Friday, December 11, 2009

The world is full of irony

When a Nobel Peace Prize winner commits more troops to a war.

When presidents, flunkies, and protestors jet into a climate change conference (video conferencing anybody?).

When NZ's leading anti-gay church (Destiny Church) includes the following in its recently much publicized covenant between its leader and 700 male congregants:

"(b) Jonathan left the allegiance and legacy of his natural father (King Saul) to covenant with David in order to preserve and set up a blessing for his offspring and future generations:

1 Samuel 18:1-4

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul ... The Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul ...

...

At our 2009 Labour Weekend Conference Destiny's men will be consummating our covenant together (the brotherhood), and towards our man of God. ..."

I gather that some commentator here in NZ has said that this would have been NZ's largest civil union ceremony to date!

The irony of this statement was highlighted for me at the recent biblical studies conference in Dunedin by the juxtaposition of a paper on Destiny Church and the character of its episcopacy compared with the development of monarchical episcopacy in the time of Ignatius of Antioch and a paper on the invoking of 'David and Jonathan' in the Victorian era and afterwards in the writings of (e.g.) Wilde and E.M. Forster as a evocative code for the 'love that dare not speak its name'.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Only the (homo)sexualized climate of today would make people read these words in a homoerotic sense. Anyone who knows of Scottish history - whether the 1637 uprising against Charles I and Archbishop Laud, or the birth of the Free Presbyterians - understands the ecclesial resonances of the word 'covenant', while among the Wee Frees,the minister's bond with the congregation was frequently dewscribed as a 'marriage', to be seved only by death. Nobody thought of this is in a sexual sense.
Nobody before c. 1970 thought of David and Jonathan as homosexual. I wonder why? (Not really). Even more ridiculous is the view peddled by some that ruth and Naomi were somehow in a lesbian relationship.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
You appear not to have read the last part of my post carefully: my learned colleague at the biblical studies conference made a very good case for some of the stalwarts of Victorian and Edwardian literature thinking of David and Jonathan as homosexual, well before 1970 (albeit that in some cases, such as E.M. Forster's novel Maurice, the works were not published until well after they were written).

Rosemary said...

I don't understand your comment Peter. So a case was made by some prior to 1970 .. what exactly does that say?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
Anonymous boldly states, "Nobody before c. 1970 thought of David and Jonathan as homosexual." A recent academic paper I heard refutes that generalization, because some, before 1970, did think that.

That is neither here nor there, of course, on the exegetical question of what kind of relationship did Jonathan and David have: comradeship, friendship, or something else? And even if the exegetical question was answered "something else" that would only lead to the hermeneutical question whether that had any bearing on today's church's understanding of homosexuality.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Hi Peter,
I was sorry to miss the Dunedin conference this year, but you obviously found it stimulating. You are also pushing the edge with your usual audience to even raise the possibility that the love between David and Jonathan can shed some light on same-gender intimate relationships.

I agree with those who say that it can, not because I think the Biblical narrative identifies this a a sexual relationship per se, but because David's lament for Jonathan says he loved him more than he loved women, and this seems to get the author's approval. Some inferences for a biblical theology of sexuality ...

1. It undercuts the "family first" ideal of marital love as the primary human bond: The love of friends can be stronger and more important. A NT echo? "No greater love..."

2. A committed same-sex friendship can be intense, life enhancing and devastating, and celebrated as a gift from God. (Blessed, even?)

3. The proper place for Christians to start discussion of gay relationships is from a consideration of same-gender emotional bonding, rather than the nature of gay sexual behaviour.

All of which means I wish I had heard those papers. Do you know if they will be made available to members of the association who missed the conference?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard
I don't know about availability of papers.
I guess that is up to each paper giver!

Anonymous said...

Peter, I meant of course in 'serious' biblical studies among experts in Hebrew and ANE covenant and brother-making rituals, which is obviously (well, to me at least) the setting for understanding David and Jonathan's relationship. David is after all one of the most notoriously heterosexual men in the Bible! That homosexual novelists like Wilde and Forster have read their own predilections into history and the Bible doesn't surprise me one whit. The Victorian and Edwardian periods had plenty of homosexual writers prattling about 'Uranian love' (google it), as they called the love that now can't shut up. Search around in that company (but it is well hidden, for obvious reasons) and you'll find stuff about Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, too. Eeeww.

To respond to Howard's suggestions:

"1. It undercuts the "family first" ideal of marital love as the primary human bond: The love of friends can be stronger and more important. A NT echo? "No greater love...""
- the NT is clear that the believer's covenantal bond with Christ comes before (but does not abolish) marriage and family. 'If anyone loves father and mother more ...' Jonathan recognized David (rather than his own father Saul) as the Lord's Anointed - not as a sexual partner.

"2. A committed same-sex friendship can be intense, life enhancing and devastating, and celebrated as a gift from God. (Blessed, even?)"
- Friendship is NOT the same as a sexual relationship. I have plenty of "same-sex friendships". I do NOT have sex with my friends!

"3. The proper place for Christians to start discussion of gay relationships is from a consideration of same-gender emotional bonding, rather than the nature of gay sexual behaviour."

And that is the proper place to de-eroticize such relationships, to redeem them in a godly way,and to deal with the emotional traumas and deficits that many homosexual people experienced in their adolescence that led to emotional inversions that were subsequently eroticized in a homosexual way. Nicolosi, Yardhouse and Satinover are very good on this. See the NARTH website.