‘Lack of intellectualism’ lies behind Christian homophobia

‘Lack of intellectualism’ lies behind Christian homophobia

In an Open Church Network video released this week one of the UK’s most prominent evangelicals, Revd Canon Steve Chalke, above, claims that there has been a lack of intellectualism by evangelicals in their approach to certain biblical passages.

They have ‘misinterpreted’ these passages which have subsequently been ‘weaponised’ to attack members of the LGBT community.

Biblical studies, he adds, have not kept up with archaeological discoveries, and that if Christian scholarship engages with archaeological evidence from the rediscovered ancient city of Pompeii, much of St Paul’s teaching on sexuality must be radically reinterpreted.

For too long the remains of Pompeii have been little known to members of the general public, but when the chance to examine them is taken, it becomes abundantly clear that in ancient Rome, sex was everything. 80% of the artwork recovered from Pompeii and its sister town of Herculaneum is sexually explicit and also reveals a fascination with the image of the stiff, erect penis – a symbol of power and pleasure.  This is the context into which the New Testament was written.

In his video, which opens with an “explicit content” warning, Chalke argues that by studying the remains of Pompeii, and understanding the ancient Roman world’s highly sexualised culture, we can find new meaning in chapters such as Romans 1, which have traditionally been misinterpreted to condemn same-sex relations.

Every Christian believes God to be a God of love.  It is no wonder that these abusive practises are condemned by inspired scripture.  But, it is a disingenuous misreading of the text to conclude that what Paul describes in Romans 1 can be used to prevent people forming loving, faithful and nurturing relationships with people of the same-sex.

The video, containing graphic images that were discovered in Pompeii also deals with the three other passages in the New Testament that have traditionally been used to condemn any kind of homosexual activity or even orientation.

Chalke continues:

The content of the video is so graphic that we’ve had to place a parental warning label on it – however I have not released this out of any desire to provoke or shock for the sake of it.  Because of widespread ignorance of the ancient world and Greco-Roman culture in churches across the West, we throw Bible verses around without understanding their context. 

We misunderstand Paul’s criticism of rituals that exploit power and abuse people and then, out of ignorance, use them to try to prevent people of same-sex orientation from finding loving, committed and fulfilling partnerships and of entering into, what I believe is, the holy institution of same-sex marriage.  For the Church, the Bible is the corner stone of faith and practise.  It is time we took it more seriously. The Church has a duty to use every tool of modern scholarship available in this task.

In 2014, Chalke’s Oasis Trust was tossed out of the Evangelical Alliance.

Created by Oasis, the Open Church Network:

Is a virtual gathering place for people seeking an open conversation about Christianity, Church, the Bible and faith; a web portal rich in content and resources for those with a personal interest in Christian life or theology as well church leaders.  Besides other content, the Network has a strong focus on the inclusion of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender within the Christian Church.

19 responses to “‘Lack of intellectualism’ lies behind Christian homophobia”

  1. barriejohn says:

    But he still thinks that we should use a two-thousand -year-old book of Jewish myths, legends and poetry as the basis for our morality today! Sorry, but I am singularly unimpressed by yet another “liberal Christian” announcing that we need to “reinterpret” the Bible; what we really need to do is to see it for what it is – an interesting and, to a certain extent, important, set of writings which has had an inordinate influence upon Western thought, custom and culture for historical reasons. What we certainly should NOT be doing is taking Bible verses apart and analyzing them, just as the fundamentalists do, as they are not “inspired” or authoritative in any way. It doesn’t matter what “new meaning” he and others manage impose upon their precious scriptures, we all know what the attitude of Jewish elders was towards homosexual relationships, trans-sexuality, etc, two thousand years ago, and that will tell you what the writers of these verses to which he refers actually meant.

  2. CoastalMaineBird says:

    I don’t think it’s ‘misinterpreted’ at all.

