Cafeteria Christians, read this:

We can quote the Bible too:

So, um, every word of the Bible is true? It’s God’s word? Then especially when it says it’s actually God speaking, I guess all you fundamentalist types have no choice but to obey.

Now you can either treat the Bible like the outdated tribal mythology that it is. Or you can say, Nope, it’s the word of God.

To you word-of-God types, then:

Gentlemen, if your wife wasn’t a virgin when you married her, God says you gotta kill her. Sorry ’bout that. But you know, it’s in the Bible.

Jesus, Mary and Afghanistan – the death sentence for being raped

Would Mary, the mother of Jesus, have been sentenced to death if her pregnancy was caused by rape or by other sex outside marriage?

Afghan woman in a buqa, Herat, 2010

Consider the case currently unfolding in Afghanistan, whose sharia law is based on the same male-dominated monotheist tribalism as religious Judaism: An Afghan woman, Gulnaz, complained of being raped by a relative. We have good news and bad news:

  • Good news: she wasn’t sentenced to death for adultery
  • Bad news: she was given three years in jail, and after she gave birth to a daughter in jail she was given a second trial, and the sentence was increased to twelve years.

We have more good news and bad news:

  • Good news: in the second trial, the judge told the convict that she could be released…
  • Bad news: … if she married the rapist (regardless of her feelings toward him – or of his toward her, which would likely result in further abuse and quite likely death).

Stay tuned for further developments in the exciting world of 21st century religious jurisprudence. In the meantime, consider what Mary would have faced if she had been raped by a Roman soldier, or had had an affair at 14 – and got pregnant – if she hadn’t married Joseph before he knew she was pregnant, back in the late 1st century BC… Best bet: death by stoning.

Was Jesus gay?

This is one of those ideas that some people find shocking and incomprehensible, and others think self-evident.

You can see what you want in Jesus

There is an excellent and detailed discussion of the issue, for and against, at the Religious Tolerance (.org) website, here. It raises all sorts of interesting questions, such as “Gay meaning orientation? Or gay meaning activities?” But to me the key issues are these:

1) Given that Jesus was a strict religious Jew, firm that marriage was sacred and indissoluble, for example – why is there no indication that he was married? It was a religious duty, a requirement, the first of God’s 613 commandments, to “Be fruitful and multiply”. Surely the Gospels would have promoted the fact.

Naked young man runs away... let's assume he was really naked...

2) Given that Jesus had individual relationships with him various followers, and loved everyone (or at least all Jews… or at least all practicing Jews… or at least all practicing Jews who he agreed with…), why is John “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? John would have been a teenager when Jesus was in his late 30s. And who is the young man with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane according to Mark 14: 50-52, “And they all left him and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” Wtf?

People say Jesus couldn’t have been gay, because God said it was a sin. But the same God made David King of Israel, despite his relationship with Jonathan. Maybe God doesn’t really care all that much.

So, lots of questions. And probably much of what you get out of Jesus is what you choose to put in. I put in questions. In The Gospel According to the Romans I suggest Jesus might well have been gay, but it’s not an important element of the novel.

Jewish-Egyptian mixed marriage, 5th cent BCE

There’s a lovely true-life family saga from 5th century BC Egypt sketched out in the magazine section of a recent Jerusalem Post. It involves Tamat, the Egyptian female slave of a wealthy Jew. She married Annania Ben-Azaria, an attendant in the Jewish temple in Elephantine where the Jewish god Yahu was worshiped… along with a couple of Egyptian goddesses. The marriage was not formalized until she bore him a child, she (and the child) still being formally the possessions of the original owner.

Elephantine Island, Egypt

Love, slavery… ownership, freedom… monotheism, polytheism… Jews, Egyptians… the relationships become ever more complicated as the next generation grows up and marries.

Fascinating novel potential – but I’d want to know a lot more about 5th century BC Egypt before I dared tackle this one!