17 April 2007

WMAs (Weapons of Mass Affirmation), Part Two

MATTHEW 8:5-13
When (the Savior) entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, appealing to Him and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress." And He said to him, "I will come and cure him." The centurion answered, "Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof . . . only speak the word, and my servant will be healed . . . when Jesus heard him, He was amazed and said to those who followed Him: "Truly, I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith!" . . . and to the centurion Jesus said, "Go, let it be done for you according to your faith." And the servant was healed in that hour.

WouldJesusDiscriminate.com claims that the ancient Greek word pais, which means "youngster," and which the centurion uses to refer to his slave, has an erotic connotation. Untrue! Without the accompanying word Greek word erastes, meaning "lover", it carries no such connotation. That said, there's plenty of historical evidence that Roman centurions were in the habit of copulating with their slaves. Even so, we cannot infer from this passage that Jesus Christ affirmed a "Gay couple"!

We might infer that He didn't condemn a relationship between males that probably had a sexual component. However, we don't know that for sure, and we also don't know if the two males were in love. Granted, we know that the centurion had tender feelings for his slave, but we have no idea how the slave felt about the centurion!

For me, likening an ancient master/slave situation to a modern homosexual love affair is problematic. I mean, really!  If the relationship between these two figures from the Gospel of Matthew was indeed sexual, the slave surely had little say in the matter. If his master wanted sex, how could he refuse?

Something else to think about is that, given the customs of ancient Greece and Rome, any sexual activity between this pair would have been of a pederastic nature: A mature man penetrating a teenage boy. Pais and erastes form the etymological roots of the word "pederasty" . . . a most alarming fact that puts a completely different spin on this Bible story!

Reverend Minor had better think twice if he believes he can have a "respectful dialogue" with Conservative preachers about man/boy love! In their eagerness to tease homo-eroticism out of this passage, the well-meaning folk at WouldJesusDiscriminate.com have failed to consider these issues. Poor scholarship undermines their message!  Fortunately, the last two Scriptural citations find them on firmer ground.

MATTHEW 19:10-12
(Jesus Christ's) disciples said to Him . . . "It is better not to marry" . . . He said to them . . . "There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this (teaching) who can!"

ACTS 8:26-39
Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get up and go toward the south, to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza" . . . so he got up and went. Now, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home. Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the spirit said to Philip, "Go over to this chariot and join it!" So Philip ran up to it and . . . he asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" (The eunuch) replied, "how can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him . . . then Philip began to speak . . . he proclaimed to him the Good News about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water, and the eunuch said . . . "What is to prevent me from being baptized?" He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

The extensive studies of Faris Malik and others have established that "eunuch" was one of the words ancient societies used to describe what we call Gay men today. Everything I've read in Gnostic scripture supports this research. "Eunuch" did not mean "castrated man", as it does today; that definition evolved over subsequent centuries. The word was used to identify men who didn't have sex with women.

Not convinced? Then consider this fact. The ancient Greek root of the word (eunoukhos) means "guardian of a bed or bedchamber." It denotes nothing about castration or male genitalia. Because they were known to lack sexual interest in women, eunuchs were hired by kings and noblemen to guard their harems. It's wrong to assume that all ancient eunuchs were castrated, because many were not.

Often used as sexual playthings by soldiers and royalty, they were widely known as man-loving men, and societies like the ancient Israelites despised their ways. This, I think, explains the homophobia of Jewish Christians like the Apostle Paul. Ironically, Paul himself was probably a eunuch, and very likely "from birth" (I cited evidence for this probability in my essay titled "The First Tortured Homsexual Christian").

While every man called a eunuch in antiquity wasn't homosexual (pansexual, heterosexual and homosexual boys were castrated in a barbaric attempt to "create" eunuchs), all those called eunuchs were believed to be, and those whom the Christ called "eunuchs who have been so from birth" definitely were. Of course, Bible bigots will argue that He was not referring to homosexual males when He spoke of eunuchs "from birth". They claim that He was speaking about heterosexual males born with genital deformities, and furthermore, that these heterosexual males had no sexual desire. What a ridiculous claim this is!

Deformed or absent genitalia doesn't mean sexual desire is absent in a man! Nor does it preclude physical intimacy. Faris Malik has documented cases where heterosexual, castrated eunuch slaves secretly engaged in sexual activity with women, usually against the wishes of their masters. What's more, we know that Transsexual females who undergo castration retain their sex drive.

Regardless of their true sexual orientations, and regardless of how intact their "equipment" was, ancient eunuchs were sexually active men! The assumption of ancient society was that they were homosexually active. Surely, Jesus Christ knew the homosexual connotation of the word "eunuch", and He knew that His disciples and the other people He was addressing would pick up on it. He used the word for that very reason.

