Daily Devotion for Tuesday 14th May 2024

Tuesday 14th May 2024
Religious oppression of Queer minorities.

Reading Isaiah 56: 1-8

Thus says the Lord:
    Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
    and my deliverance be revealed.

Happy is the mortal who does this,
    the one who holds it fast,
who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it,
    and refrains from doing any evil.

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
    ‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’;
and do not let the eunuch say,
    ‘I am just a dry tree.’

For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,

I will give, in my house and within my walls,
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
    and hold fast my covenant—

these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
    who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
    besides those already gathered.

Reflection

When one studies eunuchs across history, many continents and nations, and, especially, in the Bible, there is no doubt they were a violently oppressed and marginalised people –  not least within Judaism and Christianity.  They were the ‘queers’ of their day.

Conservative religious people have a great fear of queer folk, both then and now. The ancient Jewish Law forbade any eunuch from ‘entering the assembly of God’s people.’ (Deuteronomy 23 v1.)

But how does God view the eunuch, the queer?

Israel returned from seventy years of captivity, and set about rebuilding the Temple which had been destroyed by Babylon. Many of those returning had been made eunuchs. There are rabbinical and Christian traditions that understand, from a clear and obvious reading of Scripture, that Daniel and his friends had been made eunuchs.  Now many of their families were deeply perturbed to find that their once sons, now ‘non-men’ or eunuchs, were forbidden from worship and entering either the assembly of God’s people or the Temple.  This was seen as unfair as, despite all they had suffered, they had remained faithful to God.

God appears to be answering the cries of the eunuchs and their families in Isaiah 56 v1-8.  God promises to give them a name better, or greater, than sons or daughters.  This could also be understood as transcending the cultural hierarchical binary of ‘male’ and ‘female’ which understood male, as the superior, dominant one, and female as inferior – with eunuchs as being seen as less than even women.

This is stunning, totally shocking, and a reversal of all previous conservative religious understanding.  Neither is it a temporary pronouncement, God promises this name and exalted position to the eunuchs for ever!  To show that God’s exalting and honouring is not just a spiritual decision, God tells the eunuchs that their ‘burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on God’s altar’ clearly implying their welcome into both fellowship and Temple life!

Prayer

Dear Lord, 
help us to see that within the conservative nature
of our faith and religion
lies our radical call to welcome,
to include and affirm people not like us.
We pray we might reflect the beauty of your heart and grace, 
to the eunuchs, to the queer,
those we ‘other’, judge and exclude,
as revealed to us in Isaiah’s prophetic words.
May our eyes be opened to see grace
which transcends law.
Amen

Today’s writer

Chrissie Chevasutt is the Outreach Worker for Transgender, Intersex and non-binary communities at St Columba’s URC in Oxford.

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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