New Series: The Bible and Homosexuality

John BoswellBeginning June 1st, I’m starting a new series and invite my blog readers to join me in a book study and discussion regarding what the Bible says about homosexuality. Issues surrounding Gay Rights and the morality of same-sex marriage as well as homosexuality itself will remain front page news as more and more US States accept same-sex marriage, and everyone who cares about this Justice issue ought to be able to converse about what the Bible does and doesn’t say, even those who do not believe in the importance of the Bible.

Those who oppose same-sex marriage and the general acceptance of the LGBT Community, claim that what the Bible says is crystal clear, but there is scholarly work done that sheds different light on the subject. John Boswell’s seminal work, “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century” calls into question many of the ideas scholars and theologians have had about the subject. His book is not the easiest read, full of footnotes and written with a depth that allows it to be considered solid scholarship. But it is a valuable read none the less. So, get a copy of the book, and join me! Each week or so, I’ll post as I read through the book, cover to cover, exploring Boswell’s ideas. Read with me, or merely join the discussion offering your comments each week to my blog posts.

One might say, that what the Bible says is irrelevant given that here in the US, the Constitution is the basis of our laws and civil culture. But 100% of the vitriol and opposition to the full respect and equality for gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and queer persons is rooted in and supported by the use of this ancient text. We can expect the opposition to remain vocal, loud, and will grow only more hostile as same-sex marriage gets accepted everywhere. But full respect, inclusion, and equality is not a done deal here in the United States, and across the globe, there are many places more hostile towards LGBTQ folks. Our ability to counter the opposition is essential.

I’ll be using an electronic ebook from the University of Chicago Press. The book is available from them as a paperback, or as a download. It is also available for rent from your local library as well as purchase from other sources. You may be like me and have an original copy on the bookshelf as well. Get it down and read along with me.

Boswell died too soon, and I don’t believe anyone has really followed his lead in this area of scholarship. I won’t simply take his word as if he is definitely correct and thousands of years of the status quo are simply wrong in their understanding, but asking why Boswell has arrived at his conclusions and how they differ from traditional ideas will be the basis of discussion.

Are you ready for this series? I hope so! Summer is a perfect time to sit back with a book,so I hope you will choose this one and read along. Then each week participate in our discussion here about what I’ve read.

 

Some thoughts on some thoughts on gay marriage

Tom Holmes, a pastor writes some great commentary in the linked post below, and I encourage everyone to read it. But there are a few points I want to draw attention to. As I read his thoughts, I am struck by what seems like a path be respectful and fair to various viewpoints on the issue of homosexuality. I applaud the effort, but in doing so, a few things get missed that deserve mention.

Now many people relieve the tension between the two by dismissing one side or the other. That is to say, the Bible has this one wrong or they affirm their belief that the authority of the Bible always trumps our limited experience.What I want to encourage you to do is to find some way to tolerate living in the tension. For those who condemn homosexual behavior on the basis of Scripture, talk to – no, better yet listen to – the stories of at least five LGBTs. Hear how they struggled to come to terms with a sexual orientation they never wanted. Better yet, find a healthy same-sex couple which is raising kids and see if you can observe anything except mainstream child-raising behavior.

The Bible vs Homosexuality

Holme’s comments suggests that there are two options when it comes to Biblical teachings about homosexuality: either one accepts the “authority of the Bible,” or one believes “experience trumps Scripture and the church.” I would contend that there is another option that Holmes misses. Too often Scripture is treated as if it is words and meaning that have been set in stone and the meaning is crystal clear, and this just isn’t so, especially when it comes to relating to gay people today. He believes that “what little the bible does say… is all negative.” I personally don’t agree with that at all. Just look at the story of Jonathan and David or that of Ruth and Naomi. In neither case are the story characters identified as “gay” but that doesn’t negate how these are powerful stories of same-sex love, commitment, and devotion. And these qualities are exactly what make the gay people and the gay couples Holmes speaks about what they are. In my opinion, the Bible is as pro same-sex love as it is pro opposite-sex love. In fact, some scholars believe that Jesus himself blessed a gay couple.

