Dear Margo: Bigotry Dolled Up in Biblical Verse

One readers difference in beliefs causes Margo Howard to break one of her own rules

Bigotry Dolled Up in Biblical Verse

Dear Margo: Today was the last day I will ever read your column. I am 37 years old and do not agree with your beliefs. The Bible clearly states in several places that being gay is wrong. There is no way to misunderstand it. I imagine God looks down on us shaking his head with a tear coming down his face. You are telling people it’s OK, and it’s not! God help us all. — Melissa in Ohio

Dear Mel: I have never run a letter like yours before because I have chosen not to get mixed up with responses to particular letters. Yours, however, is such a perfect exemplar of what I think is wrong with the world … in politics and in social life … that I’ve broken my own rule.

For one thing, I find it insular and intolerant to demand that everyone agree with you, about either the meaning or the validity of the Bible, let alone whether or not it’s “OK” to be gay. Your Bible isn’t everyone’s Bible, and your Bible is not my government. You are free, certainly, to follow your beliefs, but why wouldn’t you cede other people the same right?

The fact that you say you will no longer read someone with different views from yours seems narrow-minded. If you read only things that you already believe, how will you ever learn anything or broaden your horizons or, heaven forefend, change your mind? You might ask yourself if perhaps God is not looking down, shaking his head with a tear coming down his face and wondering why some of His children are casting stones at some other of His children. — Margo, charitably

Troubling Situation with a Son

Dear Margo: I have a grown son who lives in another state. When I started visiting him at my oldest daughter’s house (back when he was 18), he always brought a girlfriend. I found it difficult to communicate with him because of a stranger being present, so hardly anything was discussed. He would say he’d see me again in a few days, but then he would never call or visit again. I also tried to communicate and ask questions via MySpace, but got no responses whatsoever. I would send birthday cards and Christmas gifts — and again no reply. Since he lives in a rural area, I sometimes wondered whether he even received them, but then I started using “return receipt requested” and found the things were received.

He is only 26 and is getting married for the second time. I basically know nothing about his life. Our birthdays are the same day, and he never, not once, has wished me a happy birthday, a merry Christmas or a happy Mother’s Day. I am totally lost as to how I can solve this terrible problem. — Really Crushed

Dear Real: It’s always very sad when a parent wants to have a relationship and the grown child does not. Something is causing him to keep you at arm’s length. You may know what this is; you may not. The most constructive thing to be done — and it may not bring you any answers — is to directly ask what has caused his excluding you from his life, explaining that it is a source of pain for you and something you would like to remedy if it is within your power. Worst-case scenario would be no response to this plea, in which case I urge you to understand that some things are not within our control and must be accepted as such. As I have said in other circumstances involving family difficulties, DNA and being related by blood are no guarantee of anything. Whichever way this goes, I hope you can find some measure of peace and acceptance. — Margo, philosophically

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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232 Responses so far.

  1. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: People in glass houses shouldn’t throw 6,000 year-old stones.
    LW2: I get the feeling there’s a lot more that has gone on here than this letter implies, since unbalanced relationships are rarely the fault of one person.

    • avatar Lea Holland says:

      I agree with Margo on both counts. There are so many Christians who insist it’s their right to believe how they want, but if anyone believes differently than them at all, they treat them like absolute garbage. (Sadly, I’m related to a lot of people like this…)
      And I think the mother in letter two must have done something to push her son away from her. My dad remarried for the second time when I was twelve…forcing me to move away from my grandparents and friends, and the school I had been going to for only a year…and his wife treated me like garbage, so when my grandparents moved to the same town as us, I moved in with them as soon as possible. My dad had stopped talking to me by that point…actually, almost as soon as they left on their honeymoon, since his wife hated me and made his life hell if he paid attention at all…and he’s barely spoken to me since. When I moved away, my aunt threw a party for me, so the family could come say goodbye, he came over long enough to eat, said hi, and then left. My 24th birthday was this year, and while the majority of family and friends who usually wish me a happy birthday called or messaged me on Facebook, I didn’t get a single message from him. I’ve given up on talking to him, and I would honestly be perfectly happy if I never saw him again, this mother…depending on what happened…is lucky she even knows her son’s getting married.

    • avatar Lea Holland says:

      Shoot, I’m sorry, David, I meant this to go in a new comment, but for some reason it got added to yours instead.

