Boswell, History, and Theology: the preface.

John BoswellSo often, the preface isn’t all that important, and it is easy to skip ahead to where the actual book begins and start reading, but in the case of Boswell’s “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century,” that would be a mistake. The premise laid out within his preface is crucially important to grasp , and so I want to devote this first post to those four and a half pages. This is important, and if we don’t come to terms with what this means, we won’t really be able to put the rest of the book to much use. For this post, I used Boswell’s original paperbound book, copyright 1980.

History and the role of the historian

One of the most important statements made by Boswell within this entire book begins the preface:

“No matter how much historians and their readers may wish to avoid contaminating their understanding of the past with the values of the present, they can not ignore the fact that both writer and reader are inevitably affectedly the assumptions and beliefs of the age(s) in which they write and read.”

We don’t tend to think of that however, either while writing or as a reader. History, we tell ourselves, is a set of facts and so they are what they are, no matter who is telling them, when and for what reason, right?  Not according to Boswell: both the writer and the reader carry all sorts of stuff to the text- to the history- and considering what these things may be is essential to understanding the text and history. To some, this may seem obvious, but in a huge way it isn’t and leads to false ideas, or is intentionally overlooked, again leading to false ideas. Why is this important? He writes:

“If religious texts are widely supposed to have been the origin of a medieval prejudice, their role in determining the attitude in question must be carefully understood.”

Today, the morality of homosexuality is the issue, and too much of the dialogue revolves around the question, ‘are religious ideas the basis for discrimination against homosexuality and gay and lesbian people.’ Boswell doesn’t set out to argue the morality of homosexuality, rather his goal is to illuminate ideas about homosexuality in the period from the beginning of Christianity until the fourteenth century, not to speak either for or against them.

History is not theology

Two points are at the center of his work in this book:

  1. To display that what may have seemed to be the source of antipathy  in the past, often was not;
  2. To clarify the differences between ancient objections to homosexuality and modern objections.

Now many readers, and I include myself in that group when I first read this book, simply want Boswell to tell us that theologians have had it wrong all along and the Bible isn’t negative about gay and lesbian people. But we aren’t going to get that from Boswell or this book if that is what we are looking for. We will get something far more important if we are open to it and willing to do the work for it. Because the argument, “The Bible is this or isn’t this” is a useless argument because we will never come to any final outcome: we will simply spin our wheels, and at the same time allow those who claim the Bible is anti-gay to have more power than they deserve.  When we begin to demystify the Bible and the history of it- the historical reasons it is what it is, then the text itself loses all of that magic mojo that the opponents of the LGBTQ movement try to use against us.

People object to or support the full acceptance of gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and queer people. They may use the Bible as a weapon to support their position of opposition, but it only has as much power as we allow it. One of the strongest arguments that the anti-gay people use, is that culture, and especially Christian culture has always felt this way about gay people, but is this really true? Or are oppositions that exist now a modern thing, not well supported by the past.

Methodology and the reader

Before we dig into the meat of the book, just a word about methodology. Boswell heavily footnotes his text: what are we as readers to take from that, or how are we to read that? It almost becomes two texts: the book itself, and the footnotes. Unlike some books where the footnotes are only citations supporting where claims or ideas come from, in this text, they go a bit beyond that. Sometimes they are small forays into a tangential discussion. For example, in the Introduction, footnote #2 is a wildly interesting aside about social tolerance, intolerance and acceptance. My personal suggestion is to read the text at least twice. The first time through, ignore the footnotes. Then, read through the footnotes and refer back to the text where each is cited as you go. And lastly, sometimes it will be helpful re-read portions of the text itself after considering the footnote.

Lastly, my suggestion is to do what I’m doing here to a degree, and make notes as you read. Jot down phrases, words, or short sentences that summarize what you are reading. Do it, as you read- don’t wait to get to the end of a chapter to jot some things down.The idea isn’t to merely spend the time to get from page 1 to page whatever. Rather it is to end up with a new appreciation, awareness or understanding from that time spent. This doesn’t have to be like school. No one is going to test you. But you will leave the experience happier and perhaps smarter.

Are Biblical Laws About Homosexuality Eternal?

