Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Religious Value of Love

The following post originally appeared in the Huffington Post on March 12, 2012. Of course few people actually believe in the story of Adam and Eve as an actual historical event, but even those who do should find this post informative if they read it with an open mind.

The story of Adam and Eve makes it clear that Eve was created as a helper and companion to Adam in his loneliness. The story in the Bible also makes clear that God tried other things to help with Adam's loneliness before coming up with Eve.

Is it so hard to imagine that somewhere not too far down the line one or more of the descendants of Adam and Eve found the only thing that could assuage his loneliness was another man to be his confidant and helper? I think not.

No matter how often the right wing Christians state that God made marriage for one man and one woman, it simply will never reconcile with the reality that the Bible does not back up this personal opinion. That some Christians would have it so, does not make it so.

Homosexuality and Bisexuality are natural. They are natural in the animal kingdom and natural in the human experience. That is just a fact.

the Story of Adam and Eve Is Right and Kirk Cameron Is Wrong: The Religious Value of Love
by Jay Michaelson

"It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."
We've all heard the cliché, and we all know its meaning: that "male" and "female" are at the heart of God's plan for the world, and that heterosexuality is the only "natural" sexuality. Kirk Cameron, the former child TV star, made this point just a few days ago: that homosexuality is unnatural.
We know, too, that this is not a scientific claim. Actually, homosexuality is quite "natural"; it's present in hundreds of animal species and in every culture in the world. Sexual diversity is the rule, not the exception -- the plan, not the deviation.
But there is that myth, that story, of Adam and Eve. No matter the scientific evidence, no matter the countless lives of happy, healthy LGBT people, there's that story, that binary, and that claim.
Well, I'd like to take that story back -- to reclaim it for all of us, not just those of us who find love in heterosexual, monogamous life.
First, let's set aside the parts about God, the Bible, the whole theological aspect of this myth. Let's treat it just as literature -- as a text, sacred to many, but first and foremost a story of human origins and human purpose. All of us -- religious, atheist, agnostic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, progressive, fundamentalist -- should be able to agree on that.
And in that myth, the pairing of Adam and Eve was the solution to a problem. In the more detailed version of the Genesis story, they don't just appear on the stage; human coupling is the result of divine fidgeting. God creates the human being, but then has to tinker with the original plan, because of the first flaw God finds with all of God's creation: loneliness.
"It is not good for the human being to be alone," God says in Genesis 2:18. In context, this is a shocking pronouncement. Six times, God had remarked how good everything is: light, Heaven and Earth, stars, plants, animals -- all of these are "good." The entirety of creation is "very good." Yet suddenly something is not good. Suddenly, God realizes there is something within the world as we find it that is insufficient, something that all of us experience in our own lives and that we all strive to transcend: the existential condition of being alone.
Notice, too, that Eve is not the first solution God attempts to deal with the problem of Adam's aloneness. God first presents Adam with every animal in the world -- birds, beasts, even those animals that would later become domesticated by people. But none suffices. Only then does the story of Genesis 2 tell us that God took the rib from man to make woman. Only human companionship solves the existential problem of aloneness, the first problem our religious traditions set out to address. And, finally, notice that Eve is not created, in this narrative, to make children with Adam; this story is about loneliness and love, not procreation and progeny. Indeed, Eve's femininity is not even essential to be what Hebrew calls an ezer kenegdo, and what antiquated King James English calls a "help-meet": someone able to be with Adam on equal terms and be a companion to him.

