Thursday, June 07, 2007

Clobber passages

It always discourages me when gay Christians tell me they don't read their Bibles because of what they call the "clobber passages." Clobber passages are the verses conservative Christians routinely cite in condemnation of homosexuality, namely, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10. They are only six passages in the entire Bible, yet because they are cited ad nauseam with an aim to humiliate and destroy people's sense of self-worth, most gay people I know view the Bible with anywhere from fear to outright hostility.

If you're one of those demoralized people, I say go ahead and read the Bible for yourself, and don't let those crazy fundamentalists tell you what it's all about. They may sound like they know what they're talking about, but believe me, they don't. Think about it. If they really know so much about the Bible, why do they keep quoting the same small set of passages over and over again?

I've read the Bible from cover to cover seven times. It is essentially a story--an extended dramatic story that begins in tragedy and ends in triumph. It is about how God created the first man and woman, blessing them with his love and tender care, except they betrayed him for an enemy and brought sin and death into the world. The whole thing is a done deal by the first three chapters of Genesis. Yet in spite of this, God seeks to salvage the situation by making a way for human beings to be saved from condemnation before his own judgment throne. That's right. The whole story of the Bible is how God sets out to save sinners from himself. The question is, how will he accomplish it?

His plan of salvation begins with a promise to Adam and Eve, and that promise is tied to a lineage that would someday produce the Messiah. Hence the Old Testament is about tracing the unfolding of this lineage (which explains all those genealogies, right?), sometimes producing heroes who foreshadow the coming Messiah, and sometimes undergoing peril as enemies try to snuff it out. An entire nation called Israel arises from this lineage, and their failure collectively to keep God's law proves once more that their true hope lies in the Promised One, not in the futile efforts of law-keeping.

Enter the New Testament. The Messiah does come, but will his own people recognize him? Or will the lure of law-keeping, and the self-righteous satisfaction it brings, blind them from seeing the One in whom their forefathers had hoped for generations? Some do see, but others are sure he is an impostor. His humility and compassion attract the lowly but offend the self-righteous. One thing leads to another and he is ultimately destroyed. He was a blasphemer, after all. He claimed to be God's Son. Preposterous. Why would the Son of God touch lepers, befriend prostitutes, forgive tax collectors, and heal cripples on the Sabbath? A real Messiah would have vanquished the Romans, judged the sinners, and established a kingdom ruled by the Mosaic Law. Right? Glory be to God, we killed that phony . . .

But he was God's Son. He rises from the dead to prove it, and only then do people realize that his death, far from being an accident, was the ultimate atoning sacrifice offered to God for the sins of the world. The Messiah has indeed come and the way to forgiveness and life has been opened. Even the mobs that had called for his blood realize their mistake, and thousands come to believe. And what happens next, how this new hope transforms their lives, how they go out into the world and can't stop celebrating and talking about Jesus Christ--well, that's what the book of Acts and the rest of the epistles of the New Testament are about.

Yes, there are those six passages. If you wish, you can buy commentaries that will give various interpretations for those passages and you can wrestle with them. I'll have an opinion, you'll have an opinion, and so will that other person standing over there, and probably none of us will agree. But are you going to miss out on the ultimate story of God's love, forgiveness and compassion for you, just because some whacked-out extremists know how to rip a handful of Bible passages out of context and throw them in your face out of hatred and cruelty? I don't think they deserve to have that much leverage in your life. Do you?