Out in Sport: England Cricketer Steven Davies Goes Public

In an ideal world, this should not make the news: sexual lives are personal and private – but we do not live in an ideal world.

Young people need role models. Young boys in particular look to their sporting heroes, far too few of them have had the courage to come out publicly as gay. There are welcome exceptions – and England cricketer Steven Davies has just added to the number, becoming the second British member of a national squad in a major team sport to do so. (The first was Welsh rugby captain, Gareth Thomas).

Steven Davies, the 24-year-old Surrey and England wicketkeeper, has become the latest high-profile sportsman to announce he is gay. In today’s Daily Telegraph Davies becomes the first serving professional cricketer to ‘out’ himself.

Davies, who began his career at Worcestershire, says he hopes his decision will encourage other young gay people to do the same. He said: ‘This is the right time for me. I feel it is the right time to be out in the open about my sexuality. If more people do it, the more acceptable it will become.’

Davies follows the former Wales rugby union player Gareth Thomas, who also went public about his sexuality.

Guardian

The New Statesman makes a bold claim, that Davies’ coming out could be the tipping point for public acceptance and openness in sports, based on the contrast between Davies and Gareth Thomas, who did so at the peak of his career, and with a solid backing of public support . Davies is young, just starting out in his career, and has not yet established that personal following, which made his action all the more courageous. This assertion of a tipping point may be premature – but there will certainly be many more, in Britain and elsewhere, in team sports of all kinds as well as in the individual sporting codes (where there are rather more examples already).

Coming out is a process, not an event. Davies first did so to his family, five years ago, and then to his cricketing colleagues after his selection for the national team last year. He has now gone public. The very many other gay men in professional sport, who remain trapped in a closet of fear should pay attention to his words: coming out can help others – but also themselves. Coming out is a relief.

“I’m comfortable with who I am – and happy to say who I am in public,” he said in an interview with The Sun.

“To speak out is a massive relief for me, but if I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that’s all I care about.”

Davies, who missed out on a place in the England squad for the current World Cup campaign, came out to his friends and family five years ago.

But the first time he told any of his fellow players came following his selection for England’s successful Ashes tour during the recent winter.

And he revealed the relief he felt after telling captain Andrew Strauss and the rest of the team.

“It was a fantastic thing to do, telling the lads. The difference is huge. I am so much happier,” he said.

Daily Mirror

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“Practicing Safer Texts”: The Bible and Sexuality, Homosexuality

As gay men, we all know about the importance of practicing safe sex. When it comes to the Bible and sexuality, especially homosexuality, Ken Stone says we must practice safe texts, too. I regret that I have not yet had a chance to read this book and cannot comment personally on its quality, but the advice in the title is sound. We must read and respond to isolated Bible verses with extreme care. Failure to do so can be dangerous to our mental, emotional and spiritual health. “Everybody” knows that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality as an abomination, goes the popular wisdom, which in turns fuels the opposition to LGBT equality and gay marriage, and at worst encourages prejudice, discrimination, bullying – and even murder. The popular wisdom is wrong.

At Newsweek, Lisa Miller introduces her discussion of two new books by Jennifer Wright Knust and Michael Coogan with an important reminder: the Bible devotes an entire book to a clear celebration of human sexuality, without any consideration of procreation or even permanent commitment and fidelity:

The poem describes two young lovers aching with desire. The obsession is mutual, carnal, complete. The man lingers over his lover’s eyes and hair, on her teeth, lips, temples, neck, and breasts, until he arrives at “the mount of myrrh.” He rhapsodizes. “All of you is beautiful, my love,” he says. “There is no flaw in you.”

The girl returns his lust with lust. “My lover thrust his hand through the hole,” she says, “and my insides groaned because of him.”

