Shelton’s ‘Rainbow Kingdom’ emphasizes context in Biblical scripture


The Clarksville-based writer and activist David Shelton opened a recent post on his blog, Skipping to the Piccolo, with the following heading: “Is homosexuality the same as adultery?”

A simple enough confusion for those of us who’ve long ago asked (and answered) the question, yet it remains proof that much education regarding GLBT life and religion is still needed.

He recounted the question recently asked of him and, as an answer, he leaned heavily upon the most important message of his new book, “The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity & the Homosexual Reconciled.”

For Christians who are also gay, he says, there is a long tradition that suggests there is a choice to be made of but three options: deny your sexuality; deny your faith; or, live a double life. He presents here a fourth option, one that accepts both homosexual orientation and Christian belief.

Shelton’s blog, as well as those of many gay Christians of late, has been littered lately with references to Ted Haggard, the recently disgraced former leader of the 30 million strong National Association of Evangelicals and senior pastor of the megachurch he founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the New Life Church. In fact, there is a good likelihood the question presented itself in light of this scandal.

“As someone who’s both gay and Christian,” Shelton wrote in response, “I’m intimately aware of the conflict that men like Haggard deal with in their personal lives. So let me be clear: adultery in any form is sin.”

He continues to explain how adultery is entirely different from homosexuality, first by the fact that wedding vows have been violated and ultimately it is that sin, that deception, that leads many men and women to believe their faith cannot exist without heterosexuality.

The entire point of the book—that reconciliation is necessary for all GLBT Christians—comes about more through osmosis here than by use of a standard traditional argument. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first half of “The Rainbow Kingdom” covers territory most successfully blazed in Daniel Helminiak’s gay classic “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.” Shelton refers to those verses most often used to condemn gay people as “clobber” verses. Unlike Helminiak, his approach throughout the entire book is much more conversational, more accessible to the common reader. This accessibility is what makes “The Rainbow Kingdom” one of the first books any spiritually struggling gay man or woman should read.

In each instance he attempts to differentiate, plainly, the traditional interpretation of the “clobber” verse in question from the historical and literary context in which the verse is placed. The starkest distinction is found in perhaps the most universally accepted anti-gay verse in the Bible.

Leviticus chapter 20, verse 13 reads: "If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Shelton explains that this verse is surrounded by such 21st century commonalities as verse 10 (“the man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death”) as to render the selection of the anti-gay verse itself suspect.

Where “The Rainbow Kingdom” most differs from similar books is in its second half. Having taken down the six most perplexing “clobber” verses, Shelton then outlines some of the more dubiously pro-gay points in scripture, those ones that seem—again, based on how one reads it—to endorse or at least document same-sex love in Biblical times.

The remainder of the book not only defines how those three life options mentioned earlier (deny your sexuality, deny your faith, or live a double life) are not compatible with a healthy life, but it also offers further Biblical reading to help someone new to the search for redemption and strength as a gay person find his or her way. In that sense, “The Rainbow Kingdom” is a spiritual gay man or woman’s perfect first step out.