Easter Sunday seems as good a time as any to resurrect this blog.
The issue of legalising Gay marriage has been in the news a lot lately and is a bit of a hot topic. Here is a Christian position you may not have considered. When Jesus was asked about the Sabbath, his response was (in essence) that it was there for people to rest and commune with God for their own good. You wouldn’t sit back and watch a sheep (or a child) drown for the sake of not doing any “work” of pulling them out of a swamp on a Saturday. Why? Because this tradition is established for our benefit. If it is working against us, we scrap it or fix it. Right?
Now I hear a lot of Christians bemoaning the threat to the sanctity of marriage.The what? It is a traditional ceremony designed to provide a clear line about who was responsible for caring for a particular woman if she got knocked up. Our use of it has outgrown the original context so why insist on putting new wine into old wine skins? Jesus clearly had no real commitment to the sanctity of the Sabbath. If we claim to be followers of Jesus, why don’t we act more like it?
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19).
The anti-homosexual stance of many Christians was something I found a bit confusing when I first became a Christian. At first I simply accepted that the Bible probably said it was bad and if I kept reading long enough I would find the verse that clarified the issue. I later developed an “any sex outside of a traditional married is sinful, including but not exclusive to homosexual sex” perspective. That works to a certain degree but that would make the verses telling young people who are struggling with sexual temptation to just get married rather than burning with unfulfilled desires into nonsense for a homosexual. There are simply too many inconsistencies with interpreting the Bible to say that homosexuality should be treated differently to heterosexuality in a modern context. This led me to enter into a deeper level of Biblical studies which has developed into a specialisation and the focus of my degree in religion studies.
To summarise: the story of Sodom which is referred to as anti-homosexuality (and the source of the word “sodomy”) is actually a story about hospitality when read in context. The anti-homosexual interpretation and the invention of the word “sodomy” are the work of an 11th century priest with a bit of an axe to grind and were rejected outright by the pope of that time. They only gained traction in the church a few hundred years later for political reasons. Saint Augustine also listed homosexuality as a special “unnatural” sin, not on the basis of anything within the Bible, but because it was believed at the time that animals never display homosexuality in the wild. Since that belief has been thoroughly disproved I think it would be rational to disregard the conclusions formed from said “evidence”.
There are a total of two verses in the Old Testament dealing with homosexuality and they are in the same section of Leviticus which appears to have been a later amendment in response to Babylonian temple practices which the Hebrew religious leaders wanted their people to avoid. As a culture on the brink of extermination, it was important for them that all able bodied men of every persuasion focus on producing children in order to raise their population numbers. It is a specific command to a specific group of people at a specific time.
Romans 1 is often referred to as an example of an anti-gay verse. It talks of people being immoral and then, as punishment, God makes the whole city homosexual and wipes them out in a single generation because they produced no children. There are many reasons for Paul writing that story the way that he did, but what cannot be argued is that the sin came before the judgement… and that homosexuality is not among the sins listed in the verse for which they were judged.
Then there is the ruling of the Jerusalem Council in Acts which says that for the sake of maintaining positive relations with the Jewish Christians, Gentile Believers are that they should voluntarily abstain from: food polluted by idols, sexual immorality, the meat of strangled animals, and blood. This verse is often sighted as proof that homosexuality is a sin because of the “sexual immorality” aspect.
Firstly, the Jerusalem Council did not meet to discuss what is and is not sinful. They came to discuss whether Gentile believers would be required to follow any part of the law to be saved and their conclusion was no (Acts 15:10). This was a social concession within a context of maintaining group relationships.
Secondly, the word being translated as “sexual immorality” or “fornication” (depending on your translation) is “pornia”. It is a word derived from drawings prostitutes would make to show the services they could offer; something like a menu for the illiterate. In all probability, the word refers to the acts which are depicted or the use of a prostitute in general or, contextually, as part of a religious observance with a temple prostitute. Strangling an animal is an incredibly inefficient method of killing and is likely therefore only done within particular pagan religious activities. Drinking blood, also, is not something most people do for fun and is probably also a religious practice for particular idols. So the list goes: Don’t worship idols by kneeling, ???, Don’t worship idols by eating, Don’t worship idols by drinking. The second could either mean: “Don’t worship idols through sex” or it could mean “Don’t use prostitutes” or it could mean “Don’t be gay”. I think the one in relation to the worship of idols is the most probable meaning. If that is the case, it is a massive misinterpretation to try to use that verse to claim that Christianity should be anti-homosexual.
So, that is why I don’t think Jesus is AGAINST GLBT rights. Now here is why I think he is FOR them.
Jesus hung out with prostitutes, homeless people, the mentally ill (or demoniacally possessed) and tax collectors. He championed the rights of children, widows, retired people and anybody who was the downtrodden of society. Any person who claims to follow Jesus and yet has never set foot in a gay bar, prison or drop in centre would not be somebody I would be listening to for an interpretation of scripture. As long as there is an inequality of the treatment of homosexuals within our society, it is the duty of anybody who would claim that they are a follower of Christ to stand up and fight for equality and point out the hypocrisy of those who would try to block equality for the sake of “the sanctity of marriage” or some other rubbish, just as Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of his fellow Pharisees. Jesus had no time for things like the sanctity of ceremony (Luke 6).
Jesus is about people and their needs, not about maintaining traditions.