A few months ago I organised my thoughts on Christianity and homosexuality in a post called I Think God Makes People Gay.
Since writing it I have had some more thoughts, so I thought I would write those down too.
I have Christian friends who believe that homosexuality is an abomination, detestable to God.
I also have Christian friends who actively affirm homosexuality, and believe that the act of discriminating against and excluding LGBTQIAP people is an abomination, detestable to God.
I have non-Christian friends who view Christians as judgemental and unloving because of their attitudes to homosexuality.
I think many, perhaps most of my Christian friends are currently stuck somewhere in the middle of these categories. They would love to fully encourage and affirm their gay friends, but they believe the Bible says homosexuality is wrong. Forcing LGBTQIAP people to live repressed and lonely lives seems harsh and unloving, un-Jesus-like even, and yet they can’t shake off the fear that affirming such relationships would be going against God’s will and leading people into sin.
I still sometimes fall into this category, doubting my interpretation of the Bible and worrying that I’m somehow leading people astray. But most days I’m in the radically affirming camp.
So following on from my previous post, here are some more thoughts on the “issue” of homosexuality and Christianity.
1. If I’m OK with people getting divorced and remarried, why not same sex relationships?
This is an obvious one, but important nonetheless. Everything comes down to how I read the Bible. If I choose to interpret the bits about homosexuality as directly applicable and culturally relevant today, I really ought to also be against divorce. More so actually because Jesus talked about divorce a lot, while never once mentioning homosexuality. I should also be against women in leadership, and I should probably be keeping slaves. What makes monogamous homosexual relationships any different?
2. The bible passages most commonly used to argue against homosexuality are probably about something entirely different.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, the apostle Paul includes homosexuality in a list of immoral acts. This and Romans 1:26-27 are probably the most convincingly anti-gay passages in the Bible. But Paul is speaking into a culture where it was normal and socially acceptable for wealthy older men to act as patrons to young boys – educating and supporting them, and usually having sexual relations with them. Sexuality in that culture was in the context of unequal relationships that were often abusive and exploitative. Yet these are the writings we have used to condemn monogamous, equal, loving homosexual relationships in our own culture. Are they really comparable?
3. According to Paul, singleness was “God’s best”.
We hold Paul as the highest authority on many issues in the church. And yet if it was up to Paul, everyone would be single and no-one would have sex with anyone.
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1-2)
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
Paul seems to be saying that as far as he’s concerned, it is best to stay single. For him, marriage is less than “God’s best” (a phrase I hear a lot in reference to homosexuality), but he concedes that for some who lack the necessary self-control, it is better to marry.
None of us are perfect but in loving one another in healthy, committed, faithful relationships we grow closer to God, learning to mirror the love Jesus has for us. How can it be right to deny some people this opportunity?
4. Sexuality and gender are more complicated than we thought.
I listened to The Liturgists Podcast – Episode 20: LGBTQ twice through even though it’s over two hours long – I found it fascinating. If you’re interested in this discussion you should find time to have a listen.
One of the most interesting parts, I thought, was an explanation of what science has revealed about the nature of gender and sexuality. There are a surprisingly high number of people of do not fit the categories of male or female, let alone straight or gay. These people are forced to fit our cultural moulds or face being effectively cast out from society. People are still today being disowned by their families for not fitting the cultural norm.
For we who call ourselves Christians, how do we imagine Jesus would have treated such people? Is it not more Christ-like to show people radical love, inclusion, affirmation and acceptance than to judge and exclude them?
As with many things, sexuality and gender are simply not black and white. So what if we stopped worrying so much about squeezing people into boxes and concentrated on loving them instead?
5. Where do we draw the line? Are we taking the easy way out and making our faith fluffy and lukewarm in the process?
As Christians we have to hold firm to the central values of our faith. So what are they? Jesus said we should love God and love others. He was radically loving, and outrageously affirming of those whom society had cast out. The only people he condemned were the religious leaders who sought to control people and appear superior by taking it upon themselves to enforce purity laws.
By affirming homosexual relationships we are not saying “anything goes”. We do not affirm anything that is abusive, destructive, unjust, unhealthy or inhumane. Our goal is to love God, love others and help others to love God.
And we’re not talking about a fluffy, do-what-you-want-as-long-as-you-don’t-offend-anybody, nice sort of love. We’re talking about the sacrificial sort of love that Jesus demonstrated when he died on a cross.
There’s nothing lukewarm or easy about that sort of love. That’s what Christians are supposed to be known for.
6. What if I’m wrong?
Does God actually make people gay? I don’t know. No-one does.
All we have to go on are a few lines in some letters from thousands of years ago which may or may not be culturally applicable today. But they are part of a wider story which speaks overwhelmingly of a God who loves people, and longs to draw near to them.
The Bible is not clear on homosexuality, so ultimately we do what we feel is right.
And I find it hard to believe that anyone who arrives at the pearly gates will be condemned by God for being too loving.
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