Who Makes the Rules?

Article excerpt

Delegates to the 1997 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, Texas, voted to boycott the Walt Disney Company because of its "gay-friendly" policies. And what is the ethical basis for the opposition to Disney's open endorsement of human rights? The Bible -- writings produced in a small corner of the world some 2,000 to 3,000 years ago!

If we are to take the Southern Baptists seriously, the boycott means that in Baptist households children are being forbidden to see The Lion King, 101 Dalmations, and any other Disney movie. Disney theme parks are also off limits. Can you imagine the number of family arguments that have developed over pre-planned vacations to Orlando or Anaheim or over whether Disney movies can be watched on television? And, of course, the TV is not tuned to ABC.

Have 15.7 million Southern Baptists conformed? Probably in about the same proportion that Roman Catholics have conformed to that church's ruling on birth control! Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics, like most of the rest of our society, pick and choose what moral and ethical precepts they will accept or ignore even if their behavior constitutes a rejection of patterns proscribed in what they believe are divinely revealed scriptures. For example, despite the brouhaha in the military over adultery, most Christians quietly ignore the biblical teachings regarding this "sin." Of course, Jimmy Carter admitted that he had "committed adultery in his heart" because he had conjured up lust-filled mental images (see Matthew 5:27), but I doubt that even he would label every man who married a divorced woman an "adulterer" (Matthew 5:32). We also have long since abandoned the notion that the only acceptable ground for divorce is adultery (Matthew 5:31). Our society has decided that these "divinely revealed" rules are passe.

Humanists and secularists are realists. They know that moral and ethnical prescripts grow out of communal living. Ethics are given supernatural authority when religious organizations project them into the heavens and then present them as revealed dogma. The examples are far too many to list here, but perhaps a few with suffice.

In the Louvre, a slab of black diorite presents the law code of King Hammurabi of Babylon (1792-1750 BCE). In the top panel, Hammurabi stands before Shamash, the sun god who was the god of justice, receiving authority to develop the law code in accordance with the wishes of the god. A careful examination of the regulations demonstrates that some prescription echo laws already in existence which been "revealed" to earlier rulers by other gods. …