All too often, religious beliefs make their way into arguments surrounding law-making. The huge debate over whether or not gay marriage should be made legal is only one example, but it is a good one. No matter where you go in the U.S. (even in my liberal home state) someone is going to say that The Bible says homosexuality is not to be tolerated, therefore, allowing gay marriage is not okay. But, what does The Bible really say when it comes to matters of sex and desire? In Unprotected Texts, Jennifer Wright Knust, a bible scholar and American Baptist pastor answered just that.
There are no topics left alone in Unprotected Texts. Want to know what the different books of The Bible have to say about whether desire is good or bad and what to do about it? You can find it here. Curious about premarital sex and same-sex relationships, you can find that here too. How about the physical body? There’s an entire chapter devoted to circumcision, semen, and menstruation. Gender roles, monogamy and polygamy, marriage… You name it, if it’s in The Bible, Knust has presented it here.
Not only are the contradictions of The Bible pointed out, but Knust also takes a look at some of the interpretations as well. She states that some of the translations aren’t literal, but educated guesses. In addition, she points out that our present day understanding of certain words and phrases (Sodom is the example that comes to mind right now) did not come along until centuries later. If that’s the case, how can we really say that the destruction of Sodom happened because of same-sex relationships, when it’s far more likely that the destruction of Sodom happened because of human/angel sexual relations or the attitude of the people.
Knust, in my opinion, very successfully argues that The Bible is too contradictory to use as a guidebook for anything, let alone sex and desire. She states, up front, that something that is tolerated in one book will be prohibited in the next, and glorified in another. In that case, sure you can argue that The Bible says one thing, but they guy next to you will probably point out that it says another entirely – and there you have the not-so-merry-go-round of The Bible, as I’ve chosen to call it.
There are a couple of things I think it’s important to mention about Unprotected Texts, both positive. First, we all know that there is a stereotype assigned to religious books. That’s the idea that the author is going to try to push their beliefs on you. Does Knust acknowledge her beliefs in this book? Yes, she mentions them in the introduction. Does she at any point try to say her beliefs are right or that you should believe as she does? No, Knust stays on topic the entire book. Second, you don’t need to be a bible scholar to understand Unprotected Texts. As someone who has yet to successfully read The Bible, I was able to follow along with her discussions of the different stories and books of The Bible quite well.
Overall, Unprotected Texts was a great book. It was easy to read, easy to follow along with, and it answers the questions regarding sex and desire in The Bible.