Dear Margo: Bigotry Dolled Up in Biblical Verse

One readers difference in beliefs causes Margo Howard to break one of her own rules

Bigotry Dolled Up in Biblical Verse

Dear Margo: Today was the last day I will ever read your column. I am 37 years old and do not agree with your beliefs. The Bible clearly states in several places that being gay is wrong. There is no way to misunderstand it. I imagine God looks down on us shaking his head with a tear coming down his face. You are telling people it’s OK, and it’s not! God help us all. — Melissa in Ohio

Dear Mel: I have never run a letter like yours before because I have chosen not to get mixed up with responses to particular letters. Yours, however, is such a perfect exemplar of what I think is wrong with the world … in politics and in social life … that I’ve broken my own rule.

For one thing, I find it insular and intolerant to demand that everyone agree with you, about either the meaning or the validity of the Bible, let alone whether or not it’s “OK” to be gay. Your Bible isn’t everyone’s Bible, and your Bible is not my government. You are free, certainly, to follow your beliefs, but why wouldn’t you cede other people the same right?

The fact that you say you will no longer read someone with different views from yours seems narrow-minded. If you read only things that you already believe, how will you ever learn anything or broaden your horizons or, heaven forefend, change your mind? You might ask yourself if perhaps God is not looking down, shaking his head with a tear coming down his face and wondering why some of His children are casting stones at some other of His children. — Margo, charitably

Troubling Situation with a Son

Dear Margo: I have a grown son who lives in another state. When I started visiting him at my oldest daughter’s house (back when he was 18), he always brought a girlfriend. I found it difficult to communicate with him because of a stranger being present, so hardly anything was discussed. He would say he’d see me again in a few days, but then he would never call or visit again. I also tried to communicate and ask questions via MySpace, but got no responses whatsoever. I would send birthday cards and Christmas gifts — and again no reply. Since he lives in a rural area, I sometimes wondered whether he even received them, but then I started using “return receipt requested” and found the things were received.

He is only 26 and is getting married for the second time. I basically know nothing about his life. Our birthdays are the same day, and he never, not once, has wished me a happy birthday, a merry Christmas or a happy Mother’s Day. I am totally lost as to how I can solve this terrible problem. — Really Crushed

Dear Real: It’s always very sad when a parent wants to have a relationship and the grown child does not. Something is causing him to keep you at arm’s length. You may know what this is; you may not. The most constructive thing to be done — and it may not bring you any answers — is to directly ask what has caused his excluding you from his life, explaining that it is a source of pain for you and something you would like to remedy if it is within your power. Worst-case scenario would be no response to this plea, in which case I urge you to understand that some things are not within our control and must be accepted as such. As I have said in other circumstances involving family difficulties, DNA and being related by blood are no guarantee of anything. Whichever way this goes, I hope you can find some measure of peace and acceptance. — Margo, philosophically

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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232 comments so far.

  1. avatar Jennifer Bowen says:

    LW1:  I’ve always believed that their is a special place in hell for Christians like you.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      She’s already there—it’s called “ignorance” and she’s created it for herself.

  2. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW#1 The Bible has been rewritten so many times by scholars with assorted agendas, I’d be more inclined to take Little Black Sambo and Gone With The Wind as the Gospel Truth.

    Anyone who takes a myopic stand on anything “because the Bible tells me so” has got a bat in the belfry and should be pitied.

  3. avatar says:

    Melissa in Ohio – doesnt your bible say that God created us?  Just like he created you and me he also created ‘gay’ people.

  4. avatar Drew Smith says:

    Dear Margo,
    A heartfelt thanks for the courage and candor to shine a light on this issue and provide an opportunity for us to reflect on it.

