Is homosexuality a sin? What does the Bible say about being gay? These questions are common among young Christians. To answer the question, I'd like you to meet Tyler.
Tyler and I met at church. On Sunday mornings, whenever I’d look up at the stage where he was playing keyboard, I’d see his arms raised high and eyes shut tight, lost in praise to God. He was more in love with Jesus than most people I knew.
He was also gay.
When Tyler came out to his parents, his mother got up, walked over to the bushes, and began vomiting. When she stopped, she marched into the house, shut herself in her room, and refused to speak to anyone for two weeks. According to her, her life was over. All because her son was gay. She told Tyler that thanks to him, she could never show her face at church again.
Why did she react this way? And why have so many other parents, friends, and religious leaders of gay people, reacted with the same shock, horror, and disgust?
The common answer given is that the Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin. Sin deserves this type of reaction. Especially if the subject at hand is the legalization and normalization of sin, ie, gay marriage.
There are eight verses in the Bible that deal directly with homosexuality. Or, rather, there are eight verses in the Bible that people have historically used to defend their belief that homosexuality is a sin.
Four are found in the Old Testament (Genesis 19:1-5, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Deuteronomy 23:17), and four in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, Romans 1:21-31 and Jude 1:6-7.)
Genesis 19:1-5 is the story of male-male rape of strangers, who were not welcomed by a town called Sodom
Leviticus 18:22 declared homosexuality an abomination. Also declared an abomination in the Bible are unequal weights and measures (Proverbs 20:10), incense (Isaiah 1:13), and seafood (Leviticus 11:10.)
Leviticus 20:13 says that two men that lie together should be put to death.
Deuteronomy 23:17 warns against being like someone from the town of Sodom.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says that neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Timothy 1:9-10 talks about the fact that the laws are made for a host of sinners, among them the lawless and disobedient, the ungodly, the unholy and profane, murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, manslayers, whoremongers, those that defile themselves with mankind, menstealers, liars, and perjured persons (whew.)
Romans 1:21-31 tells of sinners who rejected God for pagan worship, defiling themselves in a host of ways, including sexual-men with men, and women with women.
And finally, Jude 1:6-7 again speaks of the wickedness and damnation of Sodom and Gomorrah, a city overrun with all kinds of immorality.
Confused yet? I don't blame ya.
Maybe this will help:
“This position could not simply be read out of any one biblical text...it could not be lifted directly from the page. Rather, it needed patient reflection on the entirety of the Scriptures; it required expert knowledge of historical circumstances of ancient Near Eastern and Roman [redacted] systems as well as of the actually existing conditions in the [redacted] states; and it demanded that sophisticated interpretative practice replace a commonsensical literal approach to the sacred text.”
Wondering what those redacted words were? Slave and slavery. That’s right, this statement isn’t about homosexuality at all. It was made by Mark Noll in his book, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis , referencing the 1800’s debate among Christians about abolition.
Does his argument look familiar?
Then, like now, the majority of Christians were sure that the Bible was clear. Slavery was Biblical. Abolition was not just morally, but biblically wrong. The Bible was repeatedly used by anti-abolitionists as a reason to uphold slavery.
Obviously, that belief changed. After slavery was defeated, Christians began to realize that the verses they thought proved that slavery was biblical, actually pointed to something else. Something cultural, or allegorical. Something that was never intended to be used for oppression.
Understanding this, how then should we view those eight verses above that mention homosexuality?
We should view them through a cultural, historical, and allegorical lens. When reading them, we should never forget that these verses are part of a whole, complete book.
If we view these verses that way, we can see things that might not have been clear before.
Like the fact that male-male rape, which the Bible forbids multiple times, is not the same thing as a same-sex relationship.
We might see that the Greek words used in 1 Corinthians and Timothy verses that mention homosexuality, actually translate to “prostitute.” As in the male prostitutes that Paul forbid temple worshipers to visit.
We might see that, according to Ezekiel, the sin of Sodom (the city that was destroyed because God detested it so much) was not homosexuality. It was being, “helping the poor and needy.”
If we view these verses above through this cultural, historical, and allegorical lens, we might realize that the verses we are using to justify anti-gay laws have nothing to do with modern consenting homosexual relationships today. Homosexuality is not a sin.
We follow Christ’s example.
We focus on loving people, not passing laws. We work to spread the Gospel, not a message of oppression wrapped in a biblical interpretation. Most important, we listen when Christ speaks, and tell us what His greatest commandment is: to “love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind...and to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
This is a guest Essay by
Emily Timbol. Follow her on Twtter here.
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