LGBTQ+ Writing: Liberating Scripture #1

For multiple reasons in recent days, it is clear that the assault against LGBTQ+ people is increasing in some places, led in many ways by Christians using the Bible to do harm. The need to liberate Scripture from its theological captivity remains. That liberation is under way, led by Bible-believing Christians.

The liberation is advancing slowly because it involves a meticulous hermeneutical process. The liberation is happening against intense pushback because non-affirming interpretations have run deeply in some parts of Christianity for a long time. And in certain fundamentalist circles, the survival of groups, denominations, and institutions requires a non-affirming position—lest they go out of business and/or be emptied of their power and money. Loss of influence is unthinkable.

But the “freedom train” has pulled out of the station, engineered by devoted Christ followers, and fueled by sound scholarship. It is impossible to deny this or to demean the liberators, unless you are defined and driven by obscurantism.

Today through Saturday, I begin a short series about the liberation of Scripture. It is occurring on several key fronts: a unitive understanding of creation, a fresh interpretation of focal texts, and the correction of a mistranslation. None of these are “new” in the strict sense of the word, but rather in the sense of mounting credibility, influence, and acceptance–supplanting previous beliefs.

In this first post, I focus on the creation. The sciences are converging in ways that reveal the oneness of creation. [1] More specifically, biology and cosmology reveal that creation is nonbinary and interconnected. [2] We exist in a matrix of being that exhibits essential oneness along spectrums of amazing diversity. Knowledge now moves in the context of quantum physics which defines nonbinary life from the smallest particle to the farthest star. The implications are far reaching.

With respect to Scripture, it means that the creation stories must now be read with new eyes. The “and” designations are signs of oneness and nonbinary manifestations. Between each of the “twos” in the first creation story is a spectrum of “kinds,” with incalculable variety at the molecular level all the way out to the expanding cosmos.

When the writer of Genesis gets to day six, the male-female creation is consistent with the nonbinary nature of all that has preceded (including the nonbinary nature of God that we name theologically as Trinity), with a human genome that gives rise to a variety of genders, identities, and orientations. This too is consistent with the diversity found in other species.

The Bible itself recognizes this through eunuchs, the one-word description of nonbinary human beings. [3] In Isaiah 56:3-5 and Matthew 19:11 both the prophet and Jesus honored eunuchs, clearly including them among the people of God. These two passages are game-changers, placing within the Bible itself the revelation of the full humanity and sacredness of nonbinary people—in fact, God saying they have been given “a monument and a name better than sons and daughters” (Isaiah 56:5). [4]

Previous sciences posited binary realities, but contemporary science now reveals nonbinary existence throughout the whole of creation. And like our Christian ancestors who integrated theology and science, we honor the same interaction today, learning that the creation is different than we used to think it was. The earth is not flat, it is not the center of the universe, and males and females are not the only forms of humanity. When scientific discoveries are allowed to speak, they portray a nonbinary creation, and we then declare that “the Bible tells us so” as well.

[1] Brian Thomas Swimme, ‘Cosmogenesis’ (Counterpoint, 2022). It is difficult to capture all that’s happening in the faith/science convergence because it includes discoveries from multiple disciplines. This book offers a broad exposure to many of them.

[2] Katherine J. Wu, “Alternatives to Heterosexual Pairings, Brought to You by Non-Human Animals (Smithsonian Magazine, 6/28/18).

[3] People born as eunuchs in biblical times would be those we refer to as intersex or transgender.

[4] Isaiah describes what the wisdom of indigenous people groups has affirmed. In the Native American tradition, for example, “two spirit people” are revered. The nonbinary “better than sons and daughters” is older than the limiting of normal humans to males and females.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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