The linked post is especially interesting in the articulation of the passages about homosexuality in Leviticus:

So we sought to contribute another perspective that we believe can be helpful on this subject. The text identifies male homosexual acts by the technical term to’ebah, translated in English here as “an offensive thing” or in older translations as “an abomination.” This is important because most things that are forbidden in biblical law are not identified with this word. In both of the contexts in Leviticus (chapters 18 and 20), male homosexuality is the only act to be called this. (Other acts are included broadly in a line at the end of chapter 18.) So this term, which is an important one in the Bible in general, is particularly important with regard to the law about male homosexual acts.

The question is: Is this term to’ebah an absolute, meaning that an act that is a to’ebah is wrong in itself and can never be otherwise? Or is the term relative — meaning that something that is a to’ebah to one person may not be offensive to another, or something that is a to’ebah in one culture may not be offensive in another, or something that is a to’ebah in one generation or time period may not be offensive in another — in which case the law may change as people’s perceptions change?

When one examines all the occurrences of this technical term in the Hebrew Bible, one finds that elsewhere the term is in fact relative. For example, in the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that, if the Pharaoh asks them what their occupation is, they should say that they’re cowherds. They must not say that they are shepherds. Why? Because, Joseph explains, all shepherds are an offensive thing (to’ebah) to the Egyptians. But shepherds are not an offensive thing to the Israelites or Moabites or many other cultures. In another passage in that story, we read that Egyptians don’t eat with Israelites because that would be an offensive thing (to’ebah) to them. But Arameans and Canaanites eat with Israelites and don’t find it offensive. See also the story of the Exodus from Egypt, where Moses tells Pharaoh that the things that Israelites sacrifice would be an offensive thing (to’ebah) to the Egyptians. But these things are certainly not an offensive thing to the Israelites.

 

The authors have written a book, and this post is both a response to a critique, as well as an explanation. I think this is a book, I’d enjoy reading and will be looking for it.

Very true: the Bible isn’t going away, nor is its role or the way it is used by people who believe it to be “the word of God.” So, the more we can understand about it, the better. On the other hand, does this old text really deserve the force given to it? Is it really relevant today, or do those who seek to keep it relevant do so out of their own human motives?

Theologically, what does it say that a God who is al powerful, all knowing, and all loving stopped communicating with human beings some 2000 years ago? How is it that this book is supposed to contain the fullness of the revelation of god’s word?

As we seek to understand the Bible, isn’t it also time to put it into perspective and see it as a history of the faithful (or not so faithful) and their quest to understand the Divine? Is it possible that if we stopped claiming that these translated (sometimes poorly) words from so long ago are the only revelation of the Will of the divine, we might actually start to find the divine?

 

 

 

via Richard Elliott Friedman: Are Biblical Laws About Homosexuality Eternal?.

Biblical Literalism

The other day, someone posted a comment on Facebook, claiming:

More and more scientists are switching over to Intelligent Design. It only makes sense , they say, as they study the complexity of life on this planet and in the universe.

I personally believe Intelligent Design is so controversial to people is that Intelligent implies Someone and Design implies Purpose.

Someone implies God and Purpose implies You and Me and the purpose God would have for us.

Eventually it takes you right to the cross of Calvary where historians the world over recognize Jesus died and historical records of the time, other than the Bible, confirm He rose again….hence Easter!

This is actually patently false on a few points, but the one that interested me the most was the base claim that scientists are switching to Intelligent Design. As if it were a computer, and before, they were PCs and now they are Macs. The exchange was a little interesting- not really too much- but a little. However, for me, it gave me an opportunity to articulate some of my thoughts about how Biblical Literalism is harming people. The exchange ended with this guy posting a URL, that I am guessing is to a creationism web site. I didn’t follow it.

Reading back over the exchange, I am really comfortable with what I wrote, and quite pleased to have found a voice for some things that have been in my head, but not as well put together. So, I decided to post it here. My replies are posted in Bold.

