The Old Fool felt for gays and lesbians because he listened to their life stories and believed them. Scholars did not convince him because scholars can not always agree. However, he still respects scholars and their findings. Walter Wink was a scholar.
In 1979 Wink was asked by the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church to do a biblical analysis of the issue of homosexuality. He undertook the assignment with his usual attention to details. The result was an essay that Wink felt was his most objective study.
The gist of Wink’s findings was that the Bible has no sexual ethic. Instead, the Bible reports a variety of sexual “mores” (pronounced: mo-rays.) A more (mo-ray) is a pattern of behavior practiced by a particular people, time and place. Mores may change from time to time, from culture to culture.
Wink believed that most readers would agree with the Bible in rejecting, incest, rape, adultery, and intercourse with animals.
Wink found that the Bible condemns some sexual behaviors which are now generally allowed: Intercourse during menstruation, celibacy (some texts) exogamy (marriage with non-Israelites) naming sexual organs, nudity (under certain conditions) masturbation (some Christians still condemn this) birth control (some Christians still forbid this). The Bible regarded semen and menstrual blood as unclean.
Wink found seven behaviors permitted by the Bible which are condemned today: prostitution, polygamy, levirate marriage, sex with slaves, concubinage (cohabiting without marriage) treatment of women as property, very early marriage (for the girl, age 11-13), Wink noted that while the Old Testament accepted divorce, Jesus forbade it.
Of the sexual mores listed, Wink said that today’s mores are in agreement with only four mores found in the Bible and in disagreement with it on sixteen mores. Of same sex relationships, Wink admitted that when homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible it clearly condemns it. With the fearlessness and the integrity of a scholar Wink questioned if the Biblical judgment was correct.
Wink maintained that all sexual mores must be judged by the love ethic practiced by Jesus. For Wink the Bible contains the principles for its own correction. Anyone freed from worship of the bible can restore it to its proper role as a witness to the Living Word of God, Jesus.
The Bible should be given careful interpretation with appropriate change. The church changed its views on slavery, patriarchy, and violence, and it can do the same with homophobia.
Wink wrote Just Jesus while struggling with dementia. Doctors Glen Miller and Jep Hostetter post blogs on living joyfully, dying well. This week Dr. Miller began a series on pain and dementia, and Dr. Hostetter wrote on being grumpy or gracious. These expert scholars are worth reading.