Giga Beriashvili, Evangelical Baptist Church, Peace Cathedral
(This essay is a review of the Georgian translation of David Gash’s book “We Think Differently”. Translator: Giga Beriashvili. Publisher: Akhali Eoni Library)
The Christian Church has once again shown its ungodly side and preached hatred against LGBTQ people, as it once did to Jews or the African people sold into slavery. This ungodly side was also based on some verses of the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures, which may focus on something else, but over the centuries these thesis have gained so much influence and significance that the ideologically corrupted parish, taught that LGBTQ people, not only in church but also in public, are disgusting with their presence and are demonized. The Church has played a very important role not only in expelling LGBTQ people from sexual desires and denying romantic relationships, but also in expelling and hating their personality. The church, whose main goal is to spread love among people, has become the antichrist and has started sowing the seeds of hatred due to which the lives and health of so many people are still in danger.
The church has a big role to play in the crime of kicking out children from their homes and leaving them to live in the streets. Unfortunately, the number of people who have been rejected by families because of their sexual identity is very large. Caitlin Ryan, who is leading a family-focused project about acceptance of children and recognition their identity (Family Acceptance Project), publishes a study showing that in the United States alone, because of LGBTQ self-identification, child is more likely to be beaten by family members, to recieve various forms of physical humiliation, and verbal abuse, mockery, ridicule, derogatory names, forcing masculinity or femininity, threatening punishment from God, forcing them to pray, forcing them to serve in the church to change their LGBTQ identity, humiliating or tabooing their identity in front of family, neighbors and friends; The same studies have shown that LGBTQ teenagers who have been displaced from their families, and live mainly on the streets, are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide, six times more likely to fight depression, 3 times as likely to use illegal hard drugs, five times more likely to be victim of sexual assaults and rape… A large proportion of LGBTQ people who are hated by their families end up in prostitution, have no permanent residence, cannot even get a secondary education, often use drugs or alcohol, and end up committing suicide. These are just a few of the things that this study discusses and that David Gashi discusses in more detail in his book We Think Differently.
We can clearly say that this hatred is produced by an institution that plays a major role in establishing public morals and rules of conduct; By an institution that has immeasurably great impact on the lives of each of us. Yes, because of its ungodly rhetoric, the responsibility for the suffering of LGBTQ people lies primarily with the Church. The Church has based this hatred on Scripture verses, but how will you react when you find that the Bible proverbs you are familiar with are completely devoid of anti-gay content? What happens when homophobic positions, strengthened over the years, suddenly collapse? David Gashi, an American theologian, professor at Mercer University, author of about twenty theological works, and holder of numerous academic awards, tells us about this in his book “We Think Differently”
Although the book is written for the American public, what David is talking about is also very familiar and close to the Georgian people. The problem that David poses is not at all unfamiliar to us, and that became one of the first reasons for translating this book. Readers of theological writings are not often provided with such literature and translations because they believe that the Gospel and the Hebrew Scriptures are uniquely homophobic, so no one is trying to make academic debates about these topics, which can lead to information scarcity, However, David Gash’s “We Think Differently” shows us a completely different side of these well-known fables, theses, and appeals that tell us that not everything is as it was presented by the Conservative Fathers of the Church, that there are so many arguments in favor of LGBTQ people. This is the purpose of this essay: I will review the book briefly and tell you some of the arguments, but it should also be noted that the information presented here does not exhaust the book, and for a broader discussion, you should refer directly to it.
David Gash grew up in a traditional Baptist family. Before moving to Atlanta and attending the Church of the Assumption, his contact with LGBTQ people was almost non-existent. David’s attitude was not radically negative and he did not support their physical destruction or expulsion and hatred from society, although he still managed to view them through a religious prism and considered them as bearers of sin, God-forsaken people. Consequently, in the years that followed, his sermons were saturated with this: LGBTQ people are sinners who must repent if they are to return to Christ’s Church.
From this position, a transformation into clergyman who actively supports LGBTQ people is a very interesting process. Its story provides an example and hope that the transformation of the individual, and subsequently of society, is possible, that change is indeed taking place, and one of the most important parts of this change is the mass revelation of their sexual identity by LGBTQ people. The biggest role that helped transform David’s mind is the story of his sister, Kate. Katie has been suffering from depression for years. The situation was so severe that she was undergoing inpatient treatment due to suicide attempts and needed special attention. And when the situation became unbearable and the treatment no longer yielded results, Katie revealed the biggest secret of her life, a secret that had haunted her and that had plagued her for so many years: Katie revealed that she was a lesbian. It was after this that the process of her recovery began.
