“God Hates Shrimp”: Why One Of The Most Common LGBT Arguments Against Scripture Doesn’t Pass Muster (Updated)

Image courtesy godhatesshrimp.com. Used with permission.

Last week saw the gay marriage debate in America reach a fever-pitch. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that at the center of this controversy was Chick-fil-A, one of the nation’s most popular chicken restaurants, and one with a history of making corporate policy consistent with its founder’s Evangelical views. The LGBT community and those in favor of gay marriage rights have banded together to boycott the company’s “Jesus chicken.” I’ll spare you the details because they are all but unavoidable on the internet and cable news channels and aren’t really my focus, anyway.

My focus is a particular biblical argument that I keep hearing in favor of gay marriage – and as yet, I haven’t seen many, if any, Christians engage it publicly. This is frankly pretty surprising to me. The appeal of the argument to those that use it, ostensibly, is that they are supposedly fighting scriptural fire with scriptural fire. However, the argument isn’t all that good and is fairly easy to refute.

When an Evangelical is asked why gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed, almost without fail they go straight to Leviticus 18, noting that Scripture identifies homosexuality as an abomination. Unfortunately, it seems that the bulk of Evangelicals aren’t able to argue much further than this. Not from Scripture, anyway. This is doubly unfortunate because not only does the faulty argument gain ground in the public square of opinion by default, but Christians who should know better are allowed to continue in their ignorance. Churches have failed their members and the lost communities around them when they fail to instruct their people on how to thoughtfully and faithfully engage their world.

So what’s the argument? Basically, it goes something like this: Christians say homosexuality is wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong. The Bible also says some other things are wrong. Christians don’t heed those prohibitions. Why should anyone heed the Bible’s implicit prohibition against gay marriage? This same, basic argument shows up time and again. One notable example is the clearly satirical website godhatesshrimp.com. The website opens with the following:

Shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, mussels, all these are an abomination before the Lord, just as gays are an abomination. Why stop at protesting gay marriage? Bring all of God’s law unto the heathens and the sodomites. We call upon all Christians to join the crusade against Long John Silver’s and Red Lobster. Yea, even Popeye’s shall be cleansed.

The site justifies this call to arms on the basis of Leviticus 11:9-12 and Deuteronomy 14:9-10. These aren’t the only biblical passages that people have used for this argument, either. During college, one of my professors had our class debate the gay marriage issue. One young lady in my class noted that since Leviticus banned homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13) as well as sexual intercourse during menstruation (Leviticus 18:19), and since plenty of people have sex during a woman’s menstrual period, we should simply disregard Leviticus as outdated. Though she cites a different biblical passage, the logic of her argument is obviously the same as the one above. The argument, whichever form it takes, depends on painting the biblically committed Christian as inconsistent and/or hypocritical. And that is precisely where it fails.

During the height of the Chick-fil-A controversy, I stumbled across this opinion piece on The Daily Caller. Mark Judge, the conservative author, bemoans the fact that political conservatives often get labeled as bigots and hate-mongers while simply trying to make a reasoned case against gay marriage. I’ll let you judge the overall merits of his article for yourself. That’s not my concern here. Overall intention of Judge’s article aside, what primarily grabbed my attention as I read was his claim that,

When gay activists go after Christians and a place like Chick-fil-A, which supports traditional marriage, they make an argument that strikes right at the heart of the Bible.

His support for this claim came in the form of what he estimated was a logical and reasoned refutation using Scripture – a recent Huffington Post article by Noah Michelson. The relevant portion of Michelson’s article said this:

For some reason this country still thinks that it’s OK to treat [homosexuals] like we are, at best, just not quite as worthy to have all the rights afforded straight or cis-gendered people or, at worst, just plain evil. Many of these statements are bolstered by religious arguments using the Bible as ammunition, but, as it’s been pointed out time and again, the Bible demands we do or don’t do a lot of things that we no longer do or don’t do (like that we should own slaves and we shouldn’t eat popcorn shrimp), and Jesus himself never uttered a single word about being queer (and if he wanted us all to be “traditionally married” so badly, you’d think the guy himself would have gotten married).

