27 June 2007

The Bible Tells Me So (Part Three)

Jesus Christ

Loving Covenants Between 
Same-Gender Partners Are Possible!
God makes them possible! He unites the souls of same-gender lovers. The Biblical example is that of David and Jonathan:

1 SAMUEL 18:1-3
. . . the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul . . . then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.

This passage undermines every argument against same-gender marriage! There may be Scriptural justification for not calling same-gender unions "marriage", but there's absolutely no Scriptural prohibition against such unions.

The Gospels Have Been De-Emphasized!
Just as the prophet Isaiah quoted the Lord as having said:

ISAIAH 29:13
. . . these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, (but) their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote . . .

In the same way, Jesus Christ rebuked the Pharisees:

MARK 7:8, 9
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition . . . you have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!

These words resonate strongly with me whenever I think of today's religious ideologues. The inclusion of so many of the Apostle Paul's letters in the New Testament (thirteen in all) has led to Pauline doctrine overshadowing the Christ's original teachings. Four Gospels versus three times as many epistles! It's easy to see how this could happen.

As I’ve often stated before, Paul’s message sometimes deviated from that of Jesus Christ. He seemed to harbor strong prejudice against eunuchs and (Lesbian) virgins, and that led him to want to impose Holiness Code restrictions on them (see Romans 1:22-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9). Jude, the brother of Jesus Christ harbored the same bias, judging by his contention from Jude 1:7: Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities . . . indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust . . .

Many Bible scholars dispute the authorship of Jude, as well as that of six of the epistles attributed to Paul. All the same, these documents form the basis of Pauline doctrine, and their influence on mainstream Christianity has been enormous!

I believe ideologues from the early Christian Church conspired to give Paul’s more reactionary teachings greater emphasis. Furthermore, I believe they "edited" some of Paul's letters to make them even more ideologically conservative! Support for my belief can be found in Bart Ehrman's excellent book Misquoting Jesus (Harper, 2005). Whether my theories are credible or not, there's definitely an imbalance in the doctrine that must be corrected! What greater sin could a self-described Christian commit than to value the teachings of others over those of Jesus Christ?

Doesn't it say, in the 10th chapter of Matthew: A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master? And doesn't it say, in the 23rd chapter of Matthew: You have but one instructor, The Messiah? And didn't Paul himself ask, in 1 Corinthians 1:13: Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in Paul's name? This predominance of Pauline doctrine proves to me more than anything else that most people worship the Bible instead of worshiping God!

Hebrew Law Is Different From Christian Law!
No New Testament passage draws this distinction more clearly than the one I'm about to quote from. It comes from the book of Acts, and describes a dream that Simon Peter had:

ACTS 10: 9-16:
About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the Heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying: "Get up, Peter! Kill and eat." But Peter said: "By no means, Lord! For I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean." The voice said to him again, a second time: "What God has made clean, you must not call profane!" This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to Heaven.

Later in the narrative, Simon Peter interprets his dream this way: God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean (Acts 10:28). I can't imagine a more thorough repudiation of the Holiness Code, with all its dietary and behavioral restrictions! This is arguably the passage that Fundamentalists overlook most often.

The 19th Chapter Of Matthew Rocks!

MATTHEW 19: 11,12
(Jesus Christ said)"Some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of Heaven. Those who can accept this (teaching) should accept it."

For Gay Christian men, Matthew 19 is the most important section of the Gospels. It's arguably the most important section of the Bible, period! Even Paul's letter to the Galatians and the David and Jonathan narrative pale in comparison to it.

The 19th chapter of Matthew validates the existence of men who avoid sexual relations with women (thus undermining the raison d'etre of the "ex-Gay" movement); it validates homosexual orientation (because in ancient times, the word "eunuch" had distinctly homosexual connotations); it establishes that homosexuality is inborn; it does not impose celibacy on eunuchs; and, most significantly, it connects eunuchs to the kingdom of Heaven! It blasts to smithereens the scurrilous notion that God criminalizes male intimacy! Even if that were once true (there'll always be theologians who interpret Leviticus 18 differently than I do), there can be no question that our Savior de-criminalized it!

Jesus Christ Is The Source Of Salvation
 . . . Not Scripture!
The orthodoxy of the day decried the Savior's teachings against the Holiness Code. They accused Him of blasphemy! He stood His ground and rebuked them soundly for placing Scripture above the true, living word of God:

JOHN 5:39-44
(Jesus Christ said) "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have Eternal Life, and it is they that testify on My behalf. Yet you refuse to come to Me to have Life . . . you do not have the love of God in you! I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept Me . . . how can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the One who alone is God?

