Outing the Bible 

The new queer theologians don't need your approval.

Page 7 of 8

"There's no merit in it for me," she said of queer attempts to reclaim the Bible. "You have to start from scratch. ... But I know also that there are people who are suffering. ... They're just so damaged. Emotionally. Psychologically. Physically. Gosh, they're just so damaged. Their families said 'I don't want you.' Their church said 'I don't want you,' and now they think God says 'I don't want you.' ... I hope they find a way out of that -- you know, the people who are like, 'Maybe it is a sin. What if I am an abomination?' ... I'm sure Justin Tanis' book has saved lives."

Tanis' book may have saved lives, but will it change any minds? No matter how adamantly queer theologians insist that a queer reading of the Bible is for everyone, the fact remains that those who stand to be most influenced by their theology are queers both in and out of the church. And maybe that's enough. Not only are homosexuals beginning to return to the church, but more and more gay couples are having their unions consecrated.

Still, by renouncing apologetics, 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.

"'Tolerance' is a horribly weak word," Johnson said. "We tolerate a cold sore."

So what would a queer reading of the Bible look like? Where is this radical inclusion we keep hearing about? Are we only talking about sex? And can it apply to breeders too? As with any good story, the answers are found at the beginning.

Take the story of Adam and Eve. The only prohibition God placed upon them was to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Alas, they broke that rule. Once apprised of the tree's knowledge, they hastily stitched together fig leaves to cover their nakedness. "Now of course, being naked has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they should have eaten the fruit from that tree," Johnson said. "Nothing. But their very first impulse is for them to distance themselves from each other, to cover up these paths of intimacy."

Adam and Eve knew they'd unsealed the mystery of creation, and therefore hid themselves from God. Now, any Bible class will tell you that the story of Adam and Eve is about free will. It is here, the interpretation goes, that the first couple realized they could act against God's wishes. But generations of Christian thinkers also have interpreted it as one of sexual shame. Why else would they become embarrassed of their nudity and cover themselves?

Johnson sees the story very differently. In his reading, the assumption of sexual shame has been superimposed by abstemious prudes, and is nowhere in the story itself.

"The story says they heard God walking in the Garden," Johnson continued. "This is a really interesting little detail. ... The story seems to indicate that this was not at all unusual. Maybe it was even a divine habit, and God even looked forward to these times of spending time in the Garden and invited Adam and Eve to join in on these strolls."

This time there was something missing because Adam and Eve had hidden themselves from God," he added, "at which point God calls out: 'Where are you?'"

But if God is omnipotent, his question is surely rhetorical. Not only does God already know where they are, he already knows they've broken the one rule he placed before them. So what is he asking?

"That's got to be one of the most poignant moments in all of Scripture, when the creator of the heaven and the earth ... is calling out from this depth of desire for the beloved. 'Where are you?'" Johnson said. "It's not just about Adam and Eve hiding from each other, and therefore the source of intimacy for themselves, but hiding themselves from their creator, who also was yearning for intimacy with them."


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