Match made in heaven?

On a gorgeous summer night in August 2007, Diana DIV ’08 picked up her partner Sarah from John F. Kennedy Airport.

Diana and Sarah were planning to go to Hammonasset Beach in Madison, Conn. to propose to one another, but when they stopped to visit the Yale Divinity School — they decided to pop the question right away.

Obadiah Ballinger DIV ’08 and Javen Swanson DIV ’09 plan to marry in May.
Esther Zuckerman
Obadiah Ballinger DIV ’08 and Javen Swanson DIV ’09 plan to marry in May.

“It was at the chapel that the lightening bolt sort of hit,” Diana recalled of the Marquand Chapel at the center of the campus, where the two first realized they were more than friends. At the time, Diana was in her first year and Sarah was an exchange student at the Divinity School from England. The couple now plans to marry there this summer.

Diana and Sarah were not eager to get into specifics. They withheld the date of their wedding, which Diana hesitated to even call a marriage, and asked not to print their last names. Their unconventional love story — reconciling faith with sexuality — rings true for many gay and lesbian students at the Divinity School who want to pursue careers in certain denominations of the Christian ministry.

And while Yale’s fairly liberal campus offers a haven for gay and lesbian students to pursue their religious and romantic aspirations freely, those seeking careers in the ministry face a world less accepting beyond the school grounds.

A RELIGIOUS HAVEN

Obadiah Ballinger DIV ’08 and Javen Swanson DIV ’09 are also getting married in Marquand Chapel on May 22.

“Marquand Chapel is a very safe place for us,” Swanson said. It is a place, Ballinger added, where they can worship without the fear of prejudice.

And for both pairs — Ballinger and Swanson and Diana and Sarah — the ceremony performed at Marquand Chapel will be celebrated as more of a religious union than a legal one. Swanson said they were planning on having a ceremony regardless of the legalization of gay marriage in Connecticut, but when the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage on Oct. 10, he said, the idea of the union seemed more legitimate “There was something about that that made it more real,” he said.

And the ceremony, they said, will look like a traditional wedding. Associate Dean of Students, Dale Peterson, who is an ordained minister of the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., is one of the religious officials who will preside over their wedding. Ballinger and Swanson, who both identify with denominations of the Christian faith, said they plan to say vows and take communion.

The friendly couple, both attractive 20-somethings, met in their New Testament Greek class about three years ago. They agreed that the Divinity School has been a welcoming place for LGBT students.

Currently, there are around 100 e-mail addresses on the LGBT Coalition’s panlist at the Divinity School, which includes people who identify as LGBT and allies, said Michael O’Loughlin DIV ’09, a coordinator for the Coalition. “We’re really lucky that we have a safe place,” he said.

And the curriculum reflects this as well.

“About a year ago one of my Div School students asked if I would teach a class about coming out,” said Kristen Leslie DIV ’86, Associate Professor in Pastoral Care and Counseling. This semester, she ended up creating a class on how to care for LGBT people in a religious community called “Identity and Community: Pastoral Care in the 21st Century.” Some students call it “Gay Care.”

Still, there are some people on campus with a more conservative spirit.

Stephen Gaetano DIV ’09, a coordinator of the Catholic Student Fellowship, said he does not feel comfortable voicing his more conservative viewpoints but said that he stands by the Catholic Church’s teachings when it comes to issues such as homosexuality.

“As a relatively conservative person, I tend to stay quiet,” Gaetano said. “I do feel sort of out of place.”

‘GOD VERSUS GAYS’

In a world where anti-gay marriage sentiment has mostly come from religious organizations, gay students at the Divinity School struggle with their identities.

“Too often it’s boiled down to God versus gays,” Ballinger said. “We’re living proof that that is a false dichotomy.”

But Diana, who is ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church, still feels the pressure of her denomination, which does not sanction same-sex marriage. Sarah is a priest in the Church of England. The Episcopal Church has not fully sanctioned same-sex marriages, although it has affirmed its support of gay and lesbian people and opposes government action prohibiting civil marriages or unions.

“I very much believe in pursuing the rights, and I’m thrilled with what happened in Connecticut,” Diana said. “But on the other hand, I want to be respectful of where the Episcopal Church is right now — and that may change.” Since Sarah’s visa status will not allow the couple to legally marry in Connecticut, the two are planning instead to get a civil partnership in England, where Sarah is a citizen.

But this settlement will also require Sarah to make a career sacrifice — her bishop refused to accept her work while she is in a same-sex civil partnership, Diana said.

