Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It Ain't Necessarily So by George and Ira Gershwin

It Ain't Necessarily So

It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so
De things dat yo' liable to read in de Bible
It ain't necessarily so

Li'l David was small but oh my
Li'l David was small but oh my
He fought big Goliath who lay down and dieth
Li'l David was small but oh my

Oh Jonah he lived in de whale
Oh Jonah he lived in de whale
For he made his home in dat fish's abdomen
Oh Jonah he lived in de whale

Li'l Moses was found in a stream
Li'l Moses was found in a stream
He floated on water 'til ole Pharaoh's daughter
She fished him she says from that stream

It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so
Dey tell all you chillun de debble's a villain
But 'taint necessarily so

To get into Hebben don' snap for a sebben
Live clean, don' have no fault
Oh I takes dat gospel whenever it's pos'ble
But wid a grain of salt

Methus'lah lived nine hundred years
Methus'lah lived nine hundred years
But who calls dat livin' when no gal'll give in
To no man what's nine hundred years

I'm preachin' dis sermon to show
It ain't nessa, ain't nessa
Ain't nessa, ain't nessa
It ain't necessarily so
--George and Ira Gershwin

While looking at the responses to Google's announcement that they oppose Prop 8, I came across a blog where the author was obviously a Christian. When someone started trying to debate with him in the comment threads about whether the Bible says homosexual relations are a sin (by the way, the terms used in 1 cor 6:9-10 are as "ambiguous" in their meaning as gay and queer are today. You can claim that they mean happy and odd respectively, but everybody knows what you mean when you use them), he said:
I believe the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God. I believe it is completely historically accurate, inerrant, and as relevant today as when it was written.

While I respect this person for the strength of his faith, I'm glad that my church doesn't ask me to espouse and believe a statement that is so obviously and demonstrably wrong. For starters, which translation of the Bible is complete and inerrant? KJV? New International? or the version that puts it all in street slang? I am not trying to disparage this man's faith, just to show that it is easy for others to do so.

I should start by mentioning that I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. That means that we acknowledge that some error has crept in, but it's still mostly true. The real gem of our religion on this topic though, is that we don't have to rely on what's left of the Bible text to find out what God wants us to know today. If there is a question about what a passage of scripture means, or meant, or even said, we don't have to wait for some archaeologist to dig up the holy grail of Bible scholarship -- a first edition original -- we have modern prophets to tell us what God's word on the topic is TODAY.

Honestly, not every word of the Bible is meant to be taken literally. There's a LOT of symbolism in there. I don't think that even most people espousing the opinion quoted above believe that every parable that Christ taught was a true story about a real person. I wouldn't be upset to learn that some of the Old Testament stories (especially the ones in the "poetic books" like Job and Jonah) were made up to teach an important gospel lesson. And really, it doesn't matter whether it's literally accurate or not -- the Bible is still true.

Take, for example, the problems caused by making the creation story in Genesis a literal exact history. You get silliness like the Creation Museum. Official Church Doctrine on the subject says something like: "God Created the Earth. God Created Man in His Own Image. The Church Does Not Have an Official Position On How He Did It." That means that there is no need to be in conflict with scientific theories on the subject. While they might not have all the answers yet, the ideas of evolution, geology, astronomy, and physics are very practical ways of looking at the world, and have provided many life saving (and labor saving too) technological advances.

So when we want to know whether the Biblical condemnations of homosexual behavior are a mistranslation, or an outmoded social norm (like having to have your head covered to pray), or a commandment for another time that has now been fulfilled (like Christians believe the Law of Moses to be), we don't have to guess. We look to the prophet. And the prophet, Thomas S Monson has said that homosexual behavior is a sin, and that we, as church members should do all we can to pass Proposition 8.

I had been thinking about making a post that listed what I thought were the most potent arguments against allowing Same Sex Marriages, but then I found a sarcastic list floating around, and decided that I couldn't, in good conscience, post something that would feed that flame (The list is actually pretty funny, though I wouldn't go clicking around elsewhere on that site).

