As my new book nears release (you can pre-order it here), I’m posting a new excerpt each day in anticipation. The first one is from the Introduction, in which I begin by quoting my theological hero, Jack Caputo.
“My own view is that the outcome of a careful debate about these matters would be to show that there simply are no arguments to show that homosexual love is of itself anything else than love, and that therefore, since the essence of the Torah is love, it hardly falls afoul of the law. To be sure, when it is not love, when it is promiscuity, or infidelity to a sworn partner, or rape, or the sexual abuse of minors, or in any way violent, then it is indeed not love, but that is no less true of heterosexuality.” — John D. Caputo*
This book was put together for those with whom we’ve wept—those who, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have been hurt or denied a place in the churches for far too long. Those of us who contributed to this book have had our collective hearts broken on countless occasions as we’ve listened to friends share stories of rejection, exclusion, and sorrow. We long for people to know there are generous, welcoming, and affirming approaches to Christianity that are deeply rooted in the Bible and are very much alive in the churches, if only one knows where to look.
At the same time, this book was also put together for those who wonder if their faith can allow them to be welcoming and affirming of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) family members, friends, and neighbors. Is it possible to take the Bible seriously, with authority, and not have to believe that homosexuality is the kind of sin we’ve often been conditioned or taught to think it is? . . .
It’s unfortunate that Christians who are open and affirming of the LGBTQ community have often been accused of not taking the Bible seriously or of rejecting the Bible altogether in order to assimilate to a culture that is rapidly changing its attitudes in matters related to human sexuality and gender identity. As the sermons in this book show, this popular caricature is hardly accurate. Indeed, the affirmation, welcome, and good news for LGBTQ people shared by each contributing preacher is announced not in spite of the Bible, but because of the Bible; not in spite of one’s faith, but because of one’s faith; not in spite of Jesus, but precisely because of Jesus. To paraphrase the words of influential theologian Douglas John Hall, “It’s our faith in Christ that makes us more inclusive of others, not less.”
The role of the preacher is to put the Bible into the hands of the people, not to take it away. This includes putting it into the hands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who’ve repeatedly been told that the Bible is the last place to look for comfort, rest, and solidarity (not to mention affirmation and welcome), even though Jesus himself, like them, was condemned, excluded, and marginalized by religious and political authorities whose primary objectives of preserving power and maintaining the status quo seem not to have changed all that much down through the centuries.
The preachers in this volume provide readings of the Bible that celebrate the call for justice and liberation that resounds throughout Scripture. This call is expressed most beautifully and poetically and persuasively in stories of unconditional love, hospitality, mutuality, peace, and compassion—stories that are at the very heart of Jesus’ ministry and yet, in an irony of ironies, are so often missing in the churches . . .
When it comes to interpreting the role of Christianity and the church in relation to human sexuality and gender identity, the contributors in this volume are drawn to texts that are deeply rooted in love, dignity, respect, justice, and liberation. Such interpretations have always represented the church at its best, and the sermons in this volume represent the church at its best as well.
I am thankful that the voices in this book are not alone but are representative of many others in our society that are also welcoming and affirming. It is wonderful to see a rapidly growing group of Christians—evangelical and mainline, young and old, Protestant and Catholic—who are no longer content to remain silent in the face of the injustice, discrimination, exploitation, and marginalization that LGBTQ people experience, but instead are raising their collective voice to respond to the call of justice at the heart of the gospel, to give it hands and feet, so that God’s dreams for this world and all its people might become a reality, here and now . . .
The following sermons invite you to reflect on interpretations of the Bible that harbor profound beauty, love, healing, and hope. Not just for those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, but for all of us, for we are in this together, LGBTQSCAI alike. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Cor 12:26).
*Caputo’s quote is from his book, What Would Jesus Deconstruct?