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August 28, 2007

Open thread: ’Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality’

My conversations with Brian keep scrolling off the page, so if you don't mind, Brian, I'll post a quick update and a blog-wide request.

In response to my question about his basis for scriptural interpretation, Brian referred me to Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers. I've never read this book. I would like to take a look at it, but this is a bad time: I'm already drowning in reading material, both required and unrequired. Has anyone else here read this book (or, alternatively, would anyone like to read it) and if so, would you be willing to share with the class -- er, discuss it here? I'd like to hear your points of view on the book and its arguments -- including yours, Brian, if you have the time and inclination to tell us more about it.

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I was going to sift through the old posts to respond to your question but this makes it much easier.

I'm sorry if my intentions in my response were not clear. I was not intending to dodge the question but rather to reframe it (and at the same time consider you and Regis).

I would be happy to talk about how arbitrarily isolating passages from Leviticus (a priestly code for the Israelites) is a problematic model of theology. How using Sodom & Gommorah as a case against homosexuality should be deplored by even anti-gay Christians as (a) God had doomed the cities before the accounts in Genesis 19, (b) other parts of Scripture tell us the sin of Sodom, and (c) violent rape does not speak to healthy intercourse either in gay or straight people.

I'd be happy to talk about why Romans is one of my favorite books in the Bible (and we should be talking about it as a book, not a verse or a chapter, since it is one unified letter).

And of course we can look at the language of 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy and see that a precise translation is impossible and even finding a close one is problematic. And yet until recently, an element of abuse has always been present in the translations, suggesting that it is not simply "homosexuals" which are being talked about.

I can talk about how much I learn from not only my straight parents but also from Adam & Eve.

We can heed Christ's advice in Matthew to judge a tree by its fruits to examine anti-gay theology (hate crimes, discrimination, depression, suicide) and pro-gay theology (committed relationships, strengthened walks with Christ, respect, contributions to the church, Christ-centered homes, ability to rear children).

But all of this is useless when my faith is questioned not only by commentators but by Point bloggers; when Point bloggers say that I am worshiping a false god; when rather than asking what it is like to be a gay person, I am told why I am gay. How can we attempt to have a conversation in the midst of such spiritual violence? And that's part of my reasoning for focusing my response as such.

Rather than being put in the most rather insulting positions of being required to defend my right to call myself a Christian (which, no one else present has ever had to explain), I'd be interested to hear why I CANNOT be called a Christian and I CANNOT seek the same things as my straight counterparts--a lifelong, Christ-centered, committed relationship to a person with whom I have a mutual physical, spiritual, and emotional attraction to. Why must I deny a very intrinsic part of my humanity--my ability to love, to nurture, and to create a family. Why is it that a straight person's sexuality is simply a natural part of themselves but mine is one that needs changing?

Regis suggested that being gay is "fundamentally disordered from an engineering perspective, an architectural perspective, a naturalistic perspective [...]" yet that is simply not the case. Engineering as an analogy for anatomy? I don't think we need to have an in-depth discussion about this but needless to say body parts have many functions (including the ones straight people use). From an architectural perspective? From a naturalistic perspective? Not only is homosexuality expressed across the natural spectrum and have anthropologists and other scientists hypothesized how it very could serve a naturalistic function, but pragmatically speaking same-sex couples raising children not biologically related to them help to take of orphans who would otherwise go not only unloved, but unprovided for. These statements are not only biased by an anti-gay worldview they are also unsubstantiated. And disappointing to say the least.

I'm excited at your suggestion to add "Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality" to the Blog-A-Book list. It is of course, only one book and nothing can substitute for the word of God. There are other books and other perspectives. And I think maybe even more importantly, there are other people. I'm not an anomaly. I challenge every reader to find a LGBT believer and get to know them and discover more about their lives and their faith.

I have noticed that the discussion surrounding this issue tends to rest on an a priori assumption that being gay is sinful. Why not enter into an open and honest period of prayerful discernment where we look not to prove one position or another but rather to seek the truth? Is that a viable option?

