An essay donated by Anthony Ashford:
While so many Christians in the world believe that gays and lesbians CANNOT go to Heaven, simply because of the interpretations of about 20 verses out of the nearly 31,000 verses in the Christian Bible, I’d like to argue that this anti-gay perception actually goes AGAINST what the Bible and what Christ really say about people who love people of the opposite sex.
I will present six compelling Biblical arguments, using theology, socio-cultural understandings of specific Biblical settings, and good old common sense & logic to prove that the Bible should be used as an ally for same gender-loving relationships.
Reason six: The biblical passages typically used to “condemn” LGB relationships are NOT talking about LGB relationships:
While I’m not trying to sound like a Biblical scholar or know-it-all, it irks me how blind so many Christians are to the historical context of the stories, which are typically used to condemn gay people and the fact of being gay.
Below are the some facts about the Biblical time periods, in which the “Clobber Passages,” the texts typically used to say “The Bible clearly states that being gay is a sin,” take place. Take note, as you might learn something new about Biblical ambiguities in the Scripture.
Why do I call these passages “ridiculously-used”? Check out these passages from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and Christian Scriptures (New Testament):
Genesis 2: 19-25 “Adam and Eve:”
“In the beginning, God made Adam and EVE, not Adam and Steve, nor Eve and Jane.” Anti-gay Christian ministers have used this as a crux to propagate the myth that homosexuality is “unnatural.”
While the Bible in Genesis tells us that God made “male and female,” does this really mean that all males and all females need to end up with opposite sex partners?
When talking about “what’s natural,” in the beginning, the first humans did not wear prescription glasses to see, use wheelchairs to get around, or attach prosthetic limbs to enhance mobility. Are all of those aspects of humanity “unnatural”?
Many translations say that God makes Adam a “suitable helper/companion.” While Adam already had all the animals of the world under his dominion, God saw that Adam was alone and he needed a “suitable” helper, who just so happened to be first lady Eve.
Relating this to our own lives, so many of us are surrounded by many “helpers” and “companions,” but, only a few, maybe one, are truly suitable to aid and comfort a person throughout his or her life. People who are gay or lesbian maybe surrounded by heterosexual mates who are perfectly “adequate” helpers, but the “suitable helper and companion” that God has made for them is not a person of the opposite sex. Plus, if gay people are not meant to be with their “suitable helper/companions,” are they meant to be alone, without a helper? I believe God would say “no,” according to Genesis 2: 18.
Genesis 19: 1-13 “Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction:”
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Basically, God says that He’s going to destroy cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, if two angels cannot find any good people within the towns. Once the angels arrive, a kind man named Lot invites these angels into his home and entertains them. This angers the cities’ men, and the men rallied outside of Lot’s home, wishing to do “perverse actions” to these male angels. Moments later, the two cities are destroyed by fiery rain.
Many anti-gay Christian ministers use this passage to say that this is an example of God’s wrath against homosexuality…as if the men of Sodom were all gay, and all trying to “be gay with” these male angels.
Historians and sociologists tell us that gang rape was a very common form of brutal humiliation of the subjects, in the ancient Western world. The Sodomite men did not come to Lot’s house to have monogamous, committed, loving relationships with the male angels residing there. They came to rape these angels.
Also, MULTIPLE parts of the Bible (Luke 10: 10-13; Isaiah 19: 13-14; Jeremiah 23: 14; Ezekiel 16: 49; Zephaniah 2: 8-11) tell us that God despised the greed and their wickedness toward outsiders as their sin, not that fact that men wanted to “have sex” with men.
THEN…there’s Leviticus 18:22 “Mosaic Law Prohibitions” and Leviticus 20:13 “Mosaic Punishments for Violating Mosaic Law:”
The ridiculousness of using Leviticus to condemn ANYTHING is simply in looking at what in the world the Book of Leviticus condemns.
Rules in the Bible were always tied to some sort of reasoning. In the case of this gay sex prohibition, a consistent thread in early Judeo-Christian understanding was that semen alone was considered unclean, because sex was ONLY meant to be procreative.
Check out what God does to Onan when he ejacuates outside of a woman in Genesis 38.
In the same passages where gay sex is condemned and punished, so is eating shrimp, crop co-mingling, eating rabbit, wearing linen and wool at the same time, and eating raw meat. So if you’re gonna be a Biblical literalist, you might as well start sewing your own clothes and becoming a vegetarian.
