Let’s Talk about Abortion (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 12)

Numbers Chapter 5, Verses 11 thru 31…

It’s called “The Test for an Unfaithful Wife,” and it goes like this.

If a man believes that his wife has committed adultery but has no proof, he is to bring her to a priest.

After an offering, he takes the sand in the Tabernacle and mixes it with holy water.

He places a curse on the concoction. If she has remained completely faithful to her husband, then nothing will happen. But if she has slept with another man, the curse will force her womb to miscarry and her abdomen to swell.

She must say “so be it” and drink it.

And then, they wait for the truth to become evident. A miscarriage equals infidelity.


I have no interest in throwing my hat into the abortion ring in this setting. I am writing this blog to discuss my personal journey through a queer lifestyle with a strong Christian past. It goes without saying, however, that abortion is a polarizing issue, one with two sides that are often attached to religious affiliations.

Pro-life. Pro-choice. Anti-choice. Pro-abortion. The Church has a clear opinion – a crystal clear one. They value the life of the unborn child no matter the circumstance.

So my question is… has anyone in the Church read this passage?

Let’s not mince words. This passage describes a biblical abortion. More than that, a forced biblical abortion. The word “choice” may be synonymous with “abortion” nowadays, but there is no choice in this proposed scenario. In Old Testament times, men could force their unfaithful wives to miscarry bastard children. Yes, it is true that most modern Christians often disregard the Old Testament Law, but all the same, I found this shocking.

20 years as a devout Christian, and somehow, no one ever mentioned this to me. And the reason why is obvious.

It creates a huge problem. 

A common theme throughout this journey has been the willful ignorance of the Church when it comes to sticky topics. Homosexuality was rarely discussed with me as a child, because no one wanted to acknowledge its existence. It was as if any fair conversation about it would somehow be a tacit endorsement of its legitimacy. There were no fair conversations. There were only proclamations about its sinfulness and subsequent nods of approval.

We don’t discuss this passage, because it confuses the Church’s message on abortion. It’s that simple.

How can I be asked to give myself completely over to faith in God if there are certain parts of His sacred text that are ignored?

The price of admission to Christianity has to include the acknowledgement that the Bible does talk about forced abortion. It does have talking donkeys. It does have angels breeding with beautiful women to create half-human, half-angel hybrids.

So please, let’s discuss it. And then, with all the information on the table, we can decide if we choose to believe it or not.

A Fate Worse than Death (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 11)

“Are we all going to die?”
Numbers 17:13b (NIV)

This is starting to get a little repetitive.

I’ve bopped around the Law for two weeks now, and it is beginning to blur together. The constant barrage of outdated laws was one thing – I was prepared for that when I embarked on this project-within-the-project. But I never expected the outright nihilism.

The Israelites have rebelled five times. God has killed a large percentage of His followers for insolence. There have been frequent stonings and burnings; viciously described sacrifices; the rise and fall of false gods; starvation; dehydration; fire and water engulfing thousands of people at once. When will it stop?

Throughout this, I have had one constant question in my mind: What is the point of all of this? I mean this both internally and universally: Why free the Israelites from one torturous situation just to deliver them into another? And then why retell the story to modern-day believers?

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

God is sick of all the nonsense. A Levite named Korah speaks up from among the crowd. The Israelites are all holy, he announces. Stop the plagues. I’ll get us to the Promised Land. But Moses warns against speaking up so loudly against God. Korah does not stop. He takes his family and followers before the assembly and opposes Moses. So Moses warns them again. They do not stop.

Then in retaliation, God opens up the Earth and drops them and all their possessions into the “realm of the dead.” But they do not die, oh no. We are told that they fall alive into this netherworld (Number 16).

The Israelites watch in abjection. Then, they mourn. They wail. They yell, “Are we all going to die?”

A valid question. Their needs are not met; they are uncomfortable and lost. Some of them even begin to cry out for death, which is solace compared to this lifestyle.

But oh no, God has a realm of the dead available for punishment. There is a fate worse than death, and it is where they are all headed if the moaning continues.

I am exhausted reading this – flat out depressed. I am engaging with a group of Israelites that I don’t like and a God that I can’t relate to. Merry freaking Christmas.

I never thought I would say this, but I miss the Laws. Let’s go back to Laws and give the stories a respite. At least the Law is theoretical. All this real-world smiting is getting me down.

