The Rant, Part I
I found a website today that caused the bile to rise up in my throat like so much sewage after a heavy rain in Indiana in July. It was the straw that broke not only the camel's back, but his resolve to restrain himself. I AM THAT CAMEL!
All right, that was lame. Chalk it up to exhaustion from yesterday's 300+ fasola singers (I led!). It was magnificent, moving, spiritual, also sweltering, 110 degrees, oppressively hot.
Anyhoo, here it is. Keep in mind I'm not a particularly religious person (don't trust organized religion), but I am fiercely spiritual:
Gay Does Not Equal Sin- a commentary by Me
Biblical literalists won't buy this and that's ok, but this whole focus on homosexuality as the root of all evil in our (American) society has gone on way too long. Let's examine, shall we?
Old Testament: we can dismiss these injunctions for Christians since Jesus wiped away the old covenant and brought the new covenant. Yes, Leviticus says homogenital contact is abomination. Also abomination are the eating of pork, lobster, shrimp, catfish (fish must have scales to be clean), and the wearing of blended fabric. Just for fun my partner and I go out to Red Lobster and wear cotton/linen blend and eat all the crustceans we want. We call it Abomination Night. Variant: pizza with ham and bacon. Yummy!
New Testament: The four gospels, the words of Jesus himself, say nothing about homogenital sexual acts, same-sex attraction, or anything else that can be construed as "gay" in the modern sense. Paul's letters, on the other hand, are more explicit. I've personally not been very keen on the idea of taking Paul so seriously. He never met Jesus in the flesh, was not one of the original disciples. More on that later. Anyway, he tells us in Romans 2: 21 that because men "neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to him," God gave men "over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another" (Romans 2:26-27). He's saying that men were inflamed with lust for one another as a punishment for their behavior.
What the heck did I do that God would make me lust after men? According to Paul, homosexual desire was at some time caused by men who "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." I have never once worshipped an image of anything, man, bird, animal, or reptile! To my knowledge, neither has anyone in my family. So that doesn't make much sense, does it?
Onward to 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10. This is from NIV, by the way: "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 homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
The word translated here as "homosexual offenders" is actually in ancient Greek arsenokoitai. From the 16th century onwards it was translated variously as masturbators, perverts, child molesters, sodomites, etc. It's meaning is still hotly debated by Biblical scholars, and no one can say with certainty what it does or does not mean.
Incidentally, in the next chapter, Paul expressly recommends that "It is good for a man not to marry" (1 Corinthians 7:1). The very institution conservatives say they are trying to protect is perhaps not so very necessary to Christian life after all, if we take the Bible literally, and if we take Paul seriously. Paul admits that these are his thoughts, not edicts from God. I think the religion is "Christianity" not "Paulianity".
Regarding taking Paul seriously, 1 Corinthians goes on to say that "If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off" (11:6). And I say, Woe unto ye as would cut off the hair of any of my myriad blue-haired, church-going aunts! They're ornery, Appalachian, and they can kick. Paul also says "...it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." (14: 35). Just an observation.
Why on earth do we as a society focus on gay marriage so much? I'm frankly baffled. Clearly male Biblical literalists are forbidden to have sex with other men. But why not rally instead on the love of money, or the high divorce rate (which is, according to Luke 16:18, adultery if either party remarries)? There are in western European history precedents for church-based same-sex unions from as early as the 10th century in Greek, and later centuries in Old Church Slavonic (see John Boswell, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe Random House/Vintage Books, 1994). We would not invent anything new by allowing gays to have the same advantages of domesticity as straight people. Call it civil unions, marriage, partnership, I don't honkin' care.
But taking the Bible literally leads to preachers with signs of nooses as the solution to gay marriage (see my blog http://lifewithkeith.blogspot.com/2006/06/being-repressed-or-crazy-people-in.html)
Matthew 7:1-2 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Think about it!
Further Reading: Daniel Helminiak. What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. Alamo Square Press, 2004.
Also anything by John S. Spong, former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ.
The End of Part I.