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GLBT: essays, sermons, testimonies, etc

Can a LGBT person become & remain a Christian?

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The acronym LGBT refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.

The acronym LGB refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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Overview:

The first draft of his essay was written in 1998, when the term "homosexual" was a neutral term to describe lesbians and gays. It has since been used as a snarl word by religious and social conservatives, and has been avoided by most lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBT). The preferred term is now "lesbian and gay" among the LGBT community. We have altered most of the references in this essay accordingly, and will be doing the same to the rest of our LGBT section.

Many people have been taught during childhood that same-sex sexual behavior is condemned both by God and by their religion as unnatural and morally degenerate. If they discover later in life that they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual they often go through a spiritual crisis. Too many realize that their sexual orientation is unchangeable, and that they have great difficulty going through life as someone that they have been taught to hate. They become depressed; some commit suicide. (As many as 30% of teen suicides may due to this cause; one of the costs of homophobia). Survivors experience a conflict between what they are and what they believe. They sometimes abandon their religion. Some become enthusiastically anti-religious.

The purpose of this essay is to explore the possibility of a gay or lesbian restoring their faith by overcoming the apparent conflict between their religion and their sexual orientation. We will select what might be the most difficult example: that of a gay or lesbian, ex-fundamentalist Christian who believes that the Bible is inerrant; (i.e. is without error in its original form) and whose denomination condemns same-sex behavior.

Step 1: What Did Jesus Christ Say about same-sex behavior?

He is recorded in the Bible as having given hundreds of instructions covering behavior and thought; but none of these dealt directly with same-gender sexual behavior. Jesus concentrated on a person's interactions with God and his fellow humans. He did tell the woman who committed adultery to go and sin no more. But that was the only time he is known to have commented on sexual morality. Jesus may have felt that a gay, lesbian, or bisexual sexual orientation and same-gender sexual behavior were not matters worth commenting upon.

Some biblical commentators have interpreted Matthew 19:12 as an indirect references to LGBs:

"For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."

Step 2: Understanding the Hebrew Scriptures:

There are a half-dozen places in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) that have been traditionally interpreted as condemning gays. There are a similar number of passages that talk positively about loving two committed same-sex relationships that may or may not have been sexually active. It is important that we go past English translations, like the King James Version, and determine what the original authors wrote. In their eagerness to condemn gays and lesbians, the translators and interpreters of the Bible often introduced an anti-same-sex bias in their conversion of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into English. A careful analysis of the original texts reveals a different story:
 
bullet Genesis 19 describes the destruction of Sodom, which has been attributed to their gay citizens. A common interpretation is then the men of the city wanted to rape the (male) angels. Actually, the text at this point is ambiguous; the original Hebrew word sometimes referred to sexual activity although it usually meant "to know" in a literal sense. But a careful reading of Genesis and Ezekiel reveals that inhospitality, pride, idol worship, and lack of consideration for the poor were their prime sins of the city folk. If same-sex behavior was involved, it was obviously not consensual sexual activity; it was rape. So we can safely conclude that Sodom was destroyed because of the sins of its citizens which included their practice of humiliating visitors by rape. Judges 19 seems to be a duplicate of the Genesis story. Needless to say, there is no connection between loving, committed same-sex relationship and same-sex rape.
 
bullet Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 appears to condemn male same-sex behavior, but actually seems to refer to temple prostitution. Even if it did refer to lesbian and gay relationships, it would not be applicable to Christians today, any more than are the other 612 laws which make up the Jewish Holiness Code. It is less than genuine for a Christian teleminister or theologian to imply that these verses are still valid for the beliefs and conduct of Christians, while stating that the almost all of the remaining laws of the Holiness Code are not applicable. Some commentators have suggested that a literal interpretation of these two passages shows that they condemn two men having sex on a woman's bed, but does not directly condemn same-gender sexual behavior for anyone.
 
bulletDeuteronomy 23:17, I Kings 14:24 and 15:12 are mistranslated in some versions of the Bible as referring to same-sex sexual behavior. "Temple prostitute" would be an accurate translation.
 
bulletRuth 1:16 and 2:10-11 describe a deeply intimate relationship between Ruth and Naomi which may or may not have had a sexual component.
 
bullet1 Samuel 18:1-4 and 20:41-42 and 2 Samuel 1:25-26 describe a deeply intimate relationship between David and Jonathan which may or may not have had a sexual component.

We conclude that the Hebrew Scriptures condemn male rape of other males, and temple prostitution. The two passages in Leviticus are ambiguous but might condemn same-gender sexual behavior by Jews today. It appears to be silent on gay and lesbian relationships. One can be confident that centuries of fire and brimstone sermons on same-sex relationships based on verses from the Old Testament are misinterpretations of the Bible.

