Hate Thy Neighbor: Hillcrest Author Believes the Bible is Misused to Condemn Gays
By Glenda Winders
The idea of writing a book to explain what the Bible says about homosexuality came to Linda Patterson after a Christian minister at a gay pride parade bellowed through a bullhorn to her and her friends that they were all going to hell. Later, over brunch, the question of what the Bible actually says came up, and nobody was sure about the answer. Patterson, an attorney, decided to take a sabbatical from her job and find out.
The result of more than a year of researching and writing is “Hate Thy Neighbor: How the Bible Is Misused to Condemn Homosexuality,” a slim, accessible, self-published volume available at San Diego bookstores and through the Internet. A complete list of outlets is available on the Web site, www.hatethyneighborbook.com.
One chapter is devoted to the language of hatred often used by Christians, another to the hypocrisy of so-called family values. But its main purpose is to examine the parts of the Bible often quoted by homophobes as justification for oppressing homosexuals. Patterson said the focus of her book is actually what the Bible is NOT — a cohesive, reliable guide for ethics in general or sexual ethics in particular.
“There are more than 30,000 verses in the Bible, and only six mention homosexuality,” Patterson said in an interview. “One doesn’t condemn homosexuality, and the five that do are either too contextually or culturally removed to warrant modern-day condemnation.”
Along with “a man lying with a male as with a woman,” other “abominations” mentioned in the Bible include working on Sundays, being disobedient to one’s parents and eating shellfish — all punishable by death.
“You can’t pick and choose,” Patterson said. “People foist the ethics they agree with on other people and conveniently ignore ethical principles they disagree with, all the time claiming that the Bible should be taken literally. If people are going to picket gay pride parades, they also need to go to their local Red Lobster and chant ‘Eating shellfish is an abomination.’ That just points out the lunacy.”
Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, and three of the potential references in the New Testament are attributed to the apostle Paul, who never met Jesus and whose writings imply that he was against sexuality of any kind.
“It’s really impossible to know how the biblical authors would have reacted to homosexuality if they hadn’t lived in such a misogynistic, patriarchal culture,” Patterson said. “Women didn’t realize they had an option.”
She said one of the reasons the Bible is so misunderstood is that most people don’t read it for themselves.
“If people actually read the Bible instead of depending on others to interpret it for them, they would say, ‘This isn’t what I signed up for,'” she said. “I think it is tragic that people base their hatred of their sons and daughters on these verses.”
Patterson, 43, who discovered she was a lesbian after seven years of marriage, enjoys the love and support of her parents and sister and the friendship of her ex-husband, but she has seen oppression close-up. One friend’s parents offered her $5,000 to leave their state and never come back so they wouldn’t have to deal with her sexuality.
“The audience I’m really appealing to is the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community who has to deal with this,” she said.
One chapter deals with the Bible’s justification of slavery.
“I find it incredible that churches have been on the wrong side of history so many times and done such horrific things,” Patterson said. “They had to apologize to African-Americans, and they’re going to have to apologize again. I can’t understand why they haven’t learned from that mistake.”
Patterson, who was raised in a Protestant home and attended a Methodist college, describes herself as an agnostic.
“I find it hard to believe that the fact that we have language and can exchange ideas came out of primordial ooze,” she said. But she said she can’t worship a God who would allow the brutality that takes place in the Bible — especially toward women — and not intercede.
She believes churches let down the people who need them most.
“The church is the one institution in the world that should be the most loving and open-minded, but too often it is the most oppressive to homosexuals,” she said. “If your own family can’t love you and the church doesn’t provide comfort, where can you go?”
Patterson was born in Northern Ireland and moved with her family to Seattle as a child. She came to San Diego seven years ago after visiting a friend and realizing she preferred the local climate to constant rain. She currently lives in Hillcrest, where her book is for sale in neighborhood bookstores.
Brett Serwalt, manager of the Obelisk Bookstore, said it is selling well, as do most books that refute the Bible as a tool for oppressing homosexuals, and it’s the latest since Daniel Helminiak’s “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality” was published in 1994.
“It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s by a lesbian author, a local author,” he said.
The book is passionate but not shrill, informative and well-documented without reading like a scholarly tome. Of the 167 pages in the book, a third are filled with notes, bibliography and resources for people to use in defending themselves against verbal abuse.
“It is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Patterson said.
Glenda Winders was editor of Copley News Service and now works as a freelance writer and editor.