Category Archives: New Testament

A Key to Romans 1 – Hiding in Plain Sight

At Bible – thumping Liberal, the straight ally and evangelical Christian Ron Goetz asks a crucially important question:

HOW DO I RECONCILE PAUL WITH MY SUPPORT FOR LGBT FOLKS?

August 27, 2013

I just got an email from Harold, one of my PFLAG friends. He asked the following question.

“How do you reconcile Paul’s words and yet support LGBTs?”

There are several good ways of approaching this question. One way looks at Paul’s specific words, what they mean and don’t mean, and then discover that Paul is not as anti-homosexual as fundamentalists make him out to be. Another way is to look at Paul as a man who was working out his theology, literally, as he went along. Another way is to see how Paul treated other issues of some disagreement, that have been puzzling or unclear to us. Finally, we can look at some of Paul’s own attitudes and interactions, and adopt some of them as our own.

-more at  Bible-Thumping Liberal.

This is important, because Paul’s words in Romans and in Corinthians are the most disturbing of all the Biblical clobber texts for lesbian and gay Christians. The story of Sodom in Genesis should not be troubling at all, as the Bible itself makes clear that the infamous “sin of Sodom” is about injustice, and pride, and has nothing whatever to do with homoeroticism. There are numerous responses to the verses in Leviticus, but the simplest one is just to note that these are part of the Jewish purity laws, like the dietary restrictions, the prohibition on clothing of mixed fibres and shaving one’s beard, and the obligation of male circumcision. As such, they simply do not apply to Christians – as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. The letters of Paul are another matter, less easy to reconcile with our experience of a same – sex affectional orientation.

So, how can we do so? In his post, Goetz goes on, to elaborate on each of these ways of looking at Paul. There is also another, simpler still: the words simply do not mean what they are popularly supposed to mean. I’ve already discussed how this is so for Corinthians, where the Greek words “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” have been mistranslated as referring to homosexuals. (They don’t). For Romans 1, I suggest that the key is simpler still, hiding in plain sight – in the title. 

This is the letter to the Romans after all.

Hadrian and Antinous
Roman Emperor Hadrian and His Beloved, Antinous

Paul himself was a Roman citizen, and would surely have understood something of how his words would be interpreted. So let’s look at them: Continue reading A Key to Romans 1 – Hiding in Plain Sight

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The (Gay) Roman Centurion and his “Boy”

In Catholic tradition, March 15th is the feast day of “Longinus”,  the name given to the Roman centurion at the crucifixion who pierced Christ’s side with his spear.  Some writers, like Paul Halsall of the LGBT Catholic Handbook, also identify him with the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his “beloved boy”, who was ill. It is this second person that I am interested in here.  In this persona, he is one of my personal favourites, as his story shows clearly how the Lord himself is completely not hostile to a clearly gay relationship, and also because we hear a clear reminder of this every time we attend Mass – if only we have ears to hear.
It may be that you do not recall any Gospel stories about a gay centurion and his male lover, but that is because cautious or prudish translators have softened the words of the text, and because the word “gay” is not really appropriate for the historical context. You are more likely to know as the story as the familiar one of the Roman centurion and his “servant” – But this is a poor translation. Matthew uses the word “doulos“, which means slave, not a mere servant.  Luke uses quite a different word, “pais“, which can mean servant boy – but more usually has the sense of a man’s younger male lover – or “boyfriend”.Whichever of the two words or their senses was intended by the authors, the conclusions we should draw are the same. If “pais”  was intended here to indicate a lover, the conclusion is obvious.  If the intended meaning was either “slave ” or “servant” – the conclusion does not significantly change. To see this, let us consider the cultural context. For three centuries before Christ, the Jews had been under foreign military occupation, first by the Greeks (which is why demotic Greek had become lingua franca across the region, and was the language of the New Testament), then by Romans. These military overlords were about as well liked as any other military invaders anywhere – which is not at all.  The Jews hated them – but will have been quite familiar with Greek and Roman cultural (and sexual) practices.

