Good morning. Oh how nice it is to get a full night’s sleep. I feel so much better and even kind of looking forward to the day’s work — grading the first 23 or 24 of my students’ research papers.
But first my mind’s been spinning a bit about homosexuality and Christianity. My friend Chanel asked me to help her out with a paper she’s thinking of writing, more specifically with help arguing that Christianity is simply wrong when it condemns homosexual relationships. (Side note: her request was also kind of cool because her ideas for her paper actually coincide with some inchoate new ideas for my Charlotte Gilman paper. (I was writing on Gilman’s Herland. Now I’m probably going to move over to The Crux.)
Anyway! I made a list of the best books by biblical scholars and theologians supporting full inclusion and equality for gay Christians (I have only two books from a Jewish point of view and none yet from a Moslem view) to give to her. I’ll probably post it later. It’s long.
I also looked for videos that could give Chanel a quick overview of the issues and the “clobber passages.” Came across this one from a West Wing episode. I remember this.
I can’t help but love that. It’s a powerful scene. But I also can’t help but sigh and think… “Well, that’s good, but it ain’t gonna convince many anti-gay Christians.” It’s rather a straw-man argument. It just focuses on Leviticus. By leaving off the other “clobber” passages — in Genesis, Romans, Corinthians, Timothy, etc — at the most it would only put a dent in one-seventh or so of the argument that the bible condemns homosexual relationships. It’s really Paul’s epistle to the Romans that’s the harder one to deal with. I think all of the other passages — they can be pretty easily interpreted as talking about non-consensual relationships or about something other than same-sex relations altogether. But Paul is a little harder to deal with.
I actually think that, in Romans 1 and 2, Paul is trying to get his (mainly Jewish) readers to realize their own arrogance and sin when they condemn “those pagans” and their horrible practices. (Here is theologian James Alison’s version of this argument.) But Paul’s thinking is just in general harder to deal with — if you are someone who values Paul’s views, of course. (If not, like the creator of this excellent video called “Homosexuality and Christianity,” you can just say “Paul is wrong,” and that solves the problem.)
Anyway! Where was I? Oh, just that I love this West Wing clip, but it’s kind of a straw-man argument. Or, it only address one facet of anti-gay biblical interpretation.
And finally, since I really gotta get to my day’s worth of grading, I just wanted to post this one quick thought, and make myself wait until tonight to say anymore.
It just occurred to me that we could see biblical interpretation the same way many religionists see homosexuality.
The anti-gay interpretation of scripture is the default interpretation, really. It’s the non-thinking interpretation. It is what has become the automatic assumption of centuries (though many passages that are used now to condemn homosexuality, for centuries were used to condemn other practice). In other words, relatively few people come to the conclusion, after studying a pericope or book of scripture that homosexual relationships are abominations. Instead they start out with that assumption. Not that anti-gay or even semi-objective interpreters (though who really is objective?) don’t study the scripture and still come to the same conclusion. They do. NT Wright is a theologian whom I greatly admire,and who has studied the New Testament in the kind of depth that few on the planet over the centuries ever has or ever will, but who still thinks we are called to be at least highly skeptical of homosexual relationships. Wright is a notable exception to my rule. But the default interpretation of the “clobber” passages is that “homosexuality is a sin.”
So, it occurred to me to say to those who still interpret the scriptures the default way need to be reminded — maybe even preached to? — that interpretation is a choice.
The anti-gay religionists’ logic is this: “Homosexuality is a choice. Just because it’s automatic for you doesn’t mean it’s not a sin, and doesn’t mean you didn’t sin by choosing it.” Assumption / warrant: homosexuality is a sin.
But the same logic could be applied to back to those anti-gay religionists: “Anti-gay interpretation of the Bible is a choice. Just because it’s automatic for you doesn’t mean it’s not a sin, and doesn’t mean you didn’t sin by choosing it.” Assumption / warrant: homophobia is a sin.
Heheh, I like that. It works. It’s kind of an example of “reverse rhetoric.”
And now, to grading…