Moabite Pride: Rethinking Homophobia’s Favorite Biblical Story Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Pride Sunday, 2014) I just returned from the Bible Belt, a belt with which I was routinely assaulted in the formative years of my life. I am a Bible Belt survivor, and I hope I can help some of you heal from the wounds […]
Moabite Pride: Rethinking Homophobia’s Favorite Biblical Story
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Pride Sunday, 2014)
I just returned from the Bible Belt, a belt with which I was routinely assaulted in the formative years of my life.
I am a Bible Belt survivor, and I hope I can help some of you heal from the wounds that may have been inflicted needlessly in the name of Jesus.
First of all, I need to tell you that people who have used a handful of ancient texts to cause you to doubt your sacred value were misusing those texts, and they themselves more often than not chose to reject texts from the same collection of writings when such texts would have impeded their freedoms or diminished their self-esteem. There is no reason, then, to allow them to misuse texts from the same canon to cause you to doubt your innate goodness and enormous potential.
They quoted texts telling women to be silent and subservient while intentionally ignoring texts that extolled the courage and convictions of women leaders, teachers, warriors, prophets, and ministers.
Some of us were psychologically slapped around by people who were beautifully adorned with body art who seemed to not know or care that biblical passages condemn tattoos.
They launched their psychological warfare against us on Sundays, forgetting or not realizing that Sunday is not the 7th day biblical Sabbath we are commanded to observe…or, rather, that an ancient community was commanded to observe.
Those who used isolated verses lifted from their historical, cultural, literary and linguistic contexts to shame, vilify, or ostracize us often did so with graven images in the background in direct defiance of the Ten Commandments.
You see, biblical literalism is always selective literalism; and those who claimed to be literal to justify their prejudices were very often far less literal when it came to their own lives.
They brandished the bible like a deadly weapon against us and those we love without stating the obvious, that their book was written by many authors from a variety of regions speaking various languages and dialects spanning parts of three continents and covering more than a thousand years. It was not written at a heavenly desk by a single author, but rather, it is a collection of many thoughts over a millennium.
And while that same book said over and over to welcome the stranger, show kindness to those in need, to be financially generous, and to care about the sick, they instead acted as if the point of the sacred tradition was simply to demonize and dehumanize same-gender loving people, gender non-conforming people, women, children, and people whose religious experience did not mirror their own.
They told Queer people and their friends and allies that the bible condemned them and I have two things to say about that:
1. It’s a lie.
2. If was true, it would nevertheless be wrong.
Here endeth the lesson!
What they never got around to saying while they were ripping families apart and driving youth to deep depression and self-loathing was that the three, the exactly three passages attributed to the Apostle Paul they used as sledge hammers against same-gender loving people didn’t condemn love or even mutual attraction at all. All three passages (and Paul only really wrote two of the three) condemned not love or attraction but exploitation. Sex acts in the context of temple prostitution were condemned, not loving relationships or honest attraction. Love, respect, mutuality…these are the things that make a relationship holy…body parts are not what make love divine.
What they never got around to telling you is that Jesus, not a single time in scripture, EVER condemned same-gender love and attraction.
What they never got around to telling you is that Jesus did praise the faith of a Roman, pagan centurion who came to Jesus to bless his ailing, same-sex lover, and Jesus granted the blessing.
What they never got around to telling you is that Jesus advocated for the marginalized of his day…women, children, lepers, Samaritans, the poor….and given his loving, inclusive, justice oriented stance toward his fellow humans, his sisters and brothers who were also the children of God, if he knew what we know today that sexual orientation is a matter of ontology, that it is a given, that some of us will fall in love with people of the opposite sex, that some of us will fall in love with people of the same sex, that some of us have gender identities that do not match our biological appearance, that some of us are still figuring it all out, then Jesus would certainly stand on the side of LBGT people and those who love them as he did for all who had been needlessly oppressed in the name of religion.
