I don’t usually stray into issues around the acceptance (or otherwise) of homosexuality and same sex marriage. However, my attention has been drawn to a couple of really excellent blog posts.
The first of these is from Larry Behrendt, on Jewish-Christian intersections. Always stimulating and thought-provoking, Larry concentrates on issues around how and why Judaism and Christianity parted company, and what we can now do to overcome the historically nasty relationship between the two ( for which most of the blame lies with Christianity). In it, Larry points out that there is a good argument for saying that the “clobber text” in respect of homosexuality in Leviticus 20 can reasonably be read as indicating “taboo” rather than anything stronger, and as being culturally and temporally specific and not of general application; he points out (particularly interesting to me) that the same word, to-ehvah used of whatever is targeted by Lev. 20:13, is used of lending at interest and of investing for profit.
Now, if that be the case, using the usual biblical translation of “to-ehvah”, I can happily proclaim that capitalism is an abomination which should be taboo. This is going to preach!
The second is from J. Daniel Kirk, an evangelical professor at a fairly conservative seminary. Now, I like listening to Daniel (who is currently a regular contributor to Homebrewed Christianity’s Lectiocast, a resource for preachers working from the Lectionary). I like reading him. But he comes from a far more conservative strain of Christianity than I can really be comfortable with.
Here, however, it seems to me that he hits the issue squarely on the nail, and with superb force of argument. Certain people, he starts out, cannot be part of the community of God. Liberals (theological and social) should not stop reading there… the argument proceeds to make the point that the trajectory of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament regularly sets aside older exclusivist statements and replaces them with new, inclusivist ones, and asks why we cannot do the same here, despite Daniel thinking that the “clobber text” scriptures probably do actually target homosexuality in general rather than, as various very inventive interpreters have been doing recently, merely certain specific actions. I am still not certain I can go along with that portion of Larry’s argument, although I do find the in-depth look at the translation of Lev. 20 very interesting.
One reason why I have not commented is that about 40 years ago, I found myself asked by a friend, who is now in a same-sex marriage, to look at those clobber texts and tell him what I thought they meant for his clearly inborn sexual orientation, as he was a committed Christian. Much as I would have liked to reassure him, I cane to much the same conclusion as Daniel does – although you can argue about them, they probably evidence an exclusion of anyone with same-sex orientation both in Leviticus/Deuteronomy and in Paul’s letters, and said that I could wish that he might consider a different religious tradition (at the time, I was still exploring many religious traditions and could best have been described as a freelance monotheist of the panentheist variety). It was not possible at the time, and all I could suggest was that he reject those passages as not applicable. I did not see the internal justification which Daniel exposes for considering them as “timed out”.
Now, both Larry, in his more general thinking, and Daniel have provided ways in which the deselection of these passages as relevant to us here and now can be justified, and add to my earlier conclusion – that Christianity understands God as loving before anything else, and that he would not support the condemnation of exclusion of anyone on the basis of something they were born with. They have done it without the need to hold anything other than the highest view of scripture, as well. My thanks to both – and I wish I’d had their analyses 40 years ago!