America has legalised gay marriage in all 50 states. My gay and bi Uncles were quick to rainbow colour code their profile pictures on facebook and these were the first of many posts in my newsfeed that announced this fact to me. Australia is yet to follow. Both of these Uncles–two of my mum’s brothers–are Australian and at least one has been campaigning to legalise it here in New South Wales.
Some of you may accuse me of being biased. You may say I’m not against gay marriage because I have gay and bi Uncles whom I love, very, very dearly. Perhaps to a small degree, this is so, but there is a lot more to it than just supporting my Uncles. Let me tell you the story of my experience and then explain my reasoning.
I was raised in a Christian family and I do not remember when I learned about homosexuality, but I do know that I was taught it was wrong to be gay. I was also taught to love everyone. So I made it my goal to love gay people as a teenager, before I was aware that my Uncles were gay and bi. I always believed that we were all equally sinners and that LGBTIQ people needed to be loved–not judged–just as much as I did.
When I was 18 I became friends with a male teenager around my brothers’ ages who was the first guy to ever admit to me that he was gay. I was excited to have gay friend. To my knowledge this did not cause me to treat him any differently. We still hung out as friends. He came to church with me a couple of times and I told him God loved him as he was.
Meanwhile, my homosexual Uncle was married to a heterosexual Canadian and they lived in Canada with their three children. When I was 22, I went to visit my Uncle and his family and one day I happened to be talking about my “gay friend.” My Aunt and Uncle gave me these strange looks and I had no idea what to make of them. That night, my Uncle and I took a long drive from Owen Sound to Toronto and he told me that he was gay. I honestly had no idea. I was surprised, but I also felt incredibly privileged because I was the first person in the family apart from his wife, one brother and father (my grandfather), to know.
That same year, my grandfather passed away and our Canadian and American relatives came to Australia to say their goodbyes and some were able to attend the funeral. That was when my Uncle started to talk more about his sexuality. Several years after that he was able to come out publically. The whole family knew and our Uncle was no longer trying to fight his homosexuality with heterosexuality. He and my Aunt divorced but remain friends. In fact my Aunt is a Pastor and is fighting to protect LGBTIQ Christians in Canada by educating other Christians from her own unique experience.
A lot of people look at this situation–my Uncle lives in Australia with 2 daughters and my Aunt in Canada with their son–and they presume that this is a terrible mess that has ruined their family. But I don’t see their family as ruined at all. I see 5 people who are extremely passionate about LGBTIQ issues, because they all love each other, even after divorce and the distance of two countries.
Over the past 10 years, since my Uncle told me and the rest of the family that he was gay, I have grown a lot. I have always been passionate about love and grace. I’ve made many LGBTIQ friends, have always believed in loving all people and have tried not to judge people because I fully believe we are all equal no matter what different behaviours / actions / sins / mistakes–whatever you want to call them–we have performed.
And over the years I have debated and studied and tried to determine whether it is actually a “sin” to be gay. I have questioned this because I was raised to believe that it was a sin, but I see little–if any–Biblical evidence for it. I like to think outside the box and my conclusion is that I DON’T KNOW. Two thirds of the way through my theology degree, I do however, have some theological opinions to share about the topic:
Let’s address the Old Testament first. There are two verses in Leviticus that reference two men having sex:
Leviticus 18:22 Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, this is detestable (NIV).
Leviticus 20:13 If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads (NIV).
Jesus’ response to Old Testament law in the Gospels is intriguing because Jesus seems to pick and choose how things apply. He abolished “eye for an eye” and replaced it with “love your enemies.” He elaborated on “do not commit adultery” by showing us that lust of the heart is just as bad. Jesus and his disciples both broke Sabbath rules or expectations. By law Jesus was supposed to stone the woman caught in adultery, but he went against the law and walked away without stoning or punishing her, quite the contrary: he forgave her. Jesus came to fulfil or complete Old Testament law and prophecy, yet in doing so he overrode and rewrote much of it (see Mt 5:17, Rom 10:4, Eph 2:15).
In the book of Acts, Peter sees a vision of meat on a sheet. Unclean animals that he is given permission to eat. Animals that he was not permitted to eat as a Jew according to Old Testament law, he was encouraged to see as clean for New Testament Christians to eat. In the same way, when we read about homosexuality in the Old Testament, we should treat it as being part of the old covenant and therefore no longer applicable to Christians who do not come under OT law.
There are many laws in Leviticus that Christians deliberately overlook today. One law says that women must not have sex during their period or for seven days after their period (Leviticus 15:19-28, 18:19). I have done both and yet the church is not going to stone me for it. It was a law concerning hygiene, but we have better hygiene today and have discovered that women can, in fact, have sex during their period (with ready access to a shower afterward), and certainly the days following menstruation. These Old Testament laws are outdated and the New Testament affirms to us that we are no longer under these laws. We read them to understand the Jewish culture that predates Christian culture and the ideas the writers had about the coming Messiah. Then we look to the New Testament to see how Jesus treated these ideas, and more often than not it was in ways Old Testament Jews did not expect!
