GOD LOVES GAYS AND LESBIANS. HE MAKES LOTS OF THEM, AFTER ALL.
THE BIBLE DOESN'T CONDEMN HOMOSEXUALITY. MOST OF US CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IT DOES, BUT WE JUST GOT THAT PLAIN WRONG!
Sexual orientation isn't a choice, it's a given. You can be a gay Christian and please God by being in a faithful, permanent, stable, loving relationship with your same-sex partner.
Homophobia is rampant in the Christian church and is not of God. Gays have much to contribute to the rich tapestry of the Christian family. We need to repent of our rejection of them and embrace those for whom Jesus died.
This is perhaps the most controversial section of this entire theses and one of the most important issues facing the church of the 21st Century. It's a subject that the majority of western Christians believe is an open and shut case. They would say: 'Homosexuality is a sin. The Bible clearly condemns it, the Church throughout history has condemned it, the very facts of biology demonstrate that it's an aberration at best and our own emotional response to it is usually revulsion.'
So how on earth could any serious minded Christian ever endorse homosexuality (and in this I am including lesbianism) as a legitimate Christian lifestyle?
Only by changing your belief paradigm.
I once saw a short play on television that made a strong impression on me. It was set in a doctor's surgery and the doctor wheeled in a patient who was restrained by being tied to the wheelchair, apparently to avoid his becoming violent. The patient was clearly delusional and was shouting to the doctor that they were in a spaceship together and that the doctor and he were both astronauts. The doctor tried to help him and then began to wheel him to the waiting room.
At this the patient became extremely agitated and said that the waiting room was, in fact, a disposal hatch and that if he were taken there he would die. He said that the doctor was suffering a delusional space sickness and that if he took one of the blue and white pills that were in his top left hand drawer he would begin to recover.
Well, perhaps you can guess what happened. The doctor took him screaming outside and then sat at his desk and eventually looked in his drawer and found a packet of blue and white pills. He took one after much hesitation and following a dizzy spell found himself in a space capsule - alone!
He had had no doubt that he was right. Everything around him confirmed his perceptions. He had been convinced that he was experiencing reality but in fact it was a delusion. It caused him to eject his fellow spaceman.
Our perception of homosexuality is like this.
We have been ejecting our fellow believers from the bosom of the Church believing we are doing God's will. What has been their fate? They have been indoctrinated with confusion, guilt and self loathing. They have sought cures and miracles in vain. They have emasculated themselves, taken to drugs and excess and committed suicide in vast numbers. We have caused them to become spiritually shipwrecked.
"Surely not!" you cry. The Church couldn't be wrong on such an important point.
Do you think it's impossible for the majority of Christians to be wrong about a significant doctrine? Well, if you have read what I have already written you will realise that not only can they be but for most of the last 2000 years they have been in general disagreement over many doctrines. For example:
Â§ Whether or not Gentiles can be saved.
Â§ Which day to observe as a Sabbath.
Â§ Whether observing days is important or not.
Â§ Dietary laws.
Â§ Capital punishment.
Â§ Racial equality.
Â§ Forms of baptism.
Â§ Church government.
Â§ The place of women in the church.
I can point you in the right direction if you have an open mind. If you don't, what I am writing will seem like foolishness. If I just quoted you the scriptures that apparently condemn homosexuality and tried to say "well these really don't mean what they seem to clearly say" you would reject my arguments.
But if we look at the Bible itself, and you allow me to show you that we have been using it in the wrong way all along, then you will begin to see God's truth in a different light.
I will need to give you examples where it is clear that we cannot interpret them in the way that most Christians do. Then we will begin to understand how we must interpret them in order to correctly understand the spirit of what God wants us to receive from his holy Word. Then when we apply these principles in a consistent way across all scripture, including these that refer to homosexuality, we will see them in a new light.
This could be a difficult exercise and not one for the faint hearted. It is scary to question one's fundamental assumptions. You can begin to feel disoriented and fearful; not only for your own sake but for fear of what others will think of you if you embrace such different ideas.
To most Christian readers, the thought of God accepting practicing homosexuals into the church body is repulsive, mentally and emotionally. I think the basic objections come under these headings:
I don't propose to give an exhaustive refutation of each of these arguments (I'm sure you will be glad to read) because others have done that much better than I could. On the Links page are some books and web sites if you are interested in finding out the truth for yourself. What I will do is just briefly give you a summary of what I feel is wrong with each of these objections.