Step 3: Understanding the Christian Scriptures:

There are many places in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) that have been traditionally interpreted as condemning same-sex behavior:
 
bulletRomans 1:26 and 27 has St. Paul criticizing sexual activity which is against a person's nature or disposition. This passage has been variously interpreted to refer to all same-sex behavior, to orgiastic activity, to temple prostitution, or to heterosexuals who were engaging in same-sex exchanges. The meaning is unclear.
 
bulletI Corinthians 6:9 contains a lists of activities that will prevent people from inheriting the Kingdom of God. One was once translated as referring to masturbation, and is now sometimes translated as "homosexual" or as men molesting boys. The true meaning is lost.
 
bullet1 Timothy 1:9 is similar to I Corinthians.
 
bulletJude 7 refers to the people of Sodom as "giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh". The latter has been variously translated as humans engaging in sexual intercourse with angels, as same-sex sexual behavior, and as males raping other males. The exact meaning is lost.

We conclude that St. Paul in the Christian Scriptures seems to have condemned some sexual activity, but it is unclear which ones. There is no mention of loving, committed gay and lesbian relations in the Christian Scriptures.

Step 4: Understanding the beliefs and policies of religious institutions

Some Christian denominations appear to be give great emphasis to what people do in bed with each other, rather than concentrating on drugs, hatred, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, poverty, racism, religious intolerance, sexism, violence, etc.

Over the past few centuries, many sexual debates have emerged between established religious organizations and secular groups in society. These have included:
bulletabortion
bulletbirth control
bullet ordination of women as clergy
bullet same-gender sexual behavior
bulletinter-faith marriage
bulletinter-racial marriage
bullet pre-marital sexual activity
bulletroles of men and women in marriage and society, and
bulletsame-sex marriages.
 
As a general rule, liberal faith groups resolve these conflicts first. These are followed by the mainline religious organizations, and finally by the fundamentalists and other evangelicals.

As one example, consider birth control. At the turn of the century, all or essentially all religious groups condemned family planning; some were active in promoting laws to ban the sale of contraceptives. Today, almost all groups consider birth control to be a non-issue. One major exception is the Roman Catholic Church. But even here, the "People of God" (the church laity) has almost fully adopted birth control in their own lives. One widely circulated statistic is that 98% of women have used a method of birth control that is banned by the Catholic Church.

Consider most intractable conflict: abortion. A few decades ago, there was a unified front among religious groups keep the procedure criminalized; legislation reflected this. Currently, the most liberal/progressive religious groups (Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Canada, United Church of Christ, etc.) support a woman's right to choose. The membership of mainline religious groups (Anglican, Congregationalists, Methodists, etc) hold opposing beliefs. The most conservative (fundamentalists, other evangelicals, etc.) are unalterably opposed. But even in the latter case, there is some movement in a liberal direction: religious groups now widely support a woman's access to abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if it is to save the life of the woman. Here we clearly see a debate in progress in which the most liberal groups change first, followed by the mainline, with the conservative wing lagging far behind.

Inter-faith and inter-racial marriages were once hot religious topics. They have mostly become non-issues. Female ordination, feminism, and other sexually related topics are currently being hotly debated.

With the possible exception of the most conservative, North American faith groups are discussing whether:
bullet Celibate gay and lesbian adults are eligible for membership and/or ordination,

bullet Sexually active gay and lesbian persons are eligible for membership and/or ordination,

bulletGLBTs involved in loving committed relationships should have their unions recognized in some form of religious ritual,

bullet Same-sex marriage rituals should be allowed, where permitted by legislation,

bullet There should be some form of educational process of the general membership about sexual minorities, in order to compensate for the hatred taught by most religious groups for centuries.
 
A survey of Christian churches and other religions reveals that many groups are agonizing over changes to their policies. Many decide to take either no action or to take the next step towards liberalization. To our knowledge, no faith group has gone in the opposite direction. As more lesbians and gays come out of the closet, more scientific research reveals the causes of sexual orientation, and the next generation takes over positions of power, the relaxation of policies against GLBTs are expected to continue. We expect that early in the 21st century, most religious groups will accept that same-sex attractiona are not chosen and are unchangeable in adulthood. Those still opposed to same-sex behavior will probably concentrate on convincing lesbians and gays to remain celibate.

We feel that the trend towards accepting homosexual sexual orientation as natural, normal, and unstoppable, and that all religious groups will eventually abandon their restrictions on gay and lesbian participation. It will probably take many generations for the most conservative groups to complete this process.

Step 5: Where to Go for Spiritual Support

There are several options:
bulletAsk your local Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual support agency whether they have an affiliated spiritual group. If not, consider forming one.
 
bulletDetermine if your denomination or faith group has a office for GLBT concerns of if members have formed their own organization. We have a partial list of such groups.
 
bulletConsider moving to a more liberal religious group.
 
bullet Consider moving to the Metropolitan Community Church which is made up of about 85% gays, lesbians and bisexuals. They follow a relatively conservative theology.
 
bullet Consider becoming a "solitary practitioner", and follow your faith and spirituality by yourself.
 
bullet

Read a book that describes the life experience of a devout Christian who is also gay. The best one that we have found so far is Mel White's, "Strangers at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America", Simon & Schuster, New York NY (1994) You can order it through an on-line bookstore, such as Amazon.com.

Reference:

bullet68 Christian and non-Christian clergy in Madison, Wisconsin endorsed a statement: "A Madison Affirmation: On Homosexuality and Christian Faith" on 1997-MAY-12. See: http://www.iwgonline.org/

Site navigation: Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Essays etc. > here

Copyright 1998 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-OCT-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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