Turning to the New Testament we find three passages that seem to refer to homosexuality. Let me address these two first:
1 Timothy 1:9-10 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers … for the sexually immoral, those practising homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers …
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.
The word translated “homosexual” or “sex with men” in the above verses is the Greek word “arsenokoites.” It has at least 3 possible translations including: “sodomite,” “pederast” and “homosexual.” We do not know exactly what sodomy included back when Sodom existed. We know from Genesis 19 that the sodomites were sexually violent, wanting to rape women and men so I tend to lean toward this as a definition for sodomy. Pederasty similarly describes men sexually abusing young boys. It is arguable that we should change the translation of this word to sodomite which brings across the point that we do not really know exactly what Paul meant when he used this Greek word, but that it seems to involve sexual abuse.
It is interesting, that regardless of how we translate this word, these passages still list sins that we have probably all committed. We’ve lusted, therefore we have committed adultery. We have all told lies and we are probably all greedy. So these passages require explanation regardless of whether they apply to homosexuals specifically or not, in that they apply equally to us all because we are all sinners. The key is found in 1 Corinthians 6:11 “That is what you were.” These sin lists are meant to be a blanket that cover all people. But those who know Jesus no longer identify themselves as sinners but as the saved. So sinners do inherit the kingdom of God (including the sexually immoral, sodomites / pederasts / homosexuals and liars etc.) because they now identify as the Lord’s people, not as their sinful-selves.
So we are left with Romans 1:
Romans 1:26-27 Because of this God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
This is where I must address the notion that the Bible is inerrant. Not only did Jesus re-interpret the Old Testament for us, picking and choosing what he agreed and disagreed with, but we, through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit are to do the same. The Bible never claims to be perfect, nor does it claim to be the word of God. These are things that Christians claim about the Bible. These are also things that Muslims claim about the Quran and yet Christians disagree with them, right? It is dangerous to view any one book as the infallible word of God when the book was clearly written by fallible human beings. What we need to look at is what the Bible claims about itself and about the word of God. The Bible claims to be inspired by God and claims that Jesus Christ is the word of God. So we can trust that the Bible is relevant and has great truths within it because it is inspired by God. It is not dictated by God and it should not be viewed as inerrant when it has blatant historical and scientific errors. Matthew, Mark and Luke did not agree about the number of men and whether they were men or angels at the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus. The book of Joshua says the sun stood still when in fact the sun was already stationary and it was the earth that stopped rotating. These are small human errors that show us the Bible is imperfect. But the Bible is still good, “useful to teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” as it claims to be (2 Tim 3:16).
Jesus Christ being the living word of God, is our exact representation of the Father according to Hebrews 1:3. So who Jesus is revealed to be is our ultimate understanding and model for God himself. In Matthew 19 Jesus said that some “eunuchs” were born that way. The Greek word here “eunouchoi” can refer to a man who has been castrated, or as Jesus said a man born with some reproductive or sexual abnormalities, or perhaps an emasculated or effeminate man. This at least suggests that we have Biblical precedence for people not being born simply male and female. If a man can be born as a eunuch, then likely people can be born gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, intersex or questioning.
Perhaps Paul struggled with this concept when he wrote Romans 1. His culture taught him that homosexuality was wrong and perhaps he did not deviate. But when Corinthians says “every women who prays with her head uncovered dishonours her head,” most Christians today place this into its cultural context and say it is irrelevant now because hair does not have the same symbolic meaning. Or we talk about the husband being the head of his wife and say this has nothing to do with hair (even though the text is clearly talking about head shaving and hair cutting) or we say that it was a Corinthian slogan (this argument I like). But basically a minority of Christian women keep their hair literally covered every time they pray. In the same way, we should acknowledge that even if Paul was speaking literally about homosexuality being sinful in his understanding … he may have been culturally biased.
The Bible promotes love above all else. “The greatest of these is love.” “Love your neighbour as yourself.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is far more important that we as Christians love and accept LGBTIQ people for exactly who and what they are, as they are, than that we stand against some behaviour we can’t unequivocally prove to be either right or wrong.
At the end of the day, we are all sinners who sin every minute of every day. No amount of legislation is going to change that. Making it illegal to be overweight, won’t stop people from overeating, laziness, gluttony etc. and it doesn’t mean that skinny people are actually eating healthy just because they are not overweight. In the same way, prohibiting gay marriage doesn’t stop gay sex from occurring, and doesn’t make the heterosexual person’s sex-life any healthier.
I am not against Gay-LBTIQ marriage because I believe in the higher law of love and that my sins are just as bad as anyone else’s. I’ll happily attend my Uncle’s weddings if they choose to remarry. I believe they should have the option to do what they feel is right for them. For these reasons I vote in support of Gay-LBTIQ marriage.