A Queer Reflection From the Margins: A Love That Dare Not Speak its Name…

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Introduction

The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Anyone may come there for there is no cost. Rich man or poor man, bonded or free. The ground was level that day at Calvary.[1]

Currently, the Christian community finds herself at a crucial juncture in the road concerning non-issues/issues arising from the LGBT members within her congregations. While a small amount of Christian communities have provided refuge of inclusion, acceptance and love to LGBT members, historically the Christian community’s attitude towards members of the LGBT community has been one of contingent acceptance, that is, full inclusion on the basis that one does not act upon her desires and vows to a life of celibacy. For these Christian communities, error is not be found in one’s particular orientation (whether a person was born a particular way or not), but error is to be located in the particular act of sex. Thus, practicing LGBT members cannot be included into the life and ministry of the Christian community.

Nevertheless, as I have reflected, prayed and dialogued with sisters and brothers on these particular non-issues/issues I have found myself making a hermeneutical decision (an interpretive choice) contrary to those of my sisters and brothers that support a traditionalist interpretation. In reflecting on the LGBT issues within context of the Christian family, I posit that the predominant attitude of contingent acceptance is flawed and unacceptable. Even more, I suggest that the traditionalist paradigm promotes a double standard towards LGBT members within the body of Christ. Thus, in this brief reflection my chief aim is not to say something new – although what I say may be new and uncomfortable for some – but my intention is to briefly reflect on the LGBT situation in light of the claims made by the traditionalists in my Christian family. Hence, in opposition to my traditionalist sisters and brothers, I posit that the exclusion of LGBT members from the Christian community’s life and ministry as unacceptable.

Sexuality after the ‘Primordial Fall’ in Eden

Often, I feel that discussions concerning homosexuality in the Christian community begin with unchecked presuppositions that frequently (if not always) envision heterosexuality as something innocent while homosexuality and bisexuality is representative of a sexuality that is non-ideal. Nevertheless, I find such assumptions false because human beings live in a non-ideal world where there is no sexuality – whether heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual – that is innocent. In fact, in a Genesis 3 world (a non-ideal world) all sexuality is not ideal. As ethicist David P. Gushee comments,

Traditionalist often speak as if heterosexual people’s sexuality is innocent while gay and lesbian people’s sexuality is broken/damaged/ sinful. Revisionist often speak as if everyone’s sexuality is innocent. I am suggesting that in Genesis 3 perspective, no one’s sexuality is innocent.[2]

From a Christian perspective, Genesis 3 presents its readers with a striking realism about their present situation, namely, that the world that they inhabit is not God’s ideal. More strikingly, readers of Genesis 3 discover a world where all planetary and human life has undergone a type of primordial fall that has affected the entirety of creation and its ability to be all that God has intended it be.  Hence, if Christians were to take seriously the fact that they live in a non-ideal world, then non-ideal sexuality – heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual –  becomes a natural manifestation of the world’s ‘non-idealness’. Nevertheless, the question that arises from this reasoning is this: How should the Christian ethic respond to all non- ideal humans who have non-ideal sexualities – heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual?

At this point, many traditionalists will answer the question above by suggesting that heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals conform their sexuality to the pattern set forth in the creation stories (Genesis 1-2).  According to the traditionalist reasoning, God established ‘covenanted monogamous heterosexuality’ as the pattern for Christian sexuality in Genesis 1-2. As result of the traditionalist premise, traditionalists conclude that any divergent understanding of sexuality is in conflict with Scripture. However, in contrast to the traditionalist position, I hold all appeals to Genesis 1-2 as suspect due to the fact that human beings inhabit a Genesis 3 context – a context where all sexuality is not ideal. Thus, I posit that ethics from a Genesis 3 situation does a better job at coping with the reality of real human beings in a real messy non-ideal world.

The concept of persons not meeting God’s ideal is a reality present throughout the entire body of Scripture. For example, a non-ideal found in Scripture is polygamy, yet in Scripture our Jewish ancestors openly practiced polygamy in its pages. Should we say that our ancestors and their families were not blessed by God even though the Scriptures says they were? Another example can be gleaned from the practice of divorce and remarriage cautiously approved of by many in the Christian community. From Jesus, we clearly learn that divorce does not follow God’s ideal, yet within the Christian community divorce is permitted in certain serious situations. Are we willing to say that the divorced are not blessed by God? Are we willing to say that remarried persons are not blessed by God? If not, why be so liberal with divorce, remarriage, and polygamy and so conservative towards the full inclusion of covenanted practicing LGBT members within our congregations? If congregations bless divorces, remarried  persons, and polygamy in the Scriptures, what is to stop our communities from creating space for the full inclusion of covenanted practicing LGBT members within the Christian community? It seems to me that the traditionalist reasoning upholds a discriminatory double-standard  in its practice towards its LGBT members. For example,

  • To the divorcees, most Christians say, “Come be pastor, a leader with the youth or lead the music…”
  • To the polygamous in Scripture, most Christians say, “that was back then and not now….”

However,

  • To the lesbian, some Christians say, “Sit in the back row and do not say a word to anyone…”
  • To the gay male, some Christians say change…even though the gay male confesses, “I can’t even if I try…”
  • To the bisexual, some Christians say, “You just want it all don’t you?!?”
  • To the transgender little boy who believes she’s a girl some Christians say, “You are quite a strange thing!!!”
  • To the intersex girl some Christians say, “My Lord, that is quite odd!!!”

Nevertheless, over and against these remarks I find Jesus – the revealer of the God of Israel – welcoming these people with open arms, in the same manner that he has welcomed the tax collector, the destitute, the widow, the orphan, the prostitute and all those who have found themselves on the margins of religious, social, economic and political society. In contrast to the cookie cutter traditionalist paradigm for sexuality, I posit that a Genesis 3 ethic assumes, recognizes the messiness of a non-ideal world. A Genesis 3 ethic recognizes that all sexuality, albeit, homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual is not ideal.  Thus, in reference to LGBT members and heterosexual members, I propose the concept of covenant. “The Christian marital covenantal ethic rules out all non-marital sex, infidelity, abandonment and divorce (with the exception to certain situations), making celibacy the only alternative to management.”[5] In closing, I am reminded of a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he comments:

God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.[6]

From a Christian perspective, I find that such a statement profoundly captures a striking realism, namely, that the present world we inhabit is not representative of God´s ideal for creation – nor are human beings representative of God’s ideal. Rather, by God’s grace we can only try to be the best that we can be. Nevertheless, though the world we inhabit fails to meet God’s ideal, the redeeming, reconciling and unfathomable love of God still chooses to embrace the world in all its imperfection. Therefore, in opposition to my traditionalist sisters and brothers, I posit that the exclusion of LGBT members from the Christian community’s life and ministry as unacceptable.


Final Thoughts: I recognize that in writing this reflection some gracious, loving and God-fearing sisters and brothers will disagree with my conclusions on this subject. However, in our disagreements let us always remember Jesus, the one that unites us together in all our Christian differences. As that old Latin phrase once said, “In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things charity.” Also, it should be noted that this reflection is not exhaustive. This approach is representative of one of two approaches that I have taken concerning the LGBT community and their full inclusion into the ministry of the Christian Church.


Prayer: O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may we with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


[1] A Christian hymn entitled “The Ground is Level”

[2] Gushee, David P., Brian D. McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, and Matthew Vines. Changing Our Mind: A Call from America’s Leading Evangelical Ethics Scholar for Full Acceptance of LGBT Christians in the Church. Canton, MI: David Crumm Media, LLC, 2014. (Kindle Edition; 1467)

[3] Ibid. 1467 (Kindle Edition)

[4] Ibid. 1397 (Kindle Edition)

[5] Ibid. 1525 (Kindle Edition)

[6]  Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. New York: Macmillan, 1955 p. 84-85

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