Thursday, June 14, 2012

Confession: I Love Jesus and “The Gays”

By AnaYelsi Sanchez
Originally posted 6/2/12 at Brown-Eyed Amazon

This has been weighing on me for some time and I can no longer remain in the “closet.” You’ve probably seen the signs…had your suspicions…I’m just going to come out and say it…

I’m a heterosexual. I love Jesus. I…GULP…love “the gays” too.

Somehow, these 3 concepts, particularly the latter two, have been labeled opposing ideals. I beg to differ…

The church needs to repent for its exclusion, persecution, and alienation of LGBTQI people. Some would say that day is never coming. I understand their frustration. I feel it as well. Yet, I am always hopeful. Hopeful that people would mature and evolve. Hopeful that Christians would work to actively heal the wounds the church has inflicted. Hopeful that a heart of justice and mercy would take root in the church. Hopeful that people would let go of the party line and form real opinions based on knowledge and logic.

I’m always hopeful for these things. That’s why seeing them fail to happen breaks my heart.

I will address the scripture in the anti-gay arsenal below, but it is important to begin by saying that part of my decision to identify as a Christian LGBT Ally is that the alternative (“anti-gay,” “pro-marriage”) does not sit well with my soul.  I don’t use that term lightly.  The concept of rejecting an entire group of people (or their actions, as some Christian groups would distinguish) based on who they do/do not love or feel attraction for feels ridiculous and cruel. I will not call myself a loving Christian with one breath and denounce them with the other. That, to me, is true hypocrisy.

Case in point: I have a beautiful friend who is a Christian woman and attended a Christian university (ironically, named Grace University). After it was discovered that she was in a monogamous relationship with another woman, she was expelled from the school because they did not agree with her “lifestyle choice.” She allowed me to read the expulsion letter. It was anything but full of grace.

This is not a lifestyle choice; it is a sexual identity that is a part of their creation. The concept of aversion therapy or cures is incredibly offensive and treats a healthy person as though they suffer from a mental disease or defect that requires correcting. These types of therapy may result in a change in behavior but not a change in actual attraction. That is why Christians have so cleverly come up with terms like same-sex attraction vs. practicing homosexual.  “You can be gay just don’t ever act on it and we can all pretend it’s no longer true.” Homosexuality is not an affliction to be cured with the right remedy (1-part “holy water,” 1-part “pray the gay away,” and 1-part “shame them back into the closet?”). 

The high rates of self-mutilation, suicide, and drug use among homosexuals is not a product of shame, it is a product of shaming. We know that abuse victims, no matter how false abusive statement are, will eventually internalize the vitriolic hate they are subjected too.  Self-mutilation, suicide, and drug use are not indicative of a fault in homosexuals but rather a failing of society.

Why this issue? Why so much passion and attention? The church has a multitude of sins to choose from in scripture, arguably the most important one being the existence and treatment of those living in poverty. Yet our politics, our sermons, our debates focus heavily on homosexuality and its “threat” to marriage. Perhaps because this is a “sin” heterosexuals  feel no threat of falling prey to themselves and therefore can judge and condemn without fear of having that condemnation returned?

We love to pick and choose the easy targets. A friend of my once hit on the ridiculousness of the church’s fervent efforts to prevent gay marriage rather than doggedly pursuing reform among other marriage-related issues: “If we are going to make laws that two gay people can’t marry because out isn’t Christian, them why can two atheists or two Muslims marry each other? Why should we permit divorce? Why don’t we punish adulterers? How is any of that any different?”

Now for those bible verses that many love to throw around.

People spout the church rhetoric regarding homosexuality because that is what they have been indoctrinated with for years and therefore they don’t question it or even bother to challenge it. Rather than repeating the party lines of “God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” and even more ridiculous ones I would encourage people to really look at what they are saying. Many Christians throw the “but the scripture says…” line out with such passion but can’t even name a particular verse (I’m leery of people who don’t even know why they say what they say).

