Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From Defense to Decision

Dr. Durrell’s Spiritual Prescriptions

From Defense to Decision
     In my evolution as a Queer spiritual leader and activist I have experienced three phases so far.
     Phase One:  Defense. I spent the early part of my ministry deconstructing the bible passages that were used to promote homophobia and to demonize and dehumanize same-gender loving people. I passionately pointed out that the biblical narratives never condemn same-gender love or attraction. Every time the bible seems to be critical of homosexuality (and there are only about half a dozen verses in the entire bible that can be given a homophobic spin) it is always in the context of prostitution or rape (behaviors that exploit or abuse someone). People in love, choosing to be together, enjoying each other’s company (and each other’s bodies) is never condemned in the bible.
     Phase Two:  Offense. I moved from trying to de-fang the apparently venomous verses used against gay people to playing a version of “Find Queer Waldo” in the pages of Holy Writ. With glee I would discuss the vow of devotion that one woman makes to another in the story of Ruth, a vow that has often been featured in heterosexual wedding ceremonies, “Ask me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God. Where thou diest I shall die and there I will be buried…”
     Similarly, I would beam with joy as I told the warrior love story of Jonathan and David (who made a vow to one another). Jonathan affirmed that he loved David as if David were his own soul; and David declared that he loved Jonathan in a way he could never love women.
     Boaz (from the Ruth story) seemed a little gay to me. Ebedmelech who rescued a prophet from a well seemed a little gay to me. Lydya (who was central in a women’s community) in the book of Acts seemed possibly lesbian to me. It was interesting to me that the Apostle Paul went to Mytlene (Lesbos!) where he might have had friends. In fact, Paul seems pretty gay to me! I even had questions about at least one of Jesus’ disciples.  Gay people know one another, and I had a great time finding my gay and lesbian sisters and brothers in the stories of my leather bound bible.
     Phase Three:  Decision. I am now at a point in my life where I don’t need to be defensive nor do I need to go on the offensive. I don’t need to persuade fundamentalists that they are wrong about homosexuality nor do I need to find affirming tidbits in scripture or loopholes in the so-called “clobber passages” to justify my existence. I love the bible, but I don’t depend on any particular interpretation of it to give my life value. I have decided to celebrate my sacred value and to insist that all people be treated fairly and with dignity regardless anyone’s religious belief (or prejudice masquerading as religious belief). I have decided that I won’t play biblical tit-for-tat and that I will simply trust my experience of life, which includes who and how I love. And I invite other spiritual seekers and persons of faith to do the same.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

9/2 edition of the Florida Agenda

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