Beliefs, Christainity, LGBTQI+, Philosophy

radical theology and the lgbtqi+ community (part three): theological methods

(This is the final installment for the series concerning the lgbtqi+ community and radical theology. My goal was to demonstrate a new approach and way of thinking when it comes to the Christian Scripture and the affirmation and welcoming of the lgbtqi+ community.)

U.S. mainline denominations (Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians etc.) possess broad methods for thinking theologically. Methodists come equipped with the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, reason, experience, and tradition. Episcopalians and Presbyterians have a similar method, but use different illustrations. Yet, still many denominations in the U.S. say that they only depend on Scripture or sola scriptura  as their main source of theological understanding! This, of course, does not leave room for a historical/traditional discourse about the interpretation of Scripture and the events that happened pre-Protestant reformation.  As I wrote in the first post in this series, it is impossible to listen to only one voice in the Scriptures, and not acknowledge the other voices that contradict or oppose it.

What we need are new hermeneutical methods for Scriptures or to re-discover recent, yet discarded ways of critical theory. This would be methods and ideas from deconstruction to Marxist reading and certainly feminist and queer readings of tradition and Scripture. Postmodern Philosopher and Theologian David Tracy points out:

“The great creative individuals–thinkers, artists, heroes, saints–found themselves, impelled to find new ways to interpret an experience that their culture or tradition seemed to unable to interpret well or even at all.” (Plurality and Ambiguity, pg. 7)

Today, we face our own crises in our churches and discerning how to approach the lgbtqi+ community. From the mainline traditions, the Episcopal church has affirmed that they will urge Congress members to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Episcopalians also are very public with their welcoming and affirming stances and had the first Bishop who was openly gay in 2003. In July at the Presbyterian Church of the USA General Assembly same-sex marriage affirmation was rejected, nevertheless by a narrow vote. Three years ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America allowed openly gay clergy members to serve. Still countless Christian denominations either do not speak about this subject, such as churches who do not have much power in the public sphere or they have stances that oppose even the idea of same-sex partners.

One of my concerns with congregations that have strict restrictions concerning same-sex relationships is that they do not know anyone in the lgbtqi+ community that practices Christianity. News outlets portray the lgbtqi+ community as ultra-radicals trying to subvert the very culture of the U.S. Yet, if the only information that we collect and experience comes from a TV/computer screen, our perception counts for not much. As humans we interpret everything at all times. Sometimes we get those things right, like when the popcorn stops popping and it is still on the stove, I am going to take it off and not leave it on there to burn.

With the lgbtqi+, we have neglected dialogue and conversation, instead we place our own perceptions on them. The greatest thing that I did intentionally was to attend a church that serves the lgbtqi+ community. I thought going into the experience was a church that would call God  father/mother and that would have song with progressive lyrics. Instead, the experience felt very close to my Pentecostal upbringing. We sang 90’s worship songs. Sure the pastor was gay and most of the congregants were in same-sex relationships, but talking with them after the service, they were much more theologically conservative than I. There was even an altar call at the end of the service.

The challenge for us now and in the future will be how we will experience faith. How can we not allow anyone who wants to follow God in the way of Jesus to come to church? Theology must go beyond, but also include Scripture, yet if the cultural context of Scripture does not fit within our own experiences, it is hard to only focus on Scripture. The Wesleyan quadrilateral could be helpful for understanding the theology. For instance, my experience with the lgbtqi+ has been delightful, I know several people part of that community who follow Jesus. The Scriptures are faithful to “loving God and loving neighbor,” therefore my harsh judgments against those who have not persecuted anyone and find themselves as the underdogs must not be forced into more oppression. Depending on one’s reading of the Christian tradition, it could go either way. For the church in the East, John Chrysostom denounces homosexuality in the 400’s. Yet, a non-issue about homosexuality was Augustine’s approach. To reiterate, the ancients thought of homosexuality was more of a sexual act more than a relationship between two persons of the same sex. It was about dominant power rather than mutual love. Lastly, a reasonable theological conclusion must submit to the fact that Christianity and same-sex relationships are certainly compatible.

