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“The Gay Debate”

10 July 2012

Over the past couple of months, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Episcopal Church have had questions of same-gender marriage and/or ordination in front of them. The UMC voted to continue their ban against LGBTIQ ordination and marriage. The PCUSA, which voted to allow ordination last year, almost rescinded it while continuing their ban on marriage. The Episcopal Church (my denomination) voted to permit a provisional liturgy which will allow same-sex unions to be blessed over the next three years, at which point the liturgy will be evaluated for permanent usage.

At the heart of all of this debate is Scripture, and how it is to be read. Actually, homophobia (rightly, the fear of queer people) is at the heart of this debate, and Scripture is the chief weapon for waging war. There are many arguments flying around trying to contradict what is a heterosexist traditional teaching, but one of the most compelling and accessible I have heard comes from the brilliant biblical theology of Matthew Vines (whose video was picked up by the Huff Post this week.) It’s a long video, but definitely worth watching. Major take-home quotes appear below.

But the necessary consequence of the traditional teaching on homosexuality is that, even though gay people have suitable partners, they must reject them, and they must live alone for their whole lives, without a spouse or a family of their own. We are now declaring good the very first thing in Scripture that God declared not good: for the man to be forced to be alone. And the fruit that this teaching has borne has been deeply wounding and destructive.

This is a major problem. By holding to the traditional interpretation, we are now contradicting the Bible’s own teachings: the Bible teaches that it is not good for the man to be forced to be alone, and yet now, we are teaching that it is. Scripture says that good teachings will bear good fruit, but now, the reverse is occurring, and we say it’s not a problem.

And surely it is significant that Paul here speaks only of lustful, casual behavior. He says nothing about the people in question falling in love, making a lifelong commitment to one another, starting a family together. We would never dream of reading a passage in Scripture about heterosexual lust and promiscuity and then, from that, condemning all of the marriage relationships of straight Christians. There is an enormous difference between lust and love when it comes to our sexuality, between casual and committed relationships, between promiscuity and monogamy. That difference has always been held to be central to Christian teaching on sexual ethics for straight Christians. Why should that difference not be held to be as central for gay Christians? How can we take a passage about same-sex lust and promiscuity and then condemn any loving relationships that gay people might come to form? That is a very different standard than the one that we apply to straight people.

And there’s something terribly unseemly about straight Christians insisting that gay Christians are somehow inferior to them, or broken, or that gay people only exist because of the fall, and that God really intended to make everyone straight like them. But you know, I am a part of creation, too, including my sexual orientation. I’m a part of God’s design. That’s the first thing that I learned growing up in Sunday school – that God created me, that God loves me, that I am a beloved child of God, no more and no less valuable than anyone else. I love God. And I love Jesus. I really do. But that doesn’t mean that I need to hate myself, or somehow wallow in self-pity, misery, and loathing for the rest of my life. That’s not what God created me to do.

Our discussion of this issue, of the “gay issue,” can’t take place in the realm of abstractions, of musings about ideal design and ideal gender roles, as though gay people don’t even exist. Jesus placed a particular focus on those others overlooked, on those who were outcast, on mistreated and marginalized minorities. And if we are working to emulate the life of Christ, then that’s where our focus needs to be, too. Romans 12 tells us to “honor one another above yourselves…rejoice with those who rejoice,” and “mourn with those who mourn.” Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” How fully have you absorbed, not just the existence of gay and lesbian Christians, but the depth of the pain and the hurt that their own brothers and sisters have inflicted on them? Does that pain grieve you as though it were your own?

And how aware are you of the ways in which you may be contributing to suffering and hurt in gay people’s lives? It’s still commonplace for straight Christians to say, “Yes, I believe that homosexuality is a sin, but don’t blame me – I’m just reading the Bible. That’s just what it says.” Well, first of all, no, you are not just reading the Bible. You are taking a few verses out of context and extracting from them an absolute condemnation that was never intended. But you are also striking to the very core of another human being and gutting them of their sense of dignity and of self-worth. You are reinforcing the message that gay people have heard for centuries: You will always be alone. You come from a family, but you’ll never form one of your own. You are uniquely unworthy of loving and being loved by another person, and all because you’re different, because you’re gay.

Being different is no crime. Being gay is not a sin. And for a gay person to desire and pursue love and marriage and family is no more selfish or sinful than when a straight person desires and pursues the very same things.

And if you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I’m asking you to ask yourself this: How deeply do you care about your family? How deeply do you love your spouse? And how tenaciously would you fight for them if they were ever in danger or in harm’s way? That is how deeply you should care, and that is how tenaciously you should fight, for the very same things for my life, because they matter just as much to me. Gay people should be a treasured part of our families and our communities, and the truly Christian response to them is acceptance, support, and love.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. journeythroughnews permalink
    11 July 2012 09:06

    The Episcopal Church has always taught the values of kindness and respect to everybody, no matter who they are or who they wish to marry. The decision to approve the blessing of same-sex couples is representative of this denomination’s willingness to accept change. I hope other denominations will follow in its footsteps.
    http://journeythroughnews.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/gay-rights-take-another-step-forward/

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