The Following is a Review from Donaghe Books’ Independent Gay Writer Newsletter
BY Elizabeth Conley
How many times has the argument been made that homosexuality violates the law of God because it allegedly says so in the Bible? This supposed biblical prohibition is most often cited as reason enough for society to not validate and recognize same-sex relationships. In his thesis, Lord Given Lovers, Christopher Hubble attempts to prove, through detailed explanations of translations from the ancient Hebrew text, that same-sex love does not violate God’s Law. Hubble believes that GLBT people will never be able to take their rightful place in society until all the religious, biblical objections to same-sex union can be answered in satisfactory, theological terms. Hubble argues it is clearly written in the Bible (1 and 2 Samuel) that the Lord did validate, and sanctify, the intimate relationship of David and Jonathan.
At the start of the biblical story, David is a young shepherd with a kind and loving heart. Because of his strong character, God visited him and chose him to be the second king of Israel. After the Lord’s visit, David (now divine) was filled with confidence and became aware that “the Lord was with him.” David served as a musician and arms-bearer in the court of Saul, Israel’s first king. Saul’s son, Jonathan, and David fell in love.
David’s military exploits began in a battle with the Philistines, at which time he killed the infamous Goliath. After this military success, David was socially elevated and became known as a noble warrior, loved and respected by all. The public adulation made Saul jealous, but he realized David had a legitimate claim to the throne. Saul wanted Jonathan to be his successor to the throne and considered David a distraction. Saul plotted to kill David on various occasions. Jonathan, always protecting David, intervened once too often and Saul attempted to kill his own son. Jonathan had given up his father’s aspirations for him because of his love for David. In a public, symbolic act, Jonathan gave his robes and weapons to David. With this act, Jonathan devoted his life to defending and assisting David. Unfortunately, Saul and Jonathan both died fighting the Philistines. David became the second King of Israel.
The power of his story lies in the fact that David was such a prominent figure in the Bible. Famous for slaying Goliath, David was also an ancestor of the Messiah and one of God’s chosen people. David authored many psalms, including Psalm 23, “The Lord is My Shepherd,” and, as King of Israel, was at the forefront of Israel’s early history.
Biblical passages quoted in Lord Given Lovers indicate that David and Jonathan had an open, honest, faithful, and public relationship. One such passage is David’s eulogy to Jonathan, which begins with the familiar, “Oh how the mighty have fallen…” and continues, “You have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of a woman.” Their same-sex union was not only acceptable in the then-contemporary Israelite culture, theirs was a same-sex coupling spoken of in the Bible as a binding of souls, therefore a sacred union. God was witness to this union, just as modern day clergy, or lay officials, are also “witnesses” when two people exchange vows in a marriage ceremony. Validating David’s divinity, and therefore his relationship with Jonathan, is the statement, repeated many times throughout Samuel, “the Lord was with him.”
Lord Given Lovers is written in sections, each section building on the last, delving deeper into the meanings of the biblical passages that depict the lives of the “divine queers” - the author’s words, not mine. Optional activities for study and discussion are found at the end of each section. The activities suggest ways to improve the plight of GLBT people today by emulating the open and honest way David and Jonathan lived their lives. While rich with historical detail, there is no mistaking that this book is a religious treatise, written by a religious gay man, and it can get a bit preachy at times.
Throughout Lord Given Lovers, references are made to specific word meanings, intonations, and word structures in the ancient Hebrew language. Versions of the Christian Bible, such as King James and Douay, have been routinely shown to possess inaccurate or politically motivated translations. Hubble makes a strong and well-researched case for the reasons behind his interpretations of words and phrases. He observes that traditional, Bible-oriented religious groups continue to rely on poor translations and misinterpretations of ancient text to make their case that God condemned same-sex love. Hubble explains in detail why he believes the biblical love story of David and Jonathan proves otherwise.
In the end, one is left to wonder if it was a deliberate part of God’s plan to have such a prominent biblical figure be a man who loved another man, thus providing indefatigable proof that same-sex love is not so evil after all.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
The broader implications of LAWRENCE v. TEXAS and GOODRIDGE vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
In the wake of last week’s ruling in Hillary GOODRIDGE vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, it is abundantly clear that the effect of the United States Supreme Court ruling in LAWRENCE et al. v. TEXAS has been immediate and profound. In LAWRENCE v. TEXAS, the U.S. Supreme Court itself opened the door to the Massachusetts ruling by using language that explicitly and directly linked same-sex and same-gender relationships to the fundamental concept of liberty. Justice Kennedy wrote that the, “liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to choose to enter upon relationships . and still retain their dignity as free persons.” In LAWRENCE v. TEXAS, the U.S. Supreme Court also reaffirmed that freedom of choice is a right intrinsic to the exercise of liberty by all citizens.[i]
In GOODRIDGE vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH, the Massachusetts court majority opinion cited the history of precedent that establishes civil marriage as a fundamental civil right.[ii] The court also cited LAWRENCE v. TEXAS to establish that freedom of choice in partners is an intrinsic part of this fundamental right.[iii] This affirmation was essential to the Massachusetts court ruling. Had the court majority not been able to bind the fundamental right of choice so emphatically affirmed in LAWRENCE v. TEXAS to the fundamental right of civil marriage, the court might have found it more difficult to rule in favor of the plaintiffs. Justice Marshall wrote, “Without the right to marry-or more properly, the right to choose to marry-one is excluded from the full range of human experience and denied full protection of the laws for one’s ‘avowed commitment to an intimate and lasting human relationship.’ Baker v. State, supra at 229.” This ruling was not about “redefining marriage” - it was about restoring a fundamental civil right that has long been denied to LGBT persons.
