Friday, September 09, 2005

Unclean Bloody Faggots (& Women too!)

This Bible story tells about a woman with an issue of blood. Well that is how the King James Bible delicately words it. What it means is that she has a female problem. In addition to her monthly period, she continues to bleed down there. (Yes, I can say the word, but I don't want to scare anyone away right now.)

She spends 12 years going from doctor to doctor spending all she has and she only grows worse. Not only does she suffer from a physical infirmity, but according to Leviticus 15:19-30 this woman in Jesus' day is considered unclean. She cannot touch anyone or anything without making them unclean. She endures 12 years of misery without intimate relationships, with the stigma of being an untouchable. She has an issue of blood, but worse, she lives in a society that has an issue with blood and with women.

But then she does the unthinkable. She touches Jesus; she presses through the crowd mobbing him, and she reaches him (as illustrated in the Jerome Johnson print above). Her bleeding stops immediately, and Jesus says, "Go, in peace. Your faith has healed you."

This story speaks to me about my own struggles to try to become heterosexual. Like that woman, I live in a society that has a problem with ME--a same-gender loving person. For us queer folks this creates a bigger problem than any of the actual issues we may face (depression, sex addiction, lust, emotional dependency, unresolved childhood abuse).

As a result, I went from place to place, minister to minister, program to program trying to fix my "problem". I believed that if I were no longer attracted to other men, my life would be normal and my problems would go away. But like that woman in the story, I only got worse.

For 17 years, fighting a fake, society-driven problem, I lived distracted from the real issues in my life. The shame and fear I felt from society kept me locked up in a state of suspended animation, a Biblically induced coma. It wasn't until I realized that I was not unclean that I began to address the genuine issues in my life.

Society heaps shame on that woman. Her leaders and peers mark her as "unclean". But her faith heals her. Inside she sees the goodness, the hope, the belief that she is more than just a throwaway.

For many of us who subjected ourselves to the "ex-gay" movement and lived under oppression, we too need to reach in and find the faith to heal ourselves, to affirm ourselves and each other. And in doing so, we can begin to address the real problems plaguing us.


At 2:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus could have sued that woman for unwanted hem-of-the-robe-touching too! But he doesn't (because Jesus couldn't show them on the dolly where the bad woman touched him).


At 3:32 PM , Blogger Anvilcloud said...

That's quite a powerful piece.

At 1:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK you for sharing this. I posted a link to it on my own blog, and it gave me food for thought regarding the Bible and stories that have hidden relevance for all of us. :) Blessings, Brandice

At 4:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I'm tempted to argue that you've applied the Scripture incorrectly. If the bleeding was internal to the woman, then it refers to internal things, not external (yes, the woman is being ostracised, but Jesus deals with, and REMOVES, the reason for her ostracisation.

Of course, there is a clear example of Jesus explicitly handling ostracisation, the story of the woman caught in adultery, but then we have the words of Jesus after he challenges her abusers and accusers. He turns to her and says "Go away and sin no more".

Just being provocative...

At 11:12 AM , Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

Peter, It is always great to have you comment. You help the conversation go deeper.

In dealing with Biblical and Literary metaphors, there are no perfect fits. But I have to disagree with you. The account of the woman with the issue of blood is not about sin, it is about a condition. The condition of being a women in a society where men make the rules. Similarly being a person with same-sex attractions is not a sin, it is a human condition.

Just like the society who marks the woman in the story as unclean, as I grew up, my society in large part marked me, a same-gender loving person, as unclean, sinful and an abomination.

This is not to discount the reality of sin. The woman caught in the act of adultery (which you mention) was admonished by Jesus (or at least by the person who wrote the account of the incident) to go and sin no more. In the passage, the Gospel writer reaffirms that the act of adultery is sinful. But the not the condition of being a heterosexual. (Glaringly missing from the story is the man who was also caught in the act of adultery.)

I don't believe it is a sin to be a person with same-sex attractions or to act on them, just like it is not a sin to act on other-sex attactions by heterosexuals and bisexual people.

It is a matter of relationships. Jesus was concerned with relationships above all else. Adultery, rape, addictive sexual encounters can do harm to our relationships with others and ourselves.

I believe if sex is used to hurt or humiliate or it is done regardless of an already existing commited relationship elsewhere it is wrong.

Finally, according to the text, Jesus does not "remove the reason" for this woman's ostracisation. Her faith heals her. This is what makes the story so powerful. This "unclean woman" has the faith necessary to heal herself.

She is still ostracised by virtue of the fact that she is a woman in a society where women are oppressed. Every month she still has to deal with the draconian laws regarding her period. (I still have to deal with homophobia around me) but she found affirmation in Jesus. He could have called her out on breaking the "rules", rather he praised her for her faith.

In my spiritual life, as a same-gender loving man, I feel affirmed by God, accetpted by God, and at the end of the day, in spite of what the world and church around me may say, what I have inside is far more important than what the world outside has to say.

Do I then live any kind of life I wish, eating and drinking and drugging and sexing it up without any thought to others or myself? Absolutely not. I am NOT an unclean person, my faith has healed me of any notion to believe otherwise. I choosse to treat myself and others with dignity and respect.

At 3:58 AM , Blogger Willie Hewes said...

Wonderful, Peterson.

Yes, the likeness holds up under scrutiny. Well done.

At 2:37 PM , Blogger Clayton Kroh said...