Judge seemed to agree, by and large, with Michelson’s rationale:

But in an important sense Michelson is right — there are contradictions and weird commands in the Bible, and some of them have to do with marriage and slavery. Gay marriage advocates often point this out, and they are right to do so. As a Catholic Christian, I believe that God is a God of reason. We should be forced to use logical arguments to defend our positions.

Given my conviction that this argument is both biblically and logically flawed, I felt compelled to respond to Judge’s article in the comments section:

I’m sure I’ll catch some flak for this, but here goes:

Mr. Judge,

You stated in your article that supporters of homosexual marriage rights are right to argue logically from Scripture that gay marriage should be allowed. You cited the article from Michelson as an example of how this can and ought to be reasonably done. I have heard these arguments and arguments like them before and it strikes me as odd that you would hold these examples up as a standard for what passes as “reasoned” arguments. Frankly, they are far from it, and fairly easily debunked by someone with a modicum of Biblical literacy and ability to think critically. That we should accept and endorse gay marriage because there are many Scriptural mandates that we do not now heed, as Christians or as a society at large, is flawed – both biblically and logically – for two primary reasons.

First, the argument assumes that Scriptural commands, simply by virtue of them being Scriptural commands, do not have any authority for life and practice. It assumes that humanity has the prerogative to pick and choose which to obey based on social norms. This, obviously, is more of a biblical and convictional issue than a logical one. I, a conservative protestant, believe in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. This is not something I can argue you into belief in, so I will leave it at that. If someone in favor of gay marriage rights wants to make a reasoned refutation to someone quoting Scripture to him/her, all he/she needs to say is “I choose not to abide by the commands of Scripture. I live in a country that allows me to practice my religious beliefs freely, and you can’t stop me from rejecting biblical mandates as authoritative for my life.” I may not agree with their attitude or choice or its temporal or eternal consequences for them and their partner, but they do have both the biblical and legal freedom to make it (whether it is socially beneficial and whether it is incumbent upon government to subsequently grant them a marriage license are different issues entirely). That is a reasoned case to refute someone who bases their case on the Scriptures. Misunderstanding and/or misrepresenting Scripture as Michelson and others have done, is not.

Second, Michelson’s argument is based on a flawed premise that shows a clear lack of understanding of the very Scriptures that he attempts to argue from. His flawed premise is this: “If, choosing to live under the authority of Scripture, we do not follow some of the specific commands of Scripture, we need not follow any of them.”

According to Scripture, Old Testament law was given to ancient theocratic Israel by God as a covenant sign of their worship of him. The Old Testament law can be faithfully divided into three distinct sub-sets: judicial laws, ceremonial laws and moral laws. Judicial laws are those laws which give legal implications, punishments, and retributions for various offenses (i.e. “If your Ox gores your neighbor, you shall recompense his family in X way and Y punishment will befall you under Z circumstances.”). Ceremonial laws are laws that dictate how Israel is to ceremonially worship Yahweh and how and under what circumstances they are kept from it and the manner in which they are to be cleansed in preparation for it. Michelson’s example of “popcorn shrimp” falls into this category – Jews were forbidden from eating shellfish because the keeping of their dietary laws was a form of ceremonial cleanness. Moral laws are those laws which show what actions are and are not a moral reflection of the character of Yahweh (i.e. “Do not lie with a man as a man lies with a woman – it is an abomination,” “Do not murder,” “Do not oppress the orphan”). The 10 Commandments (with, perhaps, the exception of the commandment for observation of the Sabbath as a day of rest) fall into this category. What is interesting about this category of laws is that all of the laws in this category are additionally ratified in the New Testament. Read the New Testament and you will find prohibitions against lying, stealing, gluttony, greed, adultery, and yes, homosexuality. You will not, however, find a prohibition against eating popcorn shrimp.

