Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Don't Blame Homophobia on God

Don't Blame Homophobia on God
(a rant by Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div., D.Min.)

A fundamentalist defender of homophobia recently quoted the bible verses below and added the rhetorical question, “How much clearer could the bible be?”

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 (NIV)

1. 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 is not “the bible.” It is a statement, made by the Apostle Paul in mid-first century in a letter he wrote to a particular church about particular issues in that community. That letter, MUCH later, was included in the bible. We are talking about one sentence from an ancient letter from a man who assumed the world was flat to a community other than one any of us find ourselves today. This is hardly a council of the gods of Olympus voting unanimously to dehumanize all same-gender loving people for all time!

2. Regardless of what Paul believed, are we not (even as faithful people) free to disagree with him? We (surely!) disagree with the biblical statement, “slaves obey your masters.” Many (though sadly not all) disagree with the statements, “women remain silent in church” and “wives submit to your husbands.” One of the commandments (about which the bible could not be much clearer) is to avoid idolatry. I won’t make an idol of Paul or of the bible or of homophobia. I won’t confuse Paul’s culturally shaped opinions with God’s own prejudices! To do so would be to try to limit God to the words of Paul, and that would be idolatry (and by the way, idolaters are in the list that someone believed to be so “clear”).

3. The passage, or rather the fragment from a much larger missive, in question was written in an ancient language that has been translated (after being hand copied many times). Translations always involve the choices and even biases of the translator (which isn’t a criticism; it’s just how it works).
For example, the translators of the version of the bible quoted above chose to use the words “homosexual offenders” to translate the ancient Greek word in the text. However, the world “homosexual” is rather new (coined in the 19th century), so it would not have been Paul’s choice in any language!

Moreover, even given the translation used above, the text doesn’t say “same gender loving people.” It doesn’t even say, “those who experience same-gender attraction.” It definitely doesn’t say, “those who find themselves in consensual, adult relationships.” It says, “homosexual offenders”. What is an “offender”? Does that mean “rapist”? Does it mean a heterosexual person who “offends” his wife by cheating on her with a man? Or, given the context of the passage (“male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders”), does it mean male prostitutes and those men who pay for their services? The passage is ambiguous, not clear. There are many possible understandings other than blanket condemnation of LBGT people.

There are only about 6 biblical proof-texts (which prove almost nothing) to which homophobic religionists cling to justify their fear of same-gender love and attraction. And yet, fear (and the hatred that results) seems so inconsistent with the God that is said to be “Love.” In fact, even St. Paul said, “Those who love their fellow human-beings have fulfilled the law” (Romans 13). Judging, condemning, hating, vilifying in the name of God…that seems to me to be using God’s name in vain (whoops! There goes another commandment). In the end, I suppose everyone has a right to his or her prejudices. But own them; don’t try to blame them on God.

--Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

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