“It’s been really stressful for her to separate her public and private life in this way,” Diana said. “I think she is relieved to be leaving, but really sad at the same time that the Church has hurt her so much.”

The strains of continuing a religious role and a same-sex relationship also fall on Ballinger and Swanson.

While Ballinger — who is the religious organizer for Love Makes a Family, a Connecticut non-profit group that advocates equal rights for same-sex couples — is on the path to being ordained in the United Church of Christ, Swanson is hoping to be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Although the United Church of Christ supports same-sex marriage and welcomes people of all sexual orientations, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America currently only ordains gay candidates if they are celibate. Whether or not Swanson can be ordained is contingent on a vote the Church is holding this summer.

If the vote does not pass, Swanson said, their marriage process could get complicated. It may even prevent his ordination.

“But we’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Swanson said.

Comments

  • Yale 08

    Ahhh yes.

    The Episcopal Church and the UCC.

    2 of the most irrelevent, shallow "faith" communities that have ever existed.

    Why is this news?

  • 60 Minutes

    The Divinity School has inspired and pioneered in equal rights for gays for decades.

    In 1984 ---even before HIV had been discovered--- Yale Divinity School was the site of a earth shaking Morley Safer "60 Minutes" piece entitled "Helen" which debunked the then current prejudice that AIDS was a gay disease.

    Safer's piece about a New Haven prostitute and heroin addicts who had given birth to an infant with AIDS, revealed for the first time to American viewers that AIDS could be transmitted by women as well as men.

  • Anonymous

    Let me second Yale '08's comments.

  • Hieronymus

    Wow, and I didn't even write #1!

    Don't forget UU, which now takes into account "earth-based faiths"…

    Yah: If I were going to join a "faith" community (as opposed to a self-congratulatory social org), it would not be UU, UCC, or Episcopal.

    Also, as I have noted before, it was a shame that Yale did not dismantle DIV when it had the chance, really an embarrassment (and , no, not for its gay rights activities, about which I care little).

  • Anonymous

    Hey Yale 08 and Robert S., would you care to expound on your comments a bit? Calling someone else's faith community shallow and irrelevant without any explanation is a bit harsh, isn't it? Or do you just carelessly throw those words around because you don't like the politics of those churches?

    I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure someone very important to Christianity once said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." In fact, among the things Jesus liked least was people who thought that they and only they understood His message. Unfortunately there are too many people today in our world (and in our YDN comments section, apparently) who failed to fully grasp that part of the Gospels.

  • Informed

    I think that most of us at the Yale community applaud any governmental effort to allow people to live and love freely, without public recrimination, whether in terms of anti-discrimination laws, or what have you. At the same time, and no less important--given its historic role as a centerpiece of our rights-based jurisprudence--the First Amendment--is the right to practice one's religion and hold one's own religious beliefs and conscience beyond the dictates of an earthly legislator. While there are exceptions to both discrimination laws as well as religious freedom laws, in general both are central to our system of rights.

    But as gay marriage becomes increasingly a part of an legally tolerated status quo, freedom of religion still exists, and this includes the right not to condone or participate in certain acts that, for the religiously-devout, would be considered wrong, immoral, and sinful, on their own behalf.

    For example, avoiding this type of behavior…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VziklUbtHAE

    Legally, a number of cases have recently arisen where certain groups, due to their personal or religious beliefs, felt it wrong to condone or participate in certain behaviors found wrong given their moral worldview. They cannot and should not be required to change their freedom of religious belief. In other words, while we applaud certain religious groups for taking a very progressive stand on this issue, our Constitution also protects those faiths who do not choose to do this, and choose more traditional, conservative, or literal interpretations of their various Talmudic, Q'uranic, Biblical, Theravedic, etc. texts. In other words, in our rush to affirm our friends and loved ones, we can't turn out back on important First Amendment principles simply because we don't happen to like THAT speech. The ACLU, after all, does NOT always take the progressive cases, nor should it.

    Yet, a recent survey of over 1000 state anti-discrimination laws was done to assess, as the report states:

    "how those laws would affect conscientious objectors to same-sex marriage if same-sex marriage were legally recognized. We looked specifically at whether state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender or marital status could be applied to penalize religious people and organizations with moral objections to same-sex marriage. The survey revealed that over 350 separate state anti-discrimination provisions would likely be triggered by recognition of
    same-sex marriage. The survey found that marital status and gender anti-discrimination statutes are more common than laws banning sexual orientation discrimination. Yet sexual orientation laws are also far more likely to feature religious or conscience exemptions than laws governing
    gender or marital status discrimination.

