Undoing Every Do; Doing Every Don’t: The Ten Commandments, the Religious Right & the Lesbigayt Left

by Dr. Ralph Blair

Based on Dr. Blair’s keynote address at connECtions2000, Evangelicals Concerned’s summer conferences at Kirkridge in Pennsylvania and at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

A couple months ago, in Uganda, under the banner of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, more than a thousand men, women and children were exterminated. They had been told that the Virgin Mary demanded strict enforcement of the Ten Commandments in order for them to escape damnation. But in the end, the Ten Commandments cult leader was the one who broke every one of the Ten Commandments. And in doing so, she caused the death of more people than any other religious movement in modem history. Also in Uganda, there’s the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army—with its goal to run Uganda according to the Ten Commandments. It’s notorious for kidnapping children and turning them into sex slaves. Today happens to be the day that Christians around the world are remembering the martyrs of Uganda.

Are these anomalous—these atrocities rationalized under the cover of the Ten Commandments? We’ll see. First, for something lighter.

If you do a Web search of The Ten Commandments, you’ll come up with everything from “The Ten Commandments of Tennis” and “The Ten Commandments of Tea” to “The Ten Commandments of HTML” and “The Ten Commandments of HMOs.” There are even “The Alternative Ten Commandments” of an atheist in the U.K., e.g. “Thou shalt not tell atheists that thy God loveth them.”

The Ten Commandments are for sale on “simulated parchment” ($1.50), in stone ($78—“museum quality suitable for outdoor use”), and on T-shirts, sweatshirts, jewelry and of course, bumper stickers.

The Ten Commandments Project and National T-Day are ministries of “Operation Save Our Nation.” The enterprise distributes stone copies of the Ten Commandments to government officials.

A “Ten Commandments Resolution” in defense of the display of the Ten Commandments “against all enemies, domestic and foreign, public and private” is a feature of another Web site called: Take Back Georgia, Inc.

You’ll also find tencommandments.org. Here it gets darker. According to this group, the Constitution’s “an inverted document” because of its “ability [through The Bill of Rights] to create the abominable and death-worthy crime of homosexuality.” The site features a diatribe entitled “Against Homosexuality.” It’s stated: “God has not prescribed that homosexuals should merely be spoken against, rejected, discriminated against, or banished from the nation, but God requires that they be put to death by the governments under which they reside (Leviticus 20:13) and no sorrow should be had for them. … Any homosexual who thinks he or she is accepted by God and His true Church has to be cursed with the deepest depths of blindness and satanic depravity.”

There are more familiar names behind these Ten Commandment arsenals. Gary Bauer’s old “Family Research Council” is sponsoring an effort to get public officials to hang copies of the Ten Commandments in public schools and court houses. This campaign is called “Hang Ten.”

And there’s an Alabama county court judge who gives new meaning to the expression “a hanging judge.” The ACLU brought a lawsuit against him for his hanging Ten in his courtroom. The suit was dismissed on a technicality. Now he’s defeated three other candidates for the Republican nomination for Alabama Supreme Court chief justice.

Condensed and Concocted Commandments

There’s a pattern in this “Hang Ten” shenanigan: the links between “Ten Commandments,” a Bible-belching bourgeoisie, a Right-wing Americanism, and hostility to homosexuals. The Ten Commandments are thus twisted into a showy and sinister social convention.

A Christian historian observes that “C. S. Lewis was only half-right in Mere Christianity, it is the Christians and not the world, as Lewis thought, that try to turn Jesus into a great moral philosopher and Christianity into a moral system.” [Mike Kugler] While The Moral Majority is now defunct as an organization, the Religious Right’s motive power in this same moralism is as dominant as ever.

Although biblical Christianity is no more to be confused with Americanism than with Canadianism, the Religious Right does identify Christianity and Americanism, apparently oblivious to the fact that to link biblical religion to any particular nationalism, especially through the Ten Commandments, ironically trashes the very first and foundational Commandment.

For all the Religious Right’s insistence that the Ten Commandments are not “the Ten Suggestions” and are absolutely necessary if America is to be saved from “the fate of Sodom,” the Ten Commandments pushed by the Religious Right are condensed Commandments, a mini-version of the real thing. T-Day T-shirts tout T-lite.