The Great Regression (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 10)

…Not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times – not one of the will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors.

Numbers 14:22-23a (NIV)

Things have not turned out as planned for the Israelites. God demanded their freedom. He threw down some nifty plagues and signs. Armies? Defeated. Ocean? Split. Then came thirst, so He sprung water from a rock. Starvation settled in next and so – manna. The Israelites wanted and wandered, and so God thus gave and guided. But they just could not help from complaining. They succumbed to a resilient nostalgia of their lives of yesteryear (when they were enslaved, remember). Such insolence.

The tension starts mounting. The people wail for their resources back in Egypt, so God rains down fire on the outskirts as punishment. Then, they claim boredom from their palate of food, so God shifts the winds to provide quail for nourishment (though, really, it is a veiled punishment, as He vows to send so much quail that they will all get sick from even the thought of it). Then, Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses due to the foreign ethnicity of his chosen wife. Oh, so now Moses’ best friends reveal that they are not-so-secretly racist? And the finally, the climax.

The people rebel. They think that God, through His holy proxy Moses, is leading them astray, straight into the arms of their enemies. They consider stoning Moses and Aaron and starting anew, but God steps in. He vows to destroy every last one of them, until Moses intervenes and begs for their forgiveness. Remember Your promise, he says. So God backs off, sparing their lives, but not before completely reevaluating His plans.

The Israelites will keep their lives, but the Promised Land is no more. They will wander in the desert until they die. And the next generation – the blameless souls who did not witness the Exodus from Egypt – they will instead inherent the land flowing with milk and honey. The matter is settled, God says. Now go on and wander, you little a-holes.

Let me just say: I am relieved to have a respite from the Law (which will come rushing back this time tomorrow), but this little intermission is rather bleak for our heroes. God throws down a late act twist on us – those we have come to love are now an increasingly potent force for evil, and the prophecies laid down for them have been reversed. It’s like a movie that ends with the realization that it “was all a dream.” This negates a ton of what we have come to understand about our God, and yet it solidifies other aspects.

We get it. Don’t piss off God. You have made that point dozens of times, Bible. But this newest curse is a game-changing event. This is the first time that God completely reneges on a promise. He swore to these Israelities that they would see their homeland of Canaan, but through their sin, He changed His mind.

In other words, God changed…

Sort of. Or maybe not.

He changed His mind, which some might argue is His prerogative. But these little moments in the Bible always set off my logic alarm. If God is all-knowing… wouldn’t He have seen this coming? I have to disregard thoughts like that, because that would allow an all-encompassing nihilism to creep into the picture. Instead, I have to imagine that God – if accurate to the Bible – does have human emotions, which means – He is capable of change. He changes His mind. Maybe He also changes His values?

Or maybe not.

Just a few more days of the Law, and then we enter a much more story-based section of the Old Testament. I’m looking forward to that. Aren’t you?

Church Is Boring (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 9)

That’s right, I said it.

Catholic mass is especially boring. My traditional uncle asked me to be a junior groomsmen at his wedding when I was 12-years-old, and I excitedly agreed (like I even had a choice). I got to wear a tuxedo, which made me feel like James Bond, my personal hero. So I bought a little cap gun, I donned my tuxedo, I shoved the gun in jacket pocket for posterity, and I took part in the wedding.

And it was so boring. All I had to do was sit still for an hour and try to look vaguely interested. But the priest started chanting monotonously is gibberish (read: Latin). Then there was a sermon. A sermon? Really? At a wedding? Then communion. Then more chanting. Then the priest held up the Bible and started humming Do-Re-Me, I swear. And as I fought the urge to sleep, as well as the impulse to take my cap gun and play-execute everyone, I had a thought. Is this what heaven is like? Forever and ever of this crap? And thus began my fear of heaven – and eternity. Who would want a forever of this?

My protestant church was archaic. Not so much in its presentation – there were far less “ceremonially” elements than the Catholic counterpart – but it certainly needed a revamp. The kids at the congregation called it “big church,” because to us, it was meant solely for “big people.” Because there was nothing there to hold the interest of children. The sermons were too complex. The hymns dragged on for far too long. They forced us to take communion as well. I told my mother that the cracker needed salt. She told me she wasn’t taking me to big church anymore, because I clearly was not ready for it. She was right. Is heaven like this? I wonder what hell is like? Maybe I should give hell a shot. My mother decided to send me to the church service designed for elementary-aged students.

But “kid’s church” was asinine. The leaders smiled too much, and they tried too hard to make connections that were obviously nonexistent. My parents had never sent me to our church’s summer camps, which was where all the kids has become close friends, so I was on the outside. Typically, I sat in the back row and played my Gameboy up until the moment the service started. They gave out raffle tickets and awarded prizes. Such tactics to engage. Yawn. They sang Christian rock songs in place of hymns, but they were so repetitive, and no one dared to sing it above a whisper. None of the strategies to engage y young mind worked. I was disengaged.

But not all churches were boring. Black churches, for instance… They were the absolute best.

I started dating this girl Briana over the summer between sixth and seventh grade, and as a hang out idea, we decided to attend each other’s churches. She came to my kid’s church first, and she was the only African American person there. We sang our worthless songs. We sat through our worthless raffle. She functioned well and even pretended to have a good time, but secretly, I was embarrassed for her. What lifeless worship.

But the next week, we went to her church. Singing and dancing up the aisle. Three voluptuous black women crying their hearts out on the edge of the stage. A boisterous pastor spouting the positive aspects of a faith in God (imagine that). Altar calls that felt unforced. Singing with actual group participation, above the volume of a mouse. Some of the congregation even seemed to be praying in different language, which sounded almost like gibberish.

To everyone in that room, church was the absolute best part of the week (imagine that).

When I arrived home after the church date, I told my parents all about the experience, and a minor look of concern came across their face. The behavior I witnessed, they said, was something called “speaking-in-tongues” or “charismatic” for short. I wasn’t so sure they had it correct. I had seen people speak in tongues on the TV, often in association with fake healing rituals, and this seemed much more legitimate, much more heartfelt.

But for some reason, my parents did not seem thrilled by this type of worship. Not like evil, but just a tad wayward.

Which made me ask:

Is heaven like our church, or is it like Briana’s church?

I could see their wheels turning, like they suddenly had to make up an answer.

So they said: Maybe it is both. We have our place in heaven, and they have theirs.

Oh. So heaven is segregated.

I never understood why everyone loved the idea of heaven so much. As an adult, I get why people want to go, but as a kid, there’s nothing to conceptualize it. It is just not dying. That is the only appeal. Unless there are roller coasters and televisions aplenty. What is fun about worshipping God? There has to be something to it. Most people seem to enjoy it.

 

 

Do Not Worry About Me (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 8)

My fall from faith is surprising for some of my older friends as well as my family. My mother particularly had trouble understanding how such a strong believer – who chose to be baptized in front of his congregation at the age of seventeen – could possibly change so drastically. This whole project pivots on this idea: mapping the descent from my spirituality to secularity. My mother asked me, What happened? I honestly don’t know. A hole was poked in my tires, and I noticed the damage years later. Who can remember all the details?

I do not scoff at my mother’s question or her concern, and I certainly do not blame her for it. Let me be clear: my mother loves me on an intense level, and her worry for me outweighs her sense of self-protection. She wanted a life for me that I am not living. And I respect the vision she had for me. She wanted me to experience the pure sense of joy she received from finding a relationship with the Lord, and her fulfillment from that lifestyle is anything but misguided. In fact, it is eternally enriching for her. She found a husband who loved her and who continues to love her. She bore a family which remains close knit yet diverse. Her faith in God resulted in a completely fulfilled life, and simply, it worked incredibly well for her. She lived in a self-described bubble of chaos until she discovered the church. The vitality of the Christian lifestyle resulted in her legitimate contentment. Why wouldn’t she naturally want the same for her children?

But our testimonies are entirely different from one another. She grew up under the umbrella of lazy Catholicism that eventually blossomed into a fully devoted (Protestant) spirituality. I, on the other hand, never knew any life outside of Christianity until I reached college. Furthermore, her coming to faith was the direct result of her profound search for meaning in life. Mine was entirely endowed. I prayed every night before bed, because I was told to do so. I studied the Bible intensely, because it was expected. And those who influenced me did not do so in order to maintain some cult-like community for their own selfish amusement. They taught me to follow God, because they genuinely believed that it would do me right. They taught me, because they believed in it.