Aside from the exact exchange there are four things I want to add:

  1. I often get labeled an atheist. I am not really an atheist. If anything, I may be an agnostic, but I do not hold that I know that there is no God. The truth is I have no idea if there is a God, but I don’t really care one way or the other. I think Religion, in the most general sense, isn’t about the answering this, but rather, it is the process by which human being grapple with the questions about our orientation to the whole of the cosmos. God is one answer to those questions, but not the only answer, nor even the most logical answer.
  2. Faith (of whatever sort) is our way of engaging in this process of exploring our place within the whole. With or without God, I think this is a crucial thing. The word, itself, is charged. For Buddhists, the word may have no meaning, but the same notion is accomplished by having a practice. I do not mean to use the term as if it implies faith in any one thing or another. Just the act of engaging in the process.
  3. I need to also say something about the historical fact of Jesus’s death and resurrection. It is not true to say that there is historical evidence of the resurrection outside of the New Testatment scriptures. It is true that the belief that this happened is discussed by Josephus, but he wasn’t writing about the validity of the claim. He was only writing that the early Christians believed this to be true. The fact is there is absolutely no historical evidence of the the birth, death or the resurrection outside of the New Testament. Additionally, Josephus is far from a good historian. He is known for having written exactly what he was expected to write, whether it had happened that way or not.
  4. As with many crazy Christians, Kent seems either utterly unwilling or unable to just talk about one thing at a time. So, he makes claims and then, rather than talk about that, he introduces more claims and stuff. Maybe, he has no real interest in having a dialogue. his goal is on;y to say what he wants to say. Maybe he thinks he is talking in a dialogue and doesn’t think he is continually jumping to new subjects or new claims.

Here was the exchange (his initial comment is at the start of this blog entry above):

@Kent This is such a preposterous claim- “scientists are switching over to intelligent design…” Please cite resources to support it if you really want it to have any merit.

Scientists are doing just what scientists do. They put forth theories and make experiments to prove those theories. There is absolutely nothing scientific about intelligent design. Nothing what so ever. It may be a way for some folks to try and comprehend the enormity o f the subject, but even that is more f a philosophical venture, and not a scientific one.

The reality of the science however, is that all of the facts that science can prove continue to point out that the use of a biblical model for understanding creation can not be supported by the facts. If Religion is going to have any value in the lives of people, it is either going to have to let go of any literal interpretation of the Bible, and return to being about theological issues. Science and Religion are utterly compatible, unless one requires a literal interpretation of the Bible. Science isn’t killing God. The people who demand a literal interpretation of the Bible, or those who need intelligent design- they are the ones killing God.

Thomas

you just set a trap for yourself and then stepped in it. Science is about theories and than experiments to prove those theories correct or wrong. Name an experiment that any scientist has ever done that has proven for sure how earth was created, how life was created or how anything was created.

There is no experiment as of yet that proves evolution. There is lots of hypothosis avout evolution but so many of them don’t support each other even.

i am a Biblical literalst and an unashamed one at that. If you want to start picking and choosing the parts you like/don’t like, what do you have?

Better yet, what if we agree that we can pick and choose and you pick and choose some things while I pick at others and Andy picks at others. Soon the Bible is a ribbon and not a well constructed book that has survived as the oldest manuscript in the world.

People hate the Bible because why? I have no idea! I believe God created the heavens, the earth and man (me) . In my opinion, the Bible is like an owners manual. The creator of the world and man has put instructions down that tell us how to live our lives best.

For example, name a 10 Commandment you find offensive? Maybe you want to cheat on your wife, I don’t know, but other than that one I don’t see anything that most of us want to do anyway.

Or, go to the New Testamet. The NT tells us to keep our penis in our pants for everyone but our wives but other than that what does the Bible really tell you not to do that most men want to do?

I don’t get why people are so anxious to prove God out of creation when the Bible says He created.

Try cutting off your finger and seeing how incrediblty difficult it is for modern medicine to reattach it and get it back to 100%. They don’t have to create a thing yet only the very best Dr’s can do it and only the most fortunate patients get 100%.

Yet, we are to believe that even though men can barely do something as simple as attaching a finger, some great explosion (from what please explain) started everything.

In my opinion it takes much greater faith, or something closer to stupidity, to believe it all happened by chance than it takes to believe God created it.

@Kent I set no trap nor walked into one. LOL. Hey, be a Biblical literalist, more power to you. You are a dying breed, and it is a shame what damage folks like you are doing to Faith and the value of Religion. I think people need Religion (in the most general sense) and one reason our world is a disaster, is because people hold too tight to things as facts that are not, and rob the Divine (in whatever way, one understands that Divine).

I don’t hate the Bible, I love it. It is an awesome accomplishment and full of amazing stuff. I just don’t try to hold it all up as literal. I also don’t treat it as a weapon to be used against other people. It is an (incomplete) history of some of the people of this planet’s relationship to their understanding of the Divine.

