"Clobber Texts": Resource Page

When I first began to grapple seriously with the tensions between life as a practicing Catholic, and living honestly and with integrity as a gay man in a committed, stable partnership, one of the discoveries that helped me enormously was a Quest pamphlet given to me by a Catholic priest, which showed me for the first time that far from being “obviously” against homosexuality, the Bible includes only a half dozen verses that even appear to be critical, and that the relevance of even these half dozen is seriously disputed by many modern scholars. That was twenty years ago:  since then, many more scholars and theologians have been revising their views on the biblical take on same – sex relationships – and coming down on the side of acceptance.

So when I began to write at Queering the Church, in an attempt to share with readers the ideas and materials that had helped me, one of the first subjects I tackled was this question of the “clobber texts”, in a basic introductory post. Conscious of its limitations, for a long time I intended  to return to the subject, with more detailed reflections on each of these troublesome texts, drawing on and summarising the key arguments about them – but held back, feeling intimidated and inadequate to the task. Later, as my own knowledge matured, I became less interested in the defensive approach to the texts of terror, and more interested in identifying the far more numerous supportive and affirmative passages, both those featuring specific peoples that LGBT Christians could identify with (David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, the “Beloved Disciple”),  and the more general passages emphasising love and inclusion, and warning against legalism or passing judgement on others . So, as I began to expand my back pages at the site into a collection of resource pages, for the pages on scripture I have added extensive links to material on the affirmative texts – but added very little on defence against the nasties.

It was always my intention though, to include as many links to useable posts elsewhere on these clobber texts,  as I could find.  Earlier this week, I was asked by a reader for some help in this area, and as I did not yet have the summary of links that I have planned but not put together, I was forced to do some digging about from scratch. In the process, I finally began the process of adding an extensive list of links to my “Defence Against the Clobber Texts” page (a subpage of the “Rainbow Bible” section, in the navigation bar above). It’s still not exhaustive – I know that I have seen many more on-line articlues on these than I have included. These are just the ones that I was able to track down in the short time that was then available to me.  I will continue to add to it – and would welcome any further suggestions from readers.

This directory of links is permanently housed at the page on “Clobber Texts“, a subdivision of the “Rainbow Bible” pages but as an introduction and for convenience , here it is, as it stands today. (For balance, also see the far more extensive pages on “LGBT Affirmative Scriptures“)

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General: Overview

For a general discussion of these “Texts of Terror”, see Countering the Clobber Texts here at QTC,

and also:

The Bible and Homosexuality, ByRev. MonaWest,Ph.D. (at Metropolitan Community Church), with the sub-headings:

  • Sexuality in the Mediterranean World
  • The Story of Sodom in Genesis 19
  • Leviticus
  • The Writings of the Apostle Paul
  • Romans 1:26 ‐ 27
  • Issues of Biblical Authority

Also at MCC,

At Bridges Across the Divide, Homosexuality and the Bible  by Walter Wink

For more detailed discussions on each, see:

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Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signs civil unions bill into law

Joins eight other states that have civil unions or similar laws

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper today signed into law a measure that legalizes same-sex civil unions in his state.

The new law provides gay and lesbian couples with such legal protections and responsibilities as the ability to take family leave to care for a partner, to make medical and end-of-life decisions for a partner, to live together in a nursing home, and to adopt children together.
During his annual State of the State address in January, Hickenlooper challenged the state legislature to move forward by saying: ‘This year, let’s do it. Let’s pass civil unions!’
He had also publicly supported civil unions during his address a year earlier.
The law takes effect May 1.
It was just seven years ago that the state voted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. It will join eight states that have civil unions or similar laws. Nine states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.
Among those present at the signing was Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, a gay Denver Democrat who backed the bill.
‘With the Governor’s signature here today, the protection of Colorado’s laws will now extend equally to all,’ Ferrandino said in a statement. Thousands of Colorado families will now be able to receive the recognition they deserve.’
He added: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Colorado sun now warms all our people.

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Let Us Remember, March 19th: St Joseph

Saint Joseph is frequently presented as a model of fatherhood. For LGBT Catholics and other Christians however, he is also a powerful symbol of just how little the Holy Family resembled the model  of “traditional” marriage and family to easily touted by those seeking to twist the clear evidence of scripture to force it into their own heteronormative model of family.

 Rather, Christ’s family was distinctly queer, as I have written previously for the Feast of the Holy Family:

This week, (that is, the week after Christmas) the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family – so often an occasion of trial for those Catholics who are not living in officially approved families of Mom, Pop, kids, pets and picket fence. Subjected year after year to the same -old, same-old shallow sermons on the joys of family life, single people, the divorced, childless couples and queer Catholics can easily find that this Sunday is a very pointed reminder of how easily and thoughtlessly we can be excluded from the Church community. Most of the standard preaching on the Holy Family though is entirely misguided – the true nature of the Holy Family is very far from a celebration of the modern, but inappropriately named,  “traditional family” .