So, needless to say, she was apprehensive about me starting this project, but her concerns were not solitary. I had non-Christian friends who questioned my goals as well. Why study a book that hates you? They asked. Why engage in something that has caused you so much grief? This sentiment was resonated by a different friend of mine, an atheist father who learned that his son had found Jesus. Why does he want to be Christian? Anything but Christian! The Bible is so hateful! This was a father so liberal and accepting, that the idea that his son could stray into any sort of old-fashioned idealism was unimaginable and even unbearable. My response: They are far worse habits to fall into than Christianity.

I understand the concern from both ends. My liberal friends want to protect my newfound boldness, and my conservatives ones want to ensure my continuity. Neither is crazy, and neither is hurtful.

So why did representatives from both perspectives fear this journey for me? Why did they recommend skipping it altogether?

I stated in my opening essay, as my first sentence no less, that I was a wayward soul. I don’t think that applies anymore. Instead, I am an identity in flux. For the first time in my life, I am actively engaged in my own spiritual development, and I have taken ownership over the inclinations of my soul. An identity in flux may be uncomfortable to witness, but it should not inspire fear. Instead, it should serve as a reminder that what is understood must be earned, and that anything else is subject to change.

Context (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 7.2)

Let’s recap the noted rigidity of the Old Testament law.


During the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God commanded Lot and his family to look away from the destruction. Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.

(Genesis 19:26)


Onan was commanded to impregnate his brother’s wife. He did not want to and spilled his semen outside of the womb. He was immediately put to death.

(Genesis 38:9)


God demanded that fires burned in His honor were to be built a certain way. Aaron’s two sons added unauthorized incense. God grew the fire and consumed them.

(Leviticus 10:2)


God commanded everyone to rest on the Sabbath. A man was gathering sticks for firewood on the Sabbath. God commanded him to be stoned to death.

(Numbers 15:36)


And that is just to name a few. I think it is clear that God is not messing around with His laws.

So that makes this story all the more shocking:

It was one of the first Passover celebrations since the Israelites had left Egypt. God commanded earlier that those who were ceremonially unclean were to be separated from the rest of the community so they would not make others dirty in the eyes of the Lord. However, there was a dilemma. Some of the members of the community were ceremonially unclean but still wanted to participate in the Passover festival. If you are Moses in this situation, what would you say?

No way! You saw what God did to Lot’s wife and Onan and Aaron’s sons and that guy gathering sticks!

Right?

But there is a bit of context in this situation. The Israelites had become unclean through no fault of their own. Numbers Chapter 9 recounts the story:

But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

Logic dictates that this is a reasonable request. Why should they be barred from participating in one of the High Holy days just because they encountered a dead body? But we know what this God is like. We know Him to be unflinchingly rigid. Well here is what He said:

“Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover.”

In the political world, this is what they call a flip-flop. God set forth a clearly stated commandment and then, when approached with a gray situation, decided to allow an exception that was guided by a logical understanding of the dynamics.

This is a thunderous new precedent. It opens up the possibility that God allows His stated rules to be bended given certain circumstances. I don’t know about you, but I found this passage completely unbelievable! Here we have a clear example of where the statutes put forth in the Word were altered given a specific context. That is huge! If I were a lawyer during this period, I would have been fist pumping the air and cheering at the top of my lungs. We have precedent! We have proof that God can be swayed given the hearts and minds of His followers!

This might be my new favorite passage of the Bible. And I might be the first person to ever dog-ear this page. So be it. I have always had alternative tastes anyway.

Context (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 7)

Let’s create a context. A traditional Mexican cantina in Downtown Atlanta. A mariachi (cover) band warming up for a performance. Table side guacamole. An almost empty chip bowl. A booth next to a window. Outside: A failing sun, streaks of brake lights along I-85, a mid-autumn bluster. Across from me sits a friend named Samantha. Actually, a “friend.” We were set up by a mutual acquaintance, and I said yes to it, because as a rule, I generally say yes. We had run out of discussion topics, and now we were fighting over the crumbs of the chip bowl and avoiding eye contact. Samantha broke the tension.

So what’s one of your strengths?

Great. An interview question.

I said: I work with autistic children.

That’s not really a strength. That’s just what you do.

Okay. You’re right.

I’m not letting you out of the question.