    Based on this data, we conclude that if same-sex marriage is recognized by courts or legislatures, people and institutions who have conscientious objections to facilitating same-sex marriage will likely be sued under existing anti-discrimination laws—laws never intended for
    that purpose. Lawsuits will likely arise when religious people or religious organizations choose,
    based on their sincerely-held religious beliefs, not to hire individuals in same-sex marriages,
    refuse to extend spousal benefits to same-sex spouses, refuse to make their property or services
    available for same-sex marriage ceremonies or other events affirming same-sex marriage, or
    refuse to provide otherwise available housing to same-sex couples. This wide-ranging conflict
    between governments and conscientious citizens would take years of litigation to resolve,
    assuming that it could be resolved."

    Educate yourself:

    http://www.becketfund.org/files/34a97.pdf

  • GLo CT

    The idea of being part of a faith community that won't let you be who you are… or expects you to be celibate to conform to their beliefs… or takes your tithing, but rejects who you are… I just don't understand why gay people put up with that nonsense.

  • Yale 08

    The United "Church" of Christ and the Episcopal "Church" are simply facades.

    They long ago abandoned any pretense of religion, except self-religion.

    They worship each other. They worship politics. They worship life on this earth.

    They long ago abandoned any sense of Truth.

    They are awash in a sea of relativism.

    Their numbers are dwindling. The ENTIRE Episcopal Church is the size of one Catholic diocese.

    Look at their gray hairs.
    Look at their "life partnered" couples incapable of producing children.

    The demography is not on their side. In another few generations they will disappear.

    I wish I could say the same for the Yale Divinity School.

  • yale2010

    @Glo CT

    It's simple. Because they know that their faith is NOT nonsense. Faith is more than community, ya' know.

  • Anonymous

    Yale 08-

    Lots of bold statments there. Care to back …oh…any ONE of them up with some reasoning?

    Part of open dialogue is explaining yourself. Otherwise, especially in this kind of forum, you come across negatively. When in fact you may (or may not) have compelling/interesting thoughts.

  • div school student

    @Yale 08

    What do you have against the divinity school? Why do you feel so strongly the need to belittle other people's beliefs and their desire to do good for the world?

    Come up to Marquand Chapel and worship with us, or even just share coffee hour with us. You are very welcome here and we would gladly have you - 10:30 chapel, 11:00 coffee hour.

  • Yale 08

    What do I have against the Divinity School?

    I saw enough as an undergrad to realize that:

    The average academic profile of a Div School student is incredibly below the high standards Yale sets for undergrads, law students, SOM-ers, Med students and even the general grad school.

    Combine that with a horrific sense of self-worship, attachment to the typical laundry list of liberal interests, and a detachment from historical/traditional Christianity.

    What do you get?

    The Yale Div School- diluting the value of REAL Yale diplomas since 1822.

  • ExStr8

    The rant of Anonymous at #6 sure is familiar to anyone who remembers or has studied the evolution of human rights.

    Remember "separate but equal"? I can just hear the objections of those religious bigots ringing in my ears: "Next thing you know they'll be wanting to come to our schools, drink at our water fountains, swim in our pools, eat in our restaurants!"

    Why, the big Sodom Baptist Church in Atlanta even hired armed guards to keep African-Americans from entering the "sanctuary" to worship!

    And don't even mention inter-racial marriage--these "religious" folks will faint dead away! "God made them black and white for a reason!"

    And they broke John Lewis's head and assassinated Martin Luther King. And an eleven year old child just hanged himself because of being bullied….

    Your civil rights impinge on my bigotry and prejudice!

  • Anonymous

    absolute waste of print space.

  • Hieronymus

    Gads! Yale '08 is stealing my material!

    Funny tangent: I went to a UU sermon t'other day, all about the majesty and wisdom of Islam. I found myself amazed at the a)hypocrisy or b)naivete as the congregation--usually so "open and affirming" of its (large) homosexual contingent--bobbed its collective head to the beat of a religion that demands death for homosexuals and will. never. change.

    Coulda been an Episcopalian sermon anyhoo.

    "Earth-based faiths" indeed…

  • Haydon

    @#12

    "…and even the general grad school"?

    Hello? Do you have any clue how high the standards of admission are for the graduate school?

  • Yale 08

    @Haydon,

    The grad school is selective, yes.

    But there is a self-selection bias for that kind of academic endeavor.

    The SOMers, the Med Schoolers and the Law schoolers occupy a vastly different talent demographic than the grad school.

    @Hieronymous,

    I wish we had some way to communicate! We agree too much on these comment pages!