Given that we are talking about Christianity, I’ll limit my review of the negative stuff to the New Testament where we find one passage in Romans that appears to be highly condemning of gay people or homosexuality. But the reality is that what we read as “homosexual” in modern English texts is not a direct translation from the original Greek. There is no one single word for homosexual in Greek, and the translation of two distinct Greek terms into one English term is inaccurate and not applicable to what today, we mean when we talk about gay and lesbian people. Yet Holmes like many, treat the modern English as if it is exactly what was written thousands of years ago in now-dead languages.

We know so much about the historical path that has led to what today we call the Bible. We know that there are stories in it that could not have happened as written, and there is text that today we totally ignore, such as Paul’s commentary on women speaking in church. Yet, when it comes to homosexuality, for some reason there seems to be no room for interpretation or correction. Here, Holmes fails the very same-sex couples that he encourages other pastors to meet and get to know.

(no such thing as) Gay Marriage

I am really disappointed that Holmes titles his post, and places the perspective on gay marriage and on homosexuality. First, there is no such thing as gay marriage as if it were different than other marriage. Same-sex couples seek the civil rights that a civil marriage license provides to opposite sex couples. Thats all, and why most times the more appropriate way to talk about it is to call it Marriage Equality. With marriage equality, same-sex couples simply wish to be treated equal by the civil government, which issues marriage licenses. In this regard, it really doesn’t matter what religious leaders or lay persons think, nor does marriage equality mean that churches must accept same-sex couples. It is nice when they do, and there are denominations and congregations very open and welcoming to gay, lesbian, bi, and trans persons.

Second, Holmes post teats homosexuality as if it is a thing. Much like some pastors talk about “the homosexual lifestyle.” This is fallacious.

Many years ago, Copernicus discovered and have the courage to say that the Sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth- an idea thought at the time to be anti-Biblical. Indeed, the Church forced Galileo to retract his truth and he lived under house arrest until hits death. Today’s dispute over sexual orientation may someday appear quite similar, as we learn more about complex biology and the true nature of orientation, attraction, and behavior. It took the Church 350 years to realize that Galileo had it right. Let’s hope that it doesn’t take the Religious that long to come to terms with accepting that sexual orientation is fluid and ranges from exclusively heterosexual, to exclusively homosexual, and the entire spectrum is normal and natural and a part of Creation.

 

 

 

via Some thoughts on gay marriage.

Sex problem in the Garden of Eden?

Evan Hurst, at Truth Wins Out saw this, and wonders if it is satire, or a serious opinion. The snip comes from the Findlay Ohio paper. It may be that the opinion’s author is a regular “contributer” to the paper’s opinion section, and he is a witty guym but not being from there, who knows for sure.

Something in the “Just Ask” column (Page A3, May 29) disturbed me. According to the column, “the Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra, bears flowers with both male and female organs on the same tree. It is a monoecious species.”

I couldn’t believe this, so I did some research and, sure enough, a science website (forestry.about.com) states that “the Ohio buckeye is polygamo-monoecious, bearing both bisexual and male flowers.”

The buckeye is our state tree and most of us gladly wear the nickname, “buckeyes.” But it is shameful and unacceptable that a bisexual tree should represent us! We are flaunting the Holy Bible!

I urge everyone to contact their state representative and demand legislation removing the buckeye as our state tree and condemning the use of the term “buckeye” as a nickname for residents of Ohio.

Does anyone know if carnations are bisexual?

Jim Flechtner Findlay

 

This caught my eye as a proud OSU graduate (in horticulture no less), and had never once thought ill of the grand Buckeye tree. No matter how this was meant (and I’m going with the assumption that Jim is a very witty social commentarian) it illustrates so clearly the problem of trying to take “The Holy Bible” and pretend what it says easily applies to everything: a tactic used so often by far-right fundamentalists. The world of plants, insects, and even animals, is full of examples where there are not two discreet and separate “beings” where one is of one sex, and the other… well you get what I mean.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. ” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning —the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning —the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning —the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Even God didn’t create separate “beings” until all the way to humans! And so, a tree couldn’t be bisexual, nor could the state be flaunting the Bible. Right?

