Spring 2021 — Queer Theory and the Bible
Guest Editor: Chris Greenough
Chris Greenough, “Editorial,” X-X.
Adrian Thatcher, “The Harm Principle and Christian Belief,” X-X.
KEYWORDS: Discipleship; euthyphro dilemma; gender violence; hermeneutics; sexual ethics; sola scriptura
The article addresses the question why Christians often fail to achieve even the minimum standard of secular morality. It isolates from a long list of failures the undermining and maltreatment of women and sexual minorities. It describes four types of violence – gender, epistemic, symbolic, and hermeneutic – they are made to endure. It then undertakes a theological and philosophical analysis of some of the causes of failure, locating them in i) the moral hazards of ‘divine command ethics’; ii) the promulgation of immoral doctrines; iii) the perils of ‘costly discipleship’; iv) the quest for certainty; and v) adherence to the scripture principle or sola scriptura.
Adriaan van Klinken and Tom Muyunga-Mukasa, “‘Accused of a Sodomy Act:’ Bible, Queer Poetry, and African Narrative Hermeneutics,” X-X.
KEYWORDS: Bible; LGBTQ; poetry; narrative hermeneutics; life storytelling; African queer theology
This article explores the role of poetry and narrative methods in African-centred queer biblical studies and theology. As a case in point, it presents a poem, titled ‘Accused of a Sodomy Act’, by Tom Muyunga-Mukasa, that was written as part of a queer bible reading project with Ugandan LGBTQ refugees. The poem is a contemporary re-telling of the gospel story about Jesus and the “woman caught in adultery” in the context of socio-political homophobia in Uganda. The poem is complemented by an autobiographical reflection by the writer, providing insight into his personal experiences of growing up as gay and religious in Uganda. This is embedded in a more general discussion, relating the poem to trends of life storytelling in African LGBTQ activism, and to established narrative methodologies in African theological and biblical studies scholarship. Overall, the article makes a methodological contribution, by foregrounding queer poetry and storytelling as innovations in African narrative hermeneutics that expand the established concern with gender and sexuality beyond a heterosexual framework, and that include the marginalised voices and experiences of LGBTQ people.
Robert E. Shore-Goss, “Queering Jesus: LGBTQI Dangerous Remembering and Imaginative Resistance,” X-X.
KEYWORDS: Jesus; LGBTQI; Memory; Queering; Christology
Queering Jesus is a call to remember the danger of the story of Jesus. The primary aim of this article is to offer a comprehensive survey of the representation of queer Jesus. Building upon the deconstructive work of Johannes Baptist Metz and the notion of the dangerous memories of Jesus’ suffering and death (memoria passsionis), this article tries to make sense of the deconstruction of heteronormative and cisgender constructions of a white, male Jesus that supports the exclusion and oppression of queer folks. Queer constructions of Jesus in biblical interpretation and popular media are accused of being blasphemous fictions, while the same charge can be levied against the constructions of heteronormative and cisgender Christian churches who marginalize and stigmatize LGBTQI people. The imaginative remembering of the dangerous story of Jesus empowers queer folks to liberate and create a queer Jesus who allows LGBTQI Christians to experience the liberating presence of Jesus, to experience themselves as beloved, and to empower them to take back an inclusive Christianity.
Will Moore, “A Godly Man and a Manly God: Resolving the Tension of Divine Masculinities in the Bible,” X-X.
KEYWORDS: Masculinity; Bible; Jesus; Gospels; God; Divine; Butler; Queer Theory; Gender Trouble.
In the Hebrew Bible, God epitomises an ideal hegemonic masculinity: sexless but reproductive, in control of his creation, and hypermasculine when engaging with his feminised followers. As such, the Gospel writers depict Jesus as the Son of God with this, as well as the masculine ideals of the Greco-Roman world, in mind. Ultimately, this causes a tension of divine masculinities, which is particularly exposed in the act of crucifixion where two different divine masculinities are at play. Using the queer and social-scientific methodology of Butler and Connell respectively, I argue that these biblical divine masculinities disturb dominant constructions of gender in the ancient world and followers of Christianity might be called to do the same.
R. Shannon Constantine, “‘A Big, Fabulous Bible’: The Queen James Bible and Its Queering of Scripture,” X-X.
KEYWORDS: Queen James Bible; Queer Bible translation; Activism; Clobber verses
While queer biblical translation aims to validate the presence of the LGBTQI community within Christianity, it is often viewed as violating the ethical standards of canonical biblical texts. This paper analyses the Queen James Bible as an activist, queer translation of the Bible that intersects with questions of ethics. Drawing on prefatory material and textual and comparative analysis of the ‘clobber verses’ as presented in the Queen James Bible and the King James Version on which it is based, I discuss how this Bible makes a significant contribution to both the LGBTQI community and activism. Engaging with queer translation and activist theory to frame my analysis, I explore how the Queen James Bible’s anonymous editors confer new meaning to normative biblical conventions, thereby subverting accusations by readers and theologians that depict this text as an unethical alteration of the Bible. By categorising the edits made on the ‘clobber verses’ into four sections and investigating the editors’ engagement with the initial Hebrew and Greek scriptures, I conclude that translations such as the Queen James Bible contend with the issue of ethics by creating a queer hermeneutical space via religious scripture that is often used to marginalise the LGBTQI community.
Eric C. Smith, “Queerer Meals: Paul and Communal Anti-Norms in Corinth,” X-X.
KEYWORDS: Meals; Paul; Queer theory; 1 Corinthians; Queer potlucks
This article employs two strategies to understand Paul’s dissatisfaction with the meal practice of the Corinthian assembly in 1 Corinthians 11:17-31. First, it uses a form of queer reading to interrogate the text for its assumptions about normativity and deviance. Second, it puts the Corinthian meals in conversation with modern queer potlucks and their emergence as sites of alternative community formation. Together, these strategies help create a reading of the text of 1 Corinthians that contextualizes the norms inherent in Greco-Roman dining practices and the ways Paul expected the practice of the “Lord’s Supper” to deviate from those norms and establish new norms.
Stephen Moore, “A Thousand Tiny Sexes, a Trillion Tiny Jesuses, and the Queer Gospel of Mark,” X-X.
Queer theory; queer hermeneutics; Gospel of Mark; Gilles Deleuze; Félix Guattari
Queer theory’s standard origin story centers on Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Teresa de Lauretis. This article proceeds down a less-traveled road, one yet to be explored in biblical studies. Like standard queer theory, this trajectory’s roots are also in French thought—not that of Foucault or Jacques Lacan, however, but of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. The difference this makes is considerable, yielding, among other things, a concept of the gendered body that is neither discursive (à la Foucault) nor performative (à la Butler) but virtual; a concept of sexuality that exceeds the human/nonhuman binary no less than the heterosexual/homosexual binary; and an alternative version of the antisocial thesis in queer theory that precedes Lee Edelman’s influential Lacanian version by more than thirty years, namely, Guy Hocquenghem’s Deleuzoguattarian version. How might all or any of this translate into queer biblical reading? Addressing this question through an extended analysis of the Gospel of Mark is the principal project of this article.