  • ExStr8

    You know, it is amazing. Yale College seemed to produce a war criminal effortlessy, and the University brought him back for an honorary degree.

    But the damned Divinity School! The University had to bring in a foreign war criminal at incredible expense to teach those folks a thing or two!

    You think a drunken undergrad-like fraternity would help?

    Boola! Boola!

  • Chewy

    Are homosexual behaviors/marriages/unions embraced by the bible?

    "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. (Lev 18:22)

    How can any serious bible-based denomination spin this? End of story.

  • es07

    Damn Chewy, I hope you haven't let a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee!

  • Jordon Walker

    This is entirely repugnant and in total disregard to the morality and teaching of Our Lord Christ Jesus. It is abominable that the divinity school and any institution that calls itself a church would condone immorality of this nature. If people chose to engage in immoral actions that is their choice but it should not desecrate the sanctity of The Church.

  • ExStr8

    If Chewy, #19 above, wants to be a Levite, good luck. There are archaic rules aplenty.

    Jordon Walker, #21 above, apparently doesn't know that Jesus didn't mention homosexuality, at least according to the Bible. That's right, the Jesus whom Jordon calls "lord" and "christ" did not say one word about Lesbians and/or Gays.

    Jesus did say something which I think speaks directly to my Lesbian and Gay sisters and brothers:

    "Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets." Luke 6: 22 & 23

    And, although it isn't high church, I hope all of you good couples will find a place in your ceremonies for the great Lesbian love song of Ruth and Naomi: "Whither thou goest I will go." We've let the straight folks use it all these years without appropriate attribution. It's time to claim it as our own.

  • yaylie

    I agree with Yale 08's assessments of the Div School based on anecdotal evidence. Every person I've met from there has come across as weird and unbalanced. This article appears to be some sort of sordid mockery of "Tying the Knot," a quite enjoyable read that appeared in the News a few weeks back. I would not judge Episcopalian / UCC adherents though. Would you guys prefer that they be vehement atheists instead? Perhaps, one day, at least some of them will decide to resolve their cognitive dissonance by becoming true believers.

  • Chewy

    Exstr8:
    Umm, your interpretations of the bible are laughable, but keep on embarrassing yourself, the comic relief is all good. And yes, let's give lesbian love songs the same credence as the bible in determining the issue of homosexuality! LOL!!

    In the meantime, try this, from the pen of Paul, which speaks directly to the issue of homosexulaity:

    "Do 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 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10)

    End of story.

  • Curious

    Of course, Paul didn't write in English. I'd be interested in someone who knows about such things commenting on the quality of the translation upon which you depend.

  • Javen

    Chewy, could you please tell me which word(s) in the Greek text of 1 Cor. 6:9-10 below translates to "homosexual offenders"?

    ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν; μὴ πλανᾶσθε: οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται οὔτε κλέπται οὔτε πλεονέκται, οὐ μέθυσοι, οὐ λοίδοροι, οὐχ ἅρπαγες βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομήσουσιν.

    And, once you've done that, could you please tell me how you have determined the English translations of these words? (i.e., Did you use a Greek-English lexicon? Did you consult other ancient Greek sources to see how these words were used in other contexts?)

    Thanks for your help. I look forward to your insightful response.

  • New-YDS-Student

    There are problems with both sides…

    Hiero and Yale08
    Some of your objections are valid, but dont you think you are making broad generalizations? You seem to think that everyone at YDS in either unworthy of being associated with Yale or is a Godless heretic (or some mix of the two).
    Personally, I worked hard in UG, made highest honors, PBK, blah blah blah… would I have made it into another Yale school? Who knows. But I wanted to study religion, not law, medicine etc. Different standards for different fields my friends. Also, while visiting YDS I met several people who had amazing work exp, advanced degrees, etc. They all seemed exceptionally qualified to be there.

    As for ExStr8 and those of like mind.
    Yale08 and Hiero have a point. What the Episcopal church and United Church of Christ have been doing flys right in the face of historical Christianity. Put the rhetoric aside, If we were to somehow talk to Jesus, Paul, the Apostles, etc. Or even the Church Fathers generally and said. "Look what we did! After all this time we realized you were actually the forerunners of secular humanism, and we have decided to marry gays, ordain anti trinitarian bishops, and question the virgin birth, under God's roof"

    They Would excommunicate without flinching.

    I dont need to be a fundamentalist to realize how tragically the left-leaning churches have sold out. I dont even need a bible, the entire history and tradition of Christianity until only the last century or so backs me up.

    And as for that last century, I dont think God changes his mind on a whim.

