Friday, January 30, 2009

Egypt for Beginners

I just got back from Egypt for my cross-cultural experience for seminary. 18 women and 4 men, now I understand the concept of fraternity! :-) It's not a mission trip, we go to get a better handle on our culture and Christianity in the larger context of the world. Food was great and I have PLENTY of stories to share.

here are my pix from the trip.. all of them, all at once.

I call Steve "Wadi" (which is a dry river bed that flash floods every now and then) cause it fits his personality. He's an all or nothing kinda guy!

the videos are here on my Youtube channel, but i will be post them on the blog with commentary that will hopefully provide even more insight to those who wanna learn about the Egyptian culture and history. here's the video from the first day:

it's interesting when one hits the ground what initial observations one makes. here i noted that it's interesting to be "different" and stared at by little kids. we were even followed! plus add in the shock of 25 million people in one city with jet lag and holy moly! but that priviledge was with me most of the trip. some people go through their whole lives like that, always in the 'other' category. i only have a vague understanding of this and am no where near understanding what people in this position go through on a regular basis, but the shock of it was interesting and eye opening.

as Peggie McIntosh stated in her article "White Priviledge: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack"
I realized that, since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of while privilege that was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.

it's one thing to see it, it's a whole other thing to experience it. granted this shock wore off after the first day and once we realized that we were 'safe' and that we were also visiting and would be going back to our culture in two weeks time.

Privilege for me is a double-edged sword. some use it to get others to be aware of it for educational purposes as well as part of a good practice of citizenship. others, however, seem to use it to guilt people and gain the upper-hand. there's a fine line between awareness of privilege and white guilt and being an ex-Catholic, i'm not a believer in guilt.

needless to say i'm aware of it, this trip sure helped that. i hope to make others aware and in this awareness, make the grounds for mutually enriching dialogues. i think this will be a main part of my future ministry, awareness and radical hospitality to all 'others' and hopefully in this dialogue and hospitality we see that there is no 'other' only us and our common humanity.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Feb is Egypt Month!

I will be posting videos and pix on here from my egypt trip. i hope that these will do it justice and provide some insight to an amazing country.

I hope to uncover the mysteries of Eygpt, including (but not limited to):
-How to walk like an Egyptian
-Who are the Copts and why do they matter
-Why you shouldn't mess with women
-Symbols and archtypes in human history
-What I look and soundlike (eek!) in video blog segments
-Why Interfaith dialogue is key to our future
-And maybe a little bit about Dino-Theology


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Works Cited: Books you need to read!

Thanks for sticking with me and commenting on this paper. We may not agree, and that's fine, but you know where i'm coming from here.

For the citations and futher information on this subject, check out the following resources:

Works Cited

“Arsenokoites” Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. Ed. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. New York: United Bible Societies, 1989. CD-ROM. Vers. 7.0. BibleWorks, 2006.

Balch, Carolyn Osiek and David L. "Families in the New Testament World." Carey, Greg. NT 113 Paul and the Early Church Course Pack. Lancaster Pa: Grade A Notes, 2008. 1-12.

Bassler, Jouette M. Navigating Paul. Louisvill KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.

Bull, John Gallagher and Chris. Perfect Enemies: the Battle Between the Religious Right and the Gay Movement. New York: Madison Books, 2001.

Campolo, Tony. Speaking My Mind. Nashville TN: W Publishing Group, 2004.
Capon, Robert. Hunting the Divine Fox. London: Seabury Press, 1977.

Crompton, Louis. Homosexuality and Civilization. Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Freickson, David E. "Natural and Unnatural Use in Romans 1:24-27." Balch, David L. Homosexuality, Science, and The "Plain Sense" Of Scripture. Grand Rapids Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. 177-196.

Furnish, Victor Paul. The Moral Teachings of Paul Selected Issues. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1985.

Gomes, Peter J. The Good Book, Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart. New York: Avon Books Incorporated, 1996.

Hearon, Holly E. "First Corinthians." al., Deryn Guest et. The Queer Bible Commentary. London: SCM Canterbury Press, 2006.

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Savior, Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation. Louisville KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.

Sampley, J. Paul. "First Corinthians." The New Interpreters Bible. Nashville TN, 2002. Volume X.

Sampley, J. Paul. "First Corinthians." New Interpreters' Bible Commentary. Nashville TN, 2002. Volume X.

