Detoxing from Terrorizing Texts

For some Christian men and women who have a gay, lesbian or bisexual orientation, a handful of scriptures known as the Clobber Passages, have created much turmoil and many questions. When looking to the Bible for answers about our sexuality, we found what seemed to be definitive answers–namely– gay? no way!

Glass Window St. Edmunds College Cambride

Glass Window St. Edmunds College Cambridge

With minds often filled with fear and shame, we read a passage of an English translation of a copy of a copy of a copy of a First Century document written in an ancient language to a vastly different culture, and we immediately concluded that we cannot possibly be Christian and gay (or bisexual or transgender or lesbian).

For some of us, we then embarked on a journey, Quixotic in nature but with much more at stake, in order to de-gay ourselves or at least box in our desires for love, intimacy and companionship with someone of the same gender.

Westminster Cathedral, London

Westminster Cathedral, London

Today I will have coffee (actually I will drink a roasted barley coffee-like hot drink as I try to decrease the insane levels of caffeine coursing through my body) with a student at Cambridge who has struggled to reconcile his sexuality with the Bible.

In thinking about this meeting, I looked at the Clobber Passages, Bible verses that once filled me with dread. Today I find complete peace about them and what they say and what they don’t say to me about my sexuality. Using accepted exegetical practices, I now see that these passages do not in any way forbid me from being gay and having a male partner for love, romance, partnership, intimacy and sex.

Back in 1998 when I initially came to my senses, left the ex-gay route and, then began the slow and  arduous

Detail at entrance of Drill Hall, London

Detail at entrance of Drill Hall, London

coming out process, I distrusted gay theologians. I figured they just had their own agenda. I also distrusted the more traditional Bible commentaries particularly in regards to the clobber passages because I knew their interpretations were clouded by the prejudices of the men who wrote them.

The reality is that there are no real translations of the Bible. Because of what you have to do to “translate” the text from their original languages to modern English (or whatever modern language you read), what we end up with is more of a commentary than a translation.

Kings College, Cambridge

Kings College, Cambridge

For me, I had to go at these passages by myself with the tools that I had at hand. Having studied Koine Greek at college helped me to look into the original language of much of the Christian scriptures to find more closely about what is actually being stated and not stated. I also learned how to read a passage in context, not only in the context of the verses that surround it, but also the cultural, historical, political and social context in which it was first presented to a specific audience for specific hearers (not readers, most First Century Christians were illiterate.) Added to that I did further study into the early Church and the earliest uses of the Clobber passages, finding that the early Church Fathers handled these scriptures in a very different manner than modern church leaders.

I did look at what progressive scholars had to say, but most of the work I did for myself by myself, including looking beyond these five passages to seeing the many affirming and inclusive references to sexual minorities in the scriptures.

Umbrella sculpture, London

Umbrella sculpture, London

My final conclusion, in the simplest terms, is that the scriptures in no way condemn a loving relationship between two men or two women. We are accepted in the Beloved and can have a full relationship that includes romance, companionship, intimacy and sex. Certain types of behavior (rape, sexual idolatrous acts, lust) are forbidden by the Bible (this goes for heterosexuals as well).

For someone who has been so much inspired, influenced and terrorized by the Bible, it has been important for me to get to the bottom of what it says and does not say. Sadly far too many people worship the Book. They get so caught up in a word or a verse (usually out of context) they utterly miss the point.

Jesus said of his disciples that we will recognize them by their fruit, not their fancy handling of the scriptures. Jesus pointed out that the two most important commandments are to love God with abandon, wholeheartedly, with all of our being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

My final conclusion:

God is far more concerned with my heart than with my genitals and my anus.

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This post has 3 Comments

  1. Brittanicals on April 29, 2009 at 9:53 am Reply

    So glad you found peace in this, Peterson.

    I just don’t see the value in using a medieval translation of a translation of a bronze age book to deny present day humans their person hood. I look to the now, and see the faces of all my lovely friends, some of whom happen to be gay, and thats all the commentary I need.

    Keep finding your treasures and sharing them. You are very special.

  2. Ephilei on May 6, 2009 at 7:56 pm Reply

    I had the same experience. I also did not find help in the well known liberal interpreters. I had much more success in also studying context, Greek, etc and talking it over with others. The view I took (that Scripture only addresses homosexual sex, not homosexual orientation, because orientation was not discovered for hundreds of years so Scripture condemns heterosexuals from engaging in homosexual sex) turned out to be shared by many, many other Christians, both scholars and laity, but for some reason it remains strangely quiet. I’m not confused about Scripture anymore, but I am still confused by what interpretations do and don’t get attention.

  3. Michael on May 21, 2009 at 12:28 pm Reply

    Thank you, Friend.

    I, too, have gone this route of reclaiming the scriptures in context over the 30+ years since I came out.

    I’m grateful that you were gifted with this awakening and that you articulate it so well.

    Jesus distressed his community in part because he so completely rejected all of the so-called “purity” boundaries of his culture—just as he completely rejected the deeply-ingrained notion that God demands sacrifice in payment for sin.

    He says, instead, “The doors are all open, and you are already in the kingdom. Just look around and live as if that were so.”

    Blessèd Be,
    Michael

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