Americans are not above using the Bible to promote their politics, a Kansas University professor said Thursday.
In the 1950s, for example, the Bible was used to push the importance of mothers staying home to raise their children while, at the same time, making room in the work force for servicemen returning from World War II.
“Religion was used to promote a cultural value: in this case, the nuclear family,” said Robert Minor, a religious studies professor at Kansas University.
The fact that several passages in the Bible openly endorse polygamy was conveniently overlooked, he said.
Minor’s comments were part of “Religion and Oppression,” a panel discussion at the Kansas Union coordinated by Queers & Allies, an association representing gay, lesbian and transgendered students.
Abolitionists, too, used the Bible to attack slavery, Minor explained, adding that passages condoning slavery and calling on slaves to “obey their masters” were rarely mentioned.
It’s no surprise, Minor said, that the Bible today is being used to condemn homosexuality and gay marriage.
“There are seven passages in the Bible that are used against gay people,” Minor said. “But the debate among biblical scholars is not whether they are pro or anti (gay).”
He added: “The word homosexual does not appear in the Bible.”
Agreeing with Minor, fellow religious studies professor Daniel Breslauer said among biblical scholars the often-cited passage “Lie down with no man as you would a women” is thought to have more to do with gender — men’s power over women — than with homosexuality.
Tim Miller, another religious studies professor, encouraged the 25 students in the audience to recognize the differences among religion, politics and culture.
“I don’t think religion is inherently oppressive,” he said. “But I think people can be oppressive and are capable of using the Bible as a tool of oppression.”
Andrew Stangl, a Wichita freshman, asked why the nation’s mainstream churches have been less than outspoken in support of gay rights and in opposition to the Iraq war.
“Where is the outrage?” Stangl asked.
Breslauer replied: “The Vietnam War made (church leaders) realize their patriotism could be called into question.”
Miller added that many churches were “truly internally conflicted” over whether to extend an open door to gays and lesbians.
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