The theological reason for this is pretty profound. Where once, under the Old Covenant, laws were given for sinful men to obey in order to be holy, set apart, and perfect, now, under the New Covenant of Christ’s blood, we are made to be perfect by faith in him. Jesus himself said that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Because he lived the law in perfection, that perfect obedience is credited to our account through faith. As a result, Old Testament laws for ceremonial cleanness, for instance, are no longer binding on believers. Read Acts chapter 10 where God commands Peter, a Jew, to eat what would have been ceremonially unclean food, because in Christ that requirement of the law had been fulfilled.

Moral laws have not been so reversed in the New Testament, and so, are not subject to the same dismissal by those who choose to live in Christ, under the authority of Scriptures. Jesus was more than a verbal teacher, so we should not take his silence on a subject to mean that he disagreed with Old Testament laws or thought them silly or unimportant. He did not. Instead, he lived all of them perfectly, and that includes his living as a heterosexual (if single) man. According to the New Testament, many first-century Christians were redeemed from the spiritual consequences of homosexuality and subsequently enabled to live rightly (that is, in submission to the Scripture’s moral laws) in Christ, by the Spirit. Because of how he lived his life, and because of the New Testament commands to refrain from homosexuality, Christians can indeed rightly identify homosexuality as sinful, refraining from it, loving those who sinfully engage in it, and all the while indulging in some delicious popcorn shrimp.

So the next time you hear this argument in one of its various forms, refute it. Refute it confidently, but refute it graciously. Refute it humbly. Refute it lovingly. And then, and most importantly, get to the gospel! Because the LGBT community doesn’t need your logical biblical arguments to reassure them of your intelligence. They need your logical arguments to introduce them to the God who loves them as they are, but who bled and died so that they wouldn’t be doomed to remain that way.

UPDATE: In my response to Judge’s article, I deliberately did not argue against the fact that Jesus was silent on the issue of homosexuality. Instead, for sake of brevity, I chose instead to argue generally that, “Jesus was more than a verbal teacher, so we should not take his silence on a subject [that is, ANY subject] to mean that he disagreed with Old Testament laws or thought them silly or unimportant. He did not. Instead, he lived all of them perfectly, and that includes his living as a heterosexual (if single) man.” However, the case actually can be made from Scripture that Jesus did indeed speak to this issue quite clearly. For an excellent rebuttal of this argument, see SEBTS President Danny Akin’s recent article on the subject.

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15 thoughts on ““God Hates Shrimp”: Why One Of The Most Common LGBT Arguments Against Scripture Doesn’t Pass Muster (Updated)

  1. “They need your logical arguments to introduce them to the God who loves them as they are”

    …but doesn’t want them to to be allowed to marry the people they love.

    Good loving god, that.

    • Would you say that the only kind of loving parent is is the kind that gives their child everything the child wants, no matter what? I wouldn’t. Because the parent knows what is best for the child. Likewise, by virtue of being God, God knows what is best for us, because he knows what is the clearest reflection of his character and furthermore, he has shown us through Christ’s death what the truest picture of love is. In the Bible, he has said that homosexuality isn’t it. You can choose to believe that or not.

      • “Would you say that the only kind of loving parent is is the kind that gives their child everything the child wants, no matter what?”

        Nope.

        But I would say that a parent who deprives their child of something that does not harm then or anyone else, is free, and would make them happy, and deprives them of it for no rational reason…then they’re a bad parent.

        “God knows what is best for us”

        I do not accept this premise for two reasons. Nor should it be an issue when dealing with the legality of gay marriage in a non-theocracy.

      • But you assume that homosexuality “does not harm them or anyone else.” I don’t share that assumption. Scripture says that it does. It also shows that while it homosexuality may make a person temporarily happy, a saving relationship with Christ will make them happier, or perhaps, more joyful in the long run. But you are right, homosexuals are given a free will to make the decision to pursue homosexual relationships if they want to, despite these facts – just as I noted in the post.

        I can’t argue you into a belief that God knows what is best for you. I can’t argue you into belief in the Scriptures as authoritative. But I believe that they are and think it is completely fair to point out inconsistencies in argumentation against them.