Instead, I'll just give a stream of consciousness outline of what I think when I think about it.
  • The Prophets and the scriptures tell us that any sexual relationship outside of marriage is a sin.
  • That includes Homosexual relations of any kind in the same way it includes adultery, fornication, sodomy, pederasty, incest, bestiality, and any other sexual relations outside of marriage.
    • In online discussions I've read, proponents of Same Sex Marriage (SSM from now on) try to distance themselves from the last few things on the list, but they don't even bother trying to deny that homosexuality is like the first two, because they are so accepted (and even glorified) in our culture today that most kids aren't being raised in a home with two married parents anymore.
    • Nobody tries to deny that committing adultery is a choice that someone makes. They may try to justify it by saying that they were sexually attracted to the other person, and they couldn't help their feelings, but no injured wife has ever felt less betrayed because she knew that her roving husband was so attracted to the marriage wrecker that he "just couldn't help himself." Indeed, using that argument just makes it worse, because as millions of faithfully married (and chaste single) people know, you can help yourself.
    • As premarital and extramarital sex have become more acceptable in our culture, more and more people engage in them. I think it's my duty to help as many of God's children live moral lives as I can. That includes preaching at church that sex outside of marriage is wrong. The more acceptable SSM is, the more people will engage in this sin.

  • Fine, say the homosexuals, if it's just sex outside of marriage that bothers you, let us get married. Here's where it gets tricky.
    • If you believe that there's such a thing as absolute Right and Wrong, and that God has given us commandments that ought to be followed, then the answer to that is, "Sorry, God, through His prophets and the scriptures, says that homosexual relations are a sin, and that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman before God, and that's all there is to it."
    • Those people who don't believe in God or any absolute right and wrong may be swayed by arguments about the social reasons for government-recognized marriage, but they're the ones that the sarcastic list I linked to above are aimed at. And the argument is compelling: if it makes me happy with no cost to you, then what do you care?

  • So if they're not allowed to get married, then they have to live their whole lives without a fulfilling sexual relationship? Sadly, yes.
  • So how can your Loving God justify that one? I had a hard time with this question for a while. I though of the single women out there who will never find a husband in this life, who are held to the same standard. But at least they still have hope... Again, it's a tough question without an easy answer. I encourage you to read this interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, one of our church's General Authorities. He talks very lovingly about these issues. Some points that I want to mention here are that same gender attraction is a temporary condition of mortality like paralysis or mental impairment that make it impractical or impossible to marry, but in the Resurrection and Eternity, it won't be a problem, and all God's faithful children will have the opportunity, whether in this life or the next, to enjoy all the blessings of an Eternal marriage. That quick summary may not make sense to those not of our faith, so I REALLY encourage you to read the whole interview.

  • But say the proponents of SSM, the Constitution forbids establishment of religion -- the laws can't be based on what your religion thinks is a sin.
    • This is the biggest reason I'm fighting to pass Proposition 8. If it fails, then my freedom to practice my religion will be curtailed. That's a right that is explicitly in the Constitution, and not something that's sort of kind of implied to only a slim majority of the judges involved in the case that stirred this whole mess up.
    • What do you mean? Gays getting married won't affect you at all. The thing is, it will. History has shown that there will be some militant couples that want to force everybody to not only tolerate their relationship, but condone and approve of it. They'll ask to get married in one of our chapels or something like that, and when we refuse, they'll sue to take away our tax-exempt status. My church donations and my tax dollars will be spent to fight those court battles.
    • Others have threatened to sue churches that preach against homosexuality for hate speech, and if anybody doubts that they'll actually do it, they're deluded. As I said earlier, the more accepted SSM is in our culture, the more people will engage in that sin. I want my church to continue to have the right to preach against it (as we preach against all forms of immorality), and if this proposition fails, we're one step closer to losing that right. This link has a very informative article about some of the other civil liberties that are at stake.