In order to get around U.S. state/church separation requirements, the Religious Right is urging legislatures to add the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and other secular documents to displays of the Ten Commandments. So much for the uniquely God-given Covenant with Israel! It’s like hitching Frosty the Snowman and the Easter Bunny to a Nativity scene. Something essential is lost when God’s Covenant is “unequally yoked” with the law codes of “any other gods.”

Moreover, in the Religious Right’s scheme to skirt the obstacles of state/church separation requirements, the Ten Commandments prescribed for the public square are to exclude all meaningful references to God. So much for the Law-giver Himself! If a reference to a god is to be constitutional, as a federal appeals court judge has declared, unlike the Ohio state motto he struck down (“With God, all things are possible.”), it must not be “a uniquely Christian thought.” [Avem Cohn]

But even if explicitly biblical reference to God were retained and God didn’t have to share the bill with other gods and goddesses, the original, God-given Ten Commandments do not begin where the Religious Right begins its restrictive recitation. The “Hang Ten” project doesn’t propose to hang it all.

The original Ten Commandments began with the Preamble of The Covenant: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.” As in all ancient law codes of the Middle East, the lord of the code, the one who sets it up, identifies himself up front. He states who he is and what he has done for those he then binds to himself in his treaty. I am, therefore you shall or shall not. Because I am, you are. “I am” precedes and underlies every “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.” And in the Covenant of the Ten Commandments, Yahweh says, in effect: “As slaves, you were ordered around. I have set you free. Now, here’s how to live free—beyond exodus, beyond deliverance.” It’s a workable script for social harmony and justice, and (in many ways) not unlike ethical codes of other ancient peoples. But without the foundational preamble (“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt”), without the unique relationship of salvation established and set forth by the Lord, the individual laws, blessings, and curses of the Ten Commandments are gutted of their meaning. The whole treaty hangs on the conditions of the preamble. And yet the preamble to the Bible’s Ten Commandments is nowhere to be found in the Religious Right’s movement to push its secularized version of the Ten Commandments onto all Americans—believers and unbelievers alike. In order to “Hang Ten,” the Religious Right fails to acknowledge that on which the Ten hang. The Religious Right’s Decalogue is decapitated. After the Religious Right yields to the demands of a wall of separation between church and state, there’s nothing left to “Hang Ten” on except that wall!

This spring, Christianity Today ran an editorial titled, “Hang Ten? Thou shalt avoid Ten Commandments Tokenism.” These evangelical editors warned: “The Ten Commandments are not an easy-to-secularize list of behavioral guides. They are fundamentally and inherently religious. They make little sense outside the context of the covenant of God’s electing love.” Indeed, research data show that most evangelicals do not identify themselves with the Religious Right. [Christian Smith] So, this mainstream evangelical criticism doesn’t stop the Religious Right from pursuing its secularization. The fuss it makes over its take on what used to be Yahweh’s Ten Commandments is really not motivated by theological concern.

The Religious Right is not so much a religious movement as it is a sociopolitical and socioeconomic movement of cultural conservatives. No matter what postured pieties are pushed, the Religious Right’s Bible proof-texts are used to rationalize what it presumes needs to be true from within the presuppositions of its self-centered culture. Now of course, Lesbigayt spirituality is also not so much a religious movement as it is a sociopolitical movement of the cultural Left. It rationalizes, in spirituality terms, what it presumes needs to be true from within the presuppositions of its self-centered culture. And neither rhetoric is neutral. Of course, all this is not to say that there is nothing to commend in either cultural conservatism or liberalism, but it is to say that neither cultural conservatism or liberalism as such is to be confused with the Christian gospel and the Light of the world.

When it comes to their pet peeves, people on the Religious Right as well as people on the Lesbigayt Left use the Bible as a drunk uses the proverbial lamppost—more for support than light. And that’s a shame, for if the Christians in the Religious Right and the Christians in the Lesbigayt Left would take seriously the Light of the outlandish grace and truth God’s Spirit reveals in His Word, neither group would have an issue with homosexuality. The needs that can be met only by God’s revealed grace and truth would be met there instead of being frustrated in homophobic and homohagiographic idolatry—the defensiveness of inordinate prejudice and the defensiveness of inordinate pride.

