“What would happen if people began reading the bible with the intention of seeing how the Scriptures spoke into their own lives as readers rather than focusing on how they might apply to others?”
That was a question that the Queer Christian bloggers at A Queer Calling asked in a post called “Reading Romans 1 Differently.” If you haven’t heard of them, I encourage you to go read their blog. They have one of the most unique perspectives on religion and homosexuality that I have ever ecnountered. They are braver than I am in living out their faith and I guarantee you will learn something from them, because I have learned something from them.
Reader, Clobber Thyself
Yesterday, I talked about the Clobber Passages, specifically why I don’t like to talk about them. I’m still not talking about them. But they two things that I think are important for Christians to talk about. The first has to do with the question asked by A Queer Calling: what would happen if we read the Bible to apply to our own lives rather than the lives of others?
It’s all tied up in the call Christ make to all of us when he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” I think that some of the reason that clobber passages and other verses are so prevalent is because we forget this key rule. It is part of human nature that we see faults in others more readily than we see them in ourselves. But being a Christian is fundamentally about fighting against that human nature. We are told in the Gospels to “be ye perfect” just like God is. That requires us to fight against our imperfect human nature.
Next time we feel like hitting someone with a verse from the Bible, what would happen if we applied the verse to ourselves first? I personally struggle with lukewarmness. A lot of the time I am neither hot or cold towards an issue. I struggle with myself about this because Christ has asked us to take a side on things. I have to ask myself, what would Christ do in this situation? I don’t always succeed at this. But what does happen is that I always try to be slow in judging someone else. Confronting my own failings first has led me to be kinder to others.
I think that might just be the outcome of applying the clobber passages to ourselves first. Not just the ones about homosexuality, though they have some very good lessons even for not-gay people. But any “clobber passage” that gets used against others to make them feel guilty or less holy than the person reciting verses at them. I believe we would be kinder to others because we are harder on ourselves.
It really is as simple as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Christians seem to be really bad at this, have you noticed? My mother always said that when more than two people tell you something about yourself, you should take them seriously. There are millions of people who are telling Christians that we are judgmental, intolerant, and sometimes downright cruel. They’re telling us that we don’t put ourselves in their shoes. They can’t all be wrong.
I believe that Christians have a really hard time when confronted with what theorists call the “other.” It’s a concept I first confronted in literature classes where understanding the stranger or the “other” was often key to understanding the text. The Bible is especially important when it comes to the other.
Take, for instance, the parable of the Good Samaritan. The importance of this simple story is often lost on modern readers. You have to understand that Samaritans were completely reviled by Jews. They did not worship right, they were the wrong sort of people, and Jews didn’t just avoid them – they did not believe any good could come from them at all. Samaritans are the quintessential other. So when Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero, he does two things. First, he makes the point that we all have good in us. Second, he makes inclusion of the other a core tenet of Christianity. If you cannot see the good in the other, then you are not following what Christ taught.
The Good Gay Samaritan
Today, there is a new class of Samaritan for Christians: gays. Anyone who is part of the LGBT community is not considered “good” by Christians. Our lifestyle is sinful. Our love is sinful. We are out to get people’s children. We are often associated with pedofiles. We’re corrupting society. We’re destroying the concept of marriage. We are also responsible for natural disasters according to some ministers with television programs. Just like the Jews characterised Samaritans, many Christians characterise LGBT people as people from whom no good can ever possibly come.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans* people have been othered and the Bible has been used to do it.
It shouldn’t be that way. I always hesitate to make sweeping, definitive statements about Christianity, but this is one I feel comfortable making: LGBT people should not be excluded from Christianity. We can argue the finer theological points later. What I’m concerned with here is not doctrine. LGBT people should not be kicked out of churches, families, communities, or Christian schools simply for being gay. If sin is really the issue, then every single Christian person would have to kick themselves out. I hate to use such a cliche, but we are all sinners. None of us deserve to be here.
Gracefully and Graciously
If LGBT Christians have a role in Christianity (and they do) then it is to serve as a reminder of grace. Unlike most people, our otherness, our “sinfulness” is obvious to everyone. We cannot hid behind the name of Christian and pretend to be better than anyone else. More than most, we depend on the grace of God to give us a place in his church.
God’s grace is open to everyone. Even gays. So qhat would happen if people read the Bible with themselves and their lives in mind? Sure, they might be better people. But more than anything they would be reminded of the grace they receive and do not deserve – a grace they deny to others.