In other words, notwithstanding the many problems with this particular myth (it's been used not just against gays, of course, but primarily against women, by those who read it as setting up a gender hierarchy), this is a tale about the importance of human love and companionship.
Now, for most people, this love is indeed experienced in a relationship between a man and a woman. For about 5 percent of people (we can argue about the numbers; the range is usually 3 to 10 percent), this love is found in a relationship between two men, or between two women. And for some others, love may be found in either kind of relationship, and sexuality may be experienced as fluid.
Personally, I am one of that 5 percent. During my teens and 20s, as I struggled with my sexuality, I had relationships with women and, as much as I was able, fell in love. But something was always "off," even though at the time I couldn't quite identify it. (Maybe I knew, deep down. I don't know.) It took me 10 years of wrestling, cajoling, self-hating, and self-judging, and finally a serious car accident, which shook up my body and soul, to finally admit that if I wanted true love, the kind that the Song of Songs sings about, the kind that the Genesis myth says is so important, well, my Eve would have to be a Steve.
This is about much more than sex; it's about love. And that is the most natural thing in the world.
Now, if we do consider ourselves religious, this point matters, and it influences how we understand our sacred texts and traditions. Surely, a loving God could not want the tyranny of the "closet" -- an all-too-cozy metaphor for what is really a life of deceit, loneliness, and alienation. The Kirk Camerons of the world can still pretend that homosexuality is some kind of choice, pathology, or worse. But I have known both the life of the closet (for 10 years of my adult life) and the life of companionship. I know that my life with my partner is not simply about lust. It is exactly as the Genesis myth describes: a life of sharing, companionship, and love. Sure, for most people, "a man... shall hold fast to his wife." But in some cases, a woman shall hold fast to hers. And in some others, a man shall hold fast to another.
Of course, I know there are other Biblical texts that influence what some people think about homosexuality. In my book God vs. Gay?, I spend a long, long time parsing them out and show that they are obscure and ambiguous, and that they certainly do not contemplate loving, committed relationships. But anyone can interpret Biblical text; that's the easy part. As Shakespeare said, even the devil can cite scripture for his purpose. The hard, and more important, part is deciding which approach to take: one that leads to more love, or one that leads to more aloneness; one that leads to more of the holy, or one that leads to more of the shameful. As I approach these sacred texts, the story of Adam and Eve helps point the way, by reminding me that it is not good to be alone -- and it is very good to find someone with whom to share your life.
If you are struggling with your homosexuality or bisexuality, you must make a real decision, your own decision about how you want to deal with it. It will not go away. It will not stop demanding resolution.
If you have religious qualms about your sexuality, you would do yourself a favor to remember that God is a God of Love. He is not a God of hate. God accepts you as you are and loves  you as you are, homosexuality and all. Given the chance He will help you do deal with it in a way that will bring you a new understanding of yourself and perhaps even a new understanding of why you were created as a homosexual or bisexual man.
Jack Scott


  1. Jack, this was a very enlightening and enjoyable post. The idea of the need for resolution of who we are is good. Talked to a guy on SD about this same thing this evening who I think is struggling with his own sexual identity. Will steer him to your blog and hopefully it will be of some interest and help for him.

    1. Thanks DL, I am glad you found the post enjoyable.

      I am really glad you are taking the opportunity to point a friend to my blog. Thanks so much.

      Jack Scott

  2. Jack, thank you for this marvelous posting. As a Theologian I believe the author is well researched. Do you know anything of his background in religious studies.

    I would offer the name of John McNeill, former Jesuit priest, kicked out of religious life for his writing and teaching on homosexuality and God's plan for sex as play.

    1. Vinmor glad you enjoyed the article.

      I don't know where Michaelson did his religious studies; but he has had teaching positions at Yale, Boston College and University of New York.

      Speaking of Jesuit Priests, have your read "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning? If you have not, I highly recommend it.

      Jack Scott

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I found it very warming and soulful in relation to my current experiences.

    1. Your most welcome Dexx. It's a subject I don't like to write about, but one I feel I must bring up from time to time as a responsible blogger.

      Sex is meant to be fun and carefree, but it sim[ply cannot be completely carefree without at some point paying a very high price.

      As men who have sex with men as well as our wives, we can easily cause our wives to pay a part of the price for our carelessness as well. That is simply unfair.

      Jack Scott


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott