Text and Subtext of the “The Bible Told Me So”

I have just finished watching “The Bible told me so” on Geraldine’s Compass programme on the ABC. If you missed it, the whole program is on Youtube in a number of separate clips (see this search query here). What can I say? Only that if this program is really about how people read the bible in relation to homosexuality, then we are dealing with a veritable Sare Lee danish pastry: Subtext upon subtext upon subtext of the text itself.

It is interesting that while the program deals primarily with Evangelical and Liberal Protestants, and tangentially with Judaism, not one word (as far as I heard) is mentioned of the Catholic Church, the biggest homophobic bogey man on the block according to many commentatosrs. Why was that?

Well, for one thing this program was entirely about America (except for a couple of cameo appearances of Archbishop Desmond Tutu), and I guess that Catholicism still isn’t an authentic form of American religion. Secondly, this program was about “the bible” and “what the bible says” – or doesn’t say – about homosexuality. Catholic doctrines regarding sexual morality are a little more complex than the Protestant (or Jewish?) “because the bible tells me so”. Same conclusion, admittedly, but that conclusion stands on more legs than one or two passages in Scripture. Just as the Church’s opposition to abortion is not based upon any single biblical passage, neither is the Church’s evaluation of the morality or otherwise of homosexual activity. Thirdly, the Catholic approach to sexuality is somewhat alien to that of Protestantism and Judaism – stop to think for a moment of the role of celibacy in Catholicism, and on the other hand the sensuousness of an art form such as the baroque.

A Catholic watching “The Bible told me so” is likely find himself in a confused muddle by the end of the program, because the picture which the documentary paints is alien to the picture that most Catholics (at least, outside the States) will be familiar with. At so many points one whats to stop the tape and say “Hold on a moment!”, but the ideological merry go round keeps going round and round and faster and faster. The program starts from the simple and thoroughly understandable premise that loving parents always love and accept their children no matter what, and ends up with nothing less than a religious ideology in support of the morality of homosexual behaviour entirely comparable and equally if not more strident than the “homophobic” religious ideology which the documentary sets out to condemn.

It is not “the bible” which one hears speaking in this documentary – still less any thing of which one could say “The Word of the Lord” and express a heartfelt “Thanks be to God” in response. What one hears is the subtext of all the unhappiness currently afflicting American religion and morality, and the complete inability of the self-appointed spokesmen for God – on either side of the argument – to say anything with any authority on the subject of homosexuality and homosexual activity.

All in all, usual Compass fare. Watch out for the new series starting next week on Compass on the history of the Church. At first I thought it might be the BBC series based on the excellent History of Christianity by Dairmaid MacCulloch, but no such luck. Instead it seems like it will be the usual unhistorical, cynical anti-Christian propaganda we have come to expect from this program.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Text and Subtext of the “The Bible Told Me So”

  1. Paul

    I watched until about halfway through this programme, but finally gave up when it presented the theory that the last child is more often gay because the mother’s body ran out of boy germs ( or some such pseudo scientific drivel).

    What has the world come to when this sort of irrational, one-sided propaganda is expected to be taken seriously?

    • Well, yes. That bit had me thinking we were back in the realm of the pre-scientific world view of the early 17th Century, where even astrology and alchemy were taken to be “science”. I mean first you see homosexuality as something that has a “postive” objective existence, then they say “its in their genes” and then they look for some sort of biological theory to explain what can be explained by the simple psychology of being the youngest brother in an all male household. Talk about a “science of the gaps”!

      • Paul

        According to many university educational theorists, there is no genetic predisposition to intelligence. The hard-core end of this theory is that the only reason some people are worse at a subject such as maths is because of socio-economic disadvantage, or poor teaching, it has nothing to do with the person. Equally, feminists say that male/female characteristics are entirely learned and are in no way intrinsic to the male or female person.

        But then, the same people who hold these theories most dearly say a person is born gay or not, and it has nothing to do with environment or external influences.

        So, they say there is a gay gene, but no maths gene. What rot!!!

        • Tom

          What really frustrates me when I try and argue such a topic with someone who is not in the Church (and even some that are), is that they make absolutely NO attempt to understand what the Church is saying.

          If anyone wants to debate such a subject, and has not read the Theology of the Body (possibly the single most important work on anthropology in the last century) then they are wasting their time and mine.

          What’s even more frustrating are the people who argue that ‘I read a book by “this Bishop” who was arguing that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is wrong.’ When pressed, the name of said Bishop is utterly forgotten, however I do not doubt that such books exist. It only goes to show just how much those Bishops have to answer for.

  2. Paul

    Bp Desmond Tutu was not the only non-American. I saw that ex Bp Holloway also got a gig.

  3. matthias

    wow i always thought there was something wrong with me- i was the last child so i must have got all of the girl germs-which means i must be a lesbian becuase i do love women.
    But seriously i think the RCC view on gays/lesbians is as you have said Schutz a bit more involved that the stock we saw last night from Evangelical and Liberal proddies.
    Yes we should not villify them or commt the sin of homophobia ,which runs counter to the fact that no one is worthless for whom Christ died. BUT we should be able to say “your lifestyle is dead wrong ” with some grace and not like the Westbro baptist church who screw around John 3:16 and make it it to be less than the fact that Christ died for us .

