Homosexuality and Scripture

August 5, 2009cesarb24

Editor’s Note: I’ve been going through some previously submitted articles (I’ve realized a number have fallen through the cracks) and found the following thought-provoking article. It is, I hope, the first of a number of articles exploring the topic of homosexuality and the way of Jesus. For the remainder of August, JM welcomes submissions exploring the question: how should we, the Church, embody Christ to homosexuals? We welcome articles from all perspectives–the goal here is to engage in deep (but respectful) conversation.

bible_dl-dynamiclead[In April] on God’s Politics Blog, Brian McLaren wrote a blog titled “Evangelicals Need to Love Gay People,” in which he states that Jonathon Merritt “may be the most courageous South-ern Baptist in America” for arguing that evangelicals need to love homosexual persons. While the article was positive, it still portrayed homosexual persons as objects in need of affirmation and acceptance from their heterosexual counterparts. Homosexuals, however, are “subjects” no dif-ferent from “straight” persons, and often I cannot believe that still in the twenty-first century our governmental and religious institutions fail to acknowledge that homosexuality is not syn-onymous with disorder, sin, and unnatural.

More powerful was a comment posted in response to the blog from someone who is gay:

What we are dealing with here is identity… I cannot change my identity as a Gay person anymore than I can change my race or national origin. My identity is not evil, nor is it a “sin.” Nor is there a “wrong” or “right” side to it. My identity simply is.

In response to this comment, another individual said:

I do not want to be rigid or mean but I do believe that in the Bible there is definitely at least one Scripture [passage] that specifically calls homosexual behavior disobedience to God, i.e. sin.

The passage is Romans 1:27, wherein it says:

“…and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.”

This passage, however, does not condemn homosexual persons. Many biblical scholars agree that Paul, when saying “natural,” does not mean natural order and law, or what is innate. Rather, “natural” connotes behaviors that were customary to Paul and his fellow Jews. Homosexuality was not customary in the Jewish community, but it was in the Greco-Roman context. Further, Paul only knew and thus only spoke of the vulgar pagan expression of homosexuality with its debauched characteristics of rape, promiscuity, and public indecency. Yet, these behaviors – which were also prevalent among heterosexuals of first century Rome – did not represent gay love in the ancient world and certainly does not offer a framework for understanding gay love today.

Citing the Bible to support any position, especially anti-homosexuality, is always risky business, for interpreting this ancient document requires cultural and historical literacy coupled with a de-sire to read the texts in their original language. Also, we all bring our different baggage when reading and interpreting scripture, but our baggage cannot become the only lens through which we interpret the Bible. Nor is our interpretation absolute. We should recall that individuals have cited the Bible with absolute certainty to justify slavery, anti-feminism, and ethnic cleansing. The Bible cannot be put in a box, since this would preclude any possibility of it speaking to us in the future.

Still, homosexuality undeniably presents a special challenge to modern day readers of scripture. Harvard theologian Peter J. Gomes states in The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart that

Nearly every…person who acknowledges an aversion to homosexuality does so on the basis of what he or she believes the Bible to say, and in their minds there is no doubt whatsoever about what the Bible says, and what the Bible means.

Gomes continues to point out that it is not only individual Bible readers who contribute to homo-sexual prejudice, but also religious institutions. He argues that “a combination of ignorance and prejudice under the guise of morality makes the religious community, and its abuse of scripture in this regard, itself morally culpable.”

As a straight Catholic Latino, I have always found the church’s teachings on homosexuality troubling. To me, the church’s teachings represent an instance of scriptural interpretation abuse. For instance, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads:

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life.

This interpretation of scripture is flawed, since many scholars agree that condemnations of homosexuality are nonexistent in the Bible. Still, this wrong reading of scripture may erroneously lead many Catholics and non-Catholics to view homosexual persons as sick and sinful individuals who cannot cure their illness unless they practice repression. This teaching, in other words, oppresses human beings and consequently denies them social justice. In order for the Catholic Church and other Christian churches to continue advocating social justice in the modern world with any credibility, they need to avoid using scripture to advance an unfounded bias against a group of individuals who want nothing more than equal treatment. Will we summon the courage to liberate the Bible and others from further abuse?

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    I don't care to get into a “is homosexuality sin” debate. I think the Scriptures and nature are clear enough as to what is proper. With that being said, I think it is ridiculous how so many Christians point their fingers at homosexuals because it's the one thing they can say they aren't doing wrong. We can't single out sins. Divorce, gluttony, and greed are all issues with equal footing and in desperate need of a response, IMHO.

    I do take issue, however, with one statement in this article that I hear quite often.

    “What we are dealing with here is identity… I cannot change my identity as a Gay person anymore than I can change my race or national origin. My identity is not evil, nor is it a “sin.” Nor is there a “wrong” or “right” side to it. My identity simply is.”

    In other words, “This is who I am. This is how God made me. I can't change who I am.” If I'm not mistaken, isn't being made into the image of Christ a pretty big deal in the Christian life? Isn't changing who we are to the very core fairly central to our faith? To me, this argument is no different than someone with a disposition to greed, murder, pedophilia, or gluttony (etc.) saying asking, “Why should I change who God made me to be?”

    The simple answer is, “Because that isn't who God made you to be.” Homosexuality is no more a person's “identity” than being a drunkard.

    So whether you think homosexuality is a sin or not, the “I can't change who I am” argument is weak.

  • http://al-muses.blogspot.com/ Al1

    Sorry, Zach, but it appears to me that by putting homosexuality with 'divorce, gluttony, and greed', and saying 'we can't single out sins' you have shown your side in the debate you don't want to get into.
    Fair enough, since debating doesn't tend to move us into a position of listening, loving, or otherwise 'embodying Christ'.
    However, I think denying someone's statement that 'I cannot change my identity as a Gay person anymore than I can change my race or national origin' immediately puts you into the debate you say you don't want to be in.
    I think for most Christians the troubling question is “Is homosexuality sin?”, and this article (any many others I have read) gives some reasoned response against that stand.
    Personally, I think the answer to the question 'how should we, the Church, embody Christ to homosexuals?' needs to be: the same way we embody Christ to anyone–loving, listening, seeking to understand, not categorizing, judging, or assuming that we have it all figured out already.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    Hmm…I think you misunderstand me. I thought I made my “position” in the debate clear enough. I believe, without a doubt, that homosexuality is a sin. When I say I don't want to get into that debate I mean I don't feel like arguing that on here. I don't think there would be any fruit in it.

    My post is aimed at the “I can't change my identity” argument. That doesn't put me in the debate for a very clearly said this was not my intention. Regardless of whether you believe homosexuality is a sin, the argument does not work. It doesn't work for anything else either. It seems to miss a central tenant of what it means to follow Jesus. That's all I'm saying, homosexuality or not.

    This article doesn't give a reasoned response to homosexuality-as-sin. At best, it argues against singling it out and treating homosexuals differently.

    I couldn't agree with your last paragraph more, bro.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    I think the argument works well enough. I think you're equivocating all sins. Your logic is:

    homosexuality=gluttony=thievery=killing

    Since homosexuality is a sin like any other, and the other sins are a matter of choice, so is homosexuality.

    But not all sins are the same. At this point I'm not arguing whether or not homosexuality is a sin. But whatever one's view of the sinfulness of homosexuality, I believe it is almost impossible to state that it is simply a matter of choice. Perhaps the practice of homosexual sex is a choice, but sexual orientation is another matter altogether.

    You might say: so what? Some people are oriented to be liars or thieves or murderers…does that justify their lying or stealing or killing?

    I don't think this sort of logic is fair. Sexuality goes pretty deep in one's identity…much deeper than food consumption. Furthermore, society has a pretty strong role in shaping personal identity; many homosexuals, whether you like it or not, have found comfort in communities that reinforce the way in which sexuality can be understood as determinative of one's identity.

    In other words, sexuality is a large part of how most folks think of their sense of self already…when that sexuality (homosexuality) is seen as inherently bad (even before practiced) it creates a strong internal conflict. Since the Church has largely asked people of homosexual orientation to repress their urges and keep it quiet, those with homosexual orientation have either been left alone to struggle silently or to seek out others like them. If they repress, they are likely to become preoccupied with the feelings they repress–thus negatively reinforcing their sense of homosexual identity. If they seek an accepting community, that community is likely to centered around shared homosexual orientation–thus positively reinforcing a sense of homosexual identity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    Yes, that is my logic. Sin is sin is sin. Period. There is no gradation or leveling of sins.

    “You might say: so what? Some people are oriented to be liars or thieves or murderers…does that justify their lying or stealing or killing?”

    Yes, that is exactly what I would say.

    It's perfectly fair. Yes, sexuality goes deep into a person's identity, but it is not “who” they are. To say that your sexuality goes deeper than your desire or need for food consumption sounds a bit foolish to me.

    “Furthermore, society has a pretty strong role in shaping personal identity; many homosexuals, whether you like it or not, have found comfort in communities that reinforce the way in which sexuality can be understood as determinative of one's identity.”

    I'm not going to argue that people don't find their identity in their (homo)sexuality. If they didn't then the sort of argument in this article wouldn't exist. I realize people do this. I'm simply stating my disagreement with this mentality and pointing out that even if this IS your identity, it CAN (and if it is indeed sinful, should) change.

    I agree with your last paragraph. I don't like the way the church has singled out homosexuality, but, believing it to be sin, it is what it is. I don't want to pussy-foot around that. I'm not going to single out homosexuality, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to call it what it is. I have my own struggles with my own sins, but I still call them what they are. I don't want to run away from those sins. I want to confront them, and by the Blood of Jesus repent, be cleansed, and change. I could certainly try to find a group of people that say it's okay to be a lard-ass and tell me it's not my fault, but that would accomplish nothing. It's hard to change if you can't admit you have a problem.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    I'm not sure how “Sin is sin is sin…there is no gradation or leveling of sins” is a biblical idea. Seriously. I know what verse(s) people quote to make that assertion, but for every one of those there are 10 that show God prioritizing particular sins in particular settings as being particularly odious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Cornelius/64900774 Andrew Cornelius

    If there is no gradation and all sins are equal, how could Jesus have accused some of straining out a gnat only to swallow a camel?

    I happen to think Mark is right about this. Judaism regarded certain sins worse than others and Jesus agreed, although his emphasis did diverge from the norm.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    You're following a logic that assumes that sin is a disobedient choice. I believe that scripture has a much more nuanced understanding of “sin.”