In the culture war over homosexuality, both the Right and the Left violate every one of the Ten Commandments. Moreover, Jesus’ and Paul’s summary of God’s Law—the Law of Love—is violated as well. And why should this be surprising? After all, the religion of both the Religious Right and the Lesbigayt Left is often an altogether different religion from Christianity. In each case, sad to say, it tends to be a gullible reverence for a self-obsessed, self-righteous but self-defeating spirit of entitlement.

Violations Left and Right

The Ten Commandments fall into two sections. The first three Commandments cover the relationship between Yahweh and His people, Israel. The rest cover the relationships among His people and between them and other people. Jesus recognized this two-fold division when he summarized the Law of God as love for God and love for neighbor.

Let’s now turn to each of the Commandments and ask:

(1) How does the Religious Right violate this Commandment in its culture war against gay men and lesbians?

(2) How does the gay/lesbian/bisexual and transgendered spirituality movement—the Lesbigayt Left—violate this Commandment?

The First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” [Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7]

The Religious Right, to take it at its word, should be having “no other gods” but the God revealed in the Bible. And yet, within the constraining requirements of America’s religious pluralism, the Religious Right pushes its political agenda for a neutralized and secularized Ten Commandments. Religious Right leaders may pretend to their constituencies that they’re upholding the biblical Decalogue of God, but it’s all decorative and decorous demagoguery. A Constitutionally-sanctioned syncretism is an altogether other religion than the worship of the Altogether Other.

The Religious Right bows down at the altar of heterosexism and worships the false gods of “ex-gay” fraud? It rivals the fertility cults of Canaan in its theory of salvation by insemination. Life really is more than heterosexuality. And Life in Christ is more than more. Much of the Religious Right is hostile to Christ—except as it’s domesticated Him for its own uses. One of its chief gods is its theologized, politicized and politically incorrect take on sex.

For serious Christians who happen to be gay or lesbian, how does having “no other gods” but the Lord square with GLBT “spiritualities,” Queer shamanism, Gay Spirit, Holy Pride, Spirit of Pride? Life really is more than homosexuality. And Life in Christ is more than more. But much of the Lesbigayt spirituality movement is hostile to Christ—except as it’s domesticated Him for its own uses. Its god (or goddess) is its theologized, politicized and politically correct take on sex.

During the week of the Millennium March on Washington, a big “Celebration of the Spirit” held in the National City Christian Church was put together by Druids, Radical Fairies, Presbyterians, Q spiritists, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists and other lesbigayt spirits. They chanted of Oneness around a Maypole and sang “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” with all references to Christ deleted. At the march itself, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches urged the crowd to celebrate spiritual diversity—everything from paganism to monotheism to atheism. He ended his homo-homily by shouting with increasing volume: “Keep the faith! Keep the faith!! KEEP THE FAITH!!!” [Troy Perry] What faith?  

The Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” [Exodus 20;4-6; Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Here’s what one preacher of the Religious Right has to say: “The single greatest cause of Divine judgment is idolatry. … It is the worship of any god other than the true and living God.” True. But he goes on: “Nothing more evidently manifests the wrath of God upon a people than the reversal of roles between men and women. Effeminate men and domineering women are destructive, never beneficial to society. Those two things always lead to homosexuality and lesbianism.” [Don Fortner] Now how did he get from “idolatry” to “effeminate men and domineering women” to “homosexuality and lesbianism?” He did so by letting his idols of heterosexism and homophobia, instead of Romans 2, control his take on Romans 1.

Besides heterosexism and homophobia, what are some other idols of the Religious Right? As I heard one spokesman put it proudly: “God-fearing, Gun-toting Americans!” Capitalism and capital punishment. Moralism. Legalism. Sexism.

