In several recent posts where I discussed pairs of lovers who might be thought of as gay or lesbian saints, (Ruth & Naomi, David & Jonathan, Jesus and John, the Beloved Disciple), I have had to face the question of whether these really were “gay”, were these clearly erotic relationships, was there physical expression? In each case, I suggested that the question was largely irrelevant. Colleen (and others) in the comments thread pointed out the importance of the quality of the relationships instead.
This point is made very neatly in an observation I came across in “Living it Out”, a useful little book which describes itself as “a survival guide for lesbian gay and bisexual Christians, and their friends, families, and churches.” Straight away, the title is instructive. There many books, websites and other resources which aim to offer help or guidance to queer Christians and there families. This is the first one I have come across to suggest that the churches also, need help. (The suggestion of course is sound – but I’m not following that up today.)
It is indeed a survival guide, and one of the features that makes ti useful is that it makes no attempt at complex theological argument or exegesis of Scripture, nor is it in any way preachy. What it does instead, is to draw on the thoughts and experiences of a wide range of contributors, including lesbian gay and bisexual people, as well as family members, friends, pastors and simple straight allies. (Note also the word “bisexual” in that last sentence. We routinely parrot “LGBT”, but seldom specifically include the “B” or the “T”. This book does not profess to include “T”, but does have some useful observations on “B”.) The material is not organized by contributor, but by theme, with the editors weaving together ideas from a selection of people for each section, fleshing it out with their own ideas, including frequent presentation of “top tips”, and action points and a prayer at the end of each chapter.
One reflection from a contributor “Bill” discussed the well-known story of the woman caught in adultery: (John 8 :3-11)
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
“At this, those who heard begn to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? has no-one condemned you?”
“No-one sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The story of the woman caught in adultery is used by both sides of this sort of argument. One side says “look, Jesus didn’t condemn her” and the other side says yes, but he told her to sin no more.” The detail I find interesting is Jesus writing in the sand. We go on and on about sex, either for or against. It is so easy to latch on to it as an area where actions are unambiguous. Some think (with good reason) that sex is dangerous and must be controlled. Some think it is to be celebrated and enjoyed (which may often be appropriate). Both sides think it is unavoidable and of overwhelming importance . But Jesus just goes on writing. perhaps he is bored by the whole idea of sex, as opposed to relationships.