    In conclusion, dont blame YDS, blame so called christian churches willing to warp their ideals to win more filled seats on Sunday.

  • Stephanopoulous

    ἄδικοι
    μαλακοὶ
    ἀρσενοκοῖται
    arsenokoitai (no coitus in the arse) no, really, just kidding: "he who couches men…"

    No, really, kidding again!

    Paul, in exasperation with the Corinthians, scolds "Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?" He then gives an illustrative list of the sorts of persons he means: "fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, malakoi, arsenokoiyai, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers."

    The word malakoi is not a technical term meaning "homosexuals" (no such term existed either in Greek or in Hebrew), but it appears often in the Hellenistic Greek as pejorative slang to describe the passive partners -- often young boys -- in homosexual activity. (Note: the Koran also makes references to "passive" and "active" partners, referencing specific practices not uncommon around that time--or now).

    The other word, arsenokoitai, is not found in any extant Greek text earlier then I Corinthians. Some scholars have suggested that its meaning is uncertain, but Robin Scroggs (The New Testament and Homosexuality) has shown that the word is a translation of the Hebrew mishkav zakur ("lying with a male"), derived directly from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and used in rabbinic texts to refer to homosexual intercourse. The Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) of Leviticus 20:13 reads, "Whoever lies with a man as with a woman [meta arsenos koiten gynaikos], they have both done an abomination." This is most certainly the idiom from which the noun arsenokoitai was coined.

    Thus, Paul's use of the term presupposes and reaffirms the Holiness Code's condemnation of homosexual acts.

    In I Corinthians 6:11, Paul asserts that the sinful behaviors cataloged in the vice list were formerly practiced by some of the Corinthians. Now, however, since they have been transferred into the sphere of Christ's lordship, they ought to have left these practices behind. The remainder of the chapter counsels the Corinthians to glorify God in their bodies, because they belong now to God and no longer to themselves.

    I Timothy includes arsenokoitai in a list of "the lawless and disobedient," whose behavior is specified in a vice list that includes everything from lying to murdering one's parents, under the rubric of actions "contrary to sound teaching according to the glorious gospel." Here again, the Old Testament prohibition is presupposed.

    'zat help?

  • ExStr8

    Superbly done, #26 Javen!

    Now, #27 New-YDS-Student

    Let's do talk about "historical Christianity." I'm specifically interested in your comments about:

    misinterpreting Sodom--bearing false witness
    slaves obey your eartly masters
    the subservience of women
    the Crusades
    the Inquisition(s)
    Galileo

    Why only the last hundred years? What part of the Enlightenment earns your approval?

    Where is "God's roof"? Where two or three are gathered together?

    And do explain "This is how everyone will know that you are my disciple; that you love one another." Jesus forgot to mention that you had to suffer the delusions of the trinity and the virgin birth?

    What about the venality of a church leader who claims that condoms don't prevent the spread of AIDS?

    Who should excommunicate whom?

  • New-YDS-Student

    I find the parellel between revisionist politicians/judges and liberal theologians most amusing. What is modern or politically correct becomes more valuble than what was intended or dare I say, true.

    1. Give me your take on Sodom, as it stand your statement is too loose for me to give commentary.

    2. Yes, In the Spirit of non-aggression, witness to the faith, etc. etc. Paul said Earthly slaves should obey their masters. How is subjecting yourself in this manner any different than say, non-aggression against pagan Rome? Earthly concerns are always second place in the New Testament. Which is why I find the idolization of "social justice" to be the most dangerous threat to come from within the Christian Church since the Enlightenment (which we will be getting to, now wont we?)

    3. Why equality? Equality entails struggle and opposition. Why not harmony? Yes, God made two genders for a reason, each with its own roles and duties. It is our choice whether we follow Paul and the Holy Spirit which led him or secular society's view of equality as our basis for action.

    Fortunately Im not in the business of defending Rome's doings. Primarily because I dont think Jesus or the Apostolic church would have approved of them, just as they wouldnt have approved of 90% of the agenda of the churches that Yale08 and Hiero take issue with.

    Same with the Inquisitions.

    Same with Galileo.

    Do you really take the "Enlightment" to be a Christian age. It was the cornerstone of humanism (which sadly is what some of the left leaning churches seem to be heading for).

    When did love become equatible with condoning immoral acts? Way to strip a verse out of context my friend. If you love someone you will correct their errors, not give the thumbs up to a path of self destruction.

    One Problem, You are working from Sola Scriptura, just because it is not in the Bible doesnt mean Jesus didnt say something, or that something is not a valid part of Christian theology. The gospels even say that Jesus gave the apostles other teachings not recorded by letter. Holy Tradition does wonders for most the problem currently faced by Christendom.