Just as homophobia is an idolatrous egomania of the Religious Right, homohagiography is an idolatrous egomania of the Lesbigayt Left. Homosexuality is its all in all. Its stable of sacred cows includes p.c. shibboleths of Moral Relativism, Inclusivism, Multiculturalism, and the notion that Jesus Christ is not The Way, The Truth and The Life. These GLBT dogmas are as non-negotiable as the dogmas on the Religious Right.  

The Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” [Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11]

Does the Religious Right misuse the name of the Lord? Well it uses the name of the Lord to wield power over people, to utter false oaths and curses, and to commercialize Christ. It Name-drops “God” for ungodly purposes. Its whole political and cultural agenda is pushed in the name of the Lord.

And what about lesbigayt spirituality? Does it misuse the name of the Lord? It’s very sad and, of course, troubling, to see how so many GLBT-positive churches, denominational caucuses, conferences and Web sites are not much more than fronts for the celebration of lifestyles, priorities, values, emphases, and agendas of Queer Theory and GLBT Pride. So often, the only difference is the way the name of the Lord is taken in vain by the spiritual as over against the secular.

The Fourth Commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” [Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12- 15]

Though this Commandment immediately brings to mind the day of rest, it does note the rest of the days in which we’re to do our work. But the Religious Right tries to prohibit gay men and lesbians from doing the work of their choice. Given the joy of such work, that’s tragic. Robert Louis Stevenson once said “the saddest thing in civilization is a person who can work, who wants to work, and who is not allowed to work.”

The great 19th-century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, used to declare: “I am no preacher of the old legal Sabbath. I am a preacher of the gospel. The Lord’s day of the Christian,” he used to say, “is a joy, a day of rest, of peace and of thanksgiving. And if you [Christians] can earnestly drive away all distractions, so that you can really rest today, it will be good for your bodies, good for your souls, good mentally, good spiritually, good temporally, and good eternally.” It’s God’s rest “round our restlessness.” [Elizabeth Barrett Browning]

But what rest is there for Christian lesbians, gay men and their families attending churches where antigay preaching is heard Sunday after Sunday? How does such preaching wrap God’s rest “round [their] restlessness?” What peace is there as they sit in their pews in silence, not daring to say who they are? What joy is there in antigay jokes at coffee hour. What thanksgiving is there in the isolation of homophobic Christian fellowship—week after week after week?

According to a Bible teacher, “the Lord’s Day is the day when we remember those who are lonely and in need and who are less fortunate than we are.” [William Barclay] He adds that the “rest [we owe them] must be interpreted according to the needs of the individual.” Does the Religious Right address the needs of gay men and lesbians according to their real and experienced needs or does the Religious Right arrogantly presume to tell gay men and lesbians what their needs are?

And are not gay men and lesbians “aliens” and “sojourners” to the Religious Right? Where is the practical concern for their rest?

Who are the “aliens” and “sojourners” among lesbians and gay men? Are they those with tender consciences who are still struggling to integrate their Christian faith and sexuality? Do lesbigayt religious groups offer safe haven for their restless souls or do they offer just one more invitation to the restless bar scene and cyber sex? In GLBT religious groups, are there aliens who are shunned because they’re not cute enough or don’t share the party line? How restful, for them, is “the movement?”

The Fifth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” [Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16]

It would seem that the fifth is the premier Commandment for all the “family values” folk. But the Religious Right’s anti-Communism seems to trump family values. The evidence? It’s reaction in the case of Elian Gonzales. According to Joel Belz, CEO of the Religious Right’s World magazine: “By almost every standard of how God means for families to live together, the little Cuban boy Elian Gonzales ought to be reunited with his father. But that’s not the same thing as saying that Elian ought to be returned to Cuba.” Why not? That’s where he was born and reared, and that’s where his father was living when Belz wrote this. That’s Elian’s home and native land. But Belz derided, as sentimental, calls for the boy’s return to his one remaining parent—his “papa.” Smarting over accusations that the Right has abandoned “family values” in the case of Elian and his father, another editor at World has gone so far as to claim the authority of Jesus’ saying that there is “the need sometimes to leave one’s father … even to ‘hate’ [him] in order to follow” Jesus! [Gene Edward Veith] Since when does U.S. citizenship equate to following Jesus? This World’s sophistry is more of the world than in it.

