Friday, August 19, 2011

Goliath Queers David (2 Samuel 21:19)

In still another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan ben-Jaare-oregim of Bethlehem killed Goliath of Gath, whose spear was the size of a weaver’s beam.
2 Samuel 21:19

Poor, poor Elhanan unfortunately for him David’s propaganda engine skillfully credited the king for the death of the Philistine giant Goliath. Immortalized in the scriptures, paintings, plays, and movies, David has become the unquestionable slayer of the giant.

Except for this one verse tucked into a series of battle notices, Elhanan is all but expunged from the record. In 1 Chronicles 20:5 Elhanan’s role is amended to being the slayer of Goliath’s brother. This great warrior, who brought down the feared nemesis of Israel’s army, was all but brushed aside by the recorders of history.

We are used to having our queer contributions brushed aside by embarrassed and blushing historians. Even today we are still seeking to integrate sexuality into the lives of queer notables as Abraham Lincoln, Peter Tchaikovsky, and Eleanor Roosevelt. But what does it matter if these people were queer?

On the one hand it does not matter for their contributions to society and culture stands on its own merits. On the other hand we deny these persons their full story when historians who should know better are silent on one of the most pressing and personal issues an individual deals with – sexual orientation. As critical a personal motivator as are political and religious views.


Furthermore, the combined effect of this whitewashing and silencing has been to send the unconscious message that queer persons are not among those who shape human community. That queer persons do not contribute to human progress.  Only those who embrace heterosexuality are the movers and shakers of history. Or at least that is how Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and those like him want us to believe.

Bereft of solid and able historical “alternative sexual” figures it has been easy for others to argue that there is no such thing as a good queer. History is beginning to be written with a fuller and more open understanding of people’s distinctive lives. Still most of these insights are relegated to a footnote, or a queer “Who’s Who” book.

Here the scriptures prove our model. By searching out the elusive truth that is tucked away in some unknown corner we can claim our heritage and take our stand alongside the other great figures of history. In so doing we become visible just not in our time but throughout the long sweep of human achievement.

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