Tuesday, November 29

An Ohio theologian breaks down what the Bible really says about “homosexuality” in new Pride Month workshop

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About six years ago, Russ Tripi began attending St. Bartholomew’s Episcopalian Church in Mayfield Village, Ohio.

Both he and his husband had been raised Catholic, and while they hoped to raise their own children in a community of faith, they knew Catholicism may not be the best fit.

“We did a little church shopping,” Tripi says. “And we ended up at St. Bart’s.”

Tripi — a religious educator in northeast Ohio for the last 20 years — currently teaches a course on queer theology at John Carroll University, and saw an opportunity to introduce that educational element to members of his own faith community.

Each month, he hosts an educational workshop focused on a specific subject. In celebration of Pride Month, he’ll host Clobbered!, a workshop designed to counter homophobic interpretations of scripture and build community in the process.

The Buckeye Flame spoke with Tripi to learn more about this special Pride event.

What is Clobbered! and how did you create it?

I wanted to add an educational component to our church, and one of the first topics I wanted to do is LGBTQ+. Every year during Pride, I want to do something religiously oriented that the queer community would find interesting and can positively affect them. 

Basically, [Clobbered!] is breaking down the traditional verses that have been used to condemn gay and lesbian people. I’m a Bible teacher at heart — so Sodom, Romans, Leviticus, Corinthians, Timothy — we’re looking behind the scenes of those scriptures. What did the Greek mean? What did the Hebrew mean? What was going on in the context and the culture that influenced the wording of scripture?

What we uncover during the course of the workshop is that nowhere in the Bible does it ever condemn homosexuality. Nowhere in the Bible condemns it. It’s later generations of interpretation that condemn it. 

So if the Bible doesn’t condemn [homosexuality], then we talk about when did [those verses]became associated with same-sex behavior. I point to, historically, when some of the figureheads of the church started planting that idea.

It’s the idea that the people in power control the interpretation and they control the narrative. So a big part of what I do — especially in the theology course [I teach] at John Carroll — is reclaim narrative.

It’s our God and it’s our Bible too, and we’re going to have our voices heard.

So that’s pretty much what’s going to happen in this initial workshop. It’s the ‘God does not hate us’ approach. You can’t have Pride if you secretly think God thinks you’re an abomination.

Why are these kinds of conversations so important in faith communities? What purpose do they serve?

A lot of queer theologians don’t want to do what what what we’re doing. It’s called apologetics — breaking down what the Bible says, what it doesn’t say. They don’t want to do that because they’re tired of having to defend themselves. 

They want to move on to the positive aspects of being queer, and maybe the what the Bible says that’s positive about about the queer lifestyle. They don’t really want to tackle this on Thursday. It’s exhausting for that.

But growing up Catholic, I find that you can’t get to that stage unless you get over this additional hurdle. Even now, my mom is somewhat still kind of uncomfortable with my sexuality because she’s Catholic and she’s always heard that one reputation of [scripture].

And a lot of the parishioners at my church are of an older generation, so they’re coming from a generation where they’ve always heard one [interpretation], or they think they know what the Bible says about homosexuality.

It’s going to be important for them to hear another perspective on this that’s grounded in Biblical scholarship. And in the Episcopal Church, we have that tagline: “God loves you. No exceptions.” 

Well, if you secretly think the Bible is condemning you, then how can you make that claim? 

Faith and faith communities can be complicated for LGBTQ+ people. What would you say to an LGBTQ+ person who is nervous about taking that first step?

People often ask, ‘How can you be, how can you reconcile your faith and being gay?’ You can’t really answer that question unless you take this initial first step. That’s why even in my college course, this is always the first topic. You’ve just got to get rid of it, get it out there and move on from that.

I would love it to never have to teach the topic ever again. But as long as there are still people out there who think that God hates them because that’s what Leviticus says, then I have a job to do. 🔥

Ignite Action:

  • To learn more or register for the Clobbered! workshop at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopalian Church, click here.
  • To access more of Tripi’s lessons on LGBTQ+ perspectives in theo, visit his YouTube Channel, That Theology Teacher.
  • Check out the more than 70(!) events listed in our 2022 Ohio LGBTQ+ Pride Guide.

About Author

H.L. Comeriato is the staff writer for The Buckeye Flame. A queer and non-binary writer and reporter from Akron, Ohio, they covered public health for The Devil Strip via Report for America.

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