The Bible is not a great source of teachings about Sexuality, and yet that last little verse gets used like an atomic bomb- as if it obliterates any possibility that sexuality, and human sexuality may be a bit more variable. For me the fun part is seeing the rest of the fallacy of the Genesis story. Plants were placed on the Earth before there was a sun in the sky, and the plants need the sun to grow. They produce energy via photosynthesis, and so the sun would have had to be present before the plants or the plants could not have survived! Sure, it was just a day in between, so maybe the plants would have been OK without sunlight for one day, right? I mean, I brought some tomatoe plants home from the garden center and left them in the trunk the other day, and they made it just fine.

I have said it before, and will say it again. We have such a small and limited knowledge of biology! We teach it to our kids in school as if, of all the Sciences, we have all of the answers, and it is a less “unknown” Science. Indeed, we suggest that simple fruit fly experiments tell us all we need to understand about genetics. But the reality is that we as a collective mind, have barely scrtatched the surface of understanding biology, and just as we know today, that the Sun doesn’t orbit the Earth, we will one day know that our current limited understanding of sexuality, genetics and reproduction is missing so much. And this will be the downfall of organized Religion, if they continue to hold on to this one little passage in Genesis as if it is the ultimate truth. Science won’t destroy Religion however. It will be the failings of a few close-minded idiots who can not grasp a bigger creation.

If anyone out there knows Jim, can you ask him if his opinion was meant as a serious kind of thing or not?

 

Queer Look Podcast to Return Soon!

It’s a long story why I stopped producing the queer Look at the Bible Podcast, but the short answer is that it is about to return! Each week, I’ll look at the week’s lectionary readings from the QP (the queer Perspective, and assign each a QP ranking. That is, just how “queer” is the scripture on a scale of 1 bible (not at all queer) to 5 bibles (way way queer!). Most consider that the Bible is condemning of homosexuality, but I think what we are going to find is that the vast majority of it has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality, and will score a 1bible ranking. The passages that appear to be about homosexuality will be few and score a 5bible ranking. There is just the question about what to do with the issue of passages that appear pro-homosexual, and those which appear as anti-homosexual. In terms of my QP ranking, I won’t make any distinction/ for or against, it is still queer. but I will talk about each to see what we can learn about how pro- or anti the passages might actually be.

A Queer Look at the Bible isn’t intended only for the religious, but for everyone, even those who see themselves as atheists or agnostics. But I’m not trying to convert you. You are welcome here, no matter what your faith (or lack of faith) tradition. and here is why. If you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, or transgendered person, the Bible impact your life today, here in 2009. Doesn’t matter if you are a believer or not. The Bible serves as the foundation of all of the opposition to GLBTQ rights, as well as many of the conservative movements, such as to deny a woman’s right to choice. The growing battle cry of this radical right movement, is Religious Liberties, as if they own the Bible, and everything in it is on their side. but they don’t, and it isn’t. and the more everyone knows about that the easier it is to see through the fallacious arguments that they put forth.

Let me say, as straight (ha ha) forwardly as I can. I am not anti-God. I am not anti-Bible. I am not anti-Faith. I just think that the Bible has been co-opted by the radical right, and t is time to take it back and put it out there for anyone to pick up and consider. And the best way to do that it to take a new look at it- a Queer Look. If I can rightfully be accused of anything, it may be that I can come across as anti-religious. Like many theologians since the beginning of the Judeo-Christian story, I ask that rather than simply wearing “religious” as an adjective to describe oneself, consider it a journey to be traveled. Consider it a puzzle to be pondered. consider it a question to be asked rather than answered. I am fairly anti- those who self-righteously think they have all the answers. I certainly don’t have them. But I have and can ask and explore questions. I think that when we are willing to ask, and see where the question takes us, we can find things we never anticipated. That for me, is about hearing God.

