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Gender, sexuality topic of seminar

First Christian Church of Lawton will host a presentation on "Gender, Sexuality and Faith" from Lisa Davison at noon July 16.

Davison is a professor of Hebrew Bible from Phillips Theological Seminary, and her presentation will follow the church's Sunday service beginning with a lunch. The topic deals with areas of Davison's study.

"The Hebrew Bible, Old Testament, is my broad area of study," Davison said. "But within that area, I focus on women in the Bible, gender studies, gender interpretation. I have done many, many presentations on the Bible and sexuality, in particular with what the Bible does and doesn't say about homosexuality. So I guess you'd say those are areas of expertise and also areas of passion for me in justice works."

She'll start out her presentation by defining "gender" and "sexuality" and discussing their differences. She said many people incorrectly use those terms synonymously.

"When we speak of sexuality, we're talking about biological distinctions, and when we talk about gender, it's really a social construct," Davison said. "Those characteristics that our society has associated with being either male or female as most societies kind of divide us into those two categories. So sexuality talks about women  most women, I'll say it that way  have the biological ability to bear a child and men do not. I don't have all the statistics, but traditionally men have more muscle mass than women do, unless women are working really hard and bodybuilding. Gender though, there are often things that we talk about like 'boys don't cry' or 'you throw like a girl,' so those kind of societal constructs that if you're a boy you have to be tough and if you're a girl you need to be soft and compassionate and have a motherly instinct. And those change across societies."

This will be Davison's second presentation at First Christian Church. Last year, Davison spoke on the topic of homosexuality and explored the Bible passages that she deems "clobber passages," like the story of Sodom of Gomorrah, and talked about "how those have been misinterpreted in many cases, but certainly have been taken out of context most of the time."

During her presentation on July 16, Davison will talk about Biblical stories "in which gender and sexuality are aspects of the story in nontraditional ways and more inclusive ways."

"So, like, I'm going to talk about the story in the Hebrew Bible of Ruth and Naomi, who are two women who are bound together by a covenant and yet society requires that for them to have stability they have to have a male in their lives," Davison said. "And so we see this story of how they entice, or trap, a man, Boaz, to marry Ruth and give her the seed for a child. But at the close of the story, it's a completely feminine scene with only women present and Boaz has kind of disappeared.

"So I'm going to talk about how that relationship is not something we would think of as typical but it seems to have been embraced enough that that story shows up in the Biblical canon and certainly talks about issues of inclusivity because Ruth herself was a foreigner, a widow, and she is certainly someone, according to the biblical traditions, (who) is important enough to be included in the genealogy of King David, and in Matthew's Gospel, in the genealogy of Jesus."

Davison will also talk about other Biblical relationships similar to Ruth and Naomi. Often times when she talks about those relationships, she said, people get upset because they think she's saying they were sexual relationships, which is not what she's talking about.

"What I'm talking about is that the biblical writers were very comfortable with talking about these nontraditional relationships," Davison said. "And sometimes I wonder if we read our own prejudice back into a biblical text because sometimes those early, pre-scientific communities as they're described, or pre-modern communities, have a much more open and accepting attitude of people who are different."

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