This frank Biblical erotica has too often been overshadowed in religious discussion of biblical sexuality by the modern puritanical perceptions of biblical sexual ethics.  These modern perceptions are a severe distortion. Miller writes:

What does the Bible really say about sex? Two new books written by university scholars for a popular audience try to answer this question. Infuriated by the dominance in the public sphere of conservative Christians who insist that the Bible incontrovertibly supports sex within the constraints of “traditional marriage,” these authors attempt to prove otherwise. Jennifer Wright Knust and Michael Coogan mine the Bible for its earthiest and most inexplicable tales about sex—Jephthah, who sacrifices his virgin daughter to God; Naomi and Ruth, who vow to love one another until death—to show that the Bible’s teachings on sex are not as coherent as the religious right would have people believe. In Knust’s reading, the Song of Solomon is a paean to unmarried sex, outside the conventions of family and community. “I’m tired,” writes Knust in Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire, “of watching those who are supposed to care about the Bible reduce its stories and teachings to slogans.” Her book comes out this month. Coogan’s book God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says was released last fall.

Some conservative commentators are outraged. “You cannot selectively twist the Bible to suit your purpose” is a common response – which completely overlooks the fact that this is precisely what the defenders of “traditional marriage, as found in the Bible” are doing all the time. The popular conception of “traditional marriage” is a relatively modern invention, very far removed from sexual ethics of the bible – as found in the actual text, and not in some befuddled pseudo-religious imaginations.

To really get to grips with biblical views on sexuality, “practicing safer texts”, requires proper study and reflection. Scholars who have done this have been reconsidering the traditional presentation for decades. Jennifer Knust (a professor of religion and an ordained Baptist pastor) and Michael Coogan (who trained as a Jesuit priest) have taken what is now common parlance among some academics, and made it more accessible to a wider audience.

For those who have followed the re-evaluation of  the bible’s supposed pronouncements on homosexuality in particular, it is easy to recount the counters to the half-dozen or so clobber texts, or “texts of terror”, on Robert Goss’s phrase. What I like about the accounts of these books, is that they move beyond the arguments around specific verses, and on to a more holistic view of Scripture as a whole, and approaches to its overriding message – strictly in accordance with the Pontifical Bible Commission guidance on biblical interpretation, with its emphasis on context – of the passage and the entire bible, as well as the historical conditions, the modern context, and with a careful eye to linguistic accuracy and literary conventions :

The Bible contains a “pervasive patriarchal bias,” Coogan writes. Better to elide the specifics and read the Bible for its teachings on love, compassion, and forgiveness. Taken as a whole, “the Bible can be understood as the record of the beginning of a continuous movement toward the goal of full freedom and equality for all persons.”

It is a discussion of the literary conventions that produces the greatest surprise for me: Coogan’s claim that Biblical language may use the term “foot” as a euphemism for genitals. This recognition leads to some completely novel and surprising perspectives on familiar passages:

When biblical authors wanted to talk about genitals, they sometimes talked about “hands,” as in the Song of Solomon, and sometimes about “feet.” Coogan cites one passage in which a baby is born “between a mother’s feet”; and another, in which the prophet Isaiah promises that a punitive God will shave the hair from the Israelites’ heads, chins, and “feet.” When, in the Old Testament, Ruth anoints herself and lies down after dark next to Boaz—the man she hopes to make her husband—she “uncovers his feet.” A startled Boaz awakes. “Who are you?” he asks. Ruth identifies herself and spends the night “at his feet.”

However, it can also lead to some dangerous traps for the unwary:

When he is teaching to college students, he writes, someone inevitably asks about the scene in Luke, in which a woman kisses and washes Jesus’ feet—and then dries them with her hair. Is that author speaking about “feet”? Or feet? “As both modern and ancient elaborations suggest,” Coogan writes, “sexual innuendo may be present.” Scholars agree that in this case, a foot was probably just a foot.

Newsweek, What the Bible Really Says About Sex

We all know that “The Bible” is widely used as a cover to oppose legal protections for LGBT equality, or for full inclusion in church. Too often, as Candace Chellew Hodge points out, these arguments are made by people who have not actually read the bible, or if they have, they have, they have made not attempt to understand it with due consideration of its meaning, in the full scriptural, literary and historical context.

Over at Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link, blogger Jenny Tyree isn’t surprised at Ms. Bush and Ms. McCain’s support for marriage equality. “It’s rather easy for 20-somethings—or millennials—to jump on the very tidy-looking ‘rights’ bandwagon that proponents of same-sex marriage have made marriage to be,’ she writes, rightly observing that the majority of people aged 18-29 support marriage equality.

