“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
The Taliban took the Muslim religion and twisted it into its own projection of God’s justice. They took their own prejudices and imposed them on the Koran to justify the killing and maiming of innocent civilians. They use religion as a cloak with which to clothe themselves, and thereby assuage their consciences that what they are doing is not only good and noble, but is consistent with God’s will.
September 11th and the ensuing anthrax cases are designed to create terror in one’s heart and that terror is seen as justified by the appeal to God. Otherwise intelligent people can take the God of peace and turn Him into a warmonger against the innocent in our midst.
Unfortunately, Islam isn’t the only religion that has its haters, its hate mongers, its perverts. Christianity also has its perverts who preach a false gospel that excludes, discriminates, and demonizes certain classes of people. Via many televangelists, and through many pulpits throughout the world, gay and lesbian people are castigated by an appeal to the Bible and to these perverts’ sense of “God’s will.”
These perverts take their preconceived prejudices and impose them on the Bible and make it say what it doesn’t say, when seen in context. As the excellent author, Peter J. Gomes says in his book, The Good Book: Reading The Bible With Mind And Heart, when we read the Bible we must seek to understand what it says, what it means, the subtext, the context, what we bring to the text, and what we take out of the text.
The Bible has historically been used to affirm slavery, segregation, and the subjugation of women. Indeed, in the Catholic Church women aren’t allowed to become priests, and in some Protestant churches women aren’t allowed to vote on congregational matters. The Bible has historically been used as a hammer to oppress certain classes of people; the justification for such oppression is “God’s will.”
What made many Abolitionists and others such as Martin Luther King unique is that they took the very same Bible that was used to disenfranchise and demonize certain people and saw in it certain principles that overrode biblical practice. Indeed, they saw that biblical principle must override biblical practice. Just because certain institutions were put into place in Ancient Israel and Rome doesn’t necessarily make them relevant to the twenty first century in the United States.
The biblical principle that overrode biblical practice was the call to equality, freedom, and liberation of all people from the boot of their oppressors, even those oppressors who wear clerical collars. They took the Apostle Paul literally when he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
What helps make the perverts in the Church world so dangerous is that their message of exclusion is not consistent with the Gospel message of inclusion as seen in the words of Jesus that began this article. Many people, some of whom never set foot inside of a church, feel free to discriminate, shame, bash and even kill gay people and feel no remorse, as they feel they are doing God’s will. Organized religion has helped marginalize and shame gay people as seen in the fact that the suicide rate for gay youth is three times that of non-gay youth. And the burden of this atrocity must be laid squarely at the feet of organized religion!
Some may argue that the Bible condemns homosexuality! The fact is that the word “homosexual” is not to be found in the biblical manuscripts, as it was coined in the late nineteenth century and didn’t appear in our English Bibles until 1946.
In the Old Testament people were called upon to be fruitful and multiply and, hence, any sexual act that didn’t have the possibility of procreation was taboo. That was the sin of Onan! We are not a tribal society living on the edge that must procreate in order to maintain our ability to survive, as it is now well acknowledged that sexual activity need not always be justified by the possibility of procreation. Therefore, it is permissible for barren women and sterile men to be intimate with each other.
It must be acknowledged that regarding homosexuality it does not appear in the Ten Commandments; Jesus never talked about it; the prophets never wrote about it. If it were of great importance, one would think that it would be mentioned in at least one of these contexts.
In the New Testament, one must look long and hard to find verses of Scripture that ostensibly deal with homosexuality. Romans 1:20-32 does not deal with loving relationships between people of the same gender who are constitutionally homosexual. It deals with people who turn their backs on God and worship the creature more than the Creator; are likely heterosexuals who engage in homosexual acts to pagan deities. The book of Romans was undoubtedly written from Corinth, which had about one thousand religions, the most popular one being the fertility cult of Aphrodite.
1 Corinthians 6:9 says that the “effeminate” will not inherit the kingdom of God. The Greek word that is translated “effeminate” is “malakoi,” and it means “soft.” It is used elsewhere in Scripture to denote soft clothing and illness. In this context, it may denote people who have soft morals or who lack courage. There is no warrant for translating it as “effeminate,” and it contradicts Paul’s assertions in Galatians 3:28-29.
1 Timothy 1:10 deals with “them that defile themselves with mankind.” In the New American Standard translation, that term is translated as “immoral men and homosexuals.” The latter term, as previously indicated, doesn’t appear in any biblical manuscript. Paul’s reference to homosexuality was undoubtedly seen in the context of idolatry and exploitation, not in reference to the constitutional homosexual.
And that’s it! No other references to homosexuality exist in the New Testament. The Law was fulfilled in Christ, so we are now free from its strictures. Hence, the Gospel is good news indeed to those who trust in God’s grace in having a big enough tent to house all of His children.
Don’t let the perverts hijack Christianity as the Taliban hijacked the Muslim religion!
Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. He also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.