Last night, I was re-watching El Mar for a class I will be team teaching next year about Coming Out narratives in cinema. For those who have not seen it, it is a complex and regressive narrative about “the children of war” and the trauma of sanctioned hate and violence. It culminates in a scene that reminds those of us who attend churches that teach community, cooperation, and equality that we cannot forget the traditions and ongoing practices of those who have largely controlled the name and the direction of church based Christianity throughout its history nor the conflation with totalitarian state projects. I would not recommend it to anyone traumatized by the Church or triggered by sexual violence & I’m still not sure we’ll be using it in class. (And no, this film is not about a predatory priest.)
As a Catholic, I only read the KJV or the NKJV, so it never occurred to me that the people who wrote the Bible were unlikely to recognize many of the Protestant publishing industry’s renditions of their words. (Should have had a copyright that said no tampering and no revisions without author’s permission . . . oh wait, what’s that on the last page again?)
A young man is suing two Born Again Conservative Protestant Publishing Giants: Zondervan and Thomas Nelson Publishing. The lawsuit alleges that the constant revision of Biblical text to reflect an increasingly homophobic attitude caused the plaintiff undue stress, shame, and sometimes physical pain. Translation or not, I don’t doubt that conservative Christian doctrine causes any number of people all of these symptoms and has been used to ostracize and abuse people far too long. Funny how the people who brought you “Jesus is love” are also the people who bring you “Ex-Gay” programming camps.
The lawsuit hinges not on the abuse that conservatives may heap on gay youth but the text itself. The text has to show a consistent pattern of revision designed to cause pain and suffering to the queer community. And this is where the publishing industry and the “translators” guilt comes into play. Take a look at the passages:
1 Corinthians 6:9
- 1969 – Know ye not that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminates, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…
- 1982 – Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexuals…”
- 1987 – “Do you not know that the unrighteous and the wrong doers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived(misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexual behavior . . .”
Do you see what I see?
It takes a certain kind of sickness to believe in an all powerful God and then willfully change the contents of His/Her word, even after S/He has told you not to change anything. The hypocrisy of hate never ceases to astound me.
A judge has agreed to hear the case and this little Catholic girl is hoping the publishers are found guilty. I am deeply concerned by the fact the sacred text of the Christian faith is being openly and willfully manipulated to foster hate/ to teach it from grade school forward as the word of any God. And I’m tired of my faith being twisted by hateful/filled people with any number of causes or desires throughout Church history that have nothing to do with God. (read more here)
Alternative Bible readings
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-10 list arsenokoitai among those who will be excluded from the Reign of God. Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality, argues that the definition of the word is in dispute; some people think it refers specifically to male sex work which is largely queer in nature.
- The story of Sodom in Genesis 19 is about offense against the sacred duty of hospitality. That is how Ezekiel 16:48-49 and Wisdom 9:13-14 interpret this text. The attempted male rape is offensive because it is rape.
- Leviticus 18:22 does use the word “abomination.” But some have translated that word based on other usages in the Bible and common at the time to mean “impurity” which is also used in other proscriptions in the Bible felt to emulate Gentile behavior. (Gentiles being bad b/c they were not Jews.) It is the same word used to describe eating pork on Fridays or being with a woman during her period.
- Romans 1:27 Paul uses the words para physin (“unnatural”) in this passage to describe gay men which translated in the same fashion as above is considered to mean “atypical” as in not everybody is gay. Romans 11:24 God is said to act para physin. (Paul however was one of the major writers in the Bible to mention, dissect, and make Other homosexuality, after having engaged in it for most of his life. We cannot ignore his overall anti-gay stance nor the potential place it comes from, in his own grappling with sexuality’s place in the service of God. Paul was also the one who said that the most pious thing was to not engage in sex of any kind.)
Church history that counters anti-gay assertions:
According to historian of Christianity, John Boswell, with the exception of a brief period during the collapse of the Roman Empire, there was no common opposition to homosexuality until the 12th century. Six separate councils in Visigoth Spain in the 7th Century refused to support an anti-gay stance despite the decision of Spanish ruler to do so. And all though most of 9th Century Europe had detailed sex codes none, with the exception of Spain, outlawed homosexuality. It was not until Augustine equated homosexuality with “dangerous feminization of men” and sexual expression with lust bordering on idolatry, and Chrysostum made the first erroneous links between animal behavior, “natural law,” and the “unnaturalness” of homosexuality that Church doctrine shifted toward a more uniform proscription of homosexuality. Even then, it took state sanctioned greed to finally solidify anti-gay doctrine by equating Muslims and queerness to justify the Crusades (the largest land and money grab since the Roman Empire). Later, colonials would use this same equation against colonies to outlaw homosexuality in India and usher in eugenicist driven sexual control throughout conquered lands/peoples, rewriting the identity and closing the space for multiple genders and sexualities. Many of these have still been yet to be reclaimed, giving the impression that the majority of the world was and has always been two gendered and heterosexual. Nazis would mobilize this same rhetoric to outlaw homosexuality in Germany and all occupied territories; many of these places had thriving queer cultures that were central to art, literature, and intellectual production and thus celebrated by their nations. When the Nazis fell, many governments unwilling to remove the anti-gay laws from the books fell back on Christianity as their excuse. As the only queer film made in East Germany, Coming Out, stated: “Everyone deserved equality accept for us. They [The liberation and then the revolutionary communist party] forgot us.”
Another damning part of the entire history is that none of the passage nor most of the discussion has centered on women’s sexual practices. If the Bible is actually claiming homosexuality is wrong why is women’s homosexuality not mentioned? Female heterosexuality is prominent in both the old and new testament. On the other hand, if the teachings are about particular sex practices, like rape, forced prostitution, csa, etc., that are proscribed for both men and women throughout the Bible than we have ample gay and straight examples as well as male and female ones prominent in the period. The absence of gender parity in this case then cannot be explained away by the simple male focus of the Bible.
Churches with an open door policy to the queer community
- Catholic churches by parish (under new Pope, leadership has one of the most conservative opinions of homosexuality at present but is not reflected in many sects and multiple individual churches particularly in the N. America and Canada)
- United Church of Christ (doctrinal history)
- Metropolitan Community Church (GLBTQ Ordination, key texts on queerness, and GLBTQs in the Bible)
- Association of Welcome and Affirming Baptists
- Episcopalians (history – leaves out the big split that basically meant Integrity Episcopalians became a queer affirming Episcopalian faith outside of the original/conservative Episcopalians)
- Methodists varies by church (leadership has one of the most punitive policies with regards to ordination, funding, and church body, despite having had repeated discussion about homosexuality and a statement claiming the equality of GLBTQ people)
- Gay Christian Network (online church, particularly important to those without access to safe Christian churches or faith communities, inclusive of those questioning queerness and those who are out and proud.)
- La Construcción de Mis Sueños – Noé Hernández
- Bible Reader – stock photo
- Saul03 – Noé Hernández
- Preacher – stock photo
- Logo for the Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbians and Gay Christians
- “untitled” – A/P Serge Lichtenberg (I love this image more than any I have seen in a really long time)
- La Virgen de Hamburguesa – Noé Hernández
- “Dante and Virgil in Hell” William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1850) – take a look at the embrace between Dante and Virgil and the gaze of the demon; it seems the artist has put some damning subtext in the image about whose preoccupation is actually sinful while maintaining the party line in the main read of the image
- Memorial Plaque @ Buchenwald Concentration Camp Site, Germany photo by Jerry Maynard
- heart – unknown
- Gay Christian t-shirt – Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond