The Gideons have a strange knack for inciting controversy, and they’ve done it again. Ontario pundits are in a tizzy over a new human rights case filed by an atheist couple whose main purpose seems to be to get religious handouts, like Gideon Bibles, banned from schools. Actually, the case is asking whether atheist pamphlets should be given the same standing as religious ones, but since school boards have banned the atheist ones and permitted the religious ones . . .
Anyhow, I knew it was going to come down to this eventually. Christina Blizzard, writing in the Toronto Sun, complains of “intolerance” and persecution by evil multiculturalist leftists. Namely, she feels that there’s a great deal of hypocrisy in a policy that allows Muslims to hold sex-segregated prayers in school lunchrooms — where “girls sit behind the boys and girls who are menstruating sit behind everyone” — while the Christian Bible, an “ageless work of literature that contains messages like ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’” are banned from schools.
Ah, yes. I’ve heard this before. The Bible is a wonderful trove of morals and stories and love and beauty and blah blah blah. Note, in particular, the suggestion that Muslim prayers should be discouraged on the grounds that they are sexist, and Bibles do no harm because they preach good moral lessons. I would like, on that note, to present today’s readings from Holy Scriptures.
We’ll start with a reading from 1 Timothy (NIV), in which the divinely inspired author explains why women cannot take on leadership roles in the church:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
Our next reading is from the book of Leviticus, which prescribes fines for women for the crime of menstruating. This one seems particularly apt given Blizzard’s concerns about how Muslims mistreat girls having their period:
When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean . . .
When she is cleansed from her discharge, she must count off seven days, and after that she will be ceremonially clean. On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the Lord for the uncleanness of her discharge.
I have hundreds of these, but we’ll read just a couple more for the day, starting with this one from the rules of war laid out in the book of Deuteronomy:
When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace.If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse…, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder…
If you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head . . . After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.
But don’t worry, girls! It’s not just prisoners of war that God cares about! To prove he has a heart, God follows this up with a prohibition on cutting down the enemy’s trees, on the very astute grounds that trees aren’t people and can’t run away. And then, after a weird tangent in which he outlaws cross-dressing and orders the death penalty for disobeying one’s parents, God returns once again to the topic of sex crimes:
- If a woman does not bleed after having sex on her wedding night – “If . . . no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.” (To protect their daughter’s honour, the Bible also orders the parents of the bride to take and preserve the bloodstained bedsheets as the requisite “proof.”)
- “If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death — the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife.” (If the rape occurs in the countryside, the girl is given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to live.)
- “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”
Here’s a thought: no sexist teachings in schools. Period. Of course Ontario can’t really do that, what with their Constitutionally protected Catholic schools. But they can sure make a good start on it by halting distribution of Bibles and banning these segregated prayers that Blizzard claims are occurring. I actually have no idea whether they are or not, so I’m a little hesitant on this score, but let’s assume for the moment that they are. And if that’s what she finds objectionable, presumably she finds the Bible equally objectionable, given that the Bible also has gender-segregated rules for prayer, and much more besides.
It should not surprise us that the Bible sometimes reads like the chicken-scratch of some ancient Mediterranean patriarchs who thought the Earth was flat and that God was bizarrely obsessed with our sex organs. After all, that’s precisely what the Bible is. Sorry to burst your bubble on that.