Integrity (Isaiah 51:1-11)

Integrity is obviously important, but for LGBT Catholics, religious and sexual integrity too often appear in conflict. The Catechism extols the importance of sexuality in the human make – up, and instructs that it be fully integrated into our personality – but follows up that sensible instruction with an insistence that this sexuality may only be expressed in marriage between opposite – sex spouses.

Listen to me, you who know what integrity means,
people who take my laws to heart:
do not fear the taunts of men,
nor be dismayed by their insults,
for the moth shall eat them like garments,
the grub devour them like wool,
but my integrity will remain for ever,
and my salvation for all generations.
The full text reads: Continue reading

The Bible In Drag: Naming (John 20:15-16)

       He asked her, “Why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?”

(Mary of Magdala) supposed it was the gardner, so she said, “Please, if you’re the one who carried Jesus away, tell me where you’ve laid the body and I will take it away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

She turned to him and said, “Rabboni!”

(John 20:15-16)

The Bible In Drag - Queering Scripture

The Resurrection of Christ: Mary Magdalene Meets the Supreme Court Plaintiffs of DOMA and Proposition 8 by Mary Button

Her heart was already broken. Her life already disrupted. What little peace remained to her was in taking care of the dead body. Yet even that little comfort had been stolen. All that was left was turmoil, tears, and bitterness.

The dynamics surrounding Mary Magdalene richly mirror dynamics felt by so many in the queer community. The frustration, the disappointment, the turmoil, the tears all express the experience of queer folk in the face of patronizing heteronormative attitudes. We seek a little peace, but even in the early dawn we are hounded by the cries lifted up against us.

– continue reading at The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture.October 30, 2013

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Key to Romans 1 – Hiding in Plain Sight

At Bible – thumping Liberal, the straight ally and evangelical Christian Ron Goetz asks a crucially important question:

HOW DO I RECONCILE PAUL WITH MY SUPPORT FOR LGBT FOLKS?

August 27, 2013

I just got an email from Harold, one of my PFLAG friends. He asked the following question.

“How do you reconcile Paul’s words and yet support LGBTs?”

There are several good ways of approaching this question. One way looks at Paul’s specific words, what they mean and don’t mean, and then discover that Paul is not as anti-homosexual as fundamentalists make him out to be. Another way is to look at Paul as a man who was working out his theology, literally, as he went along. Another way is to see how Paul treated other issues of some disagreement, that have been puzzling or unclear to us. Finally, we can look at some of Paul’s own attitudes and interactions, and adopt some of them as our own.

-more at  Bible-Thumping Liberal.

This is important, because Paul’s words in Romans and in Corinthians are the most disturbing of all the Biblical clobber texts for lesbian and gay Christians. The story of Sodom in Genesis should not be troubling at all, as the Bible itself makes clear that the infamous “sin of Sodom” is about injustice, and pride, and has nothing whatever to do with homoeroticism. There are numerous responses to the verses in Leviticus, but the simplest one is just to note that these are part of the Jewish purity laws, like the dietary restrictions, the prohibition on clothing of mixed fibres and shaving one’s beard, and the obligation of male circumcision. As such, they simply do not apply to Christians – as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. The letters of Paul are another matter, less easy to reconcile with our experience of a same – sex affectional orientation.

So, how can we do so? In his post, Goetz goes on, to elaborate on each of these ways of looking at Paul. There is also another, simpler still: the words simply do not mean what they are popularly supposed to mean. I’ve already discussed how this is so for Corinthians, where the Greek words “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” have been mistranslated as referring to homosexuals. (They don’t). For Romans 1, I suggest that the key is simpler still, hiding in plain sight – in the title. 

This is the letter to the Romans after all.

Hadrian and Antinous

Roman Emperor Hadrian and His Beloved, Antinous

Paul himself was a Roman citizen, and would surely have understood something of how his words would be interpreted. So let’s look at them: Continue reading

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

“Biblical Marriage”: EIGHT Models.

