Category Archives: New Testament

Irony of Ironies: Vatican Doctrine Confused With “The Lord’s Teaching”

A conservative Catholic blogger is gleefully reporting that “This cardinal sees no reason to expect the Family Synod to be outside Church teaching”.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. There’s never been any serious suggestion, from any side, that changing teaching was even up for discussion. (Change in teaching must and will come, later – but not yet). For now, a change in teaching is just not what the Synod is about. What it is about, is a more sensitive pastoral application of that teaching, a different matter entirely.

But there’s a more serious problem with this report, and Cardinal    Raúl Vela Chiriboga’s words. I quote:

“The Church is the depository of the faith, and that faith is the teaching of Jesus: we can’t go against his commandment,” the emeritus Archbishop of Quito explained Aug. 14 to CNA in Piura, where he was participating in Peru’s Tenth National Eucharistic and Marian Congress as an envoy of the Holy Father.

“There are fundamental truths” that will not change, Cardinal Vela said, even “by more news outlets stirring things up by saying things contrary to, or wanting to misinterpret, what the Lord commands.”

Do you see the problem? He’s assuming that because “the Church” is the depository of the faith, then it’s teaching is the teaching of Jesus. However – the “Church” is much, much more than the Vatican bureaucrats who define Church doctrine. It should be patently obvious to anybody who cares to look, that what the Vatican pronounces, on masturbation, on sex before marriage, on remarriage after divorce, or on loving and committed same – sex relationships, is simply NOT what ordinary, faithful and practicing Catholics believe. To claim Vatican doctrine on sexual ethics as what “the Church” teaches, is an unjustified leap.

He is right, though, in his insistence that we cannot change fundamental truths, as taught by Jesus. The problem for him and his ilk, is that what they are fighting so hard to protect at the Synod, have nothing at all to do with what Jesus taught.

The most contentious matter before the synod, is that of communion for people who have remarried after divorce. The conservative argument is that marriage is forever, that Jesus was against divorce, and so on. Agreed.

However – even the Vatican accepts that there are circumstances in which marriages may end – which it terms “annullment”, not  divorce. That’s a matter of semantics. But the argument is not whether divorce / annulment is legitimate or acceptable. All sides agree on that. The dispute is about communion after divorce and remarriage – and on that, Jesus said nothing whatever. The Catholic rule preventing communion for those who have remarried after divorce, is a matter of pastoral practice, which can be changed – not one of doctrine, and still less the teaching of Jesus Christ. When he said at the Last Supper, “Do this, in commemoration of me”, he did NOT add the rider, “as long as you’ve not divorced and remarried”.

The second controversial matter before the synod, is the one that most concerns us – a welcome for LGBT Catholics. Again, nobody is yet suggesting that the Synod is about to change it’s own doctrines on same – sex relationships – even though it is now abundantly evident that it should. That will happen, but later. All that is being asked, is that the leaders of the Church take seriously the message of Jesus Christ (and indeed, of Pope Francis), that  “all are welcome”, and that the Church should be a “field hospital for the wounded”. On lesbian and gay people, Jesus had not a single word in opposition, and quite a lot that could be read as supportive.

The cardinal is absolutely correct that we cannot change the teaching of Jesus. The problem for him, is that it is he and his sympathisers, not those seeking more sensitive pastoral care, who are trying to do that.

.

Mary – the Annunciation and Visitation (Luke 1:26-56)

This passage, the third in the English bishops’ suggested texts for reflection on marriage as part of the consultation process for the Rome Family Synod 2015, is the familiar story of the Annunciation,  Mary’s subsequent visit to Elizabeth, and her song of praise, the “Magnificat”.  (The  text may be read  here, at Bible Gateway)

Fra Angeilico, “The Annunciation”

In my lectio divina practice, for the passage, I went through this as three distinct reflections. For each, I give the phrases that most struck me,  followed by my reasons. Continue reading Mary – the Annunciation and Visitation (Luke 1:26-56)

A Key to Romans 1 – Hiding in Plain Sight

At Bible – thumping Liberal, the straight ally and evangelical Christian Ron Goetz asks a crucially important question:

HOW DO I RECONCILE PAUL WITH MY SUPPORT FOR LGBT FOLKS?

