Friday, March 25, 2011

More on the Appeal of Anti-Gay Biblical Literalism for Some Catholics: My Personal Struggle, Captured in Journal Entries

As a follow-up to what I posted yesterday about the surprising trend among some American Catholics to buy into the Protestant fundamentalist ploy of biblical literalism when it comes to gay and lesbian issues and gay and lesbian persons, I'd like to direct readers' attention back to two pieces I posted here some time ago.

That is, I'm pointing readers to these pieces if anyone reading these postings is interested to see how one particular gay Catholic theologian dealt with these scriptural arguments some time ago, as he struggled to come out of the closet.  In the summer of 2009, I posted two excerpts from my journal back in 1990.

In these journal entries, I was trying to deal with what it meant to be a gay Catholic theologian teaching in a Catholic university, as my sexual orientation and longstanding committed relationship with another gay Catholic theologian were becoming publicly known, despite our neither having said anything at all to anyone in any public setting about our identities and relationship.  Who we were was becoming public because, out of the blue, Steve happened to find a job teaching in New Orleans a year after I did, as we both finished graduate school.

And so--sheer grace, we thought, but also burdensome grace, since it meant we couldn't hide--we were able to continue living together, something we had not had any assurance of when we went off to do doctoral studies and then began looking for jobs.  And as our lives and identity became public knowledge, even though we had always walked that fine line that the Catholic church demands of gay folks working in its institutions--don't ask, don't tell; don't appear gay, don't talk gay--the troubles began.  The doors began to slam in our faces, one by one, with this denial of tenure despite a faculty and student vote to support tenure, with that unexplained one-year terminal contract, with this terminal contract on specious grounds of financial exigency, with that unrenewed contract to do adjunct work after one of us had given a poor grade to a student who wrote an essay that was a homophobic rant but wanted his work to be regarded as sound moral reasoning.

Through all of this, we had no choice except to think very carefully about what it means to be gay within the Catholic context, and gay theologians teaching theology in Catholic universities.  And the two journal entries to which I'm pointing any interested readers--here and here--are my own personal attempt to deal with the biblical evidence.  For myself, as a gay person.

As a gay person who would hope to find salvation, not to end up condemned to hell.  As a gay person for whom everything--not just my job and a salary and my future as an employee in a Catholic institution, but the fate of my soul--depended on struggling to understand and respond to the biblical evidence that, so many other Christians would have me believe, condemns "homosexuality" and me as a homosexual.

These two journal entries from 1990 show where I ended up after a number of years of difficult, exceedingly painful struggle with these biblical texts, and with those intent on using these texts to condemn, bash, exclude me.  And to be honest, once I came to terms with what I realize these texts are about, and once I found peace--a hallmark of the Spirit's presence--in coming to terms with who God has created me to be, I've never gone back.  What I mean to say is, my years of struggle to understand what's going on with the six biblical clobber texts--and, more importantly, with Christians intent on using them to bash me and my kind--have led to me to a recognition from which there is no turning back.

And that recognition is this: the scriptures decidedly do not condemn what we call homosexuality today.  They don't condemn homosexuals.  They can't do so, since they were written in a cultural context that had no concept of what we call homosexuality now.

And so those Christians now building their theological worldview around a handful--six verses!--of exegetically murky texts that have nothing at all to do with the current fixation of many believers on homosexuality are radically distorting the bible.  And what it's all about.

The scriptures point above all to love, justice, and mercy as core values for those who want to be in union with God.  Believers using six exegetically shaky texts as the foundation for a worldview built on harming and excluding some brothers and sisters they despise are missing the core message of the biblical text.

I can't go back from that recognition, because my own understanding of faith and everything that it comprises is built on that foundation.

And if anyone doubts that those carrying signs that blare out biblical quotes they imagine to be anti-gay are not primarily about love, justice, and mercy, but about doing harm to others, ask yourself for a moment if these same people would walk around carrying signs that say, "Slaves, obey your masters" (Ephesians 6:5);  or "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip the edges of your beards" (Leviticus 19:27); or "Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of materials" (Leviticus 19:19); or "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery" (Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18); or "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

No.  Those carrying signs which say "Male and female he created them" are not doing so to make what the bible says more widely known, or to assure that we are faithful to the bible in our political life.  They're doing so for one reason and one reason alone: to demean a group of their brothers and sisters, and to use God as a warrant for their dehumanizing behavior towards those they despise, and those they wish to keep in their place as second-class citizens.

Once one's eyes are open to such misuse of the scriptures, there is no going back to a point at which one can entertain the idea that this misuse of scripture is holy and salvific.  It's the precise opposite.

P.S. The journal entries to which I link above date, as I have said, from 1990.  For any readers interested in tracking what I've written on these themes in recent years at this Bilgrimage site, click on the tags "Bible" and "scripture" below, and you should see a list of postings.

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