THE GREAT EQUALITY DEBATE Part 2

ED2April 1, 2013

To say the least, the debate over equal rights for all people is not about to go away anytime soon. Christians of all stripes have come a long way over the years in battling inequality, making strides in the contentious areas of race relations and women’s issues, to name only two.

In most cases today, Christians confronted with racism would speak out against any form of inequality. Regarding women’s issues, the cry for equal rights is loud and strong, though in some denominations, what equality means is still a matter of debate.

In any case, whether it is an issue of race or gender, how one has been created by God is celebrated in the Christian faith. St. Paul sums up this Christian idea of inclusion beautifully in Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

However, when it comes to the homosexual community, it seems, for some Christians, the sentiment is,  All are one in Christ Jesus, except you, because you aren’t made that way, you’re choosing a lifestyle.

Now, I understand the impetus for my conservative Christian brothers and sisters to jump in here and ask, as St. Paul does in Romans 6,  “Are we to go on sinning so that grace may increase?” I understand this impetus because I understand that they believe homosexuality to be a “sin,” alongside all of the other sins that Paul names as immorality.

But, is that what Paul is truly speaking of?  Is he talking about what we are talking about when we talk of homosexuality?

Epistemology

Let me begin with the term, Epistemology.  Loosely defined, epistemology is the study of meaning and knowledge; the nature and grounds of knowledge. It questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and the possible extent to which a given subject or entity can be known.

How we see things, how we know what we know, can be compared to a set of lenses through which we look at the world around us. They are our epistemological framework or, another way to say it, our paradigm.

For example, before we knew the earth revolved around the sun, our epistemological framework gave us the only paradigm we could know-everything must revolve around the earth. But, now we know that is not true.

Homosexuality is a subject that we know a great deal more about today than ever. Though the debate rages in some corners about whether it is a choice or how one is created, we have scientific evidence that homosexual activity is present in over 1500 different species. It cannot be ignored as something occurring in the natural world. As far as human relations are concerned, every gay individual that I know makes the most passionate claim that he or she is truly born with the desires that they have for others of the same sex. It is simply as unnatural for them to desire someone of the opposite sex as it is for me to desire someone of my same gender.

When looking at the Bible, we also know that the subject of homosexuality is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments, nor is it found in the Summary of the Law. There is no prophet who makes mention of it, neither does Jesus make any mention of it in his teachings.

The term homosexuality itself did not exist in any of the manuscripts, which were used to form our English Bible; it was not even coined until the late nineteenth century. Historian John Boswell gives his conclusion on the matter from his groundbreaking study:

In spite of misleading English translations, which may imply the contrary, the word “homosexual” does not occur in the Bible; no extant text or manuscript, Hebrew, Greek, Syrian or Aramaic, contains such a word. In fact, none of these languages ever contained a word corresponding to the English “homosexual,” nor did any language have such a term before the late nineteenth century. (1)
It is only in recent translations that you will find the term at all. Since the Revised Standard Version in 1946, some translators have applied the term to biblical situations they assumed corresponded to the meaning of the word. There is no doubt, however, that you would not have found the word homosexuality in any Bible, in any language, prior to 1946. (2)

So, what is written in the Bible about homosexuality, and what can we make of it?

Scriptural texts

Traditionally, the texts to which people point when making any argument against homosexuality are found in only five places in the Bible. Those particular scriptures are:

Genesis 1-2 (The Creation Story); Genesis 19:1-9 (Sodom and Gomorrah); Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (The Holiness Code for the Jews newly entering Caanan); Romans 1:26-27 (Paul’s explanation of God’s wrath against sinful Humanity); and 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1-10 (Paul’s list of vices). (3)

Next time, I will begin to take each of these passages in turn and give my take on why I don’t believe we are to continue to subjugate homosexuals as inferior and second-class citizens. We must look at those who are yearning to truly be who they are meant to be and surround them with love, compassion and acceptance.

Peace to you all!

(1) Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. John Boswell, 1980.

(2) The Moral Teaching Of Paul. Victor Paul Furnish, 1985.

(3) The Good Book. Peter Gomes 1996

 

THE GREAT EQUALITY DEBATE Part 1

ED1March 30, 2013

I have to say, I really do love Facebook; so many people with so many different views on things. On my page at least, there have been a number of wonderful exchanges and comments from various people in my life. I’m constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have such a diverse group of friends.

The controversy this past week, of course, has been the issue of Gay Marriage and whether or not it should be legalized. It may have come as a surprise to some of my friends on Facebook to learn that I am in complete and total support of marriage equality. The reason it may have done so is that I am a Christian.

Not all of my friends on Facebook are Christian, in fact, many are not. Those who are, however, inevitably fall into two camps on this issue: those who agree with me and those who do not. Those who disagree have remained loving and respectful toward me in their disagreement, simply asking me to explain my position further, if they’ve made any comments at all (many, I’m sure, have stayed silent or “un-friended” me). So, in order to have more space to elaborate and explain, I’ve chosen my Blog as a place to make my case for why I hold my position so strongly.

So as to not take up too much of your time on a single read, I’ve chosen to break this explanation down into a series of posts over the next few days. I want to be as thorough as I can be, and there’s just so much to cover.

A great deal of significant scholarship has been devoted to those Bible verses deemed definitive in determining the Bible’s (and thus, God’s) view of homosexuals and homosexuality. To those who have suggested that I am “picking and choosing” what I want the Bible to say in order to justify my position, I will not answer by asking, haven’t you done the same? Instead, I will take the scriptures in question and offer what I believe is a more accurate and informed reading; one that examines the context of the writings, the audiences to whom they were originally intended, the worldview of all concerned at the time, and, most importantly, one determined to be infused with love.

Let me pause to say this: I reject, entirely, the notion of, “Love the sinner, Hate the sin.” I find that sentiment to have been used many, many times over the years to justify the separation and subjugation of individuals and groups of people who, for one reason or another, have been deemed lesser. For me, God is love. Even the most conservative Christian would agree that God is described as being like a “refiner’s fire.”  Therefore, love, itself, is a refiner’s fire. That is to say, love burns away hate. Love is more powerful and overcomes all evil, leaving only love standing in the end. When hate is confronted by love, it cannot stay. Hate cannot exist where love continues to reside.

And so, I begin with love, and thus, I begin with God.

This does not mean that I espouse to know all the answers or that I am speaking for God. Never! It is impossible to fully know God at all, let alone speak on God’s behalf. How could anyone possibly speak on behalf of that which cannot even be named? As soon as one begins to speak of God, he is no longer speaking of God. God is too great to be comprehended in any complete respect. Therefore, I go to my “heart” where love abides, and wrestle, as Jacob did so many years ago, with what I believe God’s will to be.

I fully confess my inadequacy, and I may very well be wrong, but I am firmly committed to doing all I can to act in love as an ambassador of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit.

So, in my next post, we go to the center of the controversy, the place where the debate over homosexuality itself is born: the Bible.

Have a truly blessed Easter!