For Pride month I thought I’d take on some of the clobber verses — those verses that are frequently used to harm the LGBTQIA+ community. We’re gonna start at the beginning, with the creation story in Genesis, but we need some info about how the Bible is read first.
One of my favorite books from seminary described the Bible as a patchwork quilt of meaning making in which people share stories of how they see God active in their world. The Bible was written and edited by who knows how many people over a long history. Each of those people had a context in which they lived and a message they were trying to get across and, by and large, we can only understand that context and intent through clues left in the text. We don’t know who most of these authors were.
For example, for the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy the prevailing academic theory I was taught in seminary is there were four main authors or groups of authors (referred to as the documentary theory or JEDP). That theory has become less popular, with disagreement on the sources, but suffice it to say a) those books were not written by Moses, b) they were written by different people or groups of people and c) we don't know who wrote them or when (scholars place the final form of these books was completed between 539-333 BCE). It's really helpful to have context when trying to understand a text and, well, our only context is the text itself and what we know about what was happening for the people of Israel at that time.
Every Biblical author, editor, translator, and commentary writer has their own lenses with which they interpret scripture and those lenses end up being our lenses on top of the lenses we bring to scripture. It's vital we remember this when reading scripture and trying to apply it to life in the United States in 2023.
Why is this important when approaching the verses commonly known as the clobber passages? Because so much of this accounts for the verses people use to hate on the LGBTQIA+ community and how they use it.
Now to the creation stories in Genesis 1 & 2. And yes, I said stories, because there are two different creation stories in Genesis. Why? While we can't know for sure, the best hypothesis is that the writers wanted to include different stories from different factions of Israel, with different ways of viewing God, humanity, and creation. Reading the stories in Genesis as factual has never been the only way to read them, and was likely not the intent of the initial writers or how they were understood by early Israel.
There are two main passages people use to abuse members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The first is Genesis 1:27, "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them." Male and female, that's the created order, done deal, goes the thinking of people using this to do harm.
The thing is, if male and female were both created in God's image, then God's image is both male and female. God, as signs I have seen recently state, is the original they/them. This means that however we are created -- cis-gender, non-binary, or transgender -- we are created in God's image. God contains all of these things.
When we get to the creation of humans in Genesis 2, the first human is created just like God and has no gender. We call the first human Adam because in Hebrew the word adam means human. The first human is not gendered until God takes the human's side (not rib, but side) and creates a woman. The first human, in this story, is, like God, genderfull. Just like so many of us.
In addition, in Genesis 2 the first human was given the authority to name all of the animals, in a way co-creating with God, and it would follow that humans are a) given the ability to name things, including themselves and b) are co-creators with God in this wild ride.
We are all created in God's image; we are co-creators with God. We are holy.
Next week we will get into the arguments for heterosexual marriage found in Genesis.