What they never told you is that Jonathan and David were friends, comrades in arms, and apparently lovers and David declared unequivocally that he loved Jonathan in a way that he could never love women. The most clearly bisexual character in the bible was an ancestor of Jesus and is described in the bible as a person after God’s own heart.
And what they never told you is that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has not a darn thing to do with love, romance, or attraction. Prophets themselves said the sin of Sodom was that they were unwelcoming of the stranger, the alien, the different.
They told you God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because they had a lot of gay people, never explaining why it is that gay people have always existed. Wasn’t it unfair to be so hostile to just one gay community and allow countless millions of gays since to survive and thrive? How did Sodom get such a raw deal while Wilton Drive flourishes?!
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a myth. The story says that angels were dispatched to the area to destroy it for being hateful, mean-spirited, abusive. That being the case, you’d think the story would strike fear into the hearts of fundamentalists rather than in same-gender loving people!
In any case, while the angels are in town they are taken in by Abraham and Sarah’s nephew.
When all the men in town, and yes it says every man down to the very last man in town descended on Lot’s house to demand that he release his angelic house guests for them to assault.
So, right off the bat, we know these people aren’t there to ask for date, they are there to hurt people. Not love, not attraction, not even consensual romantic encounters…just violence.
Secondly, we know that Sodom is a ridiculously small town or Lot has a ginormous front yard in order for every single man to be there.
Lot, being a good host, refuses to release the angelic visitors into the hands of a violent gang, but does offer instead his two engaged daughters to the gang.
1. Worst father ever.
2. Worst future father-in-law ever.
3. If it’s about the gang being homosexual, what sense would it make to offer them women?
Well, the visitors are packing angel mace; they blast the gang, grab the family and leave, telling them not to look back. Mrs Lot is a little overwhelmed by everything, in the span of a few minutes her home has been attacked by every single man in town, her daughters have been offered as a sacrifice to the gang by her own husband, and now her town is being destroyed and she is suddenly homeless. Excuse her for looking over her shoulder for a hot second. And, the second was hot, so hot she was zapped into a pile of ash. It does say something about releasing the past to the past so we can move forward, but a tearful glance in a moment of loss does not deserve a death sentence!
Lot and his daughters wind up in a nearby town, take refuge in a cave, and as luck would have it they find the one cave in the whole region that has a well stocked bar. Lot gets drunk, passes out, and his daughters decide that they may ever meet another male human, so they decide they should breed with their father. Gross.
And they do. And the children they have are said to be the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites, the enemies of Abraham’s people.
Aaaahhhhh…This isn’t about gays at all. This story is an ethnic slur against the Moabites and Ammonites saying that their whole culture was born out of incest. It’s an insult against geo-political enemies, not same-gender loving people!
It is disingenuous, dishonest, and disgusting to use that story to condemn genuine love and attraction regardless of the genders involved. Now, here’s something important the follow up to the story.
The Moabites, enemies that are said to have been born from the most vile of circumstances, existing only because of an incestuous drunken seduction (a heterosexual seduction by the way), are clearly thrown under the bus in the Sodom and Gomorrah tale. But later, we read a story about a Moabite named Ruth who is the hero of that story. She also makes a lifelong vow to another woman, Naomi (a vow that is often read at heterosexual weddings). And, Ruth the Moabite is an ancestor of Jesus.
We see in the bible one writer thinking of the Moabites as being complete scum, and over time we see other writers imagining Moab producing heroes and contributing to the lineage of Jesus himself. If the bible can rethink, reimagine, and recast the Moabites, of course we can confront homophobia and offer liberative understandings of the blessing that same-gender love and attraction are for those who know themselves to be gay or lesbian.
Whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, intersex, transgender, or questioning, we can choose to say with the Apostle Paul, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Or as we used to say in MCC, and it seems particularly appropriate on this Pride Sunday, “Gay by God, proud by choice.” And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2014
By the grace of God I am what I am.
For the blessing that my life is, I give thanks.
I am proud of my place in divine diversity.
And so it is.