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Some Christians are reinterpreting supposedly anti-gay passages in Scripture, Michael McGough reports, but that may not be the best way to win the argument over homosexuality

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  • Anthony Venn-Brown Personal Coach
    http://www.postgazette.com/pg/05212/546004.stm Some Christians are reinterpreting supposedly anti-gay passages in Scripture, Michael McGough reports, but that
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 31, 2005
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      http://www.postgazette.com/pg/05212/546004.stm

      Some Christians are reinterpreting supposedly anti-gay passages in Scripture, Michael McGough reports, but that may not be the best way to win the argument over homosexuality

      Sunday, July 31, 2005

      Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

      Justin R. Cannon , a student at Earlham College in Richmond , Ind. , is one of the youngest combatants in the Christian culture wars. But he's a happy warrior because his contribution to the debate--an illuminating online analysis that argues the Bible doesn't condemn faithful gay relationships -- has piqued the interest of clergy and laypeople across the country.

       

       

       

      Michael McGough is an editor at large in the Post-Gazette's National Bureau, mmcgough@ nationalpress.com.

       

       

       

      "I have received all sorts of positive letters and e-mail from pastors, bishops, Bible study teachers, seminary professors, gays and lesbians, as well as a few straight allies," the seminary-bound Cannon told me, referring to his study, "The Bible, Christianity and Homosexuality" (www.truthsetsfree.net). (Some responses, he conceded, "weren't so friendly [but] I have tried to ... be loving and gracious in my replies.")

      Cannon's Web site makes use of etymology and history to cast doubt on the prevailing antigay interpretations of several Bible verses. It is only one front in a robust theological counterattack against Christian conservatives who insist--as a 1998 statement from Anglican bishops puts it--that same-sex relationships of any kind are incompatible with Scripture.

      Revisionists such as Cannon are ingenious and often persuasive in arguing that strictures in both the Old and New Testaments that have been read to broadly condemn homosexuality were actually directed at particular offenses--male prostitution, a breach of hospitality (the real "sin of Sodom") or the insult to patriarchy represented by a male lying "with a man as one lies with a woman" (Leviticus 18:22).

      In seeking to have antigay Christians reexamine their prejudices, the revisionists say they are doing the Lord's work--literally, because Jesus said a great deal about love and nothing at all about homosexuality. But arguing about whether particular passages in the Bible condemn homosexuality--"proof-texting," in the jargon of biblical scholars--may not be the best way to counter conservatives, who have their own take on the passages at issue.

      Take the question of St. Paul 's attitude. The gay British theologian Jeffrey John says that in Paul 's time, "prostitution and pederasty (in the sense of the Greek practice of a temporary pupil-tutor relationship between a teenager and an older man) were the standard forms of homosexual practice, and those are the forms which were likely to be uppermost" in his references to homosexuality.

      But suppose they weren't? Suppose Paul also would have condemned same-sex relationship that, in the words of a book by Jeffrey John , were "permanent, faithful, [and] stable"? After all, Paul , a religious genius but a man of his time, professed more than a few beliefs that are anathema to many contemporary Christians.

      Sophisticated Christians have long recognized that, as a colleague of mine put it after launching his own Scripture study, "there's a lot of wacky stuff in the Bible," some if it irrelevant to modern churchgoers. For example, Cannon points out that the same holiness code in Leviticus that prohibits men from lying with each other "as with a woman" also forbids the shaving of beards and the sowing of two kinds of seeds in the same field.

      Conservatives say this means only that some Old Testament rules are superseded by the Christian Gospel . But that thinking runs aground because the New Testament itself contains its own literal conundrums. In the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul asserts that "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." But the author of the Epistle of James says: "A man is justified by works and not by faith alone."

      The tension between those two pronouncements long was a source of controversy between Catholics and Protestants, and St. James ' formulation of the faith made a cameo appearance in John Kerry 's presidential campaign last year.

      There is an alternative to passage-by-passage arguments -- one that calls for the courageous assertion that Scripture can be reinterpreted, and sometimes repudiated, on the basis of the lived experience of Christians, guided by the Holy Spirit.

      This is the approach taken by the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, which decided to ordain the Rev. V. Gene Robinson , a priest in a committed same-sex relationship, as its bishop.

      The national Episcopal Church's defense of this decision, submitted to a recent meeting of the worldwide Anglican Communion (some of whom are outraged over Robinson's ordination), tellingly quotes Jesus' words as reported in the Gospel of John: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you...."

      The report, titled "To Set Our Hope on Christ," notes that the Bible records how St. Peter was guided to the truth that Gentiles could become Christians without becoming Jews and compares it to the Episcopal Church's "discernment" that same-sex relationships can be holy. The Acts of the Apostles recounts how the church ( Peter and friends) are prompted by the Holy Spirit "to question and reinterpret what they would previously have seen as a clear commandment ... not to associate with a particular group of people who were considered unclean."

      The "clobber passages" cited by John and Cannon can be shown to be less than weighty when read in their proper cultural context. But however you read them, liberals can argue, they were never meant to be the end of the lesson. Or as Bishop Robinson put it: "We take Scripture seriously, but not literally."

       

      Anthony

      Moderator

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Exex-gay

      My sexual orientation is not a sickness to be healed or a sin to be forgiven.

      My sexual orientation is a gift from my Creator to be accepted, celebrated, and lived with integrity.

       

    • Derek
      Ah Justin Cannon...I ve seen him a few times on GCN, but as you all can guess he s been very busy lately. Within the last few months he has been mentioned in
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 1, 2005
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        Ah Justin Cannon...I've seen him a few times on GCN, but as you all
        can guess he's been very busy lately. Within the last few months he
        has been mentioned in publications like the Advocate and L.A. Times.
        He's pretty high profile as of late...the Advocate even hails
        him "Future Gay Hero". :)

