Harvard Educational Review
  1. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?

    A Positive Christian Response

    By Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.

    San Francisco: Harper, 1994. 242 pp. $12.00 (paper)

    "Who is my neighbor?" With these words, the student of the Hebrew law hoped Jesus would delineate for him more clearly just whom, as a good, righteous Jew, he was to love. He thought he knew how to love God, but apparently he was unsure about exactly who was included in the category of "neighbor," whom he was to love as himself. Jesus's reply has come to be known as the parable of the Good Samaritan. We can only guess what the young lawyer thought about the story. Samaritans were among the most despised of all the earth's peoples in the eyes of the Jews.

    In their preface to Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Mollenkott explain how the teachings of Jesus inform their mission and how "the question that makes up the title of this book shouldn't be necessary" (p. iv):

    Jesus made it clear that every person is our neighbor. And the Bible likewise makes clear our responsibility to our neighbor: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
    Yet, all too often, the Bible is brandished as a weapon to clobber gay and lesbian people. Claiming to be doing the will and work of God, some Christians are hurting their neighbors, bearing false witness against them, and assaulting their dignity and sense of self-worth. It was in the hope of alleviating such hurtfulness (which harms us all) that we wrote the first edition of this book, and our purpose remains the same as we send out this updated edition — a radical revision and expansion that both we and our publisher felt was called for in these changing times. (p. iv)

    A dramatic story lies behind the writing of this book. Scanzoni and Mollenkott, both evangelical Christians, scholars, and theologians, began their collaboration while working on a treatise on Christian ethics. That collaboration led to one of the authors revealing that she was a lesbian. The powerful emotional response of both to that event convinced them of the need to write a book not on ethics in general, but on homosexuality and how Christians ought to respond ethically to the issue.

    Scanzoni and Mollenkott challenge the Christian Right's dogmatic, preemptory, and blanket condemnation of homosexuality and homosexuals. The foundation for the authors' challenge rests on the Bible, the same Bible used by those who would condemn their fellow human beings. The authors use basic principles of hermeneutics, or Biblical interpretation, to invite those who conclude that the Bible categorically condemns homosexuality to reconsider their position thoughtfully and prayerfully.

    Scanzoni and Mollenkott acknowledge that to suggest that Christians reconsider their views on homosexuality carries some danger. Those who care for the stigmatized become subject to potential stigmatization themselves. Scanzoni and Mollenkott take Jesus as their role model in these matters:

    Jesus knew all about stigma. He never hesitated to move among the oppressed people of his day, including the most despised social outcasts. He went about his ministry without worrying about the aspersions upon his character, his motives, his righteousness. (p. 154)

    This book is a must read for any Christian who takes seriously Jesus's command to "love your neighbor as yourself." Scanzoni and Mollenkott conclude Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? with a challenging passage from the Bible:

    Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from [God] is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also (I John 4:20-21, New Revised Standard Version). (p. 198)



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Toward a Most Thorough Understanding of the World
Sexual Orientation and Early Childhood Education
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Race and Sexual Orientation
The (Im)possibility of These Intersections in Educational Policy
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How We Find Ourselves
Identity Development and Two Spirit People
By Alex Wilson
Manly Men and Womanly Women
Deviance, Gender Role Polarization, and the Shift in Women's School Employment, 1900-1976
By Jackie M. Blount
Researching Dissident Subjectivities
Queering the Grounds of Theory and Practice
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Cornel West on Heterosexism and Transformation
An Interview
HER Board

Book Notes

Open Lives, Safe Schools
Edited by Donovan R. Walling

Uncommon Heroes
Edited by Phillip Sherman and Samuel Bernstein

Free Your Mind
By Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman.

Becoming Visible
Edited by Kevin Jennings

Death By Denial
By Gary Remafedi

Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?
By Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.

One Teacher in Ten
By Kevin Jennings

The Gay Teen
Edited by Gerald Unks

Tilting the Tower
Edited by Linda Garber

School's Out
by Dan Woog

The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader
Edited by Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin

Joining the Tribe
By Linnea Due

How Would You Feel If Your Dad Was Gay?
By Ann Heron and Meredith Maran; illustrated by Kris Kovick.

Helping Gay and Lesbian Youth
Edited by Teresa DeCrescenzo