Her blog at Patheos, Coming Out Christian, is around "Conversations about being Christian and gay in America." It's less than a month old, and already has some very good content.
Recently in Gay and Lesbian Category
Her blog at Patheos, Coming Out Christian, is around "Conversations about being Christian and gay in America." It's less than a month old, and already has some very good content.
There are people who go much farther in depth on the issue of homosexuality and the Bible. If you really want to learn about what scholars are saying, there are books, videos, academic papers, and articles on the worldwide web.
But if you have made up your mind already, there's not much I can say to you. Instead, I suggest you take a page from Jesus' ministry:
Jesus ate with people who were considered unclean sinners. If you want to follow Jesus, have dinner with a sinner. If you don't think think gay people can be Christians, ask one to lunch. Rather than quoting scripture at us, get to know us, and let us get to know you. Who knows? Maybe your example of piety will convict us of our sin. Of course, it's also possible that you will find we are not the sinners you think we are.
Are you willing to risk it? I am.
If you're gay and Christian, join me on my year of being out and not defending homosexuality.
If you're Christian and think homosexuality is a sin, join me in a year of meeting each other where we are.
"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." - John 13:34-35, NRSVI love you, too.
Jesus said nothing about homosexuality.
Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.With regard to women "exchanged natural for unnatural". This is the single place that could possibly be lesbianism, but it doesn't actually say that. In fact, it's not very specific at all.
With regard to men, it does say that men were consumed with passion for one another, and committed shameless acts. The acts are not specified. Is it mere lust? Or committed relationships?
These are also the consequences of idolatry - people who turned from God to worshiping idols. But what of people who are believers and who follow the words of Jesus, and are in committed same-sex relationships?
It's also important to recognize that this is a letter from an apostle to a church. It's not prophecy. It's not the red-letter words of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers--none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.Male prostitutes, sodomites. We know Paul didn't say "sodomites" because that word was invented in the late 14th century. What did he really say? These words are translated from the Greek word arsenokoites.What does arsenokoites really mean? It's hard to say. It can be translated a lot of ways, including rape or incest. The same word gets used in 1 Timothy 1:9-10.
Most people read the translations rather than the Greek, and receive the translator's understanding of the words. Most people have already been taught that homosexuality is against God's law. We don't always realize the biases that we and others bring to the text.
This is going to be really short.
Leviticus is the law of the Levites, the priestly tribe of Israel. The law covers food, worship, sex, and a lot about when women are unclean and have to be set apart from others (during and after their periods, after childbirth, etc.)
Yes, it says that man shall not lie with man as with a woman. What does that mean? Is it about male dominance over females and that men shouldn't be that way with other men? Is it about the victors raping those they defeated in battle? Is it about consensual sex?
If you're going to make Leviticus your guide to life, be sure to read the rest of it. Pay attention to the dietary restrictions, and the fabric blends. When you have those down, come and talk to me about how a committed relationship between two people of the same sex is what Leviticus is talking about, and that it applies to contemporary Christian believers.
There are a whole lot of words that get tied to stuff in the Bible even though the connection is tenuous at best. Look up "Onanism". A lot of people use this as a synonym for masturbation, but look up Genesis 38 and read what Onan was supposed to have done - used the withdrawal method to avoid giving his brother's widow a child. How does that turn into masturbation? Onan's seed spilled on the ground. At some point, someone probably misunderstood what Onan had done wrong. The sin was that he disobeyed God by refusing to give his brother's widow a child, but someone probably thought the sin was spilling his seed on the ground. Next thing you know, it's any ejaculation outside of a vagina, and then it's masturbation.
So we have sodomy. These days, sodomy most often means homosexuality, but not so long ago it meant non-vaginal intercourse between a man and either a woman or another man. This included fellatio and anal sex. Go back farther, and it's a connection to Sodom being a hotbed of sexual sin. But where in the Bible does it actually say that?
A lot of people point to Genesis 19 where the men (or people, depending on translation) of the town come to Lot's place and demand that he bring out the strangers so they may "know" the men. Of course, "know" means "have sex with", right?
I have not painstakingly gone through the Bible and looked at every example of sexual congress, but I have seen three common ways of describing sex: know, enter into, and lie with. The cases of "know" with which I am familiar are about consensual sex within marriage. "Enter into" usually means the same. "Lie with" shows up in places like Deuteronomy 22: "the man seizes her and lies with her" - usually meaning rape or prostitution.
I don't think the townspeople wanted to be married to the strangers.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes know just means know. In the chapter prior to the altercation with Lot, the phrase "I know him" (using the same Hebrew word, yada) appears. It's actually part of the same story. Another example of homosexuality?
