Let me preface this post by saying I feel this topic has been far too prominent in recent times in terms of western Christianity's focus on it. This I think is true regardless your stance on the link between morality and sexuality. I'm no Roman Catholic but the new pope and I see eye to eye on that particular thought.
The guy is growing on me.
With that in mind, I still felt the need to delve deeper into the topic. I have (and had) friends, gay and bi, who've had a pretty rough experiences with church, some of which in fact would have once called themselves Christians. This is a large part of my motivation.
The topic gets personal for me, something I suspect lacks in many Christian's view on the topic
(in my area anyway, South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne). This stems from the fact that openly gay (I'll use the word 'gay' as the representation of all GLBT from now on if that's OK.) church goers are few and far between.
It's not often thought through seriously or at any real length because it rarely has a personal effect on the average Christian's life outside of a heated Facebook debate with a liberal Christian. Most are quite content to throw out a sweeping opinion and leave it at that. The passionate might even sign a petition that gets passed around now and again. (Bear in mind I'll be making a lot of generalizations, such as this, in this post. I do know of thoughtful and loving individual Christians and Churches).
The odd exception to this is the 'GLBT friendly' branch of churches, mainly found in the inner city and surrounding suburbs and are often have a very a large percentage of members who are not heterosexual.
There's a sad irony to the fact that a community that is 'The Church' should need such a title for all to feel welcome. Those churches tend to present their own weir...unique issues however, but that for another time maybe.
So here comes the juicy questions.
If you are not a Christian, for the sake of the discussion I'll ask you to suspend disbelief in the God of the Bible for now. We'll get to that.
1. Is sex outside of heterosexual marriage not how God intended?
2. If so what should the churches response be?
From these 2 questions, for a guy who grew up in a conservative baptist church, come a myriad of others in order to answer, what at first glance should be a relatively simple couple questions.
There are definite verses in the bible that point to homosexuality being not as God intended, as well as the obvious example to the positive being Adam and Eve and many other lesser know examples of what a romantic relationship should look like.
The question arising from that is, are we to take all of this in context and so in our modern context we need not apply this. That is certainly true for many laws of the old testament. Where you'll find rippers like:
Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material" (Leviticus 19:19)
The 'new' atheist loves to pull these random verses out of context and brandish them like swords. All the while Christians (and atheists alike) are rolling their eyes.
These verses are often commands to a specific people, at a specific time, for a specific purpose.
Though there are laws in the Old Testament that surpass the situation, for the sake of simplicity we'll just stick to the New Testament. The New Testament is the Section of the bible where Jesus comes in to the Jewish nation and turns everything on It's head. Ill get to what changed and why it's important next, but suffice to say this is the part where most of the credibility for sexuality as a moral responsibility comes from.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
The New testament is covered with verse like this, as such this is not by any stretch of the imagination a comprehensive list. But you get the idea.
The idea of man and wife being a central allegory for God's relationship with his people is one deeply entrenched in the Christian world view.
I could go on, on how pervasive the idea of a man an women coming together is throughout the bible and how that completely surpasses time or context, but you didn't come here for a theology lesson I assume.
So with all that in mind we come to a somewhat infamous verse.
Though there are a few, this is certainly one of the least ambiguous.
I'm going to take some time to break this down a bit. I know it's boring, but better that, than making wild and false assumptions.
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.
Note: It says the 'practice of homosexuality' not 'being homosexual' implying the sexual is act wrong not attraction.
In any case this seems like a harsh list for that to be on. I mean no one is being hurt by it.
What you must understand however is Christians view sex very highly (or at least they should), something that's a Gift from God to be enjoyed in the right context.
So to misuse the gift is a very big issue.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
Something we cannot over look however is the importance of the first part of the previous passage.
"Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient"
This list in context is not to condemn people who do not follow Jesus, but rather instruction to those who do follow him because we're all screw-ups by God's standard. Hence Jesus came to save "lawless and disobedient".
When I talked about Jesus coming down to shake things up. His message was that of Love, Justice, Peace, among other things, and the coming of a world where that would be exemplified in everything. His offer was forgiveness and radical new way of life to those who would choose it. When asked of all the laws in the bible what is most important,
37 "Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
Jesus wasn't a blissful hippie that came and said forget all the laws and just love.
But if obeying a law means you either don't love God or your neighbour (neighbour meaning all people and love being a verb) in the process you've missed the point of the law.
Again a lot more can be said on the topic but this post is long enough as it is. Comment if you want me to explain further.
So what all this comes down to is, what then is a loving response as a Christian if your understanding is that 'the act of homosexuality' is a sin? Bearing in mind that all people (even the lovely new pope) is a sinner that's fallen short by God's standard and is in need of forgiveness. As such a Christian has no right to judge another but a God given capacity and mandate to Love without condition.
Just when you though we had gotten somewhere (whether you like the 'there' or not) the question branches again.
1. What should be the attitude of a gay person that is a Christian, knowing this?
2. What should be a Christian's attitude to a gay person who is not?
(Bear in mind my thoughts on the following question are not from first hand experience as I'm not gay, feel free to correct me in comments.)
The trouble that comes up when considering the first question is a question of identity. Being a follower of Jesus and 'Child of God' if you will, is an identity that leaves no space for a room mate. When one gives their life to God their entire identity becomes wrapped up in that.
This could be the major reason why this topic (of all the things in the bible that's abrasive or rejects western culture) is kicking up a fuss.
Could it be that your sexuality could end up forming part of what you call your identity? Is there a difference between your sexuality and what makes you who you are?
If true, can you reconcile 'the identity of being gay' with that of being a Christian. Maybe you can't.
I know Christians who have come to this impasse and walked away from faith.
I know some who've decided that the solution is to be celibate for the rest of their lives because they are only attracted to the same sex. Their 'identity as a Christian' outweighed their desire to live out their 'identity as a gay person', obviously that doesn't mean they just stopped being gay, but there was a choice about what made them who they are.
I know some who are in healthy heterosexual relationships, even with a family and would attribute the change to the work of God.
I know of organizations that run counselling for gay Christians where what I can only describe as 'deprogramming' happens. I suppose the benefit of the doubt is in order as I don't actually know anyone who's been a part of it. As you might be able to tell by my use of apostrophes, I find it concerning still.
Unfortunately I have no right or wrong for Question 1.
Second question, nearly done I promise (said every pastor ever, half way through their sermon).
This of all the questions I have the least to say because I feel like there should be little to say.
There is the opinion, that to be loving to those who are not Christians we must voice our opinion in the legal system so all can live a better life. Hence the opposition the gay marriage by Christians and on a personal level tell people 'you love the sinner but not the sin'.
I find both these approaches hard to stomach as loving.
I might propose that sin is considered and dealt with after a person commits to following Jesus. Before that point a Christian's role may then be just to love, serve and respect their neighbour and simply offer them the life they believe to be the best on possible. Still, I don't think that feels like a whole answer.
For all this, I'm still a little bit at a loss. Still unsure of many of my assertions.
Of course there is a simple way out of this, an incredible simple solution, one that maybe you've been trying to scream to me this entire time.
Perhaps Like Richard Dawkins you believe:
“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”
(I apologise for using a Dawkins quote. I know he's not the most logical atheist around, but you have to admit, his quotes have a nice ring to them!)
That's a choice however, I won't make. By the overwhelming weight of first hand experience, I have to believe there is a God that lines up perfectly with the words of the Bible. As a result I have faith that it's all good and true. I thoroughly enjoy my relationship with God and my identity is very much in that. (Doesn't really help you to jump that hurdle, but can't argue with anecdotal evidence haha!)
So there it is, a mess of questions with few answers.
Let me know how this all came across.
Agree? Disagree? I'm happy to discuss, so leave a comment, hit up the 'community' section or message me...whatever.