The following post was written by Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations at The Marin Foundation.
It is no secret that we as humans have a propensity to gravitate towards other individuals and ways of thinking that are familiar and reinforce the world as we already understand it. This makes sense since decreased diversity in worldviews can serve to lessen the potential for interpersonal and ideological conflicts. It can also provide comfort since our understanding is then at a lessened risk of being deconstructed and increase our sense of intellectual competency if surrounding voices operating out of similar foundational convictions only offer minor critiques.
Surrounding ourselves with that which is familiar and similar is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself though. Shared understanding and experiences allow groups of people to construct the belief systems, behaviors, and culture from which they derive meaning. This may include things like theologies about God and beliefs about sexuality. Though we can work together in positive ways and find commonalities, it is difficult and near impossible to construct complex ideas and theologies pertaining to a specific worldview with others that do not adhere to the foundational aspects of the said worldview. If we do not wish for our fundamental perceptions of reality to be altered by every philosophy and idea we come across, it is also a good idea to first find a sense of intellectual grounding in what we believe and learn to think critically before we set off to investigate the plurality of beliefs and ideas around us.
Once we have gained the tools to think critically though, the reasons for not learning about and engaging other beliefs and ideas seem to come down to apathy, arrogance, fear, or simply a lack of time. For those that have a vested interest in the conversation about the intersection of sexuality/gender identity and Christianity, we need to stretch ourselves beyond the confines of the familiar and what makes us comfortable in relation to our beliefs. I often find that many have talking points about their interpretation of the bible related to sexuality, while they have not invested much in understanding the beliefs of those whom they disagree on the matter. Or individuals may invest, but the intention is to learn more to be able to better refute those that they disagree with. I am often guilty of what I have mentioned since it pads my ego and reinforces what I already believe when I read resources and speak with individuals that I already agree with to an extent. It can be humbling to admit the ways in which my thinking has been informed more by the culture and values that I grew up with and my resulting bias rather than personal investment and study.
Along these lines, my intention for writing this post is simply to encourage individuals to step into unfamiliar territory and engage with others and resources that they disagree with. If you have a more traditional interpretation of scripture, I would encourage you to take the time to check out the video below that was passed onto me by Matthew Vines. Matthew is a 21 year-old man whose understanding of scripture on the topic surpasses many well beyond his age that possess a more progressive interpretation and it is well worth the time to listen to.
To get started, I would also encourage individuals to check out The New Testament and Homosexuality by Robin Scroggs. For those that are progressive on the matter, Welcoming But Not Affirming by Stanley Grenz is worth checking out. If you would like any resources beyond those, we have listed a few on our website here for individuals to get started.
But in reading, I hope and pray that LGBT individuals would not be made into an abstraction or theological issue to you if you are not a part of the community. Examination of scripture on the topic must be combined with long term relationships with those that are a part of the LGBT community. Failing to do so develops a faceless theology, which is inherently flawed and incomplete in its detachment from reality. Espousing beliefs without such relationships is destructive, even if pure intentions and developed intellectual understanding are present. It is simply impossible to love those whom you do not personally and intimately know. Instead, you rather love your idea about who you think they are as opposed to who they are in reality. This difference in loving an idea about who someone may be as opposed to loving them in their material reality is bound to manifest itself in some capacity in the way beliefs about the ‘topic’ are expressed. I pray that you would seek to love others whom you disagree as you love yourself while you move into developing your understanding about what you believe the bible communicates about sexuality.