As if liberals weren’t already having enough fun with weird Christian beliefs this week, Faith and Freedom Coalition head and Casino Jack Abramoff henchman Ralph Reed decided to test his luck as a guest on Über-Atheist Bill Maher’s Real Time. Reed was there to promote his new book, “Awakening: How America Can blah-blah-blah,” but Maher took the opportunity to make Reed defend Biblical principles like “Slaves, obey your masters” and “Everybody must get stoned… if they’re women accused of unmarried sexytime.”
Maher cited a recent Gallup poll that showed 28% of Americans responding that “The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word,” and asked Reed if he was one of them.
“Yes,” Reed replied, and the fun began.
“I made a little list,” Maher said, and proceeded to quiz a flat-footed Reid about several Bible verses. “Slaves must submit themselves to their masters, no matter how harsh,” he began, a sentiment that’s found in several places in the New Testament.
With a pricelessly pregnant pause (obviously a married pause) and a nervous smile, Reed replied that “This was a pretty spirited debate in the 19th century,” in much the same way that the American Revolution was a bit of a row with Mother England. “What occurred then, the slavery of ancient Rome, which Paul was writing about, was a very different kind of slavery, it wasn’t chattel slavery, it was usually a form of indentured servitude.”
To Maher’s protests of “C’mon, slavery is slavery,” Reed explained that the anti-slavery movement “came out of the churches.”
Yes, and so did the pro-slavery movement. Everything came out of the churches. Maher then moved on to the stoning of women who are accused of unmarried sex. Reed, after another deliciously awkward pause, deflected with the “cast the first stone” parable (which, if applied, would completely invalidate the entire criminal justice system), and invoked the Old Testament/New Testament “new covenant ” dodge.
“I just didn’t know that’s how it worked,” Maher said, “that Jesus had to come along to say to him ‘Dad, your shit is wack!'”
Maher’s latent racism and frequent dumbassery aside, helping religious nuts make themselves look stupid is one of his real strengths. He only had so much time to spend on Reed and his Christian literalism (or “Chliteralism™”), but it’s worth noting that the adultery passage he cited is the Bible’s version of determining “legitimate rape.”
Here’s the full passage, from the King James Bible:
22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;
24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.
26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.
30 A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor discover his father’s skirt.
Don’t even ask me what that last verse means. I guess you’re supposed to keep your dad’s cross-dressing on the down-low?
Here’s the first takeaway: according to the Bible, it seems, you’re totally allowed to rape any woman who’s not a virgin. Maybe they passed an amendment later on, who knows. It also seems like they’re saying that as long as the woman, virgin or not, is “available,” then rape (“Lay hold on her” doesn’t sound like consent to me) goes from being a capital crime to a civil matter, punishable with a fine, payable in silver to the damsel’s dad, and a quickie rapist-damsel wedding.
This passage in Deuteronomy is drawing a distinction between different types of rape that is almost exactly the same as the one Todd Akin drew (between “legitimate” or “field” rape, and rapes that never happened, or “city rape”), and very similar to the one Paul Ryan made in several bills that he co-sponsored. At best, Ryan was distinguishing between “forcible rape” and the “consensual” rape of a child, and at worst, both statutory and hoax-y rapes that don’t produce injuries.
The reading of these passages shouldn’t be taken as an attack on Christianity. Lots of Christians know that the Bible shouldn’t be taken literally (and the rest only do so when it suits their needs), and understand that it was written, inspired or not, by rather primitive men. No, this passage says a lot more about the Akins and the Pauls Broun and Ryan of the world, who haven’t evolved past those primitive views in the intervening thousands of years.
In fact, if you read this passage carefully, it appears that the God of the Old Testament was actually more progressive than Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, who both believe that life begins at conception, that a fertilized egg is a person. In verses 22 and 24, God says it’s perfectly fine to kill that unborn person/fertilized egg, and even commands it.
The literal Bible may be a minority belief, but it’s worth remembering that much of it is also the literal word of the GOP, and not just the good parts.