  2. avatar Dan Patterson says:

    There are so many lovely Biblical “rules” that people happily ignore – eating shellfish, wearing blended fabrics, not stoning their non-virgin daughters – that sort of thing.  But ask these “believers” to confront their own prejudice about gays and you get Leviticus thrown in your face.  While the Bible is a wonderful book, it was written by men and reflects the worldview of a patriarchal tribal society of 8000 years ago.  I believe the Bible can be an inspiring book with deep spiritual significance for many people, but I don’t believe it should be used as club to beat other people to death with.  For that matter, I believe Jesus would be deeply ashamed of LW1.  

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      My question has always been why these god-fearing, Bible-thumping, fire-and-brimstone “Christians” aren’t out picketing a Red Lobster restaurant although I suppose if they did that they’d have to give up that nice honey-baked ham…

      • avatar Lea Holland says:

        Blech…if I didn’t love seafood so much, I’d be picketing Red Lobster, but I can gladly give up ham of any sort! 😛 I think it’s gross, and I hate eating it. (Good question for the ‘Christians’ who insist that gay marriage is wrong because of what’s said in the Bible  but eating shellfish or wearing two different fabrics at once isn’t wrong, by the way.)

        • avatar cl1028 says:

          The short answer is that Jesus is considered the fulfillment of the Old Testament / Hebrew Scriptures, therefore the New trumps the Old. And since homosexuality is condemned in the New Testament, but not mixed fabrics, those are the rules most Christians follow. (There were also political factors in the early Church which led the first Christians to abandon some of the Jewish laws, such as circumcision, in order to not discourage converts.) It’s not perfect logic, I know, and there are many discrepancies, but the average Christian doesn’t have a terribly high theological education, either.

          Also, the fact of homosexuality being a sin is as clear as Paul’s condemnation of women speaking out in public (i.e. not that clear at all) – but there are denominations who take a very black-and-white approach to Scripture, and others who favour a more loosey-goosey interpretation, and everything in between. Oy! It is what it is.

          • avatar John Lee says:

            I could be wrong, but since the Book of Mormom was written well after the New Testament, I believe Mormoms feel that it trumps the New Testament.

            The Koran was also written after the New Testament and I’m pretty sure Muslims think their book trumps it as well.

            I’m going to write one too, maybe in the next few years when I have some time and maybe it can trump all of the others!  Until a newer latest and greatest version comes out I guess…

          • avatar cl1028 says:

            Haha, good point. I wasn’t trying to promote supercessionism, just offering an explanation I’ve heard before.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            cl1028: In another post you made, you argue that most Christians do not have the time or means to actually study (in opposition to simply reading, or blindly following the opinions of a religious leader’s opinions regarding) the Bible.
            In order to know that the New Testament in any way supports the condemnation of homosexuality, one would have to be a Biblical scholar. I have never, and I do mean never, heard a fundamentalist Christian quote from 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, or Epistle to the Romans when condemning homosexuality based on Biblical dogma. This may well be because the original language is completely unclear (in that the actual words have several connotations, and have been translated in numerous ways), that “Paul” was simply drawing directly from Leviticus, as the wording is peculiar to only a single passage in Romans, and is atypical of the period…but identical to that found in Leviticus…or that Paul may have been referring specifically to the act of anal sex…not homosexuality at all.
            But, as I’ve said, no one ever quotes from Paul when they’re laying down the Word according to Biblical dogma regarding the ungodly nature of being gay. Only Leviticus. You’re the first person I’ve ever heard mention good old misogynistic Paul (who, it seems, just didn’t care for sex of any kind…but then, I’ve studied the cranky old fellow…or prostitutes…or anybody, except, well, Paul) and his very peculiar, derivative, and mysterious words condemning homosexuality. But also, remember, Paul’s “gospel” was extremely self-referential, and had little or nothing to do with the words or teachings of Jesus Christ. He is the New Testament dissenter, preaching the word of the reactionary.

          • avatar cl1028 says:

