Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Bashing and the Bible: The Issue That Won’t Go Away

Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, MCC Global Leader, one of many ministers calling for the reinterpretation of the Bible (Adam Bouska photo).

Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, MCC Global Leader, one of many ministers calling for the reinterpretation of the Bible (Adam Bouska photo).

Dallas, Texas – Gay bashing associated with death-dealing interpretations of the Bible is not over—not by a long stretch. In the tonier precincts of North American society, queer and straight trend setters deal with the old “scripture wars” as if they are tired remnants of a fight no longer worth dignifying with comment. But nothing could be further from the truth for millions of LGBTQ people in North America and around the globe, especially the young, who are routinely being judged as “abominations” by Christians and Jews who fatally misinterpret scripture.

Three current articles on Huffington Post and elsewhere on the web are bringing the issue of the harm bad interpretations of Bible passages from the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament into sharp focus. The publication of Matthew Vine’s book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (Convergent Books 2014), a passage-by-passage refutation of homophobic interpretations of the six or seven “clobber passages” so often marshaled to denigrate and dehumanize queer people and their relationships, has raised a fire-storm of howling protests by conservatives on the web. Michael Brown, the right wing pundit, is in high dudgeon over the decision of a previously reliable gay bashing, evangelical press conglomerate, the WaterBrook Multnomah Group, to publish Vine’s book and to defend it in the evangelical community. In Brown’s screed, “A Shameful Day in Evangelical Christian Publishing,”[1] he condemns anyone who would defend interpretations of the Bible that contravene the total damnation of LGBT people. Brown decries the defense publisher Stephen W. Cobb[2] makes of Vine’s book, writing, “Have we totally lost our bearings as the people of God? Are we now debating the undebatable and trying to sanction the unsanctionable?”

Brown cannot imagine that the time honored, blood soaked history of interpreting the Bible as a “no homo” bulwark against what evangelicals used to solidly oppose as an abomination is now being contested in his own community of faith. Declaiming anyone who challenges these clobbering passages as a traitor, Brown writes: “…Those who want to revise biblical sexuality and morality have moved away from the Word of God….They have muddled the waters of the faith, and brought reproach on the gospel, further confusing a very lost society, and become propagators of deception in the church. And they will answer to God for all this one day.”

On the moderate and liberal Christian front, the issue of harm done by Bible bashing and misinterpretation is back on the front burner, too. Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, global leader of the Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), challenges world church leaders such as Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to distance the church from using scripture and tradition to bring about the deaths of African LGBTQ people like David Kato of Uganda. Dr. Wilson writes on behalf of queer people of faith in the Huffington Post[3]: “Archbishop Welby, … Will you use your power to defend those who writhe under the heel of Christians who selectively cite the Bible? Or will you huddle by the fire in the courtyard and deny us over and over? Remember, it was Jesus himself who said, ‘When you have done it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.’”

None of the current voices in the “gay bashing and the Bible” debate carry more moral energy, however, than the Easter article published in the Huffington Post by Jane Clementi, “Loving All God’s Children Equally.”[4] Clementi is the mother of Tyler Clementi who committed suicide in September 2010, after his intimate encounter with another young man was broadcast to the world by his Rutgers classmates who spied on him in his own dorm room. Reconsidering the experience of church through the eyes of her child who died from the shame and horror of anti-gay bullying, Clementi writes:

After Tyler’s death, in the silence of my shattered world, as I looked deeply into God’s Word and listened, God continually and clearly spoke of His unconditional love for all and how we should exhibit God’s love to others with kindness and compassion, always seeking unity, giving life, being respectful and welcoming with hospitality and inclusion, always allowing everyone to be at peace with who they are and how God has created them, perfectly and wonderfully made in God’s image. Why have we lost this message? The church must start to embrace these truths and stop preaching hate.

“Sadly, as I look back — almost as if through Tyler’s eyes — I see things so very differently now. Looking through the eyes of a far-less-mature believer, a child with many uncertainties, and a vulnerable youth with much less confidence in how his sexual orientation fit into God’s plan or God’s kingdom, I now see the harm and pain that is caused by the misinterpretation of scripture that homosexuality is a sin.

