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Clobbering religious gay prejudice

  • 22 May 2013

In 2011 I launched a book titled Five Uneasy Pieces: Essays on Scripture and Sexuality, edited by Fr Nigel Wright, an openly gay Anglican priest. That book offered an alternative reading of the so-called 'clobber passages'; the well known biblical verses that are at the core of religious discomfort over homosexuality.

Every gay person who has been raised in the Jewish, Christian or Islamic faiths, and who worries about rejection, knows the 'clobber passages'. The purpose of Five Uneasy Pieces was to turn the spotlight of careful theological analysis upon those passages to find what they are really getting at.

Speaking about sexuality and religion remains difficult and painful for some and impossible for others. That is where the follow-up volume, Pieces of Ease and Grace, comes in.

Ten of the 14 authors are ordained Anglican priests. The book is an attempt to promote the kind of respectful conversation, and the exploration and exchange of analysis and opinions, that Rowan Williams urged as the way forward.

Pieces of Ease and Grace is made up of successive chapters addressing same-sex relationships portrayed in the Bible. None of the authors suggests that the relationships described involve a sexual or erotic component. Nevertheless, they assert that the love portrayed in the stories was real and vivid.

Thus James Harding explores the relationship of David and Jonathan, not arguing that David and Jonathan were sexual partners but rather that the depth of their relationship de-centres marriage. The comradeship between the two men is given higher status than the opposite-sex relationships of the two men.

Richard Treloar offers a profound reading of the book of Esther, both as an exploration of the elements involved in weighing the revelation of one's identity (i.e. of 'comng out'), and as a salutary warning about the violence of privileging a majority identity and repressing the non-conforming other.

Alan Cadwallader takes up two stories in Matthew's gospel of those from non-privileged religious groups who live in same-sex households: the centurion and the Canaanite woman. Both stories, he argues, contain the discovery that faith is alive and well within those whose voice and stereotyped lifestyle are repudiated by the religious majority.

Ceri Wynne considers the story of the eunuchs in Matthew chapter 19 verse 12, arguing that the early Jesus movement explored the ambiguity and spread of people's identities, affirming that the worth of a human being is not to be judged on the basis of