Gina Dalfonzo

First of all, I need to clear something up: We can't add any new books to Blog-a-Book right now. It was only supposed to be a summer project, though we have ended up dragging it out a bit. :-) But everyone's so excessively busy around here all the time that it's been a struggle even to finish the books we have. Anyway, that program had a pace and structure to it that I don't want to impose on anyone who's interested in reading this book; I think it would be more useful for whoever read it to do so as quickly as possible so that they could be ready to engage in an in-depth discussion about it.

Now, as to your other concerns. Let me try to explain where most of us here are coming from as simply as I can, because I think it's possible you may be sensing enmity where none exists. (Not that I'm saying there IS no enmity toward homosexuals from straight people, including many Christians. There ARE a lot of very ugly, mean attitudes and behavior out there, and I don't blame you for being upset about that.)

Here's the situation as I see it. Most of us base our belief that same-sex relations are sinful on Scripture. You have stated that you believe our interpretation of Scripture is incorrect. I've asked you to explain your interpretation to us so that we can understand better where you're coming from. You say you can do that, but that it would be "useless" in a situation where people don't agree with you. Can you see what that looks like from where I'm sitting? Although I don't think you meant this, it's coming across very much as "You have to agree with me before I can talk to you about these things."

But the disagreement is exactly what we're trying to explore here. If we all were in 100 percent agreement, there'd be no need for explanations. I'll repeat that if you are willing to tell us about your interpretation of the Scripture, then we can have a real discussion about these issues without constantly talking past each other. Are you willing to give us the benefit of the doubt that we're asking because we genuinely want to know and have a real conversation -- not because we're trying to be violent or hostile to you -- and to answer the question?

Regis Nicoll

Brian—Unless you deny that human beings are products of design, then referring to the engineering of the human body is absolutely appropriate. However, even an entrenched Darwinist would cede that the complementary form, fit, and features of male and female are uniquely suited for reproduction. By the way, fecundity is the fitness “sieve” of natural selection and something that same-sex liaisons are inherently incapable of doing. Thus from a naturalistic perspective, homosexuality, at best, is an unhelpful abnormality.

Of course, if we’re designed, that implies purpose. From scripture, we learn that our reproductive equipment also serves to bond husband and wife physiologically, emotionally and spiritually (i.e., they become “one flesh”). Something that same-sex couples are ill-equipped, but to mimic.

You’re right that body parts can serve multiple purposes: I can use my hands to feed the hungry or beat them senseless; I can use my sexual organs for sensual gratification or for marital unity and procreation. The issue is using them according to their designed purpose.

You’re also right that homosexuality is exhibited in nature. But so is rape, cannibalism, cruelty, disease, mental illness, birth defects, etc. The question is not whether these things are natural, but whether they are defects destined for transformation?

And that brings us to scripture. For all of their exegetical creativity, I’m afraid that the Christian Gay Lobby is unconvincing in their machinations to make the scripture say what it plainly doesn’t say about homosexuality. And what it DOESN’T say is perhaps more powerful than what it does.

As I’ve previously remarked, “despite the prevalence of homosexuality in the Greco-Roman culture of the first century, Jesus made no provision for same-sex unions, but instead re-affirmed that the function of human sexuality is to be expressed in the marriage union of one man and one woman.” He also expands adultery to lustful attention outside the bounds of marriage. There being no biblical provision for same-sex marriage, all unrestrained homosexual desire would also be sinful.

You ask, “[Why can I not have] a lifelong, Christ-centered, committed relationship to a person with whom I have a mutual physical, spiritual, and emotional attraction to.” Because a Christ-centered relationship is not solely a matter of mutual attraction; as is obvious for someone wanting to marry their mother, daughter, brother, or horse. A Christ-centered relationship, as Jesus himself made clear, is one man and one woman for life.

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