Monday, May 01, 2006

"To Stir The Conversation Once More"

With an entry line like that, I just couldn't allow what followed to remain buried in the comments. So, in case you didn't read it in response to my last post, here is what "A" (aka Ashley for short) has to say to "stir the conversation."

Third, to stir the conversation once more... Several years ago, I read an interesting argument (from a guy named R. Scroggs I think) asserting that the Hebrew and NT scriptures addressing homosexuality were very likely condemning pedophilic homosexual acts (older males utilizing young boys for sexual gratification) instead of covenanted relationships between two consenting adults of the same gender. Further, he asserts that covenanted relationships between two consenting adults of the same gender did not exist in the same way they do today. If it is at all possible that the HB and NT scriptures were primarily addressing pedophilia instead of covenanted relationships in their historical context and not ours, how could and should the contemporary UM church (the general conference and judicial council in particular) respond?

Excellent question! Here's my answer:
1 - One possible response is to attack the interpretation for not honoring the Bible as God's infallible Word. 2 - A second would be to differ with the interpretation and offer another one, perhaps even displaying the same kind of in depth, thoughtful, faithful study, contemplation, and analysis, but coming to honestly different conclusions. 3 - A third response might be to agree with this interpretation but continue to accept the status quo in the UM church. 4 - Response number four might be to agree with this interpretation and work diligently to change the language of our denomination to reflect it. 5 - Finally, one might respond to this interpretation by blindly adopting it as the only possible way to explain things, and demonize any who hold a contrary interpretation.

My (biased) observation is that a lot of people have response number 1 and number 4, a bunch of others are at response number 3, and not too many respond with number 2. Only a very tiny number are truly at response number 5. And it is the people with a response number 2 that I value most in the dialogue, because they differ from me and are able to actually converse about things without degrading into a pointless shouting match. (Said another way: They are "foxes" rather than "hedgehogs.")

What about it, A? Others? Conversation has been stirred...

1 comment:

Larry said...

Oh my, I hate to go down this road...

I am no authority, but I believe there is a historically based reason for the conclusion that the homosexuality in the NT and Hebrews being referred to is sex between a man and a boy.

It links most strongly back to the greek society at the time. In the Greek world, an older man, an erastes would take on an eromanos, a boy between 12-18 (after onset of puberty), as a student. The relationship that was expected to occur by the parents, and both erastes and eromanos, involved the man teaching hunting, warfare, adult male customs, etc., to the boy. An integral part of this relationship was the homosexual act. There are a few reasons for this, but suffice it to say it was not meant to be in the form of a homosexual relationship as we now speak of it.

The practice is today referred to as pedastery, and if you read the biography of CS Lewis, he even makes reference to the practice of it at his boarding school between outgoing "seniors" and incoming "freshmen".

So a lot of people would argue that Paul only knew of this kind of homosexuality when he was writing his letters. The argument diverges from there. There is plenty of historical evidence to indicate that homosexuality was prevalent in Roman and Greek societies in all forms, not just the man/boy relationship and that Paul would have encountered them on numerous occasions. What muddies up the water is the word Paul uses to describe homosexuals - arsenokoites. Depending on how one derives the meaning of that word, it can be bent to either sides interpretation and because Paul is no longer alive, we will never have a definitive answer of what Paul really meant.

Clearly, aberrant sexual behavior (other than the heterosexual act) of some kind is a concern to both Paul and the early church as talked about in Acts when the debate about gentile circumcision is going on. They resolve the issue by insisting on the provisions of Leviticus 17 and 18 (I think) specifically singling out not eating blood, and sexual conduct as listed in those laws. There's a whole other set of arguments around the Leviticus verses that comes out either way too.

I also believe that it wasn't until the 19th century that the idea of homosexuality as a state of being was even considered. So much of the rhetoric about "committed" homosexual relations is only a product of recent changes in thinking about homosexuality. In fact, I would be interested to hear from somebody, where in the Bible is the idea of a committed sexual relationship put forward as the ideal? Arranged marriages are no less blessed than "romantic marriages"? Committment doesn't add any moral value to the basic premise does it?

Personally, taken as a whole from what Paul writes, the overall conceptual view from the Bible regarding Man and Woman and their role in Creation, and Paul's admonishment to forgo sex altogether if possible to serve the Lord, the clearest way to honor God is to either exist in a male/female relationship or none at all. I'm guaranteed to be without the burden of sin if I faithfully live in that context. No surprises when I see Jesus. Any other form leaves room for a lot of shame and agony if I'm wrong when I reach an eternal destination and I don't want to be part of leading someone else the wrong way too.

Anyway, too much to discuss. I'll stop for now.