David & Jonathan
“The soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”
“They kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.’”
“they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more.”
“[David speaking of Jonathan] greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” -excerpts from 1 Samuel & 2 Samuel
Biblical literalism is frustrating. As queer people we’re expected to defend ourselves from very early ages, yes, as children, against the weaponized few verses that allude to queerness in the Bible. Then as we grow older we have to educate ourselves on Roman historical context & ancient foreign languages when Paul points to inappropriate relationships-not homosexuality; and we have to familiarize ourselves with early Hebrew/Jewish practices from Leviticus and extrapolate on the complexities of shellfish, pork, mixed fabric clothing, selling of daughters, & homosexuality on our spiritual lives. Queer people must become biblical scholars to survive, OR as many queer folks (and allies) have already done; they just walk out the church doors. In the ELCA we’ve been brainwashed to believe that we must stay quiet on queer issues so more congregations don’t leave when the reality is many, many more have stayed clear of our churches because the church does not go far enough to embrace all of God’s creation.
When we lived in Oklahoma I once debated a church leader and his wife. They were opening the town’s homeless shelter and while they greatly appreciated my help opening the shelter, they soon let me know that at some point they would be preaching against homosexuality at the shelter.
In this discussion I brought up the love story of David and Jonathan.
This church leader quickly friend-zoned David and Jonathan by saying he had a similar relationship with his guy friend. That it was a friendship that was different from the relationship he had with his wife, and that he loved his friend very much.
To which I said, “So you two have made life-long covenants to each other, wept into each other arms, kissed one another while also declaring that your love for each other surpasses that of women?”
As you can imagine, his biblical nuancing quickly began. It was only at this point he was willing to point to allegory, stories, contexts; that it wasn’t exactly what was printed in the text- basically he wasn’t a Biblical Literalist when it came to David and Jonathan’s story but everywhere else in the Bible was fine. That David couldn’t love Jonathan as he said, because he also liked women! Forgetting completely that Bisexuality exists. This man started doing what so many others in history have done before him, he tried to put the queerness back into the closet.
As a queer person, there is no other way for me to see this as anything other than a queer love story because it resembles my own queer love experience. The drama of family & disapproval, hiding your love & affection for one another, the feeling of you two against the world, together. Weeping, together. Vowing to protect each other at all costs. Making a covenant, together.
Today, my husband and I celebrate 10 years together, and what’s special about David and Jonathan’s story & their words to each other is that we used their words, their covenant to one another, in our own wedding.
So today, I celebrate queer love- both in Scripture & in my life.
Image Description: photo of the book of Genesis and the ELM logo with the title: Queer Scripture Reflections.