When I was first confronted with the idea that God is bigger that the box in my head where I kept my concept of him neatly tucked away, my first reaction was to do what I always do: read and write. I went back to scripture and began to see the text in a different light. Early in my blogging, I shared some of those first writings as they dealt with issues of sexuality:
- REFINDING FAITH: MATTHEW 19:12
Since then I have discovered a world of resources on the topic of the Bible and sexuality. If you are ready to dive in a littler deeper, here are two must read resources on the subject:
- God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines
- The Reformation Project’s free study guide to the book can be found here.
- The Bible, Gender, and Sexuality by Dr. James Brownson
There is always a link to The Reformation Project (TRP) at the top of the page.
My friend Austen Hartke has also produced some great videos on the topic. You can find them on his YouTube channel. I’ve embedded a few of them below, but I highly recommend subscribing to the channel and keeping up with his latest offerings! Another great online resource for a broader picture of the intersection of faith and LGBT+ people is QueerGrace.com. This is an curated online encyclopedia of LGBT/Christian topics.
Having said that, here are a few of my own thoughts to bear in mind as you look as scripture and seek to understand and have compassion for the LGBT community.
When it comes to understanding scripture and how it relates to the transgender issues, there are a few principals that need to be uncovered. They are the same basic principals that are addressed in literature on the topic of what scripture has to say about same-sex attraction and for that matter, the same principals we need to address anytime we aim to interpret scripture into our modern context.
- How does the passage fit into the immediate text? This requires looking into the language being used and the overall message being delivered.
- How does the passage fit into the overall biblical narrative? This includes understanding the other writings of the same human author, the timeframe of the writing and the audience the text was written to.
- What to we need to know about the culture of the writer and the audience that will help us to understand the context and intent of the passage?
And while I’m stuck on lists of three, there are three major differences between Biblical culture and our current climate that we need to bear in mind with any passage we seek to understand and apply.
- Patriarchy was the rule of the day. While still a dominant force on much of our western thinking, patriarchal ideas that would have no place in most of our thinking, such as the “ownership” of daughters and wives, were commonplace even among early Christians.
- Scientific vs. Spiritual thinking. We live in a culture that is addicting to answers. We what to know how, when, why and we want to be able to prove and replicate our knowledge in a lab to justify our positions. While scientific thinking without a doubt outweighs the lack of it, we have to remember that science was in it’s infancy during the era covered in the Biblical narrative – specifically the new testament. In their minds, the earth was flat and the center of the universe. I’m not suggesting one way of thinking is better than the other, just a difference we need to consider.
- Collectivism vs. Individualism. Western ideology is, in large part, built on the value and reasoning of each single person. This is a relatively new worldview. The concept of community, nation and custom ran much deeper in the minds and lives of Biblical figures than most of us will comprehend. Having said there there are many modern cultures outside of Western Europe and North America where collective thought is alive and well. Again, not suggesting that one is better than the other, simply a cultural difference that informs our reading of the text.
I hold scripture in very high regard. I have a great many questions about it, specifically how we came to have text we do today. But I have seen the truth I find in scripture played out in my life and in the lives of countless others. By my estimation and observation, what I find in nature works to support the authority of scripture.
Coming upon conflicts of what appears to be said in the text and what we encounter though life experience requires us to open our hearts and minds and dig deep. It had to happen when we finally agreed the earth revolved around the sun and that slavery was not an institution ordained by God. It will happen again as we see more and more of the complex reality of biology and gender.
Don’t through the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Lean into the text instead of glossing over it or running from it all together. We still have much to learn.