This is the subject of a book I’m working on. And it’s the subject of the next great battle that the church will face in the coming years—indeed, it’s already facing it.
Before I write a book, however, I like to blog about the subject. It’s a good way to test my thoughts, tease out my interpretation, and see if what I’m saying makes sense to a general audience. So what I’m going to do over the next several months is blog about what the Bible says about homosexuality. I’ll address several issues such as “nature vs. nurture” (i.e. is same sex attraction biological?), the question of whether it can be “fixed,” (i.e. can gay people become straight?), and whether same sex attraction is a sin or just homosexual sex. However, for the bulk of these posts (and my book) I want to stick more closely to my primary field. I want to stick close to what the Bible says and doesn’t say about the issue.
So in the next post, we’ll dive into the Old Testament to see what it says about Homosexuality, beginning with the infamous story of Sodom in Genesis 19. But first, let’s clear some space for a fruitful discussion by identifying key preliminary issues in the discussion.
First, I’m coming at this topic with a whole lot of baggage. I was raised in a church environment where it was assumed that the Bible outright condemns homosexuality. And maybe it does. But I’d encourage everyone to rely on the actual text of Scripture for their authority rather than their Christian upbringing and assumptions. In my initial phase of study, I’ve seen that the issue is a hundred times more complicated than I thought. No longer do I believe Christians can simply quote a verse from Leviticus (or wherever) and think that the debate is settled. There are a lot of questions surrounding the biblical material that refers to homosexual sex.
Second, let’s use terms and language that aren’t unnecessarily offensive to those who disagree. If truth offends, then so be it. But we shouldn’t add to that offense with our own ignorance and lack of compassion. Here’s what I’m getting at. The gay community (that is, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or LGBT community) does not prefer the term “homosexual” to refer to their orientation. (“Homosexuality” is fine.) The term “homosexual” to refer to people has been used all too often by anti-gay protestors so that the term “homosexual” brings with it many hostile connotations. Gay people don’t usually refer to themselves as homosexuals. Therefore, those who have same sex orientation prefer the terms “gay,” “lesbian,” or more broadly LGBT.
Now, is this a concession? Are we watering down the truth by using “their” terms? No. I don’t think we are. By using the terms “gay” or LGBT, we are referring to the same thing yet using language that doesn’t unnecessarily offend.
As an analogy, Christians in Israel prefer to be called “believers” rather than “Christians.” Why? Because the term “Christian” has too many negative connotations for the Jewish people they’re trying to reach (e.g. “Christian” = a 13th century “Crusader” with a sword in hand). Why use a term that will unnecessarily offend and send the wrong signal (i.e. that Christians hate gays or Jews or whomever)? Let’s use terms that better communicate what we’re trying to say: We’re all cemented in sin and trying to figure out what repentance looks like.
Third, Christians need to think more deeply about what it means to be gay. There’s a massive spectrum of homosexuality that can’t be contained under one general label. On the one end, there are Christians who love God, who submit to His word, who also struggle with same-sex attraction, and who are on the brink of suicide (or already in the grave) because they didn’t know how to cope with their struggle and they didn’t have a community of “believers” (!) who would help them work through their pain. Anyone want to quote a verse and condemn that community? (Unfortunately, many have.)
On the other end of the “gay” spectrum is the aggressive, flamboyant, Christian-hating drag-queen, who’s usually pictured in the media. Mind you: These two types of “gay people” are not the same. They are world’s apart. So when we think about “gay people” and we only think about the drag queen in the media, we won’t be prepared to minister to the 15 year-old Awana champ with a gun to her head, because for some reason she’s not into boys. The point is: We need to go beyond the labels and look at the heart.
There are a whole host of other issues and ignorances that clutter this issue, but we can’t lay them all out here. In any case, I’d encourage you to do a lot of reading on both sides in order to be more informed about the complexities involved. It’s not a simple discussion.
My purpose for these blogs will be more limited, however. I’ll do my best to be sensitive to the psychological and sociological intricacies, but I want to focus primarily on the Bible. What does the Bible say about homosexuality (including same sex attraction and same sex intercourse)? Which passages address it and which ones don’t?
In my next post we’ll begin with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and I’ll try to show why this passage does not clearly condemn homosexuality.