Since PWM is out of town for a conference, I figure I'll get myself into trouble. What's the topic du jour? Homosexuality. The Christian church seems to be unable to handle "the gay issue" without becoming downright hysterical.
Until recently, the Christian church has taught, across the board, that being gay, or, at least, acting on homosexual urges, is sinful. At the same time, the broader society has become much more comfortable with gays being out of the closet. Gay marriage is now legal. Many states have non-discrimination laws that include protections for those who are gay.
Churches have reacting differently to this "crisis". The Westboro "Baptist" congregations and their ilk are only interested in making sure that gays and lesbians know that these "christians" are sure that homosexuals are going to hell. I'm sure they're making lots of converts. Then, there are the churches that affirm gays and lesbians and welcome them into their congregations. Evangelicals right now are pretty clear that they don't believe that homosexuality is an OK thing and that any homosexual urges should be resisted as sinful.
But, what about what I think and believe? The last several years have challenged me to sort out my own beliefs. It's not just academic for me. One of my "daughters" (she was an unofficial foster child for six months when she was five years old and has been close to me since) is gay and has been out of the closet for several years. And, she's getting married next year. I love Jesi and her fiance, even if I decide they are on the wrong side of the moral line. But, are they?
Two hundred years ago, my ancestors owned other people. And, they had scripture to back up the practice. Not just one or two verses, either. Paul's letters contain many references to slavery. Nowadays, though, we look at the Gospels and the life of Jesus and don't have any problem with consigning those references to slavery to the dustbin of history as an aberration of the times. Owning people is not a Jesus-shaped way to live (and I'm sorry anyone I'm related to every participated in it).
How do we handle the issue of being gay? I'll make just a few points with some references since I don't want to write a book. The church has become hyper-focused on sexuality, but Jesus says very little about it. The Evangelical church of the last thirty years has made an idol of the nuclear family. Even Paul's letters spend far more ink on how to follow Jesus than they do on how to have the perfect family. Being like Jesus is the goal of the Christian life, not finding the perfect spouse or having the right kind of family.
Leviticus bans homosexual behavior, but it does so in the same context as banning shellfish and having women marry their rapists. The Mosaic law was given as boundaries for the Israelite people to show that they were different from the other people living around them. Much of that law does not apply today - thankfully. (I love my silk/bamboo shawl. Why in the world did God forbid mixed fibers?)
Paul's letters mention homosexuality in Romans and then in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. The interpretation of these passages is difficult, but many agree that they don't forbid all homosexual activity, just exploitative or cultic sexual activity. I would encourage you to read God and the Gay Christian by Mathew Vines. He does a much better job of explaining these scriptures and the pros and cons of various interpretations. (The Gay Christian Network also has some good references if you're interested.)
Another reason that I think the church should affirm gay relationships is that I believe it is what Jesus would do. As we read the Bible, God is gradually revealing himself to humans. In the early part of the Old Testament, God shows himself through the Old Covenant that requires sacrifice and adherence to the Mosaic law. As we get into the Exile and Second Temple period, God starts telling the people through the prophets that he wants their hearts more than he wants sacrifice.
In the New Testament, Jesus comes as the ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sin and to show us what sacrificial love looks like. After Jesus ascends to Heaven, Peter is shown that the Gospel is for both Jew and Gentile through a dream. Paul reminds us that we are all the same in Christ, Jew and Gentile, male and female. Almost 2000 years later, most of the Christian world has agreed that slavery is not a Christian ideal. As we continue on this trajectory of Christian history, I believe it is time for us to understand people who are homosexual can be integral parts of our Christian community.
Gay people are the poor and the marginalized of our society. They are the ones the Jesus came for. But, you know what's crazy? According to Matthew Vines, 48% of gay people are Christian, many of them actively participating in some kind of church. There are lots of gay people who want to know and serve Jesus.
The Bible is still clear that there are boundaries for sexual activity. The passages I noted above in Romans 1:24-32 includes a number of sexual activities that are forbidden because they are selfish and exploitative. Sex is still something special that should not be taken lightly and should be saved for marriage.
I believe that gay people are loved by Jesus and can (and often are) important parts of our Christian churches. I can say this while still affirming the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed. I still love and follow Jesus. Not only do I love Jesi and Steph, but I support their relationship. And I believe Jesus does too.
P.S. If you have more questions on this topic, check out www.gaychristian.net
P.P.S. While I agree that I may be wrong about this, I would rather err on the side of being too loving than being too legalistic.