            Sorry, I don’t know a lot of fundamentalist Christians, so I can’t comment on their use of Leviticus. But a lot of Christians I do know are familiar with the idea that Jesus somehow fulfills and supersedes the Old Testament (presumably taught to them by their pastors), and that’s one common reason, that I know of, why many Christians ignore the obscure laws of the Hebrew Scriptures. As I said, not perfect logic, and I am not trying to promote these ideas – I am just offering one explanation as to why some people say/believe/do the things they do.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            You must be Catholic…and I say this because I was raised in, and permanently left the Roman Catholic Church…and it is the only denomination that commonly takes the position that the New Testament supercedes the revised Hebrew text of the Old (and it is very much revised from Torah).
            In any case, I have never heard any Christian, including those followers of Catholicism, quote Paul as a source for their Biblical convictions against homosexuality. Not even a priest…even a Jesuit…and they are some of the most scholarly. Only, and always, Leviticus.
            I think, rather than stating that people aren’t aware of the other laws that appear directly adjacent to the popular cry against the homosexual, one would be more wise in stating that, having discovered that the very proscribing Leviticus offered them an excuse for their own fear and hatred, people simply quote from the source to affirm their godly and religious right and duty to despise, condemn and judge those whom have in no way harmed or insulted them. People don’t mind committing adultery, and don’t really know when women are menstruating (and, after all, everyone knows that it’s socially unacceptable to shun women for that)…and who doesn’t wear silk-cotton, or polyester blends (now, that is a crime) from time to time?
            But it’s still perfectly tolerable in far too many places to hate gay and lesbian people…because people do hate the things they fear…and do fear what they fail to understand, even if it’s due to their own blatant, willful ignorance. What better than to have god’s word to back you up…especially the fearful Yahweh of the Old Testament?
            Jesus never said anything about homosexuals, in any case, so that rather takes the linearity out of your dubious logic. and there isn’t anything logical about religion. Only atavism and irrationality.

      • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

        Baby Snooks, An agnostic friend once said to my “God save us from born again Christians”.  Thought it was great then and have used it on several occasions since.  Think it is a really good response here.

        • avatar barney says:

          Not every born-again Christian behaves that way.  I’m not pushy, I don’t preach to or at my friends and family.  Everyone has the same knowledge of the basics that I do – it’s a personal choice and I respect everyone’s right to make their own choices.
          It’s frustrating for me, because I don’t think that ANYONE casting judgment on lifestyle choices is in the right, and that’s what so many people do to Christians as a whole.  I don’t care if people are Atheist, Agnostic, Jewish, Buddhist, whatever.  I may not personally agree with it, but I don’t push or try to persuade – that’s a right we all have.  Why are we not afforded the same luxury of not being pidgeonholed?  Let people put their foot in their mouths and think what you want of them on a case by case basis – don’t stereotype all of us based on a few obnoxious idiots…

          • avatar RS Gar says:

            I’m glad that you respect individual rights, but being gay is not a lifestyle choice. People don’t choose to be gay any more than you chose to be straight.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            I believe barney was just asking people not to stereotype. 
            As for gays making a choice. They do choose whether to follow their biology -or as so many did before them conceal it. I think that is where “life style choice” is coined.
            AND I do know a few ??sexuals who claimed to be gay, lived it for a while then went back to hetero. That confuses the issue (and people) even more.  I’m not sure if these people I know are bisexuals or perhaps they are homosexuals who couldn’t deal with the lifestyle and chose to live hetero. 

          • avatar barney says:

            Thank you, Lym BO.  I am absolutely amazed at the negative reaction I’ve gotten here when I’ve repeatedly stated that I don’t care what people do, and I don’t sit in judgment of anyone!  Once I said I was a Christian, it became a free for all on me.  Nice way to display the “tolerance” that they preach to everyone else.  At least I practice what I preach.

          • avatar Raddoc says:

            Hey Barney, good for you for being a christian, and at the same time being tolerant.  Somehow a few idiots who loudy proclaim themselves to be “Born Again” think they have the right/obligation to preach to the world.  I am proud to be born again, I am also tolerant of those who choose a different faith or none at all.  It is not my job to judge anyone.  I also like a good drink, a good porno, and enjoy the swinging lifestyle with my beloved wife.  If others don’t agree with me that is their issue.  I don’t need their approval and don’t accept their condemnation.  Jesus preached love and tolerance, not hate.  If one doesn’t want to follow Christ, fine–but if you do then love one another. Far to much evil has been done in the name of God.

          • avatar mjd4 says:

            Whoa there Barney, how about not being so quick to interpret  “negative reaction”?  RS Gar was just stating a fact.  Your initial comment sounded like it was saying that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, and Gar was pointing out that it is not.  That’s not exactly an attack.  What is the deal with teh lecture on tolerance? 

            As for the choice of following your biology, the extroardinary number of right wing politicians caught in gay sex scandals should show us that denying yourself is not as simple as many people would like to think.  I am sure that they all fully intended to deny what they were and live in heterosexual relationships, and they must have known how utterly ruinous it would be for them to be caught, and yet…  

            Note, the second parapgraph is my giving my own opinion on being gay and choice.  It is has nothing to do with you being a Christian.  It was simply a response to the points that were made in this thread.  I feel the need to point this out lest I be accused of being intolerant.  