Three passages from the Christian Scriptures (New Testament):
- Romans 1: 26-27 “Paul speaks of God’s disdain”
- 1 Corinthians 6: 9 “People who will not Inherit the Kingdom of Heaven”
- 1 Timothy 1: 9-10 “Paul speaks of Unrighteous People”
Taking a look at the first passage, the most oft quoted one from anti-gay Christian ministers, many people forget that the word “natural” has two definitions:
- “Scientifically meant to happen, or following nature’s course,” and
- “Normal, expected, or common.”
How do we know which definition Paul is using here? Later on in the Book of Romans, Paul writes that God acted “contrary to nature,” and what he means isn’t that God acted “immorally or against nature’s course,” but rather that God acted “unexpectedly.”
Understanding this, and the fact that no one could truly know whether Paul really knows what is scientifically innate and what is not, Paul calls these relationships “uncustomary” and “uncommon.”
Jesus did many “uncommon” things in his time. One of which was initiating a conversation with a Samaritan woman, which was “uncommon,” because Jews never spoke to Samaritans, and Jews never spoke to other people’s women. Surely, we cannot think that just because something is “uncommon” that it is “evil.”
Next, the words that Paul uses in almost all translations in the place of “relations” and “lusts” (“passions,” “affections,” “desires,” “sex”) really denote that what’s really talking about are not loving, committed relationships between members of the same-sex, but just selfish sexually-gratifying lusts. Any man of God wouldn’t stand for God’s people “rocking out with their cocks out” just for the hell of it, and that’s who the subjects of God’s disdain were, not people seeking love in same-sex relationships.
While newer translations used the word “homosexual,” what it comes down to is a tragic loss of translation of two key Greek words, “arsenokoitai” and “malakoi.” If most Biblical interpreters weren’t pacifists, there’d be all-out war between them on the meanings of these words. The explanation that I prefer comes from Biblical scholar D. B. Martin, that “arsenokoitai,” due to its context clues, has something to do with sexual exploitation, like prostitution, not sexual orientation, like homosexuality.
Reason five: At Least One Lesbian Couple and One Gay Couple’s Story is Told in the Bible:
In case you didn’t know, the gays have been around for … ever. We just never really got a chance to be recognized by mainstream society or in history for who we were or who we are today. The Bible itself is proof of forms of same-sex love.
- Ruth and Naomi’s Relationship:
On the Surface:
This looks like a friendship of mutual convenience: two widowed gal pals move in together to share resources in a cold, hard world, until one of them gets married and has a bunch of kids.
The Whole Story:
Ruth and Naomi were once a part of a big happy family (in fact, Ruth marries Naomi’s son), but disaster strikes and all the men of their family die. Ruth is a widow. Naomi and Ruth’s other daughter-in-law, Orpah, are now widows, and the only logical thing for a woman (especially who did not have the societal benefits of being married and cared for by a man, in that time) to do would be to return to her own family. Naomi tells Orpah to return home, and she leaves her with tears in her eyes, but when she commands her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth to return home, Ruth makes a very special promise to Naomi, in Ruth 1: 16-17.
(A heartfelt plea and pledge of love and devotion, which is so lovely that it is repeated in many Christian heterosexual marriage ceremonies)
Soon after Ruth and Naomi work, live, and support each other as gleaners, Ruth meets Boaz, a 80-year-old distant relative of Naomi’s dead husband, who sees the kindness and love between Ruth and Naomi, and marries Ruth (for the most part) to continue her family’s legacy (an important tradition of that time).
Even after their marriage and blessing of children, her community celebrated that Naomi “has a child,” as seen in Ruth 4: 17, and they reminded Ruth that Naomi loves her very much, Ruth 4: 15.
So…how’s that gay?
It does not do much justice to the lovers of this story to say that this promise, which is so powerful that it’s used in marriage ceremonies, is not spoken by a person who was not truly in love with who she originally spoke it to.
In Ruth 1: 14, the King James Version of this verse says “Ruth clave onto her,” at a moment when she should have return to her own family. In Genesis, marriage is portrayed as “a man leaving his father and mother, and CLEAVING to his wife.” Ruth and Naomi have become “one flesh.”
Not to mention, the Bible pays very little attention to the Boaz and Ruth’s relationship, and so much more to Ruth and Naomi’s relationship, even after her marriage.
- David and Jonathan’s Relationship:
On the Surface:
Our second pair of gay lovebirds, who most Study Bibles call “besties” instead, is King David and Jonathan.