“Regrettably, Tyler received a clear message from our faith community, whether it was in youth group, Sunday school, the infrequent short sentences that were spoken on rare occasions in the sermon, or maybe even the silence — the shameful, silent disapproval and judgment of how God created him to be different. But Tyler got the message loud and clear, and clearly that is not a message of love for a young person sitting in the pews next to you.”

For Jane Clementi, the matter of scriptural interpretation is not about the finer points of the ancient languages, or doctrinal and moral purity, or even about the unity of church fellowships and ideologies. It is simply about life and death—the life and death of victims of lethal assumptions about the Bible. She concludes her call to the churches on Easter Sunday:

“We must reexamine those six scriptural passages with open hearts and minds and understand that what Paul was saying to first-century Christians does not translate to what we understand today in 2014 about loving, committed same-sex relationships. We must stop judging; we must stop imposing shame. The church, the Body of Christ, needs to acknowledge that homosexuality is not a sin. The church should apologize, put up a rainbow flag on their church sign and welcome all to God’s family. That is how to love our gay Christian brothers and sisters: Love them like God does.”

BashersJane Clementi’s crie de coeur should touch a nerve of concern and compassion, and help LGBTQ people and their allies to re-engage the issue of how the Bible is used in relation to queer people. This issue is not going away. When even one child or gay adult in the USA or around the globe falls into despair because of shame and condemnation linked so intimately with how communities of faith use the Bible, that is one person too many. The use of the Bible, any portion of it, for purposes of dehumanizing and demeaning LGBTQ people must no longer be tolerated by communities of faith, biblical scholars, preachers, priests, rabbis, and theological seminaries. Marriage equality, no matter how currently successful an issue for human rights, will not secure a safe future for queer people until the theological justifications for violence against them are faced squarely and changed to interpretations of life, tolerance, and acceptance.

Evangelical Christians are no longer of one mind about same-sex loving people. The distress of Michael Brown and other right wing purists to the contrary, dissenting evangelical voices are opening their Bibles to new, exciting interpretations that make room for life and varieties of human experiences. Faithful queer religious leaders like Nancy Wilson are chiding their heterosexual counterparts to read their Bibles in the contexts of love and acceptance, and some of them are doing so with new attention to how the “Church’s Book” can become the word of life again. Jane Clementi’s appeal to church and synagogue to open their scriptures to a more just, inclusive, and loving embrace of LGBTQ people puts the reinterpretation of the Bible on the side of marginalized people everywhere—where it should have been all along. It is simple, Clementi reminds all of us: as simple for the faith community of today as it has always been for readers of the Bible throughout history who opened the Book and found the words of life there—not death.

[1] Michael Brown, “A Shameful Day in Evangelical Christian Publishing,” http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/43537-a-shameful-day-in-evangelical-christian-publishing. Accessed 4/18/14.

[2] Stephen W. Cobb, “Why Publish God and the Gay Christian?” http://www.convergentbooks.com/why-publish-god-and-the-gay-christian/. Accessed 4/21/14.

[3] Nancy Wilson, “A Tale of Three Bishops,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-nancy-wilson/a-tale-of-three-bishops_b_5162843.html?utm_hp_ref=religion. Accessed 4/21/14.

[4] Jane Clementi, “Loving All God’s Children Equally,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-clementi/loving-all-gods-children-equally_b_5176554.html. Accessed 4/21/14.

April 21, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay bashing, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, religious intolerance, Tyler Clementi | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gays, Lesbians, Transgender People in the Crosshairs This Election Season: Brite Divinity Bible Event Speaks Out for Justice

Speakers at The Bible, Politics, and Sexuality event at Brite Divinity School (l-to-r): Dr. Shelly Matthews, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Dean Joretta L. Marshall.

Fort Worth, Texas – A gay and a straight professor speak out for sexuality justice in an upcoming forum on the role of the Bible in the political discussion this election year.  Brite Divinity School faculty members, Dr. Shelly Matthews, Associate Professor of New Testament, a straight scholar, and Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Professor of Practical Theology, a gay scholar, will speak at the Bass Conference Center at 7 pm on the divinity school campus, Monday, October 22.  The event will be introduced and moderated by Dean Joretta L. Marshall. The public is invited.

Dean Marshall, in announcing the event, said, “In the highly charged political arena, the Bible is often used in conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation. The Carpenter Initiative in Gender, Sexuality, and Justice is pleased to host Brite scholars, Dr. Shelly Matthews and Dr. Steve Sprinkle, who will offer perspectives on how the Bible is used in positive and negative ways, as well as strategies for moving conversations of sexual justice forward.”

