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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

There's Only One Way To See This Stuff!

Chris Sosa wrote a post for the Huffington Post "Gay Voices" blog today entitled "Fellow Liberals, Please Stop Claiming Jesus Accepts LGBT People" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-sosa/stop-claiming-jesus-accep_b_7051550.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices). In the piece, he chastises liberals for accusing right-wing Christians of not understanding their own religion. Mr. Sosa stated: "Paul condemns queer folks. And there isn't a shred of evidence that Jesus was a fan either, assuming he existed." He continued: "When Christians tell you that their book calls you an 'abomination,' they're more right than wrong. Despite how infrequently it occurs, clobber passages are there." A little later Mr. Sosa reveals the thing that is really irritating him: "if we bother arguing that the Bible supports us, we're conceding its validity as a moral text."

Mr. Sosa and others may not like it, but the reality is that there are a number of different ways to interpret the passages in Scripture which refer to homosexuality. Personally, I agree with the "right-wingers" and Mr. Sosa - I think that Scripture is very explicit in its condemnation of homosexual behavior in a number of passages (e.g. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13). However, I also believe that Scripture has numerous factual errors and contradictions. As a consequence, I have rejected the doctrines of inerrancy and Sola Scriptura. Hence, I feel comfortable in stating that the Bible is just wrong in the places where it condemns homosexual behavior. It is my opinion that most of the folks who interpret these passages in a way that does not condemn homosexuality are attempting to provide a framework for this topic that enables them (and their supporters) to continue to support the doctrines of inerrancy and Sola Scriptura. This is not the way that I have chosen to attack the issue, but I respect their right to see it differently than I do.

Unfortunately, many of the folks who adopt my approach (including apparently Mr. Sosa) feel justified in completely dismissing the Bible's "validity as a moral text." Having demonstrated to their own satisfaction that Scripture is full of errors and contradictions, they simply cannot see any value in continuing to consult the book or concede that it has the potential to make any meaningful contribution to our dialogue about morality. The Bible is a big book, and it presents a lot of information and viewpoints on a lot of different subjects. To me, it seems just as ridiculous to reject the whole thing as it does to accept it all without reservation.

When my father (or someone else) tells me that the Bible condemns homosexuality, I don't have any problem saying "You're right. And I, along with millions of open and affirming people across this great country, do not care." I can say that because I don't see the Bible in the same way that he does, but he is entitled to see it differently than I do. Moreover, from where I'm sitting, I don't think that my father is any worse off than Mr. Sosa. Sorry sir, I'm still going to say that Jesus accepts LGBT people (I believe that the weight of the evidence from Scripture, science/reason and the world around us points to the conclusion that God and Jesus love and accept gay folks).

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Lonnie for your commentary.

    While I believe in the divine inspiration of the scriptures (and we know that there is a difference between "inspiration" and "dictation"), I also know that (as with almost any writings telling the story of human experience) much of what is written and how it is written relates to the cultural context of the time.

    The clobber scriptures that condemn homosexual activity reflect what was happening (or did happen) to the people and places referred to. The principles of moral instruction may carry forward in time - but not necessarily the cultural situations.

    When Christians apply scriptures outside of their cultural context onto present-day situations - it can lead to misunderstanding of complex issues in our modern society.

    Some examples:

    Genesis 19 condemned the sins of Sodom - and many Christians "think" (they aren't really thinking - they're assuming) that God destroyed Sodom because of homosexuality. The scriptures don't actually say that - but people believe it. That is a cultural driven assumption based on applying these scriptures to today's issues outside of their cultural context.

    Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 condemns homosexual activity. But if you read the scriptures carefully, you'll read that God is commanding ancient Israel not to return to the pagan practices of ancient Egypt. This is clearly an instruction for the entire population (most of whom were heterosexual) that implies making a choice.

    However, without considering the cultural context of the Leviticus scriptures, many Christians have read these prohibitions and then just assume that gays in today's society are "gay" because of choice, which leads to a general misunderstanding of today's cultural war about homosexuality.

    The same principles of engendering misunderstanding about homosexuality in today's society, due to pulling scriptures out of their cultural context can be seen with the scriptures in Romans 1 and even in I Cor. 5.

    Romans 1 clearly implies a choice being made by heterosexuals who are following pagan worship customs --just like ancient Israel did in Egypt before the exodus--and God told them to stop doing it (the Leviticus prohibition on homosexual activity). Similar circumstances can be researched for the pagan idol worship culture of ancient Greece that Paul wrote about in I Cor. 5.

    I have never fit the profile of the accounts given in Genesis 19, Romans 1 or I Cor. 5. Most gays living in Western society do not fit the cultural context of these clobber scriptures. We did not choose to be homosexual. Yes, one can choose to be celibate - but it is painful and can be very lonely.

    So, yes the bible does condemn homosexual activity. But those scriptures should be understood within their cultural context in order not to engender and perpetuate misunderstanding about a painful and complex issue in our modern society.

    Dean

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  2. Thank you for your comments. As you know, I have written extensively about how some of these passages which you refer to in your comments (e.g. Genesis 19 and Romans 1) have been twisted and misinterpreted by Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christians to support their anti-homosexual agenda. I also agree with your statement about understanding the difference between eternal moral principles and cultural taboos that were tethered to a specific time and place. However, I continue to believe that we undermine the logic of our thesis that God and Jesus are the personification of love when we attempt to reconcile them to the passages in Scripture that condemn homosexual activity, advocate genocide, encourage misogyny or accept slavery. From the perspective of Scripture being a joint venture between God and man, it is clear to me that mankind has attributed some things to God that simply do not belong to Him/Her/It.

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