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Friday, February 08, 2013

(This is the third post in a series emphasizing resources on LGBTQ issues)

Here are the books I think are essential for the non-specialist. Certainly others could be added. These have shown themselves to be especially helpful to me.

What Is Homosexuality?

Calhoun, John B. “Population Density and Social Pathology.” Scientific American 206:139-148, 1962.
Definitive study of effects of overpopulation that produce homosexuality in animals.

Greenberg, David.  The Construction of Homosexuality.  The University of Chicago Press, 1988.
The definitive work attempting to show that homosexuality is socially constructed as opposed to essentialist (inherent within the individual). Scholarly, yet accessible.

Minor, Robert N.  Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay people and Why It's so Hard to Be Human. Humanity Works!, 2001.
A thorough-going constructionist approach to gender issues.  Clearly shows how gender and sexual roles are created and reinforced and why deviance is punished.  Offers a way out of heterosexism into healthy sexuality for everyone.

Mondimore, Francis Mark.  A Natural History of Homosexuality.  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
Essential! Provides a comprehensive yet highly accessible overview of all aspects of current scholarship on homosexuality (except biblical).  Eminently readable. This book is a must have, but you will have to get lucky with a used book seller.

Interpreting the Bible

Borg, Marcus J.  Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally.  HarperCollins, 2001.
An easy, yet powerful introduction to biblical interpretation that takes modern science, other faith traditions and biblical critiques seriously.  Helps the reader understand how to separate the words of the Bible from the Word of God.

Boswell, John.  Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. The University of Chicago Press, 1981.
Easily the most extensive and comprehensive study of the questions central to Christianity and homosexuality.  His work in exegeting scripture is groundbreaking. Everybody must deal with Boswell, and he=s not easily contradicted.  Although he is considered an "essentialist", he is sympathetic to the constructionists.

Brawley, Robert. L., Editor.  Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture. Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.
Noted biblical scholars deal with such issues in the sexuality debate as how to make ancient scripture accessible to modern readers, what scriptures to listen to and not to listen to, background information on the ancient Near East, and not all are written from the same point of view.  Fills in many of the holes left by others.

Countryman, L. William.  Dirt, Greed and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today.  Revised Edition,  Fortress Press, 2007.
Perhaps the finest exegesis of biblical passages relevant to homosexuality.  Although it is often heavy going, the payoff is well worth the effort. He presents a convincing case that Romans 1 has nothing to do with sin, along with a couple of hundred other compelling observations.

Furnish, Victor Paul.  The Moral Teachings of Paul.  Abingdon Press, 1985.
Provides good background material that sets the New Testament "clobber passages" in their social settings.  Undermines the common mistranslations and misinterpretations that lead to homophobic reading of the Bible.

Helminiak, Daniel A.  What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality (Millennium Edition). Alamo Square Press, 2000.
This is the book to begin with! (Since Mondimore did not cover the biblical material.) He explains in clear and readable fashion the latest scholarly research on the so-called "clobber passages" of the Bible.  Very useful as a refresher to the "Beyond the Bible and Homosexuality" seminar.

Jordan, Mark D.  The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology.  University of Chicago, 1997.
A scholarly investigation that explores the historical development of the "sin of Sodomy". Traces how the church in the Middle Ages invented a sin that did not exist prior to its invention, and shows its long-standing effects on same-sex relationships.  This is not easy reading, but very rewarding.

Nissinen, Marti.  Homoeroticism in the Biblical World.  Fortress Press, 1998
Surveys the ancient Near Eastern literature contemporaneous with the Bible and sheds light on how to understand biblical concepts of sexuality.  Demonstrates the erroneous procedure of confusing biblical and ancient concepts of sexuality with modern concepts.

Scroggs, Robin.  The New Testament and Homosexuality. Fortress Press, 1983.
A core volume that treats all the relevant New Testament texts in a scholarly but readable fashion.  Some say it's the best resource of its kind.

Biblical Theology

Alexander, Marilyn Bennett and James Preston.  We Were Baptized Too: Claiming God's Grace for Lesbians and Gays.  Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.
Challenges the church to take seriously its understanding of baptism and communion as means of grace, justice, and liberation. Charges the church with abandoning gays and lesbians who they baptized with the promise to accept, love, forgive and nurture, and calls the church to repentance.

Countryman, L. William and M. R. Ritley.  Gifted by Otherness: Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church.  Moorehouse Publishing, 2001.
This proactive and self-affirming book provides new hope for the lesbigay community, their families, and their communities, confidently appropriating and re-telling the biblical story of this unique and gifted minority's spiritual journey.  In short, it's about being gay and Christian from the inside while not repudiating the larger church.