    I don't believe it is helpful to always look at sin as an act of disobedience. Humanity is much messier and complex than that. Sometimes we need to respond to someone in loving compassion before telling them to “go and sin no more.” The Church has been a very unwelcoming, unloving, and untransformed place for so long that I feel like we need to go above and beyond in our patience and compassion in some areas.

    We the Church are both the embodiment of Christ's love as well as the embodiment of the Pharisaical spirit. Sometime the Church is complicit in the sins we want to call people out of. If I grant that homosexual practice is a sin (I am not at all willing to grant that homosexual orientation is sinful), I would suggest that homosexual sin must be understood in a systems way. Even the most conservative of thinkers allow that if a young man engages in homosexual sex, it may be, in part, because his father was cruel and unloving. For that man to move away from homosexuality, it will take healing, not just the exercise of their will to choose heterosexuality.

    Sin is often systemic. Sin is a communal idea as much as an individual one. So when we talk of repentance, we need to also understand that there are systemic reasons why people sin, and that those systems need to change. This is one reason why all sins aren't equal. Because all people are not the same…nor are their systems or their contexts the same. Nor are the way that different sins bring destruction. Perhaps all sins bring guilt before the Creator and bear the consequences of a broken relationship with God–but only on paper.

    I'm curious to hear more from those who think homosexuality is sin but argue for a more complex understanding of sexual identity…as well as from those who do not believe homosexual sex isn't sinful so long as it meets certain criteria.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    It's a Biblical idea because it isn't about which or how many sins we commit. That's a very legalistic paradigm, and one that I believe is foreign to the Scriptures.

    This is not to say that there isn't clearly a difference between, say, killing someone and stealing a dollar. We (and I think God) see the first as much worse. Even so, sin is sin. Either way, you are “missing the mark.” It isn't a matter of “how far.” That you've missed, or “sinned and fallen short,” is what matters.

    This has digressed into a debate on hamartiology. Obviously, if we disagree on this point, we can't agree on the other. So if we do, we'll just leave it at that.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    I agree that all sins miss the mark. But the point of all sins being equal (which you don't even seem to believe all that much) is based upon really only one idea: that any sin causes us to fall short of the glory…and by committing any sin, we are under judgment. And, therefore, Christ's grace covers it all, no matter how big or small. I agree with all of that, but all to often this idea (which is largely forensic) pours into every other area of life and gives all kinds of grounds for justification of sin on the one extreme (so what if I'm sleeping around with my wife's best friend…you've looked at porn–you're no better than I am) or by heaping judgment when compassion is warranted on the other extreme (that young man who took bread for his family is a a filthy thief, as guilty as any thief).

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    Mark, I don't really disagree with what you've said here.

    “Perhaps all sins bring guilt before the Creator and bear the consequences of a broken relationship with God–but only on paper.”

    This is the sense in which I'm speaking because, ultimately, it is the only one that matters. All sin separates us from God. I understand there are “degrees” of sin in Scripture (I also gave the example of murder and stealing a dollar above), but all of them ultimately result in the same eternal consequences.

    We can try to justify them or we can repent and allow God to change us. Only on paper?

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    Ah. Bingo. Here's where I disagree: I don't believe that the sense you mean it is the only one that matters…not by a long shot. I honestly believe that if you were to read through Scripture with special attention given to how much the authors focus on “eternity” you will quickly conclude that eternity isn't the first concern to them.

    But, and I realize that this may seem to contradict what I said previously, I DO believe that the gradations of sin do affect our eternity in different ways, just as I believe our good deals affect our eternity in different ways. Jesus, after all, talked about “rewards” and “punishments” in seemingly different ways. That is NOT to say that one's salvation is meritorious. The whole point of “all have sinned” and the sort of logic you're referring to is that one doesn't earn one's standing before God, and all those who sin (no matter how seemingly insignificant those sins may seem) fall short.

    But salvation, our relationship with God, and our eternity cannot be boiled down to an “on/off” switch. There is more nuance to it than that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    FTR, if I was to grade sins, I would venture to say, simply by the sheer volume of Scripture references, that homosexuality (with a mere 6 references) is ranked much lower than, say, greed or gluttony. If I can, through Christ, be healed of these, certainly we can be healed of homosexuality.

  • SarahLynne

    I have a lot of thoughts after reading this article and I hope I can expresses them clearly and somewhat succinctly…

    There are a few polarizations regarding homosexuality that I'm not certain I can affirm.
    One is that homosexuality is either a choice or it is biological. I don't think it is really that simple, in fact I would be uncomfortable making the claim that anyone's sexuality is purely choice or disposition. Looking at sexuality cross-culturally and through-out time, there seems to be other factors. We all know that homosexuality was very common in Greco-Roman times, and that the male form was more of an aesthetic ideal than the female form, but there has even been a culture where heterosexual sex was considered undesirable and dangerous, where homosexuality was what every male was expected to enjoy. Cultural conceptions about sex and sexuality and attractiveness (and what people are attracted too) affect people's identity.

    I would say that family dynamics and a person's physical predispositions play important roles as well, but not just in terms of orientation, in sexuality in general.

    That being said, I still would agree that sexuality and especially homosexuality are identity issues that people don't in any active sense choose. I just hate that this has been boiled down to “I was born this way or not.” That isn't true, everyone's sexuality is connected with their whole lives, for good and for the worse, and people's sexualities aren't discrete categories. (Another polarization I hate is “hetero or homo.” We throw bi-sexual in there, but I think in our culture we are generally uncomfortable with something so ambiguous. Really we could probably also add “happily hetero with some homo-attractions” and etc.)

    That being said, I also was uncomfortable with the claim that citing the Bible to support any position is risky business. It is risky, but the way he couched this statement, I felt like he was saying we shouldn't use the bible to support any position, especially regarding sexuality. I'm pretty sure God has positions on things, and I think we can find guidance and wisdom in the Bible. I agree that we can't use the bible in a simplistic “rule-book” position paper style, but I wouldn't want to complete throw out the idea that sexuality is a matter that God cares deeply about. I fairly certain God has a position, I'm just not always certain what it is.

    I did like how the author called out our objectification of “homosexuals.” As we talk about sexuality we can't create a category of nameless/faceless people for us to take a position on, or to “love,” or whatever. We are all subjects and a person's sexuality is deeply personal (in the sense of person-specific) and we can't talk seriously about specific sexual sin or health without being in real conversations who we are really in relationship with.

    That being said, I think that is why I'm uncomfortable with even talking about homosexuality and “homosexuals” divorced from a general conversation about sexuality. I think this has created this situation where homosexuality is something you are or you aren't. If you aren't then your identity will probably be mostly defined by something else. If you are then that is a major part of your identity. That in itself isn't necessarily always bad, but I don't think it is ideal, anymore than I think it would be ideal for me to be defined by my gender (which historically, and presently it often is) or my own sexuality (mostly ; ) straight). I think that can lend to objectification, as it has with any other group who has been identified as not “normal” in a negative sense.

    So, in some ways I'm not sure I can really have a conversation with the person who wrote this article. Yeah, I agree that the GLBT community has been oppressed by the church, and I think this is a result of the belief that homosexuality is a sin, but I am not so comfortable just backing out of that and making blanket statements about any form of sexuality being ok. I think this has lead to a hesitancy towards engaging on a personal and inter-relational level about a person's sexuality (whether in the straight or homo ballpark). I definitely feel more sympathy for the extreme of acceptance, because the fact that we feel like we need to do that is because straight christian's have been so oppressive, but I'm not sure it is ideal.

  • http://al-muses.blogspot.com/ Al1

    I think this discussion is reinforcing a couple things with me:
    –we have different points of view on homosexuality.
    –we feel quite strongly on what we presently believe.
    –it seems easier to discuss whether it is a sin or not, and other aspects of sin, than how we are going to change our approach.
    And ultimately, we need to work on the last part, whatever we think.
    BTW, guys, thanks for keeping this civil and comparatively free of rhetoric. That in itself is a challenge, but is a step into a better approach to anyone who sees something in a different light than I do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    I figured as much. I expected that would be your point of contention.

    First, when I say “eternal” I do not simply mean “eternity.” I believe a person can experience “eternal” life BEFORE we enter into “eternity.” Second, given the fundamental role of eschatology in the Christian faith (i.e. Christ is coming back, resurrection, New Heavens & Earth) “eternity” is indeed a huge deal.

    I understand that our relationship with Him is not “on/off.” What relationship works that way? The fact that He loves us regardless, for instance, is a good indicator that even when we fail to recognize it, we are, in reality, in relationship with Him (albeit a bad one). With that being said, salvation is very clearly an “if, then” discussion.

    “I DO believe that the gradations of sin do affect our eternity in different ways, just as I believe our good deals affect our eternity in different ways.”

    I honestly agree with this statement. This was one of the first “Aha!” moments I had when I came to Christ. I think this is very clearly demonstrated in 1 Cor. 3:10-15.

    Paul says, “But each one should be careful how he builds….his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light….and the fire will test the quality of each man's work…If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

    It would seem to me that there will be some who pass through this fire with nothing but their salvation in tact. Others, who built upon that foundation properly will have a greater reward.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    I think the problem is that our approach hinges so greatly on the first two issues. I don't feel I need to change my approach. I don't treat a homosexual any differently than anyone else. The first thing I want to do with anyone is build a genuine, lasting relationship and serve them. From this foundation, we can move into inviting each other to address life issues.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    Huh. Then it seems that our disagreement is largely semantic. Just to get back to the original topic…the questions that seem to pop up are:

    1. Is homosexual sex sinful, in and of itself?
    a. If so, in what way is it sinful?
    b. If so, who may be complicit in that sin?
    c. If so, what sort of fresh responses should we offer in light of that?

    d. If not, in what cases does it become sinful?
    e. If not, how does it change our understanding of sexual sin?
    f. If not, how should the church change in its response?

    2. How can we build the most common ground between 1.c and 1.f without compromising our deepest convictions?

    3. What if (as I hope to suggest in an upcoming article) the best of homosexual relationships (like the best of heterosexual relationships) are a strange mix of both healthy love and wayward desire? How do we name the sin without dismissing the true, the good, and the beautiful things in that relationship?

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    As usual, I think Boyd handles the topic quite nicely.

    http://www.gregboyd.org/qa/christians-social-is

  • SarahLynne

    The problem is, what we think about the first two parts strongly informs our approach. I tried, as I discussed sexuality, not to point fingers at what is or isn't a sin, but ultimately I feel like dealing with someone on a personal level that would come up.

    I would say (in terms of approach), as a result of the personal and complex nature of sexuality, that conversation about sexual sin has to be rooted among known people in historical places, but whether or not I think same-sex orientation (or same-sex sex) is sinful will change how I think about the person (and probably how I interact with them) no matter how well I know them.