1. It's true that God says that he made man male and female. Physically their bodies are designed to "fit" together in sexual union and this is how we reproduce. Accepting that this is a norm, however, doesn't address the question of those that God has made that don't fit the profile.
Homosexuality occurs naturally in the animal kingdom at every level. It also occurs naturally among humans of every race and society and has done throughout history, despite the fact that many societies have tried to deny it.
Homosexuality is not a single condition that is always caused by the same things. Sometimes the cause is primarily genetic, sometimes environmental and sometimes a mixture of each.
Furthermore, there are some people born "intersex". They have sexual organs of both sexes and usually find it very difficult to relate to a strongly heterosexual society that treats sexual deviations as taboo. They are often persecuted, frightened, guilty and lonely individuals. If their nuclear family is able to bring them up, accepting them for what they are, (i.e. neither male nor female) and refuses to hide them away as if they were freaks, then they have a chance of developing happily. However, it is rare if they love them just as they are - intersex individuals that God has made and Jesus died for. Usually the family is highly distraught, feel guilty, believes that God is punishing them for their sins (if they are Christians) and follow medical advice by trying to make their beautiful offspring into either a male of female through a mixture of surgery, medication and counselling.
Poor, sad, ignorant us! Because of our prejudices and fears and ignorance we cause our loved ones to suffer. We don't mean to harm them. We love them and want the best for them. Religious dogma doesn't help. It confirms us in our mental chains. "God made them male and female" the minister tells us.
But in these cases he didn't. What do we do? If someone has a beautiful baby boy or girl we are happy to credit God with such a creation. We count their fingers and toes and marvel at the intricate beauty of the baby's form. But if they have a deformity we start to look for someone or something to blame. The implication is that God's perfect will was thwarted somehow. The truth is that we live in a fallen creation and nothing in the physical world is perfect. The creation is subject to decay.
Okay so the male and female bits fit together. Does that mean that the only sexual consummation that is allowed is where the organs "fit"? What about heterosexual, husband and wife intercourse that doesn't involve vaginal penetration? Is that a perversion too? This gets us onto shaky ground. What is natural? I know some denominations that prescribe approved sexual positions. Are birth control devices natural?
Must sexual activity produce offspring to make them legitimate in God's eyes? I have looked in vain through the early chapters of Genesis to see references to producing children as a reason that God made marriage.
2. It might seem that many scriptures clearly condemn homosexuality, but in fact they don't. The truth is that the Bible has very little to say about homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.
It is tragic how "sodomy" has come into the vernacular from the Biblical stories about the city of Sodom. The sin of the men of Sodom was not homosexuality as the Bible makes very clear itself.
"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before meâ€¦ You (Jerusalem) have done more detestable things than they." (Ezekiel 16:49-51)
There is much good research to show what the sins of Sodom were, so I won't spend time on it here.
3. It is assumed that because most Christians agree that it's sinful, then it must be because they couldn't all be wrong. But the fact is that most Christians have been wrong about quite a lot of things - and homosexuality is just one more.
When it comes down to it, you have to look at Scripture for yourself and decide what it says. If you are looking for verses that confirm to you that the Bible condemns homosexuality, then you will find them if you simply read them in many of today's translations and without careful examination. They were translated by men who almost universally believed homosexuality to be a sin! On the other hand, if you delve deeper and listen to careful exegesis of these verses with an explanation of the social and historical context and the original Hebrew and Greek, you will see a totally different picture emerging. (You probably won't be looking into it unless you or someone you love is gay).
4. For many people the most powerful motive for condemning homosexuality is the fact that they find it repulsive, which just shows them how wrong it obviously is.
This is almost impossible to argue against. The more anyone does, the more you become convinced that they are the agent of the devil.
Try looking at it from another angle. When I first became a Christian I joined a fundamentalist Church that believed we should obey every word of Scripture from the Old as well as the New Testament. This wasn't possible, of course, because they contradict each other, but we tried. One of the teachings was that we shouldn't eat pork because Leviticus 11 prohibits it. So we didn't. Moreover, many members of that Church will tell you how repulsive even the smell of bacon frying was to them.
