Nov 20, 2008

REAL STORIES/REAL PEOPLE: ¨Being Gay and Mormon are hard to balance¨

What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

By Brittny Goodsell Jones

Thursday, November 20, 2008 1:59 AM CST

When Brian Cook was in junior high, he was dragged around the auditorium theater stage with a rope around his neck for being different. People who watched didn’t stop this action. At that moment in his life, Cook had such a low opinion of himself that it didn’t matter what was done to him, he said, because it was still attention of some kind.

Looking back, he said a normal person would not have let that happen. Junior high and high school were tough times, he said, because he didn’t have many friends.

“It’s not that I didn’t want them, mind you, I just didn’t have many,” he said.

Although he was involved in school activities such as music and drama, there were few people who made him feel comfortable with who he was.

Cook didn’t fully realize in junior high why he was different. Today he knows. He is gay. Now he understands why he stood out so much and why he was ridiculed by his peers.

On Tuesday, Cook attended a documentary at Utah State University showing the controversy surrounding religion and gays. The presentation was for Diversity Week at the university.

Cook, a USU student, is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — an organization that supports Proposition 8, a recently passed California law that states marriage is only legal between a man and woman. For Cook, who goes to church and participates in LDS lifestyle and standards, being gay and being Mormon is hard to balance.

Attending the “For the Bible Tells Me So” movie presentation opened his eyes, Cook said.

The documentary, released in 2007, talks about the fear of homophobia throughout America, particularly in religious groups. The movie also explores the historical context of scriptures that condemn homosexuality and talks about several scriptures that discuss gender orientation. Drawing on experiences of religious families with gay or lesbian children, the movie sends a message to viewers that the condemning of homosexuality is damaging to all.

The Rev. Lawrence C. Keene, from Disciples of Christ, said, “When someone says to me, ‘This is what the Bible says,’ my response to them is ‘No, that’s what the Bible reads.’ It is the struggle to understand context and language and culture and customs that helps us understand the meaning or what it is saying.”

Using the term “abomination,” the documentary states, might not be translated the same in 2008 as it was in ancient times. The original definition wasn’t “sin” but was “against custom.” In this context, verses from the Bible that condemn homosexuality change traditional religious meaning by stating that homosexuality is against custom.

Keene also said, “When the term abomination is used in the Hebrew Bible, it is always used to address a ritual wrong. It never is used to refer to something innately immoral. Eating pork was not innately immoral for a Jew, but it was an abomination because it was a violation of a ritual requirement.”

Later, the documentary gives examples from the Bible that show it is an abomination to eat shrimp, to wear linen and wool together and to combine seeds for planting.

Cook said learning about the historical context helps him understand why scripture verses about homosexuality include the word abomination. The documentary, which was nominated for an award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, also looks at the definition of “natural” and “unnatural,” citing Bible verses that say homosexuality is unnatural.

Centuries ago, “natural” meant “customary” and “unnatural” meant “uncustomary.” Looking through this lens, Cook said things make more sense to him now.

Using a clip from the television drama “West Wing” that starred Martin Sheen, the documentary emphasizes the importance of historical context. In one scene, Sheen’s character comments on a woman who said homosexuality is an abomination. She quotes scriptures to back up her point.

Sheen’s character then asks her, “I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7 ... what would a good price for her be?”

He then quotes another scripture from the Bible saying, “My chief of staff insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or should I call the cops?”

The Bible has been misused toward groups and minorities for many centuries, according to the documentary.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, said, “I can’t, for the life of me, imagine that God would say, ‘I will punish you because you are black — you should have been white. I will punish you because you are a woman — you should have been a man. I punish you because you are homosexual — you ought to have been heterosexual.’
I can’t, for the life of me, believe that is how God sees things.

Chase Skidmore, a member of USU’s student activities group, helped set up the documentary presentation. Skidmore said Diversity Week needs to represent the colors and ethnicities of different people but should include things such as economic status, language and gender orientation to be true to the word “diversity.”

This is the first year USU’s Gay and Lesbian Student Resource Center has been included in Diversity Week. ASUSU viewed the documentary before showing it to USU students.

Before Cook went on a two-year LDS mission, he said he fell into a deep depression and almost committed suicide because he didn’t think he could “fix” his homosexuality “problem.” Now he’s a different person, he said, because he’s happier accepting who he is. Being open about his homosexuality makes him happy, especially after being able to tell his family and friends.

The next step is his religion. Cook said he doesn’t know what will happen in terms of acceptance there. He has a great love for his religion, he said. But it’s not easy to be Mormon and be gay.

