The question arises because Steven Anderson, who founded and preaches for the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, attracted attention a couple of weeks ago for positing this metaphorical equation against LBGTQ individuals in the wake of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Specifically, the Friendly Atheist (Hemant Mehta) has drawn attention to a recent sermon in which Anderson ranted, “LGBT. They’re sodomites. They’re dogs. That’s what the Bible calls them: Dogs. DOGS!” To conclude his post, Mehta himself claims, “This is faith-based hate speech. You can say it’s not loving, you can say you disavow what he’s saying, but you can’t say the Bible has nothing to do with it.”
More properly, you can’t say that Anderson’s reading of a 400-year-old translation of the Bible has nothing to do with it. But before we go blaming the Bible for Anderson’s hateful sermon, let’s see if Anderson is accurately representing the Bible.
Spoiler alert: He isn’t, although he thinks he is; a problematic translation coupled with a misapprehension of the relationship between side-by-side verses has misled Anderson into misunderstanding his source. But demonstrating that is a process requiring several detailed steps. There is no shortcut and no tl;dr version. Also, please note that my purpose here is to investigate the meaning, translation, and use of two biblical verses—not to articulate a general biblical theology of sexuality, which takes a lot more work.
Wait, wait, I know what you’re thinking: “You can’t add fonts to an iPad!” Well, that’s what I thought, too, until I learned about AnyFont, an amazing iOS utility app by Florian Schimanke. AnyFont does just what the name implies: it allows you to import any font (well, any TrueType or OpenType font) onto your iOS device and use it in iWork apps, Office apps, or any other app that uses the iOS font chooser. Of course, the first font I tried to install in this fashion was SBL BibLit, and it works like a charm in Pages. Even vowel points line up properly.
Now, to actually type those vowel points, you’ll need either an external keyboard (which will follow the Hebrew layout native to the Mac OS) or a software solution like the Davka Nikud on-screen keyboard (which is effective, but slow, since you have to switch character sets (not keyboards) each time you want to type a vowel point. You can also copy and paste pointed text from Accordance or Olive Tree’s Bible app (which, after many years of being called “Bible Reader,” has gone through a perplexing number of name changes in the last few years). I don’t currently know of any way to type cantillation (trop) marks on the iPad. Accordance seems to strip the cantillation marks when you copy text, but Olive Tree’s Bible app preserves them, so that option exists if you need the marks in your iOS word processor.
But this talk about vowel points digresses from the main point: AnyFont enables you to use SBL BibLit and other third-party fonts on iOS. And to me, that’s a very big deal and a very good thing.
I haven’t had many nice things to say about Microsoft Office for Mac in the last few years two decades. Despite the suite’s power and the fact that it outstrips it competition in many different ways, I’ve used other software in preference to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for many years, largely because right-to-left text processing in Office for Mac has been poor nonexistent since the 1980s, even after the advent and wide adoption of Unicode. I have consistently made sure to have legitimate access to the latest version of Office (currently as a personal subscriber to Office 365) for collaborative purposes, but I almost never use it for my own independent work.
The internet (I heard on Grammar Girl that the AP Stylebook says you’re not supposed to capitalize “internet” any more) experienced a flurry of virtue signaling this past weekend as netizens (does anyone still use that word?) reacted to the interrogation of Guido Menzio for doing complex math on a plane. Now, of course, what happened to Professor Menzio was completely inappropriate and unacceptable. And, of course, I would hope that I would not mistake an Italian-American doing calculus for a terrorist. But the situation made me stop and ask myself whether there are categories of people that I tend to prejudge based purely on outward appearances? Honesty would compel most of us to answer “yes.” I can’t honestly say that my initial reaction to a scruffy teenager with half of his boxers showing above his jeans is the same as my reaction to a well-dressed businessman. And it’s amazing how many netizens decrying the other passenger’s snap judgment about Menzio jumped straight to “dumb blonde” jokes, based solely on a small detail about her own appearance. Prejudices, biases, and snap judgments abound. They go hand in hand with phenomena like pereidolia and hyperactive agency detection, and were probably adaptive behaviors at some point in human history. At any rate, despite my best intentions, I still have a lot of work to do.
Yes, okay, I admit it. Referencing a popular media property in the post title is more or less clickbait. If you’re reading this, I guess it worked. Anyway, it seems the last time I blogged was in August 2015, and the last time I tweeted was in December. I have a pattern of starting strong, then blogfading as things get busy. But to tell the truth, I miss being part of the Bible-blogging community, so I’m going to try to give this another go, taking inspiration from both Ezekiel 37 and the Hooters’ “All You Zombies.”
I do have several things on my mind that I want to share with friends and colleagues far and wide, and questions I want to ask. I also have these recurring intentions of using Higgaion as a kind of accountability tool, keeping me moving on my research to avoid the shame of having nothing to really blog about. Maybe that will help me make good progress on my two SBL presentations for November 2016 and my Stone-Campbell Journal Conference presentations for spring 2017 (I can’t remember if it’s March or April in 2017).
But I’d also like to know: what’s on your mind? I’m especially keen to learn what kinds of Old Testament related topics (yes, there should probably be some hyphens in there, but I thought they looked ugly) would be of interest to other folk who, like me, self-identify as members or heirs of the Churches of Christ, Christian Churches, Restoration Movement, Stone-Campbell heritage, or whatever label you want to use. How is the Old Testament being heard and used in our churches these days? What parts of the Old Testament cry out for more of our attention?
So please use the comments section here to let me know what topics interest you, and in the coming weeks I‘ll try to share with you some topics that interest me. Maybe there’s some life left in this old blog after all.