Full transcript of Kristin Saylor & Jim O’Hanlon’s TEDx Talk: What the Bible Says About Homosexuality at TEDxEdgemontSchool conference. Kristin Saylor is an Episcopal priest and breathwork practitioner based in San Francisco, and Jim O’Hanlon is a Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. This event occurred on June 11, 2016.
JIM O’HANLON: I’ve finally made it to Heaven. This is so beautiful, and I’ve worked every day of my life making sure I’d make it here to heaven, and I’m now finally here.
I really want to meet the big guy. Do you know who the big guy is?
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Ah, they told you I was a guy? That’s cute.
JIM O’HANLON: Are you the receptionist?
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Yeah, no. Hi, I’m God.
JIM O’HANLON: You’re God?
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Yeah, welcome to Heaven.
JIM O’HANLON: Hi.
KRISTIN SAYLOR: So, just a couple of questions to make sure you really belong here.
JIM O’HANLON: I’m the perfect Christian. All my life I’ve been a perfect Christian.
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Well, let’s see about that.
So, first off, I just need you to assure me that you have categorically rejected any scientific teaching that contradicts even one word of the Bible.
JIM O’HANLON: Absolutely, absolutely.
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Great. And then, do you, based on the authority of scripture, accept the existence of talking snakes?
JIM O’HANLON: I do, they’re in Genesis 2.
KRISTIN SAYLOR: And what about talking donkeys?
JIM O’HANLON: Numbers 22.
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Unicorns?
JIM O’HANLON: Numbers 23.
KRISTIN SAYLOR: And what about hoards of suicidal, demon-possessed, cliff-jumping pigs?
JIM O’HANLON: The Gospel of Mark, the 5th chapter.
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Very good, I’m impressed. I have just one final question then, before I let you in.
JIM O’HANLON: All right.
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Did you do as I told you and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor?
JIM O’HANLON: Well, I… Wait, what now?
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Ah yeah. I said it twice, actually.
JIM O’HANLON: Were you serious about that?
KRISTIN SAYLOR: Very serious.
JIM O’HANLON: Oh!…
You may think that there are people who take the Bible too seriously, people who throw out anything that contradicts the Bible — science, history. What this skit is asking you to think about is maybe they’re not taking the Bible seriously enough.
Maybe they’re very serious about the Bible, if they can use it to judge other people, if they can use it to shame somebody or to punish somebody.
But if the Bible was used to turn back on themselves and they were to evaluate themselves and examine their own conscience, if the Bible was to be humbling them, then they might not take the Bible so seriously. These people say that they want the Bible to be taken literally, in its entirety it should always be literal, and that’s ridiculous, you can’t do that.
When the Bible says, “God is our rock, our sword, our shield,” when the Bible says, “The Lord is my shepherd,” we can’t take those literally.
But there are people who are rigidly saying that the Bible needs to always be taken literally. They think it gives it some kind of force that they can use, that they can win arguments, that they can settle the debate, by saying, “This is literal. It is cut and dried, it is straight-forward.”
They’re these people who believe that they can overpower other people, with their argument, by saying, “The Bible says it,” people in positions of great authority.
Just last month, a U.S. congressman from District 1 in Texas stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and said, “The government wants us to forget about the Bible.” He says, “In the Bible, it says God created the male and female, period. No questions marks.”
So he’s got this idea that he doesn’t want people talking about sexual orientation. He doesn’t want people talking about gender identity as something distinct from biological gender. He’s got this idea that we need to just follow that without any ambiguity, without questions, just keeping the status quo. He believes that he can use that by saying the Bible must be taken literally, and it settles his argument.
These people have bumper stickers that say, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” which they could probably shorten down to say, “I believe it, that settles it.” Because that’s what they’re saying, they want these things to be cut and dried, and clear.
It’s interesting that people believe they can take the Bible to drive through their point of view, because the Bible doesn’t have one point of view. The Bible does not speak with one voice. The Bible does not have one definition of God. It doesn’t have one way of describing God.
The Bible does not have one theology. We think if the Bible could be consistent of one thing, it would be consistent about describing God, about the language we use and how we understand God.
The Bible does not have one definition of marriage. It doesn’t have one model of marriage. There’s no consistent ethic about sexuality going throughout the Bible. The Bible speaks with these many voices.
The Bible, really properly speaking, is not a book. It’s an anthology. It’s really a library with a wide variety of spiritual wisdom, things that have different ideas and speak with different voices.
The Bible has all these voices and all these ideas throughout it. It’s not just one book with one point that it’s trying to drive home. The Bible has these many voices. And there are many stories in the Bible, and many of these stories are told from different points of view, from different perspectives and different voices.
KRISTIN SAYLOR: So given the amount of media attention the Bible has received recently with respect to issues of gay marriage, gender-neutral bathrooms, it would be easy for us to come to the conclusion that the Bible has a lot to say about homosexuality, and it ain’t good.
But in reality, if you take the Bible as a whole and look at, percentage-wise, how much of the content is devoted to the issue of homosexuality, it is less than 1%. Statistically speaking, it just is not a priority for the Bible.
And the few stories that do speak to the topic of same-sexuality are often taken out of proportion and out of context. One of the most famous examples of these texts is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which some of you might be familiar with. It’s a story that has become famous because of anti-sodomy laws that exist in some places still today and this concept of sodomy that is derived from this Bible story.
And “sodomy” is a word that we throw around a lot, without necessarily understanding what it means. We might have an idea that it refers to gay sex, that it’s somehow bad, when in reality, it has a very specific definition. And it is any sexual act that is not procreative.
So that opens the door wide to a whole host of things that are not limited to same-sex couples. And that’s interesting to remember in a context where our society loves to take the Bible out of context and use it for its own purposes.