Here, in Genesis 18:19, it is God speaking about Abraham. (Your translation may use chosen or some other word, but most translations use know, because the Hebrew word is yada.) If you're going to say "know" always means sex - even just in this story, then you're saying God has sex with Abraham. I don't think you want to say that.
In Ezekiel 16:46-50, Ezekiel is speaking for God (see 16:1. "The word of the Lord came to me:"). He's comparing Jerusalem to Samaria and Sodom. We especially want to look at 16:49-50 (from the New Revised Standard Version):
This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.Look at that list of sins:
- Did not aid poor and needy despite excess of food and prosperous ease
- Did abominable things before me
"aHA!" some people will say. "Abominations! That's the homosexuality!"
Or they could be worshiping idols (Deuteronomy 7:25, Deuteronomy 13:14). Or engaging in temple prostitution (I Kings 14:24). Or using dishonest weights in commerce ((Deuteronomy 25:13-19, Proverbs 11:1)). Or any of a number of other things called abomination (Hebrew to'ebah).
Yes, Jude 1:7 mentions fornication and strange flesh, but does that mean homosexuality? Or sex with people outside one's tribe? Or prostitutes?I'm not saying it's impossible for Sodom to be about homosexuality. I just don't find the arguments very persuasive.
Yet I am planning a year-long fast, and it begins on Easter.
"Easter?" you might ask. "Easter is a FEAST time, not a fast time!"
Indeed, it is.
Easter is a day of celebration, of resurrection, of promise, of transformation. It's the first day of the Easter season, which runs for seven weeks through Pentecost, the traditional birthday of the church. And it is in this time that I will begin my fast.
I'm fasting from the homosexuality and church debate.
More below the fold.
But what does that mean?
I think a lot of people think it means that closeted Gay and Lesbian people need to say "I'm Gay!" to people around them.
Sounds simple, right? People who are not "out" to anyone come "out" to everyone, and it's done.
Sure, this is about people with same-gender sexual orientation, but that's only a slice (albeit a large slice) of the pie - there are also bisexual people, asexual people, transgender people, intersex people, and people who are supportive of those mentioned here.
And yes, people who are harboring a secret can suddenly share that secret with everyone, but that's not how it usually plays out.
Let's start with Gay and Lesbian people.
The first step is coming out to one's self. We've already seen far to many public accounts of people who maintained they were "not homosexual" (even to the point of publicly admonishing gay and lesbian people) but were discovered to be engaging in same-gender sexual relationships. Even after the discovery, many still maintained that they were "not homosexual". The people who've been publicly "outed" are but a small fraction of people struggling with their own sexual orientation.
So perhaps the one important kind of coming out is coming to terms with one's own sexuality and finding a way to be at peace with it. The inner conflict and self denial by those who refuse to accept themselves as who they are is destructive to them, and to those around them (think spouses, children, parishioners, constituents, patients...) Generally, one needs to come out to one's self about sexual orientation only once.
Then we have the step that seems to get the most attention: coming out to "the world". Wait, no, we don't. Almost certainly, once someone comes to one's self, the next step is to come out to a few close people. Why not all at once? Imagine you're Bob's wife. Bob accepts his being gay, then sends an e-mail to everyone he knows, including you. Maybe you don't even get a chance to read the e-mail before people call you to talk to you about it. Awkward doesn't begin to describe this - betrayal, abandonment, and other very hurtful feelings would come flooding in.
So the next step is to carefully come out to those close to you - those who will be most affected by the news.
So now we get to tell everyone, right? Well, maybe. What about your business contacts? What happens if you have clients who are going to stop doing business with your employer if you come out to them? What are your responsibilities to your employer? Did you talk with your supervisor first?
There can be other such situations. I don't mean to suggest that an employment situation should force someone into a closet, but people need to weigh consequences and choose when, where, and how to come out.
OK, but now we come out to everyone, and then it's done, right?
Well, yes, unless you ever meet anyone new. Should Gay and Lesbian people come out to every person they meet?
"Can I take your order?" "We have to decide which relationships are important and enduring enough to warrant coming out. We might want to tell our physician, but maybe not the flight attendant.
Yes, I'll have a veggie-burger, a diet cola, and I'm gay."
"Drive through please."
OK, that's settled. Gay and Lesbian people need to come out to themselves, then people close to them, then in widening circles until everyone knows (unless it's going to cause trouble), and then keep coming out - but only to people who need to know.
What about bisexual people? I'm not even going to try to discuss this, as 1) I'm not bisexual and 2) there are so many issues of identity here that I don't feel qualified to get into it. I'll merely say that there are people in different-gender and same-gender relationships who identify as bisexual, they may or may not be "out" about their relationship much less their sexual orientation, and there are many ways of being bisexual. If you think you have a working definition of bisexual, talk to some people who identify as bisexual and see whether they agree.