        If you read the article carefully, you will find that no where did I argue from Scripture against the “legality” of gay-marriage. I couldn’t possibly do that. If state or federal governments choose to allow it, it will be legal, simple as that. But that doesn’t mean that it would be holy, moral, ethical, or even good policy. Those are separate issues.

        I’ll give you the last word. Thanks for reading and come back!

  2. “But you assume that homosexuality “does not harm them or anyone else.” ”

    No I don’t.

    I’ve studied and observed it, and found no harm. No assumption about it.

    “Scripture says that it does.”

    Sure, but it offers no justification. You can make a claim, but if you can’t back it up, I’ll ignore it.

  3. Scott Sholar says:

    Thank you for sharing, and God bless you. I wrote a piece on this subject last week.

  4. Chris Morgan says:

    I find a few issues with your argument. While it is true that the Bible endorses things that are no longer socially acceptable (treatment of women, slavery) your argument seems to be that either these exceptions do not invalidate the whole or that people are wrong to disregard them. Is your argument that things like slavery are not exceptions or that because of the type of exceptions (such as your differentiating of dietary laws from moral laws) the core remains solid?

    My perspective on the matter is that once one element has been invalidated (for example slavery) other mandates become questionable at best. If a Christian accepts that slavery is no longer acceptable then what makes other commands any less or more so? Part of the argument for the Christian god is the perfection of the bible and its commands. If a Christian accepts that certain tenets of faith or rules of behavior are no longer applicable then defending other beliefs according to the perfection of God’s commands is hypocritical.

    Also, Acts 10 seems less a literal command/dispensation regarding eating food than a metaphorical vision of acceptance of people who are not Jews (Acts 10:28). Ironically it goes on to say: “(Peter) said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

    • Not really sure what you’re asking in the first paragraph. My argument is that, theologically speaking, all law has been fulfilled in Christ. Christians are expected to obey all New Testament commands. Some of these are laws that were codified for Israel in the Old Testament.

      As for your perspective that “once one element has been invalidated…other mandates become questionable at best,” I simply fail to see why. I will return to my example of the parent-child relationship. Imagine you are a parent. You are the undisputed authority figure. You have a 3 year old child that you teach not to lie, and not to go into the kitchen because it is dangerous. Fast forward 12 years. Your child is now 15 years old. Unless you are a failure as a parent, the child knows that you expect them not to lie for character reasons. On the other hand, you have long since removed the restriction on entering the kitchen, and you have no less authority over your child for having done so. Just because one rule does not apply in a specific circumstance, does not mean that no rules apply under any circumstances. As I pointed out in my post, the theological reason for the situational distinction is Christ’s fulfillment of the entire law. We still follow the moral law ratified in the New Testament out of a heart of thankful obedience for our salvation, but need not follow the ceremonial and judicial laws as those were part of the Old Covenant of law, not the New Covenant of grace which Christians are under by Christ’s blood.

      And yes, obviously, Peter’s vision was given during a time of transition as a way of showing him that the New Covenant of grace was not restricted to Israel, but was granted to the Gentiles as well. But that does not at all negate my original assertion regarding Acts 10. The fact remains that God declared to him that there was now no longer ceremonially unclean food “And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common'” (v. 15 ESV) See also Paul’s admonition in Colossians 2:8-17.

      • Chris Morgan says:

        So which commands are no longer applicable? Again, what of slavery which is allowed in the old testament and reiterated in the new testament (Colossians 3:22 “Slaves obey your earthly masters) thus making it okay. If the bible is wrong on this what else is it wrong on? Who decides?

      • It’s hard to answer that question, short of giving you a lecture in hermeneutics. Here’s a general rule of thumb: If it is commanded in the NT, obey it. If it is commanded in the NT and the OT, definitely obey it. That said, there are some commands that we obviously would not obey in the NT.

        For instance, 2 Timothy 4:13: “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” Now, does God expect every believer to make his way to Paul’s burial place (wherever that is) after getting his cloak (which has long since decomposed) from Carpus’s house (where did he live in Troas?) along with the books and parchments (who knows where those are) to deliver all of these things to Paul’s (decomposed and now non-existent) body? Of course not. There is no reasonable reading of that text that would conclude otherwise. Passages like this one show the historicity of the text – that is, that it was written in a specific time and place for a specific purpose with a specific audience – but don’t automatically demand that we obey them.