I’m going to start by producing an audio podcast in the iTunes enhanced podcast format, but there will also be an MP# file to download for other brands of players. Each week’s podcast will be a part of a blog post that has notes and stuff I want to share. Feel free to comment here, but please be warned. I have no patience for folks who can;’t do any more than tell me I’m going to hell, or can’t say anything except to quote scripture, or issue some blanket generalized statement with out anything backing it up. I will only accept comments from real people (no anonymous postings) who register for the site. If you don’t have the guts to have a name and an email, I don’t have the time for you. But feel free to disagree with me- just be man or woman enough to represent yourself authentically.

So you ready for a Queer Look! Great! Glad to have you along!

Changing Homosexuality or Suppressing the Self?

Years After Resigning in Disgrace, Archbishop Speaks Out – NYTimes.com

This piece from the New York Times contains a few very large issues to ponder. I can’t necessarily speak to all of them in this blog entry but will raise them at least. Over the next week, I hope to write a blog entry for each question. But weigh in- let me know what you think- leave a comment.

1) The organized Church’s role in maintaining the status quo. Who is benefitted by the status quo?

2) Do people change their sexual orientation or simply suppress their real selves and delude themselves about who they are and/or their orientation?

3) The problem of understanding God as a “loving God” when there are so many homosecxuals.

4) What is the nature of a faith journey?

I think the last 2 are the most interesting of the topics for me, however, all 4 are big and there can be valid or thoughtful viewpoints from divergent opinions.

Years After Resigning in Disgrace, Archbishop Speaks Out – NYTimes.com.

Blogging the Bible — a Nadder!

When I imagined starting “Queer Look at the Bible: I didn’t think it was, my any means, a unique idea, yet, I didn’t really see it happening all that much. Now, you can’t turn around without knocking into someone reading and discussing the Bible! 🙂

I haven’t ready any of this yet, but the premise is interesting to me, a Jewish Atheist blogging the Bible. Just finished AJ Jacob’s “The Year of Living Biblically” which is a very good read. Enjoy!

Blogging the Bible — a Nadder! .

Remembering Galileo Galilei

I’ve been thinking so much about the Biblical scripture being used against GLBTQ people as proof that Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered people are less than acceptable in today’s world, and clearly unacceptable to God. The Bible thumpers argue that God says these things about gay and lesbian people. I think we really don’t know what God would say about 21st century gay and lesbian people, as the social structure that exists today, that allowed relations to be as they are never existed in Biblical times.

And that got me thinking about Galileo. From Wikipedia:

Galileo’s championing of Copernicanism was controversial within his lifetime, when a large majority of philosophers and astronomers still subscribed to the geocentric view that the Earth remained motionless at the centre of the universe. After 1610, when he began supporting heliocentrism publicly, he met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics, and two of the latter eventually denounced him to theRoman Inquisition early in 1615. Although he was cleared of any offence at that time, the Catholic Church nevertheless condemned heliocentrism as “false and contrary to Scripture” in February 1616,[8] and Galileo was warned to abandon his support for it—which he promised to do. When he later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Today, even Creationists who accept a literal Biblical age of the planet Earth, do not still think the earth is the center of the universe! How is it that = or better question- will it take 400 or so years, before modern understandings of sexual orientation are accepted as fact, instead of dismissed and condemned as false and contrary to scripture? Are there any similarities to be drawn between the Inquisition and what groups today, lile focus on the Family and the Family (AFA) and National Organization for Marriage (NOM) are doing? That comparison is most likely way too strong, but a comparison would be interesting, none-the-less.

Galileo Galilei – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Lectionary Reading for March 5, 2009

Waiting for the California Supreme Court Ruling on Prop 8

Gospel
Mt 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”

How Religion Fails us- Covenant Marriage

This post may seem politicaly based, but I decided to post it here due to the religious motivations behind the law being discussed in this linked blog.

This is a story about something called Covenant Marriage, a type of legal marriage began as an attempt to stem divorce rates, begun in Lousiana, but now available in several states. My purpose in writing about it is to illustrate the ways in which conservatives apply a double standard when it suits them.

You can follow te link at the bottom to the full story. I have pulled out some stuff, and it is displayed as quoted text, and the rest are my comments/text.

The Definition of Marriage may not be re-defined!