  5. avatar weez03 says:

    Um, yeah!  Someone else mentioned it (but I had to make an account to comment and cannot bear to read through all the religious debate to find it again) – LW#2 TOTALLY ignores the fact that there is something serious going on in their relationship.  If my parents refused to tolerate a partner in their presence, I probably wouldn’t call, either – and you know that’s not the only thing she does, just the only thing that shone through in her letter.  Something drove that kid away by age 18.  Everyone’s a stranger until you get to know them.  He’s been married twice, and it doesn’t sound like she has met either of his wives.  Is this because they are still strangers?  Is everyone who didn’t walk out of your womb considered a stranger?  Just sayin’.  

  6. avatar TheTexasMom says:

    I previously wrote my mom of 79 is one of those people who wants to keep a nice green and trimmed yard no matter what whike I think you should give it a reast consider Houston has had 100+ temperature for 19 straight days.  

    Yesterday was her birthday and my youngest daughter and I went aftter school/work to take her to dinner.  Because of the hot weather our clay ground has a tendency to shift and a water main broke on the corner and a river of water was gushing in the street.  My mother, the neighbor, his wife and their four sons  were out in the street picking up water in buckets and throwning it in their yards equally between the two.  At first I thought them insane then I had to smile thinking that is what neighbors are all about.

    • avatar Count Snarkula says:

      @TheTexasMom – I love your Mother.  Please convey my best wishes for a very happy birthday.  And many more to come ! ! !

      • avatar TheTexasMom says:

        Thank you I will and I posted my comment on the incorrect board.  I meant to reply to Thursday’s column about the 6am rude gardeners!


  7. avatar CanGal says:

    letter originally written to Dr Laura:
    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… End of debate.
    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.
    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
    3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
    4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
    5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
    7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?
    8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
    10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.
    Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
    I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

  8. avatar Caramia says:

    I don’t get it.  God made this world, so then that must include homosexuals.  He made homosexuals, then is that part of the bible denouncing a homosexual lifestyle saying He made a mistake when He made those who desire that lifestyle?   

  9. avatar Jody says:

    Being at the tail end (for the moment) of this post makes me wonder if anyone will ever see it.  Either way, I don’t care.  I felt compelled to throw 2 cents in whether anyone actually reads it or not.
    In regards to LW#1:  It is my experience in coaching people through their stuff for the past 11 years that letting go of belief systems is one of the hardest things a person can do.  We have our filters we see the world through, are taught patterns by our parents, and develop our own ideals from youth.  All of that would be “okay” if we didn’t then begin to identify ourselves by those beliefs.  That’s the ego at work.  And the ego can rule your life if you let it.
    So, asking someone like LW#1 to change their mind or learn something new is seen by that person as somewhat hostile, and threatening their identity.  I’ve seen it over and over again in coaching. 
    The truth is, we should ALL be willing to question our beliefs from time to time.  It’s okay to change them.  Changing your mind doesn’t change who you are.  But, many people, such as LW#1 are too frightened by the idea.  I will continue to challenge myself.  It makes life more interesting!

    • avatar Lila says:

      Jody, I found your post very interesting, especially “All of that would be ‘okay’ if we didn’t then begin to identify ourselves by those beliefs.” 
      I have an inquisitive mind, I ask a lot of questions, and if something makes no sense to me, well… it makes no sense.  By age 9 or so I was already drifting off from religion because of all the contradictions and problems of logic, not to mention my own observations which would seem to indicate that most “believers” actually don’t.  The only answer I received in any case was, “It’s a matter of faith, you just have to believe.”  Highly unsatisfying.  My brain doesn’t work that way.  I can be convinced of new or different ideas, but I have to find them believable, I have to have evidence or a reasonable make-sense model.  And changing my beliefs certainly does not change my identity.
      Your comment about identifying with a belief system, at the ego level, was sort of a light bulb going on for me, as it probably explains how people can be such gung-ho “Christians” (or anything else) while actually knowing so little about it, and making no real effort to learn anything about it, either.  For them, I guess it’s more about the wearing the trappings of the label and thus belonging to the group: all the shared aspects – the weekly sermon, socializing through the church, the routines, the rituals, the core values and beliefs.  To discard some of the shared beliefs then threatens their core identity.   Is that your take? 
      I’m still trying to wrap my head around this because the concept is SO completely foreign to me.  I cannot imagine being presented with hard evidence and somehow managing to repel obvious facts from my mind in order to maintain some kind of internal identity.  Wow. 
      At any rate – I find it dangerous, in the US, that people who so fiercely yet ignorantly identify with a church, will then simply adopt the church stance on various social and political issues, as we have seen with LW1 here.  In essence, such people (or their egos, as you put it) are a direct hook of the church into the political system.