And what about the Religious Right’s dishonoring the parents of lesbians and gays? The Religious Right, in effect, cries korban: “Because of our dedication to God, we can’t support you mothers and fathers of P-FLAG. And we can’t support your sons and daughters either. That would violate our dedication to God. But don’t say we don’t love you all.”

The Religious Right further dishonors parents of gay and lesbian children by attributing the homosexuality to bad parenting. In doing this, Christians who are not otherwise known for championing anything that smacks of Freud, bank on a pseudo-Freudian notion that’s been invalidated by rigorous psychosocial research. And what about the claim that AIDS is “God’s punishment of homosexuals?” How did that help parents as they watched their children die? How does it help for the Religious Right to tell parents that their dead children are now being tortured in hellfire because of the homosexuality caused by their bad parenting?

Some in the GLBT movement blame parents for their alleged homophobia when their opposition to GLBT political agenda may be better understood in terms of their ignorance and misplaced concern for the welfare of their children. Some gay men and lesbians totally exclude their parents from their lives. The parents aren’t given the courtesy of time to come around, even though the sons and daughters may have taken plenty of time to come out. Some even blame their parents for the homosexuality: “You pushed me into Little League!” And some parents blame each other: “You never let him join Little League!” And some GLBT groups compete with both Havana and Little Havana in using kids as political footballs.

The Sixth Commandment: “You shall not kill.” [Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17]

The biblical meaning of what’s here translated “kill” is both more restrictive and more expansive than the English term. Biblically, it applies to the killing of the innocent but does not forbid capital punishment, deadly force in war, or the slaughter of animals. It does, however, forbid all crushing of “the poor and needy” (Job 24:14) and the “pouring out [of] arrogant words” of deadly oppression against “widows, orphans, and aliens” (Psalm 94:4-6).

Jesus made it clear that the sixth commandment condemned more than actual murder. He knew that words can kill and a cold hard-heartedness can destroy life. As he explained, the commandment condemns contempt of others. [Matthew 5:21-26] And, of course, the positive side of the commandment, according to Jesus, is the love of others, even enemies, as one loves oneself.

The psychological connection between contempt and fear has been well established. It’s illustrated colorfully by C. S. Lewis through the devil, Screwtape. This senior devil explains: “Hatred is best combined with Fear. … Hatred has its pleasures. It is therefore often the compensation by which a frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear. The more he fears, the more he will hate.” Doesn’t that sound like homophobia? It’s been said that homophobia is really homohatred. It’s both fear and hate. And this deadly combination of fear and hatred is evident in the “homosexual panic” defense for the killing of “faggots.”

And if the Religious Right doesn’t actually pull the trigger, it provides a pious rationalization to those who do. Even when those who do so are the homosexuals themselves. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control, a very large number of gay people who attempt suicide cited the antigay message of their churches as a contributing factor in their attempts to kill themselves.

The Religious Right’s opposition to the extension of health care benefits to the committed same-sex partners of employees is further evidence of the Religious Right’s breaking of the sixth Commandment. Though a slower and less direct way to attack the life of another, the deliberate deprivation of health care benefits can be just as deadly.

How many young lives are snuffed out each year because the Religious Right won’t allow them to come out? How many are lost because the Religious Right won’t allow them to be both Christian and gay?

And how many are lost because the Lesbigayt Left won’t allow them to be both gay and Christian?

In lesbigayt spirituality, there’s a knee-jerk advocacy on all sorts of issues that cannot be distinguished from that of the rest of the movement. Here too, there’s just as much lumping together of all Left-wing causes as there is a lumping together of all Right-wing causes. For example, while the lesbigayt movement makes much of dubious findings of “gay genes,” nothing is made of the established genetic fact that the fetus is not the “mother’s body.” This uncritical stance on the termination of fetal life not only endangers the unborn in general, but it endangers pre-born gays and lesbians who would no doubt be homophobically aborted were a simple “gay gene” ever found. Some 120,000 pre-born gays and lesbians could be expected to be flushed down the drain every year—120,000 Matthew Shepards every year. In pre-Christian antiquity, unwanted “unnatural” babies were exposed to packs of wild wolves. These days they’re being exposed to packs of baby pesticide. The innocent wind up just as dead.