August 27, 2013

I just got an email from Harold, one of my PFLAG friends. He asked the following question.

“How do you reconcile Paul’s words and yet support LGBTs?”

There are several good ways of approaching this question. One way looks at Paul’s specific words, what they mean and don’t mean, and then discover that Paul is not as anti-homosexual as fundamentalists make him out to be. Another way is to look at Paul as a man who was working out his theology, literally, as he went along. Another way is to see how Paul treated other issues of some disagreement, that have been puzzling or unclear to us. Finally, we can look at some of Paul’s own attitudes and interactions, and adopt some of them as our own.

-more at  Bible-Thumping Liberal.

This is important, because Paul’s words in Romans and in Corinthians are the most disturbing of all the Biblical clobber texts for lesbian and gay Christians. The story of Sodom in Genesis should not be troubling at all, as the Bible itself makes clear that the infamous “sin of Sodom” is about injustice, and pride, and has nothing whatever to do with homoeroticism. There are numerous responses to the verses in Leviticus, but the simplest one is just to note that these are part of the Jewish purity laws, like the dietary restrictions, the prohibition on clothing of mixed fibres and shaving one’s beard, and the obligation of male circumcision. As such, they simply do not apply to Christians – as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. The letters of Paul are another matter, less easy to reconcile with our experience of a same – sex affectional orientation.

So, how can we do so? In his post, Goetz goes on, to elaborate on each of these ways of looking at Paul. There is also another, simpler still: the words simply do not mean what they are popularly supposed to mean. I’ve already discussed how this is so for Corinthians, where the Greek words “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” have been mistranslated as referring to homosexuals. (They don’t). For Romans 1, I suggest that the key is simpler still, hiding in plain sight – in the title. 

This is the letter to the Romans after all.

Hadrian and Antinous
Roman Emperor Hadrian and His Beloved, Antinous

Paul himself was a Roman citizen, and would surely have understood something of how his words would be interpreted. So let’s look at them: Continue reading A Key to Romans 1 – Hiding in Plain Sight

Romans 1:24-27 (1) Just WHO Is Being Condemned?

Among the half dozen biblical clobber texts that appear, in modern interpretations, to condemn all same – sex relationships, perhaps the most difficult to counter is that in Romans 1:24-27. A reader, who in several comments recently has been critical of my posts about Mattew Vines and his book “God and the Gay Christian”, refers to this passage, asking:

How does Vines square his case for same-sex marriage with the New Testament condemnation of *all* sexual relationships outside of the male-female paradigm as unnatural in Romans 1:24-27?

I’ve already replied to my reader in the comments thread (here), with reference to Vines specifically, and with passing reference to some other useful commentary on the passage by others – but there’s much more to be said about this very badly misunderstood passage.RomanForum

Continue reading Romans 1:24-27 (1) Just WHO Is Being Condemned?

The (Gay) Roman Centurion and his "Boy"

In Catholic tradition, March 15th is the feast day of “Longinus”,  the name given to the Roman centurion at the crucifixion who pierced Christ’s side with his spear.  Some writers, like Paul Halsall of the LGBT Catholic Handbook, also identify him with the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his “beloved boy”, who was ill. It is this second person that I am interested in here.  In this persona, he is one of my personal favourites, as his story shows clearly how the Lord himself is completely not hostile to a clearly gay relationship, and also because we hear a clear reminder of this every time we attend Mass – if only we have ears to hear.
It may be that you do not recall any Gospel stories about a gay centurion and his male lover, but that is because cautious or prudish translators have softened the words of the text, and because the word “gay” is not really appropriate for the historical context. You are more likely to know as the story as the familiar one of the Roman centurion and his “servant” – But this is a poor translation. Matthew uses the word “doulos“, which means slave, not a mere servant.  Luke uses quite a different word, “pais“, which can mean servant boy – but more usually has the sense of a man’s younger male lover – or “boyfriend”.Whichever of the two words or their senses was intended by the authors, the conclusions we should draw are the same. If “pais”  was intended here to indicate a lover, the conclusion is obvious.  If the intended meaning was either “slave ” or “servant” – the conclusion does not significantly change. To see this, let us consider the cultural context. For three centuries before Christ, the Jews had been under foreign military occupation, first by the Greeks (which is why demotic Greek had become lingua franca across the region, and was the language of the New Testament), then by Romans. These military overlords were about as well liked as any other military invaders anywhere – which is not at all.  The Jews hated them – but will have been quite familiar with Greek and Roman cultural (and sexual) practices.

