15 April 2008

Gay Bibliolatry 101 (Part One)

Gay Christian 101

In my essay titled "WMMs: Weapons Of Mass Misinformation, Part Two", I criticized Liberal-leaning Christians who feel the need to sanitize the Bible. These are people who accept the Fundamentalist creed that the Bible is the unadulterated word of God, but can’t accept the possibility that a Bible passage might have been written with racist, sexist or heterosexist intent. Therefore, they diligently re-interpret suspect passages to make the Bible safe for Liberals to read. Little did I know when I wrote that essay that a perfect example of this flawed mindset would arrive in my mailbox a few months later!

Evangelical pastor Rick Brentlinger has written a book called Gay Christian 101, which purports to be a Bible reference guide for LGBT people of faith. It's supposed to serve as our defense against the infamous “clobber passages” used to vilify Gay identity. The book has received a fair amount of praise, including a recommendation from my good friend Rev. Jerry Maneker. I was certainly looking forward to reading it; once I did, though, I was disappointed to find that it seldom lived up to my expectations. What's more, I found that it was something other than what it seemed to be.

Rev. Brentlinger sent me a complimentary copy of Gay Christian 101 and requested that I review it. It’s unfortunate that my review has to be unfavorable; however, I must express my feelings honestly! I’ve never soft-pedaled my opinions about Christian doctrine, and I’m not about to start now. I gave the Reverend a preview of this essay, and after reading what I had written, he wasn’t happy. No surprise there! I also gave him the opportunity to respond in advance, but he declined to do so; now, that was a surprise. How often does an evangelical minister lack for something to say, especially when his rhetoric is challenged? I know it’s unlikely that I could ever change his thinking in regard to the Bible, but I hope I at least provided him with some serious food for thought.

I disagree with a lot of things in his book, but on one matter, Rev. Brentlinger and I are in complete agreement: Scripture should be read and understood in its proper historical context! Toward that goal, he consults an exhaustive list of ancient sources: Plato, Homer, Philo, Aristotle, Cicero, Hippolytus, Josephus, the works of Clement of Alexandria and the Satyricon, just to name a few. Buttressing these historical texts are quotes from religious scholars like John Boswell, John Calvin, Peter Gomes, John J. McNeill, and even anti-Gay theologian Robert Gagnon. The Reverend's research is thorough, and his polemic is forceful; rhetorically speaking, he drives a point about as hard as it can be driven.

In his opening chapter, "Adam and Eve in Genesis 2", he examines the Creation narrative, and makes short work of the Fundamentalist argument that God disapproves of any marriage relationship other than one man and one woman. He discusses the many polygamous marriages found in Scripture, and recognizes the Covenant between David and Jonathan as a same-gender marriage. His citations are guaranteed to have Fundies frothing at the mouth, but his reasoning is (usually) sound. On page 20, the Reverend writes:

Reading into the text something the text does not say and then teaching as doctrine what the text does not say is called eisogesis. It is a false method of interpreting Scripture and (it) leads to false conclusions.

He's right, but unfortunately, he indulges in the very same kind of falsification later on! This fiery Baptist preacher also indulges in, of all things, understatement! Understatement makes him stumble while clarifying one of the easiest “clobber” passages to clarify: The Sodom and Gomorrah narrative from Genesis 19: 1-24. Compare the following two statements; the first is Rev. Brentlinger's summation of the story's traditional interpretation, and the second is his own interpretation:

Genesis 19 strongly condemns homosexuality and homosexual practice.
(p. 34)

(The men of Sodom) displayed gross inhospitality by their attempted rape.
(p. 60)

Which one sounds more absurd? Everybody knows the incident at Sodom involved an attempted gang rape. How could anyone say, with a straight face, that gang rape is wrong because it shows a lack of hospitality on the part of the rapists? Imagine a TV news anchor characterizing a serial killer's work as crimes of "gross unfriendliness". He or she would likely be laughed off the air!

