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The Discussion - Part 2

Sorry, Jake fans, I'm behind on everything. I won't make any promises. Seeing all the crap that's been happening to my friends lately, I realize that all I can say is I plan to have my NYC trip details up by the end of the weekend, barring anything crazy happening.

(And hugs to my flist. Lots of people dealing with turmoil right now.)

But in the meantime, the second meeting of the discussion group happened Tuesday before the trip. This session was mainly about the Bible and what it says and doesn't say about homosexuality.

I reconciled myself to the issues of the Bible awhile back, and I was much more interested in the next session, which would discuss science. I was afraid I'd missed it, as I didn't get back from NYC in time for the meeting. But I found out it had been postponed, so YAY for that.

But concerning the Bible, there are seven of what many of us call "clobber passages," the verses and stories used to try to keep gays in their place (out of sight and out of mind). Because that's what you're supposed to do with the Bible, right?

The passages are as follows:

Genesis 19:1-29 and Judges 19:1-30. The two passages I despise most - and that has nothing to do with anti-gay references. These are two very similar stories about a gang of men who call for male guests to be turned out to them so that they may "know them." The host instead offers his virgin daughters/wife/concubine for them to do with as they wish. Nice, huh?

Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. Paraphrased: Man shall not lie with a man as with a woman. It is an abomination, etc.

I Corinthians 6:9-11 and Timothy 1:10. Listings of offenses that will keep you from the kingdom of God.

Romans 1:26-27. Paraphrased: The people turned away from God and from what was "natural" and men desired men and women desired women, etc.

When my brother first came out to me, I read these passages and bawled my eyes out. I believe absolutely that one's sexual orientation is determined at birth, and I could not reconcile the concept that God would make someone gay and then say, "but you cannot act on it because it's wrong." I put these passages aside until I could ask questions of a scholar with a better understanding.

My spiritual and religious beliefs are strongly rooted in science. If the Bible cannot be reconciled to what we know to be scientific fact, then how is Christianity any more valid than believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy?

My understanding of the Bible is also rooted in the belief that the authors of scripture didn't close their eyes while God guided their pen. The stories and laws and understanding of God as written in the Bible are greatly influenced by the culture of the day and what the writers perceived of their world.

I certainly hope fundamentalists don't believe it would be OK to throw me to a pack of rapists in the name of protecting their male guests from harm. But hey, I'm just a girl. What do I know?

What follows are things I've learned from my pastor and from other sources in regard to these passages.

The Genesis and Judges passages are about rape, not love. In their culture, for a man to force another man to take the position of a woman in rape was to lower their status to that of a woman, who was on par with their cattle or dog. That's a far cry from a loving, consensual relationship. And Jesus seemed to be more concerned with the lack of hospitality of the Sodomites. Paraphrasing: "If you are not welcomed, shake the dust from your feet as you leave. Sodom is better off than those who do not welcome you." It was not just a nice gesture to host a traveler; it was a matter of survival. This was a harsh desert land.

The word "abomination" may be too strong compared to the original Greek text. Prostitution, both male and female, was a religious ritual in the cultures surrounding the Israelites. The laws in Leviticus were about setting God's people apart from the others around them. I still am amazed at how people who are so set against same sex relationships say the other laws no longer apply. It's OK to eat shellfish. It's OK to plant different crops side by side. It's OK to wear two different fabrics at the same time. Everyone cherry-picks. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you and possibly to himself.

As to the Corinthians and Timothy passages, the translation reads like really bad grammar, which makes me think they are not translated properly. Again, they are possibly linked to male prostitution, or male sex slaves, which was common practice among the Romans.

Honestly, did Paul have any concept of sexual orientation and consensual same-sex loving relationships?

And the word "natural" is taken and used today to mean something probably very different from what Paul was talking about in Romans. "Natural" may well have been a cultural reference, meaning "socially acceptable," as opposed to "found in nature," as we think of it now.

And homosexuality is found in nature, contrary to what anti-gay activists would have people believe.

Jesus didn't mention homosexuality, as far as we know. He was concerned with the heart of the law, justice, and compassion. That was how He lived His life here on earth.

I believe lgbt people are the Samaritans of the day. Those of you who only know the phrase "good Samaritan" may not understand what I mean. Samaritans were despised by the Israelites. They were deemed "less than." Sound familiar? But Jesus went out of his way to talk to them. He waited at a well in the heat of the day to talk to a Samaritan woman, because he knew that only someone who was an outcast would come to draw water at that hour.

Once again, I will link a sermon series by Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest Methodist church in the country.

When Christians Get It Wrong

This entire series is good. Among these is a sermon on homosexuality. Pastor Hamilton does get it a little wrong, especially in the area nature vs. nurture (for anyone who's paying attention, this question has been answered) and in talking about the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin." He does not quite grasp the concept that the "sin" cannot be truly separated from the "sinner." But overall, this is a thoughtful and compassionate sermon.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:12 am (UTC)
Have you read A Letter To Louise? Linking it just in case, because it's good information, but mainly because it addresses some of the translation/meaning issues of those passages. As you note, the words that have been translated to refer to homosexuality more likely were intended to refer to prostitution, rape, and molestation, weak moral character, or even just being overcome by lust.
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:51 am (UTC)
This is very thorough, and mixes science in, as well.