  10. avatar pris says:

    I find so much more intolerance in these times. It is so sad. I wonder if the advent of the Tea Party has opened the doors? The President is treated rudely by many. I don’t understand the basis of this intolerance unless it is fear. Sad commentary of our times.

  11. avatar june says:

    I saw your post Jody!  It’s kind of ironic, because it was the apostle Paul who said, “Keep on testing that you are in the faith.”  I thought your comment was insightful.
    I have seen that Dr. Laura letter posted a lot.  The law that the Israelites followed was a protection for them at the time and meant to help them understand that they could never really live up perfectly to the law.  They needed a propitiatory sacrifice for once and for all time.  That was the fullfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy.  Then Jesus said that the law was written on their hearts and that love was the greatest commandment. 
    Like Pris said, today it seems that we live in rude and harsh times.  More than just rudeness but intolerance and lack of empathy.  I like Margo’s down to earth advice, but I do find that the board tends to be a bit rough, even on the writers looking for help.  (Not everyone, thank goodness) For instance Letter Writer 2, reminds me of the saying, “A daughter is a daughter all of her life, a son is a son until he takes a wife.”  Traditionally it was the woman who kept relationships going with cards, letter and invitations.  Since the young man is already getting married again, he probably didn’t have the benefit of someone saying, “Don’t forget to call your mom back :)”  This poor mom is really suffering.  I feel for her and hope she can get her son’s attention.  He wiill benefit, as will she.

    I don’t have all the answers, but I have faith that God is love and I try to learn and study so that I may be included in the Kingdom of God.  Peace.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Oh, and by the way—I may not agree with everything cl1028 has to say about Christianity, but I respect his (or her) opinion and the calm, collected way in which he (or she) presents it. 

  12. avatar shafterboy says:

    This really bothers me about religion and being gay. Most people have never even read the bible. I actually minored in college in world religion. First of all the first monotheastic religion was Zoariastic which was about 1000 years earlier than Judaism. If you look at the “stories” in the old testment 80 percent were taken from the Babalonian religion and if you look up and read the story of Gilgamesh you will see that this ancient religion that is written down is word for word with the judo-christian religion.
    The next point that you have to realize is that there  are many different versions of the bible and during this patricarcal society any theme that shows women and gays were taken out and burned, So basically, ou have a bunch of old men sitting around deciding what they think gods words mean and if god said something positive regarding women etc….it was conventatly left out.  The final problem is the translation of the bible from acient hebrew, babalonian, greek and lating into english. There are some words that just cant be translated. There is one particular verse where the original word ment locus but the didn’t know what that was and used the word demon instead.  Sorry for any misspelling, had a stroke so sometimes the words just dont come out right anymore. Now I will get off my soapbox and hopefully inspired some people to actually read and to question what was writtten. The words might be from god but it was written through man and man is falible.

  13. avatar bker0429 says:

    You sound a bit judgmental. “He is only 26 and is getting married for the second time.”
    You also seem manipulative.”Since he lives in a rural area, I sometimes wondered whether he even received them, but then I started using “return receipt requested” and found the things were received.” You can’t just ask? You want to prove he’s ignoring you?
    You sound worth ignoring.

  14. avatar R Scott says:

    Lw1 – Yeah! What Margo said.

  15. avatar R Scott says:

    LW2 – I would just love to hear your son’s side of this story. Really, you send receipt requested letters to prove he’s getting them? Nice.