    Where I push back from full acceptance of it as “not-sin”, coming from a place of really feeling “I don't know” about the sinfulness or not of this, is that unhealthy, sinfulness is wrapped up in all our sexuality, and I feel like the backlash of this has been to not know how to address that. (For example, I have clearly seen more and more how unhealthy desire and behavior has arisen in my sexuality. There has also been wonderful healthy desires and behaviors, but the unhealthy stuff still needs to be addressed too, for my own sake).

    So, I think the author is right in saying that no matter how loving we are, there is something wrong and damaging about believing homosexuality is a sin if it isn't (in other words, not matter how great your approach is, it won't cut it). On the other hand, If it is a sin, we have historically dealt with it in wrong and damaging ways, so committing to love is a step forward, but either way, what we actually believe about homosexuality is an issue.

    Again though, approach-wise, I would argue the more rooted and personal the conversations (always in loving relationships of course) the better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    “So, I think the author is right in saying that no matter how loving we are, there is something wrong and damaging about believing homosexuality is a sin if it isn't.”

    Well that's obvious isn't it? We shouldn't be calling something sin that isn't sin.

    If I didn't think the evidence was compelling enough to call it sin, then I wouldn't. As it stands, every attempt I've encountered to argue otherwise has done a great job of twisting Scripture.

    “but whether or not I think same-sex orientation (or same-sex sex) is sinful will change how I think about the person (and probably how I interact with them) no matter how well I know them.”

    It may, but I don't think it should. If it does, there is a greater problem then whether or not homosexuality is a sin. The only thing that matters is that Christ deemed them worthy of dying for regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or anything else. That is the lens through which we are to approach all people (including ourselves).

  • Conrad

    Here's an opposing view to Boyd's from noted scholar Walter Wink: http://www.soulforce.org/article/homosexuality-

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    Wow, I'm quite sure that was one of the worst articles I've ever read. I'm not even sure where to begin…

    I will say though, apparently Walter Wink doesn't believe the Scriptures are inspired or “God breathed.” It's never, “So God told…,” but, “The Israelites believed ____ so they wrote ____,” or “Paul believed ____ so he wrote ____.”

    And the article isn't really in opposition to Boyd's. Boyd didn't even bother getting into analyzing the pro-homosexuality arguments, but merely made note of them before he got on with the point (which had to do with our approach). Irrelevant though. Either way, the Wink article was terrible, man.

  • http://al-muses.blogspot.com/ Al1

    Thanks for the link, Conrad. I think Wink helps us see how we already seem to have a unrecognized bias in what we choose to follow and what we choose to explain away from Scripture. As well, I like how he goes to the core of the matter in the 'love ethic'.
    I admit, his reference to 'bibliolatry' is scary, but I think he is helping us return to a balance where 'Scripture, tradition, theology, and, yes, psychology, genetics, anthropology, and biology' all interact with each other to build a foundation for life in God. Much like the 'Weslyan Quadrilateral' of scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. (see: http://www.emergingchristian.com/2009/07/existe…).

  • http://al-muses.blogspot.com/ Al1

    I have had some interesting conversations with a friend who has helped me realize that, as you say Sarah, it isn't just straight/gay. He tried to explain all of the GLBTQI and more variations of sexuality that exist. And most of those (like bi, transgender, self-identified queer or intersex) aren't even referred to in the Bible because they probably weren't even recognized.
    Which brings me back to the need to be willing to listen and understand long before we try to have a lot to say.
    I think the article by Walter Wink linked by Conrad emphasizes the quality of love that is a safe position to say the Bible takes, even more foundational than specific rules.

  • Matt

    “This interpretation of scripture is flawed, since many scholars agree that condemnations of homosexuality are nonexistent in the Bible.”
    First off this leaves Leviticus out of the question, which does condemn it. Obviously there are ways around of getting around that but you can't say it doesn't exist. (Although I think our current Hermeneutic for reading Leviticus as just soooo Old Covenant begs the question of why have it in the Bible at all.)
    Second, Richard Hays, Michael Gorman, Luke Timothy Johnson (who is in favor of homosexual unions), Ephraim Radner, Oliver ODonovan, and many others are top notch biblical scholars and theologians who would disagree with assessment. I don't think “many” is the best word to use in the context because it is quite misleading.
    But the question no one is asking is has the church ever taught something other than what many see as the normative position for Christians, even if not clearly seen in the Bible (which to be honest isn't really all that of an important question for Protestants, although I think it should be, but this article is written by Catholic who doesn't entertain the question at all.)
    I should note I am on the fence over this current issue but this article struck me as poorly argued.

  • johnsob5

    The big S word is getting thrown around a lot here. In terms of a relational approach to this question I think we need to go further in what we mean by “sin.” Mark gave us a negation – sin isnt just an act of disobedience. I think a good working definition of sin for this discussion – one that would push us toward the relational questions – is: sin is what leads to a broken relationship with God, self, or other. Sin is brokenness in relationship with God, self, or other. That business about men burning with lust for one another in Romans, for example. Where (if anywhere) is the sin (ie. relational brokenness) in that story?

  • johnsob5

    Wow. Wink's article is a helpful corrective to my impulse to just “get to the point” all the time. So often “the point” is complex. I don't get a clear cut rule, I get handed a heavy responsibility to make a discerning choice. This happens for me all the time around social justice stuff. I WANT the bible, yea God, to say “You all shalt get busy helping the poor all the time and anything else is a waste.” I would feel much more confident about my commitments if that were the case, but obviously its not. I have to makes some choices and assign some meaning. Paul Tillich is also good on this point in “The Courage to Be.” Thanks, Wink, for the reminder of my own freedom and responsibility.

  • SarahLynne

    What I mean when I say that we will treat people differently, is that we will have different kinds of conversations with them about their life than we would if we believed homosexuality was ok. So, for example, you said that after knowing and loving someone you would hope that you could “move on to addressing life issues.” What you address, and the fact that that would probably include homosexuality is all that I am talking about.

    There are other issues that arise too, like people who affirm homosexuality in leadership within the church and things like that. Even if you love them and serve them as Christ, if you believe homosexuality is a sin, you may relate to them differently than you would if you don't think it is a sin, so again that would have an affect.

    Of course we should approach all people with an attitude of love and service, but its not obvious to just say “we shouldn't be calling something a sin that isnt a sin.” I've heard a lot of Christians who have said something like, “I know you are upset that I think your lifestyle is sinful, but I don't think you should be upset because I still love you completely and we just have different beliefs.” They may be perfectly loving and understanding that “everyone sins” and all that, but with this issue whether or not we consider it a sin has a huge impact. Not to say that anyone of us should base our belief homosexuality's morality on that, but I think that needs to be acknowledged, especially considered how much damage has been done in the past because of Christian's attitudes to homosexuality. At this point not being straight and comfortable with your gender is really an oppressed position to be in. We may have to really work at hearing their voice and giving their voice dignity in the church… I wonder how we can do that? A lot of Christians are uncomfortable with this because many GLBT people don't believe their lifestyle is sinful.

  • http://destroyideas.blogspot.com destroyideas

    Sorry, but I have to agree with Zack. Even if one were to suppose homosexuality was not a sin (and I'm leaning towards not right now) the argument doesn't work.

    There are plenty of “natural desires” which the Christian are asked to forgo as a matter of sanctification.

    The biggest example I can think of is the human proclivity towards violence. We are violent from a very young age, we like hurting each other, and we grow up idolizing soldiers. We suppress our nature to better follow Christ.

    Without condemning anyone, you can say the argument is very weak.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    Well, it all depends upon whether or not you think how integral sexuality is to identity…I think it goes deeper than mere desire.

    Violence is a somewhat apt comparison if you believe both homosexual activity and violence are both sinful. But I don't think it works very much. Many psychologists would point out, I believe that the repression of violence doesn't cause the same issues as the repression of sexuality. Plus, pragmatically, there is the factor of coercion. It could be argued that pedophilia is an orientation (I'm not arguing that, but others have). Most would recognize that it is repugnant due to its coercive nature. Few would assert that contemporary homosexuality is coercive.

  • skylerdickson

    Can we love others by allowing them to determine truth for themselves? So often heterosexual Christians want to claim that they have the truth on this issue and proceed to enforce their view upon others. They do this without really having any ability to interpret the Bible as they lack sufficient knowledge of the historical context, culture, etc.

    Furthermore, one's sexual identity is quite foundational to how we relate to others, the world, and thus God. When one says that homosexuality is a sin, it is also being said that the way the person relates to others, the world, and God is essentially flawed. No wonder why homosexuals often lose their belief in God. Because they are being told that who THEY are is incompatible with who GOD is.

    Let me be clear about a point relating to this: no matter what your tone of voice is, when you determine for another person that who they are is sinful you are not being loving. When you compare homosexuality to vices such as alcoholism, drug addictions, lust, and punching babies you are not being loving.

    And to go off this point, homosexual orientation or behavior is fundamentally different than the sins it is often compared to. We are created to be relational beings- for a man or a woman to desire an intimate connection with another human, they are merely responding to human nature. When viewed this way, a homosexual longs for companionship and relationships in the same way that heterosexuals do and this is rooted in the way God created us. This is much different from murder, where the sinful act of murder stems from a source of evil. In this particular case, murder could be the result of one coveting another's positions or could be the result of deep anger. Both are condemned throughout the Bible, where as the desire for a man to be with another man or a woman to be with another woman stems from who we were created to be- relational beings.

    In For The Bible Tells Me So, Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “I can’t imagine that God would punish you because you’re black, you should have been white. I can’t imagine that God would punish you because you’re a woman, you should have been a man. And I can’t imagine that God would punish you because you’re a homosexual, you should have been a heterosexual.”

  • Steve

    “Many psychologists would point out, I believe that the repression of violence doesn't cause the same issues as the repression of sexuality.”

    Yeah but many psychologists would point out that much of what we associate with 'the cost of discipleship' as unhealthy. Christianity, as far as I can tell, does not promise psychological wholeness. Secondarily, I don't think celibacy equals repression. Many people who consider homosexuality a sin would not argue for a repression but a call to celibacy. Third, even a church that does consider it a sin has the option of viewing it as closer to remarriage, therefore a not ideal, but present part of the body. They could recognizes that God can call people into relationships that may allow for some redemption to take place but seem to break the bonds of what we are called too.