          • avatar Tonto says:

            Where is the “like” button! I totally agree, well said.

          • avatar Tonto says:

            My “like” statement was supposed to be for Barney’s original post on not all Christians behaving like hypocrites – my words, not his.

        • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

          Thank God I’m an atheist! :-)

          Margo, in asking, “how will you ever learn anything or broaden your horizons?”, you are assuming these people want to learn. That is not the case. I saw a video where fundamentalist Christians were asked if they were aware that other religions that preceded Christianity also had myths of common Christian themes such as a virgin birth and resurrection of the savior. Most of them answered, no, they didnt know about that, and then they would comment, “it’s just as well”.

    • avatar Jennifer juniper says:

      Well said.

    • avatar BethanyA says:

      I’m sorry–what authority do you have to say the bible is authored by men? Have you ever opened it up and read it?

      II Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

      21: For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.   

      • avatar chuck alien says:

        i think you emphasized the wrong part of that sentence.

        move the italics back 4 words and you just answered your own question. that was efficient.

  3. avatar central coast cabin home says:

    LW 1:  Thank you Margo for it is hard to imagine it being said any better. Truly the words of what I believe to be the real meaning of Christianity.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      I am not being facetious but I really do wonder about what people mean when they say the “real meaning of Christianity” or claim that so-and-so is not a “real Christian” because of their behavior.

      I mean, there are so many contradictory (oh, I remember Christian don’t like that word, how about, er, “complex and seemingly opposing”) ideas in the bible, why do you Christians always say so-and-so is not a “real Christian” if he wants to kill/discriminate against gays, or Muslims or whatever when there are many verses both support or condemn these types of actions?

      I know plenty of nice Christians who say, well, those who hate gays are not “real” Christians because god is loving.  But then, I know just as many “real” Christians who say that gays are going to hell and they must be stopped and not allowed to desecrate the concept of marriage.

      Why do you people bother claim to be “real” Christians when just as many self-proclaimed “real” Christians think the opposite?

      • avatar chuck alien says:

        Jesus said “love your brother as yourself” and “treat others as you want to be treated.”
        if you’re not doing those things, then you aren’t being a good christian.

      • avatar Irreverent says:

        Matthew 22:36-40
        New International Version (NIV)

        36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
         37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (My emphasis)

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        I think each Christian sub-group has its’ own ideal of what a “real Christian” is. My definition would be along the lines of “What would Jesus do”. By definition a Christian is someone who believes Jesus was the only begotten son of God. Hence, they typically follow what he purportedly said or did. The Old Testament contradicts some of these actions/words so it gets confusing. Case in point: No one, even those who have devoted their lives to studying the bible, can make sense of many issues in the Bible.  

  4. avatar Lamponcina says:

    Very very well said, Margo, in response to the first letter. I think this was a great time and fashion in which to break your rule. Good job! Thank you!

  5. avatar emma manderson says:

    Oh dear, letter 2 really chimes with me, except I am the child. I haven’t spoken to my father in over a year, only emailed him a few times. My parents split up when I was six, so we did pretty well keeping in contact as long as we did- until I was 28- but every time we spoke or saw each other I ended the visit feeling battered. He was constantly criticising me in such a nice way, all for my own good. My weight, my political beliefs, my mental stability all had to be pored over and improved. I have never felt comfortable with him, even as a child- always felt I had to perform. It’s so hard to put my finger on it because he’s not an ogre, but whenever I asked him to just lay off me and try to have a nice, normal conversation about pleasant things he would say I was trying to lobotomise him. I still feel guilty about the fact I stopped contact, but at the same time I feel so relieved to not have to deal with those exhausting encounters that would leave me in tears. He’s not getting any younger and he’s not going to change, so what the hell can I do? He still emails me and send me books but I feel like they’re always saying “be more intellectual. Be more like me”- I am far more engaged in politics than most people my age, or any age, I volunteer, I don’t have a TV, I sing in a choir and sew and knit my own clothes: I’m trying to participate in the world ethically and avoid passivity. Why isn’t that good enough?

    • avatar Susan Thomas says:

      It will never be good enough because it is not about you at all, it is about him and his own insecurities. Whether he was criticized too much as a child and can only deal with people when he is criticizing them may be his way of dealing with people. But there is no reason for you to have to deal with his shortcomings. Sometimes we just cannot have a relationship with the people in life that we are supposed to, it is definitely his loss. Be strong and only give up to him what you are prepared to give up, you do not have to destroy yourself to make anyone else happy.

    • avatar Sweet Dre