    From the book of Levitations, 20:13:
    “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

    Not sure how much ‘intellectualism’ you have to apply to that to turn it into something besides “kill the queers’, but, I’m sure some will try.

  3. Gui says:

    People blaming the sexual behavior for the destruction of Pompeii and neighborhood cities in 3, 2, 1…

  4. CoastalMaineBird says:

    Every Christian believes God to be a God of love.
    … and no one knows why.

  5. Daz says:

    You’d think an all-powerful god would be able to make its infallible message just a tad less capable of being misinterpreted in so many contradictory ways, wouldn’t you?

    More seriously, barriejohn said what I wanted to say; there’s no point in me repeating it.

  6. Paul says:

    The worst reinterpretation is right there :
    “Every Christian believes God to be a God of love.”
    What on earth is he reading to reach that conclusion. Believe in me, obey me, make sacrifices to me, get on your knees to me, love me, worship me, don’t sin (whatever that means) or I will burn you for eternity for any of those and lesser things.
    Not get a small slap across the legs but I will burn for eternity.
    Oh and when I burn you for ever it’s because I love you.

  7. L.Long says:

    “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” Yes this is OK for gays to be gay. This is a condemnation of butt sex with women!! So if you have butt sex with a man and then have vagina sex with a women all is OK. But if you have butt sex with a woman then you are an abomination! That’s what it says!!!!

  8. John the Drunkard says:

    Pompeii is too little known? The Xtians chortling over volcanoes as Divine Punishment against those Oversexed Romans has been a ‘thing’ since well before ‘The Last Days of Pompeii.’

    And just how much comparison is there between a luxury sea-side resort convenient to the seat of empire, and a near-desert outpost like Jerusalem?

  9. barriejohn says:

    Daz: Sorry about that, but I think you make a serious point. How can the unchanging, unchangeable God’s message keep changing with every generation? It’s beyond a joke. I’m with Bob!

  10. Trevor Blake says:

    “The things I like also happen to be the true parts of my religion” said nearly every religious person ever.

    It’s miraculous that timeless wisdom and eternal commandments change so often and require so much interpretation.

  11. Robster says:

    Does any nonsense penned by Iron age goat herders have any relevance today? Probably not.

  12. gedediah says:

    Leviticus seems pretty clear. You can’t be a liberal and follow the word of God at the same time. Well, you can’t do that and and stay sane. Need I say more?

  13. Cali Ron says:

    barriejohn: Ditto. Excellent summation.

  14. StephenJP says:

    This is desperate stuff. What may have gone on at Pompeii had zilch to do with the dogmas that were being made up among the Jewish or Judaeo-Christian diaspora in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. For a start, most of these sects had been driven out of Judaea by their Roman conquerers: what possible motive would they have had to copy their most louche behaviour? I’m afraid this is just an attempt to make out that Christianity was really meant to be sex-friendly. Well, it ain’t.

  15. Gui says:

    “You’d think an all-powerful god would be able to make its infallible message just a tad less capable of being misinterpreted in so many contradictory ways, wouldn’t you?”

    So said omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient being would be very well capable of communicate and talk objectively with everyone . Rather that, it prefers call some special peoples in particular and, not so rarely, says it statements in a vague manner possibilitating the emergence of various and competing interpretations.

    All of it if the so called divine will isn’t something completely convenient to the person who says know what it is about.

  16. barriejohn says:

    Gui et al: Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why do You speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” (Matt. 13:10-11)

    This idea is repeated many times throughout the Bible, including references to “mysteries” in the New Testament, though contradicted (quelle surprise) elsewhere, where God says that he is making everything plain. It’s a common theme of many religions that only the “enlightened” can understand the deep truths of the faith (I wonder why that would be?), and is carried to its extreme when people start babbling incoherent nonsense and claim that they are talking the “language of heaven”. For a real laugh, I suggest you look at this article posted recently by Hemant, where some stupid woman actually seems to WRITE in tongues (though it makes much more sense than what she’s saying!):