        Additionally, biblical literary genre can come into play in terms of how one interprets a passage. For instance, the book of Proverbs is not a book of promises, as many (Christians) seem to think, but a book of, as the name suggests, proverbs. That is to say that they are generalizations and need to be interpreted as such. One specific example is Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Is that verse a promise from God? No. It is a generalization. It is entirely possible for two Christian parents to do everything within their power to rightly train a child in worship and service of God and then for the child to rebel against that as an adult. I’m sure you’ve met some preacher’s kids that might be examples of this – I know I have. Every person has to make the choice for themselves to follow God. A parent’s training does not ensure that they will, but generally speaking, it is true that if you train a child in the faith correctly, he won’t depart from it when he is older.

        For further reading on the topic, I’d suggest a book such as Fee and Stuart’s “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” (http://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Bible-All-Worth/dp/0310246040/ref=cm_lmf_img_4), a good popular-level book dealing with interpretation as it pertains to literary genre, or for something a bit more in-depth and comprehensive, consider Osborne’s “Hermeneutical Spiral” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Hermeneutical-Spiral-Comprehensive-Interpretation/dp/0830812881/ref=cm_lmf_tit_3).

        Now, up to this point, I’ve intentionally kept from addressing slavery in order to avoid muddying the waters. My main concern was the gay marriage debate, but since you asked, I’ll answer. There are certain times when the Bible addresses things, but does not command them. Slavery is one of those cases. In this case, I honestly believe you have just misunderstood the command of Colossians 3:22. The command is given to slaves. Slaves are commanded to be obedient to their masters as a show of respect, submission (even to illegitimate authority), and patience among other things. These all reflect the character of God and serve as a witness to the slave holder. The command most certainly does not say, “Slave owners, take slaves for yourselves.” Paul makes it quite clear that among Christians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

        That said, the important thing is that various Christians at the time, for various reasons (i.e., many slaves freely sold themselves into bondservice for financial reasons) were slaves and the Bible simply addresses that the practice existed, and told slaves and slave owners how they were to properly live out their faith in their contexts. Sometimes a person who owned slaves was converted. Then was he to instantly release all of his slaves? No. Such action would have, in all likelihood, brought about the financial ruin of the slaves. The loving – the Christian – thing to do, was to keep them in his employ, treating them with love, respect, and affording them the position of brother rather than hired help. It can’t be overlooked that slavery as it was then was drastically different than what comes to our minds due to recent historical events when we hear the word. For a good article on whether or not the Bible condones slavery (and what slavery actually was at the time), along with some recommended reading, see here: http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-slavery.html

        Finally (phew), as for who decides whether Scripture is right or not, you have to decide for yourself. But actually study the text. Consider both sides. Seek out the best arguments you can find in favor of it and against it. Whether or not the Bible is trustworthy is a different (and more important) question than asking whether or not certain commands apply at certain times. In this, you are absolutely right – if the Scriptures are untrustworthy in part, they are untrustworthy in their entirety. So I would encourage you to do your best to disprove the Bible. It has stood up to intense scrutiny for 2,000 years. If you want to pass judgement on it, fine, just make sure that you are doing so using the best possible arguments, that you have reasonably weighed the opposition’s best arguments, and that you are being fair-minded in your reading of it. And be aware that if Scripture is, in fact, correct, your soul’s destiny depends on the decision you make.

  5. Ddean says:

    Good 1, with thanks for the tip

  6. I me says:

    See here, you. Stop clarifying things. The Bible obviously approves of slavery, hates women, and prescribes death for shrimp lovers. I really don’t understand your little vendetta against facts. All of this would go much more swimmingly if you’d simply concede that establishing context is too time consuming to be worth our while. Listen: the Bible says some things that make people uncomfortable, and that is an incontrovertible wrong. Cogito ergo et carpet deum et les miserables. At least try to put some thought into your next “opinion”.

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