Dr. Matthews, educated at Harvard, is a New Testament expert on many topics.  She was the founder and served for six years as co-chair of the Violence and Representations of Violence Among Jews and Christian section of the Society of Biblical Literature and currently serves on steering committees for the SBL Sections on Early Jewish Christian Relations and the Book of Acts. She is also on the editorial board of the Journal of Biblical Literature and a member of the Westar Institute. Her research interests include feminist biblical interpretation, feminist historiography, early Jewish Christian relations, and Paul in the second century. Dr. Matthews has authored several books and monographs, including Perfect Martyr: The Stoning of Stephen and the Construction of Christian Identity (Oxford, 2012).

Dr. Sprinkle, the first openly gay scholar in Brite history, also serves as Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry. He is an ordained Baptist minister, and received his Ph.D. at Duke University in systematic theology. He holds membership in the Association of Theological Field Education and the Academy of Religious Leadership. Widely recognized as an expert in anti-LGBTQ violence, Dr. Sprinkle is the author of many articles and three books, the most recent of which is the award-winning Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011). Dr. Sprinkle is also the founder and director of the Unfinished Lives Project, and serves as Theologian-in-Residence at Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas, the world’s largest liberal Christian church with a predominant outreach to LGBTQ people

The Bible, Sexuality, and Politics event has a Facebook page where essential information may be found, including directions to Brite Divinity School, and a way to register attendance.  The evening is free and open to everyone.

October 12, 2012 Posted by | Brite Divinity School, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, LGBTQ, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

4 Year Old Boy Shot to Death, Suspected of Being Gay

Jadon Higganbothan, 4, shot to death "for being gay"

Durham, North Carolina – The leader of a religious group in Durham is being charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of 4-year-old Jadon Higganbothan, and of 27-year-old Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy by Durham County prosecutors. Higganbothan had last been seen alive in October 2010, and McKoy had been missing since December of the same year. WRAL.com reports that the remains of both victims were found last month buried behind a Durham home at 2622 Ashe Street. The remains might have gone undiscovered had a landlord not called a plumber to see what the overpowering smell emitting from the backyard of the house was.  The plumbing crew called police when they uncovered the source of the odor, decoying human bodies. Peter Lucas Moses Jr., 27, the leader of a group calling themselves the “Black Hebrews,” allegedly shot the little boy because he saw him touch or slap the buttocks of another boy.  According to testimony given in Durham County Court, Moses suspected that Higganbothan was gay because of his behavior, took the child into the basement of 2109 Pear Tree Lane in Durham, turned up loud music blaring the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew, and shot him in the head. His remains were stuffed in a suitcase, and left on site until the smell became too strong, according to police sources. An informant told police investigators back in February of this year that both killings took place in the Pear Tree Lane house, where Moses lived with Vania Rae Sisk, 25, who is Jadon’s mother, Lavada Quinzetta Harris, 40, Larhonda Renee Smith, 40, and McKoy.  The three surviving women have been indicted as accessories to murder after the fact in the slaying of young Jadon, and for murder in the killing of McKoy, as well.  Besides the three women, who were considered common-law wives of Moses, Moses’ mother, Sheilda Evelyn Harris, 56, his brother, P. Leonard Moses, 21, and his sister, Sheila Falisha Moses, 20, have been indicted by Durham County prosecutors as accessories after the fact in McKoy’s murder, as well.  The motive for McKoy’s murder proposed by prosecutors is that Moses eliminated her because she was “barren,” unable to become pregnant and bear children. The Black Hebrews believe they are directly descended from the ancient tribes of Israel. They teach that there is a coming great war between the races, and that Blacks will emerge triumphant by an act of God.  Some members of the Moses family deny that they are members of the Black Hebrews, asserting only that they are “very religious.” The role McKoy may have played in the slaying of young Higganbothan and its aftermath remains unknown. A search of the Pear Tree Lane premises found a bullet, a shell casing, traces of human blood, and evidence of “overt cleaning” of the execution area.

July 10, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Black Hebrews, Execution, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Israel, Law and Order, LGBTQ, multiple homicide, North Carolina, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, religious intolerance, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 4 Year Old Boy Shot to Death, Suspected of Being Gay

   

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