This is part two of a seven part series on LGBTQ+ themes and the Bible. The first theme we explored was The Closet/Coming Out.
The seven themes are:
- The Closet/Coming Out
- Queer/Alternative Family
- Transition & Transitioning
- Drag & Disguise
- Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
- Breaking Norms: Gender/Social/Class
Today we will look at examples of Queer/Alternative Families.
Many LGBTQ+ people have found themselves in situations where their biological families are not accepting and affirming. This can happen at any stage in life, but it becomes all too common for LGBTQ+ youth and elders. It is a testimony to the resiliency of LGBTQ+ people that we model what it means to have chosen family. In this weird time of climate change when so many people are being displaced from their homes, LGBTQ+ people teach the rest of the world a lot about what it is like to live together with others who are not biologically related.
There are several stories in the Bible where queer/alternative families are formed. These non-traditional family units happen in times of great turmoil and change when people need to look after each other. .
The example I gave at the Wild Goose Festival is about the queer/alternative family that appears in the Book of Esther. A young Jewish girl, Hadassah, is born in exile in Persia.
Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. Esther 2:5-7
Scholars speculate about this Mordecai. It is possible he was not related to Hadassah/Esther by blood. They also point out Mordecai has no wife or children. Later in the story we see Mordecai regularly hanging out with eunuchs in the place in the palace designated for them. It is possible Mordecai is a eunuch, and as such unable to have biological children.
Through Hegai, a eunuch in the Persian court, Hadassah comes to the palace, is renamed Esther, and goes into an intensive make-over program to prepare her to appear before the king. The king ultimately choses her as the next queen. Mordecai and Hegai serve as adoptive parents to Esther, someone who without their protection would likely experience many dangers and risks. They care for her, train her, prepare her for life. They form an unconventional alternative family.
The participants who attended the LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Hour provide more examples of queer/alternative families
- Ruth & Naomi (and their kinsman, Boaz)–Book of Ruth
- John, the beloved disciple and Mother Mary–John 19:26,27
- Mary, Joseph, Jesus–Matthew 1:18-25
- Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus–John 11
- Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ismael–Genesis 16 (This alternative family unit though fell apart under the strain caused by inheritance rights. Liam Hooper does a wonderful job talking about this story in the Bible Bash podcast episode about Ismael and Hagar.
- Elijah and the widow–1 Kings 17:7-16
- Paul, Silas, and young Timothy–Acts 16
- David, Jonathan, Mephibosheth–2 Samuel 9
What about you? What stories from the Bible do you want to add to the list of Queer/Alternative family stories. Leave you thoughts in the comments below.
Many thanks to Wild Goose and the folks who attended the workshop!
IF you want to hear more alternative readings to the Bible, check out the monthly podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper: The Bible Bash Podcast! available wherever you listen to podcasts.
(featured image: From the Series “Plaid Houses” by Laure Tixer)