Not a “Traditional Family” (Raphael)

Two items that came to me this week reminded me of this. My colleague Martin Pendergast sent me a link to the Holy Family reflection by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, with the observation

We had a good Pastoral Letter from +Vincent Nichols for The Feast of the Holy Family – no ‘family-values’ ranting, thank God!

Martin is right. Although there are the usual references to children, there is no prescriptive definition of “family”. It is perfectly possibly for those who need it, to read this statement as inclusive of families of all kinds. There is is also an important expansion of the concept of family, one that has important implications for the community of the church, and for those of us who for one reason or another feel on the margins of the church family:

The family of the Church, too, has a deep, human wisdom to share. It is intertwined with the stories of our families. St Paul describes so much of it in that second reading we have heard. Today we think about how to share and build our family wisdom. By doing this we strengthen the very foundations of our society. We need time together. We need to listen to each other’s experience. We then come to appreciate the wisdom that is part of our family tradition, something to be passed on in love.

All the members of a family also need to practice respect for each other. Yes, we respect each other in our differences. We may rejoice in those differences. At the same time we strive to keep up a shared standard of behaviour.

Christ’s Queer Family

 

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St Patrick, Gay Role Model?

So why should we see St Paddy as a gay icon?

In a notable book on Irish gay history (“Terrible Queer Creatures”) Brian Lacey presents some evidence that Patrick may have had a long term intimate relationship with a man:
“St. Patrick himself may have had a relationship tinged with homoeroticism. Tirechan, a late seventh century cleric who wrote about St. Patrick, tells the story of a man Patrick visited and converted to Christianity, who had a son to whom Patrick took a strong liking. Tirechan wrote that “he gave him the name Benignus, because he took Patrick’s feet between his hands and would not sleep with his father and mother, but wept unless he would be allowed to sleep with Patrick.” Patrick baptized the boy and made him his close lifelong companion, so much so that Benignus succeeded Patrick as bishop of Armagh.”
saint-patrick
Among the few verifiable facts of Patrick’s life, are that when he was about 16, he was captured from his home and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
It is his return to his place of hardship and slavery that should interest LGBT Catholics. Somewhere, I read a report* that after his escape from slavery and return to Ireland, he supported himself by working for a time as a prostitute  – yes, good old Patrick is said to have sold sexual favours.
Does this sound far fetched? Not if you consider the historical realities of the time.  Patrick’s home was in Roman Britain. throughout the Empire, prostitution was an entirely acceptable way for men or women in desperate circumstances to make a living. Consider also his likely experience as a slave.  In both Roman and Greek society, as well as elsewhere, it was assumed that one of the duties of a slave, particularly if young or attractive, was to provide sexual services on demand.  Ireland was not under Roman rule, but there is no reason to suppose that the conditions of slavery were notably different.  (Lacy shows in his book that in pre-christian Ireland same sex relationships were accepted and respected.)
There is another reason, though why we as queer Catholics should look to Patrick as a role model, regardless of his own sexual history, a reason which goes to the heart of his mission.
In “Faith Beyond Resentment”,  theologian James Alison observes that in the Gospel story of the healing of the man possessed by demons, Jesus instruction to the man after healing was to “Go home,” that is, back to the community which had tormented and rejected him, back to his persecutors.
This is what Patrick did.  Having escaped from slavery and returned to his original home, he responded to what he saw as a call to return to the country of his captivity, to go back to the land of his tormentors – and convert them.
So he did, and so, I think, must we.  Tormented and persecuted we have sometimes (but not always) been by the Catholic Church. Somehow, though, we must find a way to move beyond the anger that provokes, to set aside the resentment, and to “go home to” the church. Thereby we will contribute to its own conversion.

*  In a comment to an earlier posting of this piece, theologian JohnMcNeill has said that he thinks the book with this story was “How The Irish Saved Civilization”, by Thomas Cahill. “He claims that Patrick paid for his passage back to Ireland by servicing the sailors on the boat.”

Books:

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The Non-European Popes

The election of Francis as a Pope from outside Europe is of great significance – not because he was the first non-European in the office, but because it reminds us that he was not. More accurately, as many press reports accurately put it, he is the first non- European pope since 13oo.  Before that, there were many others  – and the first use of the word “pope” was not applied to the bishop of Rome, but to other bishops of the Eastern Church. We have become so accustomed to identifying the Catholic Church with the Roman Catholic Church, that we forget that in its origins, the Church was Eastern, not primarily Roman at all.

