Dear Iris…

THANK you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from you, 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 them 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 follow them. My important Biblically-based questions are listed below the fold. I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to the Irish, but not English people. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own some Englishmen?

2. 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?

3. 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 offence.

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

5. I have a neighbour 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, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. 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? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. 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 wriggle-room here?

8. 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?

9. 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?

10. 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)

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

Your adoring fan,

(Adapted from a viral email. Laura Schlesinger is a US radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call into her radio show. Some time ago, she said that as an observant Orthodox Jew homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The original version of the above post was an open letter to Dr Laura penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet.)

  • Sir Basil Rosemary

    “I do not believe that there has been any attempt in Britain to reconcile the positions of just homosexual liberty and the unjust position of the pre-eminence and enforcement of Holy Maxims. I would welcome any explanation as to how this can be done. we ignore the problem and hope to avoid terminal confrontation.”

    Do we ignore the problem? 42 day detention? The jailing or exile of incendiary imams? The escalating attention given to enforced marriages? Pre-conditions set for Turkish entry into the European Union? It looks to me like open society with its post-enlightenment values is very clear on where it stands with regard to constituencies not prepared to enter into the post-enlightenment utilitarian bargain.

    Thanks for explaining what syllogism means though. How’s this?

    Major premise: deontological positions can’t be reconciled to (differing) utilitarian accommodations

    Minor premise: religious duties are deontological and “post-enlightenment values” utilitarian (at least in the Hume => Smith => Mills tradition).

    Conclusion: religion can’t give way to post-enlightenment values.

    Is that the logic behind your conundrum? I don’t think it can be because that seems even sloppier than when we started. There’s so obviously no potential reconciliation between the scary wahabbist types and open society that a clever chap like you would never waste your time on such a thing.

    But that just leaves a general question about more generally conservative religious sentiment. And just walking around talking to people you’d find that most of the religious ones are much more concerned with transcendence (and sometimes with their own salvation) than with bossing other people about. From the Catholic Church’s increasing universalism to the ordination of homosexuals in the Anglican you’d see that religious dogma is as prone to outcomes based moral thinking as are more general “post-enlightenment values”. Even amongst literalists like Iris the deontological duty imposed seems more a duty to bear witness that to execute people, and the duty of witness is an aspect of free expression which is (as I think you’ve agreed) reconcilable to open society.

    So if your conundrum is based on the threat of wahabbism I’d have to say, ok, accepted, but where are the people who you think disagree with you? And if it’s based on a critique of more westernised (post-enlightenment) conservative religion I’d say we’re back to utility curves – ie it is most certainly reconcilable and we need a model to work out how.

    Maybe the problem is we just don’t share an understanding of what “post-enlightenment” means. I thought the enlightenment’s contribution to ethics was the flowering of liberalism and the birth of utilitarianism. I thought the utility curve an enlightenment tool and the law of diminishing returns the way in which we express the limitations society places on utilitarianism’s potential abuses (ie the way we avoid imposing too great a sacrifice on any one constituency). I’m not sure you agree.

    “the system you propose to render the law mutually hospitable would in fact instigate the most profound diffusion of society and the rule of strength, the Republic (as in Rome but you know that already baz.) instigated law to prevent this barbarism”

    I propose no system other than the one we have. I just acknowledge that our laws represent a post-enlightenment utilitarian compromise based as they are on the majority’s electoral choices and/or their passive consent. Somehow you’re confusing the strength of society expressed through parliament and civic (or even military) authority with barbarism. I can’t see how you draw that from anything I’ve contributed.

    Your friend

    Sir Basil Rosemary

    PS. I really really really, am not, and nor have I ever been, a lawyer and nor for that matter am I a law student. I resent the accusation. I much prefer the win-win accomodations of commerce to the adversarial nastiness of legalism.