The Gnostic Gospel of Philip calls the born eunuch a "keeper of the Bridal Chamber", which, as I noted before, is the true definition of the word. It says that he possesses a blended gender identity, and the Egyptian Gospel confirms that he has a homosexual orientation. These texts also establish that none other than Jesus Christ Himself is involved in the conception of eunuchs and virgins (Lesbians) prior to birth; therefore, He, more than anyone else, would have reason to say men exist who are eunuchs "from birth"! (For scriptural citations and more details, see my essay titled "We Are Family, Parts One, Two and Three".)

It's not just Gnostic scripture that exalts eunuchs; certain Bible passages do, too. The 56th chapter of Isaiah teaches that eunuchs have a special honor reserved for them in Heaven:

ISAIAH 56: 4, 5
For this is what the Lord says: "To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, who choose what pleases Me and hold fast to My Covenant, to them I will give within My temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off!"

The book of Revelations indicates that men who have not "defiled" themselves with women (in a word, eunuchs) will function as the Savior's manservants in Heaven:

Then I looked, and there was the Lamb (Jesus Christ), standing on Mount Zion! And with Him were one-hundred-forty-four-thousand who had His name and His Father's name written on their foreheads . . . they sing a new song before the throne . . . no one could learn that song except the one-hundred-forty-four thousand (men) who have been redeemed from the Earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb . . . they are blameless.

Matthew 19:12, the verse that connects eunuchs to God's Kingdom, has already been cited. So there's ample Scriptural support for what the billboards claim about verses from the Gospel of Matthew and the Book of Acts; in fact, these messages really don't go far enough in affirming the relationship between Gay men, the church and God. I take exception, though, to calling ancient Biblical figures "Gay." Since that politicized word and its modern understanding didn't exist in Biblical times, its use in this context amounts to linguistic inaccuracy.

I hope you understand why I'm so upset now. We cannot reduce Jesus Christ's affirmation of LGBT status to a sensationalist roadside media byte! We also cannot benefit the cause of Gay equality by reinforcing the practice of Bibliolatry. The worship of man-made Scripture is what made LGBT persecution happen in the first place! In order to remedy this problem, we've got to act deliberately and responsibly. I deplore the "gotcha" method of communication employed by WouldJesusDiscriminate.com! Shock tactics will ultimately do more harm to our cause than good!

We must (1) stress that following the example of Jesus Christ, not imposing Biblical law on others, is the proper path for a Christian, (2) draw a distinction between Old Covenant law from the Old Testament, and New Covenant law, found in the Gospels, (3) remind people that the Bible is humankind's interpretation of God's word, not the direct word of God, (4) denounce the worship of Bible scripture as practiced by Fundamentalists, (5) demand that the Bible and other early Christian texts be approached in a scholarly way and (6) in the interest of scholarship, methodically teach the Gay-affirming nature of passages like Matthew 19, Isaiah 56, and Revelations 14. Then we can encourage Conservative religious folk to explore Gnostic texts like the Gospel of Philip, the Book of Thomas, and the Egyptian Gospel, which elaborate on the blessed status accorded to eunuchs (Gay men) and virgins (Lesbians) by ancient Christian theologians.

We shouldn't expect hard-bitten Bible bigots to abandon their distorted theology, though. Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Ken Hutcherson and their ilk derive much earthly power from that theology, and most of them are hopelessly addicted to the acquisition of earthly power! Good scholarship won't sway them in the least, but we shouldn't waste time worrying about that. God will see to those problems we lack the power to rectify. Studying Gay-affirming texts is a task that LesBiGay Christians and their Straight allies must undertake for their own benefit.

Knowing what the ancient Biblical and Gnostic texts really say about LGBT status will serve to strengthen our resolve. More important, it will erase the doubt and shame which have been planted in our minds by centuries of false prophesy.

I've contacted both WouldJesusDiscriminate.com and Faith In America and asked them to modify their media campaign. I've requested that the billboards quoting Ruth 1 and Matthew 8 be withdrawn. Whether they will be or not remains to be seen. It's a safe bet that Jeff Miner and Jimmy Creech disagree with me about strategy, as well as about Biblical interpretation. However, there's no disagreement between us about this statement Reverend Creech used to end Faith In America's press release:

"In their hearts, people know that discriminating against Gay and Transgender people is terribly wrong! We want to encourage people to speak up when religious bullies misuse the Bible to berate Gay people. Each of us has a responsibility to end the misuse of religion to justify discrimination."

Yes, Jimmy, each of us does have that responsibility! Especially LGBT folk, whom God has singularly blessed. We've got Scripture on our side! We've got special, God-given insights and creative gifts we can use to better the world. We've got the promise of a job in Heaven serving Jesus Christ! We've got a permanent presence in the Christian church that can't be purged, no matter how hard the Papacy or Right Wing Protestant leaders may try. We've got a blended gender identity that attests to the power of our Lord; nobody else could create the miracle of men-loving men and woman-loving women! Nobody else could create a Transgender soul that is both male and female.

If we look around and within ourselves, we'll see that we're far from powerless. God has armed us with WMAs (Weapons of Mass Affirmation)! He's given us these weapons to use in our fight against heterosexism, ignorance and hatred; all we have to do is pick them up and wield them!