Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Homsexuality, Scriptures and Right-wing Theologians

Recently I have come across a blog (SHE BABA) apparently maintained by the Hindustan Times, where Ms. Renuka Narayanan has made a post titled "Sex and Scripture". You can see three religious scholars representing Hindu, Islamic and Christian communities delivering their views on Homosexuality. All three of them are against homosexuality, sharing a common vantage point that holy scriptures explicitly oppose 'unnatural' (as if hetero sexuality is 'natural' and 'divine') sex.


We often come across such conservative views from religious leaders, but got surprised by seeing a friend of mine sharing the same perspective as a representative of Mar Thoma Church. As a christian and as a member of the Mar Thoma Church, personally I felt so ashamed and sad about the way in which the young theologians perceive things.



See the quotes below with an introductory remark of the author of the post (you can read the complete debate in SHE BABA ) and my response.


Apropos of the ongoing legal review of homosexuality in India, here’s what three men of cloth have to say about “unnatural sex.”

“The Quran inherits its views on homosexuality and unnatural sex from its chronological predecessors, the Torah and the Bible. It defines itself as ‘Ad-deen-al-fitr‘, the natural law, and imposes restrictions on several things considered unnatural including edible items. In Surah Hud and many other places in the Qur’an, wherever Looth, the nephew of Prophet Abraham, is mentioned, there are strict injunctions against homosexuality and other unnatural acts (sex with animals, unnatural positions with women and children, group sex). In fact the common Arabic term for homosexual is loothi while homosexuality is lawaatat.”
Mualana Syed Athar Husain Dehlavi,
Anjuman-Minhaj-e-Rasul (a socio-religious organization), Walled City of Delhi

“Both Sruti (divinely revealed scripture) and Smriti (composed by men) are against unnatural sex. The Taittiriya Aranyaka of the Krishna Yajur Veda says that unnatural sex demands the severest penance. Manu Smriti is against it. The Kama Sutra is also opposed to unnatural sex, including oral sex (mukha maithunam). All the shastras warn that if the semen falls out anywhere but in its rightful place, the yoni, the pitris (ancestral spirits) will be outraged and refuse to accept pindadaan (funerary offerings) for a thousand years, it is a crime of such severity. Abstinence is recommended as ‘urdhvaretas‘, as drawing the body’s life juice inward and upward to nourish the brain.”
Sundararama Vajpai,
Veda Dharma scholar,
Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu

“In the Old Testament, in Genesis, Chapter 2 and 3, sex is affirmed as part of a responsible relationship before God. In the Song of Songs, the body is affirmed as part of God’s creativity, and sex is between a serene man and woman as lovers. Marital rape is not sanctioned in the Bible.

So what is sexuality in the Bible? It is for building generations. Psalm 128 spells this out in detail.
As for unnatural sex, in Genesis, Chapter 18 and 19, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed for indulging in aberrant sex because these are sins before God. That kind of sexuality is not considered responsible.

Coming to the Greco-Roman world, in the New Testament, in St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 7 is completely about sexual immorality and licentiousness. Only hetero sex in a responsible mutual commitment is affirmed. Abstinence is also respected, not as a negation of sexuality but as an affirmation of a different calling.”
Father Sam Koshy,
Marthoma Syrian Church
Kottayam, Kerala


Let me share my response to the argument of these scholars/clerics (I tried to post it in the She Baba blog, but they did not approve it):


It is quite interesting to see that religious scholars, theologians and priests come together in opposing homosexuality by interpreting religious texts in deterministic and reductionist ways. I am a practicing Christian from the same church my friend belongs to and claims to represent (however I do not subscribe to the upper caste 'syrianness' of my church). I hope what he wrote here is his personal opinion than the official standpoint of the church. I do not understand why these new generation theologians do not understand even the primary lessons they learn in their Sunday school classes: BIBLE (any scripture for that matter) was written several centuries before, and the texts in it were being collected in its present form quite later, after a complex editing process that continued for several centuries by scholars of a wide range commissioned by the church and others. So it does not consist of codes and laws meant for our contemporary society and its practices. The only possible way before contemporary believers (and non believers) who stand for social justice is to reinterpret bible (or scriptures in general) using new hermeneutical tools informed by literary and social theories, instead of making tall positivist claims about bible's truthfulness and infallibility.


Bible may or may not support homo-
sexuality; and so is the case with other religious texts like Koran and Shrutis and Smritis, but what worries me is the right wing theologians' and clerics' use of  the religious texts as the unchallengeable and natural foundation of our contemporary existence.


Bible and for that matter all religious texts must be taken seriously. There are serious initiatives to critically engage with scriptures existing in all religions. For instance, in christian theology, there are specific streams such as Queer Theology/Queer hermeneutics and Body theology which deconstruct/reread bible as part of the struggles of LGBTs. So let us stop anointing heterosexuality as the divine norm, based on our poor and reductionist understanding of these scriptures.


There are theological reflections which support LGBT movement in spiritual and theological ways emerging from within the churches, although the rightist groups get more visibility in public domain as the public at large is interested more in keeping religion/theology/spirituality as opposed to our secular/materialist/progressive ethos rather than going beyond such binaries.


So there are right wing theologians and intellectuals, but there is a left wing too. Those theologians, Maulanas and Ved Dharma scholars who claim to represent the common devotees and believers must be more careful while going public defending the status quo: YOU ARE BEING WATCHED!

Postscript

I thank Rev Raj Bharat Patta for introducing me to his insightful blog post on the issue of homosexuality and bible. Please visit the link below for a different interpretation of the scripture.
The Pattas....

4 comments:

  1. what is the meaning of natural & un natural ? who create this distinction? it is a very unfair thing that all these things are justified or unjustified by bible. all the eternal canons are not available in the bible . the place of the bible is not in the bed room but in the market.this kind of discussion wont reach any land.
    jose peter

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  2. A little detail you forgot to mention was that homosexuals cannot reproduce and therefore have no positive impact when it comes to positively building the human population.

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  3. they can ! surrogacy is meant for that. However I do not think that reproduction is a very serious aspect of human sexuality. And also I do not understand the meaning of 'positively building the human population'.

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  4. thank you so much for going above and beyond to validate the honesty of your beliefs.

    ReplyDelete