|LureenLaFountaine and John Rankin |
Does the Bible Object More to Homophobia thanto Homosexuality?
|A debate atSouth Springs Community Church Colorado Springs, Colorado August 3, 1996 |
Moderator Doug Schmidt
Pastor Jeff Short
Lureen LaFountaine is an ordained minister inthe Denver Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church USA.
John Rankin is President of the Theological EducationInstitute. Address: TEI, 100 Allyn St., Hartford, CT 06103 Phone: (860)246-0099
| The first minute of Ms. LaFountaine's openingstatement was not captured on tape. |
LUREEN LAFOUNTAINE: As I said, I do not take the Bible literally.There are six passages that relate to same-sex behavior. I imagine youprobably know them as well as I. Genesis 19, Leviticus chapters 18 and20, Romans 1, and then of course 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy.
If we had meore time... Actually, I do a four-hour biblical self-defenseworkshop. And I would love to come and talk about this in that setting.But fifteen minutes does not allow me time to do justice to the contextwithin the passages.
[sound system noise] ... behavior. There are over three hundred passagesthat talk about heterosexual behavior. I find it very interesting thatsome folks in our religious communities preoccupy themselves with thesesix passages, and say that indeed God says "no", gay-lesbian-bisexual peopledo not have a place at the table. I disagree.
The question isn't, "Does God object more to homophobia than to homosexuality?"The reality is, homophobia as I understand it is an unconscious fear, aninnate fear around gay-lesbian-bisexual people. A lot of people in thechurch say, "I'm not afraid of homosexuals, I just don't want them to behomosexual." That indeed is a fear. Homophobia and heterosexism is treatingpeople who are gay-lesbian-bisexual as if they are not, to say there issomething wrong with you. And that is not true. The reality is, who weare as gay-lesbian-bisexual people, that is God's good gift to us.
And Jeff, I hope that we can do an education series on the Bible insteadof a fifteen minute debate on scripture passages. But to begin to lookat, what does the Bible really say? What is Genesis 19 really about? Sodomand Gomorrah, what is that passage about? That passage is about homoeroticrape, inhospitality. And Jesus actually refers back to that passage. Allother references around the Sodom and Gomorrah story refer to the inhospitalityof Sodom and Gomorrah. And Jude 7 talks about angelic nature, they're talkingabout the raping of angels. Sodom and Gomorrah has been mistranslated throughoutthe centuries, because of people's homophobia, their internalized feelingsaround gay-lesbian- bisexual people.
The Levitican passages are talking about a Levitican code for the Jewishpeople. It's interesting, there's over six hundred laws in that Leviticancode. And I really challenge people who want to hold up these two referencesto gay males, to live out every one of those other Levitican codes. InLeviticus 20 there is a reference that says that children who curse theirparents should be stoned, and of course we say, we don't do that. Well,we hope that we don't do that.
[Wind gust] There's a little wind blowing. [To moderator] Can we stopthe time? That's all my bibliography. I brought a bibliography. I guessif you're not coming to it, it's coming to you. [laughter] It's a joke.This is the danger of being outside although it's beautiful.
I want to talk about the Romans 1 passage, because that's the only passagethat talks about lesbians. And all the other passages it refers to gaymales. The Romans 1 passage where people say, that's the crux of naturaltheology, that indeed what Paul is saying there is that it is wrong forsomeone to lie with a person of the same sex. Paul's understanding of homosexualitywas very much a presupposition which was held with the other HellenisticJews around homoerotic actions. First of all, he saw that as a naturaldesire, that it was natural for people to have a desire for the oppositesex. That when someone chose to be homoerotic, that they were choosingagainst nature. So Paul did not have an understanding of homosexuality.Actually the word "homosexual" was not even coined until 1869. He believed,like the other Hellenistic Jews, that homoerotic acts were intrinsicallylustful, and all who engaged in such actions had insatiable sexual desire.He understood it not in a loving, monogamous relationship, but he understoodit as man- boy pederasty, cultic prostitution, and masters over their slaves.He had a very limited view of gay-lesbian-bisexuality.
The other thing that informed his belief system was the confusion aroundsexual identities and roles. In that time it was very patriarchical. Theman was the man and he was to be the active partner in sexuality. And soof course, in homoerotic behavior somebody had to be the passive, the feminine.And you may know, or you may not know, in that time period within the patriarchy,we as women were seen as "less than." It was the worst thing to be createda woman. And so anything that would be "woman-like", being a receiver sexually,was seen as negative.
The other fear that Paul held was the fear that homoerotic practicecould lead to the extinction of the human race. Philo and other philosopherswrongly assumed that same-sex intercourse rendered a man sterile. So thiswas informing his view. There wasn't an understanding of gay-lesbian-bisexualpeople. I think only recently, in the last 20, 30, 40 years, people havebegun to say this is who gay-lesbian-bisexual people are.
How many of you have ever met a homosexual? Raise your hand. OK, a handful.
I think the thing that's important to say is that as a Christian woman,I am Christian first. That my allegiance is to Christ. And that I triedfor twenty-seven years to be heterosexual. And it wasn't until I datedthis man David, who said, when are you going to deal with the fact thatyou're lesbian? My sin was denying who God created me to be. I repentedfrom that sin and said, yes God, you have created me to be lesbian, andthis is your good gift to me. And I can only tell you the positive experience.