What these darn kids are missing, Tyree says, is a real appreciation of biblical marriage. Instead, they’ve grown up “breathing air thick with a cultural disregard for marriage. Experiencing the personal benefit of having a married mom and dad doesn’t change what they witnessed—willful divorces and the suffering of the children of divorce. The result is a generational embrace of sex as a right and marriage as one of many lifestyles, rather than as the best family structure for children and a stabilizing force for society.”

-Candace Chellew-Hodge, Religion Dispatches

Chellew-Hodge goes on to point out (quite correctly )that what these people are proposing is emphatically not the supposed destruction of marriage and family, but its strengthening – by extending its protection and coverage to all families.

She also goes on to report on a Knust’s book, saying that it beautifully counters the tired argument that same-sex marriage undermines “biblical marriage”. Marriage in the Bible takes many forms. Which variety, exactly, are the defenders of “traditional” marriage thinking of?

When one actually reads the Bible (something a majority of “traditional marriage” supporters have obviously not done), one finds a myriad of models for marriage—most of them involving one man and many women—and all of those women are property of the man they are married to. Women were subservient to men in every way and had no voice or rights of their own. By the time we arrive at the Christian scriptures, we find Jesus openly discouraging marriage for his followers, requiring them to leave their families and follow him exclusively.

“From Jesus’ perspective, then,” Knust writes, “the family is made up of fellow believers, not kin with formal ties outsiders might recognize.”

Saying that one supports “biblical marriage” then is to say that one supports polygamy, or owning women, or leaving one’s family altogether and dedicating one’s life exclusively to following Christ. What millennials like Ms. Bush and Ms. McCain understand is that the tradition of marriage has evolved into a more inclusive institution encompassing mixed race marriages, and non-procreative marriages. Marriage today is not a matter of familial arrangements to enlarge land holdings or status. Marriage today is about the love and commitment between two people—as well as the government perks bestowed on the couple. Adding gays and lesbians to the mix does nothing to weaken marriage—it’s simply another evolution away from “biblical marriage” that was more about property rights than love.

Biblical marriage, according to Knust, looked like this: “women belong to men; male honor is tied, in part, to how well men supervise the women in their care; and men demonstrate their wealth and success by the number of legitimate wives and children they are able to acquire.”

Actually, given religious right preaching about how men are the head of the household and women are subject to the rule of the man, perhaps the religious right does believe in “Biblical marriage” after all.

At CNN, Jennifer Knust herself elaborates on the bible and homosexuality in particular, rebutting a key argument against gay marriage – that God created two distinct sexes. In fact, she points out, in the earliest versions of the creation story, it was accepted that the original human was androgynous:

We often hears that Christians have no choice but to regard homosexuality as a sin– that Scripture simply demands it.

As a Bible scholar and pastor myself, I say that Scripture does no such thing.

“I love gay people, but the Bible forces me to condemn them” is a poor excuse that attempts to avoid accountability by wrapping a very particular and narrow interpretation of a few biblical passages in a cloak of divinely inspired respectability.

Truth is, Scripture can be interpreted in any number of ways. And biblical writers held a much more complicated view of human sexuality than contemporary debates have acknowledged.

In Genesis, for example, it would seem that God’s original intention for humanity was androgyny, not sexual differentiation and heterosexuality.

Genesis includes two versions of the story of God’s creation of the human person. First, God creates humanity male and female and then God forms the human person again, this time in the Garden of Eden. The second human person is given the name Adam and the female is formed from his rib.

Ancient Christians and Jews explained this two-step creation by imagining that the first human person possessed the genitalia of both sexes. Then, when the androgynous, dually-sexed person was placed in the garden, s/he was divided in two.

According to this account, the man “clings to the woman” in an attempt to regain half his flesh, which God took from him once he was placed in Eden. As third century Rabbi Samuel bar Nahman explained, when God created the first man, God created him with two faces. “Then he split the androgyne and made two bodies, one on each side, and turned them about.”