Ignoring completely the logic of the majority opinion, Justice Spina, writing in dissent, argued that the court, “did not state that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right worthy of strict scrutiny protection,” when, in fact, it clearly did. Justice Cordy’s dissent echoed this complaint by stating that, “the court stops short of deciding that the right to marry someone of the same sex is ‘fundamental’. Both justices apparently failed to recognize the import of the majority’s reference to LAWRENCE v. TEXAS .
Justice Spina also sought to disqualify same-sex civil marriage as a fundamental right by applying the criteria that it must be, “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”[iv] He pointed out that same-sex marriage is, in fact, not “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history.” This is circular logic at its worst: in order to qualify as “fundamental” a right must be “deeply rooted” in the nation’s history. But in order to become deeply rooted, said right must have first been recognized by the State. Of course, any fundamental right denied by the State will find no root. For that matter, any number of abhorrent institutions have been “deeply rooted” in this nation’s history. Slavery was a fact of life for the United States ‘ first two centuries. Women were long denied the right to vote. That these practices were “deeply rooted” in our nation’s history does nothing to legitimize them.
More intriguing, however, is that Justice Spina’s dissent in fact stated two qualifying criteria-but he only addressed one. He specified that a right must be, “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition .” After addressing the criterion of “history,” he failed to address the criterion of “tradition.” This omission may not have been entirely accidental. The term “tradition” is much more far-reaching than “history.” When we speak of our nation’s history, we can at best only reach back to the founding of the Plymouth and Roanoke colonies in the early 1600’s. When we speak of our nation’s tradition, on the other hand, we are speaking about a tradition that winds its way back through the entirety of European history, the Greco-Roman era, and into the Near Eastern world of ancient Israel. Even a cursory examination of Western tradition reveals that, recent history notwithstanding, same-sex unions have existed throughout the entirety of this epoch period-from same-sex offices administered by the early church during medieval times, to a diverse sampling of same-sex unions celebrated in both Roman and Greek societies, and finally, reaching even further back, to the holy union pairing of David and Jonathan in 1 and 2 Samuel. Same-sex unions are more “deeply rooted” in our nation’s tradition than many are willing to acknowledge. Following his own logic to the fullest extent, Justice Spina could not have hoped to prove his point so he may have chosen not to try.
Expect a monumental and concerted effort on the part of the religious and political right to force passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Because the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court cited LAWRENCE v. TEXAS in its majority opinion and because that reference was a key element in the decision that defined equality in civil marriage as a fundamental right, the precedent for using LAWRENCE v. TEXAS to overturn same-sex marriage bans is now established. Potential plaintiffs no longer need rely solely on the Full Faith and Credit clause-they can simply file suit in their home states and cite GOODRIDGE vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH and LAWRENCE v. TEXAS. Anti-gay religious and political forces will now certainly recognize that all same-sex marriage bans, including the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), are vulnerable. To prevent civil marriage equality, the only viable strategy that remains available to the religious and political right is to seek passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
[i] “Liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places. In our tradition the State is not omnipresent in the home. And there are other spheres of our lives and existence, outside the home, where the State should not be a dominant presence. Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct . When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice.” LAWRENCE v. TEXAS
[ii] “The United States Supreme Court has described the right to marry as ‘of fundamental importance for all individuals’ and as ‘part of the fundamental “right of privacy” implicit in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.’ Zablocki v. Redhail , 434 U.S. 374, 384 (1978). See Loving v. Virginia , supra (’The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men’).” GOODRIDGE vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
[iii] “It is a question the United Sates Supreme Court left open as a matter of Federal law in Lawrence , supra at 2484, where it was not an issue. There, the Court affirmed that the core concept of common human dignity protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution precludes government intrusion into the deeply personal realms of consensual adult expressions of intimacy and one’s choice of an intimate partner.” GOODRIDGE vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
[iv] Moore v. East Cleveland , 431 U.S. 494, 503 (1977)
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!