What were you asking again?

What’s something you are good at?

I’m good at working with autistic children.

You said that.

(This date was not going well)

So I said: I feel like I can empathize with anyone.

Anyone? Like even bad people?

Yeah. Anyone.

What about bad people?

(She just asked that)

You just asked that.

You empathize with bad people?

Yeah.

Like what about a thief?

Sure. I think, why is that person stealing? They must have a reason, something that went wrong at some point.

What about a murderer? 

It might be hard to empathize at first, but I think that yeah, even –

What about Hitler?

Uh…

See! You can’t empathize with everyone.

(She had defeated my sensibility by throwing in the Hitler trump card)

(This was our first and last date)


There is an ongoing fight over context, and how we are to understand the rules set forth in the Bible. I have catalogued well over 350 laws of the Torah since beginning my little project-within-the-project, and unsurprisingly, the majority of them have been unflinchingly rigid. Most follow the structure of “Do not [blank]” or “You must always [blank].” This does not leave a ton of room for context.

For instance, one of the Ten Commandments says simply “Do not kill.” That seems like a simply worded law that is fairly easy to follow. Most of us will never enter a situation where that thought would even cross our minds.

Do not kill. Done.

But on second thought, maybe there is a time when killing a person is acceptable. Maybe there is a context where that rule applies.

What if my life was threatened, is it okay to kill then?

What about in times of war?

What about the death penalty in situations of violent, pre-meditated crimes?

What if Hitler was standing RIGHT THERE?

But wait. The law is simply worded. It is concise and straight forward. “Do not kill.”

Huh.

Did the Israelites ever take context into account? Was there truly any wiggle room when it came to the rigidity of these laws?

The answer is a resounding yes.

(To Be Continued)

Put Me to Death (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 6)

 Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.

Leviticus 24:14 (NIV)

westboro

Westboro Baptist Church

Defiance has never been pretty.

Leviticus 24 takes us on a horrific aside involving one of the first examples of the rigid endgame to God’s laws. An unnamed man blasphemes God, and so the Almighty himself retaliates by ordering his death by stoning. He commands all the witnesses to lay their hands on his head while the rest of the community carries out the heavy lifting. And so in order to remain obedient, the people carry out the will of God. They drag this man out and stone him according to the words of God.

This passage speaks to one of the most brutal elements of life in this culture – public execution with group participation. Those that viewed the crime with their own eyes are required to hold down the head of the accused, while the rest of the community grabs the boulders to do the rest. This notion of communal accountability was mentioned in an earlier law, when God commanded men to speak up when they witnessed a sin. It is no wonder that groups as severe as the Westboro Baptist Church carry signs at funerals and scream at passersby. If they are to understand the Law to be completely relevant… well, God commands them to do just that, to carry out the punishment themselves. I would never make an excuse for the criminals who participate in such hatred, but their actions do warn us to the potential of taking these Laws to their most literal extreme. Here is a group of individuals who believe wholly in the word of God, most especially the ugly parts. Sure, even the most conservative Christian would probably agree that the Westboro folks certainly pick and choose their theology, but isn’t that most people’s modern approach towards religion – to take what applies and leave the rest? These haters just took all the negative parts.

So modern LGBT individuals have learned to be defiant in the face of discrimination. Extremist Christians might have the WBC, but gays and lesbians have drag queens. Take, for instance, Mama Tits – the affectionately named drag queen who argued with Christian protestors outside of Spokane, Washington’s Pride parade. I am embedding a video below, but here is a transcript of some of what she said:

“Why don’t you read your own book and actually follow the teachings to the letter of God and learn to support and love. You need to drop the hate. You are a sad, sad excuse for a human being. Once you learn to drop the hate, you too can find happiness because we will welcome you with open arms if you learn to open your minds. Not today Satan, not today!”

…Transcribed by Towleroad.com

This falls in line with a ton of the LGBT defiance that I see. Some people like to bring up the fact that Jesus never specifically mentions homosexuality (which is true). Other pundits like to bring up the archaic nature of the Laws in the Old Testament, and how it appears that we’ve tossed some out while grapple holding a few others (also true). But these simplistic views of the conflict between homosexuality and theology fail to take into consideration the nuance of the human condition.

