Friday, June 21, 2013

O Sun, Stand Still!

Sunshine Cathedral Spirit & Truth Reflection
Friday, June 21 (Summer Solstice)

O sun stand still!
“Joshua said…’O sun, stand still!’” Joshua 10.12.

In the bible, Joshua seems to make time stand still (to aid him in battle). When the sun was thought to travel through the sky, stopping its travel would have been thought a great miracle. Our understanding of the cosmos is very different today. The Joshua tale reminds me of the meaning of the word solstice. “Solstice” comes from the Latin sol sistere, “sun stand still.” The longest day of the year reminds us that we have all the time we need. In God there is no time, space or limitation, so whatever we need is available to us and we can achieve the noble desires of our hearts. As the sun lingers today, let us remember we have all the time we need to do all that is ours to do.

Prayer Treatment: Today, “the sun…will rise with healing in its rays” (Malachi 4.2). I have the time I need to accomplish great things. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Exodus International Closes, Thank God

Exodus International Closes, Thank God
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus International has apologized for the misguided and devastating teachings of his now erstwhile organization. Exodus International was an evangelical "ministry" that told same-gender loving people that their innate sexual orientation was disordered and could be "cured" by prayer and "reparative therapy."

The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1973 and since 1998 has said that reparative therapy is dangerous and harmful; but Exodus International didn’t embrace solid science. They also had little regard for progressive theology and contemporary biblical scholarship. Instead, they confused heterosexism and homophobia with faith and spirituality, and many lives were badly hurt by Exodus International's teachings.

Gay people being taught to hate themselves and that God would reject them eternally simply for their sexual orientation often compounded their pain by lying about their sexuality, and all too often, when hopelessness and despair overwhelmed, some of them attempted suicide, and those attempts often succeeded.

The pain, the damage, and the lies perpetuated by Exodus International can't be undone. Hopefully, for many people, the pain can be healed, but the lost years, and in many cases, the lost lives, can't be restored.

Some will not accept Alan Chambers' apology. They will say that it is too little, too late, or possibly even insincere. But I think we have no choice but to accept it. Was it too little, too late? Obviously. Was it more than any of us ever expected? Absolutely. Did it undermine the pseudo-science and oppressive theology that have tormented LBTG people for years? Probably. Hopefully.

In any case, acknowledging that Exodus International was mistaken and then apologizing for the harm Exodus did is all Alan Chambers could do at this point. For doing what he could, I am grateful. He has to live with the knowledge that some are not alive because they couldn't live with the self-loathing imposed on them by Chambers' organization, and that is a heavy burden to bear. But it is his karma. What he didn't have to do, but responding to the better angels of his nature finally chose to do, is admit his error and apologize for it. Having done all that he can at this point, we must now summon the courage to respond with grace.  And, even as we accept this much needed apology, let’s continue to work to build a world where people can learn to love themselves for who they are, and where the sacred value of all people is affirmed!

Dr. Watkins is the senior minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Ft Lauderdale.



Thursday, June 13, 2013

another Q/A (from some brochure that i've used forever)

Q&A with Daniel Helminiak
(Dr. Helminiak is a former Roman Catholic priest with a PhD in Systematic Theology and another PhD in Psychology. Daniel Helminiak is the author of What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality)

Q: What was the point of the Bible texts if not to condemn homosexuality?
A: It is not easy to summarize briefly the body of research on homosexuality in the Bible. But these are the interpretations that some scholars are proposing:
• The story of Sodom in Genesis 19 is about offense against the sacred duty of hospitality. That is how Ezekiel 16.48-49 and Wisdom 9.13-14 interpret this text. The attempted male rape only heightens the atrocity of this offense.
• Leviticus 18.22 does forbid male-male sex as an "abomination." But the word simply means an impurity or a religious taboo — like eating pork. As in the case of Catholics who used to be forbidden under pain of mortal sin to eat meat on Friday, the offense was not in the act itself but in the betrayal of one's religion. The ancient Jews were to avoid practices common among the unclean Gentiles.
• Romans 1.27 mentions men having relations with men. But the terms used to describe them are "dishonorable" and "shameless." These refer deliberately to social disapproval, not to ethical condemnation. Moreover, according to Paul's usage, different from the prevalent Stoic philosophy of the day, para physin ("unnatural") would best be translated "atypical" or "beyond the ordinary." So it bears no reference to natural law.

