[I know many will not agree with this post. I know many will say I'm on the slippery slope, have rejected Scripture, thus rejected Christ, and I am teaching things against the Gospel. Obviously, nothing I say will convince you otherwise, and I'm not interested in having 'debates' on this issue. I have many close friends, and family members, who will disagree with this post - and that's okay. Many of us have come to a place of understanding on this issue - we just disagree. But this is still something I feel like I need to say.]
Unfortunately, if you came to this post hoping to see a detailed exegesis of texts like Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27, then you will be disappointed. There are certainly plenty of books written that go into great detail concerning the very few texts in Scripture that deal with same-sex relations. If you want to read a super-thick book that argues for a traditional/conservative view regarding homosexuality, then you might want to take a look at Robert Gagnon‘s The Bible and Homosexual Practice (520 pages!). There are plenty of people who hold a similar view and probably argue their point more succinctly and with more generosity and humility, but Gagnon is one who is often quoted. If you want to read a book from someone who has come 180 degrees in his thinking on this issue, and argues for acceptance for gays in the church, read Jack Rogers’s “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality.”
But presenting a coherent biblical argument for why homosexuality is not a sin and why our gay brothers and sisters should be fully welcomed into all areas of the church and ministry is not my point here. I think many people have done just that (Jack Rogers and Stacy Johnson come to mind), but they are easily dismissed by many because they apparently don’t have a “high enough view of scripture.”
Well – if that’s the problem – then I say, “Enough with the Bible already!”
This issue has been on my mind a lot recently, for a variety of reasons, but most recently because Sarah and I gathered with some friends from our church and watched the documentary, “For the Bible Tells me So.” If you don’t know anything about the film, you should really watch the trailer or watch a great clip entitled “Is it a choice?” here. Basically it follows the story of five Christian families and how they dealt with their children coming out. There are some extremely sad and some extremely hopeful stories in this film. One girl commits suicide largely in part to her mother’s inability to accept her sexuality. Another young gay man’s family gets behind him and joins a movement of awareness and non-violent protests that eventually bring the family to the headquarters of James Dobsons’s Focus on the Family.
We were watching this film with a diverse group – people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. Some gay, some straight. Some married (both gay & straight), some single, and some partners in loving, monogamous relationships. We had a great evening with these friends; as we left that night and as I was thinking about the film, I became increasingly upset that there are people in this world (primarily Christians) who think our gay and lesbian friends should not be allowed to marry, adopt children, have the same rights as straight people or be ordained to follow calls to ministry. Rather, they should be “fixed” or changed. And for those who are Christian and believe these things, these beliefs come from a very selective reading of a very small amount of texts from the Bible.
If it is truly the Bible that is causing some to hold these discriminatory beliefs, then perhaps we need to set the Bible aside for awhile. Perhaps we need to not construct a belief system about LGBT folk built on the foundation of a couple verses in scripture. Perhaps that isn’t healthy, fair, just or Christian.
Christians have a history of using the Bible as a weapon (this is a bit of a caricature – but probably not far from the truth). Whether being used to condone slavery, oppress women or support wars, it’s clear the Bible has been misused by many [insert here accusations that I as well am misusing the Bible with my hope for acceptance of LGBT folk]. When the Bible becomes used as a weapon, as a tool for discrimination, as a way in which people can justify beliefs of hatred and injustice – one has to think and wonder if we haven’t gone horribly wrong somewhere.
For some, I believe the Bible has become an idol. Some place the Bible above Jesus’ compassion and love, Jesus’ radical inclusivity, and hold steadfast onto what they believe to be the correct interpretation of a small amount of verses that speak about same-sex relations. To those who repeatedly start quoting Leviticus and Romans verses as soon as anyone brings up the topic of homosexuality, I’d suggest perhaps you stick your Bible back up on the shelf for awhile. Perhaps it should collect a little bit of dust. And maybe, just maybe, you need to go out and grab coffee with someone who’s gay. Maybe you need to hear their story, learn about what they’ve been through, how they’ve experienced Christians and the church.
It’s recently become more and more clear to me that there is an increasing amount of fear and ignorance connected to this topic. We may be living in the 21st century, but there is still so much fear connected to gay people in our world. Fear of the unknown is strong and rampant in so many people’s assumptions about gays. Fear comes from ignorance, from a lack of knowledge. I wonder how much fear could be laid to rest if those who feared gays the most actually got to know someone who was gay.
Actually, that is often the way it works. Someone finds out their aunt or uncle is gay – or maybe it’s a brother or sister. All of a sudden, this “issue” is not just an issue, but it’s something that affects real people – people close to you. You often hear stories of people whose beliefs were changed after being forced to deal with the implications of homosexuality as it affected someone close to them. This was my own experience. I had never even given much of a thought to homosexuality before one of my best friends came out to me in college. All of a sudden, it wasn’t simply an “issue” I could choose to ignore. I’ve often found that some of the people with the strongest anti-gay feelings are people who in fact have never met or had conversations with a gay Christian before. That needs to change.
There are many people who have and will continue to make strong and persuasive biblical arguments from scripture, arguing for the acceptance of gays in the church. And the issue, especially as it pertains to gay marriage in our society, will continue to be a public issue getting much attention for many years to come (an example is the recent Newsweek cover story). So I’m not arguing that we should throw out the Bible; but at least for some people, it might be more productive – and better for society – if they put the Bible aside for awhile, stopped listening to the hateful rhetoric of James Dobson & Friends, and engaged in some thoughtful reflection and conversation with the LGBT community.
Christians need to get over their fear of gays and of what might happen if they welcomed fully into our society and churches. Christians need to get over their infatuation with a very select few verses, and get over their infatuation with a literalistic interpretation of these texts. Christians need to look more to Christ than to the Bible. Christians need to actually live out the radical love and compassion that Jesus exemplified in the scriptures. Christians need to realize that the world will not end when gays are given the right to marry – or when we finally fully welcome LGBT brothers and sisters into pastoral ministry.
If it is the Bible that is causing us to delay accepting and celebrating LGBT persons as being fully human and fully created in the image of God, just as they are, then perhaps we need to say, “Enough with the Bible already…”