All those arguing against marriage equality legislation on the grounds that they are defending “traditional” marriage, “as found in the Bible”, should be challenged to clarify just which biblical model it is they are supporting. As found in the Bible, there is not just a single form of marriage, but eight distinctive models.

For a light – hearted treatment of the subject, watch this You Tube video by Betty Bowers, “America’s Best Christian”:

It’s a serious matter though, and deserves serious treatment. For that, see a useful description of the eight types of marriage at Religious Tolerance, which describes each of these, together with examples and references for to the biblical verses.   From the extended analysis, I offer here just the introduction to each (for the more complete analysis, follow the link).

biblical marriage

Type 1: The standard nuclear family: God is recorded as promoting the this type of marriage in Genesis 2:18: Referring to Adam, “…the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (King James Version – KJV) “Help meet” also appears in the Jerusalem Bible. It is translated “helper” in many other translations (e.g. Amplified Bible, An American Translation, James Moffatt Translation, New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New International Version, New World Translation, Revised Standard Bible, Young’s Literal Translation.) The Living Bible, New Living Translation, and Today’s English Version use a phrase like “a suitable companion to help him.

Type 2: Levirate Marriage: The name of this type of marriage is derived from the Latin word “levir,” which means “brother-in-law.” It is called “yibbum” in Hebrew. This involved a woman who was widowed without having borne a son. She would be required to leave her home, marry her brother-in-law, live with him, and engage in sexual relations. If there were feelings of attraction and love between the woman and her new husband, this arrangement could be quite agreeable to both. Otherwise, the woman would have to endure what was essentially serial rapes with her former brother-in-law as perpetrator. Their first-born son was considered to be sired by the deceased husband. Before the details of conception were determined, such a belief made a lot of sense. It lives on in some version of Sharia law among Muslims which state that a woman can conceive any time up to seven years after engaging in intercourse.

Type 3: A man, one or more wives, and some concubines: A man could keep numerous concubines, in addition to one or more wives. These women held an even lower status than a wife.  As implied in Genesis 21:10, a concubine could be dismissed when no longer wanted.

Type 4: A male rapist and his victim: According to the New International Version of the Bible, Deuteronomy 22:28-29 requires that a female virgin who is not engaged to be married and who has been raped must marry her attacker, no matter what her feelings were towards him. A man could then become married by simply sexually attacking a woman that appealed to him, and paying his father-in-law 50 shekels of silver.

Type 5: A man, a woman and her property — a female slave: As described in Genesis 16, Sarah and Abram were infertile. Sarah owned Hagar, a female slave who apparently had been purchased earlier in Egypt. Because Hagar was Sarah’s property, she could dispose of her as she wished. Sarah gave Hagar to Abram as a type of wife, so that Abram could have an heir.

Type 6: A male soldier and a female prisoner of war: Numbers 31:1-18 describes how the army of the ancient Israelites killed every adult Midianite male in battle. Moses then ordered the slaughter in cold blood of most of the captives, including all of the male children who numbered about 32,000. Only the lives of 32,000 women – all virgins — were spared. Some of the latter were given to the priests as slaves. Most were taken by the Israeli soldiers as captives of war

Type 7: Polygynous marriage: A man would leave his family of origin and join with his first wife. Then, as finances allowed, he would marry as many additional women as he desired and could afford. The new wives would join the man and his other wives in an already established household.

Type 8: A male and female slave: Exodus 21:4 indicates that a slave owner could assign one of his female slaves to one of his male slaves as a wife. There is no indication that women were consulted during this type of transaction. The arrangement would probably involve rape in most cases. In the times of the Hebrew Scriptures, Israelite women who were sold into slavery by their fathers were slaves forever.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

“Clobber Texts” – Resource Page Updated

When I first began to grapple seriously with the tensions between life as a practicing Catholic, and living honestly and with integrity as a gay man in a committed, stable partnership, one of the discoveries that helped me enormously was a Quest pamphlet given to me by a Catholic priest, which showed me for the first time that far from being “obviously” against homosexuality, the Bible includes only a half dozen verses that even appear to be critical, and that the relevance of even these half dozen is seriously disputed by many modern scholars. That was twenty years ago:  since then, many more scholars and theologians have been revising their views on the biblical take on same – sex relationships – and coming down on the side of acceptance.

