Porkies, Brian, Porkies!

Leviticus is not an easy read. It's all about purity, and how to achieve it and it's full of advice on things like how to avoid mildew, and whether baldness is bad for you, and who you may or may not have sex with, and  how to tell if someone has leprosy and which earlobe to rub the lambs blood on if they do. Most Christians, and let's be honest here, have never actually read it, including, if his sermons are any evidence, "bishop" Brian Tamaki.

In the public arena at the moment is a video of one of Mr. Tamaki''s talks: (or at least there was. It seems to have disappeared from Youtube)
Here he says that, according to Leviticus, the weight of human sinfulness causes the land to convulse, and, lets forget all that bollocks about tectonic plates,  this is the real reason for our recent seismic events.

Now you can read Leviticus if you want, or you can take my word for it, it makes no difference either way - you won't find the verse Mr. Tamaki is referring to because  there is no verse in Leviticus which says this. There is no verse in the entire Bible which says this. Mr. Tamaki is making it up. He is telling porkies.

I'm guessing here, but I think Mr. Tamaki may have been basing his remarks on a very uninformed interpretation of a cursory reading of one particular Levitical passage. In Leviticus 18 there is a reference to the land vomiting, which is a  metaphor with a very specific context: Leviticus was written when the people of Israel had been conquered by a foreign power and large percentages of the people had been taken into exile. The land was left untended, and the people were traumatised and asking themselves why? Why had this terrible thing happened? The writers of Leviticus were telling them that it was because the people hadn't kept themselves pure. The land had ejected them just as it had ejected the Canaanites before them. So, Leviticus 18 is speaking about military defeat originating in the moral turpitude of the people, which might, I suppose, have some merit as a theory. Mr Tamaki tells his people that Leviticus 18 means that God sends earthquakes because there are gay people in the country, which does not have much merit as a theory.

If he'd read further, into Leviticus 19, he would have seen a whole chapter on how God gets really pissed off when people take money from the poor. I'm looking forward to seeing how he interprets that one.


James Harding said…
Many thanks +Kelvin. It's clear "bishop" Tamaki is referring to Leviticus 18:24-30, as you say. I think I would add that Leviticus 18:24-30 is even more specific. It is relevant within the context of the covenant relationship between Israel and YHWH, and in relation to Israel's settlement in the land of Canaan, and has no other referent beyond that. The problem, as so often, is that he is at least partially right. The Bible does say that the land responds to human sin, either by crying out to God for justice, or vomiting an unholy people out; moreover, there is a group of sins that do not belong to the category of ritual impurity, but are moral infractions—these include worship of gods other than YHWH and infractions of the sexual code, which cannot be remitted by ritual purification. He is wrong, however, in what we do with these texts now. He is reading backwards. Rather than sins incurring punishment, suffering always implies a particular kind of sin (cf. Job's friends). Unsurprisingly, it is a "sin" the "bishop" particularly doesn't like, and which will gain an easy hearing among those who are homophobic.

There was an even more glaring porkie in that sermon. Apparently Knox College is in Christchurch, and Lloyd Geering helped cause the 2010/11 Christchurch earthquakes by denying the virgin birth. If so, I don't think much of the Almighty's aim, and wouldn't like having him on my darts team!
Kelvin Wright said…
And thank you, James for this helpful and interesting commentary on a passage to which I had, and lets be frank about this, never given much thought until last night. And thanks for the heads up wrt Knox College and Lloyd Geering etc. No doubt the Almighty is annoyed with me, too; so watch out, Westport!
Anonymous said…
+ Kelvin - why Westport? Nelson Diocese!! There are 2 catholic people still in the Diocese. Thank you and Fr James for the good comments.
Richard Gillard said…
I had begun to wonder about the sexual orientation of all those Whales and dolphin off the Kaikoura coast.

Reading Matthew's gospel it seems to me that Jesus is more concerned with judging folks, not for their sexual orientations (and accompanying activities), but for how the treat the hungry, thirsty, naked sick and imprisoned amoung us. Said "bishop" Brian is well resourced for such a ministry and as the cash flow slows to a trickle he and his missus have Harley Davidsons and BMWs they could sell. Put him it a 10 year old Toyota Corolla - might humble him a bit.
Sue B said…
Thank you for your gentle wisdom.

I am glad you put me right. Until this, I had noted that the Kapiti flood happened after the gay mayor was replaced, and I noted that the earthquakes happened in towns without gay mayors. I had been trying to work out whether this was God telling us to elect MORE gays, or because God has lousy aim.
Anonymous said…
He's probably not referring to Leviticus 18:24-30. He seems to have it mixed up with Isaiah 24:20

"The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again."
Anonymous said…
I am reminded of the Canterbury earthquakes 5 years ago. Christchurch had lots of beautiful old churches that collapsed in the quakes. A letter to the editor at the time commented that the reason why Manchester Street was so badly damaged after the September quake is because it's God's way of punishing all the prostitutes who work on Manchester street. Some else wrote a response saying that this was nonsense: not a single prostitute died in the September quake, not even the the most part time prostitute... however, many a church building were chastised indeed.
Kelvin Wright said…
I'm indebted to you, as usual James, for your erudition, but in this case I am not sure that Mr. Tamaki is even partially right. He refers to the land crying out for Justice after Cain slew Abel, and I suppose I must concede that to someone who is unable to onceive of the concept of metaphor this might imply some sort of response on behalf of the earth itself. But as to the Leviticus passage, that's another matter. The passage speaks of the land vomiting out the Canaanites. And how did the land do this? The Canaanites were ejected by the Hebrews that's how. The writers state that it was the Canaanite's perfidy and general debauchery which caused the land to do this, and warned that the land may vomit out the Hebrews as well if they proved no more morally upright than the previous tenants. The context makes it clear that the envisaged way of ridding the land of the offenders is by invasion and deportation. Given the reasonable assumption that this passage was written after the event of the exile, it is best read as a call to the Israelites to smarten their act up if they want to avoid such happenings in the future.

Mr. Tamaki has taken this passage and read into it a bizarre and dangerous doctrine of his own devising. He says that the weight of our iniquity has an actual physical effect on the land. It causes the land to have convulsions, a word which does not occur in the text but which he uses several times in his sermon. Dangerously, he says that this is the reason for the 2011 earthquakes, and, one must assume, the ones which have more recently followed. Here he has, as I am sure you will agree, moved well beyond any interpretation that can be reasonable garnered from the text. In this. This is sheer nonsense from all perspectives: geological, spiritual and ethical. And it is dangerous in that it gives, from his position of assumed authority, some sort of validation to the prejudices of those who have chosen to believe him.