The earliest “Christians” did not describe themselves as such, but simply as Jews who were followers of Christ. Later, when Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles took the message further afield, he travelled throughout the Eastern Roman Empire, as well as to Rome.

In addition to his Letter to the Romans, among his extant writings are letters to the church in Corinth, Philippi and Thessalonica on the Greek peninsula, in Ephesus, Colosse, and Galatia in Asia Minor – and to the Hebrews.  So it is not surprising that the earliest leaders of the Church should not have been from Western Europe, at all. The (Catholic) Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge University, Eammon Duffy, notes that for the first century of Christian history, there was no clear distinction between “bishops” and presbyters”, and when the bishop’s office did begin to become clearly defined in the early second century, this did not apply to Rome until about the mid- century.

Similarly, when the word “pope” was first used, it did not mean as it does today, a single head of the whole church, but was an honorific taken by a number of bishops.

In the early centuries of Christianity, this title was applied, especially in the east, to all bishops and other senior clergy, and later became reserved in the west to the Bishop of Rome, a reservation made official only in the 11th century. The earliest record of the use of this title was in regard to the by then deceased Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Heraclas of Alexandria (232–248).

Wikipedia

Reference to the Patriarch of Alexandria is important as a reminder that even as Rome did develop as an important centre of church authority, it was only one of five. In addition to the Patriarch of Alexandria, there were patriarchs of Jerusalem, Antioch and Constantinople – and of Rome. One striking example of to what extent the early church was based iu the East, not in Rome, comes from the record of the ecumenical councils, of which the first eight were held in the East (Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople Two, Constantinople Three, 2nd Council of Nicaea). 

Although it for various reasons Rome was accorded particular respect, it was no more than one among equals. Rome was also assisted, in its rise to ultimate dominance, by developments in the Middle East, as the rise of Islam wiped out the influence of Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch. This left Rome and Constantinople in continuous rivalry for superiority, until first the Great Schism, and then the fall of Constantinople, left Rome in control of by far the major part of what was left of  the Christian Church. It was not until after the Schism that an ecumenical council was first held in Rome, with Lateran 1 in 1123.

Colorado approves civil unions for gay couples

In the US state which is the home of “Focus on the Family”, and where voters banned same-sex marriage seven years ago. voters take an historic step towards marriage equality

Openly gay Colorado Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D)
Colorado legislators have taken a historic vote to approve civil unions for gay couples, delivering on a campaign promise from Democrats who have capitalised on the changing political landscape of a state where voters banned same-sex marriage not long ago.
The bill on its way to Democratic governor John Hickenlooper is expected to be signed into law within two weeks, capping a three-year fight over a proposal to grant gay couples rights similar to marriage.
Once the measure is signed Colorado will join eight US states that have civil unions or similar laws. Nine states and the District of Columbia allowgay marriage.
Civil unions for gay couples became a rallying cry for Democrats, who took control of the Colorado legislature in last year’s elections. Democrats control both chambers and the party elected Colorado’s first openly gay House speaker, Mark Ferrandino.
The vote marks a dramatic political shift in Colorado, a western state with deep conservative roots that has become more moderate over the past decade.
In 2006, voters approved a gay-marriage ban – meaning civil unions are the only option for gay couples in the state for now. That could change with a US supreme court ruling on gay marriage bans in the coming months.
Colorado‘s measure grants gay couples rights similar to marriage, including enhanced inheritance and parental rights. People in civil unions also would have the ability to make medical decisions for their partners.
Republicans opposed the bill, saying they would have liked to see religious exemptions to provide legal protections for those opposed to civil unions.
Democrats contend the Republican suggestions to amend the bill would have opened the door to discrimination. Under the bill churches are not required to perform civil unions but Republicans wanted broader protections to include businesses and adoption agencies.
Republicans also argued civil unions were too similar to marriage and that they would undermine the institution of marriage

Gay Marriage Passes Minnesota Senate Committee

A bill that would authorize same-sex couples to legally marry in Minnesota has cleared a Senate committee and now awaits a vote on the floor, likely later this legislative session.

Senate hearing
Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, introduces her bill allowing same-sex marriage to a packed hearing room during a meeting of the House Civil Law committee at the State Office Building in St. Paul on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. (Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin)

 

A House committee vote on whether to move the bill to the House floor is expected Tuesday evening, March 12.
The Senate Judiciary committee voted 5-3 in favor of the bill Tuesday afternoon, after about three hours of public testimony and members’ comments.
All the ‘yes’ votes were from Democrats and all the ‘no’ votes from Republicans.
The Democrats control both the House and Senate, and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said he’ll sign a gay-marriage bill if one reaches his desk. Nine states and the District of Columbia currently allow gay marriage.
Tuesday morning, the House Civil Law committee heard an hour and a half of testimony on the House version of the bill and then broke to reconvene at 6 p.m.
“Committed same-sex couples should be treated fairly under the law,” said Rep. Karen Clark, the sponsor of the House bill. “I believe it’s time for us to do the right thing.”
The bill would allow religious organizations to refuse to marry same-sex couples, and it would not affect the way they carry out adoptions, foster care placements or other social services unless they receive public money for those purposes.
But Gus Booth, pastor of Warroad Community Church, said he believes the religious exemptions offer limited protection. “Should a person’s belief be confined
to the four walls of their church?” he said. He said the bill represents “overreaching” on the part of metro lawmakers to impose gay marriage on the rest of the state.
Both Clark and the bill’s Senate sponsor, Scott Dibble, are gay Democrats from Minneapolis.
Eleven-year-old Grace Evans of Fridley told committee members that her mother and father have different, but complementary, strengths. “Which parent do I not need, my mom or my dad?” she asked.
Carlson Cos. Chairwoman Marilyn Carlson Nelson testified in support of the bill in part as a way to attract and retain talented workers. “We must fully live up to our Minnesota values,” she said. Failing to recognize gay marriages amounts to “adult bullying,” she said.
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UK Parliament to Vote on Equal Civil Partnerships

Straight couples could be allowed to enter civil partnerships, rather than get married, under proposals to be voted on by MPs.

MPs have tabled new amendments to gay marriage legislation currently going through Parliament to give straight couples the same rights as homosexual ones.
Campaigners said the amendment showed the changes risked weakening marriage by allowing straight couples to enter civil partnerships.
The measure, which is due to be voted on by MPs in the Commons at the end of May, would allow couples to be in civil partnerships rather than be married.
Tim Loughton, former Children’s minister, tabled the amendment to Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the Commons on Tuesday.
He said it was likely there would be “widespread support” for it when the amendment was voted on by MPs on the floor of the Commons next month.
Colin Hart, director of the Coalition for Marriage, said: “This is yet another amendment that pushes the redefinition of marriage beyond the consultation the Government has shifted its position constantly and this will report a further weakening of the institution of marriage.
The amendment will be seen as a direct challenge to Prime Minister David Cameron who suggested last month that he was against extending civil partnership rights to straight couples after MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of gay marriage.
Asked by Christopher Chope MP if he will “ensure that civil partnerships are open to heterosexual couples on an equal basis with homosexual couples”, he replied: “I will obviously listen carefully to what he says.
“But frankly I am a marriage man, I am a great supporter of marriage. I want to promote marriage, defend marriage, encourage marriage.
“The great thing about last night’s vote is that two gay people who love each other will now be able to get married. That is an important advance. I think we should be promoting marriage rather than looking at any other way of weakening it.”

Queen to Sign Charter Against Discrimination

In the first time the Queen has voiced support for gay rights in her 61-year reign, she is set to sign a new charter which aims to tackle homophobic discrimination.

At what will be her first public appearance since leaving the hospital where she was treated for gastroenteritis, the Queen will sign a new Commonwealth Charter, and will make an address explaining her commitment to it.
During the live television broadcast, Queen Elizabeth II, will, in what is being described as a “watershed” moment, signal her support for gay rights, a well as gender equality, and the charter which aims to boost human rights across the Commonwealth.
The charter reads: “We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”
The “other grounds” clause in the charter is intended to refer to sexuality, however specific references to gay and lesbian people were omitted due to some Commonwealth countries with anti-gay laws, reports the Daily Mail.
The Queen is expected to refer to rights which must “include everyone”, and insiders are noting the appearance as a nod to inclusivity.
A diplomatic source said: “The impact of this statement on gay and women’s rights should not be underestimated. Nothing this progressive has ever been approved by the United Nations. And it is most unusual for the Queen to request to sign documents in public, never mind call the cameras in.”
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace, said: “In this charter, the Queen is endorsing a decision taken by the Commonwealth.” But he added: “The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen’s position is apolitical, as it is on all matters of this sort.”
Prior to tomorrow’s appearance, the Queen has been in talks with Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, who has led the initiative. Last month, he said: “We oppose discrimination or stigmatisation on any grounds.”
Royal aides have also been in discussion with Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has backed the drive for better gay rights, and gender equality.
Gay rights advocates have voiced strong opinions in the past, on the fact that the Queen is a patron of over 600 charities, however none of them are for gay rights. Queen Elizabeth II has never publicly voiced her support of equal rights for gay people.
Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, said the Queen had taken “an historic step forward” on gay rights, and said “The Palace has finally caught up with public opinion.”
He also said it was significant that the Queen was publicly acknowledging “the importance of the six per cent of her subjects who are gay. Some of the worst persecution of gay people in the world takes place in Commonwealth countries as a result of the British Empire.”

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