I don't care if "inhospitality" is the correct translation for phrases ancient Israelites used to characterize the sin of Sodom, as Rev. Brentlinger claims. It's not the correct translation for today's understanding! The description of a crime must convey the horror of that crime, and "inhospitality" hardly conveys the horror of rape!

The Sodom incident cries out for interpretation in a modern context, because same-gender gang rape still happens. In the 21st century, it most often happens in a prison setting, and more often than not, Gay men, or men perceived to be Gay, are its victims! Now, as then, a reckless and predatory machismo motivates men to sexually abuse other men. It's evident in the Biblical narrative, in the belligerent words of the mob that surrounds Lot's house: Stand back (or) we will deal worse with you than with them (Genesis 19: 9). As I pointed out in my post titled "The Sin Of Sodom", angels are reputed to have a somewhat effeminate aspect, so just put two and two together here: The men of Sodom saw these effeminate-looking angels, perceived them to be eunuchs and, motivated by excessive machismo, they decided to violate, humiliate and possibly kill them. It sure sounds like the ancient equivalent of a f*g-bashing to me!

However, it isn’t necessary to reach that particular conclusion, logical though it may be. The only conclusion that should be reached is that rape of any kind, at any point in history, is sexual violence. Anybody with common sense can see that the Sodom narrative (as well as a similar rape narrative found in the 19th and 20th chapters of Judges) condemns sexual violence. Not homosexuality. Not "inhospitality". Sexual violence! That's all that really needs to be said and understood about this story. Any other argument embellishes the core facts, and amounts to ideological spin.

Rev. Brentlinger is on his firmest footing when he clarifies the application of Hebrew Law. If I could recommend his book on the basis of one chapter, it would be the one called "The Holiness Code". While his reasoning isn’t always straightforward (he veers off into extended discussions about temple prostitution and incest), he clearly establishes that:

1)The Code was meant for the ancient Israelites and no one else.

 2)Its prohibitions didn’t apply to anyone prior to the time Moses first communicated them.

 3)Its prohibitions never applied to Christians, since the arrival of Jesus Christ on Earth invalidated the Code for all who believed in Him.

The Reverend fails to make one important point, though: The incident where the Israelites worshiped a golden calf (Exodus 32: 1-6) is what motivated God to impose laws on them in addition to the Ten Commandments. The Holiness Code was a punishment! The Exodus narrative tells us God wanted to destroy the Israelites for their brazen act of idolatry, but Moses persuaded Him not to do so (Exodus 32: 7-14). Instead, He imposed the Code, and it apparently was the direct result of Moses’ plea that his people be allowed to atone for their sin (Exodus 32: 30). The absence of this understanding makes Rev. Brentlinger’s argument incomplete, but even so, he manages to drive a stake firmly through the heart of Vampire Leviticus! He methodically dismantles the myth that Christian doctrine criminalizes homosexual expression.

Such solid writing deserved better than being undermined in the next chapter, but unfortunately, that’s what happened! To drive home his point that Lesbian and Gay couples aren’t condemned by God, Rev. Brentlinger draws dubious “analogies” with well-known practitioners of incest and polygamy from Scripture like Abraham, Amram and Jacob. The implication is that if God was OK with these kinds of couplings, He surely must have been OK with homosexuality! Here is where eisogesis first distorts the author’s reasoning. He fails to make a convincing argument, but succeeds at unintentionally stigmatizing same-gender relationships, and giving Fundamentalists fresh justification to equate Gay identity with deviant sexual practice!

The desire for a same-gender lover is an expression of inborn androgyny, something that's certainly not true about the desire to marry multiple spouses or sleep with a sibling! LesBiGay love should never be likened to polygamy and incest, not for any reason! What was the Reverend thinking?

"Gay Bibliolatry 101" continues with Part Two.