When the apostle Paul envisioned the bodies that would be given to humanity at the end of time, he imagined that they would be androgynous, “not male and female.” The third-century non-canonical Gospel of Philip, meanwhile, lamented that sexual difference had been created at all: “If the female had not separated from the male, she and the male would not die. That being’s separation became the source of death.”

From these perspectives, God’s original plan was sexual unity in one body, not two. The Genesis creation stories can support the notion that sexual intercourse is designed to reunite male and female into one body, but they can also suggest that God’s blessing was first placed on an undifferentiated body that didn’t have sex at all.

Jennifer Knust, CNN Religion Blogs

I do not propose that my readers should simply adopt the views expressed above simply on the strength of some third-hand reports of books that I have not yet had the opportunity to read myself. Biblical exegesis is a tricky matter for those of us without proper training. As the critics of these books are quick to point out, we do need to be guided in our interpretations of the texts by reliable scholarship. What the critics overlook though, is that scholarship itself is no longer supporting the traditional interpretations.

Ever since the early pioneers like Canon Derrick Sherwin Bailey, scholars who have re examined the evidence with an open mind have found that the traditional assumptions about the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality are unfounded. Bayley was followed by the historian John Boswell, with a chapter on scripture in Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, and the detailed analysis by the Episcopal theologian William Countryman. This early trickle of works demonstrating the flaws in the traditional misinterpretations has become a flood, so that those denominations which have set up formal study programs have agreed that there is at the very least substantial room for disagreement. This is why we are now seeing a strong movement towards accepting even the ordination of openly gay or lesbian clergy, and even same sex weddings, in the US Mainline Protestant and European Lutheran churches. This re-evaluation by scholars and religious professionals, however, has not yet reached the popular mainstream, not in any significant numbers.

These latest additions to the range of available titles are welcome, and deserve to be widely read and reflected on.

 

Books:

Bailey. Derrick Sherwin: Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition

Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century

Coogan, Michael: God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says

Countryman, William L: Dirt, Greed and Sex

Helminiak, Daniel: What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality

Knust, Jennifer WrightUnprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire

Rogers, Jack :Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Revised and Expanded Edition: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

Stone, KenPracticing Safer Texts: Food, Sex and Bible in Queer Perspective

Thelos, Phil: Divine Sex: Liberating Sex from Religious Tradition

 

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Largest Human Rainbow

All Voices.com says that this is the world’s largest human rainbow.

Over 31,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) gathered yesterday at the Luneta Grandstand in Manila wearing colorful shirts, caps and Flag lets and danced to modern pop tunes in a bid to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Largest Human Rainbow

The PUPians attempted to beat the Guinness records of the Malta Archipelago and the Hongkong Polytechnic University (HPU) which organized 11,750 individuals in November, 2003 and 11,500 in 2002, respectively, for the same purpose.

The record was set in 2004, and has not yet been beaten.

Incitement to Hatred is a Criminal Offence

p style=”text-align: justify;”>Hatred in any form brings consequences. In Uganda, the continual stirring of hatred by some religious groups have culminated in the murder of David Kato. In Arizona, careless language during last year’s election campaign may have contributed to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. During last year’s NOM bus tour in the US, a picture of a  man with a poster showing an image of a noose and calling for death to gays drew widespread comment – but no penalties.

In the UK, incitement to hatred, including homophobic hatred, is explicitly prohibited by law. This week, a total of five men were arrested and charged with the offence of incitement to hatred – the first ever to be charged under this legislation. All five will appear in court on February 14th.

Pair charged with stirring up homophobic hatred

Two men from Derby have been charged with stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

It is the first such prosecution since laws outlawing homophobia came into force in March 2010.

Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27, will appear before magistrates on Friday.

The charges relate to a leaflet, The Death Penalty?, which was distributed outside the Jamia Mosque in Derby in July last year.

The leaflets were also posted through letterboxes in the city.

Mr Javed and Mr Ahmed have both been charged with distributing threatening written material intending to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Sue Hemming said: “This is the first ever prosecution for this offence and it is the result of close working between the Crown Prosecution Service and Derbyshire Police.

“Following complaints from the public, Derbyshire Police mounted a thorough investigation.