And it can imply no ethical condemnation because in Romans 11.24 God is said to act para physin. Paul sees gay sex as an impurity (see Rm. 1.24), just like uncircumcision or eating forbidden foods. He mentions it to make the main point of his letter, that purity requirements of the Jewish Law are not relevant in Christ Jesus.
See L. William Countryman, Dirt, Greed, and Sex.
• 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 and 1 Timothy 1.8-10 list arsenokoitai among those who will be excluded from the Reign of God. This obscure term has been translated "homosexuals" but its exact meaning is debated. It certainly does not include women but only some kind of male sexual offenders. If it does refer to men having sex with men — which is dubious — it must be interpreted in light of the abuse and licentiousness commonly associated with male-male sex in the Roman Empire.
See Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality.
• Finally, Genesis 1-3 shows Adam and Eve created for mutual companionship and procreation. These accounts use the most standard of human relationships to teach a religious lesson. The point is the love and wisdom of God, who made all things good and wills us no evil. Nothing suggests the biblical authors intended a lesson on sexual orientation.
Q: Hasn't there been constant opposition to homosexuality throughout Christian history?
A: Recent and detailed historical scholarship questions that claim. Although one could find some opposing voice in every century, there was no common opposition to homosexuality in Christian Europe until the late 12th century except for a period around the collapse of the Roman Empire. Indeed, for nearly two centuries after Christianity had become the state religion, Christian emperors in Eastern cities not only tolerated but actually taxed gay prostitution. In 7th century Visigoth Spain, a series of six national church councils refused to support the ruler's legislation against homogenital acts.

By the 9th century almost every area in Christian Europe had local law codes, including detailed sections on sexual offenses; none outside of Spain forbade homogenital acts. By the High Middle Ages, a gay subculture thrived, as in Greco-Roman times. A body of gay literature was standard discussion material at courses in the medieval universities where clerics were educated.

Opposition to homosexuality, as in Augustine and Chrysostom, rested on reasons unacceptable today: "natural-law" arguments based on beliefs about supposed sexual practices among hares, hyenas, and weasels; a philosophical Stoicism that was suspicious of any sexual enjoyment; a sexism that saw a degrading effeminacy in being the receptive partner in sex. All-out Christian opposition to homosexuality arose at a time when medieval society first began to oppress many minority groups: Jews, heretics, the poor, usurers. A campaign to stir up support for the Crusades by vilifying the Muslims with charges of homosexual rape also played a part in Christian Europe's change of attitude toward gay and lesbian sex.
See John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality.

Is it a sin to be gay? (Hint: the answer is "No")

Q&A About the Bible & Homosexuality (selections from a brochure by Rev. Durrell Watkins, D.Min.)

