As some of you know, Eternity Bible College is offering a class titled “Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church,” which I’ll be teaching. I’ve got to admit: I was very nervous about teaching this course. Who knows what sort of people will show up? And who am I to teach on such a volatile topic?
In any case, I decided to go through with the class and I’m glad I did. The 80 plus folks that showed up last Tuesday night were a delight. I am super excited about what God has in store for us this semester.
In order to best serve the class, and those interested in the class yet unable to take it, I’d like to post a weekly blog summarizing our class time. If you’re one of the 80 taking the class, please feel free to post questions, comments, or thoughts about the weekly lectures on this blog. And if you’re looking in from afar, I hope this blog series will give you a sense of connection with the course.
Week 1: Introduction, Definitions, and Overview
Aside from introducing the course and the assignments, my main goal was to put flesh on the “issue” of homosexuality. As I’ve said before, homosexuality is not an issue to be studied but a people to be loved. So, to “incarnate” the topic, I introduced several “friends” of mine to the class—friends who were personified by empty chairs set on the stage. They are:
John—who grew up in a conservative Catholic home but has since left the faith (more or less) after realizing he’s gay. John is now married to another man and together they have a son. John is antagonistic toward conservative Christians and the gospel as it is traditionally understood.
Kevin—who is married to a beautiful wife and together they have 2 children. Kevin, however, was coaxed into a homosexual relationship when he was 13, a relationship that lasted for about 4 years. Kevin, however, has no same sex attraction whatsoever. His teenage homosexual encounter though has left him scarred—sexually—even to this day.
Maddie—who is a Lesbian. When Maddie was 9 years old, however, her dad chained her to a toilet in the basement and fed her scraps for 3 months. He then apologized, released her, and warned her that he’d kill her if she told anyone. He then proceeded to rape her for the next 4 years. Maddie, now, isn’t attracted to women, but she chooses to be a Lesbian because she vows that “no man will ever touch me again.”
Justin—who was raised in a healthy Christian home, whose mom was not domineering, whose dad was not absent, whose sisters didn’t dress him up in pink, and who was not sexually abused. Justin was (and is) a staunch Bible believing Christian with a healthy family. But Justin realized he was attracted to the same sex when he was 14. And now, Justin is a self-professed “gay Christian.”
Marshall—who has a similar upbringing as Justin, except Marshall believes that acting on homosexual desires is a sin. So, Marshall is still attracted to guys, but is committed to celibacy because of his convictions about same sex relations.
Stacey—who is biologically a female, but from the time she was 4 years old believed that she was a boy. As a kid, she assumed that when she grew up, she’d become a man and marry a woman. Biologically, Stacey is female; but psychologically and mentally, she identified, growing up, as a male. She realized that she was transgendered. She didn’t choose to feel this way. Who would? But now, Stacey is a believer in Christ and helps other transgendered men and women (and parents) work through what it means to experience gender confusion.
Eric—born into a Christian home, found out he was gay at 14, mocked and beat up throughout high school, kicked out of his home after “coming out,” and committed suicide at 19. One of many who have gone down this route.
What do these beautiful people have in common? They all could be swept under the umbrella term of “homosexuality.” Yet their stories are as different as night at day. The point? “Homosexuality” is such a complex and imprecise term; it’s hardly useful until you put flesh on it. And once you put flesh on it, you’re left with many questions stemming from a pile of complex stories.
Yes, but is “homosexuality” a sin?
We can’t answer this question until we define exactly what we mean by “homosexuality.” Are we referring to a woman who was chained to a toilet and raped by her dad, who feels little to no attraction to women, yet, for complex reasons only pursues relationships with women? Or are we referring to the 19 year old who blew his head off because his same sex attraction led to isolation, loneliness, and dehumanization? Or the Christian dude who’s only attracted to guys but believes it’s wrong to act on such attraction? Or the Christian dude who’s only attracted to guys but believes it’s okay to act on such attraction?
As heterosexual Christians, we need to understand and define what exactly it is, and who exactly it is, that we’re referring to when we say gay, homosexual, and homosexuality.
Language is power. Wielding it can do more damage than a razor sharp sword.
To help refine our terminology, I pointed out a couple things. First, the terms “gay, lesbian, LGBT, or SSA (same sex attraction)” are better terms than the catch-all and culturally loaded term “homosexual.” Second, we need to pay close attention both to what we mean by the terms we use and how these terms are understood by the people whom we’re speaking to (or speaking about).
We didn’t’ actually discuss whether homosexual sex was a sin. We’ll get to that throughout the course. But we did seek to understand with a bit more precision what exactly we’re talking about when we talk about homosexuality.
For the course, we’ll spend about 6 weeks looking at what the Bible says about same sex relations. Then, we’ll look at some of the most salient biological, psychological, and pastoral questions surrounding the debate. Throughout the course, we’ll be listening to several guest speakers from the Christian LGBT community. Some are conservative. Others are more progressive. All of them have unique stories that we’ll listen to.
Above all, we’ll listen to God’s story—what our Creator has revealed to us about gender, sexuality, and marriage.
Many of you have asked about an online version of this course. Unfortunately we are not recording the lectures; however, I will be constructing two Silo courses based on the lectures and discussion, so stay tuned!
Next up: “homosexuality in the Old Testament.” What do Sodom, Gomorrah, David, and Jonathan all have in common? They’ve been misused and hijacked by both sides of the debate. We’ll see why next week.