Introduction – Take Back the Word (2 of 23)

Take Back the Word book cover

Goss, Robert E., and Mona West, eds. Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2000).
AZ | BN | WC

This post is part of a series of posts on the anthology Take Back the Word.

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The introduction to Take Back the Word shows us that the anthology is a reclamation project. The authors recognize that the Bible has been used as a weapon against LGBTQ people in the past, and they (along with the other authors in the book) to provide different ways of reading. The Bible contains “texts of terror” (drawing from Phyllis Trible’s book of the same name), but we can “out the Bible” (drawing from Nancy Wilson’s Our Tribe) in order to find more positive readings. The authors of the introduction identify the book’s hermeneutic as reading the Bible as a friend:

When we approach the Bible as a friendly text, as a text that ‘does no harm’ [drawing from John Wesley, I believe], the terror of Scriptures is transformed into the life-giving Word of God. (5)

This is a highly optimistic view that the authors don’t explore much, except to give brief summaries of the chapters that follow. I’d be intrigued to know whether the aforementioned texts of terror can indeed be read in a friendly way; they don’t say how friendly we can be with the Bible. But the introduction has provided an encouraging foretaste of what we’ll see in the rest of the book, laying the (very brief) groundwork for a positive queer reading. I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

My Queer Purposes

This blog is an idea that has been bouncing around in my head for a while. I subscribe to many blogs about Christianity and biblical interpretation, and I also read a lot of blogs about queer theology and LGBTQ people in the church. What I haven’t found yet is a blog specifically about queer interpretation. Which is why I’m writing this today.

I want to begin with what makes this blog different. For me, queer interpretation (or hermeneutics, or criticism, or commentary—whichever you prefer) is a very separate field from queer theology, the two being divided along the (albeit unstable) binary of theology and biblical studies. Whereas queer theology focuses on the history of theological thoughts, queer interpretation would focus more on the history of theological writings. Whereas queer theology emphasizes new views of God for today’s Christians, queer interpretation is less concerned with what said in the pulpit. Queer theology is (obviously) theology, but queer interpretation falls under the auspices of biblical studies. This distinction is necessarily reductive and overgeneralizing, but some effort at distinguishing the two is helpful.

I want this blog to be different. Allow me to illustrate: Patrick Cheng has posted on the wonderful blog Jesus in Love, and he has a new book out in which he lays out his recent theological work in imagining Christ in different queer ways. I recognize this as valuable to Christianity, but I want look at the Bible more specifically and from a queer lens.

What is queer interpretation, then? To queer is to read a text from a particular viewpoint and using particular tools. For example, the historical critical method uses original languages, archaeology, history, and literature to piece together what the text meant to its original audience(s). Feminist criticism employs concepts and findings from feminist scholarship in today’s time to re-read the Bible. Queer criticism follows feminism’s postmodern trajectory by reading the Bible alongside writings from the realm of queer theory. Thus, for my purposes, Michel Foucault’s insights are just as important as those in the Anchor Bible Commentary. Judith Butler is just as important as Hermann Gunkel. Eve Sedgwick is just as important as the Journal of Biblical Literature.

This blog will be queer look at the Bible. I intend to write on books I read on queer subjects and on passages from the Bible that I find interesting. Lately, I have been inspired by my own research, especially with books like Queer Commentary and the Hebrew Bible and the Queer Bible Commentary, but there are many others that I find useful. Occasionally, I might drift into LGBTQ activist politics, but I’m going to attempt to stay pretty textual. I am interested in my own and others’ reading of biblical texts. Part of this effort is simply to keep myself engaged in scholarly material during the summer between school years, and part of it is to develop my own scholarship by expanding my horizons.

These are just the basics. Look for more about queer commentary later. I hope this blog can be an exciting addition to the discourse on religion in the blogosphere. We’ll see what happens. Please join my queer journey.