Most modern gay men and lesbians are either afraid of the Bible or unfamiliar with its content, thinking that the the Bible has only bad news for them. While it is true that the Bible was written in the context of patriarchal, heterosexist cultures, the message and story of God's unconditional love in Christ can be the "power of salvation" for gays and lesbians as well as for heterosexuals.
A bold, proactive reading of the Bible offers new life for lesbians, gay men, and their families and friends. Consensus is growing among respected scholars of Scripture that the Bible does not condemn such relationships. Contemporary gay and lesbian Christians have focused on proving that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. It is time to move beyond defending this position. It is not enough for the Bible simply not to condemn homosexuality. Gays and lesbians must be able to say, "Yes, it is..."Our Story, Too!"
Opening Doors of Ancient "closets"
Liberation theology and feminist biblical critique have shown that the Bible, in order to empower all people, must be read with new eyes from the vantage point of oppressed peoples. When we read the Biblical stories through today's experience, they come alive with new relevance. What if we just assume that lesbian and gay people were always in the Bible? Their historical counterparts followed Moses and Miriam in the Exodus, and walked with Jesus by the Sea of Galilee! Lesbians and gay men are everywhere, and always have been, even when silent and closeted about their sexuality.
It is time to boldly liberate some Biblical gay, lesbian, or bisesxual characters and stories from ancient "closets". Centuries of silence in Biblical commentaries and reference books must now be broken by a passionate search for Biblical truth about sexuality.
Does the Bible include references, to, or stories about, gays and lesbians consistent with what historians and anthropologists know about sexuality during Biblical times? The answer is, "Yes!". Some stories are incontrovertible. Others are compellingly gay and lesbian. And, there are other stories curiously suggestive of same-sex relationships. All of these can empower lesbians and gay men to joyfully embrace the Bible.
A Lesbian and Gay "Nation"
The book of Acts is an account of the early Church as it attempts to preach and live an "unhindered gospel" (Acts 28:31). Today, there is a great, global awakening of gay and lesbian communities, who still need access to an "unhindered gospel." Two crucial stories are central to such a gospel: Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10) and Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8). Both have their roots in the prophecies of Isaiah 56. Isaiah proclaims a future day when Gentiles and eunuchs will be included among the people of God, and their sacrifices will be "acceptable." The Greek translation of the Hebrew word for "acceptable" in Isaiah 56:7 also appears in Acts 10:35.
In the story of Peter and the Roman centurion Cornelius (a Gentile), Peter is given a divine revelation from God: ". . . God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God." (Acts 10:34-35). The word "nation" is actually the Greek word ethnos from which we derive our word "ethnic." The term refers to a race, culture or people. Thus Peter learns that among every race, culture or people those who fear God and do what is right are eligible for baptism.
Is the gay and lesbian community just a political lobby for homosexual behavior, or is it an ethnos? Certainly, there are heterosexual people who engage in homosexual sex, and gay and lesbian people who may never have sex at all. Are gay and lesbian people a kind of behavior, or a kind of people for whom homoerotic attraction is one characteristic? An ethnos could be defined by a common history, vocabulary, culture, institutions (schools, libraries, clubs, churches, synagogues, social organizations, businesses) heroes, political leaders, scholars, values, and the ability to recognize each other even when submerged in the dominant culture. If these constitute an ethnos, gay and lesbian people are included in the word "nation" used in Acts 10. What evidence of gay and lesbian ethnos exists in the Bible? This is a complex detective story made more difficult by thousands of years of heterosexist bias in secular history and Biblical scholarship.
- Next >>