Hi everyone! I’ve apparently decided that I no longer want anyone to like me, so here come all of my thoughts and opinions, as a Christian, on why I changed my Facebook profile picture to a rainbow the other day. I’m sure to anger non-Christians, who don’t believe that a millennia-old book should be dictating their morality in the first place, and of course I will absolutely piss off the conservative biblical literalists who, in my opinion, often miss the forest for the trees by focusing too much on specific verses and not the moral and spiritual trajectory of the Bible. Ready? Let’s go!
As you may or may not know, there are two basic spots in the Bible that people use to decry gay marriage, and homosexual behavior in general. The first is in the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. This is the place where we get tons of rules and laws, many of them very appropriate for a pre-industrial, nomadic, desert people. These are basic health rules. Do not eat bacon. Do not get tattoos. Do not have crazy butt sex. And in a place without penicillin, antibiotics, or even a plain old bar of soap, these are life saving rules. And now no one cares about them anymore. Why not? They’re in the Bible! Aren’t they the word of God?
The thing about that tricky area is that in the New Testament, we get a kind of a pass on it. We get a specific instance where God, by way of a dream, says to not call unclean what God has told you is clean. God is specifically referring to Gentiles, but he uses the banned food from Leviticus as an example. So in effect, one can argue that God has said “Hey! That stuff was pretty unclean back in the day, but now modern medicine (and better cooking tools) have arrived, so you don’t have to follow those rules anymore. Start eating bacon! And loving people you thought were unredeemable sinners, because it turns out they were never sinners after all.”
One of the arguments I keep hearing about gay marriage goes back and forth like this:
Person 1: “All sins are equal, so why do you keep picking on homosexuality?”
Person 2: “But most sins are not glorified in our culture like homosexuality, so we have to take a moral stand on it!”
Bullshit. If you think our culture does not glorify bacon, you are not paying attention. And if you think our culture does not glorify violence and war, then you just arrived here from another galaxy. We glorify tons of sins. But actually, according to the Bible itself, that Leviticus stuff doesn’t count as sinful anymore. Bacon. Tattoos. Crazy butt sex. It’s all good now. We will not, probably, get an infection and die anymore from any of those things. They’re all on the blanket and available to us now.
But then we have Paul. Even without Leviticus, we have Paul. What are we to make of Paul’s seeming condemnation of homosexuality in his letters? And by the way, I am also going to lump in the happy story of Sodom and Gomorrah with Paul’s statements, because I think that they are related. You see Jesus never says anything about homosexuality in the Bible. Nothing. Ever. He does mention Sodom and Gomorrah in Matthew 10 and Luke 10, but he uses these examples to condemn a lack of hospitality, and not a lack of hetero-normative behavior. There was no gay marriage in Sodom. There were people gang-raping travelers when they entered the city! I think we can all agree that this is a sin. Gang raping people of any gender or sexual orientation is something that the Bible is condemning here, and thank God for that. Even Lot is complaining about the lack of hospitality shown to strangers. Lot doesn’t complain about homosexuality. There is also angel sex, but no committed homosexual relationships.
This, here, is my point. There was no such thing as gay marriage in those days. Paul could not possibly have been talking about two people in a loving, committed relationship when he was speaking of homosexual behavior, because such a thing did not exist. Do you know what did exist back then? A culture, partly carried over from the ancient Greeks, in which men would coerce young boys into sodomy against their will as a rite of passage. So I believe that when Paul is railing against men lying with other men, he is railing against rape and pedophilia, and not gay marriage. In fact, Christians should be the ones pushing for gay marriage most of all! The gay community has somewhat of an external reputation for BDSM and tons of casual sex with multiple partners. If this is the sort of sexual immorality that the church is concerned with, then the thing to do to stop it is to get them all married, right?! If they are married, it is not a sin!
Perhaps the most difficult passage to wrestle with here is Romans 1:26-27. “For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” Paul does not sound keen on homosexuality in this bit, does he? But again, if you examine the whole thing it doesn’t quite add up. There are many passages in scripture that I have struggled with, some for years, and then one day I suddenly see it from another angle and it all clicks. This is one of those them.
Paul is referring to Gentiles when he says “they” and “them.” Those dirty, nasty Gentiles (that God made clean earlier, by the way, if you were paying attention). But the first half of that chapter does not say “them,” it says “you.” There is an abrupt change halfway through the chapter, and there is some scholarship that believes Paul is making exaggerated statements based on the prevailing stereotypes. He is telling them what they think, not what is. And then, in chapter 2, he starts off saying “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” Basically, in this interpretation, Paul is telling the Romans “Hey, stop worrying about what you think the Gentiles are doing. You are sinners yourselves.” And wow, if that doesn’t make all the sense to me. A very Paul thing to say.
If one were to look at the overarching message of the Bible, and of Jesus Christ, one could argue that one of the main themes is power, and the abuse thereof. Most of the rules and cautions and stories deal with the powerful preying on the weak. Do not kill. Do not steal. Masters become servants. The First shall be last and the last shall be first. The power that we do have is to be used to better others. Feed the poor. Heal the sick. All of the rules in there are to prevent us from hurting others, or hurting ourselves. But who or what does simply being homosexual hurt? I could not wrap my mind around it. Now, I do not want to presume that all of God’s laws must make sense to me at all time. As I said, there are plenty of things that continue to confound me as I think and pray about them. But this one piece just did not fit with any other sins. Until I heard that interpretation. Then it all fell into place. Paul is not against homosexuality. He is against prostitution, pedophilia, rape, and promiscuity. He is also against people judging homosexual behavior as vile.
Now before you all go crazy, I will completely admit that I might be wrong. And you might be wrong, whether you agree with me or not. But I cannot, for the life of me, read the Bible and see where it opposes gay marriage. It opposes sexual immorality, but simply being gay does not fall into that category. The original Greek words have multiple meanings, as many do, and so we cannot definitively say that the Bible is against homosexuality. And so when there is doubt, one must use the context and trajectory of scripture to determine what God’s will might be. When there are two choices, which makes more sense based on the rest of the scriptures? That Paul thinks all gay people are condemned? Or that Paul thinks all rapists, prostitutes, and pedophiles are condemned?
I refuse to believe that God’s work in this world stopped on the last page of Revelation. I know in my heart that there are truths left to be discovered in those pages, and that we haven’t fully figured it all out yet. Things are revealed in their proper time, and I think now is the time for the church to reexamine these passages and to realize that they do not fit with the message of love in Christ. Luckily, there is another interpretation available that brings the message of love and salvation to all people. That’s the one I’m going with. The one that makes more sense. I hope you do too.