A New York Times news article about the “political divide on gay rights” after the Orlando terrorist attacks reports that “A Republican congressman read his colleagues a Bible verse from Romans that calls for the execution of gays.”
The Times doesn’t give the chapter or verse of this biblical passage, or quote it, because there is no such verse. That may account for why, say, the Catholic Church publicly opposes capital punishment, or why majority Christian countries (unlike some Muslim ones) aren’t known to punish homosexuality with death. In fact, a Washington Post list of 10 countries where homosexuality is punishable by death includes 10 Muslim countries and zero predominantly Christian ones.
The Times does provide a hyperlink to an article in a Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, that reports about a Georgia Republican congressman, Rick Allen, who read from Romans 1:18-32. The Roll Call article doesn’t say anything about “execution,” either. The biblical passage describes a long list of behaviors and traits — among them “unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents” — that are “worthy of death.”
Now, the distinction between being “worthy of death” and “calling for execution” may seem like a fine one, but it is nonetheless worth preserving, notwithstanding the Times’ blurring of the point. We all die eventually, but we aren’t all executed. That is related to a distinction made in the next passage — Romans 2 — between God’s judgment and man’s: “wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself… But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth.”
Religious Christians steeped in the Bible have traditionally been relatively scarce at the newspaper; a Times obituary of one of its reporters who kept a Bible on his desk reported that he “led prayer meetings for like-minded colleagues (there were none when he joined the paper, he noted ruefully).”
Perhaps religiously literate journalists would be a useful target demographic for Times CEO Mark Thompson’s diversity hiring push. At the very least, a correction would seem to be in order.
Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of “JFK Conservative.”