One thing I’ve noticed in connection with the Duck Dynasty brouhaha is a tendency for believers to defend their anti-gay remarks by passing the book. Passing the book is a lot like passing the buck: instead of taking responsibility for the things you do and say, you pass the blame on to someone or something else. In the case of passing the book, that “something else” is the Bible.
Here’s how it works. You don’t come right out and say, “Look, I can’t stand having people mind their own business and I want to make a big stink about people falling in love differently than I do—I want do whatever I can to interfere in their personal lives and keep them from enjoying the same rights and privileges as anyone else.” That would be refreshingly straightforward and honest, but it would make you look like a complete ass.
So instead, you pass the book. “Look,” you say, “don’t blame me, I’m just sharing what the Book says.” It’s a neat little dodge that lets you get away with saying just about any hateful slander you want, all with wide-eyed innocence and a hurt little why-are-you-picking-on-my-faith expression. Then all your fellow believers rally around you and say, “Yeah, why are you criticizing our Book? Don’t you believe in religious tolerance?” So we’re not allowed to criticize what the believer says, because he passed the book, and we’re not allowed to criticize the book, because doing so is supposedly “intolerant.”
There’s two problems with passing the book. One is that it’s fundamentally dishonest. Nobody is forcing believers to persecute and slander gays. Even the Bible doesn’t require them to persecute and slander anybody. People who persecute and slander gays are doing it because they want to, and then they pass the book in order to avoid being held accountable for their words and actions.
Secondly, believers are shooting themselves in the foot by giving the Bible a really bad name. Granted, given its contents it probably deserves a bad name, but it’s still a poor strategy on their part. The name “evangelical” arose as a replacement for “fundamentalist” because fundamentalist behavior was so bad it gave the original term a hugely negative connotation. So they changed the name to “evangelical” but kept the same behaviors, and guess what? Evangelicalism is picking up the same taint. By attributing hateful, untolerant, and unnecessary misbehavior to the Bible, believers are digging Jesus a new tomb.
I suppose that’s not a bad thing, and I’m not really surprised or displeased that believers are passing the book. I do think it’s worth pointing out to people though. Let believers go ahead blame their bigotry on the Bible. We’ll be happy to call them out for it, AND to agree that the Bible is every bit as bigoted and hateful as they say it is. Believers and their Scriptures are responsible for literally thousands of years of Judeo-Christian persecution and violence towards gays, and it’s time both were held accountable for their sins against humanity.