It is a shame to suggest that the only options are “by chance” or Intelligent Design. For me, here is the root problem, suggesting that these are the only choices.

FWIW, I don’t talk about penises and the Bible, and most definitely not on FB in a discussion that was about Science and Intelligent Design. Sorry, that is too crazy, even for me! Enjoy!

The penis comment was meant to be a little funny but also to make it clear that the Bible only supports sexual relations between men and women who are married. I apologize if the penis comment affected anyone negatively but it is a body part, like arm, leg, eye, nose so I don’t see why it can’t be taken literally LOL

I don’t see how I , or any other literalist, harms people. I am probably as much fun to be around as anyone else. I laugh, make people laugh and make fun of myself. I don’t think you would know I was a literalist except that I pled guilty to it. Of course, if we were at a bar hanging out and you brought up religion you would eventually get it out of me but I don’t walk around with a Bible beating people over the head with it.

I do think logic demands that there be a God so my world view is based on “there is a God and He is in control.”

You know Tom, I lost a brother to cancer at the ripe old age of 30. Had I not believed in God and in His soverignty, I would have been one train wreck. As it was, I was only a tricycle wreck but I am so thankful that is all it was.

God is not our enemy, we are God’s enemy. To many people want to wage war rather than surrender and let Him have the power to change our lives. Why anyone wouldn’t let the God of the Universe have their life is beyond me.

@Kent Dude, I’m sorry but I think you are crazy.

At one time, Bible literalists said that the world was flat and that the sun rotated around the Earth. Now, we know that isn’t the case.

Today, we know much about the history of our planet, that conflicts with a biblical literalist view of things. Literalists harm people, generally speaking, because more and more people are fleeing Religion of many sorts because the forced adherence to outdated ideas can’t fit with modern, intelligent thoughts. Literalists who refuse to allow a changing view of things are at least in part the reason for this exodus from faith. Literalism is destroying Faith, as it is by nature, counter to Faith.

Kristor Stendhal (SP??) the great theologian and church leader commented when evidence of water was found on Mars that this discovery simply proved that God was bigger than anyone ever imagined. A really awesome notion.

Literalism forces God to be small and finite, and arrogantly suggests that humans have all the answers. Even when that answer is “God.”

The notion that God and humans are the enemy of the other, is just ludicrous, no matter how one phrases it.

Logic does not demand there be a God. The forced expectation that everything is part of a plan demands that there is a God. If we let go of that crazy idea, and allow things to be, because they are, and look to see how everything is interconnected, then, there does need to be Creation- the process by which everything comes into being- but no requirement to believe we have all the answers as to why that is (i.e. God). I do not need God to be in control, nor do I need to believe everything is by chance. I think there are other ways of understanding things. In fact, if God is in control, I think he needs to be fired, and we need to put a woman in charge instead.

All of dialogue started because you claimed that scientists were switching to intelligent design, which is a patently false statement, and nothing in this discussion has touched upon.

God’s Last Gasps for Air

The premise of this post has been on my mind for some time, as I have thinking about how to frame the ideas I’m about to set out there for all to read. A number of different ideas have resided in my mind, but none have appeared to offer the desired frame. Even this one may seem a stretch, but I’d rather start my dialogue on it, than continue the inner discussion within my mind. A letter to the editor and book review are linked below, that I believe spell out “the case” superbly. So, I wish to label them as exhibit A, B, and C, and request you read them before continuing. Since you may not, these excerpts may help set the stage:

Exhibit A, Book Review by Nicolas Wade:

Dawkins invites the reader to share the frustration of an imaginary history teacher, some of whose students refuse to accept that the Roman Empire ever existed, or that Latin is the mother tongue from which the Romance languages evolved. Instead of concentrating on how Western culture emerged from the institutions of the Roman state, the teacher must spend time combating a school board that insists he give equal time to their alternative view that French has been spoken from time immemorial and that Caesar never came or saw or conquered. This is exactly analogous to the plight of the biology teacher trying to acquaint students with the richness of modern biology in states where fundamentalist opponents of evolution hold sway.