Schoedel, William R. "Same-Sex Eros: Paul and the Greco-Roman Tradition." Balch, David L. Homosexuality, Science and the Plain Sense of Scripture. Grand Rapids Michigan: Eerdman's Publishing Company, 2000.

Willam F. Orr and James Arthur Walther. "First Corinthians." Freedman, William Foxwell Albright and David Noel. The Anchor Bible Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1976.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Our Modern Context: The LGBTQ Community and Beyond

Many look to Romans and I Corinthians as evidence that Paul outlaws homosexuality and that is simply not the case. Questions like “should practicing homosexuals be admitted? What responsibilities can they hold?” Paul simply never asks nor answers them. In fact it is doubtful these questions ever occurred to him (Furnish 78).

Science is still struggling as what causes sexual preferences and whether it is genetic or conditioned (Crompton). However, it is clear that homosexuality is not a conscious choice (Freickson 53). The question for our time is not whether homosexuality is “natural or unnatural” nor is it whether homosexuals should be allowed in church (the answer on this is yes) but what behaviors are appropriate in a homosexual lifestyle. There are two possible responses to this question.

A more conservative approach to the acceptance of the LGBTQ community states that they are welcomed but not affirmed. This translates to “you can be a homosexual, but you cannot practice it.” Here the concern about sex is paramount. Tony Campolo is an advocate for this method. He encourages a celibate commitment he interprets Paul as condemning all homosexual eroticism (Campolo 66). He thinks it “arrogant to contradict two millennia of church tradition” and “not to violate biblical admonitions against homosexual eroticism” (Campolo 67-68). I see problems with this interpretation.

Since science has stated that homosexuality is not a choice, I feel that Campolo is going with a “if you can’t beat them, let them in under great restrictions” method. Instead, what we should be concerned with as a church is the idea of porneia. Paul is arguing that porneia is idolatry and the sin of desire leads to excess and exploitation. The passion of desire is part of the dirty polluted cosmos in opposition to God (Martin 67). The best way to avoid the pollution is to have committed partners as safe receptacles for their sexual overflow (Martin 67).

Paul wishes all had his gift of celibacy, but it is better to “marry than to burn” (7:9). Sex is a meaningful part of marriage and Paul recognizes the mutual responsibility in matters of sex (7:3-4) (Furnish 34). Paul could not have imagined two members of the same sex entering in a sexual union as equals as his understanding of male/female expressions of gender are not our ideas of gender. I would advocate a full acceptance of LGBTQ members under the same rules that heterosexual couples are called to follow as Christians. This does not go against all of church teachings. The Roman Catholic Church has taught that sexual intercourse has a twofold purpose: for procreation and for unity of two free spirits (Gomes 171).

If Mr. Campolo and the Catholic Church argued that heterosexual couples who can’t conceive must be celibate, I would see his point, but they do not, thus revealing a hetero-bias. I argue that Christian expectations be placed on all couples, namely that married couples are permanent, monogamous, faithful, and intimate. These rules are to be followed and celebrated whether heterosexual or homosexual. This opens the door to a discussion on divorce, as almost 50% of all marriages today end in divorce. Being a child of a divorce, I would say ground this in the same relational framework Paul provides in I Corinthians, namely that relationships are never exploitive or excessive.

Same-sex relationships have the same potential for sacramental meaning and power (Gomes 172). Not all have the gift of Paul’s celibacy, but as the apostle writes to the community at Corinth, this gift should not be elevated over any other gift of God. Love and sex are both gifts from God that we should rejoice in yet are aware of the boundaries of relationships. Any exploitive or excessive actions and behaviors are to be resisted and spoken out against. This does not go against Paul or the Church’s teachings, but fulfills them.

It fulfills them by opening up the gospel to the “other” which fits the goal of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. We as Christians are called to side with the oppressed, the exploited, and to resist excess. We are called to befriend the stranger as that which we do to the least of these we do unto Christ (Matt 25:45).
What we do have an excess of is God’s grace and love, and we are guilty of the sin of excess if we think God’s love is something we can keep to ourselves and not spread around. We are called to risk everything to gain others, not to bury or hide our gifts (Matt 25: 14-30). For our sake, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, may we respond to this call.