  4. PM

    It must take quite a while for a convert to comprehend Geraldine and Compass. She is a relic of a certain phase in the late 60s and eary 70s when the Catholic education system was overrun with a conviction (sorry, a feeling – real people didn’t read or think) that Vatican II had demoted Jesus to a dim, distant mythological precursor of Jung, Carl Rogers, and Che Guevarra. here are still plenty of them in the school system, who feel they’re the epitome of all that is meaningful and relevant and speaks to people where they’re at. They haven’t noticed that young people stopped listening years ago, if they ever did.

    I missed the interview of Peter Kennedy of South Brisbane by the stand-in for Margaret Throsby on Classic FM last week. I wonder what he chose for music : ‘We Shall Overcome’ and ‘Come As You Are’?

  5. matthias

    As soon as i see dear Geraldine i wonder what culturally relevant spirituality will issue forth from her. PM you are right she reminds me of the trendy vicars and parsons of the 60’s ,as does Peter kennedy and Francis macNabb. By the way has anyone seen the sign board on the Monasg freeway with florence Nightingale,then martin lutherking and then Francis MacNabb. The new humanity according to a guy in my Bible study group who goes to MacNabb’s church. I reckon delusional thinking

    • Oh yes, don’t remind me. I was meaning to blog on that, but lost interest. There is hardly anyone I know in the Uniting Church who would not kick him out of St Francis’s – whoops, sorry, St Michael’s – at the first opportunity if he were not legally dug in. The horror of it all is that he has made himself the centre for this “new religion” and proclaimed himself a saint together with these others. The audacity takes your breath away.

  6. Paul

    A good point, PM, although it is a bit close to the bone because I’m a relic of the 60’s and 70’s myself!!
    I think Geraldine and myself belong to a lost generation from that time. Younger people may be sceptical of religious faith, but from my observations, they are at least prepared to listen, because they have not become as arrogant as my generation.

    By the way, I see the presenters at the Atheist Convention next week in Melbourne are now drifting into the country and are appearing on ABC interviews. Most of them also belong to the 60’s generation who were convinced that religion was rapidly dying and are disappointed to see the lack of progress in that direction, 40 or 50 years later. I think that is why so much of their talk about religion sounds so bitter and so little of it is actually atheist philosophy.

    AC Grayling was on Lateline last night, but said almost nothing about philosophy (he talked more about climate change, admittedly because of the dopey questions he was asked).

    Richard Dawkins will be on Lateline next Monday (8th March). I’m hoping there will be some repartee between him and Veronica Brady, and I have a feeling I’ll agree more with Richard than Veronica.

    • Paul

      Sorry, Richard Dawkins will be on Q & A, not Lateline

    • PM

      I was at school when the cultural revolution (and there was a touch of Maoism about it) started to sweep through. We at least listened when some of the older brothers gave us the Thomistic metaphysics they had learned from Dr Woodbury, and when others passed on an enthusiasm for good Scripture scholarship and good modern theology (yes, there is such a thing – Rahner deserves great repsect).

      But even then we thought the Californian pop psychology in Hi Time and Move Out was a bad joke. Inherited loyalty could carry for a while the classes after us which got only the pop psychology (‘I don’t know aything about it but it’s warm and cuddly’). But decline was inevitable.

      It was a poignant to discover later the brilliant philosphical psychology in Aquinas which was swept away for this dross.

      As for Dawkins & co, there is a broader problem here with the collapse of education in the arts and humanities – in which many Catholic schools have been complicit. (The wreckavators hadn’t quite got to that in my time either.) If the only thing young people encounter at school with any intellectual rigour is maths and science, they will naturally be susceptible to the siren song of Dawkins disease. I’m old enough to know that his views on philosphy, history and culture are those of an arrogant, igonorant overgrown thirteen-year old, but most people in the media these days are not. (My late father-in-law, who designed nuclear reactors for a living, also thought Dawkins wasn’t much of a scientist, by the way.)

      The educational problem also bears on the so-called liturgy wars. We’re spending more on education than any society in history, yet we hear howls of outrage because the new translation of the Mass will contain relative clauses and ‘obscure’ words like ineffable, and because the those outrageous conservatives want music more elevated than ‘Come As You Are’.

      • Paul

        Hi PM, I can see that you are quite taken by “Come as you are”!!! It might have its place sometimes, but I know what you mean.

        I agree with you about the decline in knowledge and respect for scholarship. A symptom of this is that so many people seemed to think there were original thoughts in Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”. I doubt that there is anything said in this book about theology and philosophy that had not already been thunk a thousand or more years ago.

        What is the solution “moving forward”? Probably, a first step is to take RE seriously in Catholic schools.
        I recall attending a school assembly about 5 years ago of a large, well-heeled Catholic girls high school, and the principal asked “what is your favourite subject?” A girl answered “RE”. The shock and dismay amongst the assembled teachers was hilarious. But then they, like me, belong to the lost generation of the 60’s and 70’s

  7. Since you mention him in this context, did you knmow that Diarmaid McCulloch has come out in support of same-sex civil partnerships presided over by clergy in the UK and strongly criticised Anglican bishops who have opposed the legislation in the House of Lords?