More on Sexuality, Acceptability and the Church

Here is a good, and a little bit funny, article on the nature of “biblical” marriages.  If you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s how the author sums up the nature of “traditional” marriages with a biblical foundation:

Traditional marriage is one man with multiple wives, multiple concubines, wives conquered in war and wives acquired in levirate marriage, possibly including girls under the age of ten, but definitely not including anyone of a different ethnic group, in an arranged marriage with disposition of property as its purpose. That seems very different from “one man, one woman,” does it not?

This goes to my contention that most people really don’t know very much about what the Bible does say about a lot of topics, including slavery (very much affirmed), role of women in church and society (pretty well denigrated), arranged marriages (pretty well the norm), polygamy (more than acceptable), rape (not really a problem–just marry her afterward and bring her along with the rest of the wives), nature of clothing (no blended fabrics acceptable), the nature of the priesthood (no lame, no sexually disfigured permitted), and a host of other things.  I’ve written more about some of those things here and here.

In one way or another, many of those practices and commands have been either conveniently ignored or explained away by taking a larger view of the overall message of the Bible.  I believe that overall message centers on two things: giving glory to God and acknowledging the redemptive work of Jesus Christ so we might live in reconciled intimacy with that Holy God.

The way we humans handle our sexuality must be addressed.  But questions and guidelines about the way we handle this part of our lives cannot serve as the final dividing line between deciding who is worthy of grace and who is not.

Where slavery is concerned, most people today take the larger view. Even though the practice is clearly affirmed and even encouraged in many places in the Bible, we say today something different.  We affirm that respect for all creatures stamped with the Imago Dei means we will not agree that one person gets to own another person, strip that person of basic rights, and use that person at will, discarding him or her when usefulness has ended.  Most Christians today are horrified to hear of ongoing practices of young girls sold into sexual slavery (happening all over the place) or people being put in concentration camps and stripped of all dignity (check out the book Escape from Camp 14--this is taking place right now in North Korea).  We take strong moral stands against such injustices.

When are we going to take the next strong moral stance against injustice?

I began to change my views of the legitimacy of same-sex attraction when I began doing some reading and study of those who are born “intersexed” or with ambiguous genitalia.  In a small percentage of births, it is impossible to say clearly, “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl.”

I started asking myself, “Did God make a mistake with these children?”  “Does God love them as much as God loves those who are more clearly defined sexually?”  “Must someone born this way be barred from Christian leadership because we consider them fatally flawed and incapable of speaking as God’s mouthpieces?”

While those with SSA and the Intersexed are not the same, the questions that come up are the same.  When is someone a “mistake” or an “abomination” because of the way they are made?  Are only some people born in the Image of God? If so, what defines them?  For a long time, those few were much defined as male, with lighter skin, and property owners.  Everyone else was just a bit less, somehow sub-human.

So, I ask, “Is this a holy way to look at those who are different?”

I know I read the scriptures through the eyes of one who has generally felt left out of those who could be considered holy and acceptable before the Lord God.  I’m female and lefthanded.  Both of those factors have been suspect for generations.  The meaning of word “left” comes from the same Latin root, “sinestra” that the word “sinister” comes from. Left-handers have long been looked up as broken, wrong, just a bit evil. As for women . . . there are still many places in the world, including some places in the US supported by influential Christian denominations where women are very much excluded from the public square, from leadership, from positions of spiritual authority.

Who is right?  Who is wrong? Each side will argue its position by various biblical texts and theological pronouncements.  Often, each side condemns those on the other side to an eternity of separation from God.

And the world in need of grace walks by and says, “Well, it certainly can’t be found there.”

The church rightly has huge, huge issues with what is known as the “gay lifestyle” of unrestricted and wanton pursuit of sexual gratification.  Presumably, we also have huge, huge issues with the heterosexual pursuit of the same thing.  But only one of those concerns gets airing as “unholy” or “unacceptable.”   We need to refine our stance so that all of our sexual practices come under the exposing spotlight of the Holy One.

And remember, our call is to seek justice, act with kindness and mercy, and stay humble before our God.

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  • Angie Hammond

    Wow Christy! I’m so pleased to see you say these things. I work with youth who claim to be attracted to the same sex and they love God and are serious about their faith and just want to be treated like everyone else. They don’t treat us differently, but we are sure quick to label them. I’ve often wondered what Jesus would say to them. I believe that you’ve answered that question for me with your latest thoughts. Jesus would I am sure ask them the same questions he asks all of us. If their answers were that they loved God and showed others that same love then he’d welcome them along with the rest of his flock.

    Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone and standing up for and speaking for those who are on the outside looking in. What you are doing is true Kingdom of Heaven living as you’d put it.

    God Bless You and your service to him.

  • Charles R. Hogge, Jr.

