It is no surprise, if media reports are to be believed, that the driving force behind Uganda’s new hate legislation against its LGBTI citizens is backed by US-based fundamentalist evangelical Christian organisations.
It’s frankly embarrassing, as an albeit liberal Christian, to be associated even in general description with this kind of behaviour. What would Jesus say and do about this? How did parts of his church get to be so firmly on the wrong side of the human-rights debate? Isn’t it obvious that homophobia is unequivocally evil and therefore equally sinful?
There is nevertheless still a clear dilemma for the thinking Christian, because the Bible declares in both Old and New Testaments that gay behaviour is against the natural order of things. I have learned to trust Biblical wisdom as God’s instructions for good living for mankind, that the Bible does point out a “better way” more suited to our human natures, so my conviction that homophobia has no place in Christianity needs to be unwrapped a bit further.
My earlier post on the real purpose of Leviticus, where the first mention of male to male sex is spoken of as an “abomination”, explains just how important context is in understanding scripture of any sort. Since The Law applied only to Jews at that time, the Old Testament Scriptures condemning sex between men can at the very least be delegated to being “contextual” and no longer binding on modern believers.
Paul’s condemnation in his letters in the New Testament however is another story, and more damning in my opinion, because it is part of the New Covenant, or New Deal that dispensed with The Law of the Old Testament. But is context still not just as important? Did Paul really mean to condemn all gays into perpetuity?
“Letter to Louise” is written by a straight Methodist minister to encourage a more moderate interpretation of Paul’s writings and speaks openly against homophobia. It suggests that the context of the time is explanation enough for Paul’s apparent stance, and that modern Christians should abandon the traditional teaching. The writer argues that the notion of a person having an inherent or inborn same sex attraction is a relatively new one, and that the sex that Paul was criticising was that enjoyed by primarily heterosexual men outside of their own marriages. Adding weight to this is that Paul and the rest of the Bible say nothing about lesbianism. If we are to be true to the written word without taking context into consideration, then lesbians get a Biblical “get-out-of-jail-free” card.
Christian evangelicals will say that being gay is a choice, when all the evidence points to the opposite. In addition the testimonies of the vast majority of LG people remove the argument of “gay by choice”, as well as the abysmally high number of failed conversion therapies promoted by anti-gay organisations. A counter argument is that if one’s sexuality is indeed a choice, then heterosexuals could become attracted to members of the same sex simply by making a decision to do so. Most religious radicals are appalled at the idea, negating their own arguments of “choice”.
The “gay by choice” argument also does nothing to solve the issues for intersex folk who have clearly had no choice in their sexuality. If the Bible is to be a true moral compass for mankind, it needs to be a good guide for intersex folk as well and provide answers to their questions without ambiguity.
What do gay Christians have to say about these issues? I was surprised to see two opposing views expressed by Christian activists who acknowledge their gay sexuality openly, one along the lines of the above letter, and the other sticking with the traditional conservative view, accepting instead that being a gay Christian demands a life of celibacy.
So here is the dilemma. Was Paul correct in his teachings, or are we reading them out of context? Has the world and humans living in it changed enough to reread or reinterpret the intentions of the Bible, thought by believers to be a timeless moral compass, and most useful in that context? Has the Bible itself, for so many of us the defining wisdom of our faith, become redundant?
Jesus had nothing to say on the issue of homosexuality, and the account of his dealing with sexual impropriety at the attempted stoning of a prostitute with his comment “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” is telling. His designation of the second most important of all the laws for Godly living was “Love your neighbour as yourself”. This is an unconditional command, irrespective of sexuality, race or creed, leaving no wiggle room for hate expressed in any form.
This leaves me believing that what consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes is none of my business, and an issue for gay believers to work out on their own. The wider church would be better off if it believed the same. Spreading homophobia is evil, and the US churches meddling in Ugandan and African politics have blood on their hands.
Jesus would be/is appalled at what is going on in Uganda and the rest of Africa and other homophobic nations. So should we all, most especially those of us who have evil carried out in our name.