKING WAY IT SAYS THAT,” and you will go back and read the text, scratching your head in disbelief that this stuff is actually in the Bible. So anyway, here it is–The “Test for an Unfaithful Wife.” Behold, Numbers 5:11-31….
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.
“ ‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”
“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”
“’The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.
“‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’ ”
So, for those of you who skipped ahead, here is what that just said–If you suspect your woman has been unfaithful (but have no proof), you can bring your woman before the priest, he will concoct a bitter drink (made of holy water, tabernacle dust, and washed-off curses that were written on a scroll) that he forces your woman to drink. Here’s how it works: If the woman has been faithful, she will be able to have the child and be “cleared of guilt.” But if she is a cheating tramp, the Lord will cause her abdomen to swell, and she will miscarry the baby and have what doctors refer to as a “Spontaneous Abortion.” One more time, just to sum up a little bit more, the Bible says that God will abort the babies of wives who have been unfaithful.
I used to think that the Bible said nothing about abortion, but it turns out it does. It says that if you are feeling jealous of your wife, you can force her to drink an abortion-causing holy elixir that will cause her baby to die as a consequence for her infidelity. So when these Bible-thumping politicians use the Bible as the reason they are against abortions–even in the cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in danger–they must not actually be reading their Bible. There are plenty of Biblical examples of God being into killing babies. He said in Hosea that the Samarian kids will be “dashed to death against the ground, their pregnant women ripped open by swords.” The Psalmist writes, “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” Anyway, science has shown that somewhere between 30-50% of all conceptions end in miscarriage…. If God is in control of everything, that’s a whole lot of abortions he is responsible for.
Listen, I’m not trying to be blasphemous here. I obviously don’t think that God is into killing babies. Just like God didn’t tell the Israelites to commit genocide against the Amalekites. Just like God didn’t give Moses a Salem-Witch-Trial-Esque, “If she drowns, she’s innocent/If she floats, she’s a witch” sort-of method of figuring out which women cheated on their husbands. The point is this: You can have Biblical Literalism & Inerrancy, or you can have the belief that God is against abortion in all cases, but you can’t have both. The text clearly portrays God as being the driving force behind abortions for unfaithful wives (Let’s also not forget that Leviticus 20:10 commands adulterers to be but to death). If you’re reading your Bible in a literal way–One that has a 6000 year old planet, an Ark that fit two of every animal in it, and a God that commands his people to commit genocide–you need a new way to read your Bible. And if you find yourself in a church community that reads the Bible this way, you need to find a new church community. This brand of fundamentalism is not only intellectually inconsistent, it is downright dangerous.