        --- In Exex-gay@yahoogroups.com, "Anthony Venn-Brown Personal Coach"
        <anthony.venn-brown@p...> wrote:
        >
        > http://www.postgazette.com/pg/05212/546004.stm
        >
        >
        > Some Christians are reinterpreting supposedly anti-gay passages in
        > Scripture, Michael McGough reports, but that may not be the best
        way to win
        > the argument over homosexuality
        >
        >
        > Sunday, July 31, 2005
        >
        > Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
        >
        > Justin R. Cannon, a student at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind.,
        is one of
        > the youngest combatants in the Christian culture wars. But he's a
        happy
        > warrior because his contribution to the debate--an illuminating
        online
        > analysis that argues the Bible doesn't condemn faithful gay
        relationships --
        > has piqued the interest of clergy and laypeople across the
        country.
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Michael McGough is an editor at large in the Post-Gazette's
        National Bureau,
        > <mailto:mmcgough@n...> mmcgough@ nationalpress.com.
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > "I have received all sorts of positive letters and e-mail from
        pastors,
        > bishops, Bible study teachers, seminary professors, gays and
        lesbians, as
        > well as a few straight allies," the seminary-bound Cannon told me,
        referring
        > to his study, "The Bible, Christianity and Homosexuality"
        > (www.truthsetsfree.net <http://www.truthsetsfree.net/> ). (Some
        responses,
        > he conceded, "weren't so friendly [but] I have tried to ... be
        loving and
        > gracious in my replies.")
        >
        > Cannon's Web site makes use of etymology and history to cast doubt
        on the
        > prevailing antigay interpretations of several Bible verses. It is
        only one
        > front in a robust theological counterattack against Christian
        conservatives
        > who insist--as a 1998 statement from Anglican bishops puts it--
        that same-sex
        > relationships of any kind are incompatible with Scripture.
        >
        > Revisionists such as Cannon are ingenious and often persuasive in
        arguing
        > that strictures in both the Old and New Testaments that have been
        read to
        > broadly condemn homosexuality were actually directed at particular
        > offenses--male prostitution, a breach of hospitality (the
        real "sin of
        > Sodom") or the insult to patriarchy represented by a male
        lying "with a man
        > as one lies with a woman" (Leviticus 18:22).
        >
        > In seeking to have antigay Christians reexamine their prejudices,
        the
        > revisionists say they are doing the Lord's work--literally,
        because Jesus
        > said a great deal about love and nothing at all about
        homosexuality. But
        > arguing about whether particular passages in the Bible condemn
        > homosexuality--"proof-texting," in the jargon of biblical scholars-
        -may not
        > be the best way to counter conservatives, who have their own take
        on the
        > passages at issue.
        >
        > Take the question of St. Paul's attitude. The gay British
        theologian Jeffrey
        > John says that in Paul's time, "prostitution and pederasty (in the
        sense of
        > the Greek practice of a temporary pupil-tutor relationship between
        a
        > teenager and an older man) were the standard forms of homosexual
        practice,
        > and those are the forms which were likely to be uppermost" in his
        references
        > to homosexuality.
        >
        > But suppose they weren't? Suppose Paul also would have condemned
        same-sex
        > relationship that, in the words of a book by Jeffrey John,
        were "permanent,
        > faithful, [and] stable"? After all, Paul, a religious genius but a
        man of
        > his time, professed more than a few beliefs that are anathema to
        many
        > contemporary Christians.
        >
        > Sophisticated Christians have long recognized that, as a colleague
        of mine
        > put it after launching his own Scripture study, "there's a lot of
        wacky
        > stuff in the Bible," some if it irrelevant to modern churchgoers.
        For
        > example, Cannon points out that the same holiness code in
        Leviticus that
        > prohibits men from lying with each other "as with a woman" also
        forbids the
        > shaving of beards and the sowing of two kinds of seeds in the same
        field.
        >
        > Conservatives say this means only that some Old Testament rules are
        > superseded by the Christian Gospel. But that thinking runs aground
        because
        > the New Testament itself contains its own literal conundrums. In
        the Epistle
        > to the Romans, St. Paul asserts that "a man is justified by faith
        without
        > the deeds of the law." But the author of the Epistle of James
        says: "A man
        > is justified by works and not by faith alone."
        >
        > The tension between those two pronouncements long was a source of
        > controversy between Catholics and Protestants, and St. James'
        formulation of
        > the faith made a cameo appearance in John Kerry's presidential
        campaign last
        > year.
        >
        > There is an alternative to passage-by-passage arguments -- one
        that calls
        > for the courageous assertion that Scripture can be reinterpreted,
        and
        > sometimes repudiated, on the basis of the lived experience of
        Christians,
        > guided by the Holy Spirit.
        >
        > This is the approach taken by the Episcopal Diocese of New
        Hampshire, which
        > decided to ordain the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, a priest in a
        committed
        > same-sex relationship, as its bishop.
        >
        > The national Episcopal Church's defense of this decision,
        submitted to a
        > recent meeting of the worldwide Anglican Communion (some of whom
        are
        > outraged over Robinson's ordination), tellingly quotes Jesus'
        words as
        > reported in the Gospel of John: "I still have many things to say
        to you, but
        > you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will
        guide
        > you...."
        >
        > The report, titled "To Set Our Hope on Christ," notes that the
        Bible records
        > how St. Peter was guided to the truth that Gentiles could become
        Christians
        > without becoming Jews and compares it to the Episcopal Church's
        > "discernment" that same-sex relationships can be holy. The Acts of
        the
        > Apostles recounts how the church (Peter and friends) are prompted
        by the
        > Holy Spirit "to question and reinterpret what they would
        previously have
        > seen as a clear commandment ... not to associate with a particular
        group of
        > people who were considered unclean."
        >
        > The "clobber passages" cited by John and Cannon can be shown to be
        less than
        > weighty when read in their proper cultural context. But however
        you read
        > them, liberals can argue, they were never meant to be the end of
        the lesson.
        > Or as Bishop Robinson put it: "We take Scripture seriously, but not
        > literally."
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Anthony
        >
        > Moderator
        >
        > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Exex-gay
        >
        > My sexual orientation is not a sickness to be healed or a sin to be
        > forgiven.
        >
        > My sexual orientation is a gift from my Creator to be accepted,
        celebrated,
        > and lived with integrity.
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