An appeal to those who think homosexuality is wrong
There are many people today who still have negative thoughts and feelings about what is termed “homosexual behavior.” It is not my intent to deny what people feel or to silence those whose scholarship or ideas are different from mine. A privilege of living in the United States is that we have freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want…even criticize and humiliate and shame individuals who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer. I certainly won’t like it, but I can’t stop you.
But what I can do is plead with those who feel in their guts that homosexual behaviors are wrong…if you feel that way…in the name of Jesus Christ, stop hiding behind the Bible and insisting that what you are saying about gay behavior is biblical truth and the will of God! For God’s sake, stop using the name of God when you are using mistranslations of the biblical text and taking verses out of context and basing your self-righteousness on human moral codes rather than on divine ethical principles. Have the courage to stand up and say that this is YOUR opinion or feeling and stop blaming God for your own judgments. When you attack people on religious or biblical grounds, the effect you are having on those who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, AND those who love them is violent, it is bearing false witness against God, and it is the fruit of what the New Testament calls the “anti-Christ.”
A PERSONAL NOTE
I have never been hurt by a so-called “homosexual.” But I was hurt once by a man who fits the description of same-sex sexual aggression mentioned by Paul in the New Testament.
When I was young, a non-relative male pastor sexually abused me. It ruined my health in the time it took me to escape him. I still have the effects of digestive problems from those days. This pastor’s selfishness precipitated the ruin of a church. I watched him move on to be pastor of another church, uncontrolled, unaccountable…and learned that he had abused other young men.
His taste for same-gender sexual activity was not what harmed me. The damage came from his actions that were selfish, arrogant, abusive, violent, disrespectful, thoughtless, and domineering. He abused his power. He betrayed the trust people put in pastors. His evil would have been no less had he done something to a young female.
To put his sin in the same category as someone like my cousin Tim would in itself be an obscene sin. My cousin Tim, a gay man, is one of my favorite people. He is gentle, kind, funny, and generous. He loves God, has been shaped by the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and is totally submissive to whatever ways Holy Spirit leads him to follow scriptural teaching. If you met him, you would much rather he be your pastor than me, simply because he’s much nicer than I am. My experiences with my cousin and my experiences with that long ago pastor have introduced me to two entirely different ethical dilemmas. Ethically, that long ago pastor needed to be stopped! And ethically, my cousin needs to be affirmed.
We can’t paint sexual morality with the wide brush: as in “all homosexuality is immoral,” or “all heterosexuality is moral.” No! Sexual morality is not so simple. It must be revealed with the little paintbrushes, the brushes that can get inside of our character, inside of our attitudes, inside of our opinions of other people, inside of our insecurities and the ways we try to control and manipulate and use other people. Heterosexuals are no more sexually righteous than homosexuals.
If the greatest abuse of my life came because a male pastor molested me, the greatest sadness of my life came because I was married for 22 years to a woman who spent the first half of her life trying to avoid realizing that she was a lesbian. She did not want to be a lesbian. Before she even met me, she was afraid she was. She prayed desperately not to be. She had heard people in the church talk, and she knew their cruelty and their judgment and their condescension toward gays and lesbians. She tried to be married. She tried to be heterosexual. She tried to be obedient to what church people said God demanded. She tried to be what the church said she should be, but she couldn’t.
And so I watched: as year after year, pieces of her spirit died. I watched her fall into deep clinical depression. I watched her unable to enjoy her little children. I watched her become numb, as day after day of her life was spent, and she could never bear to be ‘present.’ I watched her develop, off and on, wisps of psychosis, as she felt overwhelmed by the things religious people said. Every time a Bible thumper pontificated, she shrank a little further from my sight.
As I am a pastor, I of course tried to speak words of grace to her. But all she could hear were the other voices from her beloved United Methodist Church: she will never be worthy to be a leader…or to be validated in who God created her to be. If she ever found true joy in a female partner, neither the church nor ANY of its pastors would be allowed to rejoice with her. I tried to counter all this. But she could not hear my voice above the voices of condemnation, above those who judged her…and allothers like her.
Eventually we divorced. It was odd: I married her in 1979 because I loved her. And in 2001, I offered her a divorce…because I loved her.
Two years after we divorced, with the affirmation of our two loving daughters and other members of our family and friends, she found a partner, a good woman. And God has used that relationship to give my ex-wife resurrection. If you could meet her now, you would meet a person who is joyful, happily in love with God, assured of her salvation in Jesus Christ, generous, and growing in wisdom. She has flourished in her work, in her civic commitments, and in our family.
Given my life story, I might be tempted to blame and label same sex attraction as a menace. After all, my encounters have really knocked me down a couple times. But the mysterious grace of God, and the BIBLE are the reasons I don’t. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I’m a devotee of the Bible. From the time I was young and began experiencing the agony of the man who abused me, I turned to the Bible for guidance. It’s a hard book to read and to interpret. But I wanted to know how to think and what to do. I have tried to let the Bible be my guide.
When we look honestly at the Greek text of the New Testament, and when we apply the test of “cultural equivalence” to Bible times and our own times, the fact is that the Bible isn’t as cut and dried as our translators and teachers have led us to believe. If we are honest, neither the right nor the left can conclusively make their case from the biblical text alone. There is simply too much ambiguity in the task of translation. And there is too much cultural dis-equivalence (between the Bible world and our world) to say that we are truly comparing “apples to apples” when wholesaling a teaching about homosexuality. The concept of gay or lesbian love was never on the radar of the Bible’s authors: only pederasty, soldier rape, and prostitution.
When all the Greek has been translated, and all the history researched, and all the Bible’s literary details examined, we still have no certainty. And so it is that we only have one tool left for biblical interpretation: we must interpret the Bible according to the love God gives us for our wounds and scars. In God’s tender healing for our scars we come to understand the living text of God’s holy word.
In my own body and soul I still remember the violence of a man who was essentially a rapist. In my heart and in my memories I carry the tragedy of a woman whose soul was abused by Christians who forbade her to accept the person a loving God created her to be. The scars on her psyche, inflicted by self-righteous Christians, are etched on my conscience. In the hard gained wisdom and awful insights from those wounds I come to understand these truly ambiguous texts: we should really stop judging each other along the lines of whether we are gay or lesbian or straight.
The devil does traffic in immorality, and ignorance, and injustice. He destroys lives by those means. And as followers of Christ, weary as we are, distracted by institutional matters as we may become, we are still called to serve on the frontlines.
Where is the ignorance and hurt today that needs to be cleaned up? Where is the injustice these days? Who are the ones getting bullied in our schools? Who are the ones being barricaded from ordination in our churches? Who are the marginal kids who hear dozens of slurs a day from their classmates about gays and lesbians? Who are the ones being cast out of their families as though they were lepers? Who are the ones who are so afraid of religious judgment and condemnation that they have double the suicide rate of the heterosexual population? Where is the frontline against injustice for today’s disciples of Jesus Christ?
Where, really, is the immorality that so offends us?