22 April 2007

Why The Children Are Free (Part One)

One thing I try hard not to be when I editorialize is insensitive. Even though I regularly indict the complacency of Lesbian and Gay Christians, this blog is mandated to be a safe space for them. It occurs to me that I may have offended my Lesbian readership with my last essay, "Weapons Of Mass Affirmation, Parts One and Two."

In it, I refuted the widely-held belief among Christian Lesbians that the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi depicts a romance between women. I don't regret doing that, and I would do it again; distortion of Bible scripture is harmful to us, and we all know that to be true from personal experience! However, it certainly wasn't my intention to rob Lesbians of Scriptural affirmation. That's something I could never do, even if I wanted to.

Let me clarify what I'm saying here: I believe woman-loving women are affirmed by what does not appear in Scripture. There's no Lesbian equivalent for explicit passages denouncing man-loving men as abominations, such as you find in the book of Leviticus. Bible scripture suffers from a strong masculine gender bias, something I've pointed out elsewhere; but this is one instance where the bias works to women's advantage. There is no condemnation of Lesbian sexuality to be found in the Bible!

Wait a minute, some of you are saying. Aren't you forgetting about what the Apostle Paul said? No, I'm not forgetting. I know that, in order justify their wicked persecution of Lesbians, Fundamentalists often cite a passage in Paul's letter to the Romans. Here is that passage:

ROMANS 1: 21-27
. . . though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened . . . claiming to be wise, they became fools . . . for this reason, God gave them up to degrading passons. 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.

Many Bible scholars don't believe that Paul was talking about female homosexuality here. There's a suggestion of that, they argue, but it's not clearly stated; Paul may have been talking about female masturbation, or some other deviance from traditional intercourse.

I don't share their doubt. There's no question in my mind about whether he was or wasn't referring to woman-loving women. He definitely was. The text makes it clear that Paul was a deeply heterosexist individual who could tolerate neither male nor female homosexuality.

But does his statement amount to a condemnation? How could it? Paul indicated (correctly, by the way) that God causes people to engage in these "shameful" acts. Was he being so arrogant as to condemn God's will? Or was he merely criticizing behavior against which he had a cultural bias . . . something he didn't fully understand? You decide!

Even if you believe Paul condemned sex between women, you'd do well to read what he wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 1, verse 13): Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? Let me follow the logic of these questions and pose another one: Do you worship the apostles, or do you worship God?

Regardless of what you believe about Paul's letter to the Roman churches, you absolutely must read his letter to the Galatians! In it, he argues forcefully that Levitican law (the source of doctrinal prohibitions against homosexuality) doesn't apply to Christians. Here's an excerpt from that argument:

GALATIANS 2: 11-16
. . . when (the Apostle Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned. For until certain people came from (the Apostle James), he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction (of Jewish Christians). And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy . . . when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the Gospel, I said to (Peter) . . . "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"

Paul is indicting the practice of hypocrisy, which the Gospel narrative shows was also a major concern for Jesus Christ! He goes on to clarify what makes a Christian truly Christian:

GALATIANS 2:15-21
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is reckoned as righteous not by the works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the Law, because no one will be justified by the works of the Law . . . I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing!

"Why The Children Are Free" continues with Part Two.