I will read it more extensively, but looking through, I object to a couple of things:

"because of some trauma in childhood they adopted homosexual traits

Even though he says these people are not truly gay, I believe the stereotype is faulty and is used to justify "conversion therapy," which does not work. I would contend that few people adopt "homosexual traits" who are not truly gay or bisexual. Some experiment, of course, but they are not usually in need of therapy to "make them straight again."

He also references "Down Syndrome children" in a comparison, saying God would not want a gay child, as he would not want a DS child. My sister-in-law would be livid if she saw that, and I don't blame her.

Overall, it is a positive piece, and he is sincere.
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:58 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, it definitely has its faults. I primarily like it for the way he picks apart the mistranslations and goes back to the original language to explain it. He's pretty thorough on debunking the Scriptural interpretations that have been used to condemn homosexuality.
Feb. 24th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
Like I said, I will read it more thoroughly. Might be something worth discussing in a later session. :)
Feb. 24th, 2011 07:08 am (UTC)
*sigh again* I have a friend who truly believes the bit about being turned gay by traumatic childhood experiences. This opinion comes out of nowhere because in other things, she's pretty reasonable and logical. But she's convinced the "born that way" general belief was started by the psychiatric community in the late 1970s for some underhanded purpose - not because it's true or scientific or anything. Then again, she thinks gay men are also all pedophiles, despite a lack of scientific studies to prove it.

You can't choose your friends, especially not when they wait until you've known them for ten years before springing THAT kind of opinion on you ....
Feb. 24th, 2011 11:24 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, that "traumatic childhood" meme is perpetuated all over. Someone at the group said it the other night, in all sincerity and compassion. But I have yet to meet an lgbt person - even one who was traumatized - who says that's what did it. And I have met a lot of lgbt people.

There is all kinds of information on the internet to support your friend's beliefs, and none of that information is supported by science or facts.

My boss believes all that stuff, too. ;P
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:47 am (UTC)

You're not going to like my view here, but I've spent half my life thinking about organized religion, particularly Christianity, as I was raised a Baptist (I renounced it 20 years ago and became an agnostic). I have often wondered if there are Christians who cling to oppression and hate of others because they are fixated on the idea that the more they personally suffer, the better the afterlife will be - and so they resent anyone else who isn't suffering as much as them, so they have to do things to try to make them suffer, too.

Personally, I don't get conservatives who worship Jesus and think he was just like them in their irrational fear of anyone different from themselves. I remember thinking back in Sunday School that Jesus struck me more as what modern conservatives would call a dirty liberal hippie. (Well, "modern" in the 70s and 80s when I was a kid, LOL.)
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
Why would you think I would not like your view? Are only Christians allowed to criticize Christians?

I think what you're referring to is a human trait, summarized in the phrase, "misery loves company." This condition is not exclusive to Christians, although Chritians are not immune to it, either. I pity people like this, regardless of whether it is cloaked in a religious veil or not.
Feb. 24th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)
Yes, these people exist in all sectors. I guess my point is, religion seems to be one area in which the attitude can be adopted as not only a socially-approved lifestyle choice, but turned into a point of political lobbying - and succeed more than it really should.

(There are those who say you should be religious to criticize any aspect of it, just like there are parents who feel like people without children shouldn't have an opinion on their behavior or upbringing. Seeing as I love to give my opinion on a lot of things I'm not, I figured I'd warn you, LOL.)
Feb. 24th, 2011 11:18 am (UTC)
The religious right's political power is a scary thing.

Christians should pay attention to what outsiders say. There is a lot to be learned. The sermon series I linked does exactly that.

Feb. 24th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
That is a beautiful sermon, but I am another one of those people who would be very happy never to hear the sentence "love the sinner, hate the sin" ever again.
Feb. 24th, 2011 03:04 am (UTC)
My "Harley biker" friend, who sings in my choir - and who would love the beads you recently made - would be happy never to be told "you're going to hell" again.

Feb. 24th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
Here is the one I cannot hear without having a mild aneurysm: "Are you saved?"

*tender robed embrace*
Feb. 24th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)
I like the bumper sticker "Jesus Saves - He Goes to Costco!" ;-)
Feb. 24th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC)
They talked about some of these passages in a documentary I saw a while ago.

Like you mentioned, they talked about how the Genesis and Judges passages were more likely referring to their lack of hospitality.

I can't remember which passage, I think it may be the one from Romans, but they mentioned the possibility of them discouraging men from sleeping with other men to preserve their seamen, to keep them reproducing with women to maintain the population. Again, I'm not sure exactly what was said, my memory is fuzzy and it's been a few years since I've seen the documentary.

Yeah, and the cherry-picking in regards to the Leviticus passages. It's truly ridiculous. You either follow or disregard all of them.
Feb. 24th, 2011 04:20 am (UTC)
Yes, I'd forgotten - we discussed the concept of "be fruitful and multiply."

The people of Israel were in a part of the world that was highly prized, that promised land of milk and honey was also a crucial trade route, so increasing their number was part of a strategy for survival.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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