Bringing up this story has particular importance now because the Catholic church is poised to enact new rules that will preclude gay men from becoming priests. Not gay men in relationships, or gay men who are sexually active--gay men, period. It doesn't matter if you've been celibate for 10 years, the church has changed its view and is now excluded men because of who they are, not because of any sins they've committed. Quite disturbing for the church to step so far away from the core Christian value of forgiveness and embrace blatant discrimination based not on acts but on being. It would do the Vatican well to reread this story from the Bible and reflect.

At 5:30 AM , Blogger Nobody said...

I find it funny, that you would say acting on sexual desires is not a sin. Because it is very clear that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Yet, not just that, but purity is what Jesus was all about.

This women being cleansed obviously had pain, and Jesus healed her from it. I also know that sometimes "Christians" are not as loving as they are supposed to be. Yet, how can you use this as a picture to justify your actions?

Our choices make us who we are. You may call me naive, but I myself have been there. Do you think because I chose to become straight that I am going against who I am? No, I found who I was masked behind the deception of freedom in sexuality.

I agree that churches should be more loving and accepting as a whole. However, being that homosexuality is clearly stated as wrong in the old and new testament that would mean it is a sin. Sin is anything that God tells us not to do, yet we do it anyway. Just like worry or disobedience is sin.

Lets bring this back to the root. Do you have a thriving relationship with God? Can you honestly say that you hear his voice in all things and adhere to all of his word? Or do you pick and choose what you follow? God desires that we be obedient above all. Because by being obedient we pursue him instead of the law.

Pursuing the law was the Pharisees fallacy. Also many of today's supposed Christians. This in-turn is also why many people choose to say that things like homosexuality are not sin. Because these people do reject the person.

Now, I do agree that we should except the person. However, your sexual orientation is not you, it is merely a choice(whether or not you see it that way). A lifestyle. I do not have to accept your actions, but I do have to accept YOU and love YOU for the person God created you to be. You are special, it is not your orientation that makes you you. It is your being a person and the gifts you have.

I pray that someday you can have the word truly opened to you and recieve the Love that the Lord wants to pour on you. Just like him I love you, but I do not have to accept your choices that is entirely seperate. Case in point: Did God accept the rebellion of Israelites when they chose to worship other gods? No, he loved the Israelites that is why he was so merciful to them. But he was constantly disqusted with their choices.

Many people assume that we must accept a person's actions to accept them as a person, but this is not true at all. We must love the person because God loves us and commands us to love one another.

God Bless ~Amy

At 12:40 PM , Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

You may have to re-read my post. I never mention anything about performing any sort of sexual acts. Rather I write about having same-sex desires in a society that finds those desires taboo and the damage that stigma has on an individual, particularly one who loves God.

I do not believe the Bible condemns same-gender loving people from expressing their love together in mulitple ways, including sexually. There are loads of resources on-line that discuss this clearly enough that I am sure you can find if you are interested.

I know many gay and lesbians who have sex within marriage all the time. Quaker meetings and other places of faith have conducted such weddings for decades. I do not believe the state need sanction such a union for it to be valid.

As to your question as to the nature of my relationship with God, all I can say is that Jesus tells us that we shall recognize each other by our fruits. Perhaps if we were to spend some time together praying and working and living we would see that fruit and even glimpse the gift of Christ's presence within each other.

Blessings on your journey.

At 3:13 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Peter you have to translate this in spanish

At 9:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your struggle and how far you've come! I didn't have to deal with the same issues. I was raised Catholic but abandoned it as a teen when I realised it wasn't my path. By the time I came to accept my queerness as a bisexual and a transsexual, I had found a spiritual path that suited me and that didn't have a human structural organisation that imposed limits on my sexuality. Essentially, that's what puts limits on people: the human organisations that claim to be the bearers of truth, not the religion itself. A religion, as a set of beliefs, can be interpreted in so many ways. Unfortunately, the interpretation that carries weight is usually the one held by those in power (white hetero men, for example).

Of interest: the acceptance of homosexual behaviour fluctuated over time in the Christian churches from pre-medieval times. I don't remember the details but I remember reading about how there were periods of tolerance and acceptance and periods of persecution. It highly depended on who the pope was at the time and other social conditions.

So there you go. There is no one ultimate truth even within an organised religion and the interpretation of truth varies over time.

Anyway - kudos!

At 10:39 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Hello all. Note that I rarely post comments to anybody's blog...but I felt led to share something with the young man who has desires for other men--and the woman who has desires for other women. Being one who knows Jesus and loves him and his ways, I want you to know that he loves you deeply. Don't let people (Christian or not)drown you in their own guilt and embarrassment by shifting their discomfort with you onto you. This may come in the form of harsh words, cold stares, hate mail or criticism. The woman with the blood issue stepped out on faith and touched Jesus...eventhough it was a no no for her to touch anyone. She knew something that I pray all of you someday realize. It is that power and that power ALONE that will heal you. She realized that she was ill and could not get better without Jesus. She made up in her mind that she was going to be healed. Thoughts that contradict the word of God: those are germs, waiting to turn into bacteria that will make you diseased. Read up (in the bible)on renewing your mind--Romans chapter 12. All sin starts with a thought. No one has ever sinned without first thinking about it. DO NOT entertain those thoughts. When they pop up...speak (ALOUD)what God says about the matter. This is why it is good to "hide" God's Word in your heart--its like having your weapons ready whenever you have to fight. This is how we fight the battle between good and evil--with the tools God has given us, his Word and our tongue (read James). The battlefield for your ife and your soul start in the mind. Cast down those thougths that try to exalt themselves above the Word of God. The renewed life that Jesus died for us to have starts in the mind, guard this area, do not be deceived...for the head leads the entire body


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