I am a member in good standing of Denver Presbytery and continue tobe affirmed by that group of colleagues. And I think one of things thatis important to remember is that those of us who are gay-lesbian-bisexualand who are Christian, particularly people who are Christian, want to bein the church. The irony is the church wants to kick us out. We are alreadyin the church. We have been in the church for centuries, serving the churchfaithfully. The reality is that the injustice that has been done unto usby bad interpretation, bad translation, by not understanding what the Bibleis about. Dr. James Forbes from Riverside Church in New York City, recentlysaid at a conference that we did, is that people often take those six textsand treat them very unbiblically. They don't treat them within the contextof what scripture is about.
For me what it means to be Christian is to follow Jesus. And I lookat what Jesus says in the scriptures, and he talks about loving neighboras self. Nowhere did he say love neighbor only if they are heterosexual.He says, do not judge lest you be judged. There's a lot of judgement goingaround. I can speak as a Presbyterian in my own denomination where peoplewill say you're less than, you're sinful. We love you but we hate yoursin. That is the biggest judgement and the most violent action I've everexperienced, to be told we love you, but ... Because who we are is God'sgood gift to us.
I think part of the challenge is what is sin. Sin I believe is whatgoes against our understanding of God's intention for faithful human existence.Jesus and Paul in their day redefined the character of sin. Jesus statesit was sinful to touch a leper, yet it appears that not to touch a leperwas a sin of omission. To avoid the leper was to go against God's intentionfor human relationship. Jesus touched the leper, and in so doing sinned,and yet redefined what sin is about. In Paul's day, to eat non-Kosher foodwas a sin for faithful Jews. And yet for Paul, who continued to see himselfas a faithful Jew, even after his call, his conversion, anyone who mandatedthe eating of Kosher foods, or mandated the observance of circumcisionfor a Gentile was sinning. You can find that reference in Galatians 2.
In conclusion, the challenge is how do we discern the will of God forGod's people? I think we discern the will of God by looking at the fruitsof the Spirit of gay-lesbian-bisexual people in your congregation, in yourcommunity. Are they doing the will of God? Are their works doing righteousnessand bringing glory to God? It's interesting, in Acts 5 the Pharisee Gamalielsaid, if this is of humankind it's going to fail. He was talking aboutthe apostles of the time. But if this is of God, you are going againstGod. And I challenge people that are in the churches, that are saying noto gay- lesbian-bisexual people, that you are going against God, by notproviding a welcome or hospitality.
Saint Augustine said in his writings, Christian Doctrine: "Whoever therefore thinks that he understands the divine scriptureor any part of it, so that it does not build the double love of God andof our neighbor, does not understand it at all."
When Christ was asked what was the most important commandment, he saidto love God with your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love neighboras self. I think that's the challenge that we have in terms of eradicatinghomophobia, eradicating any sort of injustice that is happening in ourchurches, that is happening in our synagogues, in our community; sayingyes to God.
Part of this is getting to know gay-lesbian-bisexual people. Not justknowing them because you see them on TV in a debate. But knowing them personally.I speak a lot with the evangelical community in my denomination, is tosay, let's build on common ground. We have a faith in Jesus Christ. Whatcan we learn from each other? How can we be the body of Christ for eachother and learn about our different experiences?
I have forty-five seconds, is that right?
MODERATOR: About a minute.
LUREEN: Oh, about a minute. That's a miracle, isn't it?
I want to share a quote from Desmond Tutu, archbishop of Cape Town.Desmond Tutu says:
"From the hearts of persons that we first accepted as baptized fellowChristians, members together with us all in this body of Jesus Christ,wherein as the result of that baptism there is neither Jew nor Greek, malenor female, free nor slave, there is radical equality." (And he's talkingabout gay-lesbian-bisexual people.) "And then we spurn them, we shun them.Because we're all caught up in the acknowledged or tacit homophobia andheterosexism. We reject them, we treat them as pariahs, we push them outsidethe confines of our church communities, and thereby negate the consequencesof their baptisms. We make them doubt that they are children of God, andthis must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for somethingthat is increasingly clear they can do little about."
"Someone has said that if this particular sexual orientation was indeeda matter of personal choice, then gay-lesbian-bisexual people must be thecraziest coots around to choose a way of life that exposes them to so muchhostility, discrimination, loss and suffering. To say this is akin to sayingthat a black person voluntarily chooses their complexion and race, thatexposes him or her to all kinds of hatred, suffering, disadvantage to befound in a racist society. Such a person would be stark raving mad."
"It is only of homosexual persons that we require universal celibacy.Whereas for others we teach that celibacy is a special vocation. We saythat sexual orientation is morally a matter of indifference, but what isculpable are homosexual acts. Then we claim that sexuality is a divinegift which when used properly helps us to become more fully human, andakin really to God, as it is this part of our humanity that makes us moregentle and caring, more self giving and concerned for others than we wouldbe without this gift."
"Why should we want all homosexual persons not to give expression totheir sexuality in loving acts? Why don't we use the same criteria to judgesame-sex relationships that we use to judge whether heterosexual relationshipsare wholesome or not? I am deeply disturbed by these inconsistencies andknow that the Lord of the church would not be where his church is in thismatter. Can we act quickly to let the gospel imperatives prevail as weremember our baptism and theirs and be thankful."
The reality is that we are in the church, we will continue to be inthe church, we are faithful people of faith, Christians, Jews, Buddhists.That we will continue to follow God and be who God has created us to be.And that's the good news of the gospel. Thank you.
text © 1996 John Rankin/Lureen Lafountaine