    Christy, I appreciate your effort to deal seriously with this emotion filled subject. I would like to enter into dialogue and share a bit of my perspective as it has evolved over most of my eighty years. I recall a discussion I had with my dear friend, Bill McElvaney, while our nation waited with bated breath for the Supreme Court to decide the Bush v Gore case. I observed that I find it interesting that two individuals who are equally intelligent can receive the same information, yet come to entirely different conclusions. He said that in the case of theology it is known as hermeneutics. I decided to apply that to the political arena. Whenever I heard someone making provocative political statements, I would say to myself, “Political hermeneutics, political hermeneutics, political hermeneutics.” That practice helped me keep my blood pressure under control and avoid responding in ways that would have served no useful purpose. The relevance here is twofold. First, we all approach issues with our individual life experiences and draw conclusions accordingly. As with the study of Holy Scripture, what we get out of it is greatly influenced by what we take into that study. Second, I invite you and your readers to withhold harsh judgment of me and what I am about to offer – at least until you have an overall picture of from whence I come.

    During the past twenty or so years, I have gone from one extreme to the other, and am at a more middle position – which I believe is more honest, and healthier emotionally and spiritually. My aversion to and fear of homosexual men began at age fifteen – less than a year after my father died – when I was molested by a man I trusted. That experience left deep emotional scars on me, especially since there was no one in the small town where I lived whom I felt comfortable seeking counseling from. Even after a number of years of therapy, I still was carrying scars from that experience when my church began discussing becoming a “reconciling congregation.” We had already received a large enough number of openly LGBs that a productive dialogue was possible, and it was most helpful to me. The vote passed. A couple of years later, I decided to join the men’s group that was formed to give gays and straights the opportunity to better understand each other. We shared a meal, followed by a discussion of issues – at first, entirely on that subject. I became a strong advocate of the group and spoke on it’s behalf at each new member desert gathering – usually held quarterly. My tendency to identify homosexuality and bisexuality with pedophilia gradually disappeared and I prided myself in “my new found emotional and spiritual health.”

    I put a lot of time and effort into an attempt to defeat the Texas proposition to define marriage as only between one man and one woman and spoke on a local Dallas TV station during a downtown rally.

    My pendulum began to swing toward what I believe to be a more well grounded position. I left a meeting of our men’s group feeling quite alone when several men – both gay and straight spoke on behalf of not judging man-boy sex because “as Christians, we must be compassionate.” I came to realize that much of my almost fanatical support of the LGBT agenda was out of a deep need for approval. Not long afterward, I began listening to Dennis Prager. He is a devout Jew, a student of both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, and a brilliant advocate of maintaining the current definition of marriage as defined in the DOMA legislation. In no way is he a narrow minded bigot.

    I still maintain a friendly relationship with several LGB(T?) friends from that church. Some of those men have partners, yet feel no need to push for marriage.

    In order for me to be a faithful and effective disciple of Christ, I must seek a rationale that answers the question of God and genetic predisposition of some of God’s children to be L. G, B, or T. To do so, I go back to the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association to reclassify homosexuality as normal. It is my understanding that the study group that pushed for ratification was made up of purely academicians – with not a single practicing therapist involved. Prior to that, homosexuality had been seen as a form of obsessive/compulsive behavior. There are other forms of obsessive/compulsive behavior such as alcoholism, and it is often that the tendency toward that addiction is passed down from one generation to the next. It was prominent in both sides of my family. We do not judge God harshly for allowing such genetic abnormality to affect the lives, and we do not think for a moment of withholding the message of redemptive love and salvation to those so addicted. Still, as when Jesus dealt with those having such afflictions, he healed them and then said, “Go and sin no more.” I have tremendous compassion for all who suffer any kind of emotional and/or spiritual turmoil. I pray that God’s compassionate womb will nurture them to wholeness. They should be granted Holy Communion and membership, but ordination should continue to be withheld, pending healing.

    As to the history of marriage, every type of marriage mentioned in your article is male-female (one or more) – never mail-mail or female-female. Anything else has the effect of erasing all gender distinctions. In the beginning, God made man and woman – that they become one flesh.

    The best reference I can offer is David Klinghoffer’s “Shattered Tablets – Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril.” On that rock I stand. All other is sinking sand.

    Another reference is http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DegxB0dTajb4&h=AAQE_b5GlAQFXMqy0yuFiGvq-VRtzXRcWZnqGvRx-TID1Qg&enc=AZOhSQGXLr_OPyssxU5uvLtIlP6BSQt5StAHGBq1FOzoEi6h-HGOLlbsb5_F_rhDJrGy6pUKSS-koql7sgf8lStJ. It is well worth watching all the way through.

    Dennis Prager is fond of saying that clarity is more important than agreement. My prayer is that this revelation of my journey will help clarify that it is possible to truly embrace individuals in the LGBT community as brothers and sisters in Christ while at the same time praying that God will heal their affliction.

    Sincerely, Charlie Hogge