Thanks to RJ for this video

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Socio-Historic Context

The question of sexual ethics is not just a Christian concern. In the 1st and 2nd centuries there was much debate over this topic. What emerged were two schools of thought: Epicurus argued for sexual abstinence while Celsus argued for moderation.

Epicurus stated that “sexual intercourse is never good for the health” (Balch 3). Celsus stated sex should not be “avidly desired or feared very much” (Balch 3). In either case, the sexually ascetic were to be admired and the picture of those seeking a vision of the divine (Balch 5). Paul seems to be arguing for a Celsus view of sexuality for the church in Corinth but follows a Epicurus model. In Chapter 7, Paul speaks on the mutual responsibility in matters of sex in a share relationship between two persons of equal standing (Furnish 34). Sexual abstinence within marriage has a place within marriage but under the conditions of that it is temporary, mutually agreed upon, and for prayer (Furnish 34). Therefore when Paul speaks of what we would call homosexuality, he is speaking of what can be called the “Gentile sin” whose characteristics fit the framework of excess and exploitation and are not exclusively sexual in nature (Gomes 159).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Structural Fit

I stated in my stage one essay that I feel that this pericope is not a random addition but contains the entire thematic structure of the letter in miniature. The vice list revolve around behaviors that involve excess and exploitation in action in the church in Corinth. Paul is seeking to show how these behaviors are putting one’s own interests against God’s covenantal relationship with mankind established by Jesus (Hearon 614).

The pericope is framed by Paul’s complaint of lawsuits and prostitutes, and both fall under the heading of excess and exploitation. In ancient Greco-Roman society, only the wealth and very powerful would be able to take people to court (Sampley, First Corinthians 823). This would fall under both categories as the wealthy were seeking to exploit and gain more excess against their fellow Christian. Paul seeks to remind them about what is appropriate within the community and how the church should relate to one another (as God’s chosen people) as well as with the outside world (who are unrighteous and won’t inherent the kingdom) (Sampley, First Corinthians 855). This reflects Paul’s eschatological understanding that Christians are not “of” this world (5:10) and God’s people will in fact judge the world (Furnish 70). Paul even reminds that that soon they will be judging angels (6:3).

The visitation of prostitutes also shows the concern against sexual excess. Paul’s view is that the church is the very body of Christ and in rabbinic thought that any kind of sexual union defiles the temple of God and thus the body of Christ (Furnish 33). Paul’s view is that within the body is the Spirit of Christ which is united to the human spirit so intimately that the two become one spirit just as the two bodies become on in sexual intercourse (Bassler 39). Also in Paul’s culture, the body is subject to demonic invasion and union with unbelievers not only in court but also in sex acts puts the church at risk. Paul’s Christian ethic states that bodily actions count and have relational as well as eschatological meanings for the church (Balch 8).

The structural fit of “excess and exploitation” extends beyond the passages framing the pericope. In talking about the man sleeping with his father’s wife (5:1) Paul doesn’t use purity language as one would expect an ex-Pharisee to do, but instead uses “greed” language (Balch 6). Paul speaks to the excess and exploitation going on in the church at Corinth.

Paul talks about the many diverse kinds of gifts, and that possession of one or another does not take place over another as all are from one Spirit (chapter 12). Any practice of excess and exploitation is not part of the body of Christ. Paul insists that those who are sanctified and justified (6:11) must act that way. This style of indicative/imperative rhetoric is typical language for Paul (Balch 6).

All instances brought up by Paul about what he’s heard about the Corinthians stem from his concern with relations within the community. The eating of meat offered to idols or concern about spiritual gifts or even his famous passage on love (chapter 13) all stem from a concern with exploitation and excess in relationships. Paul sees sin, whether property, sexual, other otherwise, as something that destroys the efficient functioning of the mind and harms relationships between people and God (Willam F. Orr and James Arthur Walther 203).

Monday, January 19, 2009


Greetings from Egypt!!! lots happening and i hope to catch y'all up on it when i get back around the 23rd or so.

all i can say now is, Steelers and Cardinals? seriously?!

what a lame Super Bowl.

i miss my wife and y'all... RAWK ON!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reasons for the Letter

Paul is well aware of the socioeconomic differences among the Corinthians (1:26). He argues that these divisions should be dealt with inside the community; a community that not only has some wealthy members but also some from the must scandalous of sinners (Willam F. Orr and James Arthur Walther 201). Paul writes to remind the church at Corinth (a city to be compared with our modern day Las Vegas) that they are emancipated from slavery and all things are permissible but not all things are advantageous (Sampley, First Corinthians 854).