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Beliefs, LGBTQI+, Politics

radical theology and the lgbtqi+ community (part two): jesus, st. paul, and difference

On Sunday mornings before going to church, I browse the internet, reading friend’s statuses on Facebook, and cruise through Reddit. One particular morning, I stumbled onto John MacArthur, who is a pastor on the West Coast and an astute Calvinist. During the month of May, he preached a series on homosexuality and the Scriptures. Under my own discretion, I watched the video concerning St. Paul in First Corinthians 6:9-10. His translation the English Standard Version read as follows,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

These verses cause me great uneasiness.They give the hard and fast formula for whose in and whose out. In contrast, when I read the Gospels, I read of a Jesus who believes that “those who are sick,” and the “least of these,” will be in the kin-dom of God. Yet, I wonder if we are misreading these verses, and that they are standing before us naked without a context.  What if practicing adultery, thievery, greed, drunkenness, homosexuality,  and being a swindler posit that you are part of the wealthy and the ruling class? What if St. Paul is saying that these statuses and attributes are an ongoing problem with the rich and it is causing much distress for other people, especially the poor among them?

As noted, St. Paul wrote that it is men who practice the act of homosexuality and not women. (Although, chapter one of Romans speaks of woman with woman in idolatrous worship ceremonies.) To put this in context, around the first century, a graphic mural depicting a man sitting down and a young boy bending over could be found in the middle of ancient villages. The boy was probably one of the man’s slaves and he of course was having sex with him. Thus, men having sex with little boys demonstrates a power dynamic, and was considered homosexuality. If then, this was a norm for the ancient world, grown men raping boys, then I too would be against this type of homosexuality! Thus, when priests who do the same thing, we stand angrily against such acts.

Maybe we could then change a bit of First Corinthians 6:9-10 to contextualize it.

Or do you not know that the those ignoring way of God will not inherit the kin-dom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually limitless ones who hurt others , nor those placing a nation, money, or work above God, nor those who are dishonest with their partners and find other ones while still in the relationship, nor men or wo/men who abuse children and find it pleasurable, nor those who steal, not for the sake of need, but out of luxury for themselves, nor those who have too much and are not willing to let it go, nor those who find substances more important than relationships, nor people who want to change the system to only benefit themselves, nor people who trick the poor into giving them money or goods will inherit the kin-dom of God.

For John Dominic Corssan, Marcus Borg, and John Caputo, God’s kin-dom should be more like the reign of God rather than a futurist place. The common notion that when Jesus states that the “kin-dom of God is like,” he is referring to the future time and place. A problem arises though, the parables that Jesus was sharing was not for the sake of the future, but of the present. This kind of thinking can be found everywhere in the U.S. One finds that the way that they are suppose to live from St. Paul rather than how the kin-dom looks to Jesus.

Of course, it is harder to follow a bunch of parables rather than St. Paul’s direct ethical statements. Yet, the Christian faith is not, and I repeat is not about ethical charges for how to live one’s life. The church seems to be all about that though. We like to judge others and create policies that harm people that we do not like or think that they are doing wrong. The kin-dom of God is like a party thrown for people who are born August, and everyone is invited, some will say that they are busy, many poor, homeless, crippled, depressed people can’t get out of bed, anarchists living down by the railroad tracks, some people with jobs will come on their lunch breaks, and others will ignore the invite altogether. Yes, the party will be uncomfortable, you will have to talk with people who are in different classes, political stances, emotional states! Yet, that is the kin-dom! The kin-dom is difference, lots of difference! We celebrate God by celebrating difference! In the U.S., we want to be a united, hegemonic people. The eleventh chapter of Genesis shows us what the ancients believed about God and hegemony.

This relates to the LGBTQI+ community by once again (from part one of this series) showing that context with the Scriptural text is a must! Second, that a Christian community survives not through hegemony, but through anxiety, un-comfortableness, and difference. The kin-dom of God is one that is vibrant and full of lives. Unless the Christian community starts to embrace the otherness of different people accepting them as apart of the kin-dom, we will not be able to thrive now or in the future.

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