Why I am Pro-Gay

31 Dec

I was raised that homosexuality is a sin and that the Bible is very clear about this (and I never thought I’d change my mind), but, over the past several years, I have become pro-gay.  Growing up, I was also taught that someone is gay because something unnatural happened to them (such as rape or one parent being absent from their lives).  I didn’t know hardly anyone who was gay growing up, but then, largely because I am involved with theatre, I started meeting a lot of gay people who told me that they didn’t have anything abusive or abnormal happen to them, they have healthy family lives and they’ve just always been this way.  I’ve also heard that gay people are insulted when people think they are the way they are because of something bad happening to them.  Also, I used to think being gay was a choice and have talked to many gay people who believe they did not choose their orientations.

To further support the notion that God made gay people the way they are/they are born that way, I also learned that hundreds of species of animals practice homosexuality.  This is very clearly illustrated and discussed in the book Biological Exuberance:  Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, by Bruce Bagemihl, Ph.D. (can be found both at the Chicago Public Library & on Amazon.com), among many other books (such as Conundrum: The Evolution of Homosexuality, Written By N.J. Peters; Homosexual Behavior In Animals:  An Evolutionary Perspective, By Sommer & Vasey; & Evolution’s Rainbow:  Diversity, Gender And Sexuality In Nature And People, By Roughgarden) about this subject matter.
According to Robert Warren Cromey, a rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco, “Diversity in nature points towards homosexuality as natural and normal.  Nature is so richly varied.  The divisions and subdivisions in animals, vegetables and minerals contain vast combinations of diverse species, colors, densities, flexibilities and sizes.  Tints, veins, shapes, liquids, solids, reactions to light and darkness scream the vastness of our universe and spheres of experience.”

