A review of Keith Sharpe’s book by Mairi McCormack
Although I have read the Bible cover to cover and dip into it every day of my personal and working life, sometimes I forget exactly what is being said to me. I tend to look at parables, the Good Samaritan and analysis that for the pupils with a view to touching on Jesus’ attitude to everyone, Gentile, child, woman, pauper, prostitute. When I look at the story of the Lost Son I tend to focus on, especially for the senior classes, the idea of forgiveness and the eldest son who could not forgive and therefore was the greatest sinner in the story.
I very rarely touch on any of the “clobber” chapters or verses since it does require knowledge of the Bible and how it was written, the times it was written and what it “really” means, and sadly, the children just do not have this. Having said all this, I may be rethinking my teaching when it comes to LGBT education. The Gay Gospels is as accessible to my pupils as it was to me and I believe I will be using some of its points to educate those who quote the “clobber” passages without any real sense of what they are saying.
My first example of how easy this book is to understand is the story of Lot and his visitors. (Those of you who have read and understood the story will have to bear with me for a moment.) The story goes like this: Lot’s Uncle Abraham, sends two visitors to his door whereupon the townspeople call them out, saying they wish to “know” them. What is interesting about this story, and although I have thought about it, (because I never really understood the reasons why Lot did it as I had no historical context) I could not understand why he was willing to hand over his daughters instead. According to Mr Sharpe it is all about hospitality. Just as Abraham was rewarded for his hospitality and goodness by being promised a son by his wife Sarah, Lot is rewarded for his hospitality, and not handing over his guests, by being allowed to leave the city before it was destroyed. If the story is about homosexual sex being abhorrent to God, then obviously the idea of heterosexual rape is not; furthermore it would then appear if we follow this to its logical conclusion, the idea of incest between Lot and his two daughters later in the chapter is not abhorrent either.
I look back upon how I have viewed the chapters he explains in both a religious and historical context, and I wonder how I could not have seen it for myself. In later chapters he talks about Jesus as being a rebel, and how he stood against the religion of the time by standing against hypocrisy, greed and laws which did nothing but impoverish people. I knew all this, I admire Jesus for exactly those things, but he goes further. Mr Sharpe looks at Jesus as a man who is not only defending the weak and poor against the rich and powerful, but a man who said “Do not think I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The sword was to sweep away the notion of set places for men and women, to be rid of the role of women as men’s property, and to set even the sexually active free from guilt (allowing the prostitute to wash his feet.) As Mr Sharpe points out so well, if the Law which the Old Testament today sets out is truth, and the way we interpret it is also truth, the Jesus, by his very behaviour, was going against everything He and God had devised for mankind. Jesus is never mentioned as having married (and any comment he would make on relationships was concerned with mutual respect and not who owned who), Jesus did not condemn the sexually active, and Jesus did not have much respect for all the “toevah” (or abominations listed in Leviticus.) In fact, as we all know, Jesus had two Laws, Love your Neighbour and Love God.
I know this book has been out since 2011 so many of you may have read it, but if not do try and get a copy. I found it invaluable in my understanding of many of the “clobber” verses we know so well.