Resources for Scripture & Non-Heteronormative Sexuality

by gayvangelical

It is not my intention in this forum to entertain debate about the proof texts that some Christians use (there are other sites where you can do this.  While I do not want to be dismissive of folks who wish to wrestle with real scriptural concerns, I do not have the time amongst my other life and ministry responsibilities to engage folks in debates that far too often lack compassion and empathy.)  Consequently, anti-LGBT comments will be deleted.  Nonetheless, I know how important biblical concerns about sexuality were in my own development as a gay Christian, and so I am providing my brief thoughts and a summarization  of several resources that might be helpful for people who are currently wrestling with what others say God has to say about this topic.

For those interested in reading my take on scripture and sexuality, the outlines from most recent teaching series on the biblical sexual ethics and homosexuality can be found at

http://www.scribd.com/doc/100792665/Made-for-Love-Week-1-Covenant

http://www.scribd.com/doc/100792671/Made-for-Love-Week-2-Image-of-God

http://www.scribd.com/doc/100792775/Made-for-Love-Week-3-Beyond-Self-Interest-in-Sex

http://www.scribd.com/doc/100792801/Made-for-Love-Week-4-Sex-and-Radical-Inclusion

Positive Scriptural Arguments that Might Otherwise Go Unmentioned:

Eunchs as the Sexual Minorities of Jesus’s Day

Perhaps the most important positive argument that can be made from the Gospels and Acts involves Jesus and the early church’s affirming relationship to eunuchs who were perceived as the sexual fringe/outcasts of their day. Jesus did not condemn them but seemed to hold them as a sort of ideal (Mt 19:11) and the first gentile convert was a eunuch (and structurally his conversion may be read as a gentile parallel and precedent for Paul’s)
Scripture passages with possible homoerotic undercurrents

One can also make the argument that the Centurion whose “boy” he prized/held as precious/held dearly (Mt 8:5-13, Lk 7:1-9) might have been the youth in a pederastic relationship with the centurion (that would be one translation of “pais” and could possibly explain why that term, rather than “doulos” [servant/slave] would be used…). If that’s the case, then Jesus actually does say something about homosexuality. Namely, “”I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all the land of Israel!” (Mt. 8:10, Lk. 7:9)

Ruth & Naomi (The Book of Ruth): Have you ever noticed how often Ruth 1:14 is used in hetero wedding vows?

Jonathan & David (1 SA 18-2 SA 1:28) Jonathan “loved David as he loved his own soul” (1 SA 20:17) “And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so.” (1 SA 20:41). “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”

Summaries of Books that I have Found Helpful

L. William Countryman’s Dirt, Greed, & Sex (http://amzn.to/g6kLhs)
Countryman argues that, in order to understand sexual ethics in scripture, one must understand how concerns for purity and property play out in scripture. In the first half of the book, he argues for a movement from an understanding of purity as avoiding the unclean (so that Israel could stay distinct and separate) to Jesus’ understanding of purity of heart that is subordinate to the importance of the great commandment to love God/love neighbor and the need for table fellowship. The second third of the book emphasizes a shift from understanding women and children as the property of the male head of household to a leveling of hierarchy where all belong to God and each other. The final section of the book then argues that sex and gender should be interpreted through inclusivity (rather than purity that keeps a sect out), spirituality (finding its purpose in the love of God and neighbor), and empowerment (creating a deepening sense of the value of the lover that recognizes the standing and value of the other as ultimately belonging to and valued by God). In summary, he suggests that the church “needs to learn a new language: ‘sex is a good gift of God, provided that it is not despoiled by violence and lovelessness and rigid adherence to the social prerogatives of a dominant race, ethnic group, gender, or sexual orientation” (282).

John J. McNeill’s The Church and the Homosexual (http://amzn.to/fIDSpp)
McNeill is a former Jesuit priest whose classic text provides a great analysis of the problems with an argument from creation/natural law. In particular, he emphasizes the dualism of stoicism and how that influenced the anti-body/anti-sex writings of the Church Fathers (following Augustine’s belief that all sexual pleasure is the result of sin). Important counter-arguments here: sex has not been interpreted as being purely procreative (married hetero couples unable to have children were not condemned).  McNeill’s text remains the best book that I have found for wrestling with the natural law assumptions that underlie most anti-LGBT scriptural interpretation.

Robin Scroggs: The New Testament and Homosexuality (http://amzn.to/edQlUs)
Scroggs position is that the writers of the New Testament would likely only have had pederasty (an arrangement in Greco-Roman society, where an older man would have a teenage boy as an “inferior object of sexual gratification, that was criticized heavily for its exploitative, nonmutual, and dehumanizing nature) in mind when they wrote the passages that have been used against current lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships. The concern of scripture then would be with mutuality and consent in love rather than the gender of one’s lover.  Given this cultural background, I would add that a Jewish rabbi like Paul would not have the cognitive framework to recognize consensual same sex relationships.  Just as Ahmadinejad is unable to recognize gays in Iran, I think a strong argument can be made that Paul would not have recognized gays and lesbians in his world.

Some Links that I Recommend

Resources from Dr. Michael L. Westmoreland-White (a theological blog from an Anabaptist, Social Gospel, and Liberation perspective) 

http://pilgrimpathways.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/glbt-persons-in-the-church-index/

Archbishop Rowan Williams on a positive theology of sexuality

http://www.igreens.org.uk/bodys_grace.htm

Soulforce’s Resources for Scriptural Interpretation

http://www.soulforce.org/article/homosexuality-bible-gay-christian

MCC’s Rsources for Scriptural Interpretation (authored by Old Testament Scholar Rev. Dr. Mona West) 

http://ufmcc.com/download/theology/homosexuality/BibleandHomosexuality.pdf

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