Date Originally Posted: January 18, 2008
I'm sure it's been asked by many who know me, but only in their minds, or in the occasional forwarded email petition. The other day it was asked of me out loud, outright, by someone who does not know me: "How can you be a pro-gay Christian?" It was not asked with anger or bigotry but just with confusion, with true curiosity, as she did not think the two belief systems could possibly be compatible.
The Old Testament verses that ban homosexual behavior are few, buried in ancient codes among cautions against eating shellfish and touching pigs. Paul's teachings neighbored his warnings to disallow women from speaking in churches and often reflected his other personal prejudices. Scientific study (that is, tested, controlled, with repeatable results) is showing more and more evidence that sexual orientation is genetically programmed and unchangeable.
Better writers than I have written about the compatibility of Christ's teachings with those living homosexual lifestyles. All I can do is tell you why I personally agree with them, and how it makes sense to me.
I first began to feel a calling to, for lack of a better phrase, 'be nice' to gay and lesbian people back in college, during my Southern Baptist days, because it was plain that no matter what was preached, gay people lived and worshipped among us, and I could see that they felt hated and scorned every day. Back then I subscribed to the "love the sinner hate the sin" view, until I later learned (from listening to gay people themselves, not from third parties) that they did not make a choice, and were powerless to change themselves into what some thought they should or could be.
I believe that the Bible contains wisdom for the ages while still being a fluid and adaptable library of books. God and his assigned writers knew that culture is temporary, and love is forever. All scripture is god-breathed and useful for teaching, correction, etc. - that doesn't mean all verses apply in all circumstances for all time. I do not put God in a box like that. Even Jesus didn't.
Despite picket signs you may have read, God hates no one. God loves all people and created them to be the way they are - different, varied, contrasting - an amazing tapestry of life on our planet. Gradually, we humans are learning that these differences are tools for learning, not lines for division.
I don't believe that homosexuality is a choice, because, at its simplest level, who would choose it? Who would choose to be hated and ignored by his family and friends, by his church and his God? I have studied the scientific data and I can see that it is not a choice, thus not something for which a person should be judged. This is my opinion, and I have the humility to know I might be corrected someday when more is revealed. But for now, I am speaking as God has called me to speak on this issue.
But even if you disagree with what I've written, even if you firmly believe that homosexuality is a sin and a choice, what is the proper Christian response?
To homosexuals, the concept of "loving the sinner and hating the sin" makes about as much sense as "loving Christianity but hating Christ." It is a fabric irrevocably intertwined, not just a deed but a thought, a way, a pattern, a groove into which their lives flow naturally and easily. To tolerate them as people is to tolerate the love they express. They will not be brought to Jesus by those who love the sinner but hate the sin.
To homosexuals, the concept of "treatment" and other programs that aim to turn them straight, makes about as much sense as treating the skin to make a black person into a white person. Many homosexual people have gone through treatment programs; long-term "success" is rare and questionable. Sexual orientation is not an illness or addiction, and there is no treatment. They will not be brought to Jesus by those who plan to change their orientation and personality.
Christ did not offer us the luxury of sharing his love only with those with whom we were comfortable. He extended his hand to lepers, to the dead, to a woman yanked naked into the street out of her adulterous bed. He spoke to them all. He touched them all. He did not shuffle them away into a concentration camp, shoo them away from the children, or establish special rules just for them. He trusted them as he trusted all people, to hear his words and live by them the best they could.
Why is homosexuality such an issue for Christians? I never understood it. I never saw why it is so crucial to forward a boycott message because some store refuses to discriminate against its gay employees, yet it is apparently of little or no importance to Christians to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa, to be better stewards of the earth God gave us, to be messengers of love, instead of messengers of what not to do.
I see it as a vicious cycle - gay people are icky, right? They have sex in public restrooms and hang out in bars and they don't form relationships but instead sleep around. Right?
Did you ever stop to think why gay people sometimes behave that way (and those are not the majority, but let's just say it for the sake of argument)? Because we have forced them to behave that way.
How can we accuse them of cheating/sleeping around, when we do not lend any import or rights to the relationships they do form? How can we accuse them of seeking companionship in the dark corners of our world, when we harass, threaten, and abuse them when they step into the light?
Whatever you may think of gay people - misunderstood regular folks, or misled sinners - it's better for all of us when they are permitted to live in the light. Even if you don't agree with their lifestyle, you have gay neighbors, like it or not - and you are better off when your gay neighbor is allowed to legally and socially commit to someone he loves. You are better off - financially better off, better off from a standpoint of health and safety, better off from a standpoint of social harmony, crime, children's welfare, etc. - when gay people are allowed to form families, raise children, run businesses, attend churches, speak freely, lead lives as the rest of us do, instead of being banished to the isolation and darkness to which they have been sentenced for far too long.
HB9, the Domestic Partnerships Act, has passed its first committee in the 2008 New Mexico Legislature. This bill, if passed, will allow unmarried couples, both gay and straight, to register their committed partnership with the government, allowing them basic rights in such areas as healthcare decision making, childcare and custody, inheritence and property, etc. It's not a marriage and doesn't change the religious or social definition of marriage. It is a basic civil right for our fellow human beings, whom Christ loves.
If you feel so called, please contact me this week for information on how to support HB9. If you are not quite ready to take that giant step, but you agree that this post contains some good points, then I simply ask you to pray and meditate upon your own response to this issue, your response to the gay and lesbian people in your life, how you think Jesus would want you to treat them.