Sex, Violence, and Power

Robert Gnuse’s article argues that the seven biblical passages condemning homosexuality are not referring to relationships between two free, adult, and loving individuals, but abuses of power and control. With this frame of thinking, it is clear that Christians should use their faith to condemn sex that is pedophilic, describes rape or attempted rape, or is done with hatred in the heart. Instead, the scripture is used to attack the LGBTQ+ community and equate all same-sex relationships with subjugation and immorality. To undermine this mindset, in Going to Meet the Man Baldwin depicts a relationship that, from an outsider’s perspective, is the model for virtuous and ethical sexuality. There is a heterosexual union between a man and a woman that Christians would openly support more than the union of a same-sex couple.

However, we uncover that Jesse’s sexual perversions fit into the biblical descriptions of immoral sexuality as compared to homoeroticism. Jesse rapes Black women, gets aroused from assaulting young boys with a cattle prod, and finally gets off on the memory of the murder and subjugation of a Black man from the power of white men. The Biblical condemnation of homosexuality serves to protect young boys and men from being violated or penetrated by another man trying to hold mastery over them. Baldwin directly connects Jesse’s sexuality with violence and control when Jesse feels himself “violently stiffen” as he sees the effect of his brutality on the beaten young man in the jail cell. In his attempt to describe raping Black women to the boy, Jesse slips and says to him “You lucky we pump some white blood into you every once in a while—your women” referring first to the man before correcting himself to say his women–creating homoerotic tension (938). Jesse also fits into the predatory stereotype commonly assigned to gay men as he attempts to charm little Black boys with candy and gum only to assault them as they get older.

Despite all of this, Jesse still believes he is acting out his life and sexuality in a pure and honorable manner. Jesse thinks, “And he was a good man, a God-fearing man, he had tried to do his duty all his life” (934). Here we see the conflict with what Jesse has been raised to believe is good and moral, and the horrendous nature of his thoughts and actions. He believes he is charged to destroy those who “fight against God and go against the rules laid down in the Bible for everyone to read” (939). This shows the tension between the finer rules laid out in the Bible and Christians’ execution of these laws with violence and hatred. Jesse completely neglects the overall mission of Christ which is to love others.