What the Bible says about homosexuality | Kristin Saylor & Jim O’Hanlon | TEDxEdgemontSchool

What the Bible says about homosexuality | Kristin Saylor & Jim O’Hanlon | TEDxEdgemontSchool

September 28, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney Jim O’Hanlon: I’ve finally
made it to Heaven. This is so beautiful,
and I’ve worked every day of my life making sure I’d make it here to heaven,
and I’m now finally here. I really want to meet the big guy. Do you know who the big guy is? Kristin Saylor: Ah, they told you
I was a guy? That’s cute. JOH: Are you the receptionist? KS: Yeah, no. Hi, I’m God.
JOH: You’re God? KS: Yeah, welcome to Heaven.
JOH: Hi. KS: So, just a couple of questions
to make sure you really belong here. JOH: I’m the perfect Christian.
All my life I’ve been a perfect Christian. KS: Well, let’s see about that. So, first off, I just
need you to assure me that you have categorically rejected
any scientific teaching that contradicts even
one word of the Bible. JOH: Absolutely, absolutely. KS: Great. And then, do you, based
on the authority of scripture, accept the existence of talking snakes? JOH: I do, they’re in Genesis 2. KS: And what about talking donkeys? JOH: Numbers 22. KS: Unicorns? JOH: Numbers 23. KS: And what about hoards of suicidal,
demon-possessed, cliff-jumping pigs? JOH: The Gospel of Mark,
the fifth chapter. KS: Very good, I’m impressed. I have just one final question then,
before I let you in. JOH: Alright. KS: Did you do as I told you and sell all your possessions
and give the money to the poor? JOH: Well, I … Wait, what now? KS: Ah … yeah.
I said it twice, actually. JOH: Were you serious about that? KS: Very serious. JOH: Oh … JOH: You may think that there are people
who take the Bible too seriously, people who throw out anything
that contradicts the Bible – science, history … What this skit is asking you
to think about is maybe they’re not
taking the Bible seriously enough. Maybe they’re very serious
about the Bible, if they can use it to judge other people, if they can use it to shame somebody
or to punish somebody. But if the Bible was used
to turn back on themselves and they were to evaluate themselves
and examine their own conscience, if the Bible was to be humbling them, then they might not
take the Bible so seriously. These people say that they want
the Bible to be taken literally, in its entirety it should
always be literal, and that’s ridiculous, you can’t do that. When the Bble says, “God is our rock,
our sword, our shield,” when the Bible says,
“The Lord is my shepherd,” we can’t take those literally. But there are people
who are rigidly saying that the Bible needs
to always be taken literally. They think it gives it some kind
of force that they can use, that they can win arguments,
that they can settle the debate, by saying, “This is literal. It is cut and dried,
it is straight-forward.” They’re these people who believe
that they can overpower other people, with their argument,
by saying, “The Bible says it,” people in positions of great authority. Just last month, a US congressman
from District 1 in Texas stood on the floor
of the House of Representatives and said, “The government wants us
to forget about the Bible.” He says, “In the Bible, it says God
created the male and female, period. No questions marks.” So he’s got this idea that he doesn’t want
people talking about sexual orientation. He doesn’t want people
talking about gender identity as something distinct
from biological gender. He’s got this idea
that we need to just follow that without any ambiguity, without questions, just keeping the status quo. He believes that he can use that by saying the Bible
must be taken literally, and it settles his argument. These people have
bumper stickers that say, “God said it, I believe it,
that settles it,” which they could probably
shorten down to say, “I believe it, that settles it.” Because that’s what they’re saying, they want these things
to be cut and dried, and clear. It’s interesting that people believe they can take the Bible
to drive through their point of view, because the Bible doesn’t have
one point of view. The Bible does not speak with one voice. The Bible does not have
one definition of God. It doesn’t have one way of describing God. The Bible does not have one theology. We think if the Bible
could be consistent of one thing, it would be consistent
about describing God, about the language we use
and how we understand God. The Bible does not have
one definition of marriage. It doesn’t have one model of marriage. There’s no consistent ethic about
sexuality going throughout the Bible. The Bible speaks with these many voices. The Bible, really properly
speaking, is not a book. It’s an anthology. It’s really a library with a wide
variety of spiritual wisdom, things that have different ideas
and speak with different voices. The Bible has all these voices
and all these ideas throughout it. It’s not just one book with one point
that it’s trying to drive home. The Bible has these many voices. And there are many stories in the Bible, and many of these stories are told
from different points of view, from different perspectives
and different voices. KS: So given the amount of media
attention the Bible has received recently with respect to issues of gay marriage,
gender-neutral bathrooms, it would be easy for us
to come to the conclusion that the Bible has a lot to say
about homosexuality, and it ain’t good. But in reality, if you take
the Bible as a whole and look at, percentage-wise, how much of the content is devoted
to the issue of homosexuality, it is less than one percent. Statistically speaking,
it just is not a priority for the Bible. And the few stories that do speak
to the topic of same-sexuality are often taken out of proportion
and out of context. One of the most famous examples of these
texts is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which some of you might be familiar with. It’s a story that has become famous because of anti-sodomy laws
that exist in some places still today and this concept of sodomy
that is derived from this Bible story. And “sodomy” is a word
that we throw around a lot, without necessarily
understanding what it means. We might have an idea
that it refers to gay sex, that it’s somehow bad, when in reality, it has
a very specific definition, and it is any sexual act
that is not procreative. So that opens the door wide to a whole host of things
that are not limited to same-sex couples. And that’s interesting to remember in a context where our society loves
to take the Bible out of context and use it for its own purposes. So what does the story
of Sodom and Gomorrah actually say? Once upon a time,
there was a city called Sodom, and there were two men traveling, trying to find a place to stay
in the city limits. They were having zero luck. They were about to give up
and spend the night in the town’s square. But a man named Lot took pity on them and let them crash
at his house for the night. Good thing he did, because not five minutes later,
the town mob came banging on his door, demanding that he bring his guests out,
that they might “know” them. Now, when the Bible says
“know” in this context, it’s not saying, “Hey, nice to meet you!
