On the ABC’s Q&A programme last night, Kevin Rudd was challenged by a preacher who questioned why he, as a Christian, supported same-sex marriage and didn’t “believe the words of Jesus in the Bible”. Rudd’s reply was that “the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition“. He continued the comparison: “If you think homosexuality is an unnatural condition, then frankly I cannot agree with you …”
Where does the Torah suggest that human slavery is a “natural condition”? The Torah has laws that relate to how slaves should be treated. Bear in mind that slavery was common practice at the time, and indeed continued for many thousands of years and was only abandoned in relatively recent history. Does this mean the Torah condones slavery? The Torah states that if you take a slave, then you must treat the slave in a certain way. If anything, the Torah is setting some boundaries on the behaviour of the time and protecting the lives of slaves, rather than promoting slavery as a “natural condition”.
There are a set of laws governing the repayment of debt by a Jew to another Jew through slavery. However, the treatment of such a “slave” is more akin to a live-in rehab service to help the thief get back on his feet, as opposed to the slavery of old.
Rudd then extends his argument to suggest that by prohibiting male homosexual sex, the Torah declares it to be an “unnatural condition”. Again, I don’t understand the basis for this. The Torah includes hundreds of prohibitions – is it logical to assume that all of these are “unnatural” and that is why they are prohibited? Is it unnatural to want to eat pork? Is it unnatural to desire your neighbour’s nice car? Is it unnatural to want to take the law into your own hands rather than abide by a system of justice and order?
The Torah – through many positive and negative commandments – sets down a moral code and standard of behaviour. If it only prohibited things that we wouldn’t want to do anyway because they are “unnatural”, and only instructed us to do things that we would “naturally” want to do anyway, then what good would it be?
Irrespective of where you stand on homosexuality or gay marriage, Rudd’s misguided argument seeks to reject any aspect of the Torah just because some other parts may appears inconsistent with the current world view. This is akin to TV character Jed Bartlet’s celebrated attack on a right-wing radio host – his arguments makes for great sound bites but have little depth to them. And the way any such attempt at public humiliation of someone whose opinions differ is greeting with rowdy applause from the audience is equally disdainful.
People easily forget the origins of Judaeo-Christian values and instead consign them to the “we’d do this anyway” bucket. The Torah has been around for thousands of years, and will continue to be there when society changes its mind again.