One of the best shows, ever. Very idealistic, very out of touch with reality, but that was a theme of the show, part of its strength. It played counterpoint to the cynicism and rhetoric of Washington and its media. It was superbly written and acted, and its language only heightened its mythic sense of intelligent government. It wasn’t meant to be literal or historical at all, I think, but by showing such heroic and ideal characters, it brought into even sharper relief the inadequacies of the representatives of the people. That’s how I saw it, anyway.
I love the smackdown. However, his argument is easily refuted by conservative scholarship which would merely claim that the in the OT there is a difference between ceremonial/civil laws (i.e. sabbath, selling children into slavery, dietary laws, etc.) that were only valid under the Hebrew theocratic system and the moral laws of God, which they would assert are unchanging. The argument would then go something like, “in the NT, homosexuality is addressed as immoral proving its timelessness, whereas the rest of the (civil) laws are abolished, as the latter served only a temporary purpose.”
I’d much rather people start recognizing stronger arguments, such as the NT never addresses the issue of committed homosexual relationships; it merely addresses temple prostitution, man/boy forced relations, and various other illicit sexual activities (which include homo and hetero sexuality). If the public was aware of this I think it’d surprise some conservative folk!
Austin, a fundamentalist doesn’t want to distinguish these kinds of things; in the end, one must, of course, but they can’t admit explicitly that the bible’s claims are not all on the same footing. That’s too much of a slippery slope for them. Also, I hardly think that most of the people who view homosexuality as an “abomination” are terribly interested in scholarship, conservative or otherwise. Your point, while possibly true, completely misses the point of the video, I think. If fundamentalists were suddenly interested in distinguishing between civil and ceremonial versus decrees from God himself (sic) with regard to claims in the bible then it might be appropriate. The fact is that in the quotidian use of the bible, most of this scholarship doesn’t at all enter into the discussion, and if it does, it is often used to bolster one’s belief and not in a spirit of free inquiry. President Bartlet’s rhetoric in the clip is meant to undercut the validity of her argument, which is, if it is in the bible it is therefore true, and he shows that she is in fact inconsistent in her belief. At the same time, he reduces any pretension to scriptural “morality” by showing just how barbaric and alien much of the bible, in fact, is (much, not all). If anything, your hypothetical conservative rebuttal already concedes Bartlet’s point, I think.
I appreciate the sensitivity in this matter. However, the truth is that (unless there is more to this clip that I somehow I missed) he did not undercut her argument. Rather, he merely TRIED to undercut her argument by using a reversal which only weakens the ultimate goal of exposing the bigoted view because of its own poor understanding of Biblical composition.
And my reason for addressing this at all in my previous comment is because I hear similar lines of reasoning a lot within the left-leaning media in the US/UK and within many social circles that would advocate equality. They basically try to claim that, if you (fundamentalists) think the Bible is true then you need to accept the inconsistencies contained therein, which somehow wipes egg on the faces of biblical inerrantists… However, while you are right that many fundies would not respect scholarship, there is a LARGE many that do (trust me, I was heavily involved in this circle in a former incarnation :)). And these persons are those who would tear this argument apart, thus negating any force it may have appeared to carry. While the Bible may contain “barbaric” aspects, they understand (and remember these are not scholars I’m talking about, but simply lay persons) that there is a clear difference between the OT civil laws and the entire canon’s “moral laws.” They also understand the difference between narrative passages and those that are more directly normative. Thus, rather than using an argument that itself is weak and of no ultimate consequence, we need to be constantly informed so that we can properly address whatever may arise…
So, while yes, I appreciate the clip’s intent to show the bigoted self-refutating position of fundamentalist readings of christianity, the argument itself is weak. And in any situation, a weak argument needs to be corrected.
Thank you for the response. I still hold that his rhetoric implies the points you are making — we aren’t bound by the civil or moral proscriptions of an ancient culture and already address these concerns anew and from a very alien perspective. As for your claim that a “large” number of fundamentalists are interested in these kinds of distinctions, I can only say that is not my experience, but that’s neither here nor there.