EPISTEMOLOGY – FOUCAULT AND HOMOSEXUALITY

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CHAPTER THREE EPISTEMOLOGY – THEOLOGY AND HOMOSEXUALITY

Introduction:

What do people say God says about gays in the world? (Heading suggested by Org) Having come thus far reading the report, you will have some idea of the potential influence of discourses in problem phenomena. Also, there has been some foretaste of the role that theology, religion, churches and religious communities have played in the lifetime of homosexuality as a problematic “condition”. This chapter is intended as an extension of previous introductions to the historic influence of theology / religion in the lives of homosexuals. It so happened that our study included four gay participants (including myself as research initiator-facilitator) who all have Christian religious backgrounds, and who have all experienced how our religious culture-of-birth has impacted profoundly on our sexualities. I consider it imperative therefore, that the report give coverage of a number of theological positions regarding homosexuality. The inclusion of a separate chapter on religion is also deemed important because the dissertation forms part of a degree in theology.
Let me say from the onset of this chapter that the motive is not to do theology- and religion blaming, or discourse blaming for that matter. However, when discourses that have influenced gay people are explored, it will be shared whether these are pro- or anti-homosexual or pro- or anti-religion / theology (or somewhere in between, if that be the case). In other words religious discourses will be allowed irrespective of their relative truth statuses. At this stage the religious discourses surrounding homosexuality are expected to arise both from literary texts that were consulted as well as living texts, namely the participants themselves. Some of the related / storied experiences of the participants may ‘accompany’ us from time to time when appropriate. There will also be a sharing of experiences and narrative texts by others: for instance, people who participated as speakers at a gay conference.
This chapter includes an exploration of Biblical origins of homosexual discourse, the position(s) of the European church-groups in our country on the matter of homosexuality, the sharing of a short investigation on the influence of fundamentalism in other western but non-Christian traditions, as well as some alternative (including pro-gay) theological and spiritual discourses on homosexual sexualities.

Biblical origins of homosexual discourse: Homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God

The traditional position of the churches on homosexuality has been, in the words of our theologian participant, “that it is taboo, it is a sin, you will go to hell, you are a pervert, you are against God’s creation, and Jesus can heal you.” Similarly, the other gay male participant, a minister’s son, reiterated, “All the churches as far as I know discourage openness about homosexuality. It is proposed that gays are welcome in the church if they are prepared to confess to their sin and if they withhold from practising homosexuality. What they are saying is, ‘You are welcome as long as you are not gay.’” Biblical origins of homosexual discourse will necessarily include an exploration of the (in-) famous Biblical passages that have been at the centre of homosexual debate for a long time. The scope of this study will not allow us to attempt a comprehensive exposition of the separate verses, yet these will receive reasonable attention as a whole.
The texts in question are Genesis 19:1-29; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Timothy 1:8-10. Some Biblical scholars will also refer to Judges 19:22 as one of the “homosexual verses.” I share here with the reader, extracts from some of these verses. All the quotes are from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible (1982).

  • From Genesis 19:4 & 5: “The men of the city, the men of Sodom… called to Lot and said to him: ‘where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.’”
  • From Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.”
  • From Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.
  • From Romans 1:27: “The men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
  • From 1 Corinthians 6:9 & 10: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? …Nor homosexuals, nor sodomites…will inherit the kingdom of God.”
  • From Timothy 1:9 & 10: “The law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and the insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners…the profane, … for sodomites…any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.”
  • From Judges 19:22: “…suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door… saying, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!’”
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Whether or not all or some of the mentioned Biblical verses refers to homosexuality, and whether the indication of specific verses are condemning it or not, is a matter of interpretation – the field of hermeneutic exegesis. One of the possible interpretations of the passages is of course the literal way. This leads to judgement, condemnation and discrimination against homosexuals on Biblical grounds (Griffin 1999:214). It would seem that historically the latter interpretation has been the most popular. Obviously, there are different readings possible of all texts, including the handbooks of all the “great” religions of our world.
Germond (1997:189) mentions two sets of assumptions that are active during reading and interpreting Bible texts. These are firstly, the assumptions, perceptions and perspectives of the writers themselves, and secondly, the assumptions that readers of the Bible bring to the message. Although unavoidable, these assumptions should be thoroughly kept in mind whenever passages are analysed. Appropriate and contextual interpretation is essential, unless we generalise our own assumptions and superimpose them on that which is written. One of the dangers of taking certain assumptions for granted in the interpretation of Biblical texts, is that it may have profound influences on people and their lives, as we will see in the case of homosexuals and the interpretation of the quoted passages.
More recently, there have been a number of theologians who have concluded that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality as such. Among these writers would be Paul Germond and Steve de Gruchy, in Aliens in the Household of God. Whenever the more progressive interpretations of these Scripture passages are discovered by gay people / gay Christians, they experience tremendous liberation, as evident in the words of Wilma Jakobsen: “It was as if the lights went on” (1997:71). Her experience took her from the dark ages into enlightenment, one could say! Progressive interpretations are more contextual than earlier or traditional ones. Grethie, our female gay participant’s remark in this regard was, “You only hear one interpretation – the heterosexist interpretation. I did not even know there were other interpretations! When I found out about alternative interpretations of the Bible, my first reaction was one of relief, that I was ‘normal.’” After a careful examination using a hermeneutics of suspicion of the six mentioned Bible texts that are usually used to justify condemnation of homosexuals, Germond (1997:228) draws the following conclusion

