Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Journey - Stage One

I first started on my journey toward acceptance of same-sex relationships based on a struggle my father, an Anglican priest, had with the issue in the early 1980's. My father still identifies as a homophobe. But he is a homophobe with compassion. He recognizes that his problem with homosexuality is based on his conditioning by society rather than his Christian faith. Now there's a switch from those who believe that supporting same-sex relationships is caving into society.

I will say that when I look back, I don't believe that I ever had been taught that homosexuality was a sin. I remember in high school that we had a teacher everyone figured was gay. But we mostly made jokes about him and the Zodiac club. It was more an "ick" factor than anything.

I can't even remember the context around my conversation with my father. There had been a church meeting of some sort and something about sexuality must have come up. I remember Dad speaking about the struggle between his head and his gut. His head told him that human kind was created in God's image which meant that we were created to be in relationship. He struggled with denying the opportunity for that intimate relationship to a group of people. And yet his upbringing gave him a major reaction in his gut whenever he thought about two men in a relationship together.

I didn't think much more about this for a number of years. The conversation did remain with me and did provide a basis whenever same sex relationships was brought up. It wasn't until the mid-nineties at a bible study when the pastor spoke strongly against same sex relationships that I realized that I had come to a sort of acceptance of them based on my dad's struggle. The acceptance, however, was more academic or intellectual than anything else.

In the late-nineties I started seminary. My New Testament class opened my eyes further to the wonder of scripture and I encounter feminism interpretations for the first time. I think my first in-depth feminist study was on Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

But it was my Hebrew Scriptures class that really made the study of scripture come alive for me. I think this was because it had a bit more of a cross discipline approach. I have always loved history and had taken classes in Sociology. My approach to things is more anthropological although I will admit to never having taken any Anthropology on a formal basis. During this time I was struck by the understanding of procreation. When coupled with what I understood to be the attitude toward the feminine the prohibitions about same sex intercourse became much clearer.

Looking at Leviticus I noticed that prohibition against same sex intercourse was only directed toward males. This raised a question in my mind. When I further thought on it, I remembered that to be female was to be inferior. When one considers the sex act, one could see where it was believed that one male would have to play a female role or be in a female position. This would have been very demeaning. Add to that the understanding of procreation where it was believed that the male seed was a tiny perfectly formed human being. To plant this seed in anything other than a woman's womb was akin to murder.

Sodom and Gomorrah is said to be about hospitality. To me it is about violence. Yes, hospitality is part of it but the violence of what the men wanted to do stands out more. It is not same sex relations that the men want. It is to violently humiliate the guests by using them as women. The passage disturbs me even further when I consider that it would not have been as bad in the men's eyes had it been a woman who was so violently violated. I should mention that this interpretation is very much influenced now by the realization that the reason God caused the flood was the violence of humans. The humans did evil in the sight of God but the evil that is mentioned most pointedly and consistently is violence.

I was beginning to take ownership of my own stance on human sexuality.

I should also mentioned that my parents were instrumental in providing the lens through which I view scripture. My father is a Canon Emeritus based on his work in the area of Social Justice. My mother was every bit as much involved in that work as my father and certainly holds her own ideas on it. Each of them is a force to be reckoned with. They brought me up in a world of love and inclusion. This is not to say that I am free from racism and bigotry. I can't help my gut reactions that have been formed by the people and society around me. What I can do is not act on those reactions when I understand them to be wrong.

Most telling for me is the gospels where Jesus lifts up those who are oppressed because of the systems and religious misunderstandings of what it means to be fully human. The thing in the Hebrew scriptures (next to the story of Creation) that stands out most for me is God's continual reminder to the Israelites to remember that it is God that brought them out of slavery in Egypt and to respond by looking after the orphan, the widow, and the alien in the strange land. There are the calls through the prophets to do justice.

Then there is the gospels themselves which tell of Jesus ministering to the outcasts - those that the religious system based on the laws (a number of which are in Leviticus) had declared unclean, often for things that were innate or beyond their control. The over-riding commandment that Jesus gives us is the one to love. God loves us. Our response to the love is to love God and to love one another. In the BCP, the book with which I was brought up, I remember being told that on these two laws hang all the laws and the prophets. There is no commandment or law greater than these. This is the lens through which I read and interpret the scripture.

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