Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gays, Rights, and the Bible

I am saddened that many people feel that homosexuality is a sin. But people have the right to believe whatever they want.  What they don't have the right to do, however, is create a law that imposes their religious beliefs legally on another American citizen. As Ron's dad's used to say, "Believe whatever you want, just don't put it on me."  

When it comes to legal rights, we have to get out of the pre-Civil Rights days, and get up to speed here.

So consider me just another voice urging for us to be fair.

I've collected a few media-related ways to convey some of these thoughts. I'll probably add a few more as time goes on. It's my hope that everyone will consider some of these points, although I know that's unlikely. Still, just like I've always taught my kids, you have to stand up for what's right - regardless of what the fallout might be.

First is this video from starting with:
"You're against gay marriage because of your religion? No you're not."


Often, I've heard the argument - within my own family even - that marriage is a biblical covenant. But that's not really true. Marriage is a legal state, that we simply cannot ascribe to some Americans and not others.  Because if you want to think of it as more of a biblical state, and if you didn't watch the video, here are a few problems with this argument:

But this poster above only pertains to the Old Testament. And those who oppose Gay Marriage often cite Paul's letters in the New Testament as to why homosexuality is a sin.

So I went and did some digging around. I found a really well documented piece, What the New Testament Says about Homosexuality,  from the Westar Institute, a non-profit research and educational institute dedicated to the advancement of religious literacy. This piece addresses some of the issues that have arisen because of translations as well as context. I'd really recommend reading the entire article, but one of their conclusions is this:
Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, and we simply have no way of determining what his attitude toward it might have been. Moreover, there is nothing about homosexuality in the Book of Acts, in Hebrews, in Revelation, or in the letters attributed to James, Peter, John, and Jude. Further, homosexuality is not mentioned in ten of the thirteen letters attributed to Paul. It is only in Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and 1 Timothy 1:8–11 that there may be references to homosexuality.2 The paucity of references to homosexuality in the New Testament suggests that it was not a matter of major concern either for Jesus or for the early Christian movement.
While I typically do not quote so much from anyone else's work, I would like this information to be available here. The Westar Institute goes on to conclude that the New Testament is only referring to certain types of homosexuality:
  •  If homosexuality is exploitive, then it is wrong
  • If homosexuality is rooted in idolatry, then it is wrong 
  • If homosexuality represents a denial of one’s own true nature, then it is wrong
  • If homosexuality is an expression of insatiable lust, then it is wrong
But we could say exactly the same thing about heterosexuality, couldn’t we? 
        If homosexuality is not necessarily any of these things, however, then it would appear that the New Testament has nothing to say about it in any direct sense. Speaking specifically of the Pauline letters but in words that are applicable to the New Testament as a whole, the Pauline scholar Victor Paul Furnish puts it as follows: 
"[Paul’s] letters . . . cannot yield any specific answers to the questions being faced in the modern church. Shall practicing homosexuals be admitted to church membership? Shall they be accorded responsibilities within a congregation? Shall they be commissioned to the church’s ministry? The Apostle never asks or answers these questions. . . . On these points there are no proof texts available one way or the other. It is mistaken to invoke Paul’s name in support of any specific position on these matters "
In short, there is nothing in the New Testament that tells us directly whether homosexuality per se is a good thing or a bad thing or simply a fact of life.  
        To be sure, when we consider its overall message, the New Testament may provide some indirect guidance regarding homosexuality. Indeed, it may well be the case that a twenty-first century “Paul” would revise Galatians 3:27–28 to read as follows:
" For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female, there is neither homosexual nor heterosexual; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. "

Back to me again... thanks for reading.


And some of my similar blogposts:

4 comments:

paul said...

excellent post

a few years ago, i would have disagreed with your position

but i'm proof a former religious conservative can change their mind

i fully support gays and gay marriage

Sue said...

Paul, thanks for commenting. I'm glad to hear that minds can change. And of course they can! Look at our own US history on civil rights. It happens.

And, thank you for the compliment. I deliberately took out some of the snarky comments and/or pictures that I had seen on the internet. I think that's part of our problem. We offend each other, and stop listening to each others' points. Thus putting obstacles into our own paths - interfering in our own progress.

Christine said...

Sue,

Very nicely done! As a very (very) liberal/progressive Christian I am often floored by the biblical/historical ignorance (uninformed, not stupid) of some of my Christian peers. That said, I continue to remain part of a denomination struggling mightily with this issue and continuing to come down on what I believe is the "wrong side" of this issue both theologically and morally. I work toward changing that daily!
My daughter is gay and is married to a Canadian. As long as their marriage (performed in Canada) is not recognized by the US gov't. her spouse cannot immigrate legally so they continue to live abroad instead of the US where they would like to live. Many people don't think of that aspect of this issue.
Christine

Sue said...

Christine, you're right. I had never even considered the immigration aspect of legal marriages. How horrible for all of you!
Hearing about Christians like you who are working toward progressive change within your church, gives me hope.
Thank you for commenting and for the kind words.