The Bible In Drag: “Self-Narratives” (John 5:5-6)

One person there had been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus, who knew this person had been sick for a long time said, “Do you want to be healed?”

John 5:5-6

The Bible In Drag - Queering Scripture

Self Portrait – Vexed by Liz Canning

As the lame man lay beside the pool of healing – yet helpless to get into the pool – so am I caged by my own self-narrative. I cannot go anywhere my narrative does not allow. This is not necessarily a lament, after all, I have a life’s investment in my self-narrative. I want people to know it. I want to be known by it.

via The Bible In Drag – Queering ScriptureAugust 29, 2013

The Distorted Christian Tradition of the Sodomy Myth (2)

The remarkable thing about the Christian tradition that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was because of the sin of homoerotic sex, is that this was never part of the Jewish tradition: not in the Hebrew Bible (First, or Old Testament), not in the Apocrypha, not in the Pseudepigrapha, and not in the Rabbinic tradition that followed. The obvious question that follows, is quite how did the Christian theologians get it so wrong, using a strong condemnation against oppression, injustice and lack of hospitality to strangers, to justify their own persecution, oppression, and explicit refusal of hospitality in Church to sexual and gender minorities?

sodom

In tracing the historical development of what is clearly a distorted tradition, Renato Lings draws on the commentaries of the story from each historical tradition – and simultaneously describes how changes in language over those centuries meant that later commentators, up to the medieval scholastics, were depending on texts which had been through multiple translations, losing some of the subtlety and nuance of the original, and also had suffered corruption from copying errors.

A long church tradition may have led to errors of misinterpretation end errors of translation, some of which continue to affect todays versions of the Bible. Since the issues addresses by the Hebrew prophets are idolatry, pride, social injustice and oppression, it is indeed remarkable that today’s scholarly consensus emphasizes sexual violence.

Continue reading

The Bible In Drag: “Do We Need an Alpha Male God?” (John 4:48)

Jesus replied, “unless you people see signs and wonders, you won’t believe.”

John 4:48

The Bible In Drag - Queering Scripture

Hunky Brokeback Mountain Jesus

(for a great article on “Hunky Jesus” please see Kittredge Cherry)

What miracle do I need to experience before I believe? What will convince me that God exists? What tangible manifestation can give expression of intangible reality? On the reverse, why does God seem to be more hidden than revealed? Is faith always a struggle for clarity?

-continue reading at  The Bible In Drag – Queering ScriptureAugust 22, 2013

The Bible In Drag: “Water Sports” (John 4:9-10)

The Samaritan woman replied, “You’re a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” – since Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans.  Jesus answered, “If only you recognized God’s gift, and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink instead, and he would have given you living water.”

      John 4:9-10

The Bible In Drag - Queering Scripture

                                                                Bad Bad Boy by Tommi Toija

Samaritans/Jews, Romans/Barbarians, Europeans/Turks, Colonizers/Native Peoples – history is full of divisions. Of course we have our own experience of the Gay/Straight divide. I call this division the “big assumption.” We just assume that it is proper and is to be honored.

In the encounter of John 4 is a Samaritan female rebuffing the advances of a Jewish male; maintaining the divide over something as simple as a request for water. This divide is deep, for a long and tortuous history between the two ethnicities is at work here.

– continue reading at The Bible In Drag – Queering ScriptureAugust 14, 2013

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The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture

Jesus gave Nicodemus this answer: “The truth of the matter is, unless one is born from above (or ‘anew,’ or ‘again’), one cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3

Untitled photo by Zanele Muholi

In the church of my youth the encounter between Jesus and this Pharisee and Sanhedrin member – Nicodemus – was given as proof that to be authentically spiritual you needed to be “born again.” Born-Again christianity is the prevailing expression of faith in Christ in the USA, giving “American christianity” an emphasis on conversion from sin and sinful behavior to salvation and its attending compliant behavior of church morality. It is the expectation of born-again christianity that in our experience of conversion, we queer people will choose to be straight, which fits church morality. Salvation for faggots and dykes is a reorientation to all attitudes heterosexual.

– continue reading at  The Bible In Drag – Queering ScriptureAugust 6, 2013

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Biblical Love – Lost in Translation?

The dangers inherent in translating texts are obvious to anyone who has attempted to use Google Translate. Professional linguists and translators fo better, but difficulties remain, especially with literary and biblical texts. For LGBT people, the consequences have been profoundly damaging.

