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Who decides which scriptures are right?

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A recent letter in these columns stated that the book of Leviticus “proves” that God abhors homosexuality. The writer obviously chooses to ignore that Leviticus also “proves” that the degradation of women and slavery are permissible and even stipulates the way a man should cut his hair and forbids tattooing.

After teaching Oriental philosophy and religion for over 40 years, I still find it fascinating that in all religions some of the adherents find it possible to decide what of their scriptures is right and what they can ignore. Confucius said: “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” We see a lack of that idea in China today. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that a man should adhere to his caste duty, but today India is wracked with public protest against corruption in high places. Muhammad is quoted as saying: “No man can be a believer who does not desire for his neighbor what he desires for himself.” Try that on some quarters in Islam today.

Recently there was revulsion over a shooting at a Sikh community in Wisconsin, but I would wager that if you stopped any person on any street anywhere in this country and asked them what Sikhism was, they could not tell you. Sikhism developed in the early 16th century, in part as a bridge over the hostility between Hinduism and Islam. As a result, of course, they were persecuted by both sides.

I think often of the story of the woman who was complaining to the minister of her church that their denomination had become too liberal in the matter of homosexuality. The minister asked, “If Jesus were standing at the door of the church and a gay man asked to come in, would he let him?”

“I suppose he would,” said the woman. “But he would be wrong!”

Donald Pearce

Bemidji

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