My thoughts on Jack Crabtree’s lecture, which he entitled:
Part One: Considering Biblical Sexual Ethics in the Context of Modern Culture
Line by bloody line. You will find the full copy here:
I. From the perspective of modern culture, biblical sexual ethics will inevitably seem
odd, old-fashioned, bizarre, out of touch, and uncool.
Biblical Sexual Ethics will seem uncool.
My mind- it is blown. His first thought is whether his sexuality is cool or not.
I would say that I’ve seen underwear models with about this approach to sexuality. BUT. The thought doesn’t end there.
Biblical Sexual Ethics, he says, will seem uncool to modern culture. Not just uncool, but odd, bizarre, and old fashioned. And it will seem these things inevitably.
Here, I think he’s selling modern culture short. How many lives do retro fashions have? Millions, apparently. Regurgitating a style for irony’s sake was the soul of hipster decor, the last time I peered out of the hole in the ground I hide in.
Uncool IS cool. Old fashioned is charming.
Reality, however, does not appear to be his concern. Mr. Crabtree plays a deep game.
With the word inevitable, Mr. Crabtree has introduced a necessary relationship. If you are enculturated into modernity, you WILL be repulsed by his sexual ethics.
Therefore, if you are repulsed by his sexual ethics…
Therefore, if you don’t agree with him…
He doesn’t finish the thought here. But hold on to it. He does.
A. As a matter of fact, biblical sexual ethics is radical and revolutionary relative to
modern cultural attitudes.
You want to know what Biblical Sexual Ethics AREN’T Radically and Revolutionary in Relation to?
The Bronze Age!!
You know! When ‘slave’ and ‘wife’ were interchangeable roles!
Exodus 21: 7 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9 If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.
Biblical Sexual Ethics- if, by this term, Mr. Crabtree means the sexual ethics taught in the more ancient portion of scripture- are totally in sync with the thought patterns of Teh Ancient World!!
Well- now at least we know where he’s getting the accusation old-fashioned from.
But does modern culture consider people uncool for treating sexuality as a master/slave relationship?
I think not! Mr. Crabtree is so shy.
1. Moderns will typically view biblical sexual ethics as an “unhealthy” repression of
Speaking as someone with a more ‘modern’ view of sexuality and a bit of a Jungian as well, this statement is incorrect.
I do view what he refers to as Biblical Sexual Ethics (I am far from convinced the Bible presents an account as coherent as he makes it out to) as repressive.
But not of people’s sexuality.
It represses their actual identities in favor of artificially constructed personas. It forces them to pretend to be things that they aren’t- to try and make themselves into things that they never will be- in order to fit in with whatever interpretation of the Bible happens to be in vogue at the time.
To cast their own souls out into the wilderness as scapegoats or else sacrifice themselves on the Altar of What We Think God wants.
Perhaps there are people to whom the sexuality Mr. Crabtree approves is normal and natural. The full expression of their identity would reflect this. An it harm none, I applaud them and wish them well.
However, my sexuality is not what is described here. Those whose sexuality is more ‘biblical’ than mine would feel incredibly persecuted if they had to spend their lives pretending to be what I am- faking their way through social situations- policing themselves to prevent any little slip up that would give the game away-
standing next to a person they were suddenly and irrationally convinced was the most wonderful amazing person in the world and possibly the reason for the existence of the universe-
And not say anything, or meet their eyes too long.
They would not like pretending to be me. So why, if we are doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, do they insist that I pretend to be them?
(of course, that’s all nonsense. If my sexuality were the social norm it would be ok to fall in love with any person of adult age. There would also be sparkles and unicorns instead of rain and taxicabs. No, just kidding. Rain and taxis are much more romantic than unicorns.)
In section 1. a) Mr. Crabtree describes ‘the modern mindset’. The Modern, it seems believes that those who disagree with them (such as Mr. Crabtree) do so solely because the Disagreers are products of a Disagreeing culture. The Disagreeing culture is seen by the Moderns as narrower and more irrational than their newer and more rational culture.