How about people who are asexual? Do we need to know? Do they need for us to keep trying to fix them up with people?
For transgender people, there are also a lot of ways of being. This will not be an exhaustive discussion.
First, there are many gender identifications. Western society privileges Male, then Female as a subordinate gender, and disregards everything else. So there's the complication that many people have a gender identity that defies the socially accepted binary of "man" and "not man".
But working with the binary, those of us who transition from identifying as one of the two Western choices to the other cannot avoid coming out. People are going to know when we transition.
Many have the option of "woodworking" or "going stealth" - that is, after transition, they never mention the transition again. The new people they meet will never know about their pasts. For some, this is important, as they want people to recognize their gender identities rather than identify them as transgender. Some do not have that choice because of something that alerts people to the likelihood they have transitioned.
Some will continue to "come out" as trans to some people. Some will choose to be visibly out to everyone.
Returning to those gender identities that do not conform with binary Western standards, it's difficult - if not impossible - to claim something other than "man" or "woman" and avoid being "out". Not fitting into a box calls attention to the fact that one is not in a box.
Intersex people are born with one of a wide spectrum of situations that place them less than firmly in the "male" or "female" binary physical categories. Do they need to come out? On the one had, we ought to recognize that sex is not as simple as Male vs Female. On the other hand, should we require intersex people to educate us?
And what about those who support GLBTI people? Shouldn't they come out about their support?
And what about those who are against GLBTI people? Shouldn't we know who they are?
What if they're supportive of some but not others?
If you've come to this paragraph feeling unsatisfied about who should come out, how, when, where, and why... well, I'm glad, because no one can write a comprehensive guide to coming out. Coming out is a multidimensional process involving systems of self, family, and society. It can't be boiled down to a simple act.
On this National Coming Out Day, I call on all people to be a little more true to themselves. Sometimes that will be an internal move, sometimes it will involve relationships with others.
No matter what you choose to do on National Coming Out Day, know that you are valuable just as you are.
Before you protest "I'm not a theologian!", "I'm not a Bible scholar!", or "I'm straight!", please read what the anarchist reverend writes about the intentions for this event:
To that end I am calling for a synchroblog on Wednesday August 10, 2011. On that day I want people to blog about what queer theology means to them. I want you to share your story of how reading the Bible queerly has changed your life. I want you to talk about how your sexuality or your gender identity has brought you deeper into relationship with God. If you're straight and interested in solidarity I want you to share how being in relationship with queer people has deepened your faith and spiritual practice.And if you're tired of the same old "this is why it's OK to be gay" or "This is why we should be allowed to be married or ordained or to adopt or communion", so is he:
This synchroblog is NOT ABOUT apologetics. This isn't about taking on the clobber passages or explaining why it's okay to be queer. It's time to move past those conversations. This day is also not taking the place of the conference Jules is calling for. This is a day, though, that will hopefully show people what that conference can look like. This day will give a hint of the beautiful stories that can be shared; of the amazing ways that queer folks read and delve into the Scriptures. - http://anarchistreverend.com/2011/07/synchroblog/So join anarchist reverend and other bloggers (including me) in writing about how queer lives impact your relationship with the eternal.
- If you want to write, but don't have a blog and don't want to create one for a single post, let me know and I can post it here for you.
- If you want to write, but you don't want to post it on your regular blog, let me know and I can post it here for you.
- If you want to write, but you need anonymity, let me know and I can post it here for you.
- If you want to write, but you want someone to proofread your text, let me know and I will look at it for you.
- If you're straight, see the call above to "share how being in relationship with queer people has deepened your faith and spiritual practice".
- This is not a Christians-only event. Let's hear from Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Jains, everyone.
- If you don't think you have the background or education or authority to write such a post, let me assure you that your life is all the background, education, and authority you need.
Join us on August 10.
The seminary I attend, Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), is part of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS), which "was formed in 1984 by twelve theological schools located in the Chicago area to provide means for cooperation among the member institutions in the areas of student cross-registration, library access and acquisitions, interchange among faculty members in the disciplines of theological education, and communications between the schools." - http://www.actschicago.org/index.html
Students at ACTS schools may register at other ACTS schools:
Available to the approximately 3,000 students currently enrolled at its member schools are 400 faculty, about 900 courses offered annually, and library collections of 1.7 million volumes and nearly 5,000 currently received periodical subscriptions.Except, in the case of at least one school, if you're gay.
Now, granted, there is a stated exception:
Exceptions to the process of cross-registration exist (1) during the summer term when tuition is normally paid to the school offering the course; (2) for D.Min. courses other than Pastoral Care and Counseling and for those students in the ACTS D.Min. in Preaching Program; and (3) in certain courses with limited enrollment. Each school in ACTS reserves the right to limit enrollment in certain courses for pedagogical reasons and to set its own policies for the admission of students from other schools to such courses.
- http://www.actschicago.org/catalog2009/cat06.html#how, emphases mine.
I attempted to cross-register for a class at Northern Baptist Seminary (which has the awesome domain name of seminary.edu). I was aware that the seminary was more conservative, and I did not expect it to be easy to take a class there. But I was willing to sit with far more conservative students in a far more conservative school, in part to keep from having my graduation date from being pushed back another two years, and in part because I do not want to be estranged from my more conservative brothers and sisters in Christ.
I didn't want to go stealthily into the seminary for several reasons. First, I am not ashamed of who I am, nor the path taken to get here. While I don't advertise my sexual orientation or transgender history to everyone, I don't take steps to hide these parts of my life either. To do so is to walk in shadow, and I prefer to be in the light.
Second, to hide an aspect of one's life can result in feelings of betrayal should the secret be found out. It is damaging to a relationship when trust is broken: witness what happened with Ted Haggard.
Third, even if the secret is never found out (unlikely as a simple web search will find enough information about me), keeping a secret from those with whom one is in relationship creates an inauthentic, dysfunctional, and, dare I say it, sinful relationship.
So, to be as honest and authentic as possible in my relationship to the class, I sent e-mail to the professor teaching the class. I explained my background (Evangelical Free, Bible Students, Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, and United Church of Christ), my school affiliation (CTS), and my sexual orientation and transgender history. I asked for advice on what I could do to make the situation easier for everyone involved.
I did not expect the culture clash to be easy. I also did not expect, however, to be rejected from taking any classes whatsoever.
My e-mail to the instructor was apparently forwarded to the administration who, in a very polite but firm e-mail, explained to me that the school's admission policy is applied to cross-registered students. The seminary, in their catalog, under code of conduct, states:
In matters related to homosexuality:
1. Northern will not knowingly admit as a student any person having a homosexual lifestyle.
2. If, without the knowledge of the Admissions Committee, a person is admitted to the Seminary and is found not to be a practicing homosexual, but to be striving to overcome homosexual tendencies, such a person will, in Christian love, be counseled to obtain the best help available so that with the power of God such a person may overcome the problem.
3. If, without the knowledge of the Admissions Committee, a practicing homosexual is found to have been admitted to the Seminary, when such knowledge is discovered, such said practicing homosexual would be counseled to seek education elsewhere and to enter some other vocation, and failing voluntary withdrawal from Northern, would be disallowed to continue at the Seminary.
4. In no case would the Seminary recommend for ordination or for ministry any practicing homosexual or an advocate of a homosexual lifestyle.
This means they are reinterpreting the ACTS policy to say:5. Congruent with its policy of institutional integrity, Northern Baptist Seminary will not hire a practicing homosexual or an advocate of a homosexual lifestyle, and it reserves the right to dismiss from employment any such person on the grounds that it would conflict with the purpose of the institution.
Each school in ACTS reserves the right to limit enrollment in all courses for pedagogical reasons and to set its own policies for the admission of students from other schools to all courses.This in order to prevent any homosexuals from taking any courses at their school, ever.
Northern Baptist may believe my twenty-one year relationship with my spouse to be sinful and unChristian. They may believe my transition, twenty-five years ago, to living as my identified gender to be a violation of Deuteronomy 22:5.
They may well object to my behavior off school grounds, but they were not going to change that by rejecting my cross-registration. They can't make me a straight white male again by denying me the chance to study with their professor and students.
So exactly what is sinful or harmful about my taking a class at their school? Exactly what is made worse by my presence there?
At their school, I'm certainly going to hear about their viewpoint on homosexuality and transgender issues - especially since the class I was going to take was on the Pentateuch, which includes Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Were they afraid that I would rebut the reading of the few verses applied to homosexuals as they were glossing over the dietary laws, mixing of fabrics, wearing of tassels, uncleanness of women during their periods and after giving birth, trimming of beards, and the Jubilee year? Were they concerned that I would point out that Levitical law says nothing about Lesbian relationships? Did they worry that I would point out that the word "know" in Genesis 19:5 is the same as the word "know" in Genesis 18:19? (I really wasn't planning on it.)
And, perhaps more to the point, how is this following Jesus' example? Did Jesus teach only the holy? Did Jesus not teach prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, Samaritans, Syrophoenicians, Roman soldiers, and (at the cross) thieves and murderers?
I am disappointed that Northern Baptist Seminary chose to not honor its covenant with the Association of Chicago Theological Schools.
I am also sad that sixty faculty and staff are more afraid of me than I am of them.