A number of reasserters have critiqued those who point out inconsistencies in the church’s application of the laws in Leviticus with what Kendall Harmon has dubbed “The Shellfish Argument.” He summarized this argument as, “You have noted that Leviticus is against same sex practice, but Leviticus says we should not eat shellfish. So how could we possibly listen to Leviticus?”
Now, of course, no one I know of is suggesting we throw out all of Leviticus, or very much more of it than has already been thrown out (which goes well beyond the dietary regulations). After all, as Kendall rightly notes, Leviticus contains the last half of the Summary of the Law. No, as far as I can see, the matter comes down to two troublesome verses addressing certain male homosexual acts.
The “shellfish argument” came to mind this week as the Daily Office lectionary rolled around to Acts 10. It is an instructive story, and should give one pause before dismissing the “shellfish” argument entirely; since it appears that this is precisely the argument with which God confronted Peter, when he showed him all the unclean animals and told him to eat. Peter rightly understood that this wasn’t really about food, but about people, and how one ought to treat them: not as unlcean, but as loved by God — and thereby opened the way of salvation for all of us Gentiles!
So it isn’t about shellfish, dear friends; it isn’t about food and drink; it is about respecting the dignity of every human being as much as God does, and considering the possibility — as difficult as that may be — that the church has had it wrong for all these years, and missed the point God made, and Peter understood.