Sunday, May 19, 2013

me and Mr. Shore

I've run across a blog by a guy named John Shore, which would probably only appeal to a niche interest group, but I guess that's the way most blogs are. Mr. Shore is Christian, enthusiastically so, and also married and straight. Lately he has been writing quite a bit about the illogic of Christians opposing homosexual love.  He has an interesting point of view, and I love reading it.

But I don't think he gets the Evangelical mindset.  He didn't grow up as an Evangelical, he converted to Christianity as an adult.  He seems to think that if you point out the logical fallacies in Evangelical thought, they will realize the error of their ways and lighten up.  But that's not the way most Evangelicals think.  For most Evangelicals, the fact that homosexuality is defined as a sin at some point in the Bible (any point) is enough.

They don't want to discuss it, think about it, or question their own assumptions and biases. In fact, in their minds, to do so would be moral weakness.  If their arguments are illogical, they will simply tell you that what seems illogical to human beings is not necessarily illogical to God ("Because that which the world deems foolish in God is wiser than men's wisdom" 1 Cor 1.25).  Their arguments don't have to make sense, because that would be relying on the human intellect instead of relying on faith in God's Word, and in their opinion, God's Word says that homosexuality is a sin.

All they need is to be able to point to a verse that says that backs up their belief --and in spite of what most liberal Christians want you to believe, there are verses that say that homosexuality is a sin (try Romans 1.26-27, or 1 Corinthians 6.9-10, for example). And that's all they need.  God said it, I believe it, that settles it, a favorite Evangelical phrase goes.  It's maddening and infuriating, because exactly what "God says" is often far from obvious (and has to do as much with what they've been taught to believe as it does with what the Bible actually says), but that's the way it is.

I haven't read everything he's written, but Mr. Shore seems to argue that Bible doesn't really say that homosexuality is a sin. I think that's the wrong way to approach it.  Evangelicals love to get nit-picky about what Bible verses say, you'll never convince them that way. They'll just get more and more stubbornly attached to their interpretation of exactly what the Bible says in verse x, y, or z.  What might work instead is examples of faithful, committed Christians, who go to church and participate in outreach and ministry, and study the Bible and pray, but don't believe in shaming, judging, or condemning other people because their sexuality doesn't match up with traditional heterosexual norms.

Actually, I think we should meet the madness head-on. Yes, the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, but I disagree. I am a Christian and I do not think this is a problem. God gave me a brain to use and I'm going to use it, and it just doesn't make sense that God would have a problem with monogamous LGBT couples.  

But then.  I started looking up verses in the Bible for this post, and you know what? Mr. Shore has a point.  I hadn't done this in a long time--looked up all the references to homosexuality in the New Testament (I'm not worrying about the ones in the Old Testament, because if we have to follow Old Testament law, we're all in trouble.  Read Galatians if you think Christians still need to keep Old Testament law.)  Those two passages (Romans 1.26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6.9-10) are really the only problematic ones if you ask me, and as plenty of other people have said, Jesus never mentions it at all.

The rest of the references could very well be about sexual promiscuity or unspecified "unnatural" sexual acts rather than about gay-ness.  It says a great deal about homophobia in our culture that it is possible to see the words "unnatural" and "unclean" and immediately assume that they refer to homosexuality.  But the Jews probably had a far wider definition of those words, especially "unclean."  There were many ways you could be unclean that have nothing to do with homosexuality--by violating certain dietary restrictions, or having sex with your wife while she was menstruating, for example.

So this has been sitting in my draft box for a month now because I didn't really come to any conclusions, it ended up with me just thinking out loud. (Well, the internet equivalent of thinking "out loud.") I have no idea what the best approach is.  But there are going to be several of these this week (I hope), not necessarily about homosexuality but about Christianity--some of them inspired by further reading of John Shore's blog--so here you go. I know for those of you who aren't interested in Christianity this and some of the others this week are going to be far more information than you want, so feel free to tune out.


  1. Have you heard of Sex and the Single Savior by Dale Martin? He argues (and I find this very convincing based upon my own skills in translating Greek) that we don't even have a linguistic basis for translating the Corinthians passage in a way that refers to homosexuality. He also argues that the Romans passage only refers to homosexuality if you come at it from a homophobic (the word he uses is "heterosexist") perspective. Any translation that sees homosexuality there reveals more about the translator than the text.

    1. since I have absolutely NO skills in translating Greek, I appreciate the input. What you're saying makes complete sense to me. It's one of the reasons I have so much trouble with the fundamentalist mindset about scripture-- two thousand years later, there's just no way we can have the context (linguistic or cultural) to get all nit-picky about what certain verses say. It seems to me that we're much better off sticking with the larger theme-- that God loves us and expects us to love and support each other. Thanks, CM. You might find Mr. Shore's blog interesting. It's not an academic approach, but it's thoughtful and heartfelt, and often the discussions in the comments are as interesting as the posts themselves. He's created a very nice community. There was a fascinating discussion about creationism last week (or maybe it was two weeks ago).

  2. I have read, and sorry about not having the reference, that the New Testament writings that people have used to condemn homosexuality are not necessary about homosexuality at all, but about promiscuity, sex with prostitutes, adultery, sex with temple prostitutes. That it all depends on the translation, and, as glacierrambler wrote, we don't necessarily have the correct translation.

    The only reference in the Old Testament, I believe, is in Leviticus. Historically, the prohibition against homosexual sex makes sense in the same way that having multiple wives and having sex with one's maid servants and slaves makes sense. The Israelites were a small and beleaguered tribe surrounded by larger and more powerful nations, therefore anything that would increase the birth rate and make more Israelites was a good thing and that which would lower the birth rate was a bad thing.

    The ability of people to completely forsake logic, which one has to do using the Bible as rules for life since it is so contradictory, never ceases to amaze me. So many times, in so many instances, belief will trump fact for people.

    1. yes, agreed. And if you could get them to ADMIT that, it might be bearable. :-)

  3. I agree that nitpicking through the Bible gets you nowhere in the end. You have to use your mind, as you said, and your heart. If it said GOD HATES THE GAYS in big letters across the Bible, I'd say the Bible is obviously wrong and sucks. Cause if two people are loving each other, and not hurting anyone, then how could this possibly be a hateful thing?

    I was part of an evangeliccal church for years, and try as I might, It just didn't make sense.

    1. Yeah, when it got to the point that I was having to twist my brain into a pretzel to make it work was when I moved along, too. :-)