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25 June 2004
Outing the Bible: the New Queer Theolgians

About 25 to 35 years ago there was a paper called The Berkeley Barb, a hip paper for der Lumpenb├╝rgerstand (the scum bourgeoisie) which specialized in free sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, and pseudo-radical politics. While The Barb eventually folded, it’s been replaced by similarly hip papers catering to the same clientele, but now vastly expanded due to the permanent cultural revolution dating from the Sixties. Politely called "bourgeois bohemians," they’ve got lots of money to throw around. The replacement papers are thick with ads — the advertising revenues are so abundant that the papers are free. Just about every restaurant and shop carries them, and you’ll find them on the newsstands along with the San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times.

One such paper hereabouts is the East Bay Express. We rarely peruse it. But the front cover of the February 11-17 issue had a huge picture of Jesus with the accompanying headline "Outing the Bible: The New Queer Theologians Don’t Need Your Approval" by Malcolm Gay. We suspected it would be about the glories of homosexuality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley — and it was! But before getting to that, you should know about the ads in this issue. They range from Cingular Wireless, Pet Food Express, and Altoid Mints (title of ad: "The Root of All Evil") to gobs of sex ads such as Nicole’s Dirty Talk, Strictly Sex! (Gay? Bi?), and The Kit Kat Guest Ranch in Carson City, Nevada ("Safe Sex/Legal Sex") — and, oh, let’s not forget the Santa Clara University School of Law.

The article by Malcolm Gay begins: "One thing is clear: 2003 was without a doubt the Year of the Queer…. The year’s crowning moment came on November 2, when the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop…. But this…didn’t appear out of thin air. Its intellectual and physical roots have been growing just beneath the surface for years. In seminaries across the country, at both the parish level and within whole dioceses, homosexuals have been preaching, studying, and remaining sexually active…. ‘What’s the difference between a Jesuit rec room and a gay bar?’ asked former Jesuit Robert Goss, who said his sexual experiences at bathhouses mirrored his early days at Harvard Divinity School. ‘Only the location.’… Christianity is changing. And nowhere is this change more apparent than at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union [GTU]."

The lengthy article is mostly about the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the GTU, whose "mission," according to the article, "is to advance the acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in communities of faith." The Programming and Development Director of the Center is Episcopal priest Jay Johnson, who is quoted as saying: "Straight people are right to worry about what queer people are going to do to the church." Fr. Johnson also says: "‘Tolerance’ is a horribly weak word. We tolerate a cold sore." The author of the article comments: "Today’s queer theologians are no longer extending the olive branch to their conservative rivals. They are no longer asking to be tolerated. They are moving on, and sowing division in their wake." (How often have we heard that orthodox Catholics are "divisive"! But if you’re homosexual, it’s just fine to be divisive.)

The article reports: "For years now, gay Christians have been attending Bible self-defense classes where they learn to parry the…passages that speak explicitly about homosexuality. The Sodom and Gomorrah story? It’s not about anal sex; it’s about gross inhospitality, xenophobia, and humiliation." And so on.

The article also discusses the book Transgendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith by Justin Tanis, a minister in the Metropolitan Community Church, a rather Evangelical denomination "created in 1968 by and for queers." Of Tanis, the article says: "Until 1997, he was a woman. Seven years later, he has almost fully transitioned to male." (In case you’re wondering, a transsexual has a "sex change" operation while a transgender does various things, including "drug therapy," to ape the opposite gender, but does not have a "sex change" operation.)

Tanis’s book asserts: "God actually didn’t originally create Adam and Eve. God created one being that became two beings, so you could argue that God’s original plan was for one gender, and we messed it up." You see here the contortions homosexuals go through to make the Bible say what they want it to say. Tanis, a transgender, also claims that the biblical eunuchs are the forerunners of transgenderists.

Oddly — queerly, actually — the transgenderists are creating problems for the standard-brand "gay" liberationists. Says the article: "The idea of transgenderists in the church meets resistance even within the small community of queer theologians. With gay rights activists stressing the emerging evidence that suggests a fixed biological basis for sexual orientation, the idea of people sliding up and down the gender scale seems to contradict the very idea [of an innate sexual orientation]."

Then the article introduces us to Gabriel Hermelin, who is studying at the Starr King Unitarian-Universalist Seminary, a part of the GTU. Hermelin is anatomically a female, who is transgendered, and, going by the picture of her, looks dead on like a man.

But what she says is right on the money: "It doesn’t matter to me whether…there’s proof that the eunuch of yesterday is the transsexual or transgender of today. I think that we’ll find whatever we want to find [in the Bible]…. You have to start from scratch." Hermelin also says of homosexuals and transgenders: "They’re just so damaged. Emotionally. Psychologically. Physically. Gosh, they’re just so damaged." Why, that’s heresy in homosexual circles. Damaged! That’s what the Catholic Church teaches, except that the Church politely says disordered. May God bless Hermelin for telling the truth. And Hermelin doesn’t give us any nonsense about homosexuality being a "gift from God."

Which is why we like Unitarians. They don’t mess around. They don’t try to gunk up the Bible. They simply reject what they don’t like.

But the liberal Protestants and liberal Catholics, they play silly games, trying to bend Scripture and tradition to their desires, sometimes political but mostly sexual. Their "theology" is man-made, though they won’t admit it. But the Unitarians, they play it straight. The Unitarians do indeed start from scratch. It’s a man-made religion, and they make no bones about it. That’s honest, and honesty deserves respect. Note: Each week we will be bringing you a "New Oxford Note" straight from the venerable New Oxford Review. This week's originally appeared in the May 2004 issue.


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