Exposing the lie
by Rev. David Roth
I wrote this in August of 2017 after the events in Charlottesville. I am offering it again. Sadly, again.
It doesn’t take any deep thought or high intelligence to know that hating someone else or hurting someone else in the name of religion or God is wrong. In fact, it is the antithesis of the way that all religions (as they are meant to be understood) are trying to inspire us to behave.
In the Judeo Christian line of belief if we believe that our Creator is invoking us toward hatred and violence then it is simple: we are misunderstanding the message. I know how easy it is to convince myself that something I want to be true is true. I can easily rationalize it and even find passages from the Bible to support my opinion. However, this is not how a body of truth like the Bible is supposed to be used. We are supposed to humbly seek answers and correct our own thinking and our own behavior when we are courageous enough to be honest with ourselves and admit that we are off track. And when we find that we have come up with an idea that is leading us to do something other than love God and love the neighbor we have to immediately give it up and go back and look again, because everything that the Creator has given us as Divine Revelation is about those two things in some way.
One misunderstanding that has caused so much damage for far too long is the one taken from the book of Genesis chapter 9 about Noah and his three sons Shem, Ham (Canaan) and Japheth. In short, after the flood ends and the ark comes to rest on Mt. Ararat, Noah and his family leave the ark, worship Jehovah, and then Noah plants a vineyard. Later, he takes the grapes from the vineyard and makes wine. He drinks too much wine, gets drunk, strips himself naked and passes out in his tent. Ham goes into his tent and sees him lying there naked and goes and tells his brothers about it. His brothers, rather than looking at their father, walk backward into his tent with a cloth between their shoulders and cover him up. When Noah wakes up from his drunken slumber and finds out what Ham has done he curses him (Canaan) and his descendants and says they will be slaves to Shem and Japheth. The damage I am referring to has come from the misunderstanding of a simple word in this story. The word “Ham” is an adjective that means “hot”. It can also mean a burning, reddened or darkening countenance from anger or rage. It does not mean black skinned or dark skinned. However, this is what some people have taken it to mean and have consequently justified the notion that people with dark skin are meant to be slaves. The text says that Noah cursed Canaan (not even using the name/word Ham). The word Canaan in Hebrew is a proper name and can also mean “merchant”. The word in Hebrew for black for either hair or skin is Shachor and is not the word used here in this story.
If you happen to believe that the Bible is telling you that you are superior to someone else for any reason at all, then you have misunderstood the message. If you believe that the Bible is telling you that certain people are to be your slave or can be considered less important than you or anybody else, then you have misunderstood the message. Let’s stop looking for reasons to hold others in contempt or hatred love one another as we have been shown and taught.