14 April 2008

Gay Bibliolatry 101 (Part Two)

Gay Christian 101

After tumbling to such a rhetorical low, Rev. Brentlinger climbs back up to previous heights in his chapter devoted to the David and Jonathan story. Denial is strong about the nature of the relationship between the future King of Israel and the son of his nemesis, King Saul, and not just among Fundamentalists! The author demolishes the foundation of that denial by exploring the narrative in depth and studying the men’s interaction with one another. He proves that the bond they shared was a marriage bond; he points out that Jonathan expressed the intention to become David’s consort after he assumed rule over Israel; he reveals that King Saul used vulgar language to explicitly accuse his son of being David’s lover; and he presents the strongest evidence yet of sexual contact between the pair.

Here, Rev. Brentlinger imposes no interpretation on the text; he merely clarifies what it says. He is particularly effective in his translations of ancient Hebrew words such as ahabah/ahab, meaning romantic love, qashar, meaning romantic attachment, and gadal, which connotes sexual arousal in some contexts.

He goes too far, though, when he insists that David and Jonathan's spiritual marriage be accepted as fact because “the Holy Spirit is (its) ultimate author”(p. 145). That kind of statement makes his polemic sound desperate, and it shouldn’t sound that way. All he really needs to say is that the David and Jonathan narrative describes erotic same-gender love (which he does say, quite eloquently), and that God caused these men to fall in love by binding their souls together (which is clearly stated in 1 Samuel 18: 1). Except for that single digression, "The Amazing Love Story of David and Jonathan" is a well-written chapter containing essential information for Gay and Straight Christians alike.

Unfortunately, his next chapter is an exercise in tortured logic! It attempts to make credible a shibboleth that circulates among many Liberal Christians: That Jesus Christ healed the lover of a "Gay" Roman centurion, in similar accounts found in the 8th chapter of Matthew and the 7th chapter of Luke. I first refuted this myth in my essay titled  "WMAs (Weapons of Mass Affirmation)", Part Two.

Rev. Brentlinger bases his arguments on the sexual connotation that the ancient Greek word pais carries, and he makes a good case that the centurion was probably sexually involved with his slave. He also makes a good case that the centurion’s unusually high degree of concern about his slave's welfare indicated a romantic attachment. He even makes a good (but not convincing) case that their sexual relationship may not have been pederastic in nature, although pederasty was the norm for such couplings at that time. Ultimately, though, the Reverend's argument falls victim to the usual false assumptions.

First, he assumes that Roman centurions who had culturally-sanctioned sexual relationships with their male slaves must have been Gay. Such behavior indicates homosexual status like modern Gay men marrying women to fit cultural expectations indicates heterosexual status . . . in other words, not at all! Second, he assumes that the slaves were also Gay and willingly had sex with their masters. He seems to think Roman slaves exercised free will, even though they were property and utterly subject to their masters' wishes. Where does he come by this ludicrous notion? I thought twisted ideas like that vanished with the Old South, but apparently not!

Third, he assumes the tender feelings that the centurion apparently felt for his slave were reciprocated. Scripture tells us nothing about the slave's feelings, so it's impossible to conclude that a romance existed between them. Fourth, he assumes that the Messiah's act of not condemning a romance which may not even have existed implies tacit approval of said romance. Ridiculous! If taking a story about faith and trying to tease a homosexual love affair out of it isn't exogesis, I don't know what is!

Worst of all, he thinks valid parallels can be drawn between probably pederastic master/slave relationships in antiquity and adult Gay male relationships in modern times. Not only is this analogy patently absurd, it feeds directly into stereotypes about Gay men being predisposed to BDSM-style couplings and sex with underage partners. By manipulating the text in order to press his ideological point, Rev. Brentlinger does more harm than good! He attempts to douse fire by throwing gasoline on it, and the results are predictably disastrous; I shudder to think how easily a James Dobson or Ken Hutcherson could distort a phrase like “Jesus did not rebuke these men for their sexual relationship or for their master/slave relationship”(p. 220)!!!

