Last month I posted about how some Ex-Gay Survivors need to take on the Bible for themselves. Religious leaders and Ex-Gay ministers have used the Bible as weapon against us. If we choose to have the Biblical texts in our lives, we need to look at them afresh. In Defensive Theology & the Ex-Gay Movement, I gave examples of how I approach two of the most often quoted clobber passages–the Sin of Sodom and Romans Chapter One. I have appreciated the thoughtful and well-presented comments.
In facing the clobber passages that once oppressed me, I no longer feel condemnation, and I even marvel at how I could have taken those passages so personally when they really have nothing to do with my life. On July 21, 2012, I will marry my partner, Glen Retief at the Quaker Meeting where we are members, and I do so with great joy and confidence.
In the quest to sift through my faith and integrate it into the rest of my life, I have found it essential to engage in what I call Proactive Theology. I wanted, and perhaps needed, to see people in the Biblical texts who seemed like me. Or if not exactly like me, I studied the texts to discover other sexual and gender minorities to see how they get treated. (see video and audio below)
Lots of queer theology hinges on the question of who is or might be gay or lesbian in the Bible. This speculative exercise has had scholars questioning the sexual orientation of everyone from Ruth and Noami to the Roman centurion with a man servant sick at home. Some scholars delight that the texts reveal how King David is intimate with many women and at least one man, and they turn him into a polyamorous bisexual Bible hero.
Yet so much of the Ex-Gay Movement has focused on gender roles, gender presentation, and gender identity. People laugh when I talk about the football clinic I attended at Love In Action or when male participants learned how to change the oil in their cars while female participants got a lesson in bread baking (which I could have taught). Religious leaders and the Ex-Gay practitioners attempted to turn us into real men and women of God–gender normative, and if not exactly heterosexual, well, then at least no longer “acting gay.”
In most of the books of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures the writers outline pretty strict rules regarding how men and women are supposed to act, so it is not too difficult to notice when someone misbehaves. While doing my research, I discovered that some of the most important people in some of the most important Bible stories are gender non-conforming.
In my performance lecture, Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, I look at some of these gender outlaws in scripture. Scholars and ministers are listening and have appreciated seeing new views of known and little known characters in old Bible stories. I believe some traditional Bible-believing folks are hungry for Good News in regards to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. They do not wish to disobey “The Word” or say it is wrong, but they are beginning to consider whether their interpretations have been biased.
Since conducting my research, I have presented my findings at many schools and conferences including Vanderbilt Theological Seminary, Eastern Mennonite University, Pacific School of Religion, the Yale Slifka Center for Jewish Life, and the 2008 Lambeth Conference. In November I will present my scholarship at the Society for Biblical Literature Conference in Chicago, IL. Below I offer samples in both video and audio formats.
A Gender Variant Savior[youtube]http://youtu.be/fFaLPDdylXc[/youtube]
Last week I attended the Friends General Conference, a Jamboree of sorts for some North Quakers. I gave five 30 minute talks on the Bible and focused mostly on gender and gender variance.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Princess Dress???[youtube]http://youtu.be/rgVQELuafmA[/youtube] Some People Get Left Out–Two Ethiopian Eunuchs (Audio 25 min)
The Man with the Pitcher of Water (Audio 23 min–sound quality improves after 10 minutes)
(click here for more of my talks from Friends General Conference)