An early highlight of Pope Francis’ papacy, was the publication of his Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)“. For LGBT people especially, and also for many others, the Bible is not often seen as a source of joy, but more usually as the primary source for religious excuses for discrimination and oppression. This is however a serious misperception of the biblical message, and of the Gospels in particular, so I was delighted and inspired by Francis’ text.
I had previously written myself on a similar theme, the joy of scripture, especially for LGBT Catholics and other Christians, and devoted an entire set of back pages to the subject at Queering the Church (also expanded on at “A Queer Ear for the Rainbow Scriptures). Here follows the opening text of the main page. (Explore further in the “Bible” pages in the drop – down menu across the top of the page).
My own interpretation of Scripture is how extraordinarily valuable it is to us as LGBT Christians. The Gospels in particular, but also much of the rest, are rich in reassurances of God’s unbounding, unconditional love, and the importance to us all of love for God, for our neighbour, and not forgetting love for ourselves. The natural corollary of this is that the Christian message above all is one of redemption and inclusion, recognising neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, neither rich nor poor – and neither gay nor straight.
Against this, Jesus’s own disdain for Scribes and Pharisees, who put scrupulous and literal adherence to every detail of the law above love, is recounted in numerous parables.
LGBT SUPPORTIVE THEMES
The second feature that strikes me as relevant to us as LGBT men and women is how very little scripture has to say about same sex love. In the entire bible, there are only a handful of verses (and none at all in the Gospels) which come close to touching on the subject – this in spite of the cultural conditions pertaining in the Mediterranean world under Hellenistic influence and Roman military occupation, a world in which all manner of sexual practices, most specifically including sex between men was widespread. the only conclusion must be that to Jesus Christ, and to the writers of scripture, loving same sex relationships were of only incidental interest. Indeed, one can easily make an argument that the Gospels in particular lend themselves to a queer, specifically gay-friendly reading. (see “The Gospels’ Queer Values)”
Numerous writers have commented also on LGBT supportive themes elsewhere in Scripture. In the Old Testament, there are also the relationships between David and Johnathan and between Ruth and Naomi, as well as the Song of Songs, which was clearly written as a homoerotic love poem, but has been bowdlerised to eliminate the obvious. In the well-known story of Daniel and his companions, it should be noted that the reason they were taken in captivity to Babylon appears to have been to serve as eunuchs for sexual use.
For a discussion on Daniel and his companions as eunuchs, see the Calendar of Gay & Lesbian Saints in the LGBT catholic Handbook, and click on the links for Daniel, and for his companions.
For an extended discussion of the Song of Songs, see a valuable review by Jim Kepner of Dr. Paul R. Johnson’s (regrettably out-of-print) book, “The Song of Songs, A Gay Love Poem” (Fidelity Press, 1995). The book may be no longer available, but the review may be read in the Wild Reed’s invaluable archives
For David and Johnathan, see the “Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times” by Thomas Marland Horner, or back to the “Calendar of LGBT Saints” again.
In spite of this, our opponents continue to insist, on the flimsy evidence of a handful of clobber texts, that ‘homosexuality’ is somehow a uniquely wicked sin. This unfounded assertion would be ludicrous if it were not so widely held, and so often leads to hatred and violence, which is indeed in total conflict with the Gospel message. So, these texts must be taken seriously.
I do not intend to go into the counter arguments myself – these have been done so well elsewhere. Instead, on the page headed “Countering the Clobber Texts”, I provide web links and book references to some of the many excellent writers who have already done this.
Queer Readings of Scripture
We are so accustomed to the use of Scripture as an offensive weapon by those who wish to use “religion” as an excuse to justify their bigotry, that it is routine for LGBT Christians to become preoccupied with focussing on responses to the half dozen clobber texts, instead of the much bigger picture of the Good News contained in Scripture taken as a whole. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to ignore these texts: for our own peace of mind, we need to understand how they have been misused, misinterpreted, and possibly even mistranslated – while numerous other texts of comparable (in)significance are totally ignored.
On the other hand, there are also far more texts that we should be warmly embracing, from the pervasive and fundamental insistence on love, justice and inclusion, to the more specifically queer and LGBT-friendly passages that are routinely overlooked, or read without recognition of their gay or lesbian contexts. I like Keith Sharpe’s major division of his book on The Gay Gospels, between what he calls the “Defensive Testament”, and the “Affirmative Testament”. As gay men, lesbians or trans people of faith, we need to understand both. For most of us, it is probably important to begin with at leas a basic appreciation of the Defensive Testament (by which he means the means to defend ourselves against the clobber texts (also known as the texts of terror). In the long run, it is more important to develop an appreciation of the Affirmative Testament, so that we can begin to see the Bible in its proper light: Good News for all – and that includes queer Christians. It is also important to understand just how the Bible should be read, so I structure these pages on Scripture into three parts:
General – how and why to read the Bible
The Bible and Heterosexuality (Tongue in cheek, humorous comparison of Biblical condemnations of same sex and opposite sex activities).
- View The Abomination of Heterosexual Intercourse: The Sin of Gibeah (Judges 19) The passage from Judges strongly parallels the story of Sodom, but is not nearly as well known.
- Women as Property: The Biblical View
Countering the Clobber Texts (a basic overview)
Genesis 19, the story of Sodom
- A New Reading of Leviticus A scholarly new reading of the infamous verses in Leviticus finds that their meaning is far more limited than usually assumed.
- John McNeill: Homophobic Abuse and Distortion of Scripture
- The Man That Lies With Mankind: Leviticus in Context A look at Tom Horner’s discussion of the importance of cult prostitution to a proper understanding.
- “But the Bible Says” – James Alison on Romans 1 (from James Alison. Theology)
Hebrew Bible / Old Testament
- Queering Genesis: Male and Female (and Others) He Created Them
- Coming Out As Wrestling With The Divine
- Joseph and His Fabulous Queer Technicolour Dreamcoat.
- Narrating our Exodus Ruth and Naomi
- David The Prophet & Jonathan, His Lover
- Daniel the Prophet in the Lion’s Den
- Three Companions in the Burning Fiery Furnace
- Coming Out as a Religious Obligation: Micah and Justice.
- The Queer Lesson of Nehemiah: “Rebuild God’s Church!”
- Queering the Song of Songs
- Three Queers of the East: Thoughts for the Feast of the Epiphany
- Christ’s Queer Family
- The Gospels’ Queer Values
- The Son Sets You Free
- “Coming Out”: A Gospel Command
- Water into Wine: Rereading the Wedding Feast at Cana.
- Jesus’ Gay Wedding at Cana
- St John the Evangelist, the “Beloved Disciple”
- Was Jesus Gay? Mark’s Gospel, and the Naked Young Man
- The Gay Centurion
- St Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles.
- Heed the Message of Christ: Queering Galatians