  • Then there are the children. Oh No! say the opponents of Prop 8 You're not going to hide behind the children are you? Well, first of all, I'm not hiding behind them. There are plenty of other reasons. But then again, what's wrong with wanting a better world for my children? Environmentalists use that argument all the time, and I don't see everyone chastising them for that. But back to my point, there are two groups of children that we need to be worried about in this issue:
    • First, there are the children of the Gay or Lesbian couples -- whether adopted or born with one or both of the parents' DNA through natural or medically assisted means. These children will grow up without the influence of either a mother or a father. That would be sad and confusing for them. But there's millions of kids in single parent homes without mothers or fathers, are you going to outlaw them too? If it was practical, or even possible, we might try. As it is, it's sad and confusing for them too, and we wish that every child could grow up in a complete family.
    • Then there's my children. I have a baby daughter, and I'm already worried about sending her out into the world to be bombarded with temptations. As SSM becomes more acceptable, it will be more tempting to my daughter and her peers. Some people have such strong homosexual feelings that they would never consider a heterosexual relationship, but others, especially in the confusing hormone rush of adolescence, are not so decided. They'll be encouraged, by equal exposure in health classes in the public schools, to experiment with homosexuality, and some children who would not otherwise have made that lifestyle choice, now will. I think that's something worth fighting against.

    Well, I ended up making a list just like I said I wouldn't. I hope, though, that my arguments are at least a little less ludicrous than those in the humor piece. I know that there are many people out there that I have no chance of convincing. To those people, I ask for a little tolerance. Please don't fill my comments with posts calling me ugly names. I've had enough of them already. For those that are on the fence on this issue, I hope my points have answered some of your questions, and if you have others, feel free to ask them and I'll be happy to answer. Honestly, I don't know whether anybody outside my own family will read this post (though I know I occasionally get a few other readers), but it's so important to me that even if this is just a journal entry to remember this tumultuous time, it'll still be worth writing.

    1. No ugly names - only praise for a well spoken agrument. It is a hot topic and you offer some very good points. I plan on useing them, if you dont mind. I found your blogspot because you were the first link offered in the Google announcement regarding thier stand on the issue. Funny. I think they linked you cause they figured (without reading futher I suppose)you were anti Bible. So keep up the good work, you are following prophets advice to enter the online political arena.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I thought this post was excellent; well thought out and well written. Thank you for taking the time to document what you think and for linking to important things like Dallin Oak's interview about homosexuality. I also believe that as this issue is pushed more and more that the rights of the rest of the nation will be trampled upon as they try to accommodate the few. Thanks again for writing this!

    4. Very well written and thought out. I wish others would read it and follow the links. I know of at least 20 people who I will forward this to. Thank you.

    5. Before I start I want to be certain you know I am a homosexual and I wish to be an equal in my country, not a leper. I do not ask you to accept me or tolerate me or how I express my love with another human being. Instead, I would like to pose some [rhetorical] questions:
      I wonder how you feel about the way one Christian religion denigrates another Christian religion? Is it right for a Jew, a Catholic, a Buddhist, a Unitarian or anyone to have the final say in the manner in which you live your life and practice your religion?

      I am reminded that not that long ago many "right" thinking people in the United States believed that the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints was corrupting the morals of the entire country. This lead to the persecution of members of your faith and incalculable injustices. I am sure you know this history better I do. I am anticipating your protest that homosexuals choosing to live in sin cannot be equated with this shameful history of bigotry. But if I understand your argument against ssm correctly your religious convictions mandate you to act to prohibit our government's and ultimately society's acceptance of homosexuals. How can I not feel you wishing me to be invisible and worse that I conform to your system of beliefs, is not bigoted? I ask this question not as a condemnation of of you or your faith but to understand how we can share the same air and not be enemies. Whatever I write here will not change your beliefs to betray your core values and suddenly have you vote No on Proposition 8.

