3.71 Pentateuch -- The Misuse of the Pentateuch
If one strategy of modern man is to ignore the Pentateuch, the other one is to misuse it. This tactic was more common in pre-modern Nineteenth Century America. We have covered the perversion of Scripture by a white-supremacist Protestant orthodoxy -- attributing the curse on Canaan to Africans, forbidding intermarriage. Though respect for Scripture has been overthrown in our time, a few groups have attempted to get popular support for their cause by appealing to Bible-based moral rules. A few examples:
-- Sunday "blue laws" which restricted certain business activities and hours, or the selling of alcohol
-- posting the 10 Commandments in schools or courthouses
-- advocating capital punishment for gays, adulterers, or psychics
-- using Israelite dietary rules as guides to modern healthy eating
-- making "Thou shalt not kill" a slogan to abolish the death penalty
The problem here is that one cannot just take a few snippets of Bible verses and tack them up as a current political program. God was building a "total" solution in ancient Israel. To attempt to salvage a few of the rules or customs is pointless. The 10 Commandments flowed from a dramatic encounter with God, and were intended to be the skeleton of the new society. They can no longer serve that function in a culture that has disavowed the God who uttered them. Posting them in public today can be seen as a rearguard action by a defeated minority.
Today, it is the conservative sector that tends to cite the Pentateuch on behalf of their agenda, while liberals more frequently hijack the prophetic books, as we will see later. But the misapplication of Scripture is the same in either case. The primary intent of all Scripture is total, not merely political, transformation. To take out of context a few verses in order to legitimize a current political objective is to repeat the hermeneutical mistakes of the 19th Century racists.