By Bobby Harrison
State Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, has never been anything but straightforward and cordial in my dealings with him – he as a Mississippi policymaker and I as a Mississippi journalist.
A couple of weeks ago Gipson received a good bit of national attention in some circles because of his comments on President Barack Obama’s proclamation that he now supports gay marriage, though he favors allowing this issue to be decided by each state instead of nationally.
On his Facebook page, Gipson cited Bible passages in stating opposition to the president’s stance on gay marriage.
In particular, Gipson cited Leviticus 20:13, which says, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
Gipson later clarified that he believes in the sanctity of all life and was only making the point, that according to the Bible, homosexuality is “morally objectionable.” Knowing Gipson, I believe he wishes no ill on anyone.
Gipson also said he had received death threats because of the controversy.
All this happened a couple of weeks ago, and, because of that, I am reluctant to bring it back up.
My reluctance is many fold.
First of all, Gipson is an attorney and a Baptist minister – a lethal combination when it comes to knowledge of the Bible and the ability to use that knowledge to defend a belief. I, on the other hand, am far from a Bible scholar.
Perhaps, the most important reason I am reluctant to bring it up is I do not want to revive a topic that led to death threats. But, hopefully, I will approach this topic in a civil tone and those who wish to respond will do the same.
Plus, I have no desire to enter into a debate about gay marriage, but I do feel “called” to enter into a discussion of what the Bible says and does not say and what it should mean to us.
Humbly, I say I have found it more useful to use the Bible – in particular the direct teachings of Jesus – as a guide and adhere to the overall tenor that is established by those teachings instead of trying to parcel sometimes conflicting passages that can be found throughout the document that is multi-faceted in that it is part history, part symbolism, part instructional and many other things.
As it turns out, various lifestyle choices, including adultery, which according to numerous biblical references would include divorce and remarriage, should lead to death, according to Bible passages. I will not go into all of those lifestyle choices that should lead to death, but there are several.
We all must make tough decisions.
For instance, I am called upon on occasion to work on Sundays. Some people are working every Sunday at the Daily Journal.
Yet, Exodus 31:14 says “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death, whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.”
And Numbers 15 talks of a man being stoned to death at the Lord’s instructions for gathering sticks on the Sabbath.
As it turns out, Gipson himself has been known to work on the Sabbath. According to the Mississippi Legislature’s web page, the Legislature was in session on April 29 of this year and March 27, 2011 – both Sundays. Gipson is recorded as voting on bills on both of those days. On April 29, as chair of the House Judiciary B Committee, he even called up bills from his committee to be voted on by the entire House.
Should Gipson be put to death for working on a Sunday? Should the entire Legislature suffer the same fate? Should I be put to death for working that day by covering the actions of Gipson and other legislators?
In the eyes of Old Testament writers, working on the Sabbath and homosexuality – interestingly involving two men, but no mention of lesbianism – were both serious offenses.
Is working on the Sabbath now less of a serious offense than homosexuality or adultery or cursing your parents? I don’t know. I do know that Jesus preached and healed on the Sabbath, but doing the business of the state or covering those actions as a journalist fall far short of what Jesus was doing.
We all have to make value judgments – every day.
It’s part of living.
The only point I am making is that it can be a double-edge sword to pull out specific Bible verses to make a point.
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau chief. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (601) 353-3119.