LifeOct 27, 2016 by Josh de Keijzer
This article is part of our 'Explainer' series. The aim is to inform you of the prevalent arguments from both sides, relating to a specific hot topic. We are not explicitly supporting one side of the argument. This is a purely informative piece. You can find the counter-argument article '9 Reasons Why Practicing Homosexuality Is Wrong' here.
While a lot of Christians are against gay marriage and the practice of homosexuality there are also a good number of Christians who see things differently. They have no less reverence for God’s Word but come to a radically different conclusion when it comes to the gay lifestyle. What makes them tick and what are their arguments? Well, here are some of the reasons why these Christians welcome the gay person as brother and sister in their midst. Can one be both a practicing Christian and a practicing gay? The answer is Yes! Should heterosexual Christians welcome and accept homosexual Christians? The answer is Yes!
1. The Bible is not an ethical Textbook
Many Christians like to use the Bible as an ethical textbook. They read the Bible as if God stands behind every word we find there. Such people forget, however, that there are conflicting statements in Scripture. They also overlook the fact that the writers of the Bible lived in different cultures and always spoke from the perspective of their own culture.
2. The Statements Against Homosexuality in the Bible Are Culturally Determined
So, if you take Scripture all too literal you get the problem that you allow the cultural perspective of another time and place to conflict with the moral sentiments of our own time. It’s a weird conflict, that doesn’t help the communication of the Gospel at all. This is especially felt in the debate over homosexuality. We simply can’t apply a foreign and dated ethical perspective to our own culture. Doing that nullifies the great work of translating the Gospel for the non-Jews that the apostle Paul accomplished.
Paul confronted the other great apostle, Peter, when he wavered on the commitment that non-Jews do not need to keep the Jewish law with the words: “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?’ (Galatians 2:14)” But many Christians today want to by-pass Paul and make gay Christians captive to Old Testament rules again. They are like Peter who on the one hand agrees that the law has been superseded but on the other hand still bows down to it.
And even Paul’s own words against gay sexuality in Romans 1:20-24 need to be seen as primarily culturally determined. In the Old Testament we see a budding nation define itself and make up its own rules before the face of God. In the New Testament we see a fledgling church community trying to define itself in a pluralistic world over against the Roman empire. There was a lot of searching. Some rules were abandoned (circumcision and the Jewish law for instance); other moral codes were left in place. The Bible didn’t fix or determine how our ethics should be; it is up to use to allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God. And one of the things that the Spirit leads us into might well be acceptance of the gay lifestyle.
3. Equality for Women and Marriage Equality Both Demand Moral Courage
In the previous article, in which I argued the position against the gay lifestyle, I pointed out that while there is a change in the way the Bible speaks about women (compare for instance the Old and the New Testament on this), there is no such change when it comes to gay marriage. The Bible continues to be against gay marriage, I stated.
But Christians who argue in favor of gay marriage look at this differently. It may be true that the Bible remains totally against gay marriage, but is that all there is to say? Look at the position of women in the Church. The only way you can achieve equality for women is by going beyond Scripture, by following a certain line of liberation for women who are still being oppressed in the Biblical context. Perhaps there is some opening in Scripture toward women, but if the New Testament had been written a bit later, perhaps this same openness would have been much greater and would have also allowed for gay people.
The only way you can argue for equality for women is by appealing to a serious trend in Scripture in which God is always with the oppressed and downtrodden. Well, if that’s the case, you can also apply this to the gay lifestyle.
Of course, some people will say that you can’t add to Scripture and if you do, you will incur God’s wrath. The idea is then that allowing for gay marriage is adding something to Scripture. But of course that warning pertains to divine revelation as given in and with Jesus Christ, not with respect to ethical formation. Ethical formation is a job that is never finished. It stretches well beyond Scripture into our current day and age.
4. God Cares for the Eunuch
It could be argued that God desires freedom and liberation for all people and that gay people are included in that category. Of course, the question is how the Holy Spirit can communicate this to humanity when the Bible writers God employs have a moral framework that is so radically against homosexuality.
Careful observation of Scripture reveals that there is one category of human beings— neither female nor fully female—eunuchs, that as a marginalized group is despised for not being able to produce offspring. Both in the Old and in the New Testament. Interestingly, the Aramaic word m’haym-ne that Jesus uses in Matthew 19 is used for both eunuchs and homosexuals. In the Ancient Near East, homosexuals were considered natural eunuchs, whereas castrated men were 'made' eunuchs. This group becomes the special object of God’s love and concern.
