Jul 21, 2000

The Outrage of Dr. Laura

It should come as no surprise that there is a war between radio personality Dr. Laura and the gay community, or "biological errors." Every day brings another outrage from this self-appointed moral guardian and an equal and opposite reaction from a stunned public. The ins and outs of these skirmishes can be found at StopDrLaura.com

It is a source of horrified fascination for me that homosexuality is such a rallying point for religious conservatives (be they Christian or, as in this unusual for-instance, Jewish) when the subject gets so little ink in the very text on which they base their lives. The only place in the Bible where homosexuality is referred to directly is in the old testament book of Leviticus, where it is referred to as an abomination. Sounds like strong stuff until you consider that a strict translation of the original text means "ritually unclean," much like eating pork. (Has Dr. Laura weighed in on the other white meat? If so, the National Pork Board has shown remarkable restraint.)

There are exactly two verses in Leviticus that address male/male love and nothing at all about lesbianism. Slavery, however, is absolutely fine in this text. It is a lesser sin, for example, to screw your neighbor's slave than his wife or daughter.

Leviticus does have its value. It explains food preparation in a time before refrigeration. It explains how to recognize and prevent the spread of infectious diseases like leprosy. It also has an inordinate amount of information on animal sacrifice. I don't know if Dr. Laura sacrifices lambs and goats, but she did recently call for the ritual sacrifice of a 14 year old girl. This because the child had the temerity to write an award winning essay on the first amendment and the internet. No really! I'm not making this up. Details can be found here. The evident irony of an embattled radio personality speaking out against freedom of speech is a subject for another discussion.

Views on homosexuality have run the gamut throughout history and have always been about cultural context, not divine revelation. Gay bashers who stand on Judeo-Christian scripture do so with very little foundation and invariable hypocrisy.

Addendum: I'd like to reprint the text of legendary "Letter to Dr. Laura," because it makes the case better than anything I have to say on this issue. This letter circulated heavily in email at the height of Dr. Laura's popularity. Details can be found here.

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.