“Those who say that human beings find the perfect expression of sex only in heterosexual marriage fail to notice the beauty and variety of physical and sexual expression in all of nature…our sexuality can be expressed in hundreds of different ways, with a wide variety of methods, partners and genders.  Variety is not only the spice of life but also the essence of human behavior.” 
Here is what I believe to be the true translations of the Bible in regards to the verses about homosexuality, asserted by numerous pro-gay theologians.
First of all, according to Peter J. Gomes (preacher to Harvard University), in his book, The Good Book, “the word homosexuality is an invention of the late nineteenth century and does not occur in any of the original manuscripts from which the English Bible descended.”
John Boswell, in his book Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, asserts:
“The word homosexual does not occur in the Bible; no extant text or manuscript, Hebrew, Greek, Syrian or Aramaic, contains such a word.  In fact none of these languages ever contained a word corresponding to the English homosexual, nor did any language have such a term before the late nineteenth century.”
In The Moral Teaching of Paul, Victor Paul Furnish says that “the term homosexuality was not coined until the latter half of the nineteenth century when it was used by a Hungarian writer commenting on the Prussian legal code and that the King James version of 1611 makes no mention of homosexuality or any of its cognates, and the first use of the term in an English Bible is to be found in the Revised Standard Version of 1946.  You would not have found the word homosexual in any Bible in any language before 1946.”
Finally, in the latest (Third) edition of the Oxford University Press New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the word homosexuality has been removed completely from the New Testament (Bakker).
Texts which are traditionally believed to state that homosexuality is a sin and their alternate translations are as follows:
Genesis 19:1-9 – Sodom and Gomorrah
Peter J. Gomes, preacher to Harvard, says “From the name of the destroyed city of Sodom comes the term sodomy.”
John Boswell states that “Throughout the Middle Ages the closest word to homosexual in Latin or in any vernacular, was ‘sodomita.’  He points out that the term sodomy has connoted in various times and places everything from ordinary heterosexual intercourse in an atypical position to oral sexual contact with animals.”
Victor Paul Furnish, in The Moral Teaching of Paul, writes “In every instance in the King James Version where the term ‘sodomite’ is used, the reference is to male prostitues associated with places of worship.  The sodomites in this context, he says, are condemned not because they have sexual relations with other men, but because they serve the alien gods of the Canaanite and Babylonian fertility cults.”
Gomes asserts that “The conventional wisdom is that the city of Sodom was destroyed because its inhabitants practiced homosexuality…we should not neglect the fact that the fate of the city was determined well before the ugly incident at Lot’s door.  It was in behalf of that errand of doom, in fact, that the angels came at all.”
“Among the sins attributed to Sodom in other books of the Old Testament are:  Ezekiel 16:48-49 “Fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hands of the poor and needy.”  In the New Testament, Jesus himself is under the impression that Sodom was destroyed because it was a place lacking in hospitality; we find him saying this in Matthew 10:14-15 and Luke 10:10-12.
“The only reason people today think of Sodom as “a gay city” is that passage in Genesis 19 where two angels come to warn Lot of the city’s impending destruction, and the men of the city respond to these visitors by forming an angry mob and threatening to gang rape them.  What most people don’t know is that this isn’t an isolated incident in Scripture.  Judges 19 tells a very similar story about a town mob threatening to gang rape a male visitor in the city of Gibeah, though in that story they end up murdering his concubine instead.  Does this mean that in Bible times, the landscape was dotted with “gay cities” everywhere that loved to rape men?  Of course not.  A threat of gang rape should be interpreted as an act of humiliating violence – a way of saying to a visitor, “You are not welcome here; we’re the big dogs.”  (Just imagine if you were in prison and a bunch of big, burly men threatened to rape you.  You wouldn’t assume they were gay men hitting on you; you’d realize that they were threatening you with the worst punishment imaginable!)  Although it might sound strange to our ears, this would have made sense to the earliest readers of these texts” (Justin Lee, executive director of the Gay Christian Network).
I conclude that this story is about “rape/hence, bad hospitality,” not about today’s concept of homosexuality.  And, “in the ancient world, victorious armies would often rape their defeated enemies to humiliate them.  It was an act of power, not just sexuality” (Bakker, Fall to Grace).
Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 – The Holiness Code
Gomes says “it is clear that this Holiness Code is designed to provide a standard of moral behavior that will distinguish the Jews from the Canaanites, whose land they have been given by God…these rules are designed for a very particular purpose and in a very particular setting.  Their purpose is nation building; their setting is the entry into a promised but very foreign land…fundamental laws for the formation of a frontier community.”  There is a long list of things that are considered to be abominations, such as planting the seeds of more than one kind of crop in one place, not wearing garments made of more than one material, not eating shellfish, no tattooes, etc.  
“We can understand the context:  cultural identity, protection and procreation.  In this context homosexuality is a risk to all three of these necessary frontier ambitions.  We have, however, long since ceased to live as God’s frontier folk in the promised land.  Not only is the cultural context markedly different, but so for Christians is the theological context.  Indeed, to what extent can Christians be said to be bound by these rules of the Holiness Code when even Saint Paul, himself a Jew and an heir of this very code, says that the Gentiles, that is, the non-Jewish Christians, have the gift of the Holy Spirit without the necessity of the Law of Israel?”

“Boswell argues that a distinction is made between what is ritually impure and what is intrinsically wrong.  Homosexuality in Leviticus is condemned as ritually impure, the key to this conclusion being the fact that the word abomination does not usually describe something intrinsically evil, such as rape or theft, but something that is ritually impure, like eating pork or engaging in intercourse during menstruation.  An abomination is by definition what the Gentiles do, but that in and of itself is not necessarily evil or a violation of the Commandments.”
In addition, as Jay Bakker states in Fall to Grace, Leviticus strictly prohibits interracial marriage, endorses slavery and condones treating women like property.
Romans 1:26-27 
In their discussions in a statement on “Issues in Human Sexuality,” members of the House of Bishops of the General Synod of the Church of England write:  “Passions are more than emotions; they are emotions out of control.  Dishonorable passions are a disordering of God’s purpose.  The sexual acts of which Paul speaks here are passions out of control, that become an end in and of themselves, idolatrous, the worship of sexual pleasure, an excess to be condemned with all other excesses.”
According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, in reference to this passage, “Although widely read today as a reference to homosexuality, the language of unnatural intercourse was more often used in Paul’s day to denote not the orientation of sexual desire, but its immoderate indulgence, which was believed to weaken the body (the due penalty).”
“Christians were a tiny minority among Romans in Paul’s day.  Most citizens were pagans who worshipped a variety of gods, each with its own ritual practices.  Idol worship was commonplace…some gods, like Dana, were fertility gods, whose followers worshipped by performing a variety of sexual acts.  Priestesses had penis-shaped objects made out of rock, wood or gold that they used for self penetration.  They had sex with men and women – basically, whoever strolled up to the temple”  (Bakker).
Bakker also states that “this ‘anything goes’ attitude toward sex permeated many aspects of Roman culture.  Caesars, who were literally believed to be gods living among men, would host huge orgies that included rampant hetero- and homo-sex.  Prostitution and sex with children was also commonplace.  So in condemning these specific sex acts, Paul was challenging an entire pagan worship system that endorsed multiple gods, promiscuity, idol worship and pedophilia.”
“All Paul knew of homosexuality was the debauched pagan expression of it” (Gomes).
For Christians, The Alexandrian rule had great influence in what was considered “natural”. In the third century Clement of Alexandria asserted that “to have sex for any purpose other than to produce children is to violate nature.”

