When one’s neighbors have a sacred book which they believe and claim is literally ”˜the words of Allah,’ it can be very tempting to make similar claims for one’s own sacred book. Once that kind of claim is made, it can be very difficult to concede that every faithful person, every faith community, picks and chooses which passages to emphasize, and which to set aside”¦.The BOOK, which is THE GOSPEL, cannot be compromised.
South Sudan is surrounded by other nations with very strong laws concerning homosexuals. They are under tremendous pressure to conform to prevailing norms and taboos, especially since the Bible seems to them to be clear on the topic. Our scholarship is not something they can embrace without putting themselves at odds with both religious and secular beliefs (both traditional and legal) and seeming to be ”˜unfaithful’ to the Book, while their Muslim neighbors are clearly being faithful to their Koran.
It has taken many years and some degree of effort for many of our brothers and sisters to realize that the Gospel is far more than a book ”“ it is the living, continuing presence of Christ, it is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, working to make sure that all people know God’s redeeming love. They are beginning to learn the value of Tradition ”“ which is never static ”“ and Reason ”“ through which we learn about God in very many ways. But many of the leaders have still not been able to study as clergy have in the West, and it will be many more years, I’m sure, before we come to anything like a common understanding and interpretation of sacred Scripture ”“ and in that process we will undoubtedly learn a great deal from them!
Finally, we must remind ourselves that even though we interpret the Bible in different ways, even though we live in a very different society, it has taken us until the 21st century to come to a place of acceptance regarding members of the GLBTQ community. We didn’t begin talking openly about the topic of sexuality until the 1960s, and we live in a culture which prizes free speech and relatively open discussion.
It is unreasonable for us to expect that people who live in very different circumstances, where women do not yet have the same legal rights as men, where harsh treatment of children is deemed acceptable, where addictions, STDs, and mental illness are not understood, and where people cannot bear to have open conversations about such things, to accept our position on human sexuality without struggle and questioning..