For those who can name the scripture: how much time have they spent reading it? Have they looked at the surrounding verses for context, considering the historical relevance, cultural influences, or even the fact that Jesus himself never once addresses the issue of homosexuality? How do they reconcile the church’s abolishing of so many other Levitical laws but its harsh stance on maintaining this one?

Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 are the go-to OT verses that appear to condemn homosexuality.  The church is in agreement that Leviticus was a list of laws given to the Jews by God that focused greatly on ceremonial cleanliness. It’s why Christians have abolished so many of them.

Consider that scary word, “abomination,” being used in these verses. An abomination? How much more horrifying could something be?  You know what other horrible thing God calls an abomination: eagles (Lev. 11:13).

“And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the osprey…”

Eagles are an abomination - they are unclean. Had much poultry lately?

We, the church, often make a point of stating that dietary laws and other restrictions in Leviticus were meant for a specific people, at a specific time.  It is our explanation for setting aside laws such as Lev. 11:13. The Levitical laws that appear to be addressing homosexuality are directed at the Israelites.  It is a warning to them not to worship false gods such as Molech. The chapters are breaking down the false worship practices; which include sexual acts as a way to gain favor from the gods.

These are just a few things to consider…

But what about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?  Sodom & Gomorrah is a party-line favorite. “Down with the gays! God destroyed entire cities because of them! He will smite them!”  Sodom and Gomorrah is not some warning tale of the perils of homosexuality. It’s an issue of hospitality and of sexual violence, not consensual homosexual acts (man raping angels) – refer to the book of Judges.

As for the New Testament, our understanding of NT verses that appear to address homosexuality is so deeply flawed. Strip away years of church rhetoric and it comes down to a poor translation/understanding of Greek language; particularly the words “arsenokoites” and “malakos.” The modern church has translated these words to mean “homosexuality” or “homosexual activity” (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy).  So many members of the church seem to have this issue with questioning church “authority.”

“Someone else translated it to mean homosexual therefore I don’t have the right or inclination to look at the evidence that the translation is wrong”

“We’ve always read it to mean that, therefore it must be true.”

Sidenote: Malakos (“soft” or “effeminate”) can be found in other Greek literature. It should be pointed out that it is not always a sexual reference [hetro/ homosexual]). The creation of the word “arsenokoites” is actually attributed to Paul himself. He created this word despite the fact that there were several other words in the Greek language (“erastes,” “eromenos,” “paedika,” “paederastes”) that already reference sex between two men. Could it be he was attempting to make a distinction between homosexuality and something else entirely?

If you look at the verses using “arsenokoites” with a more discerning eye you will note that Paul does not use this term when listing sexual sins, he uses it when listing sins of exploitation or economics – implying a reference more likely to male prostitution.  I find it interesting that the very verses the church uses to fixate on homosexuality as a sin may be drawing us back to that greater and more readily ignored issues: poverty, exploitation, and injustice.  Very interesting indeed.

One would hope this makes the loving Christian who claims to “hate the sin and not the sinner” and even the most staunch anti-gay activist lay down their “God hates fags” sign and pick up a bible. Consider your true motivations and reasons for jumping on the church bandwagon. At the very least, take pause.

Last August, I had the humbling pleasure of spending a few days in the company of Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr at the Center for Action and Contemplation. Most of my time was simply spent sitting and soaking up his words. I manged to write a few of those words down:

“We are responsible for our unconscious motivations and how they may result in hurt. Our sincerity is not enough.”

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, AnaYelsi Sanchez came to the U.S as a young child, gaining firsthand insight into issues of economic inequality, immigration, sexism, and racism. International service trips led to a passion for justice, and laid the foundation for a career as an activist at Florida Abolitionist, an anti-human trafficking organization working to prevent and combat modern slavery in the U.S. by mobilizing prayer, awareness, outreach, legislative advocacy, and facilitating victim services.

No comments:

Post a Comment