Letter: More Time Studying, Less Time Bubbling
American-Statesman, July 9, 1999
305 S. Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78767
As a lifelong student of history and language, I take issue with a June 28 letter
writers broadside against gay people. To detail one example, I am the biographer of
Jumbo, the famous circus elephant. When I ask people how they think Jumbo got his name,
they invariably answer, "because he was so big." No, thats wrong. The word
"jumbo" had a totally different meaning a century ago. Everything else began to
be called "jumbo" because HE got so big, not the other way around.
An identical linguistic evolution applies to the term "sodomy." When the
Bible was first set down, "sodomy" was a general term for many kinds of
oppression, intolerance, abuse, and especially inhospitality. It did not come to mean only
certain non-reproductive sexual acts until the Middle Ages. When this letter writer
invokes Sodom in her tirade against gay people, she commits a cultural, linguistic and
biblical anachronism which, while still common among fundamentalists, is no longer
acceptable among educated Christians.
I would suggest that she spend more time studying the people and languages of the
Bible, and less time bubbling over other peoples sexual orientation.
James L. Haley, Austin
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