Let me shake your hand!” No. It’s, “Let us know them intimately,
sexually,” and in this case, violently. We’re talking in this case
about gang rape. And the story continues. Lot begs the mob, “Please, I beg you,
do not act so wickedly.” He then turns and offers his two
virgin daughters to the mob in exchange, which is all kinds of twisted. And then, the story ends when God
gets angry at the whole situation and destroys the whole
city for their sins. But what exactly was the sin of Sodom? Was it men sleeping with men, or was it an angry mob
banging on a man’s door and demanding to rape his house guests? And you can see how quickly
we leap to conclusions and how quickly that begins
to affect our judgment. JOH: So what does the story say?
And what does the story not say? The story describes an entire city
that converges upon one house for the purpose of raping
these two people. Does that mean that this is
a story about two adults who want to have
a consenting relationship, who want to publicly affirm
a monogamous relationship and their commitment to each other? How does it really connect it all to that
when its talking about an entire city that wants to have
a mass rape of two people? So you see this man, Lot, who sees this,
and he stands against them, one person who stands
against the entire city. He sees these two people,
he sees they’re vulnerable, they’re traveling, they’re far from home, they’re people who could be preyed upon, they’re foreigners, they don’t belong. So they’re weak and susceptible
in so many ways, and he wants to protect them. And when the city says, “Let them come out
here because we want to know them,” he begs them not to do this wicked thing. And when he stands against the whole city, they then turn onto him and say,
“You know what, Lot? You haven’t been here all that long.
You’re not really one of us. You don’t have the same beliefs like us.” So this is Lot, a man who himself
is vulnerable in this situation, who’s going to put himself out for someone
who is even more vulnerable than he is. And as we heard, he says,
“Take my daughters instead,” which raises the issue of: why would someone insist
that you have to literally read this and you have to unquestionably
apply the morality in a way that you must be obedient to it? So when the Bible talks about
what was the sin of Sodom, you can look throughout the Bible: over hundreds of centuries,
it keeps referring back to Sodom and how bad Sodom was
and how wicked Sodom was, but what is it specifically
that the Bible is talking about? Is it talking about same-sex partners, or ir it talking about violence
and violating people sexually? There’s a part in the Bible,
just a little bit further, in the book of Ezekiel, where it talks about
what Sodom did that was so wrong. And it says in Ezekiel, “Now, this was
the sin of your sister Sodom.” And it’s saying “sister”
just in a metaphorical way. These cities are all in a location.