The Whole Story (with some insight sprinkled in):
First, Jonathan got googly-eyed over David and instantly became “one spirit with David” when they first met. Then, Jonathan gives this man from a different royal family his most important possessions: his sword, his bow, and even the clothes on his back. (1 Samuel 18: 1-4)
Next, David left his own family to stay with Jonathan and his father King Saul. What was that about “man leaving his father and mother to cleave to his wife?”
Then, between chapter 19 and 20 of 1 Samuel, Saul attempts to kill David numerous times (while vicious, King Saul knew that David and his family might usurp his authority and one day reign his family’s kingdom), but Jonathan instead protects his love, even though killing David would ensure Jonathan’s family’s reign would last.
Jonathan and David meet up after a terrible tragedy, and Jonathan makes a “covenant” before the Lord, that they will be together as (Bible’s interpretation) “sworn friends” and our families will be one together for forever. (1 Samuel 20: 40-41) (I don’t know about you, but, to me, that sounds like a wedding vow.)
Finally, long after Saul and Jonathan’s deaths, King David laments his love in the beginning of 2 Samuel, saying that “Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” (Verse 26) King David even keeps his promise and does the unthinkable for a king, by raising Jonathan’s child as his own.
I don’t know ANYONE can spin that verse right there into saying that “David and Jonathan had the coolest platonic bromance in the Bible.”
There’s one more gay relationship in the Bible, but we’re gonna postpone that one ’til the end of the essay for a reason.
Reason four: Bigots Unfortunately Have Used the Bible to Oppress Other Minority Groups
People don’t always have the best intentions when using things that can influence the masses. The Christian Church wasn’t always the benevolent, do-gooder, “come-as-you-are” church that most people know it as today. Back in the (Medieval and even colonial) day, the Church kinda acted like the mob. If you didn’t sing the same song as the Church and play by all their rules, you’d be sleeping with the fishes … literally. Some Christian communities would toss women into the water to see if they were witches.
Pretty much until the Women’s Rights Movement of the 20th Century, evangelical Christian leaders used the Bible as their foundation and support for their “No Girls Allowed” policies when it came to church leadership. In some religious societies today, women are forced to keep themselves sexually timid, because of a wrongful interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve.
All during the 19th Century, strong Christian supporters of slavery of African Americans used the Bible (specifically the Curse of Ham in Genesis 9) to speak ridiculous volumes about dark-skinned people and their “accursed” role in white society.
What am I trying to say: the Bible is a great and wonderful tool to understand Jesus Christ and just how to be a good person, but perhaps Bibles should come with a label that says “Warning: Crazy people have used this book to subjugate women, support slavery, and spread homophobia. Read with caution and criticism.”
Reason three: Denouncing a child’s love interests can ruin his or her life:
It’s good to have an opinion and give a damn about what people do with their lives, because there are just some people out there who really need a kick in the rear to stop acting like freaking idiots, and be told what’s what.
Jesus Christ loved telling people what’s what, because He saw that what people were doing was harming other people. In somewhat ironic way, Jesus repeatedly told people NOT to judge each other. I feel that the most powerful, and oft quoted, commandments against judging is in Matthew 7: 1-5. This is the famous “Judge not, or you too will be judged” commandment, which Jesus continues on by saying “Remove the plank in your own eye, then you can worried about the speck in someone’s else.”
Now, wait a minute, some of you are thinking, first you say, Jesus doesn’t want us to judge people, and now you’re saying that we can if we remove the ‘plank.’ Jesus explains the difference between good teaching and bad teachings in a later part of Matthew 7, saying that (another visual example) a good “tree” bears good “fruit” and a bad “tree” bears bad “fruit.”
So, knowing that “teachings” and “judgments” are completely different, let’s say for all intents and purposes that you’re trying to “teach” a young lesbian girl that she’s currently not fit for the Kingdom of Heaven, because of “choosing the gay lifestyle.” What sort of “fruit” will that bear in that child?
While some many Christian in the world believe that this sort of “teaching” will bear good “fruit,” as a gay man, myself, as a witness for so many more gay and lesbian Christians who’ve been hurt by other Christians, I’m here to say that this does not produce good fruit. Telling someone that their innate love for another human being is sinful or inferior to another person’s innate love for another human being can be the most detrimental news to a young gay person’s life.