This ill-conceived chapter should never have survived the editing process! We can at least assume that Rev. Brentlinger meant well, but you have to question his underlying attitude when he includes in his analysis a statement like this:

Referring to someone as a pais in the context of the first century Roman empire is similar to someone today saying "he's a hairdresser in San Francisco, if you get my drift" (p. 205).

What an ignorant thing to say! Whatever else he may have been, a pais was a slave, a subjugated human being. What could have possessed Rev. Brentlinger to inject such crude and offensive humor into a work of scholarship? This insensitive crack makes an already weak chapter even more disposable.

"Gay Bibliolatry 101" continues with Part Three.

13 April 2008

Gay Bibliolatry 101 (Part Three)

Gay Christian 101

In the chapter titled "Eunuchs In History And Scripture Are Gay Men", the author mostly covers territory already covered in depth by Born Eunuch website scholar Faris Malik, although he doesn't credit Malik in his source notes. He presents historical evidence that all ancient eunuchs weren’t castrated. He establishes that “eunuch” was one of the words used in antiquity to describe what are now called Gay men. He points to the presence of eunuchs throughout the Bible, and explains why most, if not all of them, were probably homosexual men.

Most important of all, he identifies the Scriptural passage in which Jesus Christ speaks of eunuchs so born from their mother’s womb and exempts such men from heterosexual marriage (Matthew 19: 3-12). Refuting the lie that our Savior never spoke directly about Gay people is the most important thing Rev. Brentlinger could accomplish with his book, and he does so with winningly strong polemics!

Too bad he can't win for losing, though. When the Reverend gets this kind of firm grip on his subject matter, he seems to become over-confident and prone to eisogesis. In this case, he advances the following preposterous argument to explain why, in the 8th chapter of Acts, the eunuch that Philip converts to Christianity necessarily had to be a born eunuch/Gay man:

. . . a castrated eunuch (was prohibited) from entering the congregation of Israel. Because this prohibition was strictly observed among Jews, Philip, a Jew, would not have ignored the Law of Moses. Remember that at this time in history, no one on Earth knew that Jews and Gentiles were one body in Christ. The Apostle Paul had not been saved yet, nor had Ephesians been written. The early Church was a largely Jewish group who believed they were still required to keep the Jewish law(Acts 15). Therefore, because Philip was willing to baptize the eunuch and admit him membership in the Christian congregation, he must have known that the Ethiopian eunuch was not a physically castrated eunuch(p.252).

Whoa now! Exactly how would Philip have known this? Did he undo the eunuch's robe and inspect his genitalia? What nonsense! Philip converted the eunuch because The Holy Spirit commanded him to do so (Acts 8: 26-39), and Scripture does not indicate that genital inspection was part of the directive! Here are other pertinent facts that Rev. Brentlinger overlooks:

1) Philip was evangelizing for the Christian faith, not the Hebrew faith that Pharisees practiced. As one of the original Apostles taught by the Messiah, he certainly wouldn’t have needed the Apostle Paul to show him the difference!

2) For the same reason, Philip would've known that the Holiness Code didn’t apply to Christian converts. When asked to list which laws Christians must follow in order to win Eternal Life, the Messiah complied; slightly different versions of His list can be found in Matthew 19: 16-19, Mark 10: 17-19, and Luke 18: 18-20 (as well as in my blog sidebar). The Christ also refuted aspects of the Holiness Code in Matthew 15: 10, 11, Mark 7: 1-15, and Luke 6: 1-5. Simon Peter's indignant reaction to the Pharisees' attempts to revive the Code (Acts 15: 6-10) confirms that the Apostles knew it was invalid.

3) Philip would have known that Gentiles could be Christians because, again, the Messiah taught him so! Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus Christ instructed the Apostles to go and evangelize among all nations (Matthew 28: 19, 20, Mark 16: 15 and Luke 24: 46, 47), and that instruction was confirmed by Simon Peter in Acts 15: 7.

