Education Matters: The Bible as interpretive literature

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I'm hooked on this paper's Saturday religious section. Of the good folks who weigh in each week, the Rev. Bryan Griem seems to have garnered the most attention for his resolute stands on a number of controversial issues.

I find him interesting because he seems to have all the answers and very few questions. In matters of religion, I am just the opposite.

And so I shall defer to the good reverend for having made more progress than I in unraveling life's deepest mysteries. His assurance in knowing The Truth comes from the Bible, which he quotes as an end point to all discussion and a final arbiter in any and all questions of theology.

I must say that my faith does not take me to that point. I believe that the Bible is a good book, but it was written by men whom we all know to be imperfect. If that is an acceptable premise, I have a question for Griem.

Why do fundamentalist interpreters of the Bible quote from Leviticus in revealing God's abomination of homosexuality, but when said fundamentalists are confronted with other outrageous passages from the same book (like it's OK to kill your wife if she is not a virgin) want to put them into "historical perspective"? I take that response to mean, "disregard them."

Why then, to reiterate, should I not disregard the words in Leviticus that condemns to death men who "lie with each other"? Why is that oft-quoted passage seen as God's will, while another passage that sanctions the sale of one's daughter into slavery (Exodus 21) is glossed over by putting it into "context"?

I would ask the reverend about Seth Walsh, the 13-year-old boy who committed suicide recently after having suffered years of torment by classmates for being gay. He, like so many other human beings on this planet, knew there was something different about himself from a very young age. By accepting that difference, is he truly an abomination in the eyes of the Lord for having "made that choice"?

Is this gentle and loving boy in for some kind of punishment, Reverend Griem, or will he be given a second chance in heaven to redeem his manhood? And in that regard, I can't help but wonder — perhaps you can tell me — whether we all will retain our gender in an afterlife, or if we'll ascend to a higher spiritual realm and divest ourselves of that earthly encumbrance? If the latter is true, doesn't that at least suggest that we are all essentially spiritual creatures, and the commandment that while here on Earth we "love one another" encompasses all manifestations of love?

Is it just possible that some of the people who profess to interpret the word of God have underestimated the true extent of his love? Is it also possible that by condemning all homosexuals as unrepentant sinners/abominations in the sight of the Lord, the homophobes and gay bashers and bullies of children feel a sense of righteousness in their persecution, cloaking their ignorance, cruelty and cowardice in the assurance that they are doing "God's work"?

I know that this is a delicate subject, and I know that it invites strong reaction from all sides. When children are involved, however, I'd like to think that we can all soften our rhetoric and lower our voices and see what it is that we are doing.

The last time I wrote about the Gay/Straight Alliance club at Hoover, I received some pretty strong language from some who questioned the existence of such a thing in a public school. I wonder, though, how many more tragic stories of children killing themselves (there have been five recently) will it take before all of us, regardless of our religious convictions, at least try to emulate the God that we worship and embrace all of humanity, in all of its variation and complexity.

I would love to sit down and talk to Reverend Griem, but it would likely end in a stalemate, with one of us quoting the Good Book and the other not willing to recognize it as the last word. In the meantime, I'll continue to hope, and pray for, enlightenment — for both of us.

DAN KIMBER is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.

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