As a Modern, I must again say that this is entirely incorrect. If we must go into it, I am the product of the Disagreeing culture. I was born in it, raised in it, and had few other influences. Of the other influences I did have, some of them were Mr. Crabtree and Company.
So that’s out.
As for Mr. Crabtree himself, I recall him describing a very strict upbringing, which he may have internalized, if his story of the dream of being held down and forced to drink alcohol is anything to go off of.
But I have this hazy memory of him telling stories about being a Longhair too.
Perhaps that is not correct. But both the Modern and the Disagreer in this story were products in whole or in part of the Disagreeing culture- and the Disagreer may actually have been a hippy for a while.
There is no direct correlation here as far as I’m concerned.
He goes on to point out, in 1. a) (1), against this idiot strawman he’s created, that the Modern may be a product of their environment too. Uh. Sure. They may- as far as ‘no direct correlation’ allows.
In 1. a) (2) he points out how the change in culture is not ALWAYS a change from a less to more rational culture. This, I grant him. The fall of the Roman Empire- the rise of the Nazi Empire. The rise of the Roman Empire. These are possible examples of a culture moving from better to worse, and many more can be found, I’m sure, depending on your definition of better and worse.
However I would ask him not to rush past the point so quickly. There is an internal logic sometimes, in the shift of culture. Kuhn? if I remember correctly, posited that in any given scientific paradigm, there was a certain amount of time people would keep working within the old paradigm after it stopped producing interesting answers? But then they would move on, searching for a new paradigm.
They weren’t changing to a new paradigm simply out of perversity. They were changing to a new paradigm because the old paradigm had reached the end of its explanatory power.
If Mr. Crabtree sees people pulling out of his paradigm, is proclaiming how cool it is to be uncool really the answer? Wouldn’t he be better served to try and find out why they’re leaving?
2. Fearful repression of sexuality results in a very different set of moral values than
does courageous, radical obedience to God’s purposes.
Well duh. They of the Teh Ancient World were interested in successful tribal warfare, not repressing sexuality. The Patriarchs were encouraged “by God” to express their sexuality on anything that could be tied down and would produce human offspring.
Fearful sexual repression didn’t come along until the Catholics and the Victorians abandoned the evil material world for the sake of Heaven. Since they both believed that the material world was governed by the rules of sexuaity Mr. Crabtree is proposing, I really can’t say I blame them for being squeamish.
a) Biblical ethics is the latter—courageous, radical obedience to God’s purposes.
b) Radical Islam (and some forms of Christianity) are very possibly an example
of the former—fearful repression of sexuality
Let me translate a couple of the words.
a) Biblical ethics is the latter—courageous, radical Submission to God’s purposes.
b) Radical Submission (and some forms of Christianity) are very possibly an example
of the former—fearful repression of sexuality
Because Islam means submission. And true obedience is also submission.
I’m confused. What’s different here?
So so radical to treat sexuality as a means of popping out enough babies to exterminate the neighboring tribe. So courageous to never question the orders of a being who will make your life a living hell if you question Him but who will give you nice stuff if you do what He says. Even if that Being orders you to commit genocide. Yay for the Bronze Age!
And yes, the Veil does remind me of the Victorians and the Medieval Catholics (putting on gloves before touching money, gah! horrible material world!) as well. Possibly, like them, Islam is having trouble integrating Bronze Age Sexual Ethics with a religion that values salvation of the individual soul.
d) Judaism in the time of Jesus and the apostles had gone beyond sexual
righteousness. In some respects, perhaps, it was more like the modern Taliban
than it was like an ideal biblical sexual ethics.
Oh my God. Christians commentating on whether Judaism is Biblical enough. This is so inappropriate and offensive that it actually makes me want to say a bunch of cuss words and just move on, BUT, that would probably not help anyone.
