‘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.
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.
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.