God hates shrimp

With Gay Pride parades occurring in various parts of the country, it seems like an appropriate time for a little soapbox I’ve been saving up on the “God hates shrimp” phenomenon.

“God hates shrimp” is a parody of the Westboro Baptist Church’s famous “God hates fags” messaging. The point of the satiric counterprotest is to say: Hey, if you folks are so committed to a literal reading of the Bible’s prohibitions on homosexuality, shouldn’t you also be observing its prohibition on shrimp? (Or wool-linen blends, or whatever–pick your favorite absurd-sounding Levitical proscription.)

As a gay man, I have really mixed feelings about this. Yes, it’s nice to see folks standing up for my people. But “God hates shrimp” signs make me more uncomfortable than anything else.

Two things: First, “God hates shrimp” relies for its rhetorical effect on the presumed absurdity of biblical injunctions against shellfish (or mixed fabrics, or whatever else is being held up as the other thing God supposedly disapproves besides sodomy). To folks of a secular frame of mind, that absurdity may seem self-evident. Christians who don’t regard themselves as bound to keep kosher may perceive the requisite absurdity. But it’s rather a spit-in-the-eye to observant Jews, no? I get that the intended target of “God hates shrimp” is fundamentalist Christians. But unintentionally, those satiric “God hates shrimp!” signs are also saying, in effect, “Kosher is stupid!” I, um, can’t march behind that banner.

Second, the “God hates shrimp” parody isn’t really fair to the Christian biblical inerrantists it’s targeting. In its more sophisticated form, the unspoken logic of the parody is: “If you Christian fundamentalists are going to go around quoting Leviticus to condemn homosexuality, don’t you have to also accept all the other prohibitions in Leviticus? But you clearly don’t, which shows you don’t actually believe the Bible is binding in all it says after all. So why can’t you accept that the prohibition on homosexuality isn’t binding, just as you accept that the prohibition on shrimp isn’t binding?”

The problem with that line of argument is that a smart biblical inerrantist has a ready answer: “We’re not bound by the prohibition on shrimp because the New Testament says so. But,” they continue, “the New Testament does reiterate God’s disapproval of homosexuality. And that’s binding.” Smart biblical inerrantists don’t quote Leviticus to explain their opposition to homosexuality. They quote Romans 1. And the “God hates shrimp” parody doesn’t really work as a response to Romans 1.

If your eyes are glazing over at this point–too much biblical prooftexting for you? You just wanted a quick laugh that would let you feel intellectually superior to fundamentalists, and now you find yourself out of your depth?–let me sum it up for you this way: The “God hates shrimp” parody is poking fun at a straw man. Christian biblical inerrantists make a more sophisticated argument than “God hates shrimp” gives them credit for. “God hates shrimp” says, in effect, “Conservative Christians are stupid.” But they’re not.

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4 thoughts on “God hates shrimp

  1. Hey, great piece. I’m the co-author of the 2004 site http://www.godhatesshrimp.com and probably responsible in part for the success of the meme.

    In my experience, the comments we’ve gotten from the Jewish community have been positive, recognizing that GHS is first a work of parody, and one whose point is hypocrisy. I in no way mean to suggest that I speak for the Jewish community, of course, but that particular concern of yours appears to not have much evidence behind it.

    Nor is GHS meant to be a complete theological argument, it was, after all, making fun of the Westboro Baptist Church and the Ku Klux Klan. I do feel, and will stand by this belief, that the vast majority of quote-conservative-unquote anti-gay Bible interpretation based on Levicitus is hypocritical, the GHS sign you saw originally read “God Hates Sodomites”, the Klan apparently preferring Leviticus.

    You’re right that Romans (and Corinthians) bring different problems, problems far beyond the reach of a parody. As I told Shrilly-Phelps Roper, the first problem with Romans 1 is Romans 2, a response which caused her to call me a dumbass and hang up. But more importantly, both NT texts have critical translation issues, and are attributed to Paul–who is not God. Paul in fact is pretty down on marriage in general, and using Paul’s beliefs as a singular guide for ethics also falls down on the basis that we, y’know, have marriage at all.

    There are Christians that actually understand the complexities of these arguments and disagree, but they are a tiny minority of the faithful. GHS criticizers only those who take their belief from a lack of understanding and work to harm others with hypocritical reasoning. And we believe that as such, it is fair. Thanks for the thoughts, though.

  2. “Shrilly” Phelps-Roper?

  3. Mike Butler says:

    Hmm… 2 comments:
    1. I suspect most Americans recognize parody when they see it.
    2. No rabbi in this country ever paid for a law to ban bacon.

  4. Whatever my personal feelings on Ms. Roper, that was an unfortunate typo/spell correct, not in this case an intentional slam.

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