The widely held belief that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality underpins both religious and secular opposition, but this belief is unfounded. The word does not exist in the original text, for the simple reason that in Biblical times, the word and concept as we understand them, were unknown. What we have, is a set of modern interpretations of a series of translations from what are now dead languages. It is now widely recognized, for instance, that the Greek words “malakoi” and “arsenokotoi” that occur in Corinthians, do not in fact simply refer to “homosexuals”, as some translations imply. There has been less attention paid to the Hebrew texts of the First Testament.

Love Lost in Translation, front cover

In a new book, “Love Lost in Translation“, the biblical scholar and linguistic specialist  Renato Lings argues convincingly that in fact, all of the damaging texts of terror that have been so widely used to object to homoerotic relationships have been similarly distorted, with their original sense badly corrupted. In a fascinating opening chapter, he describes how these difficulties have affected not only modern translators, but even the writers of the Gospels and Pauline letters, in their understanding of the Jewish scriptures.  These were written in a classical Hebrew over hundreds of years, so that by the time of the Second Testament, it was no longer the common speech, having been replaced by Aramaic and Greek. To make the Hebrew bible more widely accessible, it had been translated from classical Hebrew into Greek (the version known as the Septuagint).  The Second Testament itself was written directly in Greek – and for its quotations and  references to the Hebrew prophets, depended on the Greek translations in the Septuagint. A few centuries later, the Greek bible, both Septuagint and Second Testament writings, were themselves translated into what had since become the common language of the people – Latin, in Jerome’s Vulgate version. Continue reading

Catholic Responses to Sex and Greed (18th Sunday of O.T,)

Anybody paying attention to press reports of Catholic Bishops’ public pronouncements, could be forgiven for thinking that the most important parts of Catholic identity, and of the Gospel message, is an obsession with sex (especially of the same – sex type, including gay marriage). The reality is quite different.

Today’s lectionary readings put things into clear perspective. Take this verse from Paul, for instance (as presented in the missal translation for the church in England and Wales):

That is why you must kill everything that is in you that belongs to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires, and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshiping false gods.

Colossians 3:5

Especially greed.

Sexual sin is certainly in there, but note that fornication does not refer to sex per se, but to the trivialization or commercialization of sex. Impurity and guilty passions, evil desires can all be interpreted as referring to sex – but only to inappropriate sex. Sex is not necessarily impure,guilty, or evil. In the right context, it can equally well be healthy, life – giving, and an experience of the divine. It all depends on the context, on the quality of the relationship, and on the attitude underlying the experience. It is hard, however, to imagine any circumstance in which simple greed is good, as we are reminded in the Gospel.

Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.

– Luke 12:15

For LGBT Christians of any denomination, it’s important to keep this in perspective. Although we are often told that homosexuality is “obviously”  contrary to scripture, this is simply not true. Christ himself had nothing at all to say in opposition to same – sex relationships, and little enough on any kind of sexual matters, but a great deal to say, as here, on the evils of greed ( Think of the rich man told to sell all his goods to follow him, or the aphorism that it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to enter the kingdom of heaven, or the instruction to consider the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field). In the entire Bible, there are only a handful of texts, of dubious relevance, that even appear to condemn same – sex relationships, but many, many more that strongly condemn greed.

Even the infamous story of Sodom, so often used to support claims of biblical opposition, and which gives its name to the legal offence of sodomy, has nothing at all to do with sex. Instead, the bible is clear elsewhere, on the nature of the sin of Sodom:

Ez 16: 49-50

Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom; pride, fullness of bread, and prosperous ease…..; 

“prosperous ease”  : again, too much obsession with material comfort, not sexual sin.

This does not let gay people off the hook. It’s an uncomfortable fact of gay reality, that for too many of us, once we find some personal peace with our orientation and come out as gay, we slip from one closet into another. Rejecting the perceived hostility of conventional religion, we may reject religion altogether. Rejecting the conventional norms of suburban family life, we may enter instead a ghetto, geographic or mental, of the urban gay stereotype – obsessed with the socially approved fashions, home decor, and gourmet foods – to say nothing of clubs, pubs and designer drugs.

Gay men in particular should take comfort in today’s readings, in the reminder that their sexual lives are not implicitly the great sinful evil that the popular imagination presents. But we must also guard against the very real danger of the sin of greed, and preoccupation with material comfort and pleasure, at the expense of more spiritual lives.

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