By Nick and Kate Carr
Tinsel, unbearable family reunions and presents are the contemporary attributes of what was once a festive day for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. The story of the virgin birth of baby Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem is used by the more devout to add a veneer of depth to the annual Christmas shopping spree.
This annual dig into the holy book may prompt the telling of a few other tales of note, such as Jesus healing the ill, dying and outcast citizens and Jesus throwing the traders out of the temple in Jerusalem.
The benign Bible promoted at Christmas time, however, comes to an abrupt end when one turns back those pages and discovers the "angry" God of the Old Testament. In fact, the fine line between an everyday Christian and the lunatic fringe of fundamentalism can be drawn on the basis of an individual's level of enthusiasm for the Old Testament.
After creating the world in six days, God, for one of the few times within the Old Testament, was "pleased". Happiness was, however, short-lived because before too long Eve had committed the first sin (eating an apple), Cain had killed his brother Abel, angels were cavorting with earthly women and the world had become so wicked God was heard to utter: "I will wipe out these people I have created, and also the animals and the birds, because I am sorry that I made any of them" (Genesis 6:7-8).
Humankind has continued to this day only thanks to Noah, with whom God was well pleased, and who was allowed to live through the 40-day flood that destroyed the entire earth.
In God's eyes, Noah had two very important things on his side: he was not homosexual and he was not a woman. God does not mince his words on either of these matters, stating, "No man is to have sexual relations with another man; God hates that"(Leviticus 18:22), and, "If a man has sexual relations with another man, they have done a disgusting thing, and both shall be put to death"(Leviticus 20:13).
God was slightly gentler on women. Eve, after sinning within the Garden of Eden, was simply told: "Thy husband shall rule over thee" (Genesis 3:16). His real wrath was saved for menstruation — which God hated. Especially hated was the thought of women having sex when they menstruated. God was so repulsed by this prospect he assigned the punishment of banishment for such an act.
According to the Bible, women should be quiet, virtuous homemakers. Moral women are "rare jewels", but immoral, bold and shameless women are common. God warns against these types: "Do not let such a woman win your heart; don't go wandering after her. She has been the ruin of many men"(Proverbs 7:24-25).
A capable wife is what all good men should seek, and Proverbs is kind enough to outline some important characteristics of such a woman. Heading the list is for her to do good to her husband, followed by keeping herself busy preparing wool. Food is a very important concern for the capable wife, and so she must work late into the night and rise before dawn to prepare food for the family. She also makes bedspreads and wears clothes of fine purple linen. She is a woman who is always busy, but with a gentle wisdom. Such a woman should be praised as she honours the Lord (Proverbs 31:10-31).
In the tale of the destruction of the town of Sodom, God's hatred of homosexuals and women is strikingly combined. God, being very displeased with Sodom, sent two angels, disguised as men, to ascertain the extent of its wickedness. These men stayed with Lot, an honourable man in the eyes of the Lord.
Soon after arriving at Lot's house, the two men were set upon by the town's homosexual population, who surrounded the house demanding to have sex with the visitors. The good Lot pleaded with the crowd, "Friends, I beg you, don't do such a wicked thing! Look, I have two daughters who are still virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want with them. But don't do anything to these men" (Genesis 19:5-8).
Obviously taking his own advice on board, Lot was later to make both of his virgin daughters pregnant — and, although the Lord had much to say on the evils of incest, Lot appears to have gone unpunished. Lot was one of the few God chose to rescue when he annihilated the entire town and all its residents.
God knows some of you may be tempted to become self-satisfied, proud and disobey the Lord, especially around Christmas time and, unlike Lot's, your misdemeanours will not be overlooked.
So he has this to say: "If you will not obey my laws ... I will punish you. I will bring disaster on you — incurable diseases and fevers that will make you blind and cause your life to waste away ... I will turn against you, so that you will be defeated, and those who hate you will rule over you; you will be so terrified that you will run when no one is chasing you" (Leviticus 26:14-17). Happy Christmas!