When Scripture Meets Life: A Book Review of UnClobber

Editor’s Note: SDA Kinship is sponsoring a program to provide UnClobber FREE to interested Adventists. Visit www.sdakinship.org/unclobber to learn more.

It’s a familiar response. Somebody says, “Well, I love LGBT+ people, but I have to follow the Bible.”

But.

In other words, those who are loyal to God must, unfortunately, consign those who are “wired differently” — who are attracted to people of the same sex and who may decide to marry one of “them” — to be condemned, forever lost. Banned from full participation in Christ’s body. Shut out of God’s kingdom. So goes one but argument.

This discussion involves not only LGBT+ people. Millions of cisgendered, open-hearted Christians (often millennials) have turned away from “church” because of its exclusionary practices. You and I know many of these nomads and exiles by name. They cannot stomach the sanctioned mistreatment — perhaps in complicit silence — of others who are, it turns out, differently oriented through no choice of their own. Those who remain in a church community such as Adventism may wage battles with organizational structures at every level, from the General Conference all the way to the top at the local church.

As Jay, a youth pastor in an evangelical church in my town, handed me a book, he looked me in the eyes and commented, “I think you might like this.” UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin pours out the compelling story of an evangelical pastor’s dealing with LGBT+ people from a biblical and compassionate framework. Along the way the author, who is not gay, loses his job and retains his integrity.

What makes UnClobber noteworthy is the interweaving of Martin’s intense personal narrative with scriptural exegeses of six “clobber texts.” Chapter headings demonstrate this artful weave:

1. When the Head and the Heart Can’t Get Along

2. Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible

3. How Facebook Got Me Fired

4. Reframing the Story of Sodom (Genesis 19)

5. Unfit to Be a Pastor

6. Redefining the Boundaries (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13)

7. In Search of the Unicorn

8. Reconciling a Fractured Community (Romans 1:26, 27)

9. Imagine a Church Where…

10. Revisiting Forgotten Words (1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10)

Epilogue: As You Go in Your Journey

Unlike similar books dealing with LGBT+ people and the Bible, this one is accessible, fresh, and deep. The writing is tight and the syntax varied. Rob Bell notes, “Funny, smart, and brilliantly paced! Colby has written that book.”

Martin’s hermeneutical approach is evidenced in his examination of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13:[1]

My hope, then, is to explore the two Clobber passages in Leviticus and see if we can grasp what it meant back then for an act to be considered an “abomination.” And why would that have been the case? And how are we to understand these verses today in the twenty-first century? Are they indeed biblical imperatives that the church should still be holding up?

Encountering the thorny passage of Romans 1, he muses, “Romans was the place where I spent the most time wondering, ‘Is there any other way through this? Do these two verses have the singular power to hold back millions of men, women, and children from full inclusion in the Kingdom of God?’”[2]

He also expends effort in practical life applications, observing:

When my friends Rebecca and Valerie, with their nine-month-old daughter Ella, are told that family members won’t be coming to Thanksgiving because of their “sinful lifestyle,” I think we’re misusing the Bible.

When a judge in Utah rules that a foster child be removed from a married same-sex couple and placed in a home with a mom and dad, because he believes it’s better for the emotional stability of the child, I think we’re misusing the Bible.[3]

The author’s recounting of his own spiritual, emotional, and cognitive journey is taut and resonant:

The letter that went out to the members of the church and the statement shared from the pulpit was light on details. “Because of Colby’s theological positions,” it read, “on issues that our leaders believe are central to Scripture and a life after God… we feel it is time to bring his time of service to an end.” Before their letter went out, I gave them my blessing to say what the theological position was, but they didn’t take me up on it. Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell was back on, it would seem.[4]

One weakness of the book is that Martin does not always make adequate allowances for precise gender identity language.[5] For example, the book’s subtitle ought to carry quotation marks around “homosexuality.” Bisexual people are not homosexual. Many transgender people are not homosexual. Non-binary people may not be homosexual. The term homosexual registers as a regressive red flag to LGBT+ people: Here we go again.

Ron Lawson’s critique in the latest issue of Spectrum* chronicles a searing indictment. Jesus confides to His followers at the end of His earthly life, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12, NRSV). He could well be referencing pervasive and oppressive cultural systems of His time involving racism and slavery, treatment of women, and sexual orientation — all of which are still with us. If we cannot bear to fight against these systems now after 1,990 years, when will we?

Brian McLaren reflects in his testimonial, “Colby Martin’s highly readable and deeply engaging new book offers a third option: a different way of aligning head and heart through a fresh look at Scripture. Written with a theologian’s intelligence and a pastor’s sensitivity, this book is the resource thousands have been waiting for.”

For those who are suspicious or disdainful about the premise of the book I would simply say: Read it. I am sending copies to friends and Adventist thought leaders, if only to raise the possibility of the existence of a third option. UnClobber is a worthy read — balanced and brave and scripturally based — one that can bring to all Christians biblical permission to treat LGBT+ people fully as human beings in God’s family.

No buts about it.

 

*This book review appears in the latest issue of Spectrum (Volume 48, Issue 4), arriving in subscribers’ mailboxes soon. If you’re not already a subscriber, click here to subscribe today and receive the latest issue.

 

Notes & References:

 

Chris Blake is lead pastor of the San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay Seventh-day Adventist Churches. He is professor emeritus of English and communication at Union College, and is the author of hundreds of articles and many books.

Book cover image courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press.

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10867
4 Likes

I wonder why it is only the texts about homosexuality that are considered “Clobber” texts? There are other “Clobber” texts that are never discussed; is that not a bit discriminatory? Why just discuss the ones about gay behavior?

