Recently I took part in a thread of discussion on FB that was started by a Youtube Clip of Joel Burns, a Fort Worth City Councillor telling gay teens "it gets better". His speech of 12 minutes was during normal Council debate and was prompted by the recent suicide of a number of young high school boys and girls as a result of bullying about the sexuality.
Retired Baptist Minister, Rowland Crowcher, posts such things on Facebook from time to time, and the responses from his readers are animated to say the least. While the focus of Rowland's concern was a Christian response to the kind of abuse that occurs to young people that drives them to consider suicide, most contributors, myself included, weighed in to the debate as to what the biblical view of homosexuality was.
I think it is fair to say that I grew up in a Christian environment that understood homosexuality as deviant and so necessarily involving sinful behaviour. Since it was contrary to nature, as people often say, it must be bad and therefore sinful. And anyway, there are such clear condemnations of it in the Bible saying among other things that homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
The beginnings of my enlightenment on this issue was the presence of an openly gay man at the seminary in which I studied. In the late 70's it was indeed a brave thing for him not only to come out, but to begin challenging the church to seriously consider him as a ministerial candidate. Sadly, he had to leave that church and join another in order to have that calling taken seriously.
As I worked through the issues surrounding the empowerment of women in the church I think I developed a hermeneutical framework that enabled me to begin to reframe my traditional response to this issue. This involved the need to clearly understand the historical context in which the biblical references to homosexuality stood and consider how these might or might not apply to the situation we are in today.
I then read John Spong's work "Living in Sin" - in fact the mid-week study group of the church in which I was pastor at the time chose to use it as a framework for their weekly gatherings for a number of weeks. This work, I think, created the paradigm-shift necessary for me to start moving towards where I stand today on this issue, but further experience and the writings of others was needed to create the necessary refinement.
I think the next significant factor was when a member of my extended family made it clear to everyone that they were involved in a homosexual relationship. This scandalised everyone initially, and some thought it would not last long and then it would go away. But it did not go away, and it was interesting to see the members of my family gradually, and at their own rate, come to terms with this. This event, so close to home, caused me to form the view that political and eccesiastical protestations about the threat such relationships pose to the family and the marriage of a man to a woman were absolutely spurious.
I think also, that my experience of church over the past 15 years in which I have become aware of more and more deeply commited Christian people who are gay, many already in ministerial positions, and many in long-term stable and committed relationships, has caused me to question the assertion that homosexuality is sinful. Some Christians try to soften their position by allowing that sexual orientation is not sinful, but homosexual sexual activity is. This to me is an absolute nonsense. If one's sexual orientation was in fact how that person was wired, and if all God made was good, then it was unjust and cruel to condemn a homosexual person to a celibate life so as not to sin while allowing a heterosexual person to have the joy of an intimate relationship - without sinning.
Finally, up to this stage, I think that the hermeneutical approach of Marcus Borg has given me a framework that aligns my passion for justice and discomfort with the purity-code approach of many Christians by showing how frequently Jesus stepped outside the social and religious conventions to meet the marginalised and distressed face to face, welcoming them into his space.
The willingness of Jesus to talk to a Samaritan women of dubious marital status in a public space, to allow another woman to behave scandalously as she kissed his feet and anointed them with nard, to reach out to lepers and tax-collectors causes me to challenge all those who would hold up texts and theology to justify their shunning of homosexuals. Too often, Christians act as if they will be contaminated if they associate too closely with the ritually, or doctrinally impure.
I welcome and celebrate the life in Christ that all who come to him experience regardless of their sexual orientation. I would dare to suggest that being homosexual is no greater indicator of one's propensity to sin than being straight is. We are all sinners. It concerns me, though, that homosexuals are accused of very particular kinds of sin associated with their sexual orientation.
We need to break down old ways of understanding our life together. Could I dare to suggest the following?
The Bible clearly affirms the sanctity of marital relationships, but I wonder if we could not change the view we have of the grounds for that sanctity. Traditionally we have held the view that this is because it is in a heterosexual relationship that procreation can happen, and that children can be brought up in a relatively safe and nurturing environment. Over time we have developed a whole field of theology and doctrine to uphold this view.
I have been wondering if these views have their grounding more in social, cultural and biological drivers rather than in divine intent.
In a scan of biblical history it is clear that the greatest abomination to God is infidelity. This applies as much to religious infidelity as to personal infidelity, both of which are referred to by the prophets and Jesus as adultery. The marital relationship was seen as an icon of the relationship between God and ourselves, but whereas we might be unfaitful to God, God can only be faithful to us. If this is the case, then a relationship of fidelity between two people, regardles of their gender, and regardless of their capacity to procreate, is something worthy of God's blessing since it is an icon of God's fidelity towards us.
I regret that the orders of my church do not permit a form of religious ceremony to affirm and bless the vows of fidelty a gay couple may want to make to each other. I regret that the politicians of our country have bought the lie that legal protection for gay relationships poses a threat to MARRIAGE.
The politicians and people in power in the church may continue to uphold barriers that create and encourage injustice towards gay people, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord by welcoming into the Kingdom all members of the GLTB community who feel so called and we will march each year in the Gay Pride parade in solidarity with them all.
ROBERT INCHAUSTI: SUBVERSIVE ORTHODOXY
3 years ago