    Bishops.

    before this goes further though, all in good spirit of our academic path, right ExStr8 :-)

  • Javen

    Thanks, Stephanopoulous, for contributing something meaningful to this conversation.

    Your arguments regarding μαλακοὶ and ἀρσενοκοῖται are compelling. It's worth noting, however, that not all New Testament scholars share your interpretation of these two words. Yale's own Dale Martin reaches very different conclusions about the meanings of μαλακοὶ and ἀρσενοκοῖται in an essay in his book Sex and the Single Savior.

    1) μαλακοὶ

    Martin notes that most English translations of the New Testament from the 16th to the 20th centuries translated μαλακος as "effeminate," and that it was only with shifts in sexual ideology in the 20th century that the word came to be translated "male prostitute" or "homosexual pervert."

    Martin's research suggests that "Malakos can refer to many things: the softness of expensive clothes, the richness and delicacy of gourmet food, the gentleness of light winds and breezes. When used as a term of moral condemnation, the word still refers to something perceived as 'soft': laziness, degeneracy, decadence, lack of courage, or, to sum up all these vices in one ancient category, the feminine."

    But the willingness to be penetrated isn't the only thing that could make a man malakos. "The category of effeminate men was much broader than that. In philosophical texts, for example, malakoi are those people who cannot put up with hard work. Xenophon uses the term for lazy men. For Epictetus and the Cynic Epistles, the term refers to men who take life easy rather than enduring the hardships of philosophy. In Dio Cassius, Plutarch, and Josephus, cowards are malakoi. Throughout ancient literature, malakoi are men who live lives of decadence and luxury. They drink too much wine, have too much sex, love gourmet food, and hire professional cooks. According to Josephus, a man may be accused of malakia if he is weak in battle, enjoys luxury, or is reluctant to commit suicide. Dio Chrysostom says that the common crowd might stupidly call a man malakos just because he studies a lot--that is, a bookworm might be called a sissy…. Malakia, therefore, was a rather broad social category. It included, of course, penetrated men, but many others besides."

    In the final analysis, "the real problem with being penetrated was that it implicated the man in the feminine, and malakos referred not to the penetration per se but to the perceived aspects of femaleness associated with it. The word malakos refers to the entire ancient complex of devaluation of the feminine." In the ancient world, "it is better to die than be less than a man. Or, perhaps more the point, any sensible person would rather be dead than be a woman." The word μαλακοὶ has more to do with men who do the unthinkable, willingly surrendering their superior masculinity and adopting inferior feminine behaviors. For the ancients, this was nothing less than self-imposed dehumanization--and THAT'S why penetrated men were shunned. So to say that μαλακοὶ refers to "homosexual perverts" is simply false.

    2) ἀρσενοκοῖται

    Martin rightly points out that attempts to construct the meaning of words by looking at their component parts are naive and indefensible. "Understand" has nothing to do with "standing" "under," nor does "chairman" have anything to do with "chairs."

    In the case of ἀρσενοκοῖται, Martin seeks to determine how the word is used in as many different contexts as possible. Unfortunately, there are few uses of this word in other ancient contexts, a point alluded to in Stephanopoulous' post above. However, where Martin DID find the word in other ancient contexts, it was usually found in a long list of several vices. And this research yielded an interesting fact: the word arsenokoites "often occurs not where we would expect to find reference to homosexual intercourse--that is, along with adultery and prostitution or illicit sex--but among vices related to economic injustice or exploitation…. It seems to have referred to some kind of economic exploitation by means of sex, perhaps but not necessarily homosexual sex." Martin cites five such vice lists containing the word arsenokoites. Here's one, from the second-century Acts of John, in which John condemns the rich men of Ephesus: "You who delight in gold and ivory and jewels, do you see your loved (possessions) when night comes on? And you who give way to soft clothing, and then depart from life, will these things be useful in the place where you are going? And let the murder know that the punishment he has earned awaits him in double measure after he leaves this (world). So also the poisoner, sorcerer, robber, swindler, and arsenokoites, the thief and all of this band…. So, men of Ephesus, change your ways; for you know this also, that kings, rulers, tyrants, boasters, and warmongers shall go naked from this world and come to eternal misery and torment." It would seem strange to me in this context if ἀρσενοκοῖται referred to "men who lie with other men," wouldn't you agree?