continue reading

Scripture As Hope: Romans 15:4-9

For too long, LGBT people have suffered under Biblical textual abuse, with our opponents brandishing a handful of cherry – picked scriptural texts as weapons to accuse and condemn us, It is not surprising then, that so many of our community view the Bible with suspicion, or even reject it entirely, and with it very often, all religious faith and practice. But this abuse is a gross distortion of what scripture is all about, as the second reading for today, the second Sunday of Advent (year A) makes clear:

scripture as hope

“Gospel” derives from “Godspell”, that is “good news” – and the hope and good news apply as much to gay, lesbian and trans Christians as to any other:

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.
Romans 15:4-9
Enhanced by Zemanta

Dec 26th: St Stephen, Martyr (Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59)

Today we remember St Stephen, the first martyr. Just as Stephen some of his hearers who disliked his words, but could not counter the truth of what he said, were “infuriated and ground their teeth at him“. Stephen, however persisted in proclaiming the truth – and paid the price.

Martyrdom of Stephen The_Stoning_of_St_Stephen_-_1603-04

Countless gay men, lesbians and trans people have similarly encountered anger, hatred and violence  for living lives of sexual or gender honesty, and even more for speaking publicly about the morality and integrity of our lives. Continue reading Dec 26th: St Stephen, Martyr (Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59)

"Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord" (Luke 1:67-79)

In today’s Gospel, I see two key take-aways from the words of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist:

One is a reminder that the promise of the Lord that he “that he would save us from our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us” applies to all his people – and that most certainly includes those of us who experience hatred and discrimination in church, allegedly but spuriously in the Lord’s own name.

Another is implied in Zechariah’s words to his son, the instruction to “prepare a way for the Lord”. He is speaking here directly to his son, John the Baptist, but the words are equally applicable to all of us. It is not enough simply to wait passively for the Kingdom of God: it is incumbent on all of us to prepare the way in our own communities, spreading the word that the Kingdom applies to all, excluding none:.

Continue reading "Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord" (Luke 1:67-79)

"Relax, Let Go, Trust" (Luke 12:22-31)

from “The Bible In Drag:”

Then (Jesus) said to the disciples, “That’s why I tell you, don’t worry about your life and what you are to eat. Don’t worry about your body and what you are to wear. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Take a lesson from the ravens. They don’t sow or reap. They have neither a food cellar nor a barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds? Can any one of you, for all your worrying add a single hour to your life? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why worry about the rest?

“Notice the flowers grow. They neither labor nor weave, yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was robed like one of these! If that is how God clothes the grass in the field – which is here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow – how much more will God look after you! You have so little faith!

“As for you, don’t set your hearts on what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink. Stop worrying! All the nations of the world seek these things, yet your Abba God well knows what you need. Set your sights on the kin-dom of God, and all these other things will be given to you as well.”

(Luke 12:22-31)

by AlicePopkorn

I start with a confession – I have always wrestled with these words: don’t be anxious, don’t seek to control, trust. This advice is hard enough in general, yet from a queer perspective they seem to have even more weight. There are a thousand things to fret about. For those just discerning their orientation the whole issue of managing the closet, of who knows, who doesn’t know, when do we want someone to know, and each and every individual with which a potentially difficult conversation needs to take place with the risk of rejection. For those yearning and fighting for marriage equality and the constant and seemingly unending battle for respect and legal justice. For those who’ve mourned quietly over a break up, or even the death of a lover – not understood, or simply ignored by others.

via The Bible In Drag – Queering Scripture.November 11, 2013

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Lord Seeks Out Outcasts, Dining With Us. (Luke 19:1-10)

The story from Luke’s Gospel, telling of Zacceus in the sycamore tree, has a direct parallel with the situation of gay men and lesbians in the Christian churches. Zaccheus is a tax collector, and so seen as an outcast, an obvious sinner, in Jewish society. Yet even so, Jesus not only accepts him, he invites himself to Zaccheus’ home.

zacchaeus in the sycamore tree

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

Enhanced by Zemanta