This concept was also taught by Philo to Platonist Jews. Any use of human sexuality, potential or actual, which did not produce legitimate offspring violated “nature”: all moral issues were subordinate to the primary duty of males to procreate. Celibacy was as unnatural as homosexuality, failure to divorce a barren wife was “unnatural” as was masturbation.

I Corinthians 6:9-10
Mel White explains, “Paul uses the Greek words malakois and arsenokoitai, which are often mistranslated as ‘male prostitutes’ and ‘homosexuals’ respectively.  But the latter, mistaken translation hasn’t been around very long.  (as previously discussed by Gomes:  “The first use of the term in an English Bible is to be found in the Revised Standard Version of 1946.  You would not have found the word homosexual in any Bible in any language before 1946”).  Greek language scholars have begun to recover the true meaning of the word.  Malakois meant “effeminate call boys,” young hairless men who were used for sexual pleasure.  Arsenokoitai referred to the married men who hired them for entertainment.  So Paul was talking about prostitutes and the men who hired them, not adults engaged in consensual, same-gender love.”
I Timothy 1:10
Gomes writes “In I Timothy 1:10, ‘sodomites’ are to be found on the list of the lawless and the disobedient for whom the law is laid down.  ‘Sodomite,’ as we now know, refers almost exclusively to a male prostitute and is not a Pauline synonym for ‘homosexual,’ as we understand that term.”  Also, according to Jay Bakker, “the trouble starts when the word Sodomites is translated without much thought as ‘homosexuals.’  What Sodomite actually means is “one who comes from Sodom.”  As previously discussed, pro-gay theologians assert that homosexuality was not a sin of Sodom, rather the sins included as cross-referenced (& discussed previously), that Sodom’s sins were pride, laziness, gluttony, etc.”
“The [aforementioned] passages that mention those acts (often called “clobber passages,” but I don’t care for that term) could be interpreted in two ways.  They might condemn only those specific acts and situations, or they might condemn all homosexual behaviors for all time, regardless of situation.  For instance, when the Bible speaks negatively of “tax collectors,” we realize that it’s not talking about modern IRS agents.  Tax collectors in Jesus’ day were frequently corrupt and cheated people out of more money than they owed.  So when the Bible talks about “tax collectors,” it’s not condemning all tax collectors for all time; it’s condemning the specific behaviors of the tax collectors at that time…
Of course, some people hold the Traditional View simply because it is the traditional view.  I’ve heard people say, “Two thousand years of church tradition can’t be wrong.”  But this approach ignores just how often church tradition has been wrong:  when astronomers challenged the traditional interpretations of 1 Chronicles 16:30 and Psalm 104:5; when abolitionists questioned the Biblical support for slavery; when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in defiance of the Catholic Church; when liberal Christians began suggesting that interracial marriage was not a sin in God’s eyes – in these and many other cases, social pressures were the catalyst for reforming the church’s traditions.  We are the body of Christ, to be sure, but we are an all-too-human body, and we’re still growing to spiritual maturity.
And yes, it’s true that there are no same-sex marriages in the Bible.  But that’s what we’d expect anyway.  Same-sex marriages weren’t a part of the cultures in which the Bible was written, so obviously we wouldn’t expect to see stories of men and women with same-sex partners.  In ancient Israel especially, marriage was as much about inheritance rights as anything, which resulted in such bizarre practices as levirate marriage (where men were required to take a dead brother’s wife and produce heirs for him – Deut. 25:5-6; Gen. 38:8) and God-ordained polygamy (Exodus 21:10-11; 2 Sam. 12:7-8). Even more shocking, a master could buy wives for his male slaves and then keep the wife and kids for himself after setting the slave free (Exodus 21:2-4), and women were forced to marry their rapists (Deut. 22:28-29).  There’s a lot more that could be said about these practices and the rationales behind them, but that would be a bit off-topic.  The point is this: Biblical examples of marriage reflect the culture both in what they include and what they do not” (Justin Lee, Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network).
Jesus and Homosexuality
Finally, I find it interesting that Jesus never talked about homosexuality in the Bible.
