Rev. Samuel Kader’s Openly Gay Openly Christian: How the Bible Really is Gay Friendly bridges the gap between serious Bible-believing Christians and those who want to affirm gay and lesbian relationships. The latter group includes liberal churches and theologians whose relationship to the Bible is vague, superficial or outright antagonistic, which has tended to confirm conservatives’ fears that gay-friendly theology waters down the faith. Many evangelicals have never heard a solid Scriptural case for GLBT inclusion.
Kader’s scholarly analysis of “clobber passages” in Genesis, Leviticus and the Epistles makes that much-needed case, though in other chapters he repeats familiar pro-gay readings of the Bible that I think are strained and potentially distracting. Hunting for examples of same-sex pairings in the Bible (David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi) unnecessarily sexualizes all intimate bonds, a reductionism to which our culture has been prone since Freud. Moreover, while it’s true that Christians are free from all of the ritual prescriptions of Leviticus, Kader sometimes slips into trivializing the holiness code, arguing that Christians who eat shrimp or wear blended fabrics have no right to criticize gays. But these are minor problems with what is nonetheless a very valuable book.
Kader analyzes the key words in Hebrew and Greek that he says have been mistranslated as forbidding all same-sex intercourse. Using Strong’s Concordance to track where these words recur in the Bible, he recontextualizes the clobber passages and demonstrates that none of them describe a committed, monogamous relationship between two men or two women. For instance, the acts actually being prohibited in Leviticus 18 and 20 are the fertility rituals of neighboring pagan nations, which involved temple prostitutes, and also possibly the practice of soldiers raping a defeated enemy king or military leader.
What gives this book credibility, besides the rigorous textual analysis, is that Kader sounds like a genuinely orthodox, evangelical Protestant. Rather than appeal to modern secular ideals of tolerance or a generalized Christian ethic of compassion, he emphasizes that the issue is legalism versus salvation by grace. Welcoming gays into full Christian fellowship is exactly the same kind of scandalous, progressive leap as welcoming Gentiles was for the Jewish Christians in the early church (see the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10). And it is justified by exactly the same evidence: the empirical evidence of the workings of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those once considered beyond the pale.