Not surprisingly, the conservative views and approaches have led to despair among LGBTQ people. When conservatives stand up to LGBTQ people to strengthen their power and influence, they are consciously or unconsciously prolonging the suffering of people, their spiritual decline throughout life, and in many cases, leading to physical death. When Katie confessed about her sexuality, it was a complete shock to David. He realized how painful his sermons would be for her. He remembered each word, which he proudly shouted from the podium, in the name of God, wrapped his words in the veil of God’s will and led many people to pain, first and foremost his own sister. The bitterness that LGBTQ people experience on a daily basis as a result of hateful rhetoric voiced by the Conservative wing, the Conservatives can only perceive when it all comes down to their family members and they immediately realize that it turns out that they are wolves in sheep skin. David realized that this was the moment when he could no longer say what he had been saying before. Thus began his very difficult transformation. During this transformation, when he said that he already thought otherwise, that the Lord appeared to him as a lesbian sister and showed him new sides of the world. Many friends left him, his students left him, he was expelled from the church, and they tried to completely isolate him. David has experienced all that LGBTQ people experience on himself.
He recalls that her sister’s story was not the only event that shook him. There have been several transformative encounters in his life that have shaken his beliefs to the core. During one of the speeches, which was not entirely related to the LGBTQ topic, a stranger entered the hall and immediately attracted attention. Michelle Gold, who is Jewish and gay, addressed David Gash openly, loudly. Michelle began telling the story of herself and other homosexuals raised in conservative circles very bluntly. She said that on his 21st birthday, when she clearly realized that she was gay, he could not stand the hatred encouraged by David and tried to kill himself in broad daylight in front of a number of her peers. David writes: “Then Michelle got to her feet, addressed me by name, and read quotes from one of my books where I encourage the persecution and oppression of LGBTQ people. Finally, I remembered my dissertation on the Holocaust, where I wrote about the breakdown of human love, and as a result of two conflicting attitudes and a serious twist in my mind happened. All my words, all my thoughts were like arrows, they were plunging into my heart. It was horrible, but it was part of my change. ” (David Gashi, We Think Differently, Chapter 19, p. 129)
These and many other instances, which you will read more about in the book, led to a more serious search, and David began to study the Scriptures in this regard.
Most of the time, when we talk about the relationships of LGBTQ people, it is considered a sin and the reason for this is the well-known story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but what really happens in this fable?
The stories in the Hebrew Scriptures, Genesis 19 and Judges 19, are substantially identical. Both stories are about groups of men who rape their respectful guests and are offered to rape women instead of men: in the genesis book, they are offered daughters of the host and they refuse, and in the book of judges, they are offered an unprotected servant who the men gladly accept and bring near deatg. Later, no one mentions it, it is not even remembered. A similar story of human dignity is not found elsewhere in Scripture. Scholars agree that these two passages in these two books describe horrible human beasts and are considered to be the heaviest works.
Everyone has heard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but if anyone has looked into it in detail, the first question that comes to mind is, “What has homosexuality got to do with it?”
“The most interesting thing that happens in this story is the negotiations between Abraham and God to save the cities from destruction. Abraham bears a special burden when he goes to make a deal with God; With a God who alone symbolizes justice and salvation.
Abraham asks if there are at least 50, 40, 30, 20 or 10 righteous people in the city, whether he will save Sodom from punishment (18: 22-33) and God answers unequivocally: “Yes!”. The Lord agrees to forgive many for the few that are righteous.
But when two angels come to Sodom, the 10 righteous are nowhere to be found. Lot, Abraham’s nephew who lives in Sodom, invites these two “men” into his home. At midnight, the men of the town gather near Lot’s house, eager to “get to know” his guests. Lot comes out of the door and refuses them, after offering them his virgin daughters, but the men refuse and say, ““This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” ”(Genesis 19: 9) When men attack, angels intervene. The next day, when the angels bring Lot and his family to peace, Sodom and Gomorrah will be fully recovered.” (David Gashi, We Think Differently, Chapter 11. p. 77)
Information about the sinfulness of Sodom and Gomorrah dates back to the 19th century, but we do not know exactly what their sinfulness is. When men attack Lot and his guests, here we already hear about it. David says this is a story where violence is talked about, a passion for inflicting pain and suffering on people, as this little story describes a raging desire to rape, an unbridled sexual desire. Judges 20: 5 describes a similar story and shows much more clearly that the crime that men wanted to commit was sexual and physical violence.