The first line of attack towards same-sex marriage is that it would be redefining marriage, as if the definition of marriage has never been re-defined. Covenant Marriage is one example of a redefinition of marriage. While it remains a marriage between a man and a woman, it is still a different definition and type of marraige. If there can already be 2 types of marriage with 2 different sets of rules or qualities how would adding another destroy the definition of marriage?

The definition of marriage is biblical and may not be altered!

There are 2 sets of scripture often used to justify marriage as between a man and a woman. Adam and Eve as the original husband and wife (even though I’m not sure the Bible ever says they were married), and the words of Jesus. Jesus was actually talking abot divorce, and the passage ends with te idea that who God has joined no one may tear apart. Interestingly, even though the Bible says there can be no divorce, Covenant Marriage allows for divorce.

Ending a marriage is still possible, though no-fault divorce is eliminated, and grounds for divorce are limited. They include physical or sexual abuse (of either a spouse or child), infidelity, a felony conviction or abandonment.

Note, that sexual abuse is an acceptable reason for divorce, and yet rape is not an acceptable reason for abortion (according to some such as Governor Jindal of Louisiana). where conservatives draw the lines varies even where the Bibler does not. Why must the Bible be followed literally at times and at others it can be modified?

Don’t use the government to advance social change!

When legislation is advanced that gives GLBT people more rights, it is attacked as an attempt to force social change upon people- or blamed on activist judges. Covenant Marriage was developed by a professor at a law school and a congress person. The purpose? To advance a social agenda.

…an attempt to strengthen the family and protect children.

Critics called it a potentially dangerous injection of religious belief into a civil commitment…

The sky will fall!

Conservatives have a very hard time predicting the results. They are sure that if same-sex couples can marry, that all hell will break loose. They were also sure that Covenant Marriage would take off big time, and it has totally not happened. It hasn’t done what it set out to do, and has not been embraced by the american people, even in some of the most religious states.

Then-Rep. Tony Perkins, R-Baker, predicted, “I think in about a year a majority of couples will make it [covenancy] part of their marriage plans.” Today, nearly 12 years later, the total has edged closer to 2 percent. Nor has covenant marriage reduced general divorce rates. In 1997, when covenant marriage became law, 13,836 divorces were granted in Louisiana. In 2003 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), the divorce total was 15,230.

Gays want special rights!

“Louisiana has elected to confer special benefits on covenant marriages, such as a 10 percent cut in auto insurance rates,” wrote Pat Buchanan…

So it is OK to provide special benefits to some but not others. How hyocritical is that?

Being gay is a choice!

If gays can marry, then there will be no limits, anything goes!

According to our opponents, being gay is a choice and therefor, we do not deserve to be a protected class. But the truth is, choice makes a difference. Straight couples who chose Covenant Marriage, had a lower divorce rate. These are couples who actively chose to define their relationship as special and more than just being together.

Though covenant marriage has had little effect on divorce as a whole, those who opt for it do have lower divorce rates.

But so many of the gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage are already in a committed relationship. They are chosing to define their relationship as more than just being together.

For gay and lesbians don’t mean it! They are only doing it for the show!

…then-Gov. Mike Huckabee ­— who, though he was an ordained Baptist minister, did not “upgrade” his own marriage at the time. And Bush and his wife Laura chose not to upgrade their own. Later, Huckabee did in a very public way. Columnist Margaret Carlson saw the $65,000 spectacle as a political ploy: “If moral values helped President Bush win the White House, why not Gov. Huckabee?

Don’t force tour ways on the American people!

Though the 2008 Republican Party platform made no mention of covenant marriage, the Texas GOP platform called for it, along with the complete abolishment of no-fault divorce, as well as making it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple ­— this despite the fact that during the 2007 Texas legislative session, a proposed covenant marriage bill failed to clear the state house.

Covenant Marriage is an idea that some want to push on the American people, who have shown that it is not their choice. And even though it has been shown not to create the desired results, andhas not been embraced, even in religious states, conservatives don’t give up.

But Perkins says he has not given up. “When the Jindal administration gets through some of these challenging times,” he says, “I hope they’ll focus on some of these family laws.”

The Independent – I Don’t