When we came out of that Church, my wife found that it took years before she could eat pork products without feeling squeamish.
Teaching from my church reinforced the prejudice I already had against gays and just served to confirm my negative emotional response to all things gay.Â Even when I had intellectually proven to myself that God makes some people gay, that he loves them the way they are and that he doesn't condemn homosexual sex ( but rather selfish love and unfaithfulness and lack of personal commitment) I still found that it took a long time before I could react positively to gay men and women.
I didn't change the way I thought because of the way I felt. I came to understand the truth and now my emotions have followed. I see gay and lesbian men and women as precious brothers and sisters and delight in their contribution to society and the Church in particular.
So what can I say? Unless you are hungry to know the truth it's easier to stay in the accepted, popular, comfortable illusion. After all, it took us slavers in the United States and Britain a long time to think of black people as having souls like "real human beings".
Even today, most evangelical Christians believe that God condemns homosexuality and that the Bible forbids it. This is completely untrue. The Bible doesn't condemn homosexuality at all. It has been translated by largely homophobic scholars who have changed the original Hebrew and Greek to make it appear to be against homosexuality at first glance. However, true scholarship and understanding of the context of the "anti gay" verses reveal an amazingly different viewpoint. Are you open minded enough to at least look at the evidence? It's extremely difficult to do this because our emotional programming over sexually taboo subjects is incredibly powerful.
The truth is that God makes quite a lot of us either lesbians or gays. He loves them no less than straight people. Similarly, (despite the teachings of those who insist that healing is in the atonement and that God's will is always to heal) God makes a lot of sick and deformed people. He loves them just as much as those who are physically and mentally sound. He isn't trying desperately to heal them now and their imperfections don't thwart his purposes for a single one of us.
In fact, his power is made complete in our weaknesses. We are all flawed in many ways.
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is for ever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.Â Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."
Let us now prayerfully look at what this letter to the church at Rome was all about.
First of all, Paul was writing to a first century church that was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. In this part of the letter he is addressing Gentile idolatry. Later on in his letter he goes on to say to the Jewish believers that they are no better because they had the law, but at this stage he is building his argument and he is talking about Gentile worship of false gods.
He writes that they are without excuse because God can clearly be seen in creation. He says that they willingly rejected that knowledge and turned instead to idols. Because of this perverse rejection of him, God gave them over to sexual perversions, typified by the change from heterosexual sex to homosexual sex along with other base sins.
Understanding the way that people thought at that time is important to help us understand why Paul wrote what he did. For the Jews, homosexuality was seen as a Gentile perversion and one which was either associated with idolatrous activities or pederasty (where an older male took a younger male sex partner).
Paul, like other writers at the time, knew nothing of "homosexual people" but only homosexual acts. To him, anyone who engaged in homosexual activity was perverting their natural sexual appetites. That's why he says they "Abandoned natural relations". He is, therefore, describing people who changed their natural heterosexual activity to unnatural - for them personally as well as "by the nature of things, which Paul accepted as a given. It was the changing of the natural sexuality to the unnatural (like the changing of the worship of the true God to the false) that was anathema to Paul.
The fact is that today we understand homosexuality better and realise that for some, homosexuality is their "natural" inclination and not something they have chosen in any way. Some few religious people still resist this truth but it is out of ignorance and/or a refusal or inability to examine the evidence objectively.
This therefore is the scenario he depicts:
So, far from being a blanket condemnation of homosexuality it is in a specific context condemning the behaviour of Gentiles who have turned to worshipping false gods and to perversions of their natural behaviour.
Does this describe your gay Christian friends? Of course not.
If you were to have been able to travel back in time and to ask Paul what he thought about two men who were naturally homosexual and who were living in a permanent, loving, faithful relationship together, what reaction do you think you would have got?
First of all, the concept would have been alien to his way of thinking. He would probably have trouble accepting that you were describing a reality. Because of his culture and personal understanding he would almost certainly find the concept objectionable. He might well doubt whether they were truly Christian, because of his own preconceived notions but would be honest enough to say that such were not the object of his criticisms in Romans 1.
In Paul's mind the only men who engaged in homosexual activity were heterosexual men who were perverting their own sexual drives by, for example:
§ Engaging in idolatrous worship practices.