Therefore, the Apostles and those they’d already taught knew that salvation wasn’t restricted to Jews, and they knew it long before Paul came on the scene! Granted, Paul's letter to the Galatians (not the Ephesians) probably disseminated this information among more people than had ever been exposed to it before, but he merely clarified the teaching. He didn’t originate it! Here’s a prime example of a Christian who idolizes the Apostle Paul so much, he wants to credit him for work initiated by the Savior. Paulinists have a bad habit of overlooking Jesus Christ's teachings, especially this one from Matthew 10: 24: A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master.

The next two chapters, "The First Century Context of Romans I" and "Malakoi and Arsenokoites in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10" deal in depth with the writings of the Apostle Paul. I dreaded reading these chapters, and they ended up being as tedious as I expected! Brentlinger identifies himself as a Conservative Christian, so it doesn't surprise me that he would place high value on Pauline doctrine. Most, if not all Conservative theologians do! However, being a Gay Conservative Christian means he has to confront the apparently homophobic attitudes Paul expressed in some of his letters. That means his readers must endure page after page of painful parsing of text as he struggles to prove that the Apostle harbored no anti-Gay bigotry!

He succeeds in establishing that the context in which Paul spoke of homosexual conduct was idolatry (something that’s obvious from the text of Romans 1: 18-26), and probably was in reference to ancient temple prostitution. He also proves that there’s no agreement among scholars on the exact meaning of obscure Greek words that Bible bigots choose to translate as “homosexual men”. What his research and reasoning don’t do, however, is support his implied suggestion that Paul approved of same-gender couplings that weren't connected to idolatry, and that he would've favored modern Gay relationships if he could have observed them. Given Paul’s characterization of such same-gender intimacy as degrading and unnatural, I very much doubt it!

What Rev. Brentlinger unintentionally does, by supporting the idea that the word malakoi refers to effeminacy in men, is call into question whether femme guys like myself can enter the kingdom of Heaven. In his zeal to erase possible homosexual connotations, he forgets that Gay men are more than the sum of their private parts! Gender expression plays just as big a role in Gay identity as sexual expression (and in my mind, there's no difference between the two). If I valued Pauline doctrine as highly as the Reverend does, I might be feeling unsettled right now! Fortunately, I don’t.

Unlike the Reverend, I can let the Apostle Paul be the fallible human being that he was. It doesn’t matter to me if he was a hetero-bigot at the time he wrote his letters to the Romans and Corinthians! As a Christian, I couldn't care less if he spoke disparagingly about my sexuality. Why? Because I know that the Savior didn’t, and the Savior is my ultimate authority. Frankly, I think these two chapters have less to do with giving Gay Christians arguments to fend off Fundie attack than they have to do with making a Fundie hero palatable for Liberal consumption.  Fail!  Neither mission was accomplished!

In his final chapter, "Are Christians Under The Law?" Rev. Brentlinger argues that under the New Covenant brought to us by Jesus Christ, we are not subject to any Biblical law. He writes:

Christians are not required to keep any part of the Old Testament Law to be right with God . . . because God has given us the righteousness of Christ . . . there is no reason for us to rely on our puny human ability to keep God's Law(p. 372).

I strongly disagree with him, and Scripture disagrees with Him, too! The Messiah is quoted as saying . . .

LUKE 16: 16, 17
The Law and the prophets were in effect until John (The Baptist) came. Since then, the Good News of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force; but it is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter in the Law to be dropped.

. . . and after making this statement, He commences to preach against adultery and greed.

The Law Jesus Christ refers to isn’t the Levitican Holiness Code, but that list of requirements for Eternal Life I mentioned earlier. Christians observe a modified version of the Ten Commandments, God’s original Covenant with His chosen people (Exodus 20: 1-17)! Even the Apostle Paul confirmed this truth in his letter to the Galatians when he wrote: The Law (of Leviticus) . . . does not annul a Covenant previously ratified by God (Galatians 3: 17).