At its core, I truly believe that Christian-bred homophobia is a product of intense fear. Yes, there is certainly a heavy measure of “I don’t like thinking about two dudes making out,” but it most definitely goes deeper. Most religions offer one of the best coping mechanisms for the problem of mortality by offering believers a way to achieve eternal life. But Christianity specifically calls its followers to minister to those around them. However misguided it may seem, when Christian people tell you that they are “praying for you,” it just means that they honestly worry that you will be going to Hell by acting on your desire. Before, I was enormously offended when friends of mine said, “I’m praying for you throughout this whole situation.” I felt like responding to them, “Pray for yourself, I’m just fine!” I had that rush of anger, because underneath that sentiment, they were really saying, “You are wayward.” I hated that feeling and still do. But now, when someone says that to me, I view it as a sign of love; or at its worst, arrogance. At least that person is not holding up a “God Hates Fags” sign. At least there is that.

I am not suggesting that defiant drag queens and outspoken queer people are getting it wrong in their approach. I just wonder what other strategies there may be – what other conversations are left to have. If God is listening to all of this, He doesn’t seem to concerned with stoning the infidels anymore. We don’t drag out sinners and hold their heads during their much-deserved capital punishment. Instead, we talk.

So let’s see where talking gets us.


Here’s Mama Tits on the front lines:


 

Gay is Bad (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 5.2)

(This is the second part of a two-part entry. Check out the first part here)

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Leviticus 20:13 (NIV)

No desire goes unpunished. Enter my headspace at 16-years-old, and recall that my worst nightmare was being queer in any way. What I wanted more than anything was to marry a woman and start a homegrown life. The normalcy of it all attracted me. The predictability of knowing the ins and outs of the suburban life – the 9 to 5+, weekends off, vacation weeks piling up. I dreamt of being a tenured college professor or a mathematician slowly uncovering the sheets of Chaos. But nothing too fancy. Just a life to live out with the warmth of companionship and the love of legacy – meaning children and lots of them. I wanted just that and nothing more; my dreams were altogether unselfish. Desire was never really part of the picture, because I had no concept of what it meant. I draw a heavy distinction between these two driving forces: want and desire. To want is to consciously decide where you would like to go and what you would like to have. To desire is something much more primal. It is to yearn for something in an uncontrollable, animalistic way; to become drawn to something like your life depends on it. I wanted a woman and all that it meant. But I desired something else. And from an early age, before I had the language for queerness, I knew that my want and my desire did not match up. And I started fighting to correct it.

Dan suggested it. It will be perfect: the nor’easter, the snowstorm, parents stuck in Boston. We’ll drink to keep us warm and watch shitty TV. He was right – it all appeared to be working out perfectly. He trudged over as the snow began, with a saddlebag filled with gin and a base supply of snacks. He arrived just as the weather started to get bad, so he stripped off his soaked outer layer and retreated with me to my house’s affectionately named “play room.”

Teenage seduction is either rigid and painful or loose and drunk. We chose the latter, because the former would require weeks of slow build up to achieve. This needed to happen, and most of all, it needed to happen tonight. Time for a shortcut. Let the gin flow. My memory gets fuzzy around then. We watched some tv show, we drank gin or maybe whiskey or vodka or scotch or skunked wine, we moved in on one another at sunset or 8 pm or after the TV fell asleep or as the snowfall crusted from the wind. I don’t know.

The language of sexuality is spoken completely in subtext. And even after we transitioned from drunken friends to stumbling quasi-lovers, we still could not muster the strength to speak the words out loud. Instead, we thought it and looked at each other until the shame knocked our glances off kilter. And by the end of the night, when we had spent all our energy in making this feel right, we acquiesced and passed out.

I struggle to recall the details of that night: what we watched, who touched whom first, and how we ended up from the bottom floor to the bedroom. But I do remember the desire. And I remember the cost.

The cost: no wife, no kids, no stability. I could forget all the want, because now I was a rebel. Instead I had my desire, and it was something I could not avoid for long. But the cost, the cost, the weight of ditching one dream in hopes of a tangible reality (the reality of life as a queer man), that cost. The cost of life was an eternal death and societal castration, that cost. The neon lights pointing me towards freedom also put me on a conveyer belt straight into damnation, that cost. The cost of touch, the cost of desire, that cost.

It was 100% worth it.