Am I telling you what to think about abortion? Your thoughts are yours. I’m asking you to give as much sober scientific consideration to what abortion actually is as you wish the Religious Right would give to what homosexuality is.

The Seventh Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.” [Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18]

Ironically, antigay politicians and preachers who have, themselves, been caught in adultery are among the most relentless supporters of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. A new study by the evangelical Bama Research Group finds that born-again Christians are more likely to go through a marital split than are non-Christians. The antigay Bible Belt states of Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma have a 50% higher divorce rate than the rest of the country. Maybe these Right-wingers do need a Defense of Marriage Act!

Still, antigay Christians want to keep the benefits of legal marriage all to themselves. When Vermont’s Supreme Court said it was only fair to offer same-sex couples at least the rights of domestic partnership, Gary Bauer declared the decision to be “worse than terrorism.” He must lead a sheltered life.

By fighting against the strengthening of same-sex couples through domestic partnership if not same-sex marriage and by pushing homosexuals into either enforced sexual abstinence or marriages with persons of inappropriate gender, the Religious Right pimps for prostitution, promiscuity, adultery, and broken homes. Such pious posturing is a tragic violation of the sexual integrity of others.

Sex outside relationships has been rampant among gay men. And it’s been tolerated by many GLBT spiritual gurus.

The world’s largest GLBT religious organization, through most of its preachers, has been pushing to open up lesbigayt “holy union” ceremonies to three or more persons? Wisely, the non-preachers in the organization have voted that down for now. Polygamy may work in cultures where there are no expectations of parity, but multiple partners doesn’t work where people assume they are peers. Hurt and hostility are inevitable when someone is inevitably left out. Even in the patriarchal Middle East, it didn’t work for Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. That bloody rivalry is still with us—after almost four millennia!

The Eighth Commandment: “You shall not steal.” [Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19]

John Calvin understood the breakers of this commandment to be, in his words: “not only those thieves who secretly steal the property of others, but those also who seek gain from the loss of others … and are more devoted to their private advantage than to equity … and insidiously oppress the poor.”

Last fall, the California legislature enacted measures to grant economic spousal benefits to gay and lesbian partners of state employees, to protect them from discrimination in housing and hiring, and to support a more informed public education on homosexual issues. The leaders of the Religious Right were outraged, claiming that the new laws clashed with their religious rights.

Barclay challenges us to look even further. He well points out that “even if we never steal any material thing, we may still be guilty of breaking this commandment by stealing time which rightly belongs to someone else, by stealing someone’s good name with a gossiping tongue, and by using selfishly that which we should share with those who have less than we have.” The Religious Right is guilty of stealing in all these ways.

Are lesbigayt Christians guilty of trying to take what doesn’t belong to them? While the Religious Right tries to rob jobs from gay men and lesbians, some in the GLBT movement try to rob Dr. Laura’s job from her. How are efforts to take her show away from her different from the efforts that were made to take Ellen’s show away from her? Is there a robbery of reputation when Dr. Laura’s narrow-mindedness is caricatured as hate?

And there is a stealing of innocence and potential for healthful relationship when gay media glamorize promiscuous sex and porno and the Lesbigayt Left refuses to take a stand against it because to do so would be to commit the mortal sin of the day: being (shudder!) judgmental.

The Ninth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” [Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20]

The bearing of false witness is not about nit-picking legalistic technicalities. It’s not about meaningless mistakes. Bearing false witness can utterly destroy lives. When, for example, preachers shoot off their mouths about God’s having made the world in six 24-hour days, their witness is false, but they’re only shooting themselves in the foot. When they shoot off their mouths about God’s having destroyed Sodom because of gay people, their witness is false, but they’re shooting their neighbors right through the heart.

