08-23: Daniel Helminiak @ PFLAG Marietta

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imageDon’t you just love the smart guy in the room when he’s on your side and can quote the Bible?

That, in a nutshell, is Daniel Helminiak (photo), the academic and author who penned “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.” The book, first published in 1994, debunks all the conservative religious dogma against homosexuality and arms the gays with a religious basis to confront those arguments. Now a professor at the University of West Georgia, Helminiak is spending a couple of hours on Sunday with PFLAG Marietta.

Project Q Atlanta talked with Shannon Hames, one of the event organizers, about what to expect from Helminiak’s appearance.

Why did PFLAG want to have Helminiak at your meeting?

In our PFLAG group, we regularly get visits from people from the GLBTQ community as well as their family members who have some serious religious struggles relating to their sexuality. They are usually either coming out or have family members who are. Their views on scriptures are such a source of conflict for them.

The families don’t want their loved ones go to hell. They don’t want to condone “sin” but they want to support what is an obvious struggle. Some of them grew up in the church and feel like they are making a choice of being themselves over loving God. It’s a heart-breaking scenario. Besides the love and support we normally give, we also wanted to equip them with knowledge. Dr. Helminiak will bring that extra affirmation that these people need.

How did you get Helminiak to attend the meeting?

When I came out almost two years ago, I was ending an 18-year marriage to a man who was a fundamentalist evangelical. I was steeped in that culture and I really, really struggled with how I felt that I was made versus how God wanted to to be. My “sin” was announced to the congregation in a public worship service and I was thrown out of the church. I felt lost without community or a way to serve. I went to the pastor of Pilgrimage United Church of Christ and she gave me Dr. Helminiak’s book “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality” to read.

It was life-changing for me. It was so helpful to know that we understand so little about the scriptures when we don’t apply the cultural and historical contexts to what we read. I have so many family members who won’t even speak to me because they view me as an apostate. The book re-affirmed in me what I already knew: I was made this way and the offense to God was me living a lie with someone that I didn’t love, keeping him from who he was supposed to be with.

I wrote to Dr. Helminiak to thank him. He was so sweet and gracious. I appreciated him taking the time to speak to me and invited him to come. He was so amazing and agreed to give a presentation to us and has been so fun to work with to put this together. We can’t wait to have him.

What can people expect from the presentation?

Basically, Dr. Helminiak will be sharing how the scriptures are often misinterpreted and how we can gain completely new insight to them when we understand something about the culture of the people and the times that they were written in. It’s something that the fundamentalist community doesn’t want to talk about because it would destroy some of their systematic theology. It would force people to look at the scriptures on their own instead of just swallowing what they are fed each Sunday.

We hope that everyone in the GLBTQ community who struggles with their faith as well as those who have friends and family who are fundamentalists will come and bring those people to hear good teaching and be encouraged.  This won’t be a religious service; it will be an excellent lecture with time for Q&A at the end. To top it off, we’ll have refreshments.

View the full event listing from the Project Q Atlanta community calendar.

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