27 June 2007

The Bible Tells Me So (Part One)

Jesus Christ

Freedom! Freedom from ignorance about the Bible! That's the birthday present I gave myself last week. I finally finished reading my copy of The New Oxford Annotated Bible in its entirety; it took me the better part of a year to do! I could’ve finished sooner, but I didn’t want to rush the process. I gave myself plenty of time to absorb those 66+ books!

I'd actually read the whole Bible once before, as a pre-teenager. However, I was reading the infamous King James Version, and as you might expect, I understood precious little of Ye Olde English text! This time, with a modern translation in hand, I achieved much better results. It's amazing, how much I missed the first time!

The context of everything is so much clearer! The uncertainty of translation is apparent; and the fact that human beings wrote these collected texts is inescapable. Believe it or not, there's bad writing in the Bible! Factual errors, repetitiveness, sentence fragments, confusing attributions. There's also obvious ideological slanting, and indulgence in speculation where human understanding reaches its limits.

The direct word of God? Hardly! The Bible is man’s sometimes flawed, sometimes inspired interpretation of His word. For me, this book has been completely demystified! I know some Christians would hate for that to happen to them, but I don’t need mystery in my doctrinal texts. God is mysterious enough! Besides, as a Gay man, I know only too well that there's nothing to be gained from poor comprehension of Scripture.

Re-reading the Bible has been a goal of mine since shortly after I launched this blog. I wanted to write with authority about Christian doctrine, of course; but I also wanted to prove how valuable knowledge of the Bible is to Gay activism. It's a shield we can use to defend ourselves against religious Right Wing attacks, just as effectively as they use it as a weapon against us!

Actually, we can use the Bible to greater effect, because unlike our enemies, we don't have to lie about what it says! Scriptural truth is more than sufficient to advance a Gay-affirming theology. To illustrate what I mean, let me share several conclusions I've come to about the Bible. A few of them may surprise you:

The Old Testament Is Spicy!
So spicy, in fact, that much of it isn't fit for children to read! The Old Testament is a blood-soaked document filled with calamity, carnage, murder, rape, and fornication! Beginning with Adam and Eve's banishment from Eden, it documents man's estrangement from God and the turmoil we've suffered ever since.

Highlights include the murder of Abel by Cain; Noah laying naked and drunk in his tent; attempted gang rape at Sodom; Lot committing incest with his daughters; the denuding of Joseph, the Hebrew slave, by his master's adulterous wife; ghastly plagues visited upon the Egyptian populace; gang rape at Gibeah; the act of murder/suicide that killed Samson and his tormentors; David's beheading of Goliath; David engineering the death of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah; the gruesome accidental hanging of David's son Absalom; King Solomon's erotic poetry; the prophet Elisha's sexually suggestive resurrection ritual; the killing of Jezebel and subsequent mutilation of her body; the death penalty, meted out repeatedly for temple defilement and violations of Levitican law; male and female prostitution; severed heads being hoisted on poles; prophesies involving talk of dung-eating and sexual humiliation; war atrocities and animal sacrifices galore . . . and that's not even the half of it!

The New Testament, of course, features the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the stoning of Stephen, and the beheading of John The Baptist; but compared to the sky-high gore factor of the Hebrew Bible, it's tame! In my opinion, this excessively lurid tone reflects a very human fascination with sensationalism.

The Old Testament Is Boring!
Despite all the sex and violence it contains, the Old Testament is more often than not a tedious document! It's full-to-overflowing with temple measurements, descriptions of religious vestments and objects, ceremonial instructions, army roll calls and genealogical lists. Every few pages, you run into one of these litanies!

I often hear people claim that inspiration can be found on every single page of the Bible. If they believe that, then they surely never read the tribal genealogies from 1 Chronicles! These lengthy passages will put you to sleep faster than the most boring college lecture you ever heard!

Fundamentalism Is Based On 

Old-Testament Doctrine.
The Fundamentalist sect that dominates modern Christianity is clearly Old Testament-based! The Pat Robertsons of the world prefer Levitican damnation to Gospel salvation. Rather than guide lambs to God through the Divine example of Jesus Christ, they prefer to frighten them into submission with the Prophets' apocalyptic predictions! This begs the question: Are they true Christians? My answer is a firm, unequivocal no!

They can't affirm Hebrew law and still claim belief in the Messiah! The only law Christians follow is the Christ's Law; there's no such thing as an Old Testament Christian! Bible beaters blend Hebrew and Christian tenets at will, creating a hybrid religion that's neither fish nor fowl. This hybrid has been taught as Christianity for so long, it's now widely accepted as legitimate. Therein lies the poison pill that has estranged Gay people and many others from a faith that rightly belongs to them!

