Heed the Message of Christ: Queering Galatians

As we continue to consider the person of Jesus Christ, we must think also of what he expects of us. Above all he sends us out into the world to carry his message. This is what is meant by “apostle” – one who is sent as a messenger. We are all (or should be) apostles, and the world we are to carry the message to is our own, contemporary world, with its modern conditions and circumstances.

It is in this spirit that  Rev Steven Parelli, executive director  of Other Sheep, has posted an adaptation and paraphrase of Paul’s letter to the Galatians., that he prepared in the immediate aftermath of the Equality March in Washington D. C. This is a text that he once memorized in an attempt to fight against his same-sex attraction – but reassessing it in personal, modern terms has given it a very different complexion:

When I was in my freshman year of Bible college, I memorized most of the book of Galatians by heart (and filled five notebooks with personal study notes) ….for the purpose of helping me to overcome my “temptation” to same-sex sex (which I now realise is not a temptation but an orientation).

Last night while on the bus that brought us home from the National Equality March in Washington,  D. C., I went over chapter 1 of Galatians in my mind as well as read it from the NT Bible I had with me. …….Once I queered the very first word “Paul” as “we who strive for the equality rights of LGBT people”, I was off and running. And then the text spoke to me, as many texts from the Bible have spoken to other oppressed peoples of former and present times.

Apostles for Today

Parelli’s queering of Galatians is helpful for the result – but also for the method, as a technique for making scripture more immediately comprehensible and applicable to our lives, today.

I begin with a restatement of the first part of the passage, in the familiar King James translation:

1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) 2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the  churches of Galatia: 3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us  from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: 5 To  whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

Now, Parelli’s paraphrase for today:

We who strive for the equal rights of LGBT people are sent ones – not because some pro-LGBT organization has enlisted us – but because Jesus Christ – his earthly ministry to the oppressed and marginalized – has called us to do, at this time, what he did then in his day.  We are sent by him and the life-giving Creator with the good news of liberty for all.  2 We are not alone in this mission, for there are many with whom we work and who work with us.  Now, it is to the churches at large in the United States that we write this letter.  3 We begin with this greeting:  Grace and peace to everyone from God the Creator and from Jesus our Lord 4 who lived for the oppressed in society to such an extent that he died at the hands of those who hated his mission; he gave his life in the pursuit of delivering us from a world where men do evil to other men; he died for a just world for all – a world as God originally intended it to be. 5 For this sacrifice we give him the glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

He continues:

8 Now, why would you want to do that?  No, you would not wish to destroy the good news that has come to the marginalized of society even if an “angel from heaven” were to pretend that you should do so.  Even if we ourselves, for some unknown reason, were to ask you to tell forth a message different than what we have been saying right along – that Jesus is the liberator of all the oppressed in society.  If we were to change the “good news,” than by all means tell us that we have corrupted the message. 9 You see how important the “good news” is.

10 We are writing not because we need to persuade any one, or even God the Creator, of what we are about.  Both men and God  know:  we are about the good news of setting the captive free, that is the marginalized – the despised and rejected of society.  Obviously this is not about pleasing society who would keep the oppressed in their place.  This is about being the servants of Christ by doing what he did.  11 Yes, indeed, this good news that Jesus came into the world to show us how to live for one another (which we do tell to everyone) is obviously – not at this time – the way of humanity (but it is “the way” of Jesus).  12 Society so often fails to model before us this message of good news, and therefore, we did not receive it from observing society or any institution, but instead learned it from observing Jesus, the one who teaches us to give to others the rights, privileges and freedoms we would grant ourselves.

Like it?  Read the full paraphrase, parallel with the KJ version (no, it’s not my favourite either), at Other Sheep National Equality March

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