I’m at the beach, not doing any editing or design on my soon-to-be-published Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, nor even on the placement map for Alchemy, just reading, doing crossword puzzles, and generally basking. The book I just finished is Jingo, one of Terry Pratchett‘s brilliant Discworld novels, and though it was written in 1997 its take on jingoism, war, and especially immigrant Others is disturbingly on point.
But that’s not why we’re here today. This passage:
[The incompetent Lord Rust is speaking, about to lead his non-army into an epic Light Brigade blunder] “Glory awaits, gentlemen. In the words of General Tacticus, let us take history by the scrotum. Of course, he was not a very honorable fighter.”
…reminded me of a Bible verse.
Wait, where are you going? I can explain myself.
The Talibaptists think gay people are squicky, and they will refer to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as their prooftexts. In return, otherwise sane people will refer to equally outdated prohibitions about shrimp and tattoos. Very occasionally, the wryer among us will throw in Deuteronomy 25:11–12. You’re not familiar with that particular rule?
If two men are fighting with each other—a man and his fellow Israelite—and the wife of one of them gets into the fight, trying to save her husband from his attacker and does so by reaching out and grabbing his genitals, you must cut off her hand. Show no mercy.
I mean to say, wot? It’s as if Rule 34 applied to the Holy Book.
Before we get to my main point, let me say that I did a little reading of some explanations of this bizarre dictum and it actually does make a kind of sense in context. Elsewhere in Deuteronomy there are rules about a man whose testicles have been damaged no longer being able to enter the Temple, i.e., he’s no longer One of Us. His entire family would suffer. So a woman who did that to a man would have committed a truly serious crime.
Often, when confronted with examples like this of outrageous Old Testament “laws,” the Talibaptists will wiggle and wriggle and contort themselves into pretzels to “explain” them away. If you’ve ever had to listen to them, it provides good exercise for your eyebrows and pursed lips. Surprisingly, though, I found an exegesis that was sensible; it would be a miracle indeed if the Talibaptists threw their main weight behind its argument, which is that the point of the rule was to prevent and/or punish anyone who made it impossible for a man to support his family. That includes corporations not paying an appropriate wage.
I mean to say, wot?
Anyway, my main point is this: just how often did this happen that there had to be a rule for it? It’s like the warning labels that infest our lives: Don’t use this hair dryer in the shower. This chef’s knife is not meant to be used as a screwdriver. That kind of thing. It’s a given Stand-Up Comic’s Take that these warnings exist because SOME IDIOT DID THE THING, KENNETH, so what was the deal in ancient Israel? First of all, were the men always wrestling, and if so, why were their testicles even in evidence?
And had it become a problem that wives would throw themselves into the arena to give their husbands an assist? What was this, the Judean Federation of Wrestling? I mean to say…
This realization puts the prohibitions of Deuteronomy and Leviticus in a whole new light. They’re just warning labels. For stupid people.
 That’s just context. The entire mindset is stupid.
 …nudity also being a huge shanda for the Chosen People.
 Not to be confused with the Judean Wrestling Federation
 You’re welcome.