Johnson, William Stacy.  A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics.
William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006
Straight lawyer-theologian ties gay affirmation to biblical theology by using the categories of creation, reconciliation in Christ, and redemption.  Also offers excellent reasons for gay marriage.

McNeill, John J.  Taking a Chance on God.  Beacon Press, 1996.
A former Roman Catholic priest speaks directly to gay and lesbian Christians about why it makes sense not to abandon the faith.  His writings reflect the anguish and despair many gays and lesbians feel and offers life-giving options that all can embrace and be made whole.

Scanzoni, Letha Dawson and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.  Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Response.  Harper & Row, 1994.
Groundbreaking work in 1978 that looks at homosexuality from scientific, psychological, and biblical perspectives. Completely revised in 1994.  A wide-ranging synthesis of a lot of material found throughout this bibliography.  If you only read one book on the subject, this is it!

Homophobia and Its Consequences

Blumenfeld, Warren J.  Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price.  Beacon Press, 1992.
Points out the hidden costs of homophobia in family relationships, religious institutions, social policy, and many other aspects of our lives.  Offers concrete suggestions for transforming attitudes, behaviors, and institutions.

Fone, Byrne.  Homophobia: A History.  Metropolitan Books, 2000.
Chronicles the evolution of homophobia through the centuries. Deals well with biblical texts, particularly on Sodom and Gomorrah.  Especially good at describing the sexual understandings of antiquity.

Jung, Patricia Beattie and Ralph F. Smith. Heterosexism: An Ethical Challenge.  State University of New York Press, 1993
Takes apart the sociological underpinnings of heterosexism and exposes their harmful effects on us all.  Particularly good at helping gays and straights alike see how we are all imprisoned in certain false assumptions about reality that we need to be freed from in order to be truly human.  Particularly useful in helping the church to understand the larger issues and offers a way to reform the church and society.

Gay Life in America

Bawer, Bruce.  A Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society. Touchstone, 1993.
Refutes the arguments used by antigay activists to stir groundless fears and hostility, and also offers a frank critique of an unrepresentative gay subculture that falsely equates homosexuality with promiscuity, hedonism, and political correctness. Great book to share with your friends who believe homosexuality is only sex, sex, and more sex.

White, Mell.  Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. Simon and Schuster, 1994.
The founder of Soulforce and former ghost writer for Jerry Falwell, Pat Roberston and Billy Graham, shares his struggle to be gay and Christian.  The single best first-person look at how a God-fearing man tried every conceivable means to rid himself of his "abominating affliction" only to discover that God loves and accepts him just as he is.  More than any other book, this one is convincing evidence that the center of the homosexual life is truly no different than that of the heterosexual.

History of the Gay Rights Movement

Clendinen, Dudley and Adam Nagourney.  Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America.  Simon and Schuster, 1999.
The best single volume of the history of the gay rights struggle in America. It answers some nagging questions such as why the movement is so diverse politically, why gays and lesbians originally couldn't get along, and why the movement can't settle on a unified vision.

In Defense of the Traditional Interpretations

Balch, David L., Editor.  Homosexuality, Science, and the "Plain Sense" of Scripture. William B. Eerdmnas Publishing Company, 2000.
Ten scholars, progressive and conservative square off in debating the issues.  Gives a good overview of the different ways of doing biblical interpretation.

Gagnon, Robert A. J.  The Bible and Homosexual Practice.  Abingdon Press, 2001.
The most current defense of the traditional understanding of homosexuality and the Bible. Most traditionalists view this as the best defense to date.

Hays, Richard B.  The Moral Vision of the New Testament.  HarperSanFarncisco, 1996.
Chapter 16, on Homosexuality, offers a highly nuanced interpretation of the relevant passages in the New Testament.  Some consider this superior to Gagnon's.

Schmidt, Thomas E.  Straight & Narrow? InterVarsity Press, 1995.
Attempts to answer the nontraditional arguments for acceptance of homosexuals. Offers scriptural exegesis, deals with whether or not people are born with homosexual orientations, and takes on John Boswell.  Wants to "hate the sin but love the sinner".  Fails.

Reparative Therapy

Besen, Wayne R.  Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.  Harrington Park Press, 2003
An expose' of the ex-gay and reparative therapy movements from the inside.  Shows the connections between them and the radical right, and the damage they do.

Same-sex Marriage


Peterson, Eugene H.  The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. NavPress, 2002.
This is the only Bible that even comes close to dealing with the "clobber passages" with integrity.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Third Edition. Michael Coogan, Editor. Oxford University Press, 2001.
The notes in this Bible deal well with the "clobber passages."

What to say to your friends about the Bible and homosexuality

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