Why I Keep Ranting about Gay Rights: Part 1 — My North Star of Biblical Interpretation

Someone on a Facebook thread a few days ago said that something must have happened to me in the past to make me have such a strong conviction in favor of gay rights.  That same person later described my expression of said convictions to be ranting.   So I decided to explain why I keep “ranting” about gay rights.  I’m going to break up this explanation into a few separate blog posts.

I didn’t start out life with a rant in mind.  I grew up in rural Kentucky in the 1970s, and I learned stereotypical homophobia from the guys I ran around with.  We made jokes about the sexuality of one another, implying that whomever was the butt of our joke (don’t make anything out of that) was gay.  But we didn’t know anything about real gay people whatsoever.  There were certain individuals in school who were rumored to be gay.  There were a few guys who had what we thought of as effeminate characteristics and a few girls who seemed masculine to us.  Quite frankly, I never really cared, but, to my shame today, I engaged in the same anti-gay banter into which I had been enculturated.

In college, one of the “somethings” that must have happened to me for me to so strongly express solidarity with the civil-rights struggle of GLBTQI persons actually happened.  This first “something” that happened to me was that I learned to think critically.  That’s one of the things a good education teaches, despite the Texas Republican Party’s insistence otherwiseI learned to examine my own prejudices and to re-evaluate them, particularly, as a pre-ministerial student, my religious prejudices.  While a student at the same United Methodist college where I am currently the chaplain, I learned to apply these critical-thinking skills to religion in general and to the Bible in particular.

From Coda’s Flickrstream http://www.flickr.com/photos/coda/190168058/

This continued in seminary and is epitomized by what Old Testament professor Dr. George Coats said on the first day of class.  He told us about the first time he kissed the woman who would become his wife.  He described climbing a hill in his hometown in Texas.  He told about looking into the night sky after the kiss.  He held up a large print of a photo of the night sky.  He said that the facts were that the sky looked something like this.  But the truth, he said, holding up a print of van Gogh’s Starry Night, was that he experienced something like that.  He said that much of the Hebrew Scriptures were the artistic expression of a people who had experienced intimacy with God.  In the same way that Starry Night expresses a truth about the night sky and about the depth of what it means to be human that a factual photo cannot express, the Hebrew Scriptures contain both factual information and artistic expressions of faith that point to truth that mere facts cannot express.  This became my North Star of biblical interpretation and has been my approach ever since.  This is the first “something” that happened to me.   It guides me through the analysis of biblical criticism and beyond to a place where I can appreciate and appropriate what the biblical authors wrote during the intoxication of their intimacy with God without always having to view what they wrote in a literal or factual manner.  In doing so, I engage in what I consider to be part of my life’s mission – the integration of the life of the mind and the life of the Spirit.

From Wikipedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Starry_Night

My next post will deal with my experience as the white pastor of an African-American congregation and my becoming a social-justice Christian as I learned about structures of racism that go far beyond personal prejudice.  I will finish with a post that applies both my North Star of biblical interpretation and my experience of structural racism to the issues of gay rights and marriage equality. I don’t think my experiences or my perspective trump those of everyone else, and I thank you for taking the time to read about my perspective.  I offer it with love toward those who may disagree with me but with passion and conviction that the repression of persons for any reason, including that of sexual orientation, is contrary to the best impulses of Christianity.

(originally published at Divine Salve)

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