In Isaiah the Lord says: “Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people. And let no eunuch complain, ‘I am only a dry tree.’ For this is what the Lord says: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant—to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.’ (Isaiah 56:3-5)”
These verses show that God cares about these people who because of their sexual condition were not able to participate in their societies in the way that was normative. God has a promise for them. When we turn to the New Testament, we see how this promise is made concrete and tangible. In Acts we read an Ethiopian eunuch who is singled out as one of the first gentiles to receive the Gospel message (Acts 8).
The fact that there is one Aramaic word for eunuch and homosexual provides us with tantalizing possibilities to look at gay marriage with new eyes.
5. Christians Need to Take Both Bible and World Seriously
A mistake that is often made is taking the Bible as a wooden plank to beat people on the head with. The Bible, because it is the Word of God, is often seen as completely separated from the world. After all it’s God’s Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit and has therefore a divine origin and a divine status. But wait! The Bible was written by real people who lived in the real world. What they thought was reflected in the words that ended up into the Bible. Their own worldliness so to speak ended up in the Bible. The Bible as God’s book is always also a book from the world as the lived context of ordinary people. The Bible reflects people’s opinions and their interpretations.
So it is important to read the Bible together with an ear that listens to the world. We need to pay attention to the real lived reality of human beings and evaluate that reality in the light of the Bible. One thing that we can clearly see when we look at gay people is that it is obvious that they are not sinning when they marry people of the same sex. They may have a sense of guilt because of their upbringing, but they also always experience coming out as liberating, as becoming who they truly are. It is clear enough that gay people who try to live ‘straight’ lives or even abstain from relationships, suffer deeply. That fact should already tell you that being gay is not a temptation, that being gay is not a condition, but that it is something these people are in the depth of their being.
6. Being gay is being human in a particular way
The times that we looked at gay people as perverts who suffered from a deviation, who were abnormal with their dirty desires, are over. Gay people are respectable people who do not have a psychological aberration. They contribute to society and are caring members of their communities. They show in every respect to be no less human than heterosexual folk. They are capable of establishing and maintaining lasting and meaningful relationships. We need to learn to understand that being gay is being human in a particular way. This is not necessarily a biblical argument, but that’s the point. Look around you and learn to see that gays are normal. Let the world, as much as the Bible, help you in your ethical formation.
7. We Need a Paradigm Change
The problem is not so much that the Bible forbids and condemns homosexuality. The problem is rather that just about every heterosexual gets revulsive feelings at the idea of gay sex. Heterosexuals can neither comprehend nor imagine that this is how gay people feel and that this is who they are. And when the Biblical writers wrote their texts and the Biblical people of faith formed their communities, that revulsion made its way into how the rules were set up.
What is needed is a paradigm change in which heterosexuals give up their hegemony, their tendency to set up their sexual preference as the only one acceptable. This is called heteronormativity and it needs to go. True, we cannot simply accept any and every sexual preference, but it is clear that homosexuality doesn’t harm anyone and is simply here to stay.
Part of this paradigm change is accepting that sexuality is no longer a binary option. Sexuality should no longer be policed the way it used to be. People can finally express themselves the way they are, according to where they find themselves on the spectrum of sexuality. It might well be a work of the Spirit of God that we finally learn to acknowledge that the grace of God is bigger than our limited morality that tends to affirm what we ourselves are. God wants all people to be free in order to be who they are. The grace of God encounters people where they are.
8. Hating Homosexuals is Xenophobia
Let us in that spirit encounter homosexuals and their homosexuality. Yes, they are the other. They are different from us, heterosexuals. We can’t feel what they feel or see the world from their perspective, but we can create room for them to be who they are. Doing this might well mean that we are being led by the Spirit.
Refusing to do this is perhaps less a matter of of being obedient to Scripture but more a matter of xenophobia, i.e. fear of the other who is different from us and who therefore needs to be subdued and set straight and made to conform to our ways so we can bear their presence.
These are 8 reasons why Christians should consider embracing and welcoming the gay Christian in their midst while also being tolerant and supportive of the gay members of society.
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