“It’s been recently that I’ve made the decision to not reject myself,” Cook said. “I don’t intend on lying. If it gets me removed (from my religion) it happens. It doesn’t make me happy, mind you, it’s a sad thought.”

read the whole article, click here:

What the Bible does say, read it all, click here:

Thanks to Brian Cook
Thanks to The Reverend Jerry Maneker
Thanks to Brittny Goodsell Jones
Thanks to Christian GLBT Rights (at the side bar)
Thanks to Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Thanks to Chase Skidmore
Thanks to Reverend Lawrence C. Keene
Thanks to Flickr Photosharing

Note: Please visit Reverend Göran Koch-Swahne and find your way to understanding accurate and authentic Scriptural translations instead of relying on prejudice and fear/hatedriven ¨selective¨ Bible interpretations used by some Churches, click here:The Blog is in Swedish and ENGLISH, can be found at the right sidebar, and you can post questions/comments in English or contact him directly by e-mail (which is available in his profile).


Brian R said...

"When Brian Cook was in junior high, he was dragged around the auditorium theater stage with a rope around his neck for being different."
This makes me want to cry both as a teacher of adolescents who was taught way back in the 60's the psychological harm that could be done by ridicule whatever the reason and, of course, as a gay man who thankfully never suffered such overt oppression.

Cany said...

And to think that this happened in a SCHOOL for God's sake! Ugh. There is just no comment strong enough for no one intervening on his behalf. None.

Leonard said...

The whole thing makes me sad, but oddly glad...there is a certain purity that comes through about Brian...he still has a few moments of pain to be walked through with his Church, I think, but, he´s a very loveable soul and doesn´t damage easily...I can read it and feel it and I´ll light candles for him in Central America...he´s one of those people that I will revisit in my thoughts from time to time with my wishes for lifelong good...I will never meet or see him, but he will be there...I have my own private ensemble of well respected but private souls that I cherish and remember regularly...I bet you do too.

Frank Remkiewicz aka “Tree” said...

What a wonderfully thoughtful yet incisive post and with beautiful pictures. We have a copy of For The Bible Tells Me So and find the Tutu comments to be absolutely piercing. Thank you.

PS: I have a huge chunk of Goran's articles in this area. Saved them from when he was writing at Jake's Place. You are correct in that he corresponds with anyone -- I asked and he gave me some truly great stuff to think about. I have yet to met anyone more knowledgeable than Goran in this area.

Leonard said...

Oh Fred, do you think we could get Goran to do a little revival of his Jakes key material for this blog? He is so helpful when spelling out what was REALLY said as opposed to what was said and then convulted into other meanings.

Frank Remkiewicz aka “Tree” said...

He has done a very fine job. Take a look at Goran's blog this morning.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Sorry you two, but I haven't saved any of my comments from Jake's place if they are not already posted on my blog (and that is only if they date from before November 2006, when Blogger destroyed my password).

But thanks! I'm honoured!

Leonard said...

Reveremd Göran Koch-Swahne

I can´t believe I didn´t keep all of your helpful translations at Jakes Place...thanks for being here and thanks for allowing me to publish some of your materials.

Best to you,

Leonardo Ricardo

June Butler said...

Leonardo, wonderful post and pictures. Thanks for Brian Cook's story. It's the stories, which, in themselves, carry great power, that can change hearts and minds which are not completely closed. I know. It happened to me.

Tim said...

As always, Grandmère Mimi's wisdom gets us to the truth. While it's essential that we use scholarship to wrest the Bible from homophobic misinterpretation, the real battlefield isn't in the pages--it's in the people. Telling more stories like Brian's more often will do more to open their understanding than any other tool at our disposal.

Leonardo, thanks for putting this (and the post above) together so beautifully. And when you get a moment, swing by Straight-Friendly. There's something in today's post I'd like you to see.

Unknown said...

This is Brian Cook, from the article.

Thanks for posting this and for the great comments here. The pictures that were put together with the article really add to what was said.

I hope it could have made a difference for someone.

Leonard said...

Hola Brian Cook,

I´m so glad you stopped by and I hope you´ll visit us more often...because, we have a very big reason...we love and expect you to be exactly the authentic person that God has made you to be...I have many Mormon relatives and I love some of them dearly...we don´t speak about religious matters when we are together...we are lucky I guess to be able to deal with real issues, like GLAD TO SEE YOU, SIT RIGHT DOWN AND HAVE SOME ICE CREAM, HOW IS YOUR MOM AND DAD? That´s about it, but we share a blog that captures our mutual family history...most of it is English and Anglican...(smile).

Love to you and yours!