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Op-ed: Where to Find "The Gay Gospels"

Op-ed: Where to Find "The Gay Gospels"

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The nonreligious and unchurched among LGBT people may consider organized religion irrelevant and want nothing to do with it. But organized religion does not reciprocate their indifference.

Tape recently surfaced of Rep. Michele Bachmann arguing that being gay is "part of Satan." And the GOP presidential contender joined another White House aspirant, former U.S. senator Rick Santorum, in signing "The Marriage Vow," which was created by a religious group in Iowa to document that candidates believe, among other things, that being gay is a choice. Other candidates have until next week to decide whether to sign as well. Thankfully, most say they won't.

In almost all of the mainline Christian denominations, though, condemnation of homosexuality has become the litmus test of what it means to be a "true" Christian. You would think that being a true Christian was about believing in the divinity of Christ and loving God with all your heart and all your mind. You would be wrong.

Over the past two decades, Christian leaders have chosen the gay issue as their principal battleground; what matters to them now is not "Do you believe in God?" but "Do you believe the Bible condemns homosexual practice as a sin and an abomination?" Or, more simply, in the words of the enchanting and delightful God-fearing Phelps family, "Do you believe God hates fags?"

Secular-minded gays need to wise up to this situation. The Christian churches have become enemy number 1 for LGBT people. It is Christians who oppose equal rights for gay people at every turn. It is Christians who whip up homophobia whenever human rights issues affecting LGBT people such as marriage, adoption, and service in the military, are discussed. And it is Christians who have been out in Uganda and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa stirring up such a hatred of homosexuals that local politicians have sought to introduce the death penalty for gays.

"Know your enemy." said Sun Tzu in his classic The Art of War. That's what I set out to do in The Gay Gospels, which is divided into two testaments: the Defensive Testament and the Affirmative Testament.

In the Defensive Testament each of the Biblical "terror texts" used by Christian homophobes to attack LGBT people is considered in turn and found wanting. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is actually about hospitality and foreshadows Jesus' commandment to love your neighbor. It has nothing to do with homosexuality at all. The Leviticus proscriptions are about ritual purity and preserving male domination, not same-sex love. And the usual references in St. Paul (Romans and 1 Corinthians) are about idolatry and condemn only exploitative fornication.

The Gay Gospels demonstrates clearly that the antigay prejudices of Christian homophobes do not arise from the texts themselves but precede their reading of them. Such people completely ignore the context of these verses and impose their own crude, impoverished, and utterly inadequate understanding of human sexuality in order to derive a shockingly reductionist, cruel, and unbiblical condemnation of love between people of the same sex. That process is "textual abuse."

The Affirmative Testament brings to light passages that the mainline Christian churches have passed over in silence. Recent biblical research has revealed them to be remarkably affirming of homoerotic desire and relationships. These include the romance between David and Jonathan, which "surpassed the love of women," and the love affair between Ruth and Naomi, which gave us that wonderful hymn of same-sex devotion: "for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die I will die, and there I will be buried."

What's more difficult for the textual abusers to consider is that Jesus himself was so in love with the Beloved Disciple that this man became his only concern as Jesus was dying on the cross. Aspects of Jesus' life and teaching throw up celebration of a same-sex relationship (the healing of the centurion's lad) and confirmation that heterosexual marriage is not for everybody (the lesson on eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb).

When leaders in the religious right talk of morality, they should consider Jesus' own repeated attacks on "family values," so rarely heard in churches now, which undermine the central claim of evangelicals that gay people are a threat to the family.

Keith Sharpe is the author of The Gay Gospels. Visit www.thegaygospels.com for more information.

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