Justice . Honest Bible

6 Anti-Gay Clobber Passages – Biblical Authority (Mis)Used Against People. Ouch!

Evangelicals and others use a few “clobber passages” against gays – but those passages are quite few, quite brief, and much less clear than it seems at first glance.

clobber passagesIn spite of the “clobber passages” there’s truly not much in the Bible that can be construed as anti-gay, anti-LGBTQ+.  What little there is shrivels to no logical – or pastoral – weight when examined carefully.

SERIOUSLY, FOLKS, WE OUGHT NOT TO MAJOR ON WHAT IS NOT EVEN A MINOR BIBLICAL CONCERN.

There are even some who clearly think it’s to their political (or ecclesiological) advantage to major on this “not even minor” issue; but that perceived advantage doesn’t count in trying to understand what a Christian, or Biblically-formed, attitudes should be. Surely for Christians to walk with integrity among people in the real world, they cannot

  1. claim Biblical authority to be angry, offended, excluding, or otherwise activist against certain groups of people where there is no Biblical authority,
  2. and refuse to be concerned about, refuse to actively resist, lack of love, even simple courtesy, toward those same people.

Here are some concerns about American Christian behavior toward this significant subset of the population, a subset which of course includes church members.  One, don’t misuse the Bible.  Two, do practice love for our neighbors.

1. LET’S NOT MISUSE THE BIBLE (i.e. the “Clobber Passages”)

    1. There is very little in the Bible that even might seem to condemn homosexual or gender-fluid types of persons or of practice – very few passages, very few total words.
    2. AND there are significant problems with all these passages, problems that make them unusable in any Bible-based crusade against gay persons. All of these Passages have some exegetical / hermeneutical / doctrinal problems
      • *** Please note that these problems are sufficient to make these passages unusable as support for condemning, excluding, or otherwise persecuting, LGBTQ+ persons today ***.
      • These problems include
        • mistranslation,
        • misstating what the passage actually says,
        • ignoring the context of the passage
        • misapplication of teaching to Christian settings, teaching not appropriate to the Gospel as presented by Jesus.
        • simple injustice and mistreatment of real persons.
        • Unmerited overconfidence in one’s own interpretations. Peter said of Paul’s writings that there are “many things hard to understand.” If it’s true of Paul’s epistles, it is likely – and demonstrably – true of other passages in the Bible.
      • (See below for a list of these passages with my summary comments, and for links to some sites that treat them in more detail.)
    3. It is an ethical and exegetical error to dogmatize about things that are not clear.
    4. It’s a moral error to use unreliable Bible quotes to stigmatize and persecute groups of very real people.
    5. It is surely an ethical and doctrinal error to choose this issue to emphasize, to be disturbed about, to be persecuting people over – that is, bullying by prioritizing an issue that a) the Bible hardly mentions, and for which b) the mentions (real or apparent) are easily misunderstood and thus easily misapplied.
    6. It’s a moral error to apply “I don’t like it,” or “I think it’s gross” AS IF our preferences were Divine guidance.
    7. It is in fact an ethical and spiritual disaster to ignore so many of the Bible’s blunt, blatant priorities and criticisms – issues that are a) so much more emphasized, and b) so much more clear –while enforcing a personal preference with exclusion, toleration of hate speech, or even violence, on the basis of a personal preference.
    8. It’s ethical hypocrisy to claim to “hate the sin” of other people while carefully ignoring or hiding one’s own sins or those of one’s own family, church, economic class, political group, etc.
    9. It’s wrong to read into or bring a priori emphasis or preference to Bible passages.
    10. It’s wrong to choose to elevate as Bible teaching what is very subordinate or nonexistent in the Bible – majoring on minors or chimera.
    11. Even taken all together these passages do not justify rejection of or antagonism against gay people today.
    12. Thus, these passages are irrelevant to this topic. Some may have to do with forms of sexual exploitation and violence, but that is a much broader and much more prevalent issue.

2. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

    1. Let’s practice love, that is listening to and getting to know specific persons, actually seeing, listening to, practicing empathy toward, even welcoming, protecting.
    2. Let’s NOT imagine that saying “we love them” is enough. Saying we love people in general does not fulfill the obligation (Romans 12?) to love. We have to actually love specific persons in the specific real life situations that they find themselves in.
    3. Notice! Let’s avoid the moral error of discriminating against, being unusually sensitive to, unwise choices or personality quirks among LGBTQ people. We cannot act as if personality quirks or  unwise behaviors or choices are not also VERY MUCH PRESENT among other believers or church attenders.  ALL human individuals, including gay people,
      • make stupid decisions,
      • have personality problems,
      • have things not work out as hoped.
      • It’s HUMAN! It says nothing about their gay-ness.
    4. Offer the love and services of church life.
      • The pastor of a UMC church in Omaha said this about churches leaving UMC over this issue.  “The folks who are leaving do not want to be part of a denomination that includes congregations who offer the full ministry of the church to LGBTQ people.”

LINKS treating clobber passages

ARTICLES ONLINE:

Rabbi Amy-Jill Levine: How to read the Bible’s “clobber passages” on homosexuality.

Simple, direct, if occasionally a bit technical, treatments of these passages (plus Genesis 1, sometimes used to argue that sexual activity is only for procreation). The article includes a helpful “Five Quick Closing Thoughts.”

Christian Pastor Reframes Scripture Used Against LGBTQ Community

This is a brief review of Colby Martin’s “UnClobber.”  I’ve found this book helpful.  (See links to a couple other books below.)

Clobber Passages: the Bible and Homosexuality  “A Series …”

“This series of essays is derived from a paper titled “Same Gender Sexual Behavior and the Scriptures,” prepared as a service of the Metropolitan Community Church of Topeka, authors Rev. Jonathan Loppnow and Rev. Paul C. Evans, with supporting scholarship by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.”

Should We Downplay the “Clobber Passages” on Homosexuality?

Here’s a sample of a  “conservative” perspective; this one ignores issues of translation, context, etc. and is motivated, it seems, from present practice in the author’s personal cultural setting.

LINKS: BOOKS
UnClobber, by Colby Martin
God and the Gay Christian, by Matthew Vines
Changing Our Mind: Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians with Response to Critics, by David P Gushee

MY SUMMARY COMMENTS on the specific “clobber passages” …

  1. Genesis 19 (and Ezekiel) [Sodom]
    1. The issue here is not sex, but self-indulgence, greed, arrogance, bullying, violence.
    2. Sodom’s sin was less deadly than that of Jesus’ neighbors – the sin of not listening to Jesus (a sin very common among US Christians).
    3. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”  Matthew 11:23-24
    4. I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodomthan for that town.  Luke 10:12
    5. Ezekiel makes clear that the sins of “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned” are ones we should probably stay away from. But what then would happen to the American economy?
      1. “your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom.  You not only followed their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they.  As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.
      2. Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”
  2. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
    1. This is ensconced in cultural directives that Christians calmly, easily ignore – shrimp, fabric, seed, disobedient children, raising offspring through one’s brother’s widow.
    2. It deals with cultural habits, not spiritual essences.
  3. Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
    1. No mention whatsoever
  4. Romans 1:26,27
    1. Perhaps wrongly generalized as translated.
    2. Perhaps quoting the nay-sayers, using their vaunted concern for holiness against them (which seems most likely to me).
  5. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    1. Probable mistranslation of term targeting a small specific group, with behavior involving exploitation, even violence (which, remember, was the problem in Sodom).
  6. 1 Timothy 1:10
    1. Probably mistranslation of term targeting a small specific group, with behavior involving exploitation, even violence (which, remember, was the problem in Sodom).

It seems to me that these passages either are not relevant to the current debate, or they are so ambiguous that it would be dangerous to try to use them.

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See Also:
Open and Affirming Churches – Are YOU SEEN, Welcomed, Affirmed? Do You See, Welcome, Affirm?

Here are a couple of articles on this site about (mis-)use of the Bible:
Featured • Honest Bible
Abusive Use of the Bible – a la Speaker Mike Johnson – is Fraud. But Popular, & a Handy Weapon.

People Who Take the Bible Seriously are America’s Problem & Blessing (with 2 Rules of Interpretation)
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