I am not someone who is ever keen on pushing for humanity to do right by its minorities based on any theological foundations. Frankly, I don’t care for the tenets of religion as much as my parents would like me to. But after watching a 2016 TEDx talk, I wondered – not for the first time – why Christianity today is getting it all wrong.
When, as a Christian, you read the bible in your own context, especially in light of all the attention that issues concerning the LGBTQ community are receiving in recent times, it is important to do two things.
And the first is exactly what you have been doing: to take the texts that do talk about homosexuality, few though they may be, and really dig into them, and read them for yourselves. And ask, “What do they really say? And what do they really not say? And then what does that mean?”
The other thing that you can do is read the bible in context, as a whole, in all of its multiple and diverse voices, and ask, “What voices – what counter voices – could we lift up that might actually be queer positive?”
Now that’s different from saying that the bible somehow has a hidden gay agenda, because it doesn’t. It really has no agenda. But there are different voices that stand in contrast to the ones perpetuated in the world today that serve the purposes of subjugating minorities.
One of the most powerful examples is from the Book of Acts, which is basically the story of the earliest years of Christianity, in which people like Peter and Paul were going out into all the world, sharing what they’d learned and been taught by Jesus, and along the way, encountering a whole lot of diverse and unexpected scenarios.
And one of those was when the Apostle Philip was on the road, traveling somewhere, and he met an Ethiopian eunuch.
Now what is that?
Well, ‘Ethiopian’ is this case is just shorthand for anyone from Africa, south of the Sahara, with dark skin.
So there you go – an outsider on one count, because of the way he looks.
And a eunuch is a man who worked in a royal court and had undergone ritual castration so that he could serve the monarchy without posing the threat of producing male heirs who could usurp the throne. Now eunuchs in Judaism of that day and age were not full members of society. They were subject to all kinds of ritual prohibition. They were excluded.
So again: you have a double outsider in this Ethiopian eunuch.
And what happened? Well, he and Philip got to talking, one thing led to another. Next thing you know, the eunuch is saying, “Hey, look, here is a pool of water on the side of the road. What is to prevent me from being baptized, from becoming a full member of this community right here, right now?”
And Philip says, “Sure, let’s do it.”
He doesn’t interrogate him about his sexual practices. He doesn’t say, “Oh, nuh-uh, you’re not qualified.”
He just welcomes him on the spot.
And that story is a powerful counter voice that values inclusion and acceptance of someone who, in today’s context, might have some parallels with a member of the LGBTQ community.
Another example that I’d like to leave you with is from the letter to the Galatians, which is a very early piece of Christian correspondence, in which Paul was describing what the afterlife is like. And he says: In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, and there is neither male nor female.
So he radically just erases all the boundaries and distinctions that we put up among ourselves, by saying, “In the end, none of that matters.”
So I find myself wondering: what does it mean to say that in Christ, there is neither male nor female in a world where people are insisting on using the scriptures as a weapon to discriminate and determine what kind of relationships we have and what kind of marriage we have and what kind of way people should love?
And why are we so hung up on these contentious verses of the bible, on these narratives from thousands of years ago?
If you look at society, we have made so much progress just in this generation in terms of our understanding of homosexuality. The medical community, just a generation ago, described homosexuality as a disorder. But they’ve rewritten those manuals to no longer describe homosexuality as such. Legally and politically, we’ve come so far. There have been laws that overturned laws on sodomy and sanctioned marriage equality. Why then would we go back thousands of years when we have made so much progress in recent times in our understanding of human sexuality?
Isn’t it hypocritical that the modern day Christian would reach for the Old Testament texts as a basis of his beliefs when it comes to the issues of homosexuality, and then turn around to discard them and settle back into modernity in all other aspects of his life?
Isn’t it bewildering that a Christian would seek refuge in these discriminatory verses of the Old Testament that eschews the primary tenets of love and acceptance preached by Christ, the man from whom Christianity was birthed?
What does it say about you, as a Christian, when in issues concerning your fellow man, you seek justification for your discrimination in Old Testament texts which both Christ and civilization have left behind?
At the end of the day, how hard can it really be to love your neighbor as yourself?
I am @Walter_Ude on twitter