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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.