Paul is asking the Corinthians to think about their actions and how they affect others in the community. The maintenance of personal freedom involves voluntary self-discipline (Willam F. Orr and James Arthur Walther 201).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Case for Arsenokoites

The translation of the word avrsenokoi,thj is more difficult. The term is a notorious problem because no occurrence of term before Paul has been discovered (Freickson 220). The two parts “arsen” and “koites” literally means “male bed” (“Arsenokoites”) (Willam F. Orr and James Arthur Walther 202). This has led modern interpreters to claim it means “men who have sex with men” (Martin 39). Dale Martin points out that this approach makes the error of defining a word by its assumed etymology and the etymology of a word is its history, not its meaning (Martin 39). There is also an err to assume that only males would be in a male bed, where a variety of people would be found in a male’s bed in the 1st century from his wife, to a slave, to a prostitute. To understand the term we must at how the term was used post-Paul but pre-1946, as this is the first instance the term homosexuality was used in the Bible (Gomes 148).

From this approach we learn that arsenokoites is treated as an example of unjust, violent behavior of a person lacking self control (Freickson 221).Here Paul is pick up on the thread of Greek and Jewish cultures and weaving them together not only to condemn pederasty but on all other unjust acts (Crompton). Vice lists like Paul’s often included violent, exploitive love of boys in association with other unjust acts such as adultery, theft, slander and avarice (Freickson 221).

With the translations of malakoi and arsenokoites as “excess” and “exploitation”, we now have a fuller understanding on the moral flaws Paul was trying to get at. These flaws are not specifically homosexual activity nor are they sexual activity in general, but a bigger blanket statement on the shortcomings of the church in Corinth. I will now look at how this understanding fits into the overall interpretation of 1 Corinthians.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Case for Malakoi

To understand Malakos, we must understand what “softness” would have meant in a First century world. David E Fredrickson states that softness extends well beyond the passive role in a male/male sexual activity. He states that “even men who are too interested in having sex with women, their wives included, were deemed soft” (219). But the term extends beyond the sexual realm and into more generally evils of excess or greed and lack of self control (Freickson 219). The association of Malakos with lack of self-control has a long history in ancient moral philosophy. Aristotle observed that “men are self-restrained and enduring, and unrestrained and soft (malako,j) in regard to Pleasures and Pains” (Freickson 220). Fredrickson states that the correct background for interpreting malakoi in our current language should be terms like “greedy ones” and “carouses” (220).  It is more like the idle rich or "those who wear soft clothes."

Holly E. Hearon makes a similar case by stating that in moral discourse those who are morally weak, those who enjoy the trappings of luxury and live decadently is what Paul is hoping to convey with his use of malako,j (613). She uses the word “metro-sexual” as a figurative translation to our current context (613). The problem with using the term metro-sexual is that the term is just as subject to a change in meaning and puts the readers back into the same problem as we started out with. Metro-sexual is a trendy word and its use is outdated in current American culture. Future readers of the Bible would try to put metro and sexual together and be utterly confused. Instead, I propose a word that will stand the test of time yet still speak to our context and communicate a lack of self control. The simplest way to translate malako,j would simply be “excess” as it encompasses the meaning in all forms, not just sexual. Excess gets at the heart of those who enjoy luxury and live decadently and are morally weak (Hearon 613)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lost in Translation

Two words are disputed here in the translations of KJV, NAS, NIV, and NRS. The Greek words malako,j and avrsenokoi,thj are translated as “nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind” (KJV), “nor effeminate, nor homosexuals” (NAS), and “nor male prostitutes nor homosexual” offenders (NIV) .

“Malakos” can be translated as 1) soft, soft to the touch or 2a2) of a boy kept for homosexual relations with a man 2a3) of a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness 2a4) of a male prostitute (“Malakos”). “Arsenokoites” means 1) one who lies with a male as with a female, sodomite, homosexual (“Arsenokoites”). On the surface, these two words look as though Paul is condemning pederasty, condemning the passive partner, malakos, and the active partner, arsenokoites.

