Nashville continues to face two perennial questions: (1.) What does the Bible say? and (2.) Should we consult the Bible when laws are drafted?
Let’s face the facts honestly, because the current Metro Council debate over contractor hiring practices seems like a new holy war, with conservative Christians opposing any change to the status quo, while more tolerant council members insist that discrimination on the basis of sexual preference is wrong.
The argument that rule changes would be “unfair” to businesses is nonsensical, because the majority of Americans now agree that rules against racial discrimination are necessary, and fair. If we can have rules that forbid racial discrimination, then obviously we can have rules against other forms of discrimination, if those forms of discrimination are wrong.
So the real question becomes this: Is it wrong to discriminate against homosexuals? Many conservative Christians think not, because the Bible calls homosexual sex an “abomination” and says even “effeminate” people will go to hell. According to a few Bible verses, God sounds like a raging homophobe. But most of the books of the Bible never mention anything about “hell” or suffering after death — a curious omission.
Even the famously literal and conservative Southern Baptist Convention virtually eliminated the word “hell” from the translation it sponsored: the Holman Christian Standard Bible (published right here in Nashville). According to the SBC’s translation, a place called “hell” was never mentioned in the entire Old Testament, or in the book of Acts (ostensibly the self-recorded history of the early Christian church), or in any of the epistles of Paul, the great evangelist. The Hebrew prophets said that even Sodom would be restored in the end, and that all Israel would be saved. Paul also said that all Israel would be saved, and I’m pretty sure there have been gay Jews.
So if there will be gay people in heaven, why discriminate against them here?
Whether God is a homophobe is a matter of faith. The Bible says many things that no thinking person can believe originated with a loving God. The Bible clearly commands or condones racism, slavery, intolerance, ethnic cleansing, matricide, infanticide and genocide. Perhaps there have always been men willing to slander the name of God for their own evil ends.
But even if God is a homophobe, we don’t discriminate against people who eat shellfish or wear unisex clothing (other “abominations” according to the Bible). So perhaps it’s time to end the holy wars and be fair to everyone.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.