Book Review: Unclobber
Unclobber: Rethinking our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin Click here for Amazon link
Finally, a book that is easy to read and understand on this sensitive topic. Martin, who is an ally, doesn't have skin in the game. When asked, "Who is the person in your life who is gay, that convinced you to re-look at this subject, Martin responds with, "Nobody." He just always had a sick feeling about the way the Church treated Gay people. Once he became a pastor and started looking at the problems with translation, context, and culture, he couldn't help address some of the issues he discovered.
The "Clobber" passages refer to the six places in scripture that most people read as same-sex acts, which are typically used to prove the abomination of sin. Martin examines this scriptural reference and provides a counterargument to traditionally thought.
A few highlights: He brutalizes the traditional view and understanding of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18) by carefully reviewing the context (the ancient practice of hospitality, homoerotic desire, humiliation, shame, power). This first chapter sets the stage for Martin's expository teaching. He also spends many explaining the misuse of the vocabulary that originally made it into the English translation. In chapter 6 (where he addresses Lev. 18:22; Lev 20:13) The author parses the words zakar (man), ishsba (woman/wife), neqevah (females) to help the reader understand how subtle differences in the usage can change the meaning entirely.
I think the author does a masterful job explaining the intricacies of culture and vocabulary for non-scholars to understand. He also admits areas that he thinks could be a weak argument (or alternative viewpoint). In Chapter 8, where he addresses the Pauline verses (Romans 1:26-27), he questions Paul's authorship compared to the rest of the book. Some critics may quickly jump to this statement as an excuse. While I believe it isn't a strong argument, the author still builds a case to understand the greater context.
As you can imagine, a young pastor, like Martin, who publicly questioned the traditional thinking of Christian ethics, would not survive in the ministry, at least the Church he had been in. He details his personal story of pain, from discovering some of the textual challenges to being fired for his vocal questioning. He nicely divides the book, where the odd-numbered chapters focus on his personal story, whereas the even number chapters examine the clobber passages in question.
While the author does an exemplary job explaining how the scriptures may have been mistranslated, he also shines a light on something even more surprising for the non-academic. How much of the Bible is poorly translated? How did we get the Bible? In other words, how was the Bible assembled if there were so many manuscripts? For those of us who already learned these "gray issues" in seminary, I think the average person will be troubled by what they discover. Grade A