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Scripture As Hope: Romans 15:4-9

For too long, LGBT people have suffered under Biblical textual abuse, with our opponents brandishing a handful of cherry – picked scriptural texts as weapons to accuse and condemn us, It is not surprising then, that so many of our community view the Bible with suspicion, or even reject it entirely, and with it very often, all religious faith and practice. But this abuse is a gross distortion of what scripture is all about, as the second reading for today, the second Sunday of Advent (year A) makes clear:

scripture as hope

“Gospel” derives from “Godspell”, that is “good news” – and the hope and good news apply as much to gay, lesbian and trans Christians as to any other:

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.
Romans 15:4-9
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“Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord” (Luke 1:67-79)

In today’s Gospel, I see two key take-aways from the words of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist:

One is a reminder that the promise of the Lord that he “that he would save us from our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us” applies to all his people – and that most certainly includes those of us who experience hatred and discrimination in church, allegedly but spuriously in the Lord’s own name.

Another is implied in Zechariah’s words to his son, the instruction to “prepare a way for the Lord”. He is speaking here directly to his son, John the Baptist, but the words are equally applicable to all of us. It is not enough simply to wait passively for the Kingdom of God: it is incumbent on all of us to prepare the way in our own communities, spreading the word that the Kingdom applies to all, excluding none:.

Continue reading “Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord” (Luke 1:67-79)

“Relax, Let Go, Trust” (Luke 12:22-31)

from “The Bible In Drag:”

Then (Jesus) said to the disciples, “That’s why I tell you, don’t worry about your life and what you are to eat. Don’t worry about your body and what you are to wear. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Take a lesson from the ravens. They don’t sow or reap. They have neither a food cellar nor a barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds? Can any one of you, for all your worrying add a single hour to your life? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why worry about the rest?

“Notice the flowers grow. They neither labor nor weave, yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was robed like one of these! If that is how God clothes the grass in the field – which is here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow – how much more will God look after you! You have so little faith!

“As for you, don’t set your hearts on what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink. Stop worrying! All the nations of the world seek these things, yet your Abba God well knows what you need. Set your sights on the kin-dom of God, and all these other things will be given to you as well.”

(Luke 12:22-31)

by AlicePopkorn

I start with a confession – I have always wrestled with these words: don’t be anxious, don’t seek to control, trust. This advice is hard enough in general, yet from a queer perspective they seem to have even more weight. There are a thousand things to fret about. For those just discerning their orientation the whole issue of managing the closet, of who knows, who doesn’t know, when do we want someone to know, and each and every individual with which a potentially difficult conversation needs to take place with the risk of rejection. For those yearning and fighting for marriage equality and the constant and seemingly unending battle for respect and legal justice. For those who’ve mourned quietly over a break up, or even the death of a lover – not understood, or simply ignored by others.

via The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture.November 11, 2013

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The Lord Seeks Out Outcasts, Dining With Us. (Luke 19:1-10)

The story from Luke’s Gospel, telling of Zacceus in the sycamore tree, has a direct parallel with the situation of gay men and lesbians in the Christian churches. Zaccheus is a tax collector, and so seen as an outcast, an obvious sinner, in Jewish society. Yet even so, Jesus not only accepts him, he invites himself to Zaccheus’ home.

zacchaeus in the sycamore tree

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

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“Meaning Making” (John 18:37-38a)

From “The Bible In Drag”

Pilate Said, “So you’re a King?

Jesus replied, “You say I’m a King. I was born and came into the world for one purpose – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who seeks the truth hears my voice.”

“Truth? What is truth?” asked Pilate.

John 18:37-38a

debate-peter-heydeck

This is an interesting exchange between Jesus and the Roman Procurator of Palestine during the trial which will send Jesus to the cross. The Gospel of John gathers up several of it’s threads here. Jesus is from outside this world and has come into it. Jesus bears witness to God (referred to in this passage as “the truth”), and every who responds to Jesus is in fact responding to God.

But when I read this interchange as a queer person, other themes seem to rush forward, especially Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” No longer do we perceive truth to be eternal as the writer of John did. Now days truth is much more contextualized as an understanding which arises within a particular social location and is open up to critique by the experience of those who live in other settings. I wrestle with this more fully in my exploration of the “truth” of Jesus as Christ in the post entitled A Queer-Centric Christology.

via The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture.October 16, 2013

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