  • Steve

    Of course this comment leaves almost no room for disagreement (because it would be unloving) thus shutting down the conversation before it even begins.
    But I would say that it does seem here that Love (a term not defined in this post, but I don't think it is the biblical notion of love that is short-hand for life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) is pinnacle of all thinking. This then turns the image of Christ only as useful as it serves whatever a person's definition of love. When Christ tells me he has come to divide, or to hate my family he can't really mean that because it contradicts what I understand as love. Therefore I need to find someone to explain closer to what I believe or just drop it all together. I would rather suggest that Christ is the pinnacle and it is my notions of love that must be conformed to his life, death, and resurrection.

  • Steve

    As long as people are linking to articles here is an amazing sermon series from the theologian and ethicist Oliver O'Donovan and a recap from the theologian Douglas Knight.
    http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=130
    http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/news/2007/20
    Here is one point I find particularly important:
    There is an elementary point about Christian ethics that I have sought to emphasise ever since the opening pages of my Resurrection and Moral Order published twenty years ago: there is no Christian ethics that is not “evangelical”, ie good news.[2] There can be no change of voice, no shift of mood, between God's word of forgiveness and his word of demand, no obedience-without-gift, no gift-without-obedience. The gift and the obedience are in fact one and the same. They are the righteousness of Jesus Christ, encompassing and transforming our own lives, past, present and future. To preach the good news, then, is precisely what we do in expounding Christian ethics, if we expound Christian ethics faithfully. Preaching the good news is the only form of address of which the Christian church as such is capable, whether speaking to Christians or to non-Christians. When we use any other form of argument – quoting opinion-poll statistics, for example, or reporting the result of scientific experiments, or suggesting some practical compromise – the relevance of what we say depends on how well it is formed to serve the evangelical message. If the church speaks not as witness to God's saving work but as a pundit or a broker of some deal, it speaks out of character.

    Yet to preach the Gospel, whether to Christians or non-Christians, is not a simple matter of offering reassurance and comfort. The Gospel, too, has its “hard words”. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is not comfort without demand, any more than it is demand without comfort. It is never less than that demanding comfort by which God makes more of us than we thought it possible to become. And from this there seems to follow an important implication: the Gospel must be preached to the gay Christian on precisely the same terms that it is preached to any other person. “The 'hard words' theology is given to speak,” as Jean-Yves Lacoste has written, “are still words of salvation, meant for mankind as mankind, not as Jew or Greek.”[3] This should not be unwelcome to a gay Christian. What, after all, would it mean if we set gays aside from the bulk of humankind, offering them some special reassurance not meant for the children of Adam and Eve?

  • skylerdickson

    Steve,

    I can appreciate your response and agree with some of what you said, but will respond within the context of this particular issue: homosexuality and scripture.

    Human beings should be humble creatures. I cannot tell someone that because they are homosexual they are sinful and base this off of six verses in the Bible. Six verses that have varying interpretations and a Bible that was written by fallible men who are writing from a particular socio-cultural context to a particular people at a particular time. Not to mention this very Bible is being read by a human being thousands of years later in a different language and through a heterosexist lens.

    All this to say, there are few things I can really know about God and what he/she desires. I don't need to feel like I have been tasked with the job of removing the truth from the Bible and proclaiming it to others as though I understand God. God is God and I am me- just a human.

    One thing I know is that God loves his/her creation. So he doesn't really like it when people are killing each other or ruining the beautiful home created for us to take care of and live in. So we can speak confidently against those who oppress our brothers and sisters and who rape and pillage the earth.

    But to tell someone that they are fundamentally flawed; that a man shouldn't love another man the way homosexuals do, and feel as though that's what God wants you to do… Well I guess the only way you can justify the pain you cause your homosexual brother or sister is by believing you have a cornerstone on truth.

    The problem is, you had a lot of good things to say about what Scriptural love is. But to then apply the conviction to every thing you deem as true, I feel as though that is arrogant and potentially dangerous.

  • skylerdickson

    Once again, I enjoyed reading your post, but feel like it is out of place within the topic of Homosexuality and Scripture.

    From what I know of the Good News and the gospel message, it's general command is for us to take part in the transformation of communities in a way that they begin to reflect the Kingdom of Heaven. (Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven). The gospel was a socio-political-economic message that challenged the societal, political, economic, and religious order of Jesus' day.

    You are correct, this message may be in fact “hard words” to some and in fact it got Jesus killed. But how can you apply the Gospel message to this topic? The Gospel never address the issue of homosexuality. Are you merely saying that sometimes we have to say challenging things to people? If so, I am not going to attempt to transform communities based upon an old holiness code given to a specific set of Jews 4,000 years ago and cite Leviticus as my source.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Carl-Lewis/1150987616 Jon Carl Lewis

    It's incredibly patronizing to ask what the church's response should be TO gay people when we gay people ARE the body of Christ – since in Christ there is no longer Greek or Jew , Male or Female, Slave or Free.

    the first uncharitable act is to imply that gay people have not already been touched and are in the process of being born into his grace just like anybody else who comes to the Christ with whateer their situation is in.

    If the church can tolerate racists as full members of the body of Christ, then the least you can do is admit that what you don't understand does not and CANNOT keep christ from claiming all who are through God's mysterious Spirit knit into the flesh of this union.

    Walk humbly with God – don't try to judge in the place of God.

    you've got your own sins to look to – and so do I.

  • Jeshua

    I hardly feel qualified to join the discussion here despite some extensive personal interaction regarding this topic. But I have simply one question to ask and two resources to share:

    1) Let's imagine we could take all the Bible verses referring to homosexuality out of the Bible. That would eliminate the highly contentious arguments over their interpretation. Could a case for homosexual acts as sin still be made? Rarely do I hear people on either side of the argument engaging the texts about what marriage is (i.e. a man shall leave his father and mother, be fruitful and multiply, created order, etc.)

    2) I suggest at least investigating the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (narth.com). They have an abundance of research suggesting that gay men and women can experience a change in behavior, desires, and even orientation if they so desire (emphasis on “can”…does not mean everyone will)

    3) Check out Andrew Marin's work with The Marin Foundation (themarinfoundation.org) and his new book entitled “Love Is An Orientation” to see how someone with more conservative views is living out the Gospel in Boystown, a GLBT neighborhood in Chicago.

  • http://al-muses.blogspot.com/ Al1

    Well.Jon, you are SO right. It's one thing to realize that I need to not exhibit an 'us and them' mentality as I endeavor to live Christ to the world. There is really no place for racism, sexism, ageism, etc.
    It's even closer to home as I look at my brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. I dare not categorize or treat anyone in a way that segregates me from anyone. I think Paul's challenge to the church about treating each other equally in 1 Corinthians 12 is as appropriate for things like identity as the verse you refer to.
    If we ever chose to use phrases like 'Chinese Christians' or 'Women in the church' or Gay Christians' it better only be to honor them, not to patronize them. It's not as easy as it sounds, and needs to first be true in the heart before it becomes true in word usage. I truly need to see my brother as my equal, my sister as my peer.

  • Steve

    Skyler,
    To be honest, I don't really care all that much about homosexuality (or heterosexuality). For the most part the New Testament finds sex boring and sees at the center of each person's being a desire for fellowship (or Koinina). The reason I am interested in this discussion is because of post like yours that make an amorphous concept of love more central than love embodied by Christ. Or because you seem to have baptized modern liberalism (can't we decide truth for ourselves) more than your concerned about a cruciform community that is to be as one as Christ is one (I do think that is much more complex than 'knowing' truth in conservative evangelical mold.) Plus it seems that anybody who disagrees with you is dumb, unjust, unloving, hetrosexist, and doesn't have all the facts. Considering most of the Christians who are conservative on this issue are located in the global south, I can see how this kind of attitude is tearing apart the global church. (Haven't Western Christians tried of patronizing them as backward people who just need to follow our lead.)
    I actually think homosexuality is a topic that Christians can reasonably disagree upon, but from your posts it seems that Christians can't disagree on this. It also seems central to a person's being is more a desire for sexuality than fellowship. From what I gather from you it is hard to imagine that homosexuals (and heterosexuals) relationship are more summed if they sleep together than if they love one another the way Christ loved us.
    So I think the question of what we can do with genitals is an important discussion and 6 verses can be a guide in that discussion along with tradition and the experience of the modern homosexual. The reason I am troubled by your post is that you suggest 6 verses don't matter, tradition is only hetrosexist, the gospel doesn't have much say in what we do with our bodies, and that with the Spirit Leviticus can't guide us today (which is shame because I think the concept of Jubilee in Leviticus 23 might help renew the world today), all while alienating third world Christianity. Aside from the fact it all seems characterized by a false humility that doesn't recognize that the baptized man who joins himself with prostitute also joins the rest of the body. We need to have these discussions and we need to be able to speak clearly and listen well because it does matter what we bind and loosen on earth. But what is at risk a hermeneutic of the Christian body not justice or love. (Although much of the church should confess the injustices they have places on the homosexual community but I don't think the sins of past should mean we just swing wide the gates.)

    There are good reasons to think active homosexuals can be full members of the Christian community that are Christian reasons, the problem is I don't think many of yours are those reasons. Sorry.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    While I think you are being a bit harsh with Skyler (of course, he is a real-life friend, so I'm probably just being defensive), I found this quote to be one of the most interesting thus far:

    So I think the question of what we can do with genitals is an important discussion and 6 verses can be a guide in that discussion along with tradition and the experience of the modern homosexual. The reason I am troubled by your post is that you suggest 6 verses don't matter, tradition is only hetrosexist, the gospel doesn't have much say in what we do with our bodies, and that with the Spirit Leviticus can't guide us today (which is shame because I think the concept of Jubilee in Leviticus 23 might help renew the world today), all while alienating third world Christianity. Aside from the fact it all seems characterized by a false humility that doesn't recognize that the baptized man who joins himself with prostitute also joins the rest of the body. We need to have these discussions and we need to be able to speak clearly and listen well because it does matter what we bind and loosen on earth. But what is at risk a hermeneutic of the Christian body not justice or love…

    In fact…I would LOVE it if you could tease out these ideas into an article. Pretty please? I have read too few ecclesiocentric approaches to sexuality, and I firmly believe that, as Christians, such an approach is the ONLY way we are going to move beyond the current impasses (which seem to be based upon competing quasi-Christian individualisms).

  • SarahLynne

    I don't know what Skyler would say, but I feel like you are extrapolating something from his post that I didn't get.

    I don't see what Skyler said as an “amorphous” definition of love, and I also don't think his call to let people determine truth for themselves, or his recognition of our truth-knowing limitations is something to be dismissed as “modern liberalism” (assuming we think liberalism is bad of course ; )

    If I understood him correctly, Skyler was very clear about why he thought this was unloving (because homosexuality is a major part of people's identity, is natural, and so you would be saying that they are fundamentally flawed in a way beyond anyone's control… which seems to assume that “God made them that way”) If what he says is true, then I would agree with him, but for me that is a place where there is still some room for discussion. Though not very much…

    I already brought this up in my post above, and I'm going to try to address it in an article I'm writing now, but I don't think any form of sexuality and gender identity can be summed up as “God made me that why.” Or, “I was just born this way.” I feel awkward saying this, because many Christians have used that as a way to say that they should choose otherwise, or that enough therapy could “fix” them or whatever, that is definitely not what I mean. I do think that gender and sexual identity, attraction, roles and practices are all affected by socio-cultural factors, as well as biological “God made me this way factors.”
    (please forgive me if it is silly for me to mention this, but I didn't get this perspective at church, but in my feminist/queer theory leaning anthropology department. I remember being shocked when my professor brought this up. I hope saying that can show a few of my biases as well : )

    So basically, I think things can be fundamental parts of our identity that aren't always entirely healthy. Please don't take that to mean that I think homosexuality is fundamentally sinful. I am personally not comfortable with that claim (though I understand that what I'm saying leaves room for that to be true), but I absolutely think that there are things within all of our sexual practices and identities that our sinful (when I say sin I usually am incorporating a systemic and personal understanding), and honestly I'm troubled by how fundamental homosexuality becomes for people's identities, not because it is something wrong with them, but because I think it indicates something wrong with our society and culture that makes it necessary for that to become fundamental.

    Recently I was struck with this in a discussion group about homosexuality in the church. It was organized by people who wanted full-inclusion of homosexuals and did not believe it was wrong, but many of the people who attended did not agree with them. One woman present, a lesbian who helps lead a church, really carefully and gracefully responded to some of the comments and questions. What struck me about her wasn't just how nice she was being, but because I knew a little bit about her experiences, I was amazed at how she was still sitting there seeking communion with these people.

    Her church at this time isn't being fully accepted by her denomination because the members affirm homosexuality. She told me a story about how a couple from her church's commitment announcement was circled through-out the denomination (unbeknownst to any of them) and then publicly brought up as a challenge, again without them having any idea that their commitment was even widely known. The idea of having your wedding, brought up among a group of relative strangers as “dirty laundry” or an action that needs to be reprimanded, is terrible. This of course, is relatively benign considering other stories I've heard.

    What was impressed upon me then, was that she was really in a marginalized, long-suffering position and she was trying respect and love everyone in the room anyway which is so undeniably Christlike, and beyond what I think I would be capable of. We really can't compare the homosexuality mentioned in the new testament (at least) with this position. Whether or not someone believes “a man lying with a man” (or woman with a woman) is wrong, they have to acknowledge the fact that our society and the church has made people who feel like they couldn't do anything else suffer in a way that Christ never would have. This is not the same thing as someone going to a prostitute, and recognizing that is not false humility.

    When someone has suffered and made to feel shame and has culturally sanctioned jokes made about their identity and they still choose to try listen to and love the people who have done this to them, we should all probably shut up and listen.

    So I guess what I mean is, that while I wouldn't say this the same way Skyler did, and I don't think it is a given that people's sexualities are God-given and not-sinful. I do think it is true that continuing to push the issue that homosexuality is sinful, but “lets love them anyway,” completely misses the reality and complexity of this situation, and probably doesn't feel all that loving at all to GLBT people.

  • skylerdickson

    Steve,

    It is obvious that you have spent a lot of money on a seminary education (or sent away for the Theology book set) and now you write posts on various websites.

    Whether by your overzealousness to attack my post or by my failure to fully explain my thoughts on this issue, scriptural love, and cruciform communities all within a short post on a website, I believe that our difference in opinion is not as great as one may think by reading your response.

    I agree with you that there is a definite cost of discipleship that requires us to repent and embrace a new life. To become a slave to Christ is to deeply challenge the way of the world and this may include resisting our tendencies to do as we please with our genitals.

    However, when I speak of homosexuality I speak of it as an aspect of our sexuality. Here I mean sexuality as our desire for relationships, to love and be loved (including, but definitely not limited to physical intimacy). Much like heterosexuality is an aspect of my nature as a sexual being. When we see sexuality within this light- all persons are sexual. And since our sexual orientation is an aspect of that central feature of being a human, I believe we need to be careful telling people that they are fundamentally flawed and if they act on any of their feelings they are undoubtedly sinning.

    So since we are in agreement that scriptural love is moving toward a life that reflects that of Christ's, how does that apply to this conversation? For me, I cannot tell someone that they are essientially flawed and create within them a conflict that distances them from Christ himself. It is for this reason that I allow others to decide for themselves what is truth (relating to this topic). If scriptural love requires us to speak “hard words” and challenge others to become a slave to Christ, then I will try hard to do this. But it is not an amorphous concept of love to trust that the Holy Spirit may move in others to help them determine truth on their own. I suspect this may be hard for seminarians to hear as they have spent so much time and money on learning what truth is from their White middle aged elders.

    As for your comments on how my view alienates the Third World- that was merely well constructed rhetoric based upon speculation that I am intolerant to other views on the issue. If you read my posts, I did not offer any solid conviction on where I stand per se. I believe that the Bible doesn't really say much on this issue as we know it in our current context. That is to say, it doesn't talk at all about loving, committed homosexual relationships. So for this reason I call for humility and to show others love by alowing them to come to their own conclusions. I am not sure how this alienates the Third World. Perhaps if I said, as you infered I said, that everyone who believes homosexuality is a sin is “dumb, unjust, unloving, hetrosexist, and doesn't have all the facts”, then I would be alienating.

    Let us represent the love embodied by Christ to all. To me this means restoring broken relationships. Getting the rich and powerful elite to share a meal with the “wretched of the earth”. Breaking down power dynamics that oppress some and benefit others. And proclaiming that the Church is home to all regardless of race, social status, and sexual orientation.

    If in our pursuit of speaking out in “scriptural love” we hinder the possibility of any of the aforementioned signs of reconciliation, then I feel as though we must be humble and trust that God will move in the lives of his children.

  • Steve

    Mark,
    I'll send you an email about this. Sorry if my tone was too harsh. You can, if you see fit, take the comment down. I wouldn't be offended.

    Sarah,
    I guess Skylar, me, and you would have different perspectives on what it means to decide truth for ourselves, but I can't see how it isn't a very bad idea for the church to embrace. Our common worship is us not deciding truth for ourselves. We might always live it, agree with it, or believe, but it is our common worship and it should be attempting to teach us a truth that isn't decided upon by ourselves.
    Second, we almost all acknowledge that the modern category of homosexuality is not the same one from ancient world, and I would argue it isn't even the same one form 100 years ago. If that is true then it is only perceived as central to our beings, rather than central to it. (Which I think is what you are saying). What is central to Christian's being should be what can located in Christ and that is why I don't think sexuality is central to anyone's being (hetro or homo).
    While I would agree that what that women did was Christ-like, I think we do need to recognize there is no such thing as “your” wedding. Baptisms, weddings, and funerals are all acts done before the body of Christ because they affect the body of Christ. Therefore a wedding isn't mine, but it is the body's. Should this have been handled differently by the church, of course.
    This brings me to a point I wish I would have phrased differently. I don't think homosexuality is akin to prostitution. What I think Paul is trying to say is that what we do with our bodies effects the whole body, specifically in cases where sexuality is involved (I think it was Nicholas Lash who argued that sexuality is barometer on how our horizontal relationships to each other.)
    The false humility, I believe, is summed up in saying this is far too complicated (or the stakes are too high, or harmful) that to attempt to speak on a practice that affects the rest of the body is “believing you have a cornerstone on truth.” That not only shuts down the conversation it makes anyone who thinks they have something to say that disagrees with him like an asshole (which I might be, but that's beside the point). We have some Scripture, a huge amount of tradition, and the experiences of those we live with to have this conversation, and I think we should. But it can't be had if those disagree with us are seen as unjust, unloving, or as “believing they have a cornerstone on truth.”

  • Steve

    Skylar,

    I didn't know I would have to defend going to seminary…
    I won't but I think your characterizations of seminary and seminarians is pretty short sighted.

    I think its fair to say we disagree on how essential sexuality is to a person's being. Also, this maybe reading too much into your comments, but it appears you have more individual view of the faith than I do (I didn't say individualistic, but I don't see how deciding truth by yourself, even with the help of the Holy Spirit, isn't individualized). And I am not sure I would say we agree on cruciform love, hope, faith, holiness, and community, because I have hardly outlined my perspective in two or three posts.

    And I wasn't responding to just you with this remark”dumb, unjust, unloving, heterosexist, and doesn't have all the facts” but several people.

    But I do think it showed up in your post in these spots:
    They do this without really having any ability to interpret the Bible as they lack sufficient knowledge of the historical context, culture, etc. (meaning not intelligent enough, I used rhetoric to make it dumb and not all the facts)

    Not to mention this very Bible is being read by a human being thousands of years later in a different language and through a heterosexist lens. (This I took as heterosexist, and not all the facts again)

    And finally I added unjust because I felt if someone did believe what you outlined and I thought homosexuality was sin then I would have considered it unjust.

    I took what you said, even in your second post, as alienating from the Third World because they don't see as something we wait on with the Holy Spirit. In fact, I think they hurry too much to make a decision on the issue, but I felt the words used in your post would be the kind that push those who are traditional in the third world on this issue apart. This comes from what I currently see happening in the Anglican communion (global schism), conversations with my Third World peers (although limited), reading the news about current discussions in those areas, what I see in my denomination, and what I have had with Asian and black pastors as well (not Third world, but of minority status).

    Your final two paragraphs reveal a relatively large gap between us on issues of the gospel (which is another discussion). But it seems “sexual status” as you write in the second to last paragraph is already decided (in a particular way), whereas I would hope my perspective would be seen as more akin to waiting for the Spirit to move amongst the church, through the study of scripture, tradition, and experience, and determine what should be our answer to this largely modern western issue this is not say I don't think Church is home to those of different sexual status' but merely that I view this as more complex of an issue than the statement you made). My poor and unfair characterization of what you arguing would be to consider it “hands-off discipleship” (because I think what we do with our bodies is connected to discipleship).

    Sorry if I was misinterpreting you on any of this things, or any of the things above. I'll let you and Sarah have the last word.

  • Steve

    I tried to respond to this in the above post, but it should be clear that I didn't write these words, Oliver O'Donovan did. If you (or anybody) would like to find out more about the specifics of this argument (and what I think is close to what I am arguing here) they can read the articles in the links above. This quote is taken from the one titled, Good News for Gay Christians.

  • SarahLynne

    I guess if I get to have the last word, I'll go ahead and take it ; )

    1- I don't think truth should be decided by ourselves, but should be informed my scripture, the holy spirit, church tradition, and your particular church community. In my experience, operating from a position of trust that the Holy Spirit is working in both of us to discern what is best for that particular person (assuming at this point that we are in some kind of significant relationship, being friends or in the same church (i mean the colloquial “we go to the same church” community) is the right way to deal with this. It also seems to me that usually the assumption is immediately that the gay person is “astray” which does not allow for discernment.

    2- I would maybe say something like, “their sexuality has become too central to their identity which isn't ideal, but something that resulted from their suffering.” This is usually true about marginalized groups, which I feel like is more a result of the oppressor's sin than the oppressed.

    3- I agree that weddings belong to the body, but sadly who is in the Body of Christ is hard to truly nail down. The only place I can feel confident in feeling like I can understand accountability with the Body is among Christians I actually know enough for us to have meaningful and commitment-based relationship with. I'm not sure that can really happen at denominational levels, and I actually began thinking this way because of this incident. People didn't actually know each other enough for me to feel comfortable with the situation.

    I think then that it is absolutely necessary to speak about this, but it has to be based in real relationships, commitments, and life-together, not about abstract nameless, faceless people.

  • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

    Wow, those are some really good words, SarahLynn, some of the best I've heard on this topic.

  • http://twitter.com/HisFootsteps Stephen Archer

    Did not Jesus point to the fact that GOD made them male and female and for that very reason, a man is to leave his mother and father, to cling to his wife?
    I am an ex-homosexual. The conviction of the Holy Spirit on my sin of homosexuality could not be demonically depriving me of some sort of happiness, now could it?
    How do you defend yourself with the Scriptures?
    How about the book of Jude & the first chapter of Romans?
    What does it mean by 'strange flesh'?
    What does it mean that the angels mentioned in Jude 'kept not their own estate' but copulated with the daughters of men, which is a direct comparison to Sodom & Gomorah in that chapter?

  • michaelf57

    As a gay man nearing 60 and having been out of the closet since I was 13, I am still amazed and amused by the strange and peculiar notion some straight folk have that I 'choose' to be gay, like I'm some kind of belligerent adolescent who is refusing to have sex with woman just to be rebellious or the equally ridiculous idea that I didn’t get raised properly and am therefore somehow stunted sexually.
    The internet is packed with silly blogs from folks who feel compelled to manifest an opinion where here-to-for , there was none. That being said let me make a couple points then I promise to fade from your life forever.

    1. I don’t care. I am a very ministry involved Catholic who has made it known to his bishop that I’m perfectly aware of all the bible bullets regarding my proclivities. Seems to me the folks in the bible got their ire up about something, but I wasn’t there. Can’t say what all the fuss was about. In a word, I don’t care.

    2. Why do you? I submit to you that homosexuality, abortion and a few other items are often not even issues for the people who seem compelled to discuss them most. Actually they are not really issues at all, they are more like distractions, something to focus on so as not to pay too much attention to the goings on in your own living room.

    3. Finally, my nature, your nature, the nature of everyone you know, will know or have known is a mystery. It’s a mystery to you , to them, to all who have come before and all who will follow.
    Sin, I do hate that word. There is only one sin, I promise, only one. When given the option thru grace and awareness to love, you chose, you elect of your own free will, not to.

  • http://twitter.com/queering_church weldonterry

    The Catechism statement on homosexual acts is a flagrant distortion of verifiable fact:

    “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life.”

    This is one of the most egregious half-truths ever presented by the Catholic Church on homosexuality. The first clear statement of the church as a whole on the issue came in the 12th century, with the 3rd Lateran Council. Before that, there were some voices raised in opposition, but they were not universally supported. Where there was criticism it was generally seen as a minor offence.

    Over the centuries, isolated early criticisms have been gradually expanded and exaggerated, while being presented as the “unchanging” tradition which is entirely false.

    Scripture also is badly misrepresented. The astonishing thing about Scripture on this subject is how extraordinarily little it says. The Hebrew Scriptures have only two verses from Leviticus – both to do with Jewish purity laws, like circumcisio, the restrictions on diet, clothing, and rituals around menstruation (read the whole passage, not just the famous two verses), and like the other purity laws, clearly do not apply to non-Jews . The story of Sodom had nothing at all to do with homosexulaity.

    In all of the New Testament, there are only 3 verses, which may be mistranslations of words referring to temple prostitution, and none at all in the Gospels. This despite the fact that the Gospels and Pauline letters were written in Greek for a Greek speaking audience, against a background of a Graeco -Roman civilization where male-male sexual relationships were assumed to be entirely natural. (The only concern was about the sexual role adopted, not about the gender of one's partner. And this concern was about social status, not about morality.)

    To claim that tradition and Scripture clearly condemn homosexual acts is a flagrant distortion
    of the truth.

  • skylerdickson

    Steve,

    This is not so much a response, but just more thoughts. So please do not take what I say as accusatory or malicious.

    I'm not sure why I felt I needed to post a response to the article in the first place. Perhaps I felt I needed to speak on behalf of my homosexual friends whom I love, respect, and cherish. Throughout college I saw the pain of one of my best friends who happens to be gay struggle with severe depression and suicidal thoughts (in some cases he had visions of Jesus killing him). It wasn't until he was able to feel as though God loved him- that God hadn't made a mistake when creating him, that he was able to start loving himself and God. It is still a struggle for him to relate with God as the Church serves as a reminder that he cannot be gay and believe in God at the same time.

    I don't want to do theology in a classroom or even on a website. I do theology within my community. It is here that I discern what truth is and believe that the Holy Spirit is at work when two or more believers gather. The relationships I have with those at the bottom of society also inform me on what truth is. Theology, at its best is created in the midst of deep struggle and with those who the Gospel intends to set free. So when I speak on this issue I speak from the pain of seeing dear friends be told that who they are as a person is sinful.

    I apologize, I know this is terribly subjective. But the problem is so many academics think they have the objective truth on matters but yet are so distant from those that the Gospel is supposed to be good news to. The problem for me is that I listen and enter into the pain of certain oppressed groups and allow them to teach me about the Bible and what it means to them. This is admittedly subjective and to some it is seemingly dangerous. But even Jesus did theology out of his socio-political context and drew on Jewish tradition as well. He was not objective as some academics try to make him out to be. His “absolute truths” in many ways were subject to his time and context. This is not to say we cannot apply his truths to our current context, but we must acknowledge that there are differences in who Jesus was speaking to in 1st century Palestine and who the Church ministers to today.

    My final thought is this: we are all human beings. We were created as human beings on purpose. Not as angels or any other perfect creature. God knows that the best of who we are and the worst of who we are is inseparable. To think that we can become perfect beings harkens back to Plato's idea of ideal forms. That society or man can achieve their TRUE form of existence and move into a state of perfection. God created us out of love and is not dismayed by the fact that humans sin. In fact, in some kind of way, God loves us not despite our sin, but also because we sin. For if we didn't sin we wouldn't be human. It is as if God is deeply interested in who we are and how we relate to each other.

    No this is not an excuse to sin nor is it offering people “cheap grace”. It is simply acknowledging that we don't need to feel the responsibility of making each other sinless. We do bare the responsibility of ensuring that those around us are taken care of and that we enter into solidarity with those who are oppressed. In our society today, that would include the homosexual community.

    I pray for the strength to speak out and work against evils such as racism, sexism, and classism, because these evils lead to unjust societies. However, I cannot for the life of me believe that a loving relationship between two people of the same sex would require this same attention.

    Note: I say all this knowing that I must sound foolish to God. And so I submit to him and pray for guidance and humility. But I have never felt more at peace with simply forfeiting my views on this issue, so that my homosexual brothers and sisters can find a place within the Church. If I am wrong about this, God will understand because he has seen me make mistakes before and knows I will make mistakes again.

  • mariakirby

    Where (if anywhere) is the sin (ie. relational brokenness) in that story?

    Lust (of any kind) is a form idolatry, thus lust breaks our relationship with God. The burning lust was a result of mankind ignoring his conscience, which would be a broken relationship with one's self. And the acting on lust breaks our relationship with others by using them to satisfy our selfish desires.

    Sin is treated differently based on which relationship(s) it breaks. In a society where it is assumed that everyone is straight and trust is given based on that assumption, it would be very easy for someone acting on homosexual feelings to break an assumed trust.

    Do homosexual feelings constitute a break in relationship with God? or one's self? That is a lot more complicated like Sarah said.

    I can think of a lot of analogies that could possibly apply:

    Be angry and sin not. Repressed feelings can become sin just as much as indulged ones.

    Jesus said of the man born blind that neither his parents or himself sinned to cause his condition, but that it was an opportunity to show the glory of God. If a person is born with homosexual inclinations wouldn't it be more an opportunity to show the glory of God somehow?

    God does not heal all biological maladies, but expects us to care for those who suffer from those problems.

    Jesus healed the paraplegic because of the faith of those who brought him. The lack of healing for a homosexual may have more to do with our lack of faith than his/hers.

    God created mankind to be married (the natural argument), but his son fulfilled the purposes of God best as single and celibate, creating room for more than one kind acceptable living relationship.

    Jesus explains that God permitted Moses to allow divorce even though God ordained marriage because he knew the hearts of men were evil. If God allows one exception to the natural order might he allow another?

    Jesus tells the Pharisees that there is no marrying in heaven, which suggests that issues of sexual relationship are more temporal and more biological in nature (although not exclusively so).

  • http://al-muses.blogspot.com/ Al1

    Skyler, everything you said resonates in my own spirit. For me, that means God's Spirit is telling me that I am on the right track when I am concerned about people, justice, relationships and community.
    It means my thoughts on the necessity of forming theology within a community of faith, based on experience, tradition and wisdom as well as scripture are on the right track.
    It means that my own desire to listen more than talk, to feel someone's pain more than 'set them straight', to uphold their cause against oppression–all are part of my calling as a Christ-follower.
    Thanks for touching my heart.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    Skylar,

    After reading through your responses here it is obvious to me you are speaking from a sincere perspective. You've seen people you are close to be burned by the Church. Undoubtedly, you have been burned yourself by uber-conservative Christians tossing their weight around as well.

    This is painfully obvious in, “Throughout college I saw the pain of one of my best friends who happens to be gay struggle with severe depression and suicidal thoughts (in some cases he had visions of Jesus killing him). It wasn't until he was able to feel as though God loved him- that God hadn't made a mistake when creating him, that he was able to start loving himself and God. It is still a struggle for him to relate with God as the Church serves as a reminder that he cannot be gay and believe in God at the same time.”

    It seems, however, that you are unwittingly applying this experience to anyone who calls homosexuality sin. I promise you, it is possible to remain loving while acknowledging the sinfulness of homosexuality. I understand this may be hard for you to comprehend because of your past experiences, but it is possible.

    How a Christian can something like, “God hates fags!” is beyond me. I don't believe I will ever understand what makes them think this is a Christ-like way of approaching anyone in any sin. God does love gay people. That this isn't obvious to people is mind boggling. Of course God didn't “make a mistake” in creating your friend (God doesn't make mistakes!), but this does not mean that his sexual tendencies (or other urges) are not sin. He can certainly be gay and believe in God. He can certainly be gay and be a Christian. But again, this does not mean that homosexuality is not sin. We are all in a state of becoming more Christ-like. We all have planks in our eyes that need dealing with.

    As in the beginning, I still do not wish to enter into the “is homosexuality sin” debate online. My position is made clear enough, but I'm not going to argue it here. What is particularly troubling to me from reading not only your responses but the responses of others, is how a people can affirm the clearly Biblical concept of non-violence, but choke on what I would consider to be “milk.”

    You seem to have a problem with “absolute truth” and objectivity. While I think such a notion is asinine, it is yours to believe what you will believe. However, when you continue from that position to make blanket truth statements (absolute truths) I have to question whether it is really objective, absolute truth that you have a problem with or simply what some people consider to be the absolute truth.

    Here are some of your statements (all from one paragraph):

    “We are all human beings. We were created as human beings on purpose.”

    Really? How do you know we were created this way purposely? How do you know we were created?

    “Not as angels or any other perfect creature.”

    How do you know we were not first angels? Perhaps we are fallen angels. Why is it that you consider angels to be “perfect” creatures? Is this a Biblical notion?

    “To think that we can become perfect beings harkens back to Plato's idea of ideal forms. That society or man can achieve their TRUE form of existence and move into a state of perfection.”

    Does it? Just because Plato's teachings have similarities to teachings in the Bible (Matt. 5:48; 19:21; 1 Cor. 13:10; 2 Cor. 13:9, 11; Phil. 3:12; Col. 1:28; Heb. 10:14; 11:39-40; 12:23b; and the whole concept of resurrection and new creation) does this mean the Bible's teachings on this point are null and void?

    “God created us out of love and is not dismayed by the fact that humans sin.”

    How do you know God created us out of love? Why do you think He is not dismayed by human sin when the Scriptures clearly teach the opposite? He hates sin.

    “In fact, in some kind of way, God loves us not despite our sin, but also because we sin.”

    Again, more blanket truth statements. And again, how do you know these things? God loves us BECAUSE we sin? Your chain of logic here is that God loves us because we are human and we are human because we sin, therefore God loves us because we sin. The first premise is incorrect. God's love for us has nothing to do with us being human. God loves us because God is love. It is simply what He does. You might add that He loves us because He created us, but even the act of creation is an act of love. God loves because God is love.

    God does not love our sin. God does not love us because we sin. He hates sin. He hates it because it separates us from Him. This is milk, Skylar. If He didn't hate it why would He have given His only begotten Son in order to cleanse us of it? Why would Jesus tell a woman to “God and sin no more”? Sin is a very serious matter, Skylar.

    “For if we didn't sin we wouldn't be human.”

    No? So Adam and Eve were not “human” until they sinned? So when we are made perfect and sin no more in the new creation will we no longer be human? God created humans without sin. When we sinned (and fell) we actually LOST some of our humanity, Sin makes us inhuman. Sin robs us of our humanity. Sin kills us.

    “…we don't need to feel the responsibility of making each other sinless.”

    While I believe this is true, it is yet another blanket truth statement. We should, however, feel the need to hold our brothers and sisters accountable (and I mean that within the context of very tightly knit Christian community) and push each other on to perfection.

    “We do bare the responsibility of ensuring that those around us are taken care of and that we enter into solidarity with those who are oppressed.”

    Again, I agree with this, but it too is another blanket truth statement.

    “I pray for the strength to speak out and work against evils such as racism, sexism, and classism, because these evils lead to unjust societies.”

    This statement reveals quite a lot to me about your heart. I see you care deeply about people and society. It is okay to speak out against these evils because they are unjust, but don't let this be your only reason. Speak out against these things because God hates them. Speak out against these things because they separate people from God and prevent them from fulfilling their God-given purpose of abiding in Him.

    So again, I don't want to debate with anyone here whether or not homosexuality is sin, but I do want you to see that you have a very unbiblical way of looking at sin and that your statements regarding objectivity are self-defeating when you go on to make the claims you make here.

    stay salty, skylar

  • skylerdickson

    well I would respond, but I'm kinda tired of pretending that this is God's work to write posts on a website so that other people can awaken to the truth. It was fun for a while and now I remember why I never posted anything before. Because I'm not interested in spiritual masturbation. Or maybe I am, but in an effort to bring myself back into the reality of the oppressed I am going to stop typing on my fucking Apple computer and continue to live my life. I have to figure out a way to help my parents pay their mortgage and figure out a way to ensure my homosexual friends don't feel dehumanized by “truth” speaking Christians.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    Oh, c'mon Skyler. I agree that this discourse is tiring, but don't sully the whole enterprise of Jesus Manifesto by calling it spiritual masturbation. There is a line between critiquing and jagged cynicism…

    When you see injustice in the world, your response should be to lament, of course, but then to move forward into the joy of being a part of Christ's healing of injustice. If you linger in the lamentation and cynicism too long, it taints everything.

  • skylerdickson

    Mark,

    I have much respect for you and your community's efforts to usher in heaven on earth. Jesus Manifesto, when at its best, encourages others to do the same in their own lives. At its worst, it's privileged people who want to flaunt their intellect. It is the latter that I was critiquing and found it to be especially true with the reign of spiritual guidance I was receiving from various folks.

    As Cornel West points out: peacocks strut around displaying their feathers, but they cannot soar.

    Perhaps I am too cynical and have falsely criticized certain folks (and I include myself as one who is subject to criticism) . And for this I apologize. But for myself I will remain humbled by the absurdity of me talking about oppressed people while enjoying the fruits of oppression. I'm not sure if this is cynicism or not. What do you think?

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    It is certainly somewhat absurd to discuss oppression over a computer that is yours by virtue of the privilege granted to you because of that oppression.

    But I think there is a difference between 1) a recognition of such absurdity followed by a move towards lamentation and repentance and 2) cynicism.

    Cynicism is a powerless mental state. Someone is cynical when they can successfully name what is wrong with the world but fails to move towards a solution in their own life. Or, another way to look at it is that cynicism is an ability to see the bad paired with an inability to see the good.

    While there is a lot that is messed up with the things you've mentioned, there is still room for hope. Hope is the enemy of cynicism, because, in the midst of evil, it can see glimmers of good and can expect more good in the future.

  • skylerdickson

    thank you. I will take that to heart and try to better live out that hope.

    Much love

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    Hey man, hope is a group activity…I hope that, as we try to deal with issues like eviction homelessness together, we can encourage one another in the hope that Christ offers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Carl-Lewis/1150987616 Jon Carl Lewis

    The American Psychological Association repudiated the research methodology and outcomes of these very bodies and felt so strongly about it that they very recently (within th epast week) released a new resolution making their stance very clear.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALe

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/health/06gay….

    I've been through the ex-gay thing, so I also know a little bit more about it than I previously let on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Carl-Lewis/1150987616 Jon Carl Lewis

    Sarah, the less time i have to spend defending my loving partnership of 14 years, the more energy i can put into my prayer practice.

    Heterosexual supremacists are wasting the energies of people who want to be, simply, Christian by constantly pointing out how unfit we are to approach the communion rail.

    My identity is primarily as a Christian, primarily in Christ.

    It is only those who want to distract me from living into the fullness of Christ by picking apart my particulars who force me to constantly stop and waste time doing basic thology 101 with people who also need to be doing the work of Christ in the world and not trying to (self)-justify their way into the judgement seat of God (which is God's and God's alone).

    At this, more mature point in my Christian life, I am much more interested in what God wants me to do along the Micah 16:18 lines than who I say I am.

    And at some point in the very near future I get th efeeling that God is going to ask me to even stop responding to those whose purpose is to erect stumbling blocks of race and class and gender and political leaning – stumbling blocks which keep other Christians from focusing on the transformative power of Christ and the Spirit in establishing the true reign of God.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Carl-Lewis/1150987616 Jon Carl Lewis

    I don't think this took, before, but the APA has made a point of strenghthening their stance against the types of therapy these groups offer. They had already condemned these practices years ago, but now, having gone back and reviewed the methodolgy and outcomes of the type of work these groups are doing have felt the need to come out with a stronger statement.

    here is a link which will get you to that announcement:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/health/06gay….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Carl-Lewis/1150987616 Jon Carl Lewis

    Have you been healed of homosexuality?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Carl-Lewis/1150987616 Jon Carl Lewis

    i do wonder – often – if those 'straight' people for whom homosexuality is a 'choice' aren't homosexuals who have 'chosen' to be straight – and thus have a very strong impetus towards slamming th edoor on any positive or even tolerant interpretation of the sexuality they have been 'saved' from.

    this reminds me of the fervor with which an alcoholic rejects the thought of any drink – while those who have no problem with alcohol can sip the communion wine and not think about alcohol again until the cup is next presented at eucharist.

    i think the burden of proof needs to shift.

    those who have issues with homosexuality need to be recognized for the weakness IN THEM they need prayers and understanding to help them contain.

    for those who do not have a problem integrating it into a healthy world view (God giv eme grace to live an integrated life in all areas, please) – perhaps we don't flaunt it in your face so as to make your struggle to supress your homosexuality that much harder.

    i feel genuine sorrow for those for whom an abused past, a revulsion of feelings, or even some legitimate desire to abstain for conscience sake have made a sexuality which is problematic for them a crusade against that sexuality for all.

    but i am truly feeling that this is the place to begin the discussion.

    where there is pain… we should ask where the harm was done.

    christ is about healing, not arguing people into the ground.

    and perhaps we who understand how sexuality can find healthy integration into a spiritual path need to do less debating and more asking how we can heal the wounds of those who seem to need the entire world to cease some particular behavior or other so they cna feel at peace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    What you say here is expanded in the book “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism” by Bishop John Shelby Spong (who, ftr, I don't particularly care for). Spong recognizes that homosexuality is clearly condemned in Scripture, but likens it to fanaticism.

    Basically, he says that the only reason anyone would put forth so much effort (I'm not sure how you consider three verses to be much effort though) into condemning something is if they were themselves plagued by that thing thus making them a “fanatic.” At least that's the gist I remember. In other words, Spong attributes Paul's condemnation of homosexuality to Paul's own homosexuality. Yes, Spong actually believes Paul was a closet homosexual.

    There is alot of truth to your comment here though. I know that when I first came to Christ I felt a very clear conviction against the use of alcohol, tobacco, and secular music (all of which I had struggles with BC). The problem was that I began to take these personal convictions and apply them to everyone else. Obviously, this was wrong. Eventually I was released of these convictions with the understanding that they were for my personal cleansing. Now I enjoy all three in a way that I could not 5 years ago.

    In response to your first question about my personal healing, I don't say this to many people, but I did, at one point in my life (for reasons I do believe I can explain), have very strong homosexual urges. I never acted on them though, and was eventually healed. The healing came simply by prayer and reversing the thing that brought me to that place (I have my ideas about what that was, but I do not wish to reveal them here because I do not want anyone to take me the wrong way).

    I am not a fanatic, however. I don't go around shouting, “God hates fags!” I don't even go around talking about the sinfulness of homosexuality. I simply love people into the Kingdom and if ever I am asked to deal with issues then I do so with love and kindness.

    stay salty

  • http://www.facebook.com/zmallen Zack Allen

    Jon, the thing you need to keep in mind the folks you call “heterosexual supremacists” is their understanding of the transformative power of the Blood of Christ. To them, it is unthinkable that a person who has been touched by God in such a deep way could go on living in habitual sin ala 1 John 3:4-10.

    Yes, there are those who go out of their way to point fingers, but I'm not talking about these people.

    The 1 John 3 thing applies to anything and anyone. They have the same problem people who continue in the sins of gluttony or greed. This doesn't mean they think they are better or sinless. A person can be gluttonous and greedy and still be a Christian. The deciding factor to them is whether or not a person “goes on sinning” or keeps sinning habitually rather than recognizing the sin and actively seeking to rid themselves of it by the Holy Spirit. This is not to say that these people are not “saved,” but resisting the transformative power of the Holy Spirit (which can, in the end, have some pretty dire consequences).

    So because they see homosexuality as clearly going against the natural order of things and “missing the mark” (which is the meaning of sin) it is unthinkable that a homosexual Christian who does not recognize their sin and “goes on sinning” is in danger just like the glutton who does the same thing.

    So many people go about it the wrong way though, but we both already know that. The fundamental issue really is whether or not homosexuality is sin. As it stands, I see no other option. I think the Biblical voice (and created order) on the subject is simply to clear to reason away.

    Does this mean I can't love you because I think you're sexual lifestyle (albeit sincerely, and, to me, unknowingly) is sin? No. I've got plenty of things that need dealing with as well and I certainly hope that everyone would not hate me because of those things.

    Does this mean you can't love me? Well that's up to you, but I hope you would. I understand that could be difficult though if you did not see homosexuality as sinful. You'd likely see everything I say and do as hateful. I assure you, though, this is not the case. I don't hate you or anyone else, it is just that my reading of the Scriptures says that homosexuality is sin.

  • mariakirby

    I appreciate your attitude. I agree that it is more important to figure out how to have loving relationships than it is to identify people's sin. I find it very interesting how and when God works with societies and the individual in them to teach them his ways. He is constantly enlightening us about new ways to grow. Homosexuals coming out of the closet has shed a lot of light on ways heterosexuals need to grow. Before we start requiring gay people to change, we need to make changes in our lives. We can't be a very good support system for gay people to make such significant changes in their lives (if that is necessary) when we have such difficulty loving them and each other. And I wouldn't be surprised if the sins of heterosexuals contributed to homosexual inclinations in others.

  • stephenanderson

    Your many scholars somehow can only be found in the modern west, hardly evidence of orthodoxy.
    Pauls' use of nature in Romans 1 is definitely based on creation, not custom, as the context deals with the universal condemnation of Jews and Gentiles. And clearly human biology (God's creation) is hetero-sexual. Indeed, given the ratio of male to female births, creation implies marriage of one man to one woman as affirmed by Jesus.

    You say, “often I cannot believe that still in the twenty-first century our governmental and religious institutions fail to acknowledge that homosexuality is not synonymous with disorder, sin, and unnatural.”

    In other words, our understanding of sin should not be determined by the revelation of God, but by cultural, and preferable avant-gard cultural mores. Fine, unless you claim to follow Jesus and I mean the Jesus who is God in human flesh, virgin born, crucified for our sins, and risen from the dead.

    http://www.disciples-of-jesus.net

  • James

    “This interpretation of scripture is flawed, since many scholars agree that condemnations of homosexuality are nonexistent in the Bible.” So the interpretation is flawed because many disagree with it? That's not much of an argument.

  • pete

    So you identity is wrapped up in homosexuality? This means nothing. We're supposed to die to self when we repent and come to Christ. That means loosing our identity and taking on Christs.

  • Jim

    “Is homosexuality sin?” is not a troubling question, nor is it a difficult one. From the Old to the New Testament, homosexual acts are condemned and not once are they condoned. Sex is for marriage and not once in the Bible do we see a same sex couple united in holy matrimony.
    Keep in mind that I say, the act of homosexuality is sin. I do not say that homosexuals themselves are to be condemned as people. It falls into the same category of sexual sin as adultery, masturbating to pornography, lust, etc. It is no more or less a sin than any other.
    I think we should stop trying to compromise scripture in the name of making a more politically correct Christianity.

  • Jim

    Ok, but Scripture clearly states that the act of sex is reserved for married couples. Sex outside of marriage is adultery, and it is also clear that God's plan for marriage is one man, one woman.

  • NC77

    Any sexual relationships outside of the covenant of marriage is sin. Those practicing homsexuality included. Time to repent.

  • Jay Lynne

    This kind of “loving prejudice” justified by poor interpretation of the scripture is exactly why so many Gay and straight people have turned away not only from the church — even those parts of the church which claim to be most in touch with Jesus' real message — but also from God. Myself, I have simply learned to tune out those who use Scripture to (lovingly or not) condemn some aspect of being Gay — not only on Gay issues, but on ALL issues. Why? Because if that's the best they can do for scripture interpretation, what else are they going to be ridiculously wrong about?

    Nope, it still goes back to: want to be a Jesus follower? Better learn to do it on your own, far away from those who claim most loudly to be His spokespeople and guardians of His truth — or they will destroy your faith faster than you can cry “Mercy!”

  • pete

    Want to be a Jesus follower? Die! Lay aside your opinions and the opinions of this Godless world and conform yourself to Christ. The plain text of the scriptures condems the practice of homosexuality. It doesn't matter how much you don't like that, the truth stays the same.

  • Jay Lynne

    This kind of “loving prejudice” justified by poor interpretation of the scripture is exactly why so many Gay and straight people have turned away not only from the church — even those parts of the church which claim to be most in touch with Jesus' real message — but also from God. Myself, I have simply learned to tune out those who use Scripture to (lovingly or not) condemn some aspect of being Gay — not only on Gay issues, but on ALL issues. Why? Because if that's the best they can do for scripture interpretation, what else are they going to be ridiculously wrong about?

    Nope, it still goes back to: want to be a Jesus follower? Better learn to do it on your own, far away from those who claim most loudly to be His spokespeople and guardians of His truth — or they will destroy your faith faster than you can cry “Mercy!”

  • pete

    Want to be a Jesus follower? Die! Lay aside your opinions and the opinions of this Godless world and conform yourself to Christ. The plain text of the scriptures condems the practice of homosexuality. It doesn't matter how much you don't like that, the truth stays the same.

  • Josh W

    I strongly agree, one of the powerful things about the gospel is that it solves the age old problem of identity; how can we “be ourselves” when we spend our entire lives changing? Should we refuse to learn from others and just follow our own changing ideas? Should we stick only to what we have noticed about ourselves before, even if it is harmful to us?

    The zen monks say “show me your original face before your mother and father were born”, but for a Christian, the core identity is the one built in Gods plan, written before we did any of it, and leading up to a real life that is currently hidden in Christ and will only be revealed when he is. In other words an identity anchored on the future, one we grow into. It is our true identity because it will outlast all others, because it was built into our creation, because we choose it and it is life as an expression of Christ. We are not merely what we just proved ourselves, but what we are just about to become, so by the time I tell you it I will have become it, by the grace of God.

    So if the bible condemns me, it shows me I'm not finished yet, and so is a gateway to more fruitful change and expressions of further depths of Gods goodness. God brings back the law to our good by empowering it with the spirit, which both radicalises it and gives us the power to achieve it.

  • Cvnanbd

    Homosexual acts are sin, so is lying, adultry, murder. Homosexuality is an affront and abomination to God. God made woman for man, to be one.

  • uncc1296

    determined ignorance is sin. blasphemy of the holy spirit is sin. bearing false witness against your neighbor is a sin. worshiping a book above the God who wrote the book (idolatry) is a sin. why don't you ask Jesus to forgive you for your many, many sins? repent and turn away from such a sad miserable sinful life controlled by hate and darkness.

  • isaiah

    Calling good evil and evil good is sin.

  • Debbie Kean

    “those who have issues with homosexuality need to be recognized for the weakness IN THEM they need prayers and understanding to help them contain.”
    This to me, seems very harsh and judgemental! I have issues with homosexuality, big ones (which I won't go into here) but I am not the one in the wrong. Heterosexuals are also capable of breaking up families, acting treacherously and harming women – but they don't try to claim it's ok!

  • uncc1296

    only God is the righteous judge. No one knows the condition of another person's soul. To suggest that anyone does based on their particular interpretation of random and selected verses from Scripture is putting yourself in the place of God. “Judge not, lest ye be not judged.”
    The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 debated if Gentile persons could become Christians without becoming Jewish first. Peter held the determining indication of a person's worthiness of acceptance into the community of faith. Peter said “I have met these people. They love God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are evident in their lives.”
    If you imagine yourself to be above the requirements outlined by Peter or even more if you determine yourself to take the place of God and determine a person's salvation, then there is no amount of conversation with a person with such an outlook of their own self importance.
    “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness…against such THERE IS NO LAW.”

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