Today is a light day when it comes to new laws, as we have only added 30 odd statutes. The majority of today’s reading, which ended at Leviticus 24, outlined the punishments for some of the laws previously mentioned. Not surprisingly, most involved death by stoning or burning, but some only required banishment. My only astonishment came from a law forbidding anyone with a disability from entering holy places. Talk about a condition that is incontrollable…

Gay is Bad (Jesse Interprets the Law: Pt 5)

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

Leviticus 18:22 (NIV)

Everyone wants to know when I realized that I was queer. This question is sometimes misstated as “When did you decide to be gay?” and I do my best not to choke when I hear it. While some may be fishing for trauma or an entertaining coming out story, I think that most people are merely curious about what makes us different. Queer sexual orientation is an interesting form of otherness, as those within its parameters can often “go undetected” in the general population. No mother ever gives birth, holds her newborn child, and exclaims angrily, “Oh my goodness, it’s gay?!” If only it worked like that – that queer boys and girls were born with a birthmark or a symbol so that everyone knew right away. Then, we wouldn’t have so much explaining to do later on it life when it becomes more obvious. And then maybe some of the more incredulous people wouldn’t have such a hard time believing it. Some people think that it is a choice, and that is just fine. I know what the real statement is hidden underneath. Some people think that acting on homosexual desires is a choice, and they are right. I spent many years willfully abstaining from romantic contact with a male, and it was absolutely my choice. It was just a bad one.

I knew I was queer when I looked at another male romantically and knew that it was wrong. This was a different moment than the first time I felt attracted to another male – that happened much earlier – but I will save that story for another time.

I mentioned in my opening essay a story about a Jewish boy and me, but I left most of the details on the cutting room floor. See, I met Dan at the start of my junior year of high school. Despite being in the grade below me, we were the same age, and we took to each other pretty much immediately. Actually, there was a third person in our group, Jamie, and the three of us kept together during the weekends. We would either take over Jamie’s Dad’s apartment and camp out in the living room, or set up in Dan’s loft bedroom, which overlooked the valley of the main line. We never spent time at my house, because my house wasn’t really a “hang out” house. Too many rules, I guess. I never designated that, but it just wasn’t really good for sleepovers. The house was small, so voices carried easily, so that meant we had to be quiet. It just wasn’t a “hang out” house.

So in Jamie’s apartment or Dan’s loft, it did not matter. I only drank a handful of times in high school, and every time was with them. I liked drinking with them, but not really for the effect of the alcohol. In those moments, as we passed around the pilfered whiskey bottle, I felt a romance with a lifestyle wholly different than mine. This was what “high school” looked like in movies, and while I never explicitly asked for it, I wanted it all the same. It was the same with sex. I scoffed at the idea of premarital sex, because frankly, I never really had the opportunity, or rather, the opportunity never seemed appealing to me. Until one day, it did.

I thought Jamie was an alcoholic, because he used to sneak in a flask to school. He developed these drunk eyes that hung low and back in his head. Before long, Jamie wanted everything we did to be enhanced with booze, and it just wasn’t my scene. One drinking session lingered on for a month or so, and I never went back before I was ready. Dan noticed the shift in Jamie as well, so we decided to go off on our own.

But maybe it wasn’t that. Maybe we split off for more reasons than just Jamie’s creeping depression. Though, to be honest, Dan and I did not have much in common. Sure, we both liked theater, but neither of us could sing, so we didn’t take it seriously. We liked most “normal adolescent” things just okay: sports, pop music, The O. C., among other conversation topics. Also as I mentioned, we were in different grades, so we had no homework chit-chat and inter-personal gossip that might pique our collective interest. No, there was something between us altogether different. And it wasn’t tangible.

More tomorrow…


As a complete side note, the context in which the infamous homosexuality rule is mentioned is particularly hilarious – one that speaks to the concerns of the “time” and the continued relevancy of the Law. Immediately prior to forbidding sexual contact between two men, we are told to resist the following temptation:

Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek…

Leviticus 18:21 

That is a modern dilemma I think we all constantly find ourselves in.


The number of laws is growing exponentially as we wrap up another densely littered section of the Law (there was even one verse with four separate laws!). We also added so many clean v. unclean laws that it has spawned a whole new section called Health. Finally, our much anticipated Sexuality & Relationships finally added some rules, including the aforementioned law against homosexuality.