Here is one for instance:

P:roverbs 6:16-19:

16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Why isn’t Chris standing up for those clobbered by this text? Proud, liars who shed inoccnet blood need an advocate! They have been unduly singled out for condemnation, and no one has taken their side. Have not these verses had…

And what about excluding the shedders of innocent blood from family gatherings?

And we misuse the Bible when we do the same with liars and shedders etc! How about Kinship for Mischief Makers? Or the Discordant?

How can we be so exclusive and judgmental? I am shocked.

It is coming. Remember the praise on Spectrum for BLM, they say nothing of the violence and destruction.It is all about what the culture will allow and when the culture allows it than it will become the time to redefine the Bible text usage. Perhaps that is the correct thing to do and perhaps not. There has to be larger prinicples in place to make up those rules seen in individual tests or bible stories. If the book was really about the priniciples you are completely right the book would deal with the use of texts to hurt people and not help people. If the book is meant to align with current cultural thinking, then we see this kind of book.

The main line churches have accepted gay members for decades. They have not maintained their membership. They are loosing it. So, accepting these ideas will not stem the hemorrhage. It has not done so elsewhere.

UnClobber deals with homosexuality in an easy to read way to help folks to see that there is a different way of looking at this topic. We must remember that this is not just another controversial subject, but that it affects a substantial percentage of folks in the Adventist church. Not only those who identify as LGBTQ, but also those who are family and relatives of the person. Homosexuality is not a “thing”. It is a part of a person who is just like you. Many pastors and leaders children are LGBTQ, but rarely do they find a safe space to talk with others about their feelings and experiences. When the author first came up with his feelings of reading those 6 texts differently, he didn’t know anyone who is gay, so he came upon his understanding by pure study of the Word and not from an external influence.

So many of us take the word of others as gospel when talking about this subject and very few have actually studied these 6 verses to understand them better. This book and the UnClobber Project that SDA Kinship is partnering with Colby Martin on is the first step to providing the opportunity to open discuss this subject instead of just providing the standard arguments. Instead of he said, she said, it is a chance to understand where each side is coming from in an non-judgmental way.

If you haven’t read the book, I hope you will sign up and participate in this project. After reading the book, pass it on to your pastor or church friends. Sign your pastor up to receive a copy and encourage him to read it and dialog with others who are reading it to arrive at a clearer understanding of what your LGBTQ Adventist friends are all about.

6 Likes

Thank you Chris for reviewing the book, and thank you you Kinship for helping get it into the hands of those who have questions about this topic and are looking for authentic Biblical study that shows how little condemnation there is in the Bible for LGBTQ+ individuals. It is long past time for Christians and, especially SDAs, to come to terms with the fact that the Bible does not condemn same-sex sexual behavior any more than it does heterosexual sexual behavior, when practiced in the appropriate, committed, loving context. There are so many LGBTQ+ SDAs who have been hurt by the church. Let the healing begin. Love is love, and God is love.

5 Likes

I thought that book was great.
Sure it should have had homosexuality in air quotes.
It was corny in parts I said as much to the author. It was heart warming for his story and experience going from status quo ‘Just read the bible, it will be crystal clear to you what God thinks’ to these verses have to be seen in contexts as the rest of the book’.

3 Likes

Thankful that we have exposure to other viewpoints instead of only the “party line,” which if you differ from, you are a heretic, un-Adventist, suspect, or worse.

Thank you, Spectrum, for a platform to view issues in different ways.

5 Likes

My problem with the “ clobber texts “ is that surely a supposedly “ loving “ god who knowingly creates five per cent of the population as gay / lesbian ( Satan , himself a created being, has zero creative power ) would intuitively foretell that these “ clobber texts” would create misery for generations of gays.

So why did God ever allow these “ clobber texts “ in scripture ??

They have been responsable for millennia of gay bashing, gay bullying
gay murders and for countless Christian / Jewish families rejecting their gay offspring.

Cultures such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, which have zero homophobic scriptures / doctrines have far less shameful treatments of their gay populations.

God hates gay children, because in all His manifestations He programs His followers to be hateful to their gay children.

As Jehovah, He programs Orthodox Jews to be rejecting oft their gay kids.
As Allah, He programs Muslims to be hateful to their gay offspring.
We know how as God, He programs Adventist Christians to treat their gay kids shabbily and shamefully.

In every one of His manifestations, He makes the lives of gay children
miserable— zero love there!
Not so for kids in Hindu / Buddhist families.

So gays in Judeo / Christian cultures can rightfully believe that God is not on their side and actively creates misery for them.

2 Likes

And this loving god will fry them in hell forever and forever.
When will we finally accept 2 facts?

  1. We are sinners,
  2. We are saved by the grace of God.

“There, but for the grace of God…

Yes we are all sinners.

But some sins are ranked worse than others in Christian ( Adventist ) cultures.
with gay sex being at the top of the totem pole.

Let us face it, merely being gay is regarded as reprehensible
— even totally celibate gays are despised and are second class citizens.

Are there any celibate gays who are permitted to be pastors of
Adventist congregations ??

Once found out to be gay, Adventist teachers are fired as happened recently

So five pèr cent of the Adventist population ( the accepted demographic of gay people in all races tribes and populations ) have to hide their gay identity and actively lie about themselves, to be accepted in Adventist congregations, families, and Adventist employment.

(Another example of how God creates misery for gay people ).

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Really, which is the greater sin then, since we’re engaging in this hierarchical fantasy?
Homosexuality
Homophobia

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Rather than going down rabbit holes here, I encourage you to read the book UnClobber, and then let’s talk about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading what Colby has to say about his journey into being an affirming pastor. If you want to talk about it after reading, or have questions about SDA Kinship, the affirming community for those who are LGBTQ Adventists, send me an email at: info@sdakinship.org. I look forward to an open dialog. Or check out the website: www.sdakinship.org

2 Likes