    Again, Martin suggests that ἀρσενοκοῖται deals with exploitation, not with "homosexual acts." Like him, I would like to know "why some scholars are certain it refers to simple male-male sex in the face of evidence to the contrary. Perhaps ideology has been more important than philology." Really? Ya think?

  • Stephanopoulous

    The short answer is: the heteronormative majority will (rightly, IMO) interpret the words for what they most likely meant (in other words, it is "normal" to criticize "non-normal" behaviors).

    Those interpreting the words otherwise typically have an agenda, are seeking to find some alternative to what is fairly obvious to most (the old "you know what I mean" argument).

    Paul is being quite clear with the rest of the list; why would he be obscure, risk misinterpretation, when, really "we all know what he meant."

    One can deconstruct words in any way ("What is truth?" Mr. Socrates?), but in general, Occam's insights are the best insights. Paul wasn't writing to Yale scholars: he was writing to a congregation of sinners.

  • 2010

    It is amazing how this discussion became more fruitful once we dispensed with generalized castigations of faceless groups and actually discussed matters of substance (on both sides of the debate). I really appreciate Javen's in-depth analysis of the word μαλαkος and αρσενοκοιτης, for it highlights the difficulty in dealing with words that occur no more than a two or three times in the New Testament.

    However, I guess my concern is how one should approach, or handle, 'ethical' dicta that were laid out 2,000 years ago for the NT and some 2500-3000 years ago for the OT. Especially when something is addressed only a handful of times between both Testaments (once in the OT and 2 or 3 times in the NT).

    That is, should we not 1) analyze such proclamations in historical context (see Leviticus and Philemon [hint: it has to do with slavery]); 2) recognize (whether one likes it or not) that ways of understanding ethics changes over time; and 3)be more concerned with the over 'tenor' of scripture (love God and neighbor, etc.) than with the minutia of 'regulations' (cf. Gospels)? It seems that if one focuses on these aspects then one will be more in line with the teachings of Jesus and Paul. My concerns, then, are more methodological at this point, and I would be interested to see what others have to say.

  • Chewy

    In my church, homosexuality is condemned. The Pope condemns it and the bible condemns it. There's no use in attempting to change what the bible says;it just can't happen in a bible-based religion.

    Here's another verse from Romans on being homo:

    "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper."

    Not for nothing, but how come noone can cite a verse that says ~ "OK, be gay all you want"

    Deconstruction and poor attempts at semantics can in no way change His will. BTW, what we call today homosexuality changes so darn fast it's laughable ( queer, gay, swish, limp-wristed :-) on and on), but the word/intent of the bible is clear: no homosexuality.

  • P'12

    @Chewy,
    As a Catholic, I'd like to clarify that neither the Pope nor the Bible condemn homosexuality.
    What is condemned is homosexual sex (which has been debated and dissected in this forum at length already).
    Check out http://www.princeton.edu/~anscombe/resources/homosexuality.htm for further arguments (mostly from a secular or new natural law stance).

  • Eddie

    It's true that Christians are taught to love the sinner, hate the sin, but the bible and the pope are clear on condemning homosexual sex, as has been cited above shown. I don't think we need any dubious websites or spinners, just the bible as cited above.

  • Eddie

    P'12

    LOL, you can't use "secular or new natural law" in this discussion and expect to have any credibility here.

    Yep, the Vatican most certainly does condemn homosexuality and homosexual sex.

  • ExStr8

    That "Vatican" is a wonderful source or moral decrepitude.

    They condemn condoms contrary to all the overwhelming scientific and medical evidence, not to mention basic epidemiology.

    They failed to condemn a single bishop in a great moral failure in US church history. And one of the greatest moral offenders, Bernard Law, was reassigned, but to a cushy job in Rome!

    Oh, and the Vatican condemned Galileo… Took 'em almost 400 years to "apologize"!

    And yet, the Vatican has never apologized for the Crusades or the Inquisition(s)…. And they never got around to excommunicating Hitler; he died and was buried a baptized Roman Catholic!

    And, of course, we can't even discuss Joe Rat and the Nazi Party! I can tell you about 6 million Jews who never joined the Nazi Party!

    Great place, that Vatican.

  • Eddie

    Nobody said anything about the Vatican having no shortcomings--which is kind of irrelevant anyway- only that it speaks for the Catholic Church in denouncing homosexuality. BTW, tens of millions would tell you that Catholicism has saved their lives.

    Keep in mind, though, that insulting the figurehead of the most popular religion in the world is probably not the best way to charm folks into expanding their tent to include homosexuality. Perhaps though, it only proves their point that homosexuality ( and its proponents ) stands firmly outside of their church.