§ Sodomising men they had defeated in battle.
And it was, for Paul, clearly shameful and depraved. He wrote with the limitations of his own cultural understanding.
He also insisted on the covering and silencing of women in church, remember. He said that men should not have their heads covered because they are the image and glory of God. He said that women should cover their head because they are not. I personally believe that is fundamentally wrong. Women are as much the image and glory of God as men.
This correspondence between some concerned Christian parents about their lesbian daughter and Maggie Ellis was truly inspiring to me. It was first published in Christianity magazine and when I read it I realised that Maggie had replied with so much more wisdom and empathy than my numerous replies to similar pleas for help that I wrote to Maggie and asked her if I could repeat it here for you.
Maggie graciously said "Yes".
She is an Accredited Psychosexual Therapist and Lifecentre Director. Lifecentre is a charity for people who have been sexually abused, so not directly for people with varying orientations. Their vision is repairing and preventing the impact of sexual violation. You can find their web site on www.lifecentre.uk.com
Here is the correspondence:
My daughter is bisexual
My husband and I are committed Christians in a thriving Church who would appreciate your advice concerning our 19-year-old daughter. Lucy (not her real name) told us about a year ago that she was bisexual and was in a relationship with another girl, Jemma. We have talked and prayed over this situation almost daily since we were made aware of it but are struggling to make any headway. Lucy feels she is doing nothing wrong at all in pursuing this relationship (which is sexual) whereas my husband and I and our two other children are repulsed by the whole thing and do not know how to cope with it. We allow Jemma into our home and she stays over sometimes as we live in a rural area with no buses after 6pm. The girls are not allowed to sleep together so Lucy sleeps on the sofa when her girlfriend comes over. We have tried so hard to bring our children up in God's ways and need guidance, encouragement and help in order to maintain our relationships with her as a daughter and sister. Our church is aware of the problem but Lucy no longer attends and says we are out of touch with modern living.
"I am sorry to say, but you are going to have to accept that you are not going to change Lucy's sexual orientation and instead focus on changing your response to it. Your daughter is now an adult, albeit a new one, and your relationship as parents has to shift from rule-setters and teachers, to friends and unconditional supporters. The roots of a person's sexual orientation are made up of profoundly complex drivers. You are exceedingly unlikely to change her through talking it through or making them sleep in separate rooms in your house. Give up trying to influence her, and focus on loving her.
God has given her and us free will. When we walk away from Him and also when we walk with him, we do endless things that He knows are not the best for us. He pays the heart price to give us free will. The reward for Him is the possibility of a true loving relationship with us. The relationship is worth more than the behaviour. He bridges the gap with His overwhelming grace. This is the best model to help you know how to be with your precious daughter. I want to encourage you to focus your love on her as a person, beyond her current sexuality. She needs to know that she is unconditionally accepted and loved. Her bisexuality does not define her. She is so much more than this: she is her dreams, her gifts, her personality. Build relationship with Lucy as a whole person, including but bigger and beyond her sexual preferences.
Once she feels this, take time to understand her. Maybe she feels safer and more relaxed with women for good reasons. Listen and learn.
You need to move on from your repulsion or it will create a barrier between you that could drive her deeper into her sexual identity. Focus your eyes and hearts instead to notice what is beautiful and honourable about Lucy and her girlfriend's relationship. This may seem a big leap to ask you to take, but it will help for you to see beyond the sexual. Appreciate what is good about their friendship, the way they care for each other and how they make each other happy. If you can allow yourselves to see the heart within their relationship, rather than just focusing on the sexual behaviour, it will help you get beyond your repulsion, and help them grow as human beings defined by much deeper currents than sexual expressions.
As for your decision to make them sleep separately, be honest with yourselves that this is for your sensitivities, it is not achieving anything that is likely to change her or that is for her. There is nothing wrong with that, so long as you are not holding it with an unreal agenda, as this would cause further tension.
We all have dreams and presumptions about our children, but the journey of parenting, having given them roots, is now to give them wings. You are going to have to trust her to fly her own way. One of your biggest challenges now is yourselves rather than Lucy. The good thing about this is that you have the power to change yourself, whereas you do not have this for her. Use the power you do have and trust God to work good in the rest. Ultimately, love and grace are truly enough and have a deeper magic than we realize."