There's no substitute for faith in Jesus Christ! The Bible can’t serve as a proxy God; to use it that way is to practice idolatry! All of us who were raised in the Christian Church know this verse, but it's worth repeating here:

JOHN 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life . . . those who believe in Him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Eunuchs And Virgins Don't Produce Babies.
At least, not according to Scripture! Evidence of this restriction appears in the prophetical book of Isaiah:

ISAIAH 54:1
(The prophet said)"Sing, O barren one who did not bear! Burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labor! 'For the children of the desolate woman will be more than the children of her that is married', says the Lord."

ISAIAH 56:4
(The prophet said)"Neither let the eunuch say, 'behold, I am a dry tree', for the Lord says: 'To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my Covenant, I will give, in My house and within My walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.'"

See also my previous citation from the Apocryphal book Wisdom of SolomonA lack of biological children would seem to be a prerequisite for identification as a blessed eunuch or virgin (though adopted children would surely have no effect on this special designation). These verses seem to raise questions about how appropriate it is for Lesbians and Gay men to sire offspring, via artificial insemination or otherwise; in recent years, this practice has become quite widespread among us.

Don't worry that I’m turning into a Scriptural terrorist, though! Believe me, that will never happen! I've always advocated for LGBT folk to exercise all the life options available to them. God forbid that I should ever tell my brothers and sisters: You must not call your relationships marriage! You must not sire biological children! I'd be no different from the Bible bigots if I indulged in that kind of arrogance!

Scripture may be our primary guide to God's will, but it's not always reliable. God, however, is always reliable, and He has other ways of guiding us. If the Lord's eunuchs and virgins don't conduct their lives in a manner He approves of, He will surely make His intent known to them (as I believe He did thirty years ago when self-destructive hedonism among Gay men became excessive)! The manner in which Gay parenting comes about is nobody's business but the Lord's; only He can pass judgment on it! I don't presume to know what God's judgment is on this matter, but I do know that most Lesbian and Gay parents consider their biological children gifts from Him. Who could disagree?

As I finished reading 4 Maccabees, the last book in my Bible's Old Testament, I couldn't shake this nagging feeling I had. I felt something was missing! Where were the teachings for people like me? I can only speak for myself, but it's not enough for Scripture to just validate my identity as a Gay man. I long for the same kind of relationship guidance that heterosexual folk find there! Given the importance of eunuchs and virgins to God's kingdom, there must have been specific teachings for them in ancient Scripture . . . there simply must have been!

The fact that I've yet to find such teachings suggests a campaign of systematic suppression by early Church theologians. If even a fragment of these texts still exists somewhere, I pray that I'll discover them in my lifetime! If that doesn't happen, I'll at least be thankful for the Biblical passages that speak of us, as well as for the fragments dealing with LGBT status I’ve discovered in Gnostic scripture (see my CTGM essay “We Are Family”, Parts One, Two and Three).

My extended Bible study gave me another strong feeling, too: That I had discovered the means by which to conquer false prophecy! I still feel that way. The practice of Bibliolatry would diminish significantly if more people started reading the entire Bible for themselves in good, modern translations. If they read the Bible without being told what to think about it, millions would begin to reject the distorted teachings of radical Right Wingers; I'm absolutely convinced of that! Ignorance is the fuel of religious Fundamentalism. Take away the fuel, and the fire will burn itself out!

LGBT Christians fully understand how harmful Scriptural ignorance can be. We have a vested interest in fighting it every chance we get! And I believe that's what God wants us to do.

ACTS 8:26-31, 35-39
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip: "Go south to the road, the desert road, that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship,and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip: "Go to that chariot, and stay near it." Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I", he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him . . . then Philip . . . told him the Good News about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said: "Look, here is water! Why shouldn't I be baptized?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both 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 suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

This passage reveals that God wants to destroy the ideological barriers that separate us from Him. He loves His eunuchs and virgins dearly, and He wants us to acknowledge Him as our Father! He wants to embrace us in Heaven! The Bible tells me so! I leave you with words of inspiration, taken from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Apocrypha. Selah!

1 SAMUEL 16: 7
. . . the Lord does not see as mortals see. They look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

SIRACH 4: 20, 21
. . . do not be ashamed to be yourself, for there is a shame that leads to sin, and there is a shame that is glory and favor.

LUKE 6: 22, 23
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in Heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the Prophets.