Monday, June 16, 2008

Were David And Jonathan Homosexually Unionized?

That's David and Jonathan from the Bible. I think John Boswell first posited this notion. I bring this up because I noticed this claim advanced in the landmark wedding ceremony of the male priests who married in Anglican church's first gay wedding:

Mr Dudley blessed the union with the words: "As David and Jonathan's souls were knit together, so these men may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made."

From what I know of Boswell's work, I am not too impressed with most of his claims. As I understand his thesis in short: The Bible is a progay book and its antigay passages can be scrubbed away with proper understanding of the context. In reading what the Bible says in Leviticus and what the apostle Paul says elsewhere, I am not convinced. And neither is Wayne Dynes, the most distinguished gay historian who demurred from Boswell's thesis.

However one area where I think Boswell gets it dead on right is the story of Sodom & Gomorrah. He leaves himself open to criticism by describing the sin of Sodom as "inhospitality," clearly not the best word. But he was right insofar as a plain literal reading of the text indicates what these men did was try to gang rape two angels, that this was not ordinary consensual homosexuality. If "inhospitality" equates with the "inhospitality" shown to a fresh faced prison inmate who is gang raped as an initiation, then maybe that term is not improper. But that's not what "inhospitality" means to most folks. Also keep in mind that the Bible's text says the whole town was involved in this, and, were that so, how could the town repopulate itself it all were homosexual? Also keep in mind that the Bible's text says the whole town was involved in this, and, were that so, how could the town repopulate itself if all were homosexual? Also human nature shows that only somewhere between 3-5% of any given population are going to be exclusively or predominantly homosexual. Thus, if the whole town was involved it had to be mostly "heterosexual" men. But then again, I'm starting to deal with real world facts, and if any of the tales of the Bible seem so utterly and self-evidently unreal, it's that one.

John Corvino, not someone who wants to scrub the Bible of its antigay passages, writes a good column that pretty much parallels my point on Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible is not pro-gay; but based on a literal, plain reading of the text, Sodom and Gomorrah by no means identifiably speaks of the kind of ordinary consensual homosexuality associated with places like San Francisco, CA. Rather it condemns the attempted brutal gang rape of strangers. And as I understand the act of homosexual prison rape, this is not at all an act that most of the time predominantly homosexual men perpetrate. Rather it's an act of violence that most of the time heterosexual men commit.

Though I agree it is wrong to try and gang rape strangers, the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah embeds this moral message in an extremely strange and as noted above self-evidently unbelievable factual context. For more on the utter bizarreness of that biblical tale, see Dr. Corvino's column.

If Boswell is right regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, it's relevant in that the term "sodomite" has historically been used to tar homosexuals. If "sodomite," properly understood, means any person -- probably a heterosexual -- who forcibly tries to have oral or anal sex with another person of either the same or opposite sex, then we should systematically purge such a term from our language when speaking of homosexuals. Indeed, even though "sodomy laws" as they existed on the books, could have, in theory, applied to ordinary homosexual acts, in America at least they were invariably used to prosecute non-consensual behavior.

But back to David & Jonathan, I am not convinced of their homosexual covenant. The following is the standard Protestant fundamentalist response well articulated by John MacArthur, though I almost entirely disagree with his worldview on these issues. It's kind of entertaining to listen to him "freak out" a little over the opposing arguments. I think his straight forward reading of the Bible is correct on what the Bible actually says except when he gets to Sodom and Gomorrah where he clearly fumbles. He notes Boswell's case that the story really isn't about ordinary homosexuality but gang rape and can't seem to answer it except note ordinary homosexuality is what Bible scholars have traditionally always associated with Sodom and Gomorrah.

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