Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
That’s Matthew 5:27-28, in the King James translation of the New Testament, the reference intended by Christine O’Donnell in her now-notorious pitch — made on MTV in 1996 — for teenagers to stop masturbating. Jimmy Carter quoted the passage too, in the famous poll-plummeting admission made when he was a presidential candidate in 1976.
O’Donnell told MTV, “The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So — you can’t masturbate without lust!” She gives the second sentence a triumphant — and utterly adorable — “QED!” smile, clearly one who knows whereof she speaks.
Shockingly (not), I haven’t seen any criticism of the nubile O’Donnell’s faulty theology. She got Jesus manifestly wrong, but nobody seems to care what Jesus said. They care about what O’Donnell said, once, and irrelevantly to anything important now. The debate on this goofball topic, if it can be called a debate, or a topic, has come down to: “See? Jesus jumpers hate pleasure” versus “Damn, how did they find that stupid footage?”
But I think what the New Testament says on these matters is worth reviewing, and that Christians who misquote it raise questions, especially when they grow up to offer political leadership.
O’Donnell misconstrued Matthew 5:27-29 in multiple interesting ways. Continue reading