From exhibit B, letter by Daniel Dennett:

What is going on at The New York Times? Why is it so bizarrely respectful of those who doubt evolution? In recent years The Times has published three preposterous Op-Ed articles by evolution-doubters (Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Michael J. Behe and Senator Sam Brownback). These no more deserved space in The Times than the opinions of flat-earthers or trance- channelers. In the wake of Judge John E. Jones III’s decision in the Dover, Pa., case that intelligent design is a religious viewpoint that may not be taught in public schools, one would think The Times would finally recognize that the intelligent design campaign is a hoax and dishonest to the core, and stop giving it respectability in its pages.

from Exhibit C, Letter by Alex Rosenberg:

Evolution is a fact, natural selection is a process and Darwin’s theory is that the fact is explained by the process. The facts of evolution are as evident as any facts about the past can be. So is the fact that blind variation and natural selection can produce a lot of adaptational change. Darwin’s theory about how it does so is indeed a work in progress, but one whose basic correctness is no more open to doubt that General Relativity. In “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and in a couple of other books, including “The Ancestor’s Tale” and “The Blind Watchmaker,” Dawkins has shown us how this process, which is entirely free from purpose, goal, intention or design, results in the overwhelming appearance of all four. Processes, of course, are facts. No twist in Dawkins’s knickers.

from Exhibit C, Letter by Eric Delson:

In his otherwise excellent review, Nicholas Wade draws a distinction among theory, law and fact in science. He notes that Dawkins, in reaction to “creationists, who like to dismiss evolution as ‘just a theory,’ ” insists that evolution is a fact. Wade correctly recognizes that in science a theory is more than a supposition, as does Dawkins, but while criticizing Dawkins for calling evolution a fact, Wade falls back on using the term “theory,” which surely connotes uncertainty to the nonscientist. Both authors ignore the third option, to refer to evolution as a “law” in the same sense that most people speak of the “law of gravity.”

Yes, this may appear to be simply all about evolution and creationism, but my purposes are different, so bear with me. This debate about evolution, is simply an illustration of the line drawn in the sand. And, if I’m honest from the start, my premise and ideas have nothing to do with God, except I thought the title sounded catchy. God is not gasping for air, or dying, or fading from relevancy. However, I believe it true to say that those humans who refuse to accept Science and the fact of Evolution are afraid that this is the case. To them, Science is an attempt to kill God. Their insistence to hold so tightly to a disproved myth, and develop ideas like Intelligent Design, at all costs, suggests that without it, they have no ability to believe in God.

How else can you explain the construction of a Museum of Creationism, where robotronic dinosaurs frolic with humans, in a way that scientifically could never exist, but must be constructed and sold as undeniably true so that the myth of the great flood can be aligned with scientific fact? Why else work so hard to hold the Bible as ultimate history, except that without it, they are afraid that God will cease to exist, or more accurately, never had existed in the first place. Personally, I don’t think the existence of God is up for grabs, and any discussion of it, is a red herring, designed to shift focus away from the bigger question: what is the validity of Religion, or more specifically- what is the validity of seeing a Judeo-Christian perspective as the only accurate and true expression of Religion. The Christian religion (lower-case “r”) is what is at stake of being disproved.

My intentional splitting of Christianity from the whole Judeo-Christian branch of history should not be minimized. Philosophers and theologians within the Hebrew tradition have, since the dawn of their faith tradition and ancestral beginnings, seen the value of interpretation. Volumes upon volumes exist as different individuals have chosen to explore sometimes subtle, and sometimes drastic explanations for scripture, practice, and belief. It has only been the comparatively recent Christians who seek to mold an understanding of fact into something that might fit within their locked-down scriptural words. In other words, only the Christian Church works so to declare the fact of the Holy Bible as more important and above all other fact, and even above the importance of Faith.

So, what the heck does this have to do with anything Queer, or Gay, or whatever words you choose? Can you believe I just wrote 1000 words as a set up to what I really want to say? Yes, I guess I did.

Virtually all of the backlash and opposition to full equality for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgenders, is rooted in a religious objection to homosexuality. While Christianity isn’t the only faith tradition to oppose homosexuality, it does hold a singular spot as the predominant religion of the advanced Western Culture. The attack on homosexuality from the Christian extremists is completely an effort to support their fallacy of the Holy Bible as Fact, and plays the same role in the perpetuation of this fallacious fact, as the attack on evolution. While in practical terms, the opposition to full equality for LGBT’s is the oppression of actual people, the goal of any of the Christian Far Right isn’t to harm people, but rather to defend their stronghold on the Fact of the Holy Bible, and thus, their own sole connection to God. This is partly how these Christians can claim to love the sinner but hate the sin, because to them, it isn’t about real people, but about actions and behaviors. They don’t set out to cause harm, even if for them, the ends justify the means. Not all Christians operate that way. Even some denominations articulate that Faith and Experience play key roles in understanding God’s plan. But in moments of fear, even the most moderate Christians can fall into the trap of the Bible as Fact.

The issues of the Fact of Evolution and the Fact of Homosexuality are both, at the core, issues of biology and science. The war raging between the Christian extremists and Science concerning evolution has been going on for some time, so it is easier to see and analyze a history for that struggle. It follows other similar battles with Science such as the struggle of the Church to condemn Galileo because his astrologic observations did not match their literal Biblical reading. The Battle against the science of homosexuality is relatively new. Previously the Church used only a moral argument against homosexuality, but in reality, it didn’t care if homosexuality was going on, as long as it was secret and hidden. However, as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people have become more visible, and want the rights that everyone else has, as out visible and happy people, this acceptance of secrets no longer functions, and the Church has lost most if not all of it’s moral authority.

So, The Christian extremists have nowhere else to turn except to their Holy Bible as fact.

The Holy Bible’s Last Gasps for Air

Therefore, the battle against Homosexuality is really the battle to save the authority of the Holy Bible. If they give in on this one, they have nothing left that they can see to justify the need for their religion. The rest of the things that they could possibly grab hold of as justification for Christianity have long since passed away. Greed and Coveting rule- look at how the Banking industry or the Health Care industry work to shore up their profits over the well being of our society as a whole. Gambling is everywhere; Divorce is prevalent; Lying almost the default behavior. The Golden Rule is tarnished and appears to look more like plastic that a precious gem.

Unlike the fact of evolution, the Science of Homosexuality isn’t as well understood. Not yet. Still so much that we don’t understand about genes, and proteins and hormones, and all of the various things that play into the biology of it. And we understand far more of the Biology, than we do of the sociology of Homosexuality- how culture and environment affect the Biology as well. In time these too will be well understood. But for now, we must accept that there is still much that we do not yet know as fact in the same way as we know about the fact of evolution.  This isn’t really any different than the process by which the fact of Astronomy and the solar system came about. It just takes time.

If I am right however, that this is the last big stand that the Far Right Christians have to support their Holy Bible as fact, then, the fact of homosexuality is likely to be even more dismissed than the fact of evolution. This last attack on the fallacy will be fought with greater blindness and zeal. So we have a real battle to look forward to.

Letters – The Fact of Evolution – NYTimes.com.

Screening of ‘For the Bible Tells Me So’ by NW PA NOW

I received an message via Facebook and wanted to pass along the details:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajBR0dq0XXk&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Event: Screening of ‘For the Bible Tells Me So’ by NW PA NOW

What: Exhibit

Start Time: Wednesday, November 18 at 7:00pm

End Time: Wednesday, November 18 at 9:00pm

Where: Frank G Pogue Student Center, Edinboro University, Edinboro PA

To see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:

http://www.facebook.com/n/?event.php&eid=153971228410&mid=14245b2Gd90731G3deab98G7

Website for the movie and book: http://www.forthebibletellsmeso.org/indexb.htm

Texas Church Sponsors Pro-Gay Christian Billboards

Saw this on Twitter and had to write about it! Thanks to @QueerJohnPA and @lgbtlife for posting.

WouldJesusDiscriminate.com
WouldJesusDiscriminate.com

Please read the article linked, I’m not going to show any quotes from it, but it is a good read. I’m more interested to share my own reactions to these billboards.

First, I’d like to say that they are really gutzy, and I really give them credit for putting themselves out there like that. The message- that Jesus and the Bible is more welcoming and inclusive than some think it is- is a valuable message to share. But if their goal is to get people, especially Christian believers to rethink their negative judgements of gays and lesbians, I’m not sure how successful this is going to be.

If I have any real beef about the project, is the way it uses scripture. Consider Matthew 19: 10-12, (displayed here from the NIV)

10The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.

