Saturday, December 11, 2004

"Values and Morals" in the Prophets

I confess I don't like reading the prophets. I love narratives, which tend to make the more history-oriented books far more interesting to me than the gloom-and-doom of the Old Testament prophets. However, as I'm reading them, some interesting things are beginning to stand out.

Most of the OT prophets come from the time when the Northern Kingdom was about to be destroyed by Assyria and/or the Southern Kingdom of Judah about to be taken over by Babylon. The prophets rail against the Israelites and Judeans for their apostasy and their immorality and claim the Assyrians/Babylonians are punishment from God for Israel's and Judah's sins. What are these sins? Idolatry, yes, but from that comes mostly injustice, not treating the poor well, cheating, etc. This from Micah 2:1-2 is a good example:

Alas for those who devise wickedness and evil deeds on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in their power. they covet fields, and seize them; houses, and take them away; they oppress householder and house, people and their inheritance.

So when God is truly angry with his people for their lack of "morals" and "values," sexual sin isn't even listed. And no, Sodom and Gomorrah don't count because men trying to violently rape other men is not even in the same universe as two men (or two women) who are in a mutually loving and committed relationship.

So when I hear that conservative Christians are all about "morals" and "values" while progressive Christians are all compassion with no standards, I have to wonder what morals, values, and standards we're talking about here. Do we really think God cares more about who sleeps with whom than he does about how we treat each other? Jesus certainly didn't. He talked about justice and compassion more times than can be counted but talked about homosexuality exactly never. In fact, he echoes the prophets in Matthew 23 when he denounces the scribes and Pharisees:

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.... Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!"

Mathew 23:13-14,23-24


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