“The church is not of one mind. I expect this issue to continue to be raised until society comes to terms with it.” Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle, March 21, 2004 (speaking after Methodist minister Rev. Karen Dammann was acquitted in a church trial over her sexual orientation)
Recently, a CBS poll found that religion is a factor in people’s views of same-sex marriage: “Three in four people who say religion is extremely important in their lives would favor a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, and three in five think there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.” And a Pew Research Center survey released in November, 2003, concluded that a person’s religious beliefs are a “major factor” in determining how one feels about sexual minorities: “highly religious people are much more likely to hold negative views.”
Clearly, religious views in the United States regarding sexual orientation and sexual minorities continue to have an enormous impact on public policy. The current political row over civil marriage equality is only the most recent example of this fundamental reality. And it is all the more ironic considering that the Bible really has very little negative to say (some argue nothing) about sexual orientation and quite a bit to say in a positive vein about same-sex relationships. One might logically conclude that a systematic and concerted effort to educate the public mind about the Bible and same-sex marriage might help stem the anti-gay tide. Yet, with the exception of several notable religious activists, we in the LGBT community devote little time and energy to informing others or ourselves about what the Bible really says regarding sexual orientation.
Discrimination directed at sexual minorities derives its moral justification from supposed biblical condemnation. For nearly three decades, however, credible scholars and theologians have systematically and repeatedly debunked and refuted the antigay interpretations of the “Terror Texts” found in Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10. According to Ezekiel, Sodom’s real sin was pride and ignoring the needs of the poor. The sexual proscriptions found in Leviticus were most concerned with ritual impurity and had nothing to do whatsoever with the ethical or moral behavior of persons engaged in same-sex intimate relationships. Like the ritual proscriptions of Leviticus, Paul’s famous alleged condemnation in Romans is also about idolatrous worship practices, not homosexuality. Finally, most translations of “malakoi” (lit. soft, effeminate) and “arsenokoitai” (lit. “man-bed”) in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy are linguistically dubious. When one objectively and rationally considers the historical, linguistic, and cultural contexts of these five sets of verses, one conclusion is inescapable and irrefutable: the Bible does not condemn sexual minorities.
In fact, the Bible hosts an abundance of same-sex intimate relationships and holy unions. The story of David and Jonathan is one of several Queer-friendly stories in the Bible. Ruth and Naomi is another. The Roman centurion’s encounter with Jesus is another. There are also many stories of eunuchs throughout the Bible which might be interpreted in a “Queer” context. THESE stories belong to us! We must drag them out of the closet where they’ve been hidden all these centuries, dust them off, and lift them up for the entire world to see: “Look! Here WE are ≠ in the one refuge others never thought they’d find us ≠ the Bible!”
Some of these relationships more closely resemble the archetypal “traditional” marriage propagandized by the radical religious right than do many biblical or even contemporary heterosexual couplings. For example, David’s and Jonathan’s holy union covenant contained four identifiable components: the bonding of two souls in love, the familial aspect of their relationship, a mutual exchange of obligations and covenant oaths between David and Jonathan. David and Jonathan were bound to each other by their love. Jonathan’s soul was “knit” to David’s soul. “Qashar” (H7194), the Hebrew word used in 1 Samuel 18:1, meant, “to tie,” or bind and to, “gird, confine, compact.” This meaning is strikingly similar to the meaning of the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:24 that is translated “joined”: “dabaq (H1692) to cling, cleave, keep close.” David and Jonathan perceived that their holy union made them each a member of the other’s family. “Jonathan said to David: ëGo in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.'”
That the evidence in their case is so conspicuous is part of what makes David and Jonathan unique. They conducted their relationship openly. David and Jonathan lived in a culture that accepted their relationship without a second thought. Their story played a prominent part in the narrative of 1 and 2 Samuel. This prominence is further evidence regarding social and cultural acceptance at the time the story was told and written. The biblical validation of their holy union is that David “was prospering [acting wisely] in all his ways for the Lord was with him,” and that their covenant was made, “before the Lord.” If God viewed their relationship poorly, these pieces of textual evidence simply would not exist. Through their story and others, God affirms our existence and sanctifies same-sex, same-gender holy unions.
Thousands of years ago, David and Jonathan joined with each other in a holy union that was affirmed and validated by God. The time has now come for our state and federal governments to follow God’s lead and legally recognize the validity and sanctity of our relationships.
Thank you for passing this on to others.