 Is it a sin to be gay?
“Sin” means to miss the mark (an archery and hunting metaphor). To “be” anything is a matter of ontology (of “is-ness”). So to discover that one is something and to be honest about it can never be missing the mark.
Did Jesus condemn homosexuality?
Jesus condemned precious little. One of the few things that he did condemn was the tendency of religious people to participate in condemnation! Jesus seemed to have a great deal of patience with almost everything other than self-righteous people who tried to enforce religious rules in a way to oppress or control others.
When was Jesus sympathetic to homosexual persons?
First of all, let’s not force a Euro-centric, 19th century view of same-gender love/attraction onto the first century, Palestinian Jesus. The word “homosexual” would not have been part of Jesus’ vocabulary, and our understanding of homosexuality might not have even existed in Jesus’ world! However, you may recall that in the 8th chapter of Matthew’s gospel (and the story is repeated in the 7th chapter of Luke’s gospel) Jesus heals a centurion’s servant. The original hearers of that story would have assumed that the servant was the centurion’s lover. From what we know of 1st century Roman culture, we know that such relationships were not uncommon. And for a person of such high rank to be so concerned about a servant that he would approach a faith healer of lower status and another religion in a desperate attempt to help his servant suggests an intimacy far greater than one would expect between a military officer and his “servant.” How did Jesus respond to the centurion? He praised his faith! His relationship was not condemned or even questioned.
You said there may be a couple of times when Jesus was friendly toward same-sex expressions of love. What is the other example?
In Matthew 19, Jesus defines “eunuchs” in a much broader sense than we normally hear. He says that, there are those who are castrated, which is the usual definition. But he also says there are 2 other kinds of eunuchs. He said some “choose” to be eunuchs (living a life of celibacy) and that others are “born” eunuchs (people who by nature, or from birth, are sexually different).  He also said that not everyone would accept his broad and inclusive (and non-judgmental) definition of eunuchs, but he said, “whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” Jesus was giving an example of sexual diversity…He did not suggest that anything was wrong with any of the “eunuchs”, and he certainly did not propose an “ex-eunuch” program. Some of us are “different” from the majority, and Jesus seems to suggest that it’s OK, and that everyone who can accept such diversity needs to accept it! His teaching reminds us of Isaiah 56 where the prophet places these words in the mouth of God, “The eunuch need not say, ‘I am a dry (barren) tree’…I will give them in my house a monument and name which will be even better than having children; an eternal, imperishable name…For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” In any case, Jesus never condemned same-sex love or attraction.
But aren’t there bible verses that say it is a sin to be gay?
Not exactly. It depends on how you read the bible. The people who wrote the documents that in time became our bible were products of their time and culture. They had specific agendas and were writing to particular communities, usually in response to definite events. None of them had any idea that 21st century Americans would be reading their work. In fact, none of them knew there was a North American continent or that the world wasn’t flat. And so, we do read statements in the bible that support slavery, that assume women are in some way inferior to men, that seem to suggest God takes sides in bloody military conflicts. Today, we do not accept that women are in any way inferior to men. Today, we believe slavery to be one of the greatest evils of human history. Today, many of us believe that war is almost never the will of God. Do we read the bible with an awareness of its historical and cultural and linguistic contexts? Or do we cling to isolated verses that seem to support one prejudice or the other? How we choose to read the bible will determine if we believe the bible promotes homophobia.
What About Sodom & Gomorrah?
Some people will suggest that Genesis 19 condemns homosexuality. It is the story of Sodom & Gomorrah, where a gang of violent men threaten to rape two strangers. The strangers happen to be angels (and presumably male), but the obvious “sin” of the story has nothing to do with the genders of the characters. Rape is always brutal, inhuman, horrifying, terrible and wrong. No one could disagree with that. There isn’t any love or even healthy attraction in the story. Degrading or hurting someone by forcing them to perform any sexual act against their will demands our outrage. But that has nothing to do with gay people finding joy in their mutual relationships.
Doesn’t Leviticus say it’s wrong to be gay?
Leviticus discourages certain behaviors, but its writers have no clue that sexuality might be biologically predisposed or that it might be a psycho-social orientation. So, no, Leviticus doesn’t condemn any contemporary notion of homosexuality because it is not aware of any such notion. The book lays out many prohibitions for an ancient community. Those prohibitions include wearing certain types of fabric, eating shellfish and pork, even getting tattoos! Leviticus 19.26 even says it is wrong to eat rare meat! Isn’t it funny that people who think Leviticus justifies their anti-gay prejudices have no problem eating seafood or rare steaks or adorning themselves with body art?
Are there any other biblical passages to consider?
Not many. Out of the entire bible, 66 books (a few more if you’re Roman Catholic) written by many people covering a period of more than a thousand years, we’ve already discussed half the passages that are routinely used to shame, condemn, harass, or terrorize gay and lesbian people! The other three passages come from books attributed to St. Paul in the New Testament (most notably, 2 verses from the first chapter of Romans, which is almost always taken out of context and even misquoted; the context for the Romans 1 passage is idolatry, not sexual orientation). Each of those passages, when taken in their cultural, historical, linguistic, and literary contexts can be deconstructed in ways that are actually quite liberating for same-gender loving people!
The bible is not…meant to condemn love, mutuality, or any life-affirming situation. 
     © Durrell Watkins 2004, 2009