Lately there has been a lot of discussion in social media about homosexuality and equal rights particularly pertaining to the right to marry. I’ve been flamed previously for making pro-Christian comments and for making pro-equality statements, so here I am coming out of the closet on my views.
I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I’m a Christian of sorts. My beliefs aren’t orthodox and I’ve had lots of conflict with church leaders over the years. For example, I believe:
* God is not male, God is a spirit who ‘created humankind in [God’s] own image, male and female [God] created them‘, so God is the best of both sexes and GOD DOES NOT HAVE A PENIS. (NB: ‘created’ means helped or guided evolution; the Bible was written by a primitive people in more primitive times)
* Jesus said the most important commandments were to love God and love one another. Jesus said don’t judge others or you’ll be judged by the same standard you apply to other people: in other words, before you start meddling in other people’s lives, sort out your own shit. This includes ensuring no leader in the church is a paedophile, committing adultery, fornication, abusing spouse or children, all church leaders should abide by laws such as paying the correct amount of tax and driving within the speed limit etc.
* women are created equal to men
I linked this image from George Takei on facebook today. (Image now deleted)
The conversation that followed went like this:
Me: what are you disagreeing with specifically? In Corinthians Paul says women shouldn’t have short hair and they should keep their hair covered or they would bring condemnation onto themselves and their church. This was cultural: a woman with short hair in that culture was assumed to have been caught in prostitution. Covering themselves was either referring to wearing something on their heads (cultural) or being ‘under headship’ i.e. the authority of a man. The latter was cultural as well, and the necessity of which is effectively contradicted in a number of places in the Bible. If you’re going to argue that women are still supposed to be subordinate to men, this conversation is over.
Me: so you’re against allowing non-Christian homosexuals to marry.
Stephen: “I’m not going to get into this here.” I’ve commented on a post on my wall. One I disagree with. I’ll leave it there.
I’ve known Stephen for 22 years. I know he knows church leaders who have committed tax fraud: one elder instructed a pastor in how to claim his wife’s non-business sports care and their entire petrol usage for 2 sports cars as a business expense. Other people we both know include a few couples on the youth committee who had sex before marriage while in leadership (they remained in leadership if sufficiently well connected within the church). A pastor we both know told a battered wife that her husband ‘wouldn’t feel the need to hit [her] if [she was] a better wife.’ I know many worse stories involving Christians in leadership who have made homophobic statements, but I’m trying to only think of people that Stephen and I both know.
While I was a member of the church we shared, a former pastor attended a course on ethics at the bible college. In the first lesson that former pastor told everyone that he believed that there was a special place in hell for homosexuals. I was the first person to step up and challenge him, followed shortly afterwards by two other people who went on to become leaders in the church (she was the daughter of another pastor, he became her husband; this is why they got away with this kind of behaviour). The lecturer did not intervene for some time, and when he did intervene it was only to close down the argument.
In hindsight I should have dropped out of that course immediately, because it set the tone for a hellish year, including setting a precedent for another student abusing me for an hour and a half for an assignment where I presented on equality of the sexes; that student also approached the principle of the school demanding that I be expelled. The principle had made a point of attending my oral presentation and informed that student that the college agreed with my position on that topic. Not all Christians in leadership have superior entitlement issues.
After years in churches where homophobia was the norm, one of my favourite people came out of the closet to me. Most of our friends didn’t know he was gay but we got on so well he even approached me – very gently – about possibly having a child for him and his partner. I couldn’t carry a child and give it away so I said no. This didn’t impact on our friendship at all; it was only when my family and I moved to Adelaide and he moved to Sydney that we lost touch.
There were so many things this friend said that got me thinking. Like the above image from George, I came to the conclusion that the Bible was anti-homosexual in an era when diversity of the gene pool was important. Even so, the Bible acknowledges that homosexuality existed even from ancient times.
The apostle Paul made statements against homosexuality: this is fact. It is also fact that Paul was also against heterosexual relationships. Paul’s ideal was for no sexual relationship whatsoever, but if people were so weak that they absolutely had to have sex then he wanted people to be married.
1 Corinthians 7:1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband…. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am [celibate].
Chapter 7 continues on, talking about Paul’s recommendation for people to remain single but to get married if they really want sex. Paul deserted his wife to hunt down and destroy Christians then converted to Christianity but didn’t return to his wife, he stayed celibate. He then tells other people how to live their lives including advocating celibacy as the better path.
Paul’s arguments are entirely invalid for people who are not Christians who also do not live in Ancient Rome as Paul was talking to Christians about what Christians should do. Paul wasn’t telling Christians to dictate to their broader culture. Homosexuality was accepted practice in Paul’s time and yet he doesn’t tell Christians to go out and campaign against homosexuality, denying homosexuals equal rights. Paul talks about evangelism – converting people to Christianity – and about how Christians should live in that day and age. Period.
Jesus said of the woman caught in adultery, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ The woman caught in adultery is an example of non-conformist sexuality in Jesus’ time. Once everyone who came to condemn the woman had left, Jesus said to the woman that he did not condemn her either. Christians who condemn consenting adults are acting against Jesus’ better example, hypocritically proclaiming self-righteousness. Christians who call upon Paul’s teaching to support anti-homosexual campaigns should also be celibate as Paul recommended.
Christians taking these aggressive accusatory stances are dividing communