11.21.2010

Why the Bible matters to me

A few years ago, as I was slowly recovering from my life as an evangelical, it came to me that the bible cannot possibly be the infallible word of god. This quickened my recovery and opened up a whole new world of freedom from dogma, shame, and fear. Possibly the most significant effect of this transition was that I finally felt free to ask myself the really hard questions about my sexual orientation and give myself the freedom to chase what I really wanted.

I am now deeply happy, living a whole new life with Astasia, pursuing a future I had never thought possible. Yet I keep returning to the bible and what it says, investigating its meanings, and reading what others have to say on the matter. Astasia would probably describe my preoccupation with the intersection of christianity and homosexuality to be borderline obsessive. I am thoroughly convinced that there is nothing in the bible condemning homosexual orientation, and I am deeply interested in how others might discover this perspective.

Why, you may ask (others have asked), if you don't believe in god or the authority of scripture, do you care whether it addresses the issue of homosexual orientation? It's a valid question. What the bible has to say about me will not affect my behavior or inform the way I think about myself, at least not anymore. Do the words in the bible really affect my life at all?

Yes, they do.

Which is to say, the words in the bible affect people who affect my life. My family, for example. But parental disapproval aside, you can't tell me that the resistance we've had to gay marriage in this country is not related to religion. Even those who don't consider themselves religious will cite the bible as evidence that homosexuality is wrong. Hate crimes committed against gay victims are done in the name christianity's moral authority.

Conversations I've had with christians on the subject usually end with the christian saying that we should assume the most obvious interpretation. The problem I have with this is not surprising - it's completely selective. I remember discussions in my family's church regarding the role of women in the church. The plain language of Paul in the New Testament is that women should not be permitted to speak in church, however, there was much made of original language and cultural context, so that those teaching the matter to me concluded that while Paul's plain language implied that he didn't think women ought to be permitted to speak in church, the true meaning of the text was not an attempt to subjugate women.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I suggest that original language and cultural context ought to play a part in biblical interpretation of supposedly anti-gay texts, and am told to just accept the plain language of scripture and stop trying to rationalize and justify my immoral lifestyle.

I was thrilled when I finally came across an exhaustive scholarly treatment of the history of homosexuality as it relates to christianity that is highly regarded in academic circles. The book is "Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century" by John Boswell. While it is primarily a historical study, Boswell does delve into the realm of Greek language and biblical text as it relates to the culture of the time. It was, overall, a dense and difficult but immensely rewarding read.

Thus, I've decided to read it again, and respond to it here on this blog. As I have loads of homework for the next two weeks, I can't promise much immediately, but that doesn't really matter, as I can't possibly post less frequently than I have been, and I'm mostly just talking to myself here anyway.

I'd like to be better at posting regularly, so I'll probably post about other things too. But that's my intention for now.

2 comments:

  1. That makes sense to me. And I needed to hear an explanation as to why some gay activists like to talk about the Bible.

    One day, Christians will accept homosexuality, and it will be because they finally accepted it, and then found a loophole in the Bible to support it. So, it makes sense to try to find the loophole for them.

    ** Lorena

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  2. Hey. A friend of mine recommended the documentary "for the bible tells me so" dealing with homosexuality. It focuses on 5 christian families with a child who is homosexual and is geared towards evangelicals. It is made to help families understand but I think you may find it encouraging too.
    http://www.forthebibletellsmeso.org/indexa.htm

    My family takes those verses about women covering their heads and not speaking literally.
    So frustrating! Conversations don't go very far. I especially hate the tone of condescension when talking about homosexuals. "Their sin is no worse than my own."
    "But, its not sin mom."
    "The bible says."
    "OK, lets look at what the bible says. I can show you how it supports homosexuals."
    "I can't hear you because the preachers I listen to read selectively and don't study context or encourage critical thinking lalalala"

    Happy holidays! You will survive.

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