  16. avatar Ginna Gudgel says:

    LW2: My fiance has this same issue with his mother. He has told her he will call her when he’s not busy working and if she doesn’t hear from him every other day, she instantly panics and thinks he’s either avoiding her or he’s dead. When she’s asked him why he ignores her, he tells her he can’t chit chat on the phone all the time and the distance we live from her is not short enough to visit on a regular basis.

    This is him trying to be nice about it. When he finally has had it up to here with her, he tells her “Well mom, the reason I don’t call every day or answer when you call is because you’re manipulative, you always want to demand something of me, you guilt trip me and you constantly belittle me. I have my life. Let me breathe!”.

    If she offers us help with anything, we refuse and refuse and refuse until she guilts us into accepting and then it becomes something to hold over our head later on. “Remember when I did this for you?”. I choose to have no relationship with the woman because early in my relationship with her son, I assumed she genuinely cared about me and wanted to be my friend. If I said anything, she would take what I said and twist it around and turn it into gossip for the rest of the family. “Oh, she wants to trap him with a baby!” was picked out of me holding his newborn step-niece and saying “She’s so cute! I can’t wait til I get to be a mom!”. “She’s a lesbian!” was from “That actress is GORGEOUS!”. “She says you’re mean and abusive!” was from “We have our share of ups and downs.”.

    He’s 27 and throughout his life she never told him no. If he wanted something, she’d give it to him but then hold it over his head later on. When his best friend was dying in the hospital and he just wanted a ride to the hospital to see his friend before she died, his mother told him to quit being a baby and to stop crying like a girl and she slapped him as hard as she could. Bring that up now and she’ll swear she never laid a finger on him EVER.

    We’ve told her we want our distance. We’ve talked about moving state just to be away from the manipulative woman.

    LW2 needs to take a look in the mirror and see what she might have done in her son’s youth to give him the sense of needing distance from her. If she refuses to cut the cord and is hellbent on having her nose in everything her son does, she’d better be certain she didn’t actually do anything to damage their relationship in the past.

    In my fiance’s mother’s eyes, she’s nothing but a saint. In reality, she was an abusive alcholic who cheated on her husband, spent all their money like she lived in Beverly Hills (but really was living in the ghetto), hated all her son’s friends, talked behind everyones’ backs and smiled to their faces, accused her own son of “being a gay” because he and his friend would play video games and laugh with the door closed, and to this day constantly talks about how she’s dying, even though she’s been dying for the last 24 years.

    Figure out what your issue with your son is. Maybe you should call him on the telephone and leave a message. You sound desperate. If he wants to call you back, he’ll call you back. Sometimes all it takes is a message of “Son, I’m not sure what it is I’ve done to upset you but I’d just like to hear your voice. Call me back if you would like to. If not, I’m sorry about whatever it is that has placed me on your bad side and I hope in time you will come around. I love you.”. Hell, go see a family therapist on your own and figure out if there’s some sort of screw loose in your functioning. MySpace? Certified return receipts? TELEPHONE. Gah.

  17. avatar Lea Holland says:

    Ironic how so many people who insist they don’t care what anyone else believes, as long as nothing’s forced on them…both the religious and the nonreligious people here…are busy bashing others for their beliefs, and acting like they’re some of the worst people in the world for believing what they do, or believing in nothing at all.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Lea, it isn’t a matter of what people believe at all…it’s a matter of the outrageous, willful ignorance of historical and current sociological and cultural facts, complete and utter hypocrisy in stating acceptance…but actually barely preaching tolerance, and the reality of the current drive of the very powerful fundamentalist Christian movement in this country that is seeking to suppress the Constitution and bring theocracy and dogmatic law based mostly on Old Testament rule to the United States. 
      All of my friends are Christians, and I would never dream of attempting to dissuade them from their chosen faith, of ridiculing them, nor do I disapprove or disagree with their beliefs. I have had Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, pagan, and Norse friends…and my husband is an atheist. Whether I personally believe is not important to what they believe…nor is the opposite true. It is not an individual’s personal faith or beliefs that I take issue with…it is the religious institutions in all of their abominable power-seeking, ignorance maintaining, divisive, hatred and bigotry promoting, and savage war mongering that I loathe completely and absolutely. These institutions were never about spirituality…they were about power, lust, avarice and control of the many by the few.
      And I firmly believe that if a person is going to commit to a religious organization, he should study it, and attempt to understand it to the full extent of his capabilities…because religion is irrational, and appeals to those atavisms related to fear and ignorance…which breed hatred…that lurk in every human being. Those that appeal to prejudice, separation, fear, guilt, repression and divisiveness are by far the worst…but there is no major organized religion that has not been responsible at some time for devastation, death and ruin.
      That isn’t “bashing others for their beliefs”. That is taking a long, hard look at the grim facts. If those who follow those religions deny the irrationality and agony of history and today…are they any better than Holocaust deniers? Just a thought…