12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage[a]because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Now, this is a very interesting passage, especially following the earlier passages of Matthew 19, but how can anyone interpret it to say that “Jesus said some are born Gay.” Jesus didn’t say that unless the Greek for Eunuch(????????) is exactly the same as Greek for Gay (????????????), which it isn’t. And frankly as a gay man, I’m not sure how I feel about being called a Eunuch.

WouldJesusDiscriminate.com
WouldJesusDiscriminate.com

Genesis 2:24 and Ruth 1:14 (NIV)

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

14 At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her.

There is a wonderfully beautiful story to be told about the love between these two women, although I’m hard pressed to say that they became one flesh. Here’s the same problem as the Matthew example. By trying to distill it down to a few passages, and then claim this is what it means, can’t possible provide any real teaching. It can only set the stage for a dispute about does it mean this or not. The tactic of pulling individual verses and claiming to know exactly what it means, that is the problem, not the solution to the problem.

WouldJesusDiscriminate.com
WouldJesusDiscriminate.com

The last billboard is probably the saddest example, for this is truly a rich and meaningful story.

Matthew 8:5-13 (NIV)

5When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6″Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”

7Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”

8The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

How they get from “a centurion and a servant” to “a gay couple” is truly remarkable, if not deplorable. If you go to the web site there is a full explanation of each passage.

The reality is that there may have been men who loved men and women who loved women in that time and place, but our contemporary understanding of Gay simply does not apply. There were no gay couples, where a couple is understood as an equal partnering of 2 men or two women.

Faith and tradition are things that many will defend and protect even beyond reason. To mess around with someone’s understanding, especially when they feel pretty sure they know what it means, is to invite a defensiveness and promote an unwillingness to be open to other interpretations. To place contemporary constructs (ex: born gay, gay couple) into a biblical era is just as bad as those who go the other way.

The Bible is Not About Beating LGBT People Up

Michael Jones is one of my favorite bloggers, and today writes about the  HRC project, “Out in Scripture.” Here is a quote from the book’s editor:

As editor Sidney Fowler said, ‘The Bible is not about beating you up, but lifting us all up.  It includes the seeds of liberation and justice.’ Be prepared to be transformed as well.”

It’s kind of like a week-by-week look at the Bible with a lens on LGBT spirituality.  And it highlights an ongoing trend between religiousity and LGBT rights.

Sounds perfect for anyone following my podcast.

The Bible is Not About Beating LGBT People Up (Gay Rights – Change.org).

Sunday, July 12, 2009 Bible Reading

Welcome to a Queer Look at the Bible!

This week’s lectionary readings:

This week’s QP:

  • Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament) 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19:1Rainbow (A very little bit Gay)
  • Reading from the Psalms: Psalm 24 or Psalm 85:8-13 1Rainbow
  • Reading from the Epistles: Ephesians 1:3-14: 1Rainbow (Not Gay at all!)
  • Reading from the Gospels: Mark 6:14-29: 21Rainbows (Not Gay at all!)

Overall QP: 1Rainbow. Not very Gay overall

Notes or References:

Book: Jonathan Loved David, by Thomas Horner

Book: What the bible Really Says about Homosexuality, by Daniel Helminiak

? Both of these books have been around for a while and are good resources. I have met Daniel Helminiak and he is a great guy.

Next Week’s Readings:

Sunday June 28, 2009 Bible Reading

Welcome to a Queer Look at the Bible!

This week’s lectionary readings:

This week’s QP:

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament) 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27: 3Rainbows (Very Gay!)

Reading from the Epistles: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15: 1Rainbows (Not very Gay at all!)

Reading from the Gospels: Mark 5:21-43: 2Rainbows ( A little bit Gay)

Overall QP: 3Rainbows!

The amount of Gay in the 2 Samuel Reading is so over the top that it outweighs all the other readings.

Notes or References:

Book: Jonathan Loved David, by Thomas Horner

Book: What the bible Really Says about Homosexuality, by Daniel Helminiak

  • Both of these books have been around for a while and are good resources. I have met Daniel Helminiak and he is a great guy.

Website: Gay Christian 101

Same-Sex Couples in the Bible

The rest of the Jonathan and David story

  • I have stuck to just the lectionary text this week, but there is far more to the story, and this is a good beginning to that.

Conservative and Liberal Interpretations

  • If you decide to follow only one link this is an excellent choice. does a great job of describing the scripture at hand from both the conservative perspective as well as a liberal one.

Next Week’s Readings:

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!