Thursday, May 31, 2007

So why didn't J.C. say anything about homosexuality?

The "What do we do with homosexuality?" thread was revived over at the Facebook CofC discussion board after stalemating and sitting idle for a month or so. (And on the same day that I'm approaching the home stretch on one of the founding texts of Queer theory!) Interestingly enough, the topic was resurrected with a post from a young gay man sharing his experience with the CofC.

So, with the combination of Judith Butler, Peter Brown, and the reminder that people still think that repeating Bible citations claiming male prostitutes won't enter the kingdom equals an argument spinning about through my head at work, I -- in between noting which building had been locked in the log book -- started thinking. What does it mean that Jesus never said anything (or, at least, wasn't reported to have said anything) about homosexuality?

I then thought about the transvestite saints and the eunuchs and the numerous early Christians who believed that gender and sex were a mark of the fall and would be erased within the kingdom of heaven. At this point, it crosses my mind that if sex and gender are in applicable in the kingdom of heaven, then the categories of heterosexuality and homosexuality become incoherent and meaningless as well. So, if J.C. ascribed to/knew/recognized/wanted to publish the word that sex and gender simply are not the ultimate reality and identity of a person, he wouldn't say much of anything about homosexuality or heterosexuality because the categories would have been irrelevant and nonsensical.

And well, it seems like as good of an explanation as any for why the Bible is virtually silent on the issue of homosexuality, despite the hijackers of Christianity shrilling claiming that homosexuality is greatest problem faced by the world today. Because, you know, just because the founders of a religion were concerned with other matters doesn't mean that Christians today should bother with taking care of the poor or anything. No, no, of course not.

Then I realized, I have way, way too much time on my little hands.

(edited 06/04 to add a clause I skipped over)




You took a sudden hard turn in the road with this statement: "Because, you know, just because the founders of a religion were concerned with other matters doesn't mean that Christians today should bother with taking care of the poor or anything." - or so it seems to me. I got a bit of whiplash there.

I suppose you are putting the issue in a larger context and showing it to be rather minor compared to other major issues. If so, I am with you somewhat.

The first and foremost umbrella thing I would say to your post, underwhich most everything else I could say belongs is that modern, western, protestant "Christians" definitely treat homosexuality differently than Jesus or "the Bible" (a nebulous term...). We would do well to rethink our pop stance on the issue.

Saying that does not mean I think homosex is any less sinful. I think it is. But the issue is so incredibly complex culturally, genetically and otherwise, and we do not approach it with the care it deserves. Most "Christians" I know treat it with stigma, shame and outrage. Not a good idea.

I do not intend to unravel all my thoughts on this comment, and I will freely admit that I do not believe I have clear conclusions per se. It is a troubling issue for me - theoretically speaking.

And I think the Bible actually does address it negatively at points. And at several places I think the Bible treats it peripherally. (Did I spell that right?) And again, I think it comes out negative. But I am not aware of any mandate or warrant for the madness "Christians" have unleashed on the issue. And I do not think it ranks any higher on the list of offenses than greed or envy, which regularly get a pass in the pews EVERY SUNDAY MORNING!!! And singling this one out for such scorn is deeply malproductive. And if I am understanding your hard sudden turn of comments, then I agree that tending to the poor, the widows and orphans is the business the church needs to make a higher priority than our outrage at homosexuality. It is particularly shameful when homosexuals (especially as part of the agenda to show up do-gooders) actually show up the church with kindness and gentleness when so often "Christians" don't.

I have enormous sympathy for those who struggle with homosexuality. I have no doubt some will read this and think I have contradicted myself to say that at this point. I hope those who disagree with me will be as gracious with me as I am with them.

Jesus is Lord!


Miss ya around the MG site... Don't be a stranger...

WordK said...

Hello yet again!

First things first. I probably should have bracketed the the quoted line and marked it as *hear in deadpanned sarcasm.* Or, have just reread it a third time and thought well that is not the most coherent sentence you have ever written, Metra. The intent was to note that much more time is spent in the Bible exhorting the people of God to take care of one another than is spent condeming homosexuality.

And now onto other things. Like matters of substance, rather than the fried state of my brain. (Apparently brains go well with eggs.) :)

I don't think that I actually know what Jesus thought about the issue of homosexuality, and any attempt at reconstructing J.C.'s actual thoughts is going to be marred by presentism. So you're right when you say that modern Christians treat and think about homosexuality different than Jesus would have. Not the least of the reasons is the vast differences in the construction of homosexuality and heterosexuality in the modern world versus the world of the Roman Empire. And, I should add that most the radical early Christians of the "genders and sexes are a sign of the fall" crowd believe strongly in celibacy. All sexuality was completely irrelevant for them.

I also actually won't argue with you note that there are several places in the Bible that portray homosexuality in a negative. The one of thinking of the allusions to lesbianism in one of the Epistles. Reading literally, it's hard to see that as anything other than negative. Some of the other references people use -- particularly Lot's angelic guests -- I think are less clearly negative about homosexuality.

Basically, I don't think it's an irrational position for a Christian to believe that homosexuality is a sin. It's not my view on the matter, but I'm not offended by people who believe that. The behaviors of many people who believe this are irrational, but the belief itself is justified. (I'm skirting the border of contradicting myself as well. If you give a pluralist a conviction, she'll want another to go with it.)

Well, there's another 10 cents worth or so. And judging from the parenthetical comments I put in there, I'm in a really weird headspace at the moment. Always good to hear from you, and I'll get back to archive browsing soon, I promise.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

On my personal journalspace, despite being not in the slightest bit Christian, I have Romans 14:14 (in Greek, because I'm a gigantic nerd). I find it useful to contemplate.

Last time I read through the gospels, I thought I spotted signs that Jesus treated the women in his vicinity with a great deal more respect than was the cultural norm; I would not be surprised by a "Look, gender isn't the point, people" message.

WordK said...

Here's this for geeky: One of my classes read The Way of a Pilgrim. I promptly went, found, and memorized the Jesus Prayer in Russian (not that it's particularly long). Not for any real reason, just because I could. I might not know Russian that well, but I at least know where to start sounding things out. ;)

People have been pointing out for years that Jesus's treatment of women, as recorded in the canonical gospels was progressive -- both for the time and even for contemporary time. You're not alone there. And the noncanonical gospels lend themselves even more strongly to a reading in which gender literally has no meaning.

Thanks for commenting!