In this week’s AE Blog our Co-Chair, Sigrun Wagner reviews “The Gay Gospels” by Dr Keith Sharpe. Although not written from an evangelical perspective, it does take a fresh and challenging look at the Bible and sexuality, and comes up with some thought provoking conclusions…
The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual, and Transgendered People was published last year by Circle Books. It is one of the most comprehensive books written on the subject which not only deals with the so-called clobber verses which gay people are often confronted with but also includes the bible passages which affirm gay people. Keith Sharpe uses a biblical approach to this – His Defensive Testament mirrors the Old Testament, discussing the perceived anti-homosexual bible verses whilst the Affirmative Testament is the good news for LGBT people, uncovering “open and hidden affirmations of LGBT lives in the bible”. It is mainly written for LGBT people, and gives LGBT Christians (and non-Christians) self-defence and self-affirmation summaries after each chapter.
The defensive testament discusses the story of Sodom, the ‘abominations’ of Leviticus, the creation story (all in Genesis), St Paul’s verses in Romans and Corinthians and the story of a demon-possessed man in Mark’s Gospel. In including the creation story and Mark 10, the book goes further than traditional approaches to arguing against homosexuality according to the bible. The writing is very clear and puts the passages into context – both the cultural and historical context as well as the scriptural context.
The affirming testament takes up about two thirds of the book, showing the positive scriptural description of LGBT people and their relationships. In line with traditional pro-gay interpretations of the bible, it includes the stories of Ruth and Naomi and of Jonathan and David from the Old Testament and the stories of the Roman centurion and his servant and the character of the beloved disciple. Again, it goes beyond conventional readings and includes some challenging material on Jesus, questioning his sexual orientation, underlining his view of the family (he was no family man!) and emphasising his view that some people are “born that way”, pertaining to Eunuchs. Furthermore, this part includes a chapter on Joseph the Transvestite, Jesus’s abolishment of the purity laws and a chapter on Paul’s verses that in Christ there is no male or female and the implications of that for our view of gender.
Whilst many texts on pro-gay readings of the bible focus on the ‘clobber’ verses and thus tend to be defensive in approach, this book provides a refreshing alternative in quickly dealing with the clobber verses and then moving on to an in-depth account of a truly inclusive, pro-LGBT reading of the bible. It is inspiring reading that challenges traditional viewpoints and provides excellent food for thought for straight people and encouragement for LGBT people who are weary of the church’s stance on them.
Dr Sigrun Wagner