“We have carefully reviewed the evidence provided by the police and are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge these men.”

 

Defective Theology From Colorado Springs Diocese.

The principle behind 12-step programmes has become familiar, made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, and since adapted for narcotics addictions, gambling addictions and other pathological behaviours, where it is widely agreed they can be extremely helpful in turning around self-destructive behaviour. Note carefully those qualifiers – they have worked in turning around addictive or otherwise self-destructive behaviour. Their use in attempting to modify behaviour which is totally natural and healthy (but possibly unpopular) is no more appropriate than using dangerous hydroquinine – based skin lighteners to “cure” dark skin – but this is what the Catholic diocese of Colorado Springs is trying to do, with a spurious 12-step programme that claims to offer support to those  suffering from same-sex attraction – by asking them to make amends for those whom they have hurt.

As Call to Action has noted in their response, this is plain bad theology.  Same-sex attraction is not a disease or addiction, but is totally natural. The only hurt that needs healing is not that done by gay men and lesbians on others, but that inflicted on them by misguided programmes such as this. What I find particularly offensive in the response by the programme organisers to the outraged reaction, is their pretence that the only orientation they are promoting is an orientation to Jesus Christ. They are not – Jesus, in his life and ministry said absolutely nothing against same sex relationships, and much in support. He most specifically promoted inclusion and welcome to all, including those otherwise marginalized by the social and religious elites of his day. If the diocese were to genuinely focus on an orientation to Jesus Christ, the only 12-step programme worth considering would not be aimed at those with same-sex attraction, but at those so burdened by homophobia that they are determined to impose their heterosexual agenda on everybody else. They are the ones who should be apologising for the hurt that they have caused to others, not the gay men and lesbians whose only “fault” has been to love.

This is a press statement from Equally Blessed: Read the rest of this entry »

Some Questions for Heterosexuals:

This Heterosexual Questionnaire has been around the net for a while, but remains pertinent. The formulation below comes from socyberty:

Questions for Heterosexuals to answer:

1. What do you feel caused your heterosexuality?

2. When did you decide that you were a heterosexual?

3. Is it possible that your heterosexuality is caused by a fear of the same sex?

4. Could it be possible that your heterosexuality is a phase that you are going through?

5. Do your parents know that you are straight? How did they react?

6. Why do you insist on flaunting your heterosexuality? Would it be possible to be heterosexual and not flaunt it?

7. Why do heterosexual place such an emphasis on sex?

8. Why do heterosexual feel compelled to seduce others into their lifestyle?

9. A large majority of child molesters are heterosexual, do you consider it save to expose children to heterosexual teachers in school and in youth groups like the boy scouts?

10. How can men and women know how to please each other when they are so anatomically different?

11. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

12. Is it really safe for a woman to be heterosexual when there is such a higher rate of STDs and pregnancy among heterosexual women than lesbians?

13. Considering the menace of overpopulation, how could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual?

14. Could you trust a heterosexual therapist to be objective? Don’t you feel that he/she might be inclined to influence you in the direction of his/her leanings?

15. Would you want your children to be heterosexual considering the problems that he/she would have to face?

 

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Rethinking Church and Sexuality: London Conference

One of the features of last year’s extensive publicity over sexual abuse and Catholic clergy, was the appallingly inadequate preparation that priests received in their training for matters of sexuality – their own, or that of others in their pastoral care. To some extent, the attention given to sexual abuse over the past few years has dramatically improved the position for those currently in training, but much remains to be done. For evidence of this, we need only consider the response of some bishops to works such as “The Sexual Person” (by the lay Catholic theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler), which the US Bishops attacked simply because its findings conflicted with Church teaching – without any serious attempt to engage in the evidence and thoughtful reasoning the book presented. We can also point to the ignorance displayed by others who casually cite “nature” as support for Church teaching, when the overwhelming weight of evidence from the real world, whether in the animal kingdom or from human anthropology, flatly contradicts it, or who argue against “redefining” marriage, with no recognition at all of how marriage has been constantly redefined over the centuries, often directly by the church itself.

Read the rest of this entry »