Fifty years ago, when I was a young believer, opposition to homosexuality was general throughout America. It was considered unnatural, and no one I knew even questioned whether it was ‘wrong’; it was just assumed to be wrong. We were ignorant.
In the 1970s I learned about a book written by Troy Perry called The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay. The sheer shock of the outrageous title caught my attention; who would even consider that Jesus would accept someone who is gay!
But another factor made it even worse—Troy Perry had been an evangelical minister. He was kicked out of three different denominations, including mine, and he still claimed to be a minister. In fact, he started a new church based on the idea that God accepted gays. How weird was that?
Being Exposed to a Different Perspective
I wondered how Perry could have the audacity to make the claims he did, but his book was important to me because it was the first I ever heard that being gay was consistent with being a follower of Jesus.
Over the next 20 years, my views changed on many religious issues, but gay issues were not among them. As late as 1995 I read a book called God and the Philosophers that had a positive impact on me at a time when I really needed it. It was stories of various professional philosophers and their coming to embrace the existence of God. One of the writers, however, was an advocate for acceptance of gays; I simply dismissed their advocacy.
Up to this point, I had never met a gay person—or perhaps I should say I never met a gay person that I was aware of (no one announced their same-sex attraction), but I wasn’t anti-gay except that I thought it was inconsistent to be gay and Christian. I supported equal civil rights and deplored gay persecution.
As a retail manager, I joined a company that had several gay employees including two in my own store; I treated them as I treated any other member of the staff. I tried to engage one of them in conversation to help me better understand gay alienation in society, but he refused.
The Question of Gays and the Church Weighed Heavily on Me
Many believers began to protest the cruelty of marginalizing an entire group of people for who they are, and an increasing number began to speak up in support of gay equality—including gay marriage. But, sadly, a different Christian element doubled-down to marginalize and persecute gays even further. The way they promoted pain and hate was an outright horror.
The issue of Gays became polarizing among believers, and I felt a strong need to resolve it in my own heart, but I didn’t want to embrace gays in the church against God’s desire. I read a lot of material by gay advocates. An important one to me was Mel White’s book Stranger at the Gate. I knew White’s solid reputation among right-wing conservative Christians. If you are unfamiliar with him, the text from the back cover of the book might help:
Mel White was regarded by the leaders of the religious right as one of their most talented and productive supporters. He penned the speeches of Ollie North. He was a ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell, worked with Jim Bakker, flew in Pat Robertson’s private jet, walked sandy beaches with Billy Graham.
What these men didn’t know was that Mel White—evangelical minister, committed Christian, family man—was gay.
His story made a big impact on me, but I needed more than stories for me to accept that it was consistent to be both gay and Christian. Another author was asked how her claim that Jesus accepted gays could be backed up with scripture. Her response was, “He was inclusive.”
Jesus was inclusive; but is that enough to validate that one can be both gay and Christian at the same time? False assumptions can be made on either side of the issue, and the church in the past has assumed that these are inconsistent; but what does the Bible actually say about homosexuality.
What Does the Bible Say?
We must understand that the Bible was written by many people over a long period and that the authors all wrote from their own time and culture and reflected their own biases, but the question of what the Bible says about homosexuality is still a valid one.
As we begin to examine our assumptions, we must evaluate what the Bible really says about homosexuality; and it turns out that it says very little. Collectively, the few references used to support the idea that God opposes homosexuality are called ‘clobber passages’. They include: Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 19:4-5, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1, I Corinthians 6:9-10, and I Timothy 1:9-10.
After careful consideration of these passages, and others, I concluded that there is nothing sinful about being gay. And it is no more sinful to express one’s same-sex attraction than it is to express one’s opposite-sex attraction.
Next time, we begin evaluating the clobber passages used to demonstrate God’s displeasure with gays.
I invite your comments and observations below.
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Have a great day! ~Tim