There may be good reasons for believing that homosexuality is a sin, but there are also some very bad reasons. For what it’s worth, I don’t even like the phrase “homosexuality is a sin.” I explain why in my book People to Be Loved. In any case, here are my top 5 bad reasons for holding to a non-affirming view of same-sex relations.
1. The thought of gay sex creeps me out
The “creepiness factor” is a terrible reason for believing something is wrong. It’s not only subjective, but it’s an ethical anemic reason for saying same-sex relations are wrong. Just because something may creep you out this doesn’t mean that it’s a sin. Eggplant creeps me out, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sin for you to stuff your face with some hot roasted Eggplant (Yuck!!). My 6 year old son thinks that it’s creepy when a man and woman kiss. Does that mean that heterosexual kissing is sin?
Homosexuality is about so much more than just sex. My dear straight friends, think about it: How much does your heterosexuality have to do with sex? Are you still straight even when you’re not having sex? Or when you’re not thinking about sex? Well guess what, gay people are still gay even when they’re not having or thinking about sex.
Reducing homosexuality to a discussion about sex is wrong-headed, naïve, and dehumanizing. Straight Christians really need to get past the whole “gay sex is creepy” argument. It’s not an argument. It’s a reaction. And a bad one at that.
2. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve
Most people under 40 don’t use this argument anymore, so I hesitate even addressing it. But it’s still hanging on in the fringes of conservative Christianity, so I want to go on record saying: don’t ever use this argument again.
Just because the first human pair were male and female does not intrinsically mean that every single marriage after them must be between male and female. I mean, maybe Adam and Eve are an everlasting paradigm for marriage. I actually think they are in many ways. Indeed, I believe that Adam and Eve’s sex-difference lays the foundation for all future marriages (and Jesus thinks so too; Matt 19). But we get this from a detailed study of the text. We can’t just assume it to be true based on the mere existence of Adam and Eve as male and female. And the cute little rhythmic phrase “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” isn’t actually cute. It’s not funny either. It’s pretty dumb, actually. And it says more about the state of Evangelical thinking (and humor) than it does about sex difference in Christian anthropology.
3. Jesus says it’s wrong
He doesn’t. Jesus never explicitly mentions homosexuality. When Christians say “Jesus says it’s wrong,” it only reveals that they haven’t paid close attention to the actual life and teaching of Jesus. Which is sad.
Next lame reason…
4. The Bible says it’s wrong
This may be a good reason. It actually may be a great reason. But it may also be a bad reason. It depends on what you mean by “Bible.”
I get so tired of people throwing around the word “biblical” or the phrase “The Bible says…” when what they really mean is “I believe this and I believe that, and I’m going to rubber stamp my assumptions with the word biblical to show that my beliefs are correct. And if you disagree, you’re a heretic.”
I was sitting next to a Christian on an airplane and the topic of homosexuality came up. “The Bible is very clear,” he said. “Homosexuality is a sin.”
“Which passages?” I inquired.
“Which passages are very clear?” I repeated.
“Well…you know…the Bible is clear!!”
I didn’t know why he kept raising his voice, as if a louder “it’s CLEAR!” would somehow cause verses to pop out of his mouth. After I kept pressing, he admitted that he couldn’t name one. He knew his view was correct; indeed, it was biblical—“the Bible is very clear”—yet he didn’t know where, or why, or how, or how often the Bible mentions, let alone prohibits, same-sex relations.
I never want to be that guy on the plane. I never want my assumptions to be codified with an empty and lazy use of the word “biblical.”
But even if we do know what the Bible says and where it says it, we still need to do the hard work of interpreting the Bible in its own ancient context and applying it to a culture 2,000 years removed from that context.
The debate is not about what the Bible says. The debate is about what it means.
Every gay person I know has read Leviticus 18, Romans 1, and the other homosexuality passages. They’ve been beaten over the head with these texts so many times that they could never forget their words. This is why it’s belittling and naïve when people simply quote these passages as if no one’s ever heard them before.
We’ve got to go beyond mere quotation and move to interpretation.
5. Christians have always believed that homosexuality is a sin
This is probably the best of the worst. This argument isn’t too bad. The fact is, Christians have always believed that same-sex relations are sin. That is, until the late 20th century.
It’s a good argument if you’re Roman Catholic. But if you’re Protestant, then you believe that the Bible itself can overturn tradition if it’s been misinterpreted. That’s the foundation of Protestantism; tradition is not our ultimate authority. And some people are claiming that the Bible has been misinterpreted. Protestants have a lot of work to do if they are to live up to their precious Sola Scriptura mantra. They must show that the tradition hasn’t been based on a misreading of God’s word.
We also need to weigh the “tradition argument” against the fact that Christian tradition has been plagued by some pretty horrendous views of women, sex, and marriage. Some Christian theologians believed that same-sex relations were wrong because at least one of the partners (in a male relation) has to act like a mere woman. You can probably smell the misogynist undertones of such an argument.
As Christians, we need to not just believe what we believe. We need to understand why we believe it. Good conclusions supported by lame evidence is intellectually uncompelling and spiritually dishonest. As Bible believing Christians—if you are one—we need to dig deep into Scripture and figure out why we believe the things we do.
This is one of the many reasons why I wrote my book. I wanted to sift through all the cluttered rhetoric and lazy assumptions in order to figure out what the Bible actually says about sex and same-sex sexuality.