“Let the Truth Be Told” is the pitch of a recent fund-raising letter from D. James Kennedy. It’s dressed up as a “National Survey,” complete with stock certificate-like borders. It lists five statements about which recipients are asked to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement. Here’s one of the statements: “Employers should have to guarantee employment to homosexuals based solely on their sexual orientation.” What in the world kind of job would that be? The inflaming implication is that some sort of statute is being proposed or has already been put into place to force all employers to guarantee jobs to homosexuals as homosexuals! This is not true. Does Kennedy believe it is true? If he does, he’s misinformed and he’s misinforming his followers. If he knows that this is not true, he’s lying. Either way, he’s bearing false witness against his gay and lesbian neighbors.

Those who mail back their completed “National Survey”—along with their financial contribution “to stand with [Kennedy] to proclaim the truth about the pro-homosexual movement”—are promised a piece of propaganda entitled, THE GREAT LIE: The Homosexual Agenda for America.

Kennedy goes on to assert: “Pro-Homosexual Activists Want To Teach Homosexuality To Young Children.” Again, the inflaming implication of this assertion is simply not true. Mis-characterizing a school curriculum that is aimed at merely teaching tolerance of gay people and their families, in age-appropriate ways, Kennedy incites fear and outrage in the parents and grandparents on his mailing list. They are likely to interpret his headline as a warning that their own dear little children and grandchildren are in danger of being given “how-to” lessons in various sex acts.

The Religious Right bears false witness when it preaches that homosexuality’s a choice and that the “ex-gay” claims are true.

The bearing of false witness can be motivated not only by an outright purpose to lie, but by rationalizing all the “best” intentions in the world. Bearing false witness can be borne of carelessness, peer pressure, hurt and hostility, and even by ignorance. So when it comes to lesbigayt communities, there’s plenty of temptation to bear false witness against anti-lesbigayt adversaries. Much of the GLBT press is as careless and misleading about what it says about the Religious Right as the Religious Right is careless and misleading about what it says about lesbians and gay men. For example, some GLBT rhetoric makes no distinction between those who oppose “hate crimes” legislation because they don’t think there should be any laws against thought and speech and those who oppose such legislation because they are homophobic. To demand that all “loyal” lesbians and gay men rubber stamp all GLBT party lines on “the leather scene,” pornography, anonymous sex, so-called “inter-generational sex,” “sex work,” transgender issues, drag and many other matters is intolerant and the lumpy thinking that Emerson called “the hobgoblin of small minds.”

The Tenth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” [Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21]

The great devotional writer, Oswald Chambers, called covetousness “the very essence of the Fall.” Accordingly, to Bible scholars, the tenth Commandment “functions as a kind of summary commandment, the violation of which is a first step that can lead to the violation of any one or all the rest of the commandments.” [John I. Durham]

The “Hebrews visualized the soul as full of vigorous desires which urged it to extend its influence over other persons and things.” [D. H. Tongue] Such inordinate desire for control over others is the envy condemned in this tenth Commandment.

This is the only one of the Ten Commandments that explicitly condemns intent. It condemns the motivation of envy itself. This envy is focused on what belongs to others. However, as Barclay points out, “Envy does not so much want the things for itself; it merely wants to take them away from the other person. The Stoics defined it as ‘grief at someone else’s good.’ … It is the quality, not so much of the jealous, but rather of the embittered mind.” Martin Luther used to say that “too many Christians envy the sinners their pleasure and the saints their joy, because they don’t have either one.”

What is so ironic, then, is that while the Religious Right postures a satisfaction—indeed it preaches that it’s found the satisfaction—it is so obviously unsatisfied, for it is inordinately desirous of intrusive control over others. Instead of being satisfied with the things of God and the things of its own satisfaction in God, the Religious Right seeks the things of homosexuals. This is evident in its obsessive assault against the most personal and intimate aspects of the lives of lesbians and gay men. What is it but inordinate desire to dominate others that is manifested in the Religious Right’s raising millions of dollars to prevent homosexuals from enjoying the same rights to the benefits of employment and family life that the Religious Right reserves for itself?