“A Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10).  The Greek word for servant is pais, which can literally mean a male lover.  Pais, sexual servants, were very common in the ancient Near East Roman culture and Jesus would have known this” (Marin, Love is an Orientation).  It is interesting he never addressed this issue in the Bible.
“According to ancient literature, eunuchs could be manmade (castrated) or naturally born (incapable of – or disinterested in – intercourse with women).  As one gay Christian author puts it, “To introduce one’s self as a eunuch in ancient times was roughly akin to introducing oneself today as a hairdresser from San Francisco” (Jay Miner and John Tyler Connoley, The Children are Free:  Re-examining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships).
Both sides of the issue
It is very important for me to fully research both sides of the issue, therefore, I am absolutely reading books which are both gay-affirming and those which state that homosexuality is a sin.   A couple of people at the Evanston Vineyard recommended that I read “Slaves, Women and Homosexuals,” so I checked it out.  I was very disappointed that the author, William J. Webb, actually compares homosexuality with bestiality.  He writes “With bestiality, as with homosexuality, one is breaking the “boundaries” of biological design and sexual order.  Reproduction of species does not take place between an animal and a human; nor does it take place between two humans of the same sex.  With bestiality one crosses the boundary between human and animal; in the act of homosexuality one breaks the structural boundaries between male and female.  It is also these boundary lines, not covenant, which were important in the incest laws.”  This is a disturbing, appalling, insulting and unfair comparison to me, as there can be no emotional connection, love and consensus between a human and an animal.  
Also, my understanding is that the position of the author of “Slaves, Women and Homosexuals” is that because the Bible has a positive movement towards women and slavery (gradually, they are given more rights throughout the Bible) and since every Scripture is negative towards homosexuality, then, women and slaves should be given more autonomy and homosexuality is a sin, since homosexuality is consistently portrayed in the negative.  To me, it is not acceptable that prejudice and suppression of women and (just the existence of!) slavery were ever portrayed as acceptable in the Bible at all.  Also, as stated in my aforementioned sections of alternative translations of the passages which supposedly address homosexuality (but are, in my opinion), actually addressing issues such as rape, pedophilia, pederasty, etc., it makes sense to me why the Bible would be putting all of these issues in a negative light, as rape, pedophilia, pederasty, etc. are consistently wrong and because I believe that today’s concept of homosexuality is not being addressed in the Bible.  If gay people are only now in the past 50 years or so able to “come out” and have same-sex, consensual, loving relationships (and it’s still a struggle), I don’t think it is likely that gay people were openly in loving, monogamous relationships during Bible times.
To conclude, even if homosexuality is a sin (and I don’t believe it is), I believe that the most important thing is to focus on relationship and the Kingdom of God (everyone being together both on earth and in heaven).  I believe we should be doing our best to build bridges between the LBGT community and the churches.
Something very significant happened to me at a church I used to go to (while I was still there)..someone in my small group came out…she is a real, sincere, no-nonsense Christian…she gave me permission to reference her in this blog post…she shared with me that she was in Living Waters, trying to change her sexual orientation, but discovered that she couldn’t.  So she went on a personal retreat with God.  She felt that God told her that He doesn’t care if she dates guys or girls, just as long as He is the center of her life.  I wholeheartedly believe her.  
I believe it is always important to remember Galatians 5:14 – For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The late Lewis Smedes, member of Fuller Seminary and doctorate earner of the Free University of Amsterdam, recalled a line from an old hymn “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea,” argued that the church should accept people who are homosexual as full members of the church.  He said, “I think I know my own heart well enough to believe that if God’s mercy is wide enough for me, it is wide enough for them” (Jesus, The Bible and Homosexuality).
In the book of Revelation, the Risen Christ is represented as saying:  “Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut” (Revelation 3:8).  Jesus has opened a door through which every one of us can enter into God’s realm.

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