      Still, I do wonder as the United States becomes evidently more polarized how can we live together: red state vs. blue state; native born vs. foreign born; moral absolutists vs. people who and let live? As a lover of verse, is there a poetry that can transcend this dichotomy?
      BTW -- If you answered "Song of Solomon" [Solomon, who, according to 1 Kings 11:3, had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines] then perhaps there is the beginning of common ground.

    6. One of the basic articles of faith in our church is:
      We claim the privelige of worshiping Amighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privelige let them worship how where or what they may.

      There is no excuse for religious persecution, but the same God that tells us that told the ancient Israelites to wipe off the face of the earth the people that were living in the promised land who were sacrificing their own children to idols. God himself distroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, a city known for its sexual sins.

      I DO NOT advocate killing, harming, hating, or even being angry at homosexuals. At eh same time, The power to give and take life is the most serious of the powers God has given mankind, and misusing it is therefore the most serious of sins. That's why this moral issue is worth making laws about when some others are not.

      The reason I feel that the law ought to protect traditional marriage and discourage homosexual behavior is the same reason I think that there should be laws against abortion (except in extreme rare cases), murder, pronography, and child molestation.

      I realize that homosexuals don't believe that what they are doing is in any way related to those other things, and that society at large doesn't think that abortion and pornography are really all that bad, but according to what I have been taught, God does.

      Bigot is an overused and little understood word. Miriam webster says it's "one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance." I don't hate you. I know I can't force you to change, and that force in this case would be immoral. I don't condemn your feelings which I know are often impossible to change just by wishing it was so (read the rest of my blog if you want to know how I know). I am willing to tolerate your choices, but I have the right not to approve of them -- which is a very different thing. I believe that having society approve of, and support those choices with special priveliges and tax breaks is wrong.

      I don't want you to be invisible any more than I want my single friends to be invisible. I didn't feel invisible when I was single, yet I was chaste. There are plenty of things in this life that you can choose to focus on and define yourself by other than your sexuality. That's how we can share the same air and not be enemies.

    7. Thank you for your great post! If you know to stop at a red light, you’d agree it’s unreasonable to say to your child would you like an apple or an apple when you’re holding up 1 apple and 1 banana!!

      For a changing society, we need NEW TERMS to describe the types of relationships people have the free choice to form – not new laws that will put us all in speech & religious bondage.

      Vote not with emotion but with reason; get the facts:,, and Let's you , me, and our same-sex friends unite to vote Yes! on Prop. 8.

    8. Thank you for taking the time to follow the prophet's words and post this. It is a confusing issue for many, I believe your plain words and non-confrontational attitude will be widely felt. (And I have to say I enjoyed the "sarcastic list" you linked) Keep up the good work! And... YES on 8

    9. Good post, Keep blogging. We are sprinting towards Nov 4. Vote yes on Prop 8!

      The Skinny on Schools and Prop 8.

      1 - Public schools in California are not required to teach anything about marriage.

      2 - 96 percent of California public schools teach a Health and Sex Ed Curriculum, which is my understanding is required under law (but I cannot find that online yet from the State, I am still looking).

      3 - If a public school teaches Health and Sex Ed, they are required to teach the following :

      “Instruction shall be appropriate for students of all genders, sexual orientations, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds…Instruction shall encourage communication between students and their families and shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships.

      4 - This means that schools that teach Heath and Sex Ed will now be required to teach that Gay Marriage is the same as Marriage between a Man and a Woman.

    10. Karen,
      Your words are important and right on. I admire your ability to verbalize your beliefs eloquently and to the point. Thank you for standing up for marriage of one man and one woman as ordained by God. It might be difficult but oh so very right to do. The world needs more women like you who are committed to marriage and family and dedicated to living according to God's laws.