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Religion is a cultural/tribal belief system which serves one purpose – to protect the tribe. But it also serves another purpose. It provides the means to control the tribe. The word Christianity implies it is one religion. In fact it is many. There are many “churches within the church” and each has their own distinct belief sytsem.  Which is why the founding fathers intended that there be separation of church and state.  Freedom of religion implies freedom from religion.  Which is what the founding fathers intended.   It took us almost 200 years to be rid of chattel law based on Biblical law. We have a long way to go. But it was a start.

        Chattel law has been a part of the three religions who worship the god of Abraham. That all belongs to the man.  And eunuchs are spoken of in the Old Testament as well as the Q’uran. So how can homosexuality be a sin if the man is allowed to have a eunuch?

  18. avatar Kenhill46 says:

    LW1:  This woman is indicative of the Tea Party and every fundamentalist “Christian” in the south where I live.  I was looking through my daughter’s history book and found that they were teaching Moses and the story of the exodus as historical fact.  I called the school and forbade them from testing her on this and she spent a week in the library when this material was discussed.  I believe in God, I read other things though that do not have the word Holy in the title.  The book that I do read that has Holy in the title tells a story about a man who had a simple message: “Love one another”.  This man was a teacher and they brought a woman before him who was to be executed, the leaders of the time wanted to trick him into saying she should be let go.  He took a stick and drew in the dirt, perhaps he wrote words like, Thief, Murderer, Liar, Blackmailer, and said “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”  So look at that book before you start mouthing off your Sarah Palin ignorant beliefs to me!

    • avatar P S says:

      This attitude’s not just prevalent in the South. I live in the West and many people in my state are pretty tolerant and laid back. But there are some whose attitudes are staggering. There are a lot of Evangelical churches out here and a certain percentage are very fundamentalist, right-wing, downright spiritually abusive and crazy. The kicker is a lot of their opinions are very uneducated, and they seem to take pride in it. Try to steer them to and wow, watch the fur fly.

      I also used to live in a Western coastal state and have seen real ugly attitudes come out of some people who have gone the Tea Party route. It’s not as prevalent as where I am now but some of the acid tongue syndrome I see come out of people I know is staggering. I’ve literally had to drop friends over stuff like this – they’re entitled to their beliefs but when they turn hateful and mean toward people who simply disagree with them that’s too much.

  19. avatar NevadaFriend says:

    People certainly take on some funny notions. There were lots of things that weren’t known by people of biblical times. They thought the earth was the center of the Universe. They thought the earth was flat. They had no idea about germs or genetics. Obviously, I could go on and on. Being a homosexual is a biological occurence that happens in all cultures and is in no way a choice nor a sin. And there are varying degrees of hormones in all of us, which does cause some folks to be bisexual, also. These things that happen are not a matter of choice or sin. Would anyone say that of a midget(little person),  conjoined twins, a person with a harelip, a person born with webbed toes or fingers? Take a Biology 101 if you don’t understand these things. As for the Bible, remember that Jesus said to love one another as I have loved you. If you are saying and doing mean things to your fellowman/woman because of a biological thing that they can’t help and didn’t choose, then you are not following the teachings of Jesus.