Thursday, March 24, 2011

When Mortal Flesh Keeps Silent

I had to make a very difficult decision while leading Morning Prayer.

The reading assigned from Romans was Romans 1:28-2:11. This picked up two verses later than the previous day. No biggie... except I know what's in vv 26-27 of that first chapter. Most LGBT people who have encountered "Bible Bigots" know what those verses say, and in the ears of someone living in the 21st century, it's not pretty. It would appear to be an unambigous statement from Paul that same-sex relations, be they female or male, are anti-Christ. These, along with Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10... are among the favorites to throw at LGBT people in an effort to separate us from God. They are the "No"s of Scripture as in "No, it's not for you!"

I had thought about including those verses into the scheduled reading. I have written about them before here and have talked about my frustration that the church doesn't just confront these words of Paul and talk plainly about translation... time frame of Paul... and, especially for me as a lesbian, to note that my "natural" relations are with women; hence to have sex with a man would be, for me, "unnatural".

But as the service went on... first with a reading from Jeremiah about the wrath that will come to Judah and how she, and Israel, have been playing the whore (in other words, haven't been keeping their eyes on God)... and then using the penitential canticle in the BCP... I thought, "No, not today. Today, we will go with the assigned reading." Plus, there was a new person in the congregation which made me think twice about starting with what sounds like hateful vitriol... that would have required some explaining of context. At 7:15am, I'm not ready to attempt an explaination of Paul to anyone!

I do find myself vexed by the whole thing. Ignoring these passages, and pretending that they don't exist in "the Book" when they do is not a good answer to me. Especially when they are the very words a Biblical literalist will use to assert that I am a devil.

So, was I a coward and hypocrite for not taking it on myself to read aloud these offensive words of Paul? No, I don't think so. As I was preparing to start reading, an internal check of myself told me that the question here was one of what is the wisest move: override the diviners of the lectionary or stick with the program? And ultimately this question: why am I thinking of overriding this? Am I doing this with God... or am I doing this for my ego? Again, weighing all the other factors surrounding this decision, I quickly got to "this is an ego thing." And I let it go and those verses remained silent.

Still, as I contemplate the courage of those who are trying to develop same-sex blessings for the church, I keep wondering if what we're skirting in the church is honesty. Brutal, uncensored honesty. The church, in my opinion, has never really owned up to its trespasses against the LGBT community, perhaps because it continues to commit them in some corners. One way to make amends would be to give some effort to talk about those passages in Scripture that challenge us. And, once and for all, make the point that (1) Jesus never said anything about same-sex relationships; (2) neither Jesus, nor Paul nor anyone had a concept of LGBT relationships in the 21st century; (3) the word "homosexual" is NOT in the original texts because the word did not exist until the 19th century CE.

Just a thought.


Phoebe said...

These verses create pain in many situations. A simple MP, without time or space for comments or any form of education is not the time. Perhaps that is why in the wisdom of those setting the lectionary left them out of MP readings.
We can plan a time when a serious discussion can take place when it begins with prayer and ends with prayer and invite others stressed by these verses.

Anonymous said...

I think Phoebe's idea is great and I hope it happens. Your early MP time isn't a good time for this.


SCG said...

Thanks all. I think we need to study them. And not at night, in a corner, but in the light and out in the open.

frdougal said...

Personally, I would have found an alternate set of readings for that office (the Eucharistic ones if there was no Eucharist in Church that day). Simple said MP without the chance for explanation or exposition I agree is the wrong place to place contentious scripture in public worship