What in the world does the Religious Right fantasize when it tries to discredit simple civil rights for homosexuals by caricaturing them as “special rights?” Beyond its designs for restricting employment opportunities, access to public accommodations, fairness in hospital visitation access and so on, what does it mean that it reserves to itself the right to say what homosexuals mean—to define homosexuals. Its arrogantly labeling all lesbians and gay men as sick and sinful as such is the most intrusive play for overpowering control. It reminds one of the ancient assumption of attribution: to name a person is to control that person. It’s what the demons tried to do to Jesus.

Does the Lesbigayt Spirit have an inordinate desire to control what belongs to others? It does when it forces its homogenized homosexuality onto all lesbians and gay men—even those whose evangelical faith is supposed to determine their sexual choices. It does when it takes for granted that homosexuality defines everything else. It does when it is indistinguishable from secularism’s over-reaching lust for more and more. It is when it’s fixated on more superficial sex and stuff and more self-serving political maneuvering more than on more love for Christ and the rights of others, even enemies, and Christ’s all-embracing sovereignty. It is when it’s lesbigayt-centric rather than centered in Christ and the priorities of His gospel of truth and grace and peace.

This, of course, brings us right back to the Preamble and to the God-ward Commandments—to our being rooted in God and not in ourselves—whether gay or straight.

But enlightening as the Law is, the Law is not the Light of the world. That Light is in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His Light we are children of Light, so that whether gay or straight, we might be Christian light in this dark world. That’s Christian light, not life!

In one way or another, I’ve been an advocate for Christian and secular support for gay men and lesbians since 1962. During those four decades, the organized efforts have gone from the old Homophile Movement to the Gay Liberation Front and Gay Power to the GLBT movement and Queer Theory. But we as Christians should know that none of such advocacy can do what can be done by witnessing to the liberating Light of Christ’s gospel. What a freedom we’d have if we were not muzzled by false gospels, if we refused to hide the Light! What if we could be struck with the awareness: My God, where have our priorities been! What opportunities are being missed by our putting so much time and effort into secondary issues rather than into what matters most! God’s acceptance of us in Christ is what’s basic. Acceptance of homosexuality follows from that acceptance!

Concluding Remarks

Christianity is not about our hanging Ten. Christianity is about God’s hanging onto us and about our hanging onto Jesus—hanging on a cross and being raised from the dead. Theologically, we’re no longer under the Mosaic Law. But Jesus summed up all of God’s Law this way: “Love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no law against this law of love, since love is the essence of all God’s law. Jesus Christ is the mediator of God’s law, having lived it perfectly. He calls us to follow Him as He lives His life in us who are in Him. vSo in loving God with all we are and with all we have we are taking God’s love seriously and we must therefore take each other seriously, for we all have been taken most seriously by God—even unto Christ’s death on the cross. Taking this truth of God’s grace in Christ seriously, we must understand that we are all loved in Christ without further reference to the law of Moses, without reference to our gender, without reference to our sexual orientation, without reference to our identity group, without reference to our social or cultural standing. And so, in grateful response to that great love with which we are loved, and in the most practical way in which we may return that love, we get to love all our neighbors as we love ourselves. We get to be liberated from the demonic spirit of an obsessively petty individualism and petty group identity.

Instead of doing every don’t and undoing every do, let’s do unto others as we’d be done by, that His will for us all might be done to His glory. That would be loving God with all we are and loving all neighbors as we love ourselves.

A contemporary example of the gist of this Golden Rule is the Common Benefits Clause which the Vermont Supreme Court ruled should be extended to same-sex couples and which the Vermont legislature passed into law.

Sadly, this accomplishment of the Golden Rule was achieved by people derided as perverts by those to whom the Golden Rule was entrusted. In this, the Religious Right impersonated the self-righteous neighbor who, in the poetry of D. H. Lawrence, protests:

I love my neighbor
are these things my neighbours?
these two-legged things that walk and talk|
and eat and cachinnate, and even seem to smile
seem to smile, ye gods!
Am I told that these things are my neighbors?
All I can say then is Nay! Nay! Nay! Nay! Nay!

Of course there are those on the Religious Right who also “walk and talk / and eat and cachinnate, and even seem to smile, ye gods.” Are we “told that these things are [our] neighbors?” Do we, too, protest: “Nay! Nay! Nay! Nay! Nay!”

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