Now that I have your attention... seriously, this is something I've wanted to write about for some time but never felt I had a strong enough argument to make a case. Now I do. I can't really take credit for doing the research, that must go to Rev. Robert Arthur, District Coordinator of the Mountains and Plains District of the International Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. I was able to attend a dynamic workshop he gave in Springfield in 1996.
In the course of the workshop Rev. Arthur covered a great deal of material dealing with various sexual situations in the Bible. The primary emphasis was on the various texts used by right-wing fundamentalist so-called Christians to condemn homosexuals. For example, the right wing loves to quote Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Both say that for a man to perform the same sexual acts with another man that he would perform with a woman is an idolatrous act. When we look at it in context we discover that the Jews are being warned against taking part in the fertility cult that was part of the worship of the god Molech, in which ritual prostitution played a great part.
These are part of the so-called purity laws, defining ritual purity. The thing about sets of laws is that you can't pick and choose - it's sort of an all or nothing proposition. It's like saying you'll obey some of the Ten Commandments but not all. The ritual purity laws also say that a woman is impure for seven days while she is menstruating; anyone who touches her is also impure. A man who ejaculates is impure and must be ritually washed and is ritually unclean until the evening. Committing adultery with another man's woman gets the death penalty. (A lot of televangelists wouldn't want that one enforced!) It goes on and on, chapter after chapter, outlining all the things for which a Jew is ritually impure. Obey them all, or forget them.
But back to Jesus. How did he feel about homosexuality? There is one story that suggests an answer: the story of the centurion's servant in Matthew 8:5 and Luke 7:1. The boy is referred to both as pais and doulos, meaning that he was a sex slave, the centurion's lover. Not only was the boy healed but Jesus said of the centurion that he had not found such faith in Israel. That doesn't sound like Jesus had a problem with same-sex relationships.
Could it be that this attitude reflected an intimate understanding of the love between two men? In the Book of John a word is used eight times that means "is in love with" with the implication of sexual intimacy. Five times it is used with reference to Jesus' relationship with John. Once it is used to define Jesus' relationship with Lazarus. And it is also used to describe his relationship with Mary and with her sister Martha.
Does this mean Jesus was gay? Probably not in the way that we usually use that term. I think it does mean that he was bisexual - which was the norm for the society in which he lived. It is very important for gay/lesbian/bisexual people to reclaim Jesus as a man who stands in solidarity with them in their struggle for equality just as he struggled for the poor, the dispossessed and homeless of his day. In fact, if he were alive today he'd probably be a member of ACTUP!
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