This a topic about which I have written much both on USENET, mailing lists and IRC. It is a difficult topic to discuss because those with whom I’ve discussed it had strong opinions which were not really open to change. Nevertheless, out of conscience, I want to express my personal views on the subject here on my web site. Just as the racial bigotry I was brought up crumbled when I actually got to know people of other races, so did my views on homosexuality change when a friend came out of the closet.
The Bible and Homosexuality
A common response that I get from most religious people on this topic is, “What is there to discuss? The Bible is quite clear on the issue.” But from my viewpoint, the Bible is only clear for those who have already decided the answer. The reader at this point might bring to mind a number of verses from the Bible, and in particular from Leviticus and Romans. And I will discuss these here in general way.
What about Leviticus? The anti-homosexual texts in Leviticus appear in the same chapters as the dietary laws: no pork or shellfish. Now I would ask why someone would condemn homosexuality based on Leviticus on their way home from a nice shrimp dinner. I cannot think of any objective reason to pick one and discard the other prohibition. So, the Bible is clear only if the matter had already been decided.
In Romans, some practice (which is sometimes translated “homosexuality”) is described as “degrading” and associated with idolatry. Don’t Christians follow the New Testament? Actually, most Christians follow the New Testament selectively. For example, most Christian denominations (even in the face of a “clear” teaching from Jesus himself) allow divorced members to remarry; and that same Greek word, translated “degrading”, is also used by St. Paul to describe long hair on a man, something which is not condemned in most churches. That is, Christians have seen the Gospel as requiring us to recognize the needs of the divorced person, and the cultural “accident” by which long hair is condemned. Again, the New Testament is “clear” only if one has decided in advance what to enforce, and what to leave to grace.
The fact of the matter is that the New Testament only discusses homosexual practice (presuming the translation is correct) in the context of lust and idolatry and going against one’s nature. Scripture never touches on the issue of loving, committed same-sex relationships between those whose nature is homosexual. So the application of any “homosexual” text in the Bible broadly to all homosexual practice is taking the scripture out of context.
It is my own reading of scripture that what “God wants” is for every Christian to support his brother and sister. We should not be concerned with interpreting rules, but what is best for the brother and sister. And as Genesis says: “it is not good for the man to be alone”. It appears that the present psychological view is that it is better for one not to try to change sexual orientation (it doesn’t work anyhow). And I hardly need to mention the violence and discrimination against gay and lesbian persons which is given aid and comfort by the church’s prejudicial application of scripture.
The Holy Spirit and Homosexuality
I believe that Acts 15 holds a story of huge importance to Christians wrestling with social issues. The church council met to deal with the question of whether gentile converts to Christianity had to follow the law of Moses. They had to deal with “changing circumstances.” At the end of the meeting they essentially did away with the most of 1500 years of Mosaic law, and they justified their action by writing “It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit”. Was the church at Jerusalem “out of line” doing what they did? No less than Jesus himself seems to have given the church this power: (Mat 16:19 NASB) “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”.
So when the modern church permits a woman to teach a Sunday School class with men in it, or a Christian man lets his hair grow long, or we put a little bacon in our baked beans at a pot luck dinner (all in clear contravention of the scriptures, both Old and New), it is acting within its authority and in the tradition of biblical precedent.
It makes me very uneasy when the church does this, because I fear that it may be serving its own interests rather than the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, there are times when the church has to respond to unprecedented conditions such as better understanding of ancient social customs and a better understanding of the psychological nature of homosexuality. When the ancient oracles of God become a stumbling block to the Gospel and when they are used to oppress a minority, then Christians must deliberately and prayerfully ask what God’s will is in the present time.
- Excerpt from Lutheran Statement on Human Sexuality DRAFT
- ACLU CenterStage Forum: The Bible and Homosexuality
- ACLU CenterStage Forum: The Bible and Homosexuality (encore)
- Statement on Sexual Orientation by the American Psychological Association
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Homosexuality
- Homosexuality and the Old Testament (from The Lutheran magazine)
- Homosexuality and the Danish Lutheran Church (Journal of Lutheran Ethics)