The Truth, Mainly - 03/28/2005

The British are coming!
by Leon Satterfield

Those Brits. They're getting awfully feisty. Don't they remember that we won the Revolutionary War and thereby got our independence?

Here's what showed up on my computer screen last week:


"To the citizens of the United States of America, in the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and other territories. Except Utah. Her majesty doesn't fancy Utah.

"Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed."

Then I saw that the document is the work of John Cleese, one of the old Monty Python crazies.

It's a joke.

But there's another—and more serious—British attempt to renew control over a portion of America. It comes from that bastion of British religion, the Anglican Church, and it seems to be a bit upset about its American offspring, the Episcopal Church, going astray.

Like a mother gently correcting a wayward child, the Anglicans have asked the Episcopalians (according to the A.P.) "to impose temporary bans on same-sex blessings and the ordination of unmarried bishops who are not celibate."

That's a response to the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay guy who lives with his longtime male partner.

And that offends the delicate sensibilities of some of the Anglican archbishops. Which piques my dirty, rotten, secular humanist desire to ridicule some more religious homophobia.

I'm not sure where the Anglican homophobia comes from, but I'll bet it's at least partly from the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. I have a vague memory of a homophobic verse in Leviticus, so I flail about for quite a while looking for it. I finally find it in Leviticus 18:22 which in my King James translation reads like this:

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination."

But in flailing about in Leviticus looking for that passage, I find lots of other abominations being warned against. Here's one from the page facing the one just quoted: "Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind; thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed; neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee" (Leviticus 19:19).

Would Jerry Falwell scold you for those infractions? Would the Archbishop of Canterbury? Probably not. But why do they take homosexuality as a more serious sin?

Or how about the fifteenth chapter of Leviticus? It tells us that during a woman's menstrual time a man must not touch her body, her clothes, or her bed, because they're all unclean—as the woman herself is for seven days. "And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Leviticus 15:29).

Turtles or pigeons. That's about as much wiggle room as you'll find in Leviticus.

Slavery? No problem. Leviticus 25:44 says it's okay so long as the slaves are of another religion: "Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids."

But if you're a boy and you happen to see your little sister naked (as in, say, watching your mother change your sister's diaper), "it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people" (Leviticus 20:17).

I don't even want to know what "cut off" means here.

My point is this: If we're going to ostracize gays because of what Leviticus says about them, then why don't we ostracize all the others among us who violate other rules Leviticus lays down? If it's because times have changed, if it's because we've outgrown the laws of Leviticus, why do we persist in holding on to the homophobic one that does perhaps the most harm to our principle of equality before the law?

So why don't American Episcopalians just tell the British Anglicans to go jump in the lake? Provided, of course, that in the spirit of Leviticus the Brits first properly cover up what the Monty Python boys call their "naughty bits."


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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