Martin Young
Martin Young

The thinking Christian’s gay dilemma

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.

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    • Mr. Direct

      These words, written long ago, without the earthly understanding that we have today, that cannot be interpreted with a single outcome, are surely more trouble than they are worth.

      Unlike the law, which can be changed for clarity, and adapted to suit the times, these religious doctrines are archaically out of touch with our reality. For every positive argument, there is an equal negative. When there is no consensus, it ends up in chaos, causing idiocy like we see in Uganda.

      I do not mind obeying the rules, but if you cannot tell me what they are, then why should I burn in hell for transgressing them for all eternity? Also, if rule A contradicts rule B, surely these were written by idiots, and not an all powerful being. Then surely rule A and B should be reformed to work together. Don’t see God issuing a revision any time soon….

    • Momma Cyndi

      Did you know that the bible was ‘re-written’ in the 1940s? Prior to that, homosexuality was not even mentioned. Considering that King James was a bit more skeef than straight, it is hardly surprising that it wasn’t mentioned but one has to wonder what the purpose of the re-write was. The original text had to do with ‘pagan orgies’.

      It can be argued that some of the heroes of the bible were a bit on the ‘skeef’ side too. That would mean that your god wasn’t entirely anti-gay.

      As for Paul: Well Jesus spent half his time telling the various apostles that they were wrong and trying to make them a bit less bigoted so I guess it isn’t that strange that a few of the foolish ideas managed to slip through the cracks

    • Call for Honesty

      “Jesus had nothing to say on the issue of homosexuality”

      It is only by ignoring all the Bible – from the first chapters to the last – says about marriage being a faithful, loyal, lifelong relationship between a man and a woman that someone can make this astonishing claim.

      It is only by ignoring that Jesus clearly expounds and expands on the Old Testament teaching saying that a disregard of it leads to a terrible sinful situation – which disregards God’s explicit revelation – that someone can make such a shocking claim.

      Those who reinterpret six particular Bible verses to support their views ignore the many references to a faithful marriage bond between one man and one woman. They ignore how the latter references illustrate both the faithfulness God requires in the marriage relationship of each of his children and of the faithful, loyal love he requires of his children towards himself and in response to his undeserved love. Those who ignore the plain and natural meaning of the Scriptures will certainly face a dilemma but it is because they want the basic teachings of the Bible to support their views.

    • Paul Bluewater

      If one consults the entrails for the wisdom which begets power, one imagines all that can be made real by brutality and fear, for advantage, which can then be discarded or perpetuated, on a whim, as needs be!
      Who cares what Methrab thought of the pontifications of Zoar over the relevance of Bisexuality and Hermaphradism to this argument, and how would that impact the Ugandan action. Let me see….
      It is easier than that.
      We all know we should NOT persecute minorities, and the case of the colonialists, majorities :-) Our government should say so loudly!

    • bernpm

      In an earlier comment I have said that homosexuality is the response of nature to overpopulation.
      My response to references to biblical texts or events as proof of an opinion is generally answered by me: “what translation?”. It usually stops the discussion.

      Comments from religious (any religion) fanatics on human behavior do not create the space for acceptance and tolerance.
      Most religions do preach some form of “love thy neighbor” or am I wrong????

    • Arthur

      God is unequivocal on all forms of immorality – turn to Him, stop doing them, repent of the sin and don’t do them again. Of particular note are lying, murder and sexual sin because these primarily destroy the beauty of human relationships as in original creation. There are more but that is not the focus of what God is saying.

      He is a loving and forgiving God, we just have to do our part and acknowledge and embrace Him.

      And we are in no position to judge others, being not so squeaky clean ourselves.

      God is not confused on these matters but there are plenty who will exploit His word for their own purposes.

      Finally, membership of a branded religion or sect does not always mean the embodiment of God’s love or values.

    • Baz

      If you study the Christian bible, it emphatically states you are given choices on how to live. JC is there to forgive as we are ALL sinners, doing our own thing and not trying to attempt living according to God’s way. The church hasn’t the “chutzpa” anymore
      to stand for what they believe and that’s why there is a falling away of attendance.
      Very few real believers around that show the Christ -like love towards their fellow beings. Lots of hurting people out there. Make your own decision on the subject of homosexuality & the church. A very uncomfortable subject & other issues the church can’t handle.

    • Stephen Browne

      Mix-and-match, my favourite Biblical game!

      Thanks Martin, you have unintentionally given everyone an insight into the confused mind of a ‘modern believer.’

      Cognitive dissonance much?

    • Steven

      Thanks for this honest, balanced piece.

      I expect Christians to approach gay rights in the same way they’ve approached divorce and fornication: as a legal right. I am amazed at the fact that Christians protest against gay rights in their effort to “uphold marriage” when they clearly no longer care that divorce and premarital sex are legal despite their biblical condemnations. I guess most don’t want to part with the legal right to cheat and have sex.