So when I began to write at Queering the Church, in an attempt to share with readers the ideas and materials that had helped me, one of the first subjects I tackled was this question of the “clobber texts”, in a basic introductory post. Conscious of its limitations, for a long time I intended  to return to the subject, with more detailed reflections on each of these troublesome texts, drawing on and summarising the key arguments about them – but held back, feeling intimidated and inadequate to the task. Later, as my own knowledge matured, I became less interested in the defensive approach to the texts of terror, and more interested in identifying the far more numerous supportive and affirmative passages, both those featuring specific peoples that LGBT Christians could identify with (David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, the “Beloved Disciple”),  and the more general passages emphasising love and inclusion, and warning against legalism or passing judgement on others . So, as I began to expand my back pages at the site into a collection of resource pages, for the pages on scripture I have added extensive links to material on the affirmative texts – but added very little on defence against the nasties.

It was always my intention though, to include as many links to useable posts elsewhere on these clobber texts,  as I could find.  Earlier this week, I was asked by a reader for some help in this area, and as I did not yet have the summary of links that I have planned but not put together, I was forced to do some digging about from scratch. In the process, I finally began the process of adding an extensive list of links to my “Defence Against the Clobber Texts” page (a subpage of the “Rainbow Bible” section, in the navigation bar above). It’s still not exhaustive – I know that I have seen many more on-line articlues on these than I have included. These are just the ones that I was able to track down in the short time that was then available to me.  I will continue to add to it – and would welcome any further suggestions from readers.

This directory of links is permanently housed at the page on “Clobber Texts“, a subdivision of the “Rainbow Bible” pages but as an introduction and for convenience , here it is, as it stands today. (For balance, also see the far more extensive pages on “LGBT Affirmative Scriptures“)

*****

General: Overview

For a general discussion of these “Texts of Terror”, see Countering the Clobber Texts here at QTC,

and also:

The Bible and Homosexuality, ByRev. MonaWest,Ph.D. (at Metropolitan Community Church), with the sub-headings:

  • Sexuality in the Mediterranean World
  • The Story of Sodom in Genesis 19
  • Leviticus
  • The Writings of the Apostle Paul
  • Romans 1:26 ‐ 27
  • Issues of Biblical Authority

Also at MCC,

At Bridges Across the Divide, Homosexuality and the Bible  by Walter Wink

For more detailed discussions on each, see:

Enhanced by Zemanta

Slurs (Proverbs 12:18, James 3:1-12)

Sharp words cut like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18, James 3:1-12

This proverb is a reversal of the old childhood mantra: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…” Well, supposedly words will never hurt us, but they do. Not only the slurs flung our way, but the very words that jumble in us as in the word-art above. Those discerning their orientation – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning persons – are especially vulnerable to sharp words, receiving their thrust deep into the psyche.

The queer community for a number of years has been reclaiming words. In a very healthy way we have taken the swords meant to hack us and turned them into shields of honor. “Faggot,” “queer,” “gay,” “homo,” “sissy,” “butch,” “dyke” and others are now internalized as points of pride instead of points of shame.

The lesbian biblical scholar Mona West states it succinctly: “Oppressed peoples over the years have understood the power and importance of choosing their own words to name themselves rather than allowing the dominant culture to assign negative meaning to certain words that are used to demonize a group of people. Words are powerful tools used to describe experience and shape reality” (from the article Queer Spirituality).

-Read David Popham’s full reflection at “The Bible in Drag

Enhanced by Zemanta

Peacocking (Amos 7:10-12)

Amaziah the priest of Bethel then sent this message to Jeroboam ruler of Israel: “Amos is plotting against you in the midst of the House of Israel. The country can no longer tolerate what he keeps saying. For this is what he says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel is going into exile from its land.’”

