Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rethinking God III

Model of the Jerusalem Temple where
sacrifices were long offered to God in
the period of the Hebrew Scriptures
After reading the previous post about how our ideas of God have evolved since the historical periods  in which the Hebrew Scriptures were written one of my readers sent me this letter which had been circulating on the internet some years back.  You may remember Dr. Laura Schlessinger, physiologist turned advice counselor/radio personality, whose nationally syndicated radio show ran from 1994 to 2010.  From 1998 until 2003 Dr. Schlessinger practiced orthodox Judaism and often brought her religious insights to bear on the advice she dispensed to her listeners.  For the most part this very rich tradition was well received but people who did not share her religious convictions sometimes found her opinions off-putting.  These adversaries were not necessarily non-believers but often Christians and Jews who had a “different read” on the meaning of Scripture for contemporary society.  I want to print a letter purportedly directed to Dr. Schlessinger  that was circulated about twelve years ago that spoofed her biblical literalism.  I do this not to support the views of those who disagreed with Dr. Schlessinger but rather to show how different our understanding of God is today—even Dr. Laura’s understanding—than it was two or three millennia ago.     

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 odour for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odour 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,

J. Kent Ashcraft


No comments:

Post a Comment