They’re sister cities. They refer to the population as daughters. But they’re talking about the city
and its population. “Now, this was the sin
of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were overfed,
arrogant and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did
detestable things before me.” So it seems this thing
has become something that’s used to target a minority group, to say that this minority should be
shunned and they should be punished, when it’s talking about how the people
who are weakest among us, the people who need us the most,
the most vulnerable people among us, are people that we need
to be thinking about. So when people look at the Bible, they need to think about
all these different literary types: love songs, poems,
different kinds of literature, people dealing with big life questions. There’s all different kinds
of literature and genres. And when we read something in the Bible,
we need to put it in its literary context, we need to put it
in its historical context, understand who these people are
and what the time period was. KS: So when we read the Bible
in our own context, especially in light
of the recent attention that issues of the LGBTQ
community have received, it’s important to do two things. And the first is exactly
what we have been doing: to take the texts that do talk
about homosexuality, few though they may be, and really dig into them
and read them for ourselves and ask, “What do they really say
and what do they really not say? And then, what does that mean?” And the other thing we can do
is read the Bible in context, as a whole, in all of its multiple
and diverse voices, and ask, “What counter-voices could we lift up
that might actually be queer-positive?” Now, that’s different from saying that the Bible somehow
has a hidden gay agenda, because it doesn’t. It really doesn’t have any agenda. But there are different voices that stand in contrast to the ones
that the media would have us lift up. One of the most powerful examples,
I think, is from the book of Acts, which is basically the story
of the earliest years of Christianity, in which people like Peter and Paul
are going out into all the world, sharing what they’ve learned
and been taught by Jesus and encountering on the way a whole lot
of diverse and unexpected scenarios. And one of those is when the apostle
Philip is on a road, traveling somewhere, and he meets and Ethiopian eunuch. Now, what is that? Well, Ethiopian, in this case, is just shorthand for anyone
from Africa, south of the Sahara, with dark skin. So there you go:
an outsider on one count, because of the way he looks. And a eunuch is a man
who worked on a royal court and had undergone ritual castration, so that he could serve the monarchy without posing the threat of producing
male heirs who could usurp the throne. Now, eunuchs, in Judaism
of that day and age, were not full members of society. They were subject to all kinds
of ritual prohibitions, they were excluded … So again, you have a double outsider
in this Ethiopian eunuch. And what happens? Well, he and Philip get to talking,
one thing leads to another … Next thing you know, the eunuch is saying, “Hey, look! Here’s a pool of water
on the side of the road. What is to prevent me from being baptized, from becoming a full member
of this community, right here, right now?” And Philip says, “Sure. Let’s do it.” He doesn’t interrogate him
about his sexual practices. He doesn’t say, “Oh nah,
you’re not qualified.” No! He just welcomes him on the spot. And that story is a powerful counter-voice that values inclusion and acceptance
of someone who, in today’s context, might have some parallels
with the transgender community. Another example that I’d like
to leave you with – there are many – is from the letter to the Galatians, which is a very early piece
of Christian correspondence in which Paul is describing
what the afterlife is like. And he says, “In Christ,
there is neither Jew nor Greek, there’s neither slave nor free, and there’s neither male nor female.” So he’s radically just erasing
all the boundaries and distinctions that we put up among ourselves and saying, “In the end,
none of that matters.” So my question to you is:
what does it mean to say that, in Christ,
there’s neither male nor female, in a world where people
are insisting that the Bible says, “No, actually there is male and female,” and that affects what kind
of bathrooms we have and that affects what kind
of marriage we have? And in reality, what the Bible says
is much more complex than that. JOH: And why do we even care
what the Bible says, these stories from
thousands of years ago? If you look at our society, we’ve made
so much progress just in this generation, in terms of our understanding
of homosexuality. The medical community,
just a generation ago, was describing
homosexuality as a disorder. They’ve rewritten those manuals to no longer describe
homosexuality as a disorder. Now, it’s one of a different
range of sexualities. Legally and politically,
we’ve come so far. Just in the past couple of decades,
just in this time now, just in the lifetime
of these high school students, the Supreme Court has overturned
laws that were against sodomy, the Supreme Court’s said
there’s marriage equality. Why would we go back thousands of years, tens of thousands of years, when we’ve made so much progress
just in the recent time in our understanding of human sexuality? The reason is because
people still continue to base their values and their morality
on these old scriptures. People still look
to their religious traditions and to the understandings they get
from these religious traditions, they continue to undergird, they continue to be the foundation
of our science, of our laws. So we need to understand what are the beliefs and values
that people are coming with. And we see there are still people whose beliefs and values
lead them to discriminate. This congressman who stood on the floor
of the House of Representatives last month doesn’t want people talking
about equality for same-sex couples. He doesn’t want people
talking about gender identity as something that can be defined
different from biological gender. And he wants to use the Bible
because he believes he can use that to push across his point and tell people
that they can’t argue with that. We need to be looking at the Bible and understanding
the values and the morality that people should be getting from it, because people continue to discriminate
and people even continue to use violence. We see gay and lesbian and transgender
and homosexual people, young people, high school people,
continuing to be discriminated against, harassed, ridiculed, tormented. We continue to see stories
like Tyler Clementi, 18 years old. Just back in 2003, his roommate thought it would be fun to videotape him
having an intimate moment. He ended up taking his own life. And there are many stories like this,
so that’s why this is important. In Greenwich Village, just in 2013,
a man went around, harassing people, giving people a hard time because
he thought they were gay or lesbian, confronting them and tormenting them. Finally, he goes up to one man and starts to interact
and to have an altercation with him, until he finally takes out
a gun and shoots him. Mark Carson, 32 years old,
killed because he was gay, walking in Greenwich Village, just a few blocks away
from the Stonewall Inn, where the modern
Gay Rights Movement began. That’s why these scriptures matter, and that’s why it matters
that we look at them and that’s why it matters
that we take them seriously. We take these stories seriously, and we take the lessons
that we draw from them seriously. We see the story of Lot, a man who stands against an entire city that believes that they can discriminate
against people because they’re outsiders. He stands against them
for their discrimination, he stands against them
because of their violence, because they want to violate
these people sexually, and we see this as a very serious story
for us, that we can learn from today. And that’s why we stand here today, saying that we believe
that being gay is not a sin. Period. Thank you. (Applause)