Put yourself in the shoes of a young gay person. You imagine yourself with a wife (if you’re a lesbian) or a husband (if you’re gay) in the future, doing all the things that straight couples do (having kids, holding hands, growing old together). Then comes an elder Christian person in your life who you look up to and want to honor who tells you that you can NOT have that sort of future, because, for some reason, it’s wrong.
While that elder may think that he or she has saved you from a life of sexual failures and tragic relationships, their words alone could force you into a life of sexual failures and tragic relationships. If anti-gay Christian leaders only knew this fact, their bad teachings would cease in a heartbeat and they could possibly save the life of another at-risk gay youth.
Jesus tells us to remove the plank from our own eye. I believe that the plank is our own biases and lack of information about who people really are. The plank blocks us from knowing why a person feels the way that she or he feels. If we remove these stereotypes and biases and start trying to understand other human beings like we should, we could truly help people through the real trial and tribulations of their lives, instead of trying to treat peoples’ innate sexual orientations as their problems.
Reason two: According to the Bible, Change is Necessary for Growth:
Just look at where we’ve come as a society. We went from being sexist, racist losers who fear every other kind of government (socialism, communism, etc.) like the boogeyman to being forward-thinking less judgmental individuals who definitely are not afraid to criticize the American (or any) government.
Believe it or not, our society is becoming more and more diverse and more and more open to differing cultures. A little more than 150 years ago, a black guy, like me, was worth three-fifths of a real human being, but now, I have the opportunity at a higher education and more career options than some people in even the most developed nations. With saying that, I believe more often than now thatpeople’s attitudes can and do change.
Christian ministers and Bible study leaders are wondering why so many of their youth have left the Church and abandoned their previous teachings of the Bible. It’s simple. They’ve changed, and adapted to the new world, while their churches would rather them to resist and conform to old standards.
Jesus even put in his two cents about change and the Christian church, in Matthew 5: 7:
“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Again, with these visual examples! It’s a metaphor, meaning basically that the newness of society can be confined by old societal norms, laws, and customs.
The problem is that you’ve got “old school” ministers, who grew up in an environment where “gay” really did not exist, telling “new school” youth, who are exposed much more to what “gay” really is, that “gay” is bad. Their friends are gay. Their favorite characters on television are gay. Their favorite musical artists are gay. It’s a losing battle to fight against gays and lesbians, because soon, we’ll be just as “normal” as heterosexuals. Gasp!
Ask yourself…if you’re gonna be an adamant anti-gay Christian with children, do you want your kids or grandchildren to look at you with the same disdain that you look at your racist or sexist grandparents?
Reason one: Jesus Christ was an advocate of same-sex Relationships:
So…if you’re still unconvinced that the Biblical passages used against gays are irrelevant, if you still think that the Bible doesn’t contain gay love stories, if you still think that the Bible can do no wrong, if you still think that crushing a gay kid’s future is a-OK, and if you still think that our society needs some “old school mob church” rule against the ever-present gays, then consider this — the coup de gras on any Christian homophobia. Jesus Christ, the Savior where the word “Christian” comes from, was the one of the world’s first real out-spoken allies for gay people. Gasp!!
Let me give you a sec and I’ll explain.
Ok. In two passages of “The Good Book,” Jesus stands up for the gay people. A reminder: Jesus was a social rebel…he cared for the poor…he spoke to non-believers…he condemned only those who hurt people…he spoke volumes about love for all people…and he came to liberate the oppressed, as he said in his first sermon in Luke 4: 18.
If you don’t know by now, the gays are pretty oppressed people. There’s been an ebb and flow of a love-hate relationship with them since the dawn of time (seeing its high points of acceptance in the Renaissance and in Ancient Greece, and its low points in the Dark Ages and during “Old School Mob Church” rule), but, ultimately, now has been the absolute best time for gay people. However, Biblical times…not so much.
The following passages show Jesus Christ’s compassion towards same-sex relationships:
- Matthew 8: 5-13: “Jesus Heals the Roman Soldier’s Servant:”
The Story (with Context Included):
Jesus meets a humbled Roman Soldier; something that was strange, because, at that time, Israel was controlled by Rome, and the soldier would have been in a much more powerful position than a wanderer and simple prophet like Jesus. The Soldier begins to tell Jesus about his sick and dying servant. Roman soldiers typically had a number of servants, just like in this story, but the Soldier keeps explaining to Jesus why this servant, the sick one, is special to him. Servants, like slaves, were like property that could be easily replaced, but this Roman Soldier has a special connection to this servant. He humbled himself before a man that most Romans thought was a loon. out of faith that Jesus could heal him. Jesus, knowing all, decided not only to heal this special servant, but to commend this Soldier on his great faith.