      My criticism: why do we still cling to the antediluvian claims of a so-called divine text? Nobody has ever managed to demonstrate that the Bible is the word of God, in the same vain that no one has ever shown God to exist. In academia, unjustified claims are ruthlessly discarded. The Bible has no moral authority because it cannot be proven to have any authority. For this reason, even if they Bible was expressly clear and you didn’t have to read between the lines as is the norm, we’d shrug our shoulders and say, “so what?”

      Let’s move on. Religious arguments are purely recreational.

    • Sicelo

      So says Jesus: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, and goes further to state: “Love your neighbour as yourself”.

      Guided by the above, your conclusion is: ‘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.’

      Sticking with your argument’s lane, context; I can’t help but wonder how you could arrive at the conclusion you have on the basis of statements by Jesus, except to duck and dive, pretending to have takena position when in fact you have actually gone into hiding!

      Jesus’ first statement certainly puts no obligation on your to not make judgement calls on humanity’s conduct as wrong or right. Otherwise why do we have law that regulates human conduct?

      Jesus’s second statement surely does not put an obligation on you to live a life in seclusion! Indeed it calls for the direct opposite. Yet your choices are a complete contradiction, clearly deliberately intended for an escape from responsibility to your neighbor, your community, your nation and your humanity!

      Had you stuck with your first acknowledgement and conclusion that: “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,” and sought to explain that in terms of your belief, this would be an informative input.

    • Neil

      Poor hermeneutics. Being gay is a sin to be repented of. Christians are to preach the gospel and call sinners to repentance.

      That IS loving.

      It is no different from any other sexual sin. Jesus loved sinners, but hated their sin. The moment the church attempts to diffuse the bible to suit modern descartian led ears, like Steven’s above, we lose all our relevance.

      Be very very careful professing christian.

    • Neil

      I forgot to point out as well, that if you don’t believe in the authority and divine inspiration of the bible, I doubt very much that you are a christian at all.

    • Neil

      I have given the bible authority over me because I believe it is. I have put my faith in it.

      At least on that point we agree Steven, because every argument against or for faith is purely academic and recreational after that.

      But at least it’s lots of fun to chat about over a drink…

      My last point: Did Jesus not say to the woman at the well: “Go and sin no more”

      That is the purest example of a loving call to repentance. And THAT is why Jesus is facepalming at Uganda.

    • Neil

      Where does it end? Shall we start doing away with the resurrection? Shall we start denying the virgin birth?

      This is the ultimate slippery slope Martin Young. It saddens me that this is what passes as the ‘thinking’ christians voice.

      Bye thread.

    • Rod MacKenzie

      Martin, if you are going to believe in your faith, you believe in it. Take Paul’s foamings and rantings for what they are, as part of your faith and as part of the sorry mess broader Christianity makes of things. Paul was and is anti-gay. Your faith is anti-gay. Either accept it or leave it. Dont leave chunks out that do not agree with you. But please, for the love of fudge, dont pseudo-intellecutalise it like this. Christianity is anti-homosexual, period. And anyone who believes someone died for them two thousand years ago (and most people who have lived between then and now have never even heard of Christ), seriously lacks in integrity, lives in lala land and needs their head. read. Take @ Neil’s advice above about the “slippery slope”. Either you believe in the whole shebang, virgin birth and all, or leave it. But that requires a lot of balls and integrity. I know. I left the “faith” about 13 years ago. I was conditioned into that nonsense from early childhood. Missed out on a lot of great (consensual ) sex. Man oh man………..

    • Schuh

      Conservative evangelical theologian J.I. Packer once summarized the pro-gay argument about the Bible this way: “What Paul is condemning is not my sort of same-sex union.” He disagreed, but the statement points to the real dilemma for Christians concerned about maintaining the integrity of the Scriptures, as given, on this question. Are the homosexual acts condemned in the Bible sufficiently similar to same-sex marriages today – in context, intents, and expressed values – that we can confidently apply the old condemnations to this new situation? A conservative reading of the Bible argues against it.

    • Jan Swart

      Typical example of a believer hedging his bets to cover all eventualities. What else can be expected, though, but double standards, which is why more people reject religion outright? We are to believe that God is perfect and we are not, and that when a human does something sinful it is wrong, while God, when doing the same thing on a larger scale, is ‘righteous’. Drown your baby in a bathtub? Sinful. Flood the earth? Righteous. Burn your child with a cigarette? Sinful. Reduce the inhabitants of whole cities to ashes? Righteous. Poison your family? Sinful. Spread plagues? Righteous. Survive horrible accident? Tell people God saved you. Be crippled in horrible accident? Don’t say a word about how God screwed you over. No god who advocates selling your own daughter into sex slavery (Exodus 21:1), promotes child abuse (Judges 11:29), and the bashing of babies against rocks (Hosea 13:16 and Psalms 139:9) should have any say in what we do when we are naked.

    • Garg Unzola

      I believe in fiction too, sometimes in the shape of TV series:

      “Rational arguments don’t usually work on religious people. Otherwise there would be no religious people”. Good old Dr House.

    • Forbidden

      Any of you watch the film Chocolat?
      It kind of puts things in perspective.

    • Charlie

      Good to see a Christian saying live and let live, refreshing.

