“Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible”– making room for us

Goss, Robert E. and Mona West, editors. “Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible”, The Pilgrim Press, 2000.

Making Room for Us

Amos Lassen

“Take Back the Word” is revolutionary in that it presents new and resistant practices that challenge some of the prevailing patterns. Those “authorized” readings that we are familiar with do not allow room for us, the oppressed people. The main idea of the book is that if we take back the “word” for ourselves, we must do so in a new way. It is not just the text itself that oppresses us but the harassment textually by its “authorized” readers. After all, the Bible was written by people like us—marginalized and on the fringe of culture. And we are the new victims of harassment by the text, before us it was the Jews who were condemned because of non-belief in the New Testament. Other groups and other religions have followed but gay people have always been subject to this type of being shut out.

We know now that Biblical interpretation is not much more than stories and the interests of the group doing the interpretation. It is the power they have and they also decide how to apply what they read. The Bible is a powerful book which makes it potentially dangerous. Those who read and interpret it have formed a rather loose historical weapon which has the power to kill and destroy as well as console and inspire and comfort. If we, the GLBT community, want to take back the Holy word, we must do so in a new way, a way that will try to obviate the potential to do harm and have its message of love and liberation be its main point. We must reject the normative authority and doctrinal policy which readers of the Bible perceive. We cannot reject the main ideas of the Bible as a code of law or in the beginnings of the formation of religion but we must reject theological claims of the authority of the Bible as a primary guide for all life in both today’s world and the world of the future. The Bible should always be a book we love and value but we must look at it and value it as only one source among many others that is used to provide funding for our future possibilities of being members of those things that are being done.

The book is divided conveniently into three sections: “Queer Strategies for Reading”, “Taking Back the Hebrew Scriptures (which I found to be particularly of interest), and “Taking Back the Christian Scriptures”. Each section then contains a series of articles about the overall topic. I was mesmerized by “A Queer Reading of the Book of Jonah” by Sharon Bezner and “Nehemiah as a Queer Model for Servant Leadership” by Michael Piazza. These tow chapters made the entire book worthwhile for me.

This book is very readable and gives deep insight by Biblical scholars who challenge some of the long held assumptions that the Bible is not for members of our community. The book gives us hope and I think it is a must read for anyone who cares about his place in society and the world. We get to see an open space around some Biblical passages that were sealed tight for ages. This alternative approach allows for scripture to come to life once more. No new dogma is presented but rather a new way of reading which we so badly need. It simply tells us that to read s to interpret and that our reading is influenced by who we are, where and when we live and all the other factors that affect our perception and perspective. Some of it is down to earth and some of it is scholarly—there is something for everyone.

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