And unlike MOST of his points in this article, Mr. Crabtree actually gives references to support this.
The first is from Acts 15.
Oh yes. From the Christian Scriptures.
Here’s the passage.
Acts 15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.
Do you see where the Taliban comes into the passage?
The story on chapter 15 is that The Jewish Christian council in Jerusalem has been debating with Paul and Silas about the role of Jewish law in the lives of the Gentile converts Paul kept dragging in. They finally decided that the Gentile Christians should not be required to follow Jewish Law with the exception of 4 simple rules- don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols (aka don’t deliberately participate in other religions) don’t eat blood (ENGLAND!!! HOW COULD YOU!?! I THOUGHT YOU WERE A CHRISTIAN NATION!!! YOUR PUDDINGS ARE SEPARATING YOU FROM GOD!!!) don’t eat meat of strangled animals (cause all the blood is still in it, ENGLAND) and ‘from sexual immorality’
About which final point Mr. Crabtree has a note. His ‘evidence’
“fornication” = marrying beyond certain boundaries (e.g., a Gentile?)
Hence, first century Jews were the Taliban! Isn’t it obvious?
Epic epic epic fail. I’m not going to get out the Greek NT (THAT JACK SIGNED) to look up fornication- this letter is addressed TO Gentiles. Off in Gentile-land. If it were warning against intermarriage with Jews, presumable, Mr. Crabtree should have said (e.g., a Jew?). To imply that it is describing an ‘unnecessary sexual scruple’ attempting to preventing Jews from marrying Gentiles, is such a horribly ridiculous statement that I am tempted to throw my hands in the air. And cuss. And go read a novel. Instead of wading through any more of THIS.
And then to say that this passage reflects the state of Judaism in the first century simply puts me in one of those prey-animal responses where you stop struggling and your brain stops taking in sensory data so that it won’t hurt as much to be eaten.
Maybe he said something different in the lecture itself. Maybe he didn’t transcribe his notes correctly. Yeah. That must be it.
The second reference is much better. It’s from the Book of Tobit.
The Book of Tobit is part of the Christian Apocrypha. It is not considered canonical by most Christians. It is also part of the Jewish Apocrypha. It is not considered canonical by most Jews. According to Wikipedia, “most scholars now prefer situating the composition of Tobit between 225 and 175 BC” which is roughly 200 hundred years, one way or the other, before the time of Jesus and the Apostles. So- not even in the era of history he’s commenting on.
But what’s an era of history between friends?
And despite the fact that the Book of Tobit doesn’t hail from the era in question, there is a quote from the Book of Tobit that shows the Jews of the time had gone WAY off base Biblically.
Tob. 4:12 Beware of all whoredom, my son, and chiefly take a wife of the seed
of thy fathers, and take not a strange woman to wife, which is not of thy
father’s tribe: for we are the children of the prophets, Noah, Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob. Remember, my son, that our fathers from the beginning, even that
they all married wives of their own kindred, and were blessed in their children,
and their seed shall inherit the land.
So being like the Taliban means…? Not marrying Gentiles, I guess? Commiting inscest like Abraham, rather contaminating yourself with outsiders?
The Bible never says anything like that! It says things that are quite the opposite! Like this!
Ezra 9:1 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. 2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”
3 When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. 4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice….
10:1 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. 2 Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. 4 Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”
Oops. Well. Maybe the Bible says exactly the same thing as the Book of Tobit on that particular subject.
But there WERE instances in which the Chosen Ones were allowed to marry outsiders.
Deuteronomy 21:10 When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. 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.
So apparently only consensual marriages with outsiders were considered unholy. If you killed Gentiles, kidnaped their daughters and then kept the daughters around the house for their sexual and presumably domestic services, it was totally ok to call that marriage!
More and more, I’m seeing why Mr. Crabtree doesn’t quote the Bible very much, in his explanation of Biblical Sexual Ethics.