Friday, June 01, 2007

Celebrating Pride with Faith

The bible is too often used against same-gender loving people. The bible has historically been used to defend slavery, racial segregation, child abuse, the divine right of kings, exclusion of women from professional ministry, and other atrocities. Whenever the bible is used to promote discrimination, hatred, or fear, it is being misused; and eventually, society has to reinterpret the ill-used passages. The day will come when bible verses will no longer be used as weapons against gay and lesbian people. Until that day, I'm thankful for faith communities that celebrate the sacred value of ALL people (such communities include the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Metropolitan Community Churches, the United Church of Christ, Religious Science International, Reform Judaism, and others).

There were undoubtedly people in ancient times who did not understand homosexuality. We do know that there are a few biblical passages that have been used against LBGT people, but they are largely taken out of their historical, literary, and cultural contexts. We also need to remember that bible writers thought the sun traveled through the sky, that the earth was flat, and that slavery was acceptable. We disagree with each of those positions today. Similarly, we deny that homophobia has ever been part of God’s plan for the world. We believe lesbian and gay people are part of the wonderful diversity of God’s creation.

Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 are probably the most often quoted passages used against LBGT people. The story of Sodom & Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and a passage in 1st Timothy are also often used. Each of these passages can be refuted when we look at the cultures that produced them and when we apply literary and historical criticism to the texts. These isolated and ancient references seem to be condemning abuse and exploitation. They are not condemning consensual, healthy adult relationships or genuine love. In fact, the bible is really a collection of stories that is meant to help us love ourselves and each other. So, when our actions are rooted in love, we can be sure that divine Love, aka “God”, is very present with us to bless us as we seek to share and express love.

The bible is a collection of stories left to us by our religious ancestors to encourage us on our individual faith journeys. Our ancestors experienced God in their own way, and they boldly shared their experiences in the language and imagery available to them. With their stories to guide us, we too are free to experience God for ourselves and to share our experiences in ways that are real and meaningful to us. Our faith vocabularies may include the language of biological and social sciences, psychology, activism, and philosophy, but even if our explanations differ from our ancestors, our experiences can be as real.

Those of us who have experienced the joy of loving another person (of any gender) while also worshiping the God of our understanding faithfully in a progressive spiritual community know that our experiences are real and sacred and powerful. Inspired by the biblical authors, we enter boldly into our experience of God’s unconditional and all-inclusive love, and we share and celebrate our experience just as they did. In this way, the bible is our friend and not our enemy, our helper and not our accuser, our tool of liberation and not our yoke of oppression.

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