    I'm an Jewish and homosexuality is condemned in my tent. My friend is married to a Muslim, and homosexuality is denounced by her religion as well. Homosexuality is offensive to more than just Catholics.

    I'm sure that, for homos, the level of exclusion seems high, but that shouldn't mean they resort to attacking others' religions and their beliefs. That's just going down the wrong road. Instead, stop spewing the hatred and find someplace where you're welcome; only then will you be truly gay.

  • What fools these mortals be.

    As noted by the late Dr. Roland H. Bainton, (50 years on the Yale Divinity School faculty and author of Here I Stand, Abingden Press's all time best selling autobiography of Martin Luther), "There is a text in the Bible to prove anything you want, even Genocide:'Go and kill the Hitites and Canaanites, every single one of them'".

    Another Yale scholar, the late John Boswell, analyzed every text in the Bible related to homosexuality in his groundbreaking book Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality. The conclusion? Most are mistranslations. They refer not to gender specific sexual behaviors, but to hospitality customs, etc.
    As to the calibre of Yale Divinity School students: Senator John Danforth; William Sloane Coffin, Jr.?

    What does the undiluted Yale boast: Presidents who engage in immoral wars? in adultery? and deregulated greed which cripples millions?

    One is fascinated by the visceral quality of hatred in some of this comment board's responses, as if the speakers' very masculinity or femininity was threatened by what other people do with one square foot of their bodies?

    My my. What fools these mortals be.

  • PS

    "Autobiography" would be a neat trick. I meant "biography" obviously.

  • Knock Off the Criticism of your Ancestor

    As this article based on the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica states, Yale was originally intended to be a seminary. The "Divinity School" of 2009 is the vestigial survivor of that 1701 creation:

    YALE UNIVERSITY, the third oldest university in the United States, at New Haven, Connecticut.
    The founders of the New Haven colony, like those of Massachusetts Bay, cherished the establishment of a college as an essential part of their ideal of a Christian state, of which education and religion should be the basis and the chief fruits. New Haven since 1644 had contributed annually to the support of Harvard College, but the distance of the Cambridge school from southern New England seemed in those days considerable; and a separate educational establishment was also called for by a divergent development in politics and theology. Yale was founded by ministers selected by the churches of the colony, as President Thomas Clap said, to the end that they might "educate ministers in our own way." Though "College land" was set apart in 1647, 1 Yale College had its actual beginning in 1700 when a few clergymen met in the New Haven with the purpose "to stand as trustees or undertakers to found, erect and govern the College" for which at various times donations of books and money had been made. The formal establishment was in 1701. The Connecticut legislature in October granted a charter which seems to have been partly drafted by Judge Samuel Sewall of Boston; the Mather family also were among those in Boston who welcomed and laboured for the establishment of a seminary of a stricter theology than Harvard, and the ten 2 clergymen who were the founders and first trustees of the College were graduates of Harvard . . .
    The charter of 1701 stated that the end of the school was the instruction of youth "in the arts and sciences," that they might be fitted "for public employment, both in church and civil state." To the clergy, however, who controlled the College, theology was the basis, security and test of "arts and sciences."

  • Congregationalist v. UCC

    BTW: The United Church of Christ was a beauracratic concoction cooked up by closet radicals in the 1960's (including a Yale Divinity School faculty member) who thought old fashioned Congrgationalists were racist and anti-feminist and that their refusal to join any religious organization larger than their own local white steepled church's congrgation prevented the radicals from enlisting moderate congregationalists in the radical cause.
    I suppose there was some truth to their complaint and that their creation of UCC was the religious analogue of Johnson's Civil Rights Act, but my what
    loss for individual rights and integrity (even the integrity of stupid opinions) it represents.
    When the religious history of this last century is written it will be bureaucracy which has become the new idol and we the idolators.

  • ainm chara

    "I'm sure that, for homos, the level of exclusion seems high, but that shouldn't mean they resort to attacking others' religions and their beliefs. That's just going down the wrong road. Instead, stop spewing the hatred and find someplace where you're welcome; only then will you be truly gay."

    Why shouldn't "homos" (what a quaint phrase) attack what is obviously wrong and false? The Bible is a contradictory collection of myths, fables, fictions and outdated laws; and the same may be said of any supposedly divinely inspired text. Those who claim to have been helped by such texts have in fact unwittingly helped themselves, while those who draw strength from religious institutions draw on the simple power of community alone.

    Many wonderful people are religious, but the doctrines on which they base their lives are themselves rooted in fiction. For the sake of humanity, the "homos" as well as the rest of us should be free to point this out.