I "came out" on Facebook this week. Having been a preacher, and having come from a fundamentalist Christian background, I pretty much got the scripture-laden response I expected. While I in no way asked for people to inform me of the Bible's stance on homosexuality, many of course took it upon themselves to do so anyway (including a few who, I would bet, have never actually opened a Bible themselves). Let me state this clearly: I am very aware of what the Bible says about homosexuality. My understanding of God and the literal/nonliteral nature of biblical texts has undergone a drastic change in the last couple of years, including my views on homosexuality and whether or not it is a sin. (Here is a post I wrote a while back about literal interpretation and biblical inspiration/inerrancy.)
Though most of the people I know will accuse me (and have accused me) of trying to "twist the Scriptures in order to justify my sinful lifestyle," I have never intentionally tried to do that. I don't want to believe a lie and be damned. I don't want to twist anything in order to justify selfishness or sin.I always want to know the truth. However, I have come to believe that the truth about God is that God loves us and wants us to love God and each other. Most of everything else is open to interpretation.
I do not feel like I have to justify myself to anyone on whether my "lifestyle" is "wrong" or "right," but just in case anyone does care to know what I believe about it, I would like to just briefly address the biblical references to homosexuality and how I have come to "twist them"...er...I mean...believe that all Scripture was written by imperfect humans who did their best to write about the God they loved, but Whom they understood through their own human culture, bound by sometimes erroneous understandings of the world around them. Where I do not provide a link to an external article or source, it is because I had the Bible and a concordance open before me and was typing as I read it for myself, not taking someone else's word for it.
1) The simplest reference (and favorite go-to Scripture in my family) is Leviticus 18:22, which says (in the King James Version, because we all know that is the truly inspired translation), "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." A couple chapters later, in Lev. 20:13, it says that those who do so are to be put to death.
Two things can be pointed out here. First of all, the term "abomination" never refers to anything inherently sinful, but to things that were ritually sinful (not part of a certain code - like the one God made for Israel after the Exodus...the law that served as a schoolmaster to teach us why we needed Christ, because we were unable to keep even those few written rules contained in the Pentateuch ((see Galatians 3:24-26))). Other things the Bible calls abominations include eating seafood (Lev. 11:10); eating certain kinds of birds (Lev. 11:13); sacrificing one's children to God (Deut. 12:31, which demonstrates that even God realized how much the people were influenced by surrounding cultures); remarriage after divorce (Deut. 24:4); "haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers" (Prov. 6:17-19, NIV); a faulty balance/scale (Prov. 11:1, which basically means ripping people off in business transactions); someone who mocks (Prov. 24:9); and a number of other things.
Leviticus 18-19 not only outlaws homosexuality, but having sex while a woman is menstruating, harvesting a field without leaving back some of the crop for the poor, social injustice, gossip, planting a field with two different crops, wearing clothing made of two different materials, taking "a little off the sides" of your hair, eating a steak rare, and not standing up in the presence of the elderly. I am unclear why homosexuality is so often plucked out of this context and delineated as the worst sin in the list.
2) Sodom and Gomorrah. I will try to state this succinctly and not write a book about it. Basically, you can read the account yourself in Genesis 19, but the people of Sodom wanted Lot to send his angelic visitors out into the street so they could rape and humiliate them. They were inhospitable, comparable to the people in Judges 19 who demanded the visiting man be turned over to them for the same fate. The sin was violent rape and inhospitality to strangers. Interestingly enough, Judges does not say God destroyed this other city even though it was guilty of the same sin. Ezekiel 16:49, however, lists the sins for which Sodom was destroyed as pride, gluttony, sloth, greed, and failure to help the poor. Inhospitality also fits with Jesus telling His disciples that houses and towns that did not welcome them would receive a fate worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Mathew 10:14, 15). Further, Amos 4:1, 11 warns that Israel might be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah for "oppressing the poor and crushing the needy."
3) Romans 1:26-27. Honestly, there are other interpretations for this one too, including the idea that it speaks to heterosexuals who experiment with homosexuality, thus denying their own God-given sexual orientation, but even I think that is stretching it. If you want me to "justify" this one, the only thing I can say is that I believe it was a cultural pronouncement. As far as what Paul considers "against nature," he includes short hair as being natural for a man (1 Corinthians 11:14). This view is culturally relative; just ask a Native American. There is also the consideration that the sexual acts described by Paul consist of lust and not committed, loving relationship. (Here is a link to an article that outlines it a little bit more in-depth.)
4) 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. This article from Human Rights Campaign addresses this text briefly. Also, I read another one recently that discussed the word meanings. The actual word(s) translated "homosexuals" in some versions have a more difficult-to-discern meaning, and meant something closer to pedophilia. If I find that article I will come back and edit it into this.
Of course, there is also another side to the "Homosexuality in the Bible" ticket, including a lot of questions regarding the relationships between Jonathan and David and Ruth and Naomi. If you go back and re-read some of the texts describing Jonathan and David's love, you actually might find it hard to argue against that idea. I don't know whether they were gay or not, but there is good reason to question it.
In Mathew 19:12, when Jesus spoke of "some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb" (KJV), some people believe He refers to men who were not sexually attracted to women. In fact, the Early Church Father Clement of Alexandria wrote that "some men, from birth, have a natural aversion to a woman; and indeed those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry" (Miscellanies 3.1). Granted, this does not expressly encourage homosexual relationships, but it does give biblical merit to the possibility that homosexuals are "born that way."
Okay...it is not my intention to write a thesis here. But Bible was thrown at me (though the throwers already know well that I know what the Bible says about it), so here is just a very small example of the possibility of various interpretations of Scripture. Other writers have written more and better on the subject; you can look them up if you so desire. So when I say I love Jesus AND am in a same-sex relationship, don't breathe fire at me and say it is impossible. Don't tell me God said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." In fact, if you are not clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and visiting the sick, widows, orphans, and imprisoned, don't talk to me about "what the Bible says" at all, because apparently you don't know as well as you think you do.
Oh yeah, and beyond the biblical, there's a little thing called science to consider, too. But of course, that's another post for another day. ;)