Tag Archives: religion

Smite my neighbours

I’ve recently had a most interesting discussion with Gerard and Alida, who host the blog titled “6 days / 66 books / 6000 years“. The discussion was mostly about whether the Bible should be interpreted literally (as they do) or there is some room for various interpretations (as I think). As they say:

“If you begin to chop and change Scripture and don’t check with other passages that discuss the same issue, you make the Bible a useless guide to the Kingdom of God. So why refer to the Bible at all?”

Since Gerard and Alida make a point of using the whole Scripture as a guide, I feel I can’t respond to that in any other way but re-posting the by now  famous letter to Dr. Laura Schlesinger, discussing the exact issue of literal interpretation of the Scripture. I checked the passages, and they match the quotes in the letter. My only hope now is that Gerard and Alida can help me solve these troublesome issues, as I run into many of the same issues in my daily life as well.

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

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

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 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?

e) 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?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

g) 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 reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) 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?

j) My uncle has a farm. 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)

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.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.

 

In response to questions such as these, devout Christians like Gerard and Alida usually argue that the “New” Testament “cancels” the “Old” Testament, and therefore these laws are invalid. I find this argument rather unconvincing. First of all, the wordings of the “New” Testament are quite ambiguous. There are no lines such as “Instructions given in Leviticus 1 to 17 are considered invalid”. Second, it seems that some rules and laws of the “Old” Testament are still valid, as people like Dr. Laura or Gerard and Alida still quote them to support their views. So which parts are still valid and which ones are not?

I would be at a loss here, if I were a Christian. Fortunately, I am a Jew, so the “New” Testament cancels nothing for me. There is only one Testament as far as I am concerned, and the instructions given in it are still valid. Now I only need to find a proper authority on Judaism to help me decide whether I should smite my neighbours.

4 Comments

Filed under Europe

Maps that will not help you understand Europe, but may get you started appreciating its complexity 

I love maps. Am absolutely fascinated by maps. As a boy I had a map of the moon and a map of Mars decorating the walls of my room. Yes, I know. I am a nerd and am proud of it, too. Recently, I have read a book about maps, “How the world was mapped”, a book I can absolutely recommend. A bit Eurocentric, even Britocentric, at times, but what can you do – the heydays of mapping the world were the heydays of the British empire, too. But that’s not my point here. My point is that the main thing I’ve learned from that book is that maps are never objective. All maps are not more than bits of misinformation, incomplete, biased, not to be trusted sketches, that represent the wishful thinking of those who ordered them, the limited knowledge and abilities of those who made them and are perceived through the expectations of those who look at them.

Political map of Europe - the boundaries are not telling you a lot http://www.worldatlasbook.com

Political map of Europe – the boundaries are not telling you a lot
http://www.worldatlasbook.com

As an example, here are a few maps that will not help you understand Europe but will perhaps help you appreciate its complexity.

As continents come, Europe is relatively small. But it has a rather odd shape, with huge penninsulas sticking out in the North, South-West and South-East, and it is jammed into the huge mass of Asia in the East, so there is no “climate of Europe” to speak of. In the far north, there are polar deserts, around the Kaspian Sea there are “proper” deserts. The Western edges of Europe are soaking wet, while the steppes in the East are dusty and dry.

Climates of Europe (one way to look at them) http://www.graphatlas.com

Climates of Europe (one way to look at them)
http://www.graphatlas.com

Culture is above all language. Europe has a long history of nation-states, longer than any continent. That history includes repeated attempts to suppress and extinct cultural minorities, either physically, by shifting boundaries or by enforcing the dominant culture (and, thus, language). Despite all this, most European countries still poses a significant linguistical (and, thus, cultural) minority. The depth of this rift is best illustrated by Ukraine, where language boundaries are literally front lines.

The complex patchwork of languages in Europe http://teacherweb.ftl.pinecrest.edu

The complex patchwork of languages in Europe
http://teacherweb.ftl.pinecrest.edu

Europe is the most densely populated continent. That, however, is just the average number. As in other continents, Europe’s population is largely concentrated in a small area, with swaths of relatively sparsely populated land in between. And even in the most populated countries, there are thinly inhabited areas, like the Belgian Ardennes, or the Massif Central in France.

As you can see, huge parts of Europe are rather empty of people http://media.web.britannica.com/

As you can see, huge parts of Europe are rather empty of people
http://media.web.britannica.com/

For centuries, the politics of Europe has been, above all, politics of religion. East vs West, Christianity vs Islam, Catholics vs Protestants, everyone against the Jews. These ancient conflicts and fault lines are still there, even if they only masquerade as social, economic or ideological conflicts.

Conflict lines in Europe still follow religious divides http://commons.wikimedia.org

Conflict lines in Europe still follow religious divides
http://commons.wikimedia.org

The division of Europe into regions is a mess. Just a few years ago it was clear – you had the Iron Curtain neatly dividing Europe in two. Nowadays? It’s anyone’s guess. Call Poland Eastern Europe and they’d claim they are Central Europe. I recently got in trouble for naming Finland a Baltic state. The CIA factbook does probably the most comprehensive job, dividing Europe into 7 regions, that, at least to me, make a lot of sense.

The CIA factbook excludes Caucasus and Cyprus from their definition of Europe http://commons.wikimedia.org

The CIA factbook excludes Caucasus and Cyprus from their definition of Europe
http://commons.wikimedia.org

2 Comments

Filed under Europe