As one of my New Year’s resolutions, I hope to encourage more Christians to read their Bibles with a brand new set of eyes and a compassionate heart.
Because the Bible has played a salient role in discrimination against all people at different times in this country. Both religious intolerance and fundamentalism foster a climate of spiritual abuse that leave many people in spiritual exile for the rest of their lives. At present , its excommunicated population is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Used too often as a controlling device and not enough as a spiritual compass, the Bible becomes a tool to promulgate moral and political agendas. For example, in 1998, the right-wing Christian groups — the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition, and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality — ordered all its members to cease using the King James Version of the Bible because historians had proven that King James I of England, who was also known as James VI of Scotland, was indisputably gay.
Should the King James Version of the Bible, which has been around since 1611 and used worldwide, be discarded solely on the bases of King James’ sexual orientation?
Speaking at a press conference about this controversy, Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council said, “I feel uncomfortable that good Christians all over America, and indeed the world, are using a document commissioned by a homosexual. Anything that has been commissioned by a homosexual has obviously been tainted in some way.”
The justification for queer bashing stems from the belief of doing God’s will as purported in the Bible, and many Christians, both blacks as well as whites, believe only heterosexuals are elected to do so.
Gospel singers Angie and Debbie Winans released a single in 1998 titled “Not Natural,” in which they self-righteously denounced lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as children of God. When queried by newscaster Travis Smiley on the cable show Black Entertainment Tonight what compelled them to come forth and sing this song, Debbie Winans stated, ” We don’t come as Angie and Debbie. We come as messengers of God doing his will.”
“Doing God’s will” is a prodigious task and unmistakably a human enterprise. As a human enterprise, “doing God’s will” is invariably subject to error because it is fraught with both humble intent and righteous indignation. Its anchor and its impetus are found in the human act of interpreting the Word of God.
Interpreting scripture as the Word of God is always subjective and is always suspect in intent, whether it is being done in the ivy towers of seminaries or within the holy walls of sanctuaries. Interpreting scripture with menacing messages — and with litanies of do’s and don’t’s — is not about embracing and empowering all people, but about authority and power over certain groups of people. The authority of scripture does not lie in what God said. It lies in the hands of those in power who determine what God ought to say.
The Bible is replete with contradictory and damning messages to all people. Determining which messages are discarded and which are upheld is not a battle about biblical inerrancy or God’s will. It is an unmitigated battle of human will. For example, there are two creationist myths in the Bible (Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:22). The first myth says that God made woman and man simultaneously. The second creation myth is our “rib story” in which Eve is born from a rib of Adam. Undoubtedly this story has ribbed and poked at Christian women throughout the centuries, since it is the authoritative text for substantiating gender inequity in society. The Curse of Ham (Genesis 9:18-27), and Apostle Paul’s edict to slaves (Ephesian 6:5-8) served as the scientific and Christian legitimation for the enslavement of people of African ancestry. The Sodom and Gomorrah narrative (Genesis 19:1-29) is one of the most quoted scriptures to argue for compulsory heterosexuality and queer bashing.
As lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, however, many of us allow the power of God’s will to be interpreted and executed by heterosexuals by not knowing the Bible ourselves. Our ignorance about the Bible, whether we are practicing atheists or recovering Christians, perpetuates our oppression and make us participants in this climate of homophobia. As more and more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people unabashedly take back the Bible, new theological and ethical questions must be raised.
As our society crawls toward diversity and inclusiveness while approaching a new year and new presidency, the moral imperative calls for the prophetic voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the same manner that the civil rights movement in this country called for the prophetic voices of African Americans.
Is it the will of God to devalue and to dehumanize the lives of women, people of African ancestry, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people? On the question of race and gender, most Americans, both Christians and non-Christians, clearly see the answer as no. However, on the question of sexual orientations many of our heterosexual brothers and sisters are biblically challenged.