After spending a few days reading up on issues related to gay Christians, I’m feeling pretty guilty that I never did this before. I just took it as obvious that God wouldn’t create gay people and then set about to make mandates against them. From there, I retreated into my little non-confrontational corner without really studying the debate.
I don’t mean by that I discounted the Bible as central to a Christian understanding of what it takes to be a Christian. I mean I discounted the opinions of fallible human beings that I believed were more influenced by homophobic traditions than by spiritual mandates. In this I think I did a disservice to everyone concerned. There are reasonable arguments that reasonable people on both sides of the issue can discuss without resorting to hate speak or to insults to one another’s faith.
The simple answer of “God can’t seriously be homophobic” was good enough for me, but it isn’t good enough for everyone, and I have learned a great deal in trying to figure out what the reasoning process might be in trying to reconcile faith with the reality of basic human rights in the 21st century. I’m glad I provoked myself into thinking about this by getting so worked up over condemnations of gay children.
Here’s what I’ve learned in a nutshell. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. Nothing. Not a word. We have no recorded words of Jesus on the subject whatsoever. If Christianity means following Jesus, Jesus did not tell Christians what to do on the subject of gay rights.
There are four places in the New Testament that can be taken as condemnations of homosexuality, and none of them are in the words of Jesus.
Those places are as follows:
Romans 1: 21-28
Corinthians 6: 9-10
Timothy 1: 10
Feel free to look them up for yourself at your own leisure.
Meanwhile, here’s an interesting article on the issue: http://sandalstraps.blogspot.com/2006/12/new-testament-and-homosexuality-my.html
You may or may not agree with what the article says, but I read it as a thoughtful, sincere, and scholarly look at the issue. It’s worth reading and considering.
What I learned, and what I am devoting some consideration to after reading this and other articles on the issue are these main ideas:
(1) The primary New Testament argument against homosexuality comes from a letter written by Paul. We don’t know the context in which the letter was written. We don’t know what he was responding to when he wrote it.
(2) The writers of the New Testament had no social concept of homosexuality as a sexual orientation.
(3) Scholars disagree over the meaning of the Greek words that our understanding of these particular passages in the New Testament is based on. We actually don’t know what they meant to the people who wrote them. We do know how they were interpreted by the King James translators, but they are not all that clear in the Greek.
(4) The Bible is clear on condemning certain practices that were often associated with homosexuality during the time the New Testament was written. Among those practices are adultery, promiscuity, pedophilia, idolatry, and rape.
(5) Paul could have been writing in response to Christians engaging in pagan rituals involving homosexual acts, which were common in the day, but we do not know because we do not have the letter he was responding to.
(6) Because there was no concept of homosexuality as a primary sexual orientation in an individual during New Testament times, we cannot know whether the Bible is meant to be read as condemning the modern day concept of gay marriage or of a committed, monogamous relationship. Certainly, we cannot read what it says as condemning the concept of homosexuality as a sexual orientation.
(7) What we can know is that the Bible is against the practice of men who are married to women having adulterous homosexual encounters. We can also know that it is against sexual acts as part of religious ceremony.
That’s a lot to digest for someone like me who has never heard the story told any other way than “the Bible condemns this.” I’m sure I will have to do a lot more reading and thinking before I even reach any final conclusions for myself.
By presenting this point of view, I’m not asking anyone to change or in any way compromise religious beliefs. What I am asking is this. Consider the possibility that two equally rational and equally devout Christians can read, study, and pray on the same issue and come to two completely opposite conclusions. Consider the possibility that this doesn’t make either a heretic. Consider the possibility that any of us on any particular point could be wrong.
Furthermore, consider this. The church today is being split absolutely in two over this issue just as it was split over civil rights, women’s rights, and other social issues in the not-so-distant past. Meanwhile, the fastest growing religious population in this country is “non-believer.” The church is dividing and sub-dividing in such contentious ways that it is unsustainable in contemporary society where people do have the choice to simply walk away from conflict. It is dividing now over gay rights, yet homosexuality is only marginally and vaguely mentioned in the Bible. You may or may not agree that the Bible condones homosexuality in any way, but no translation of the Bible treats homosexuality as the major sticking point of what it means to be a Christian. We turned this into such a divisive issue, not the Bible itself.
Just a little light thinking to start your day…