A Letter to Indiana Legislators
By Doug Sloan
One of the overarching messages of the Bible is that it continually calls us to grow and to move beyond where we are now and to more fully live as a community of God. Even the proponents of HJR 3 demonstrate this when they advocate only for Leviticus 18:22 and not for Leviticus 20:13. Both verses prohibit sex between men, but the latter stipulates a death penalty. HJR 3 does not require a death penalty and its supporters are not clamoring for it. However slight, this is a move forward and a sign of a growing understanding and a maturing faith.
The Bible was not written in English. Consequently, any English translation – at best – can only approximate the language, meaning, and connotation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. For those of us who do not read ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, we must study the research and opinions of biblical scholars who do and who have access to the biblical source documents. The hundreds of biblical source documents range from complete scrolls to fingernail-sized fragments, were written over a span of several centuries, and source document copies of the same text can have significant differences. The books that are selected to be included in the Bible varies throughout the world – there is no single universal authoritative version of the Bible. The source documents span a lengthy time and clearly document that the text itself changed over time as it was copied. Most importantly, there are no original documents and there is no way to verify how closely the source documents replicate the original documents.
Over time the understanding of the Biblical texts has grown and matured. Slavery used to be the norm. Now, we reject it and advocate for its global abolition. Racial discrimination used to be the norm. Now, we reject it and advocate for global racial equality. Women as chattel used to be the norm. Now, we reject it. Women can own property, vote, and have access to a wide range of educational, economic, and ecclesiastical opportunities. Like the struggle for racial equality – the struggle for sexual equality continues globally, including the United States. Through all of these changes, the text of the Bible did not change. What did change was our understanding of the Biblical message, our understanding grew and matured.
Torah (best translated as “instruction”), the first five books of the Bible, has 613 instructions for the ancient nation of Israel – substantial evidence that they took seriously the call to be a people of God. The specifics of most of those instructions for the ancient nation of Israel have no relevance to us. We are neither controlled nor obligated by them. What remains is the message, gathered from the entire Bible, that we worship a God of unrestrained boundless love and unconditional grace whose deepest and most passionate desire is that we live long healthy joyous lives as a community of peace, justice, and compassion and as individuals of generosity, hospitality, and service. We do not worship a god of war, suffering, exclusion, vengeance, condemnation, sacrifices, blood debt, torture, abuse, shame, of neither punishment nor reward. We reject the universalism that declares every person is born into a state of hopelessness and condemnation. We continuously engage in lengthy, serious, deep scholarly study and prayerful contemplation of the Bible. Consequently, we proclaim the Good News that as a community, we are divinely called to a life of inclusive justice that repairs, rehabilitates, restores, and – where possible – reconciles. As a community, we are divinely called to be a people of abundant generous compassion that feeds, quenches, clothes, heals, houses, visits, and welcomes without exception or qualification.
Because it is contrary to the Good News, contrary to what God wants for us, and contrary to how God wants us to treat each other; vote “NO” on HJR 3.
Douglas C. Sloan, Elder
Central Christian Church
Terre Haute, IN