Libertine literalism and Liberals
Biblical Literalism is usually associated with so called “conservative” fundamentalism. There is, however, nothing inherently conservative about literalism. In fact this story about a youth group in Germany producing a sexy calendar is proof that literalism is an extreme and radical reading method that can have results that range from fundamentalism to libertinism.
Anne Rohmer, 21, wearing garters and stockings, posed on a doorstep as the prostitute Rahab. “We wanted to represent the Bible in a different way and to interest young people,” she told news agency Reuters.
“Anyway, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden to show yourself nude.”
Miss Rohmer is skirting the following (and there might be more):
Exodus 20:14: “You shall not commit adultery.”
Mathew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…”
Mathew 5:27: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Mathew 22:39: “love your neighbor as yourself.” ie. Do not needlessly tempt him to break a commandment.
Rohmer’s right in a very simple sense; posing nude is not verboten in black and white letters. It’s in the spirit of the thing that any sensible person can see she’s mistaken. Mathew 5:27 in particular is a near total contradiction of her claim in the eyes of a reasonable person. My main point however is that literalists are extremist by their very nature. They want to either go above and beyond what is required, or they want to do the bare minimum, quite literally.
Most of us rightly reject fundamentalist literalism but few seem to be aware that we live in age of liberal literalism, and this plays itself out in many ways, including in our courts and legislatures. Legal minimalism does not give us more freedom from the law; it simply creates a demand for more law. The recent Knights of Columbus case I’ve posted about is but one example of this “black and white” minimalist approach to the law creating havoc with people’s expectations of the law and what a creative jurist might do with it.