The Story of Sodom and Gomorrah 

Has Been Misinterpreted!
Tragically, most people, even most Gay Christians, don't realize this fact. Over centuries, the forged link between homosexuality and the practice of "sodomy" has become so strong, few question it. However, I believe that link can be broken! All that's necessary is to present the story in its proper context.

JUDGES 19: 22, 23
. . . the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house: "Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him." And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them: "No, my brothers! Do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing! Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them . . ."

Does this passage sound familiar? It’s not what you think! These verses aren’t talking about Sodom and Gomorrah. They describe an incident that took place in Gibeah, a city north of Jerusalem. There's little difference between the two narratives, except that the Gibean seige culminated in actual rape and murder:

JUDGES 19: 25, 26
But the men would not listen to him; so the man seized his concubine and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her and abused her all through the night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go . . . the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light.

The woman subsequently died. After word of her murder spread through Israel, God empowered an army to sack the city and kill its occupants. The male populations of both Sodom and Gibeah were in the habit of subjecting outsiders to sexual humiliation. (Both populations placed the same low value on female life, too!) Both cities were destroyed for this reason. What does homosexuality have to do with it? Nothing at all!

These stories are straightforward condemnations of rape. They also warn against brutalizing those who are perceived as aliens. By no stretch of the imagination do they condemn homosexual status! Elsewhere in the Bible, eunuchs (the ancient equivalent of Gay men) are promised a special place in Heaven. How could God simultaneously bless and curse them?

The sexual orientation of gang rapists is irrelevant; theirs is a crime of violence, not sexuality. However, to think that every man in any given town could be homosexual is totally preposterous, and to stigmatize every Gay man as a "Sodomite" is patently dishonest! Ironically, it shows the same hostility to unfamiliar people that the real Sodomites displayed.

Eunuchs Are Blessed By God!

There can be no doubt about this! Both the Old and New Testament affirm the blessed status of eunuchs, as well as Gnostic texts and Apocryphal scripture. If you’ve never heard of Apocryphal scripture before, don’t feel embarrassed. I hadn't either, until fairly recently! It's made up of non-canonical writings that are specific to different denominations of Judaism and Christianity; there are Jewish Apocrypha, Roman Catholic Apocrypha, Eastern Orthodox Apocrypha, etcetera. The books I studied came from the Catholic Bible.

Verses from the Apocryphal book of Sirach (which dates to about 200 years before Jesus Christ's birth) confirm that, contrary to popular belief, all eunuchs weren't castrated men; many were physically capable of having sex with women! More important, these verses confirm that eunuchs had an inherent revulsion for heterosexual contact. The author makes these points via the use of similies; somewhat awkwardly, he likens having Gay identity to having a sinful nature:

Like a eunuch lusting to violate a girl is the person who does right under compulsion.

By definition, a eunuch has no erotic feelings toward women.

SIRACH 30:18-20
Good things poured out upon a mouth that is closed are like offerings of food placed upon a grave . . . so is the one punished by the Lord; he sees with his eyes and groans as a eunuch groans when embracing a girl.

Forced to take wives under Hebrew law, eunuchs were widely known for their lack of sexual interest in women!

Eunuchs are first exalted in the 56th chapter of Isaiah. Jesus Christ reaffirms this teaching in the 19th chapter of Matthew, which I've previously discussed at length. In addition, there’s this Apocryphal passage that exalts both Gay men and Lesbians:

. . . for blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled, who has not entered into a sinful union; she will have fruit when God examines souls. Blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed, and who has not devised wicked things against the Lord; for special favor will be shown him for his faithfulness, and a place of great delight in the temple of the Lord.

A woman both undefiled and barren is a virgin. "Virgin" is the word used to refer to Lesbians in the Gnostic Gospel of Philip. Use of the word "fruit" is also important here. In the book of Exodus (23:19), God commands His people: The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. Then, in the 14th chapter of Revelations (14:4), we're told this about the eunuchs who serve Jesus Christ in Heaven: They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb . . .

What does this mean? It means that Gay people are offerings to God from the wombs of women! God sees us as first fruits of humankind because our souls mirror the soul of the first human being He created. Before Eve came to be, Adam was the same as we are: Male and female blended together in one soul! The correct Hebrew translation of Genesis 1:27 confirms this fact: And God created Adam in His own image, in the image of God He created Him, male and female He created Him.

"The Bible Tells Me So" continues with Part Two.