While so many people forget this story, it speak volumes about what Jesus thought about men having special “friendships” or “relationships” with other men. Jesus did not tell this guy that he shouldn’t be “getting too close to this male servant, because being gay is wrong;” he commended the man for stepping out of his comfort zone and acting out of faith and love for his fellow man.
The next passage, I feel, is the final nail in the coffin of Christian homophobia.
- Matthew 19: 4-5 and 11-12 “Jesus Speaks of Marriage:”
Verse 4,5: “Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read that the One who made them at the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh”? Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate’.”
Verse 11,12: “Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it’.”
Context of the Terms Used:
Here, Jesus refers to three exceptions to the requirement for heterosexual matrimony, all “eunuchs.” What are “eunuchs?” Eunuchs were highly ranked, but socially “deviant” men in charge of protecting and caring for female royalty. To be best at being a eunuch, one could never slip into a relationship with one of the female heirs, for all in the kingdom’s lineage could be compromised. Biblical historians speak of how eunuchs had many feminine, emasculate qualities, which societies back then detested for these men had little to no interest in sexual relations with females. While this was a very different zeitgeist than now, one can see a correlation between how eunuchs were seen and how gay males are seen by society.
In this passage, Jesus Christ list three exceptions to the command for Christians to engage in heterosexual matrimony:
(1) eunuchs born that way;
(2) eunuchs made that way by man;
(3) eunuchs who promise their lives to God.
Castration was a common practice among eunuchs. While many people believed that all these non-virile men were castrated, various biblical dictionaries go into detail on how castration was not the only way to become a eunuch.
Here, Jesus first says “eunuchs born that way” are exempt from heterosexual marriage. Since eunuchs are supposed not have “relations” with female heirs, and these eunuchs were born without attraction to woman, gays, bisexuals, and lesbians should use Jesus Christ’s exemption of “innate eunuchs” from heterosexual matrimony to speak for all gay people. In essence, here, Jesus Christ tells his disciples that people born without the innate attraction to the opposite sex should not marry people of the opposite sex.
Conclusion: Test All Things:
YAY!! (Every gay person shouts!) There’s at least one or two or even more people out here who are reading up to this point and are still not convinced that Christianity explicitly condones homosexuality. In other words, some people still think that there’s still no explicit clause in the Bible that says that “gays are OK and can/should be in relationships with other gays.” To them, I say, just look beyond your own understanding.
In Jesus’ first pro-gay passage, the message is to step outside of your comfort zone and act out of love. Jesus also tells that, when you’re acting out of love, you won’t judge, because you ALWAYS will have biases. If you’re gonna “teach” someone, be sure that your teachings will produce good “fruit,” rather than bad. And finally, we’ve learned from Jesus that we cannot prescribe “Old School Mob Church” rules to the “new school” of society. If you don’t believe me, just understand what Paul says in Thessalonians 5: 20-21:
” Do not despise all Spirit-inspired messages. Test all things; hold fast to what is good.”
We, as Christians, are NOT meant to be close-minded and ‘holier-than-thou,’ but rather open-minded and quick to understand and love people who are different for who they are. That’s who Christ was, and that’s how REAL Christians should aspire to be.
In Case You’re Looking For More Information:
Check out these sources:
- Connelly, J. T. and J. Miner. (2002). The children are free: Reexamining the Biblical evidence on same-sex relationships.Indianapolis, IN: Metropolitan Community Church. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- Gay Christian Network. (2010). Justin’s Essay. Retrieved from http://www.gaychristian.net/
- Karslake, D. G. (Director and Producer). (2007). For the Bible tells me so.[DVD]. Lincoln, CA: VisionQuest Productions. Read reviews or order this video safely from Amazon.com online book store
- Main, D. (2008). Hearts & minds: Talking to Christians about homosexuality. Findhorn, Scotland: Findhorn Press.Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- McNeill, J. J. (1993). The church and the homosexual (4th ed.). Boston, Massachussetts: Beacon Press. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- Rogers, J. (2006). Jesus, the Bible, and homosexuality: Explode the myths, heal the church. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminister John Knox Press. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- Sanchez, A. (2009). The God box.New York: Simon & Schuster Books. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store