As a Queer person who spends a lot of time reading the Bible, you’d think there would be a few parts of scripture I’d run from without looking back. One of those is Leviticus. Many clergy, especially those who find themselves oriented more toward a liberal interpretation of scripture often find that books like Leviticus are too much for them — specifically because of all the rules, regulations, and expectations that were placed on the Israelites. For Queer people, it can often be a point of contention because of it’s famous words about men and women lying with those of the same sex. I was, for many years, scared of this book for that very reason. I’ve actually come to like the text, though. I think you ought to give it a chance, too.
Why give this “primitive” book a chance when it is so hurtful to Women & Queer people?
That’s where we’ve probably gotten a little off track in understanding this text.
Leviticus must not be understood in terms of how we might apply it’s contextual & cultural laws to our own lives. Leviticus must be understood through the themes that are embodied through the text. (God’s care for the vulnerable and mistreated, faithfulness to the covenant, remembrance of who God was and is)
Take the beginning of Leviticus as an example: The book begins with God’s people (the Israelites) unable to enter the tent where God’s presence resides. They find themselves in a situtation where they feel that they have been separated from God. According to Moses and what he feels he has heard from God, they must collectively follow the heart of God on a path to forgiveness and reconciliation. That path isn’t just one of rules (which were made for the people of that cultural context) but is one of justice. God’s Justice.
Through this text, YHWH (God of the Israelites) points to the fact that a world closer to the heart of God is a world that is just. That means fair judgement of your neighbor, forgiveness of debt, sexual integrity (honest, ethical sex), and the lifting up of the lowly. Those are pretty progressive themes, huh? There is a virtually unlimited number of examples of how this book might be taken seriously, but we don’t have time for all that.
Perhaps the book of Leviticus doesn’t universally apply these healthy values in all aspects of the text (there are lots of shitty parts, too), but that’s the way the Bible works. It is a collection of documents written by humans who were just trying to figure it all out — just like we are! And like moses, when you hear the voice of God, you surely don’t receive the full, ultimate, Divine truth. You get glimpses of truth. Glimpses of Hope. Glimpses of Justice. Glimpses of Love. Glimpses of Peace. Glimpses of God.
Okay, fine. I’ll admit there are some dumb parts of Leviticus, but it's no dumber than some of my high school journal entries.
Give Leviticus a chance. You just might encounter God somewhere in there.