Protestant theologian Walter Brueggemann once compared LGBTQ people to canaries in a coal mine, likening these proverbial birds to society's most vulnerable members. Determining how the canaries are treated, says Brueggemann in an interview with The Witness, "is always the test case about whether we are following Jesus."

Earlier this spring, Krista sat down with Brueggemann in our studios. In the audio clip excerpted here, he explains why he thinks gay and lesbian sexuality "has such adrenaline" in and beyond church communities. For Brueggemann, there's no point in having a theological discussion about homosexuality. He thinks homophobia is a proxy for people's ill-defined fears about an old world order that's rapidly disappearing:

"It is an amorphous anxiety that we’re in a free fall as a society. And I think we kind of are in free fall as a society, but I don't think it has anything to do with gays and lesbians particularly."

Last week in New York, that collective "amorphous anxiety" got trumped by Governor Andrew Cuomo's dogged push for social change with the passage of the Marriage Equality Act by the state legislature.

According to The New York Times, Governor Cuomo gathered all of the state's Republican senators at his home to plead his case for the bill's passage. "Their love is worth the same as your love," he reportedly told the senators. "Their partnership is worth the same as your partnership. And they are equal in your eyes to you. That is the driving issue.”

Share Your Reflection



I believe the idea of  "proxy" is a good one. We are in free fall. It is scary. But God will get us through the scary and might just surprise us (God will.)

I, too, agree we are currently in free fall and am surprised people seem to be just going about their business as if things were normal.  Ken Carey's books are treasures of information on what's really happening.  Check them out (perhaps Living in the Third Millenium: Living in the Post-Historic World).  Finally something that makes sense of the whole crazy chaos around us.  This is the time when love will triumph over fear and everyone, individually, must make the choice between the two--to align with the chaff or the wheat, 'me-centeredness' or 'we-centeredness.'

Check out, too, The Mayan Code by Barbara Hand Clow, or other late information about the Mayan calendar.  Another way of saying the same thing.  It's the end of days and that's great news, if we live in love instead of fear.

Love is accepting of others differences, fear is not.  Judge not lest ye be judged.

@vazquez_j: Could you please expand a little on "yes, there is"?

I disagree. I feel that we need to continue theological discussions on homosexuality, because this is the prime source of homophobia. People need to realize that what they read in their English Bible is a translation of an interpretation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. By going back to the original text in the original language, one can find many alternative meanings other than the single one suggested by godsbuster. One is that the Leviticus quotes refer to same-gender prostitution in Pagan temples. Another is that a literal translation from the original Hebrew condemns two men having sex but only if it is on a woman's bed. Another is that the passages condemns men having sex as with a woman -- that is not as equals but with one man dominating the other completely. See

My friend - I can read the Bible in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic...and I can tell you that what you are saying is demonstrably false!  Nice way to try to get around those texts...but it just does not work!  The Bible clearly condemns a homosexual lifestyle from OT to NT.  I recommend you read Richard Hays in The Moral  Vision of the NT on this subject!

I would be very careful about saying the Bible "clearly condemns" on this topic. Leviticus 18 and 20 are the only two instances in the entirety of the Old Testament that even remotely comment on this topic, and they sandwich a very ambiguous collection of texts that are very difficult to interpret in the modern world. Many of the tribal laws found in the Book of Leviticus fell out of practice by the end of the Old Testament. In the book of 2 Samuel (which comes later), several of these ritualistic laws were not only no longer in practice, and the Hebrews’ relationship with God began to be expressed in radically different ways. On the other hand, some of the laws (such as the Ten Commandments) come straight out of Leviticus 19. Jesus even points to Leviticus 19:18 (“Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”) as the Second Greatest Commandment in the Bible.

I would recommend strong words of caution before proclaiming with confidence that the Old Testament is "clear" on this one.

As for the New Testament, the only words that are accredited to speaking on this topic come from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians and Paul's letter to the Romans. You've made clear your credentials in Greek and Hebrew, so you know very well that the Greek words Paul uses here are aresenokoitai, which refers to male-specific same-gendered pederasty and "malakoi," which translates literally into "soft ones" - a word which, among many connotations including "sissies" and "dandies" was also Greco-Roman slang for young boys who were often passive
sexual partners in prostitution. In the Roman empire (which included the port city of Corinth), male prostitution was commonplace and was frequently a sign of social class. It was common and even expected for the wealthy upper-class male to be seen penetrating a social inferior as a sign of one’s dominance and even one’s manhood. This was also a double-standard. To be penetrated by someone of a lower social class than you was seen as a disgrace – and even criminal!

What’s more, they were not willing participants in prostitution commerce – they were often captured by military and army personnel as prisoners of war. This is by far, the most likely explanation as to what the Pauline authors refer to as “fornicators, sodomites, [and] slave-traders” in 1 Timothy 1:10. This also explains why the Pauline author makes a point to contrast the specific behavior he is condemning with anything based out of love (1 Timothy 1:3-7). This cruel, inhuman, and barbaric was not only vehemently protested by Paul, but also Josephus, and the Jews in Paul’s time. Before we consider comparing the behavior which Paul and his contemporaries were condemning to loving, committed relationships today, this historical background may be important to our understanding

Forgive me if I'm only regurgitating information you already know, but with all due respect, the implications of the language, you claim such an intimate understanding reflect the possibility that the issues confronted by the Biblical tradition are not always as black and white as we might desire in the modern world.

We have the same problem still today. Rather then trust in plain speech, learned men and women try to seek higher meaning or to twist the words to make them say what they want.  I believe that it was said best during the Pres. Clinton hearings... That depends on what your definition of "is" is. I believe God plainly inspired and said what he meant.

Walter Bruggemann's moral and religious sensibilitie are so sharp. He claims that the amorphous anxiety entailed in the unraveling of an older order attaches to this issue, but has little do with it. Consequently, the theological arguments are moot. I would add that the particular nature of sexuality and gender plays a significant role in this displacement. We are already anxious around gender and sex, its intoxicating powers and fearful addictions, its pleasures that can both affirm and dissolve the self, the attendant ectasy and terror of love and being loved, of desire and being desired, the "little death" of orgasm that gives life, except if we fail to hold an erection or conceive. As well, gender is code for all social order, for the way of the world, for the stable and inevitable way things are. The first question when a baby is born is "what is it?" As if all depends upon a single certainty of belonging. All of these and more all already present in sex and gender and so it so are well attuned to represent the free floating anxieties of any age.