However, breaking the Commandments won’t preclude a Christian from salvation; the Reverend is right about that. The Savior’s sacrifice on the cross means that all true believers can be forgiven their sins. They need to do more than just believe that Christ is the Son of God, though! They must believe that the example He left us was a blueprint for living and follow it. After all, didn't the Messiah teach that the one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do (John 14:12)?

There’s definitely a code of conduct for Christians! If there weren't, the Savior wouldn’t have provided one upon being asked (Matthew 19: 16-19). If there weren't, He wouldn’t have given His teaching about stumbling blocks that make a believer fall into Hell (Mark 9: 43-48). If there weren't, He wouldn't have told the adulterous woman He saved from stoning to go your way, and from now on, do not sin again (John 8:11). If there weren't, He wouldn't have affirmed loving your neighbor as yourself as the greatest of all God's Commandments (Mark 12: 31). If there were no code of conduct for Christians, Jesus Christ wouldn't have spent so much of His limited time on Earth chastising the behavior of the Pharisees and warning his flock away from their example! How could Rev. Brentlinger be such a diligent Bible scholar and yet ignore the following directive?

LUKE 13: 24-28
(Jesus Christ said)"Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the Owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying: 'Lord, open to us!' Then in reply He will say to you: 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say: 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets!' But He will say: 'I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!' There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out."

Rick Brentlinger is totally wrong to preach that the Law has no jurisdiction over Christians! Such a wayward teaching has potential to lead the Savior's lambs astray. This is the worst example of eisogesis to be found in Gay Christian 101!

"Gay Christian 101" concludes with Part Four.

12 April 2008

Gay Bibliolatry 101 (Part Four)

Gay Christian 101

At the end of his "No Homosexuals (sic) in Sodom" chapter, Rev. Brentlinger writes:

Since Christian condemnation of homosexuals (sic) is based on a false understanding of Genesis 19, non-Gay Christians need to reconsider their condemnation of homosexuality. By God's grace, this reconsideration may enable the Church to: a)refrain from hostile rhetoric toward the Gay community, b) focus on evangelizing the Gay community, and c) welcome saved homosexuals (sic) into the Church (p. 73).

He subtitles his book Spiritual Self-Defense for Gay Christians, but from the way he repeatedly addresses Conservative theologians in his text, I can tell that Gay Christians weren't his intended audience! He wrote this book as an appeal to his Conservative brethren. He thinks they're ignorant of Scripture, and that they just need educating. Well, if he thinks his book has a snowball’s chance in Hell of shifting the religious Right Wing’s anti-Gay positions, he’s in for a massive letdown!

I don’t share his belief that Fundamentalist theologians are ignorant of Scripture. Lack of scholarship isn’t the reason they condemn Lesbians and Gay men. I've got a few shocking news flashes for the Reverend: His colleagues already know that the Sodom and Gomorrah story isn’t a blanket indictment of homosexuality! They already know that the Levitican Holiness Code doesn’t apply to Christians. They already know the difference between ancient temple prostitutes and a modern Gay man. I daresay some of them even know the significance of Jesus Christ’s teaching about born eunuchs!

Their rigid stance has nothing to do with what they think the Bible says! It has to do with lust for political power, and a patriarchal worldview that demands draconian interpretation of Scripture, particularly as it relates to gender and sexuality (see my series of essays titled "Satan In The Pulpit"). Legitimacy of Biblical interpretation is of no importance to them whatsoever! Rev. Brentlinger’s intellectual appeals to such folk are doomed to shatter on the granite that lines the bottom of their wicked hearts!

He urges these hatemongers to welcome LGBT believers into their churches. That would be the equivalent of a malicious Gentile inviting an Orthodox Jew to a dinner party that isn't kosher!  How can the guest eat the food? He can't even touch the silverware! Just as food must be kosher before it can be safely consumed by a Hebrew person of faith, doctrine must be authentic before it can be safely absorbed by a Christian.

Fundamentalist doctrine is not authentic! Fundamentalist churches are not fit to be welcomed into, and the religion they teach isn’t fit to practice. Their religion is not Christianity, but Bibliolatry, the worship of the Bible as if it were God.