      Since reading your other piece about Leviticus I’ve read a very interesting book called Zealot – The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. I suggest you give it a read I’m sure you will also find it very interesting.

      At the end of the book he talks about the dispute between James, Jesus’ brother and leader of the new movement, and Paul. It turns out that Paul was wrong; Christians should be living by the Law of Moses. I suppose it is not surprising given that Paul never met Jesus while James and the others knew him personally.

      While you say Jesus never said anything that was homophobic (I can’t be sure I’ve never read the bible) he did say the he was there to fulfill the Law and not abolish it, so one can infer from that that he was homophobic.

    • Joseph Mwamba

      In any community communities enact laws that benefit the entire or the majority of the community. Ugandans know what’s best for them….

    • Ms Ann Thrope

      @Rod MacKenzie – a thousand thumbs up. At least fundamentalist Christians are are not hypocrites.

    • Rod MacKenzie

      @ Garg Unzola – thanks for your comments and the bit from Dr House. I often actively seek out your responses on TL :) At the other OPPOSITE end of the spectrum….what’s happened to Dave Harris? Or am I just missing him (double entendre intended)?

    • francois williams

      Agge shaaim neef Martin Young, once you have taken Buddha into your heart all your conundrums will be solved…just visit Thailand for a taster first hahaah!!

    • Shaman sans frontieres

      I heartily disagree with those who argue that Martin Young’s argument is a compromise and that Christianity per se is anti gay. Anybody here read ‘Jesus Today – a spirituality of radical freedom’ by the South African priest Albert Nolan? It is a kind of new Christianity that needs far wider reception. It is also wrong to label reactionaries as ‘evangelicals’ – that is a journalistic cliche similar to the empty term ‘fundamentalists’. Let’s rather be clear and speak of reactionaries or conservatives, versus progressive Christians.

      Faith is a complex issue, best experienced in silence. But it is also immersed in discourse, language, liturgy, common idiom, world-views, mind-sets. And these do change, and must, or faith becomes patently idiotic. That is why so many people no longer have time for Christianity. It is a fair point.

      We need to change our mindsets, our world views, as believers. Simple as that. Change our idiom, become more mindful, drop the cheap ego practices, and projections of ‘evil’ onto others. We are post-Freudians, post-Newtonians, in a very different world from our grandparents let alone the traditional church, let alone the world of Jesus.

      But! Jesus did one thing that keeps it all going – he was a rebel, who broke the laws and the social prejudices of his society. He did that with total equality and liberation in mind – not through uprisings but by challenging people to give up bigotry of caste, status and gender: ‘behold I make all…

    • Shaman sans frontieres

      More – although I am a shaman sans frontieres I am also a Christ follower, which is why I am writing here. I have no desire to enter into sophistries like the Pharisees, cornering people in sophistical argument about things of far greater and yet more simple significance. I give more due to those who are atheist than those who claim to follow Christ and yet reserve the right to judge other people. But I do not for a moment believe that a Christian who seeks to promote newness is a hypocrite. Clinging to old narrow argumentation is hypocrisy because it avoids the core issues of faith, which are about divine mystery and about acceptance of all creation and all people.Christ calls us to embrace newness, and to accept all people. The entire gay thing is, it seems, mostly a reactionary fear of others, or fear of the shadow self, both of which are evil or sad conditions to be in. Fear is a passive state of potential hate and aggression. And, it is obvious, the world in which Jesus lived had huge social prejudices, social stasis, and the issue of gender liberation was far from people’s minds. It is now a social issue, just as the abolition of slavery, and women’s rights, and the universal vote, and issues of race and ethnic equality, became social issues. Christianity is at root progressive, despite the bigotries of many who fear change and fail to understand that in terms of faith literal meaning is an illusion. It is sans frontieres. All else is mere habit, sentiment, opinion.

    • Garg Unzola

      Thank you, didn’t know I had any fans. He’s probably hard at work cooking up new evidence for Wikipedia in MS Paint.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Spoke to my brother about your piece, Martin. He is a minister and a devout christian. His reply was that there is no dilemma at all. Jesus said ‘love thy neighbour’ and he didn’t have a stutter. There is no fine print or conditions.

    • Martin Young

      Dear Momma

      Yes, as I stated in my piece, it is unconditional. I wish the rest of the world would see it that way.

    • Shaman sans frontieres

      Martin and Momma Cyndi, well said! There are plenty of ordained ministers who make this their purpose, giving that message again and again, from the pulpit – and plenty of lay believers who understand and accept this. But it’s sadly the fear-monger ones who hit the headlines and have their freaky views taken up by populist politicians.

    • Sharon Kass

      While “gay” feelings are not chosen, neither are they inborn.

      Early and sustained faulty bonding and identification with the same-sex parent are key. This disorder is preventable and treatable. Likewise transgenderism. These are established facts–the Left lies about “gay” all the time.

      Real science at The truth will out. Thank you.

    • bewilderbeast

      Oh the dilemma!! To believe Jesus, who said I have to obey every one of the OT laws?? Or to believe Martin, who says its OK if I pick and choose??

    • Sello

      @Sharon Kass – What about intersexed people? Is their orientation not inborn??