These two words have been notoriously hard to define. I will attempt to here.

Paul cannot be talking about homosexuality as the Greco-Roman world understood sexuality as a continuum of possibilities. Heterosexuality was assumed the default status, but the sexual expression was not limited to male to female (Crompton). There was a top and bottom to the spectrum; from the male end (associated with strength, rationality, self-control, activity, and perfect) exercising natural dominance over the female end (associated with weakness, sexuality and procreation, passion, passivity, and imperfection) (Bassler 45). What Paul as talking about was not homosexuality as we understand it no long term committed relationships could exist between members of the same sex. Men having sex with men were viewed as lust only, no love or loyalty needed. The concept was only alluded to in the ancient world and the word homosexuality itself is an invention of the late 19th century (Gomes 148).

Paul could have been talking about pederasty. The problem with assuming pederasty is that there was a word in Paul’s time to describe the action and Paul doesn’t use it. Instead Paul uses two words that translated literally poses a different set of problems. The literal approach is simply linguistically invalid as a word’s meaning is more than its components. For example, to understand has nothing to do with the basic meanings of either “stand” or “under” (Martin 39). Providing a figurative translation is the best method to understand these two troublesome words.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Exegetical Paper on 1 Cor 6:9-11

While I'm in Egypt, I've decided to post my final paper on 1 Cor 6:9-11. I won't post the whole thing, just highlights over this month. For those not familar with the text:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (New International Version)

9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul lists vices in 1 Cor. 6: 9-11 and at first glance they seem disconnected from the whole of the letter. This paper will seek to fit this list into the larger structure of the letter as well as shed light on Paul’s socio-historical context. Through this I seek to understand Paul’s theological view of sexual ethics. I would like to take a social-science look at Christianity in this regard to explore further the need for boundaries in groups and how the current church is fighting over where those boundaries should be.

This should be an interesting discussion, stick around, won't you? Here's some questions:

How do you interpret this vice list? What purpose could it serve? Is it really talking about homosexuality? What does this mean for the church today?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I'm in love with the ordinary

Each year, i put one of my fav. Death Cab songs up for New Years Eve, my least fav. holiday (even Boxing Day ranks higher IMO)

But i found that this year, i DO feel different.

actually, everything feels different. 2008 brought some massive changes. Kate and I were politically active, but never before at this level nor this loud and sure about our candidate. The First Black President. awesome!

This year we saw our closest friends give birth to a wonderful baby boy. i entered into the parish setting and felt that this is ABSOLUTELY what i'm supposed to do. i've found some great blogging friends and we're the "Canon" which is just been great to have regular comments to challenge and support.

And the biggest change, Kate and I are expecting. i can't wait to meet this kid! at first we thought it was a boy, but now we're thinking Tom-Boy! Given Kate and the women on my side of the family, this also feels right. What we're hoping for is a BABY!!! All we ask for is a healthy baby and a short labor for Mama, the gender is irrelevant.

I'm gearing up for a trip to Egypt and possibly Thailand in the summer. I've traveled before to Germany, but Egypt will be a whole 'nother ball game. Despite most assumptions, this is NOT a mission trip. we’ll be learning about the culture and history. it’s a two week stay where we learn about the Coptic Christians and Islam, largely, but we do have one synagoge visit scheduled.

the seminary is set on getting us out of our western mindset and show how globalization is a double-edged sword and not everyone thinks and acts like Americans or even Christians for that matter! and Christians don't even act like how we would define "Christian" here.

you can't see the water in which you swim until you're out of it. Germany changed my life and i can't wait to see who i am after Egypt (AE?) i’m excited! i mean, when is the next time i can travel abroad with my best friends? I just hope that Jim, Steve, and I are still friends after this ;-)

Back to Boogie, Kate and I always say we should relish this time, as it's the last "us" time we'll have for awhile. last time we can go out without a baby-sitter. last time we can pull up and go to a movie at the drop of a hat. as this song states, "The world we love forever gone".

sorry for the anime video, just focus on the song ;-)

but we can't wait to be parents. after 9 years of being together, Kate and I are finding a whole new level of our relationship. it's been wonderful.

to quote the song again:
It might seem like a dream, but it's real to me.
Don't it feel like sunshine after all.

May your 2009 be blessed! Happy New Year!