Unfortunately, that's the religion Rick Brentlinger seems to practice as well. He states right at the beginning of Gay Christian 101 that he is a “Bible believer” who accepts “the plenary, verbal inspiration and infallible authority of Scripture” (p. 2). Furthermore, he states that he believes “every word in Scripture, from the first 'in' in Genesis to the last 'amen' in Revelation”(p.3). Therefore, he surely must believe these words taken from the Ten Commandments:

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in Heaven above, or that is on the Earth beneath, or that is in the water under the Earth.

Why can't he see that imparting infallibility to a man-made document is a form of idolatry? The Reverend Jerry Maneker indicts Bibliolatry as folly. In a recent email, he told me:

It's not being intellectually honest, given the fact that there are no extant autographs . . . we are looking at a translation of a translation of a translation . . . the Canon appeared about 400 years after the Resurrection. If our trust in God is based on "Scriptural infallibility", we are missing the point . . . "Scriptural infallibility" was used as a justification for all sorts of atrocities: Subjugation of women, slavery, segregation, and, of course, demonizing LGBT people. That's what happens when one trusts "the creation" rather than the Creator!

He couldn't be more on the money! Anything filtered through human sensibilities is subject to human failings: Bias, bigotry, confusion, partisanship, sensationalism, etcetera. Nothing, not even the word of God, is safe from human distortion; the existence of Right Wing religious doctrine alone is proof of that!

Yet every day, Christian converts are taught that Scripture is infallible, and far too many are willing to accept this illogical premise. A Jehovah's Witness once told me in no uncertain terms that her faith depended on the Bible being 100% true. I was in my workplace at the time, and unable to pursue a religious debate with her, but this is how I would’ve responded if I could have: If you can't accept the existence of God without believing every word of a man-made religious text, then your faith is thinner than the paper that text is printed on!

What an outrageous thing, to try and force the Lord to conform to human limitations! You cannot hold God in your hand! You cannot turn God's pages. You cannot bookmark and highlight God! You cannot parse God's words. You cannot use God as an ideological football. The Bible exists because of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit don't exist because of the Bible, but from listening to what emanates from most church pulpits, you probably wouldn't know that!

How tragic, that a document which should be the primary means of Christian conversion has instead become the primary vehicle for false prophecy! Sometimes, I secretly wish that every Bible on Earth would be consumed with fire, just so people like that Jehovah's Witness co-worker would be shocked out of their Scripture-worshiping stupor. I wonder, would such people then decide that God is dead, or would they finally realize that the Lord doesn't need words on paper to impart His blessings and communicate His will to us?

Contrary to what Rev. Brentlinger and his Conservative colleagues claim, God is not "The Ultimate Author of Scripture" (p. 145). It's blasphemous to even suggest such a thing! Scripture is an approximation of God’s word. Some of what you read in the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and some was not. Some of it is true, and some is not.

I can say the same thing about Gay Christian 101. Just like the Bible, this book was penned by human hands: Hands that belong to an articulate, learned, and gifted Gay orator who is, unfortunately, very misguided! Even more unfortunate is the fact that, as a preacher, he has the power to mislead others and is actively doing so. The tragic part is, he doesn't even know it!

I cannot recommend the work of a Bibliolater as a doctrinal text. While I acknowledge that Gay Christian 101 contains a high level of scholarship, that doesn't change the fact that it's a fraudulent book. Yes, fraudulent! The religion it represents isn't Christianity, but an idolatrous distortion of same, and most of the mistakes I found in its pages stem from that fact.

I sincerely hope that one day, the Rick Brentlingers of the world will stop parsing the Bible and start preaching the Gospel! I hope and pray that they can grow to understand the difference between God and a guide to God fashioned by human beings. However, until that time, these centuries-old words attributed to the Messiah will apply to them:

MATTHEW 15: 13, 14
Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone! They are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.