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CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH PROJECT
1.1 Introduction to the love that dare not speak its
1.2 Research theme: Homosexuality and the discourses that influences gay people’s lives
1.3 A brief background to the so-called problem of homosexuality
1.4 Preliminary purpose of the project, and the motivation for the study
1.5 Planning, and preparing for the research process
1.6 Introduction to some epistemological positions, including a theological-pastoral position
1.7 Introduction to preferred research approaches
1.8 Summary of chapter one
CHAPTER TWO: EPISTEMOLOGY – FOUCAULT AND HOMOSEXUALITY
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Knowledge
2.3 Power.
2.4 Discipline
2.5 Discourse
2.6 Sexuality
2.7 A brief history of queer sexuality, mainly according to Foucault
2.8 Foucault and Queer Theory: The academic discipline of the sexual “other”
2.9 Other alternative discourses inspired by Foucault
2.10 Critique of Foucault, and in defence of Foucault
2.11 Summary of chapter two and expected influence of Foucault’s ideas on the research.
CHAPTER THREE: EPISTEMOLOGY – THEOLOGY AND HOMOSEXUALITY..
3.1 Introduction: What do people say God says about gays in the world? (Heading suggested by Org)
3.2 Biblical origins of homosexual discourse: Homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God..
3.3 The official position of churches: “Not yet ’uhuru’”
3.4 Fundamentalism in non-Christian traditions: “Our beliefs are perfect, any modification would be wrong”
3.5 Alternative theology: Spirituality as “harmless religion”
3.6 Summary, and “How can theology celebrate homosexuality?”
CHAPTER FOUR: ADDITIONAL DISCURSIVE FIELDS ON HOMOSEXUALITY.
4.1 Introduction: More about “restricting speech, and those who can speak”
4.2 Psychology as social science – Reproductions of expert medical / psychiatric discourse
4.3 Educational and military discourses – The school and defence force as straight.
4.4 Legal discourses – The criminalisation and decriminalisation of homosexuality in South Africa
4.5 Additional and alternative discourses – The personal is the political.
4.6 Summary of chapter four, and a message of hope for gay relationships
CHAPTER FIVE: RESEARCH PROCESS AND APPROACHES REVISITED.
5.1 Introduction – Things did not work out exactly as planned.
5.2 Gay participants “walking” into the project.
5.3 Efforts to “do” research, and participants telling their stories instead
5.4 Research approaches that accommodate what has happened, and some live textual data
5.5 Mapping transformation – Illustration of narrative analysis according to themes
5.6 Summary of section five, and cross-over to narrative analysis
CHAPTER SIX: NARRATIVE ANALYSIS – HOW OUR STORIES EVOLVED
6.1 Introduction: Participants / gay people speak for themselves
6.2 Theme One: The discourse of oppression, exclusion, non-existence, and homophobia.
6.3 Theme Two: Reverse discourse, discourses of revenge and deconstruction of problematic homosexuality
6.4 Theme Three: The discourse of resistance and liberation – Challenging heterosexism and categorisation
6.5 Theme Four: (Re-) Construction of alternative sexualities and discourses of reconciliation
6.6 Theme Five: The discourse of inclusion, celebration, contribution, hope and wonder
6.7 Summary of section six – Having spoken the unspeakable
CHAPTER SEVEN: A REFLECTION ON DISCOURSES, THE PROJECT’S INFLUENCES, TEACHINGS AND POINTERS
7.1 Introduction to reflections on discourses and what the research is telling us
7.2 Reflections on discourses as presented in the thematic analysis in chapter six
7.3 A reflective retrospection upon participants’ stories and the narrative analysis
7.4 Reviewing the project in terms of the goals, purposes, and questions in chapter one
7.5 General reflections and some preliminary “conclusions”
7.6 Critique on the study
7.7 Potential influences of the research, and pointers for the future
7.8 Summary of what the project taught us, including some preliminary ‘last words’
REFERENCES / WORKS CONSULTED
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