Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Bible, As It Turns Out, Isn't Really Hostile to Gays

Some Bible Bits (by Rev Dr Durrell Watkins)
for Sunshine Cathedral's The Bible & Homosexuality Discussion on June 25th, 2014

Scriptures to discuss/ponder:

Genesis 2-3 - a myth of origins, no wedding, no instruction of what romance must look like
Adam and Eve actually mean “soil and life”
They are metaphors, not historic persons, and certainly not an argument against same-gender love and attraction!

Genesis 19 – a myth of origins for the Moabites and Ammonites (an ethnic slur…the story is racist, not homophobic!). Love or attraction is never even mentioned in the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Judges 19 – almost identical to Gen 19 with its violence and disregard for women

Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13 discourage male to male copulation, but it is in the context of prohibitions to keep the Jewish community from mimicking or being assimilated by Egyptian and Canaanite cultures. Are the two and only two (and only related to men) prohibitions against same-sex activity actually calling on people to not rape those they defeat in battle, or not use slaves as sex objects, or not have any kind of sex that couldn’t help in nation building (that is, producing future farmers, caregivers, parents, and warriors)?

There are many possibilities but what is clear is that they aren’t being told to not be gay, they are being told to not engage in practices common to larger geographic neighbors. The prohibitions fall among many other prohibitions that people who invoke Leviticus to justify homophobia routinely ignore, e.g.:

18.19 – Don’t sleep with a menstruating woman
19.19 – Don’t cross breed animals (which would make mules sinful!)
19.20 – Don’t have sex with another man’s slave (not a rejection of slavery, but don’t “trespass” on another man’s “property”…this fits nowhere in our 21st century western ethics!)
19.26 – Do not eat rare meat (sorry red, cool center steak lovers)
19.27 – Do not trim your beard (and presumably, that certainly includes don’t shave it completely off…sorry smooth skinned fellows)
19.28 – Do not get tattoos (body art enthusiasts that’s bad news for you)
19.31 – Do not consult fortune tellers (Long Island Medium? Newspaper Horoscope? Prophets of Doom predicting the end of the world?)
19.33 – Do not be unkind or unwelcoming to foreigners (Almost no one quotes Leviticus to combat xenophobia)
20.9 – Do not curse your parents (under penalty of DEATH!)

Before these prohibitions there are others (often ignored by those quoting Leviticus to feel good about their homophobia):
You may eat beef (11.3), but you may not eat
Camel (11.4), Badger (11.5), Rabbit (11.6), PORK (11.6)…not only are you forbidden from having rabbit stew or a ham sandwich, but you can’t even touch these animals once they are dead.

Also, you may eat fish with scales and fins (11.9), but you may not eat
Seafood that lacks scales or fin (no crab, no lobster, no shrimp, etc., 11.12).
Long John Silvers may be okay, but Red  Lobster poses a real problem!

And, just in case you are wondering, crows, sea gulls, vultures, eagles, falcons, ostriches, hawks, owls, storks, and bats are also on the forbidden menu (small sacrifice for most of us).

BUT…what you may eat if you are hankering for a snack includes locusts and grasshoppers (yum, 11.22).

Beyond diet and grooming and body art and animal breeding, there is also behavioral rules about women who have recently had children. If a woman gives birth to a boy, she can’t show up for worship for 33 days, and if she gives birth to a girl she can’t show up for worship for 66 days. Anyone coming to church less than two months after having a baby girl is not Leviticus compliant! (12.2-5).

And, amid the prohibitions, there are also commands, like the one outlining the Scape Goat ritual that the community is meant to observe! (Seen a goat in church lately?)

With so much of Leviticus being ignored, it is disingenuous to pretend that Lev. 18.22 and 20.13 are authoritative for 21st century dwellers!

1 & 2 Samuel show a warrior love story between Jonathan and David
Isaiah 56 advocates for people who are sexually different
Jeremiah 38 has a sexually ambiguous person as an unlikely hero

Jesus never condemns same-gender love or attraction

Romans 1 – has God making people gay for committing idolatry (what?!)…what a strange understanding of how sexuality works (Paul had issues).  But love and caring relationships are not condemned (in fact, Paul in the same passage argues against judging people). And Paul talks about the sex acts as going against their natures…with that logic, it is unhealthy for gay people to go against their natures to try to be heterosexual!

I Corinthians 6.9 and 1 Timothy 1.10 (Paul didn’t actually write the letters to Timothy) forbid exploitation, not love or mutual attraction.

Luke 7 and Matthew 8 show Jesus affirming a same-sex couple (without condemning slavery, that’s one that Jesus and Paul both dropped the ball on!).
Matthew 19 has Jesus saying that some people are born different and that’s OK.

Mark 14 shows Jesus alone with a naked man after dark (and earlier in Mark, Jesus looks on a young man and “loves” him)

Paul prays for a “thorn” to be removed from his “flesh” but it never is (some believe he is referring to same-sex attraction)

Acts 8 shows a sexually different person asking what should keep him from being baptized, and the answer is NOTHING.

Jesus’ overwhelming love for Lazarus suggests a special, possibly romantic bond.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus could well have been a “family of choice” or “alternative family”…a gay man and a lesbian couple choosing to live together as a family for safety.

Paul visited Lesbos! (Acts 20) and was friends with a woman who led a women’s community (Acts 16)

So, not only can the few verses that have been used to terrorize LesBiGay people be deconstructed and  understood in positive ways, but there are more than a few hints that same-gender love was known and in some instances even embraced in biblical communities of faith.

And we know what no one in the bible did anyway…Since the 40s we’ve known scientists have been saying that same-gender love and attraction are normative for a significant minority of people in every culture and society. Since the 70s homosexuality has been removed from mental illness diagnoses. The word “homosexual” was coined in Europe in the 19th century (it was never used in bible days). And, as the bible does say very clearly, “God is love and WHOEVER lives in love lives in God and God lives in them.” Love, not body parts, is what makes life holy. This is the good news!

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