The Bible queers itself. Because it is both an inspirational spiritual document and an historical text covering thousands of years, it sets up social norms then knocks them down. The Pentateuch excludes eunuchs from the assembly and the priesthood, but the prophets are careful to include them in God’s beloved. Jesus, in Matthew, intentionally shatters boundaries using the formula “You have heard it said… But I say…” Paul does the same as he makes way for Gentiles to join this Jewish sect of Jesus-followers.
Many people, including John Shelby Spong, have argued that the Bible does not prohibit Christians from accepting queer identities. But I want to take one step further. I believe the Bible actually demands the constant questioning of cultural norms, including categories of gender and sexuality. Prejudice is always a misinterpretation of this bold and welcoming, boundary-shattering, norm-destroying text when it is viewed as a whole.
As well, I want to note that using only historical-critical lenses to interpret scripture is itself a context, not the absence of a context, for interpretation. As Stephen Bevans writes in his book “Models of Contextual Theology,” “Reality is not just “out there”; reality is “mediated by meaning,” a meaning that we give it in the context of our culture or our historical period, interpreted from our own particular horizon and in our own particular thought forms.” There is no possibility of a “pure,” context-free interpretation of the Bible.
I am a Christian Unitarian Universalist. I may not believe Jesus was born without his mother and father having sex, or that he rose from the dead, but I do believe this radical reformer taught us something that is worth trying to emulate. We Unitarian Universalists have sometimes scrapped the Bible as a source for spirituality. Seems to me we often do so out of shame. We don’t want to appear to be like the evangelicals. But I am interested, in this moment when ancient religious texts are in danger of losing their relevance, in reclaiming the Bible and reinterpreting it for a new generation. The seeds for such were planted by the Bible’s authors.