The Most Important Commandment

A journey through the Bible finds more than just anti-gay imperatives

Earlier this month the Associated Press put out a somewhat disturbing story about a nationwide secondary school demonstration called Day of Silence—designed to raise awareness of the difficulties gay students face—and its evangelical Christian corollary, the Day of Truth.

During the Day of Silence, participating students go through the school day without speaking, as a way of representing the loneliness faced by gay students in a society admittedly hostile to their existence.

During the Day of Truth—the day after the Day of Silence—other students prove the need for a Day of Silence. These students wear t-shirts with the slogan “The Truth Cannot Be Silenced,” and they pass out pamphlets about the inherent evils and sinfulness of the homosexual lifestyle.

“If the other side is going to advance their point of view,” said attorney Mike Johnson of the Alliance Defense Fund, the Christian group behind the Day of Truth, “it’s only fair for the Christian perspective to present their view, too.”

Let’s talk about the Alliance Defense Fund’s “Christian perspective.”

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the “Christian perspective” and “people of faith”—a phrase meaning, in no uncertain terms by those who utter it, Christians—and yet it seems to me that Christianity is something of a big tent. There are a lot of different Christians, with different beliefs, even within their own respective sects. Where I believe that one does not choose to be gay, in my assessment being gay should no more be a sin than having brown eyes, being left-handed, or being six feet tall.

Yet I respect that not all Christians think like me, and that the groups in question—the Alliance Defense Fund, Focus on the Family, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, all behind the Day of Truth—are essentially fundamentalist or Biblical literalist groups. And there are really no two ways about it: there are a myriad of literal references to the sinfulness of homosexuality in the Bible.

I’m no literalist, but I went to church just about every Sunday growing up, I was confirmed, and I have studied the Bible in school. I feel as though I know it just as well as the next guy, and yet I seem to get a very different impression from the text than the groups in question regarding Christianity.

For the sake of argument, let’s all be literalists for a moment.

We can start by flipping to Leviticus 18:22, which contains the most oft-cited reference to the sinfulness of homosexuality: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Indeed, there’s little to argue about there in terms of exegesis—the implication is quite clear. Clear, too, are the commandments a few verses later that prohibit the wearing of clothing of mixed fibers (19:19, no more cotton-poly blend), the commandment forbidding haircuts and beard-trimming (19:27), or the commandment a few pages further that requires trumpets to be sounded on the first day of the seventh month for Sabbath (23:24). Yet these, among many, many others, seem to be selectively ignored.

Perhaps, you might say, because they are contained in the Old Testament. There, too, is much in the New Testament that literally prohibits the acts used as proxy for homosexuality, like “fornication.” Yet there is much that points out the fact that we are all sinners—from St. Paul in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, no, not one”—and that judgment of our sins belongs to God, literally. Most famously there are Jesus’ words in John 8:7: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”

That commandment too, however literal, seems to be selectively ignored. But according to the Alliance Defense Fund, the Bible is the “infallible, authoritative Word of God.” Hypothetically, nothing should be ranked above or below anything else, for everything is, literally, gospel.

So I suppose that unless these high-schoolers are wearing 100 percent cotton anti-gay t-shirts with their uncut locks and beards flowing behind them—from the literalist perspective—they might consider being more tolerant. I suppose, too, that I’m tired of radical fundamentalist Christians believing they have a monopoly on what’s Christian in the same way that the kid in section who never shuts up seems to think he has a monopoly on every topic, if only because he’s the only one talking…so loudly.

From the literalist perspective, Jesus himself makes things pretty clear. When asked which commandment is greatest, he responds (in Matthew 22:37): “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Peter C.D. Mulcahy, a Crimson editorial associate chair, is a government concentrator in Cabot House.