                Amaziah told Amos, “Go away, seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there. Do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel. This is the royal sanctuary, the national Temple!”
Amos 7:10-12
The clashing of authority with free thinkers is as old as religious expression. Here we come across the prophet Amos being reproved by Amaziah the high priest of the royal chapel at Bethel.
Amaziah wants Amos to go away and to take with him his obstinate witness against the king and nobles of Israel. Apparently Amos is oppressing the power structure with his dreary call for justice.
Amos’ reply to Amaziah is incredibly subversive. The complaint is that Amos has flaunted or peacocked his alternative prophetic views at the center of propriety – the king’s chapel. Amos simply replies that he is not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet (the product of a prophetic school), but rather a simple tree dresser.
How true this is of queer folk. We are not straight people “acting out.” Nor are we the product of a gay agenda that has brained washed us. Simply, we are persons blessed by God with a different desire and way of responding to the God-given call of the erotic.
-continue reading at The Bible in Drag
Enhanced by Zemanta

The Bible and Textual Abuse: The Case of "malakoi" and "arsenokoites".

Sane and rational discussion of the Bible and same-sex relationships are bedevilled by difficulties with language, arising from problems with translations on the one  hand, and vastly different cultural conditions which make it difficult sometimes to make sense of the applicability of the words, even where the literal meaning is clear. This is especially important in the case of two obscure Greek words which, in poor translation, appear to say clearly that the Biblical teaching is opposed to homosexual activity.
Several notable scholars (Boswell, Countryman, and those that followed) have shown that these translations are faulty, casting doubt on a large chunk of the case for biblically based homophobia. Michael Carden, an Australian biblical scholar, has a post up which first notes that Christianity is unique in depending on translations for its scriptures, and then goes on to a lengthy, detailed discussion of the problems presented by translations of these two troublesome words.
From the opening of a much longer discussion at Michael Carden’s Jottings:
Christianity is rather unusual in the family of Abrahamic/Middle Eastern religions in the role of scripture and language. For Judaism and Islam, and I suspect traditionally for Zoroastrianism too, the language of scripture, i.e. the language in which it was written, is also the language in which it must always be read. So countless Jews and Muslims have grown up learning something of Hebrew and Arabic and not just any Hebrew and Arabic but the Hebrew of the Torah and Tanakh and the Arabic of the Qur’an, even if it means just memorising slabs of text (as a pre-Vatican 2 Catholic child I have a resonance with this because I remember being taught the responses of the old Latin Mass, which I regard nowadays as a valuable bit of rudimentary childhood second language teaching). For Jews and Muslims too any translation of scripture is counted as an interpretation, it does not share in the authority of the ‘original’ text. Christians, on the other hand, have always read their scriptures in translation.  Christian bibles are comprised of two parts: an Old Testament comprising texts originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek; and a New Testament comprising texts originally written in Greek. Early Christians used as their Old Testament the Greek translation/version of the Hebrew and Aramaic texts known as the Septuagint, together with those texts Protestants term apocryphal that were written in Greek. Just about all of the ancient Christian translations of the Old Testament were from this Greek text. Only the Syriac and Jerome’s Latin Vulgate included translations from (some of) the Hebrew version shared with Rabbinic Judaism. So from the very beginning Christians have been involved in the project of translation. For many cultures too, ancient and contemporary, their first body of written literature  has been a translation of one canonical version or another of the Christian Bible.
So for Christians, unlike Jews and Muslims, linguistic questions of meaning, equivalence and translation, can become highly fraught theological and political questions.
Enhanced by Zemanta

The Gay Beatitudes

I missed these  when the Catholic priest Wild Hair first posted these at “A Piece of My Mind“, then came across them earlier this week. There is nothing that makes them any less relevant two months later, so draw your attention to them now:

Blessed are they who stand naked and shame free
before God and one another.

Blessed are they who celebrate the rich diversity of all people
as spiritual & sexual beings.


And they continue. Read the full set at A Piece of My Mind

Enhanced by Zemanta