Come Out National Coming Out Day 2015 Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Who has ever heard of King David from the bible? Noble King David. Wise, brave, poetic, anointed King David. In the book of 1 Samuel he’s called a man after God’s own heart. Sweet David. But, of course, he had some issues. David basically […]
National Coming Out Day 2015
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Who has ever heard of King David from the bible? Noble King David. Wise, brave, poetic, anointed King David. In the book of 1 Samuel he’s called a man after God’s own heart. Sweet David. But, of course, he had some issues.
David basically overlooked his daughter Tamar being sexually assaulted by her half-brother Amnon. Tamar’s other brother, Absalom, avenged her by killing Amnon sometime later. What a desperately dysfunctional family of soap opera proportions!
Of course, anyone can make a mistake. He turned a blind eye when his son attacked his daughter, but surely he regretted that later.
But, David had a history of sexual abuse and abuse of power himself. David misused his kingly authority when he summoned Bathsheba to have an affair with him. Bathsheba was married.
When Bathsheba got pregnant, David had her husband killed so he could marry her and avoid scandal. As he victimized Bathsheba, so his son Amnon victimizes Tamar (like father, like son).
David, usually considered a hero in our religious tradition, was (according to our own sacred text) actually a rapist and a murderer, and his sons followed his despicable example…one being a rapist and the other a murderer.
In addition to David’s disturbingly violent history, he was also a polygamist, having multiple wives. However, in fairness, there was no scriptural or cultural prohibition against that, but it does obliterate the desperately ignorant argument that biblical marriage is between a man and a woman.
Now, for as vile and loathsome as David’s behavior could be, I don’t want to suggest that he was incapable of a mutually loving relationship. He was truly and totally in love with someone named JONATHAN.
The truth is, just as in our own world, there are many kinds of families in the bible. And, something being in the bible does not make it a model for our lives. We must use discernment and reason when reading the bible; we must decide what to emulate and what to vehemently reject.
When the slave Onesimus runs away from the person who has kept him enslaved, he goes to the Apostle Paul for help. Does Paul hide him? Buy his freedom? Give him some money and help him devise a plan to start a new life somewhere? No. Paul sends him back to his captor, Philemon.
The entire New Testament book of Philemon is a letter from Paul to Philemon, asking Philemon to not be angry with Onesimus for running away, and to accept him back into his household as a slave without punishing him. Paul doesn’t condemn slavery, or even help someone try to escape from it. Paul’s plan was just to have the slave holder be less hateful than the law allowed. Whatever Paul’s intention was, I know that his words were used to condone, defend, and propagate the evil practice of chattel slavery this nation’s history.
When Ephesians, Colossians, and 1st Peter all tell slaves to obey their masters…that is not for me the word of God. When the Israelites left Egypt to escape slavery, that is a righteous model of defying oppression; when the New Testament writers seem to condone slavery, that is not.
You see, no one…NO ONE…practices biblical religion in its entirety. They couldn’t; and they shouldn’t. I love the bible, and I want you to know more about it than you ever have. I want the passages that offer hope and comfort to become part of you. But nothing is to be accepted uncritically just because someone quotes something from the bible.
When the bible calls for nations to decommission their instruments of war and use them peacefully for constructive tasks like farming (beat swords into ploughshares), that, for me, is the word of God. When Jesus lifts up the Golden Rule, that, for me, is the word of God. When the prophets call us to be generous, peace-loving, and committed to justice, that, for me, is the word of God.
But when six passages are used to keep same-gender loving people afraid and ashamed, they are being misused and when they are used abusively and oppressively, they can in no way be the word of God.
The bible has been misused to keep people in closets of fear and shame. People will vehemently declare that the word of God condemns the love that gay people share. It’s a lie. We are free to euphemistically call the bible the word of God, but the words of the bible are not the words of God. They are human words written in antiquity to specific communities about issues important to the writers. They are records of our ancestors trying to find hope and meaning in their lives, and we read their records in order to encourage ourselves with our own searching, but we cannot pretend that their words were dictated from a far away deity in a language familiar to most of us. We can engage the scriptures, but we must not use them in place of thinking, nor should we allow them to be used against us as weapons of oppression.
The six passages used to wound and silence same-gender loving people never condemn love, commitment or attraction. EVER. They condemn violence and exploitation, but never love, never life-enhancing relationships, not even mutual, genuine attraction.
A colleague of mine recently expressed deep pain. She’s out, been out for 110 years. But her nephew is getting married and excluded her from most of the family events to celebrate the young couple’s nuptials. She’s a minister, a good person, an active member of the community, a loving and generous aunt, and she’s lesbian. And her family still, to some extent, keeps her at arms’ length. They base their hurtful behavior on prejudicial readings of scripture. They don’t care that David had the morals of an ally cat; they don’t care that Paul sent an escaped slave back into bondage. They don’t care that Jesus said that love was the true meaning of religion, and that even Paul himself said that there was no law against love. They just know they aren’t comfortable with queers, and they have half a dozen bible verses that don’t even mean what they think they mean, but they have them at the ready to use not only as weapons against LBGT people, but to suggest that their hateful actions are divine dictates.
They lie through their teeth saying they love the sinner but not the sin, a phrase coined by the Hindu Gandhi and found nowhere in the bible; but the minute they have reduced a human life and the love two people share to a “sin”, they have committed the most unkind, unloving, soul-crushing act imaginable. They do not love the people they have condemned. They do not love the people whose personal stories they will not even agree to hear. They haven’t loved; they have wounded, and congratulated themselves for it wrapping their bigotry in dogma and in isolated phrases written by polygamists and defenders of slavery.
The writer who says, “God is love and whoever lives in love lives in God and God lives in them,” was sharing the word of God. Not words from God, but a godly message affirming the beautify and sanctity of genuine love. Period.
And, the word of God is not limited to the bible. Dr Sueuss shared the word of God when he wrote, “Today You are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than you.”
On this National Coming Out Day, if you have any residual fear or shame about who you are, it is probably because the bible was misused to make you doubt your perfect place in the divine diversity of life. But as we celebrate who we are, those fears begin to lesson and we take joy in being part of God’s human Rainbow. And we share our healing because more people need it.
And that’s why we live out loud, as gay men, and lesbians, and bisexuals, and transgender folk, and gender non-conforming people, and heterosexual friends and allies and advocates of LBGT people. That’s why we live out loud as progressive people of faith, people who engage the bible rather than wielding it like a battle axe; people who take the bible seriously rather than pretending to take it literally.
17 years ago tomorrow, Matthew Shepard died from a brutal attack. He was beaten and left to die simply because he was gay. A lot has changed since then. Gays can now openly serve in the military, and marriage is now an equal right rather than a heterosexual privilege. Those changes came about because we came out and we spoke out and we never relinquished the hope that justice would prevail.
And there is more to do, more lives to help, more lives to save. We have more living out loud to do.
The 4th gospel imagines Jesus approaching the tomblike closet of hopelessness that held his dear companion Lazarus, and what Jesus shouted into that tomb I share with you today: “Come Out!” And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015
Thank you, God…
For who I am…
For the love that I have to share…
And for the blessing that I am to the world.