It is important to note that in Scripture, where the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is mentioned, it is always used as a sign of human wickedness, divine punishment, and heavenly wrath. Although Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Scriptures, they are nowhere to be found in describing same-sex relationships or longings, as you can see for yourself: Deuteronomy 29:23, 32:33; Isaiah 1: 9, 3: 9, 13:19; Jeremiah 23:14, 49:18, 50:40; Ezekiel 16: 46-50; Amos 4:11; Matthew 10:15; Luke 10: 10-12; Romans 9:29; 2 Peter 2: 6-10; Hebrews 6-7. The only comparison of Sodom with sexual relations is verses 2 Peter 2: 6-7 and Jude 6-8, which speak of unclean longing for the body of another, which emphasizes the sin of adultery.
David writes: “The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, with its violent aims and environment, is reminiscent of a gang rape in prison. The men of Sodom are also ignited by this desire. They are more filled with longing for men than for Lot’s daughters, because in patriarchal society men are valued much more and therefore their humiliation was more “worthy” than the humiliation of women. I think these men wanted to dominate the guest men, to humiliate them, to inflict pain on them, and that is why they demand them and not vulnerable women. When you degrade a man in a sexist society, you are humiliating his manhood and equating him with a woman. The story of Sodom is a group of men agreeing to rape visiting men because they are strangers, vulnerable, easy targets of humiliation and insult. This is a story about a city that reminds us of prison laws and cruelty.
Genesis 19 and Judges 19 The basic premise is the laws of war and prison, between sex and crime. “None of them have anything to do with homosexuality, same-sex relationships, just as they have nothing to do with heterosexuality, the sexual and romantic relationships of people of the opposite sex.” (David Gashi, We Think Differently, Chapter 11. p. 77)
The church’s attitude toward sin as such is very well reflected in deadly sins. Let us take envy to understand the nature of sin. Like everything, envy has two sides. To be jealous means to like someone else’s good and want the same for you. Envy is a good expression, you are motivated to achieve the same. The other side of envy is when you want to achieve something you saw in another and you are filled with anger, a negative attitude and the feeling: “how can he be better than me? ”. It puts you in a difficult spiritual state. This is a negative manifestation of envy. The Church is for finding a healthy middle between these two and considers it a sin to do anything that can bring chaos and initiate decadence in one’s nature. This attitude of the church is aimed at one thing only: to save a person from falling into sin. The nature of sin is to separate man from the divine and to be driven by uncontrollable animalistic desires. This is what is meant when the church speaks of adultery. This is exactly what happens in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Excited crowds are driven by their animalistic desire and try to rape a visiting person to satisfy the feeling of violent domination over him. The desire for domination is derived from a violent nature and it is inconceivable to find divinity in it, since domination comes from a perverted consciousness and indicates an imbalance in nature.
The attitude of the church towards adultery and fornication is unequivocally negative and is considered a sin, although this does not entirely mean that the church is against sexual relations. On the contrary, he acknowledges that sexual life is an integral part of human life and that his abstinence is the cause of sexual perversion, violence, and fornication. Adultery and fornication is exactly when a person can not control his sexual desires, when in the moment of desire with these animalistic urges he does not experience fulfillment, unlike when people have a relationship with love. Adultery can not only deprive man of his divine nature, but also take away his human nature, empty him, and turn him into a sodomite.
When the church says that man should separate himself from his lustful nature and get rid of it, it refers not only to heterosexuals but also to LGBTQ people. God’s laws apply to all people, so it is important to realize that no church can bless a relationship that is not based on love and that is the result of uniquely physical longing, no matter who the relationship is, whether heterosexual or LGBTQ. Also, it must be said that the love that is born between people is always blessed by the heavenly church, because love is what the earthly church is built on, therefore, if it blesses heterosexual relationships, it must also bless the relationships of LGBTQ people. If the church does not bless the relationships of LGBTQ people, then it should not bless the relationships of heterosexual people either, because by rejecting any one, it is a refusal of love, and who can determine who loves whom and how much? This issue stands among the issues that remain between people in love. If a couple asks for a blessing from the church, the church must be ready for it, because it id the incarnation of the will of the Lord, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4: 7)
Love can fill every human heart. No matter who we are, regardless of nationality, creed, social status, sexual orientation, or gender identity, the Lord is our Savior. He must open his doors to each person and accept them as they are. The church must realize that it is primarily its duty to physically save persecuted and hated people, and to open the doors, to hear their pain, and to share their sorrows, because that is what brings us back to the Lord. When the Church understands and carries out her first duty, then it is already possible for the clergy to sit down and properly discuss the controversial matters which we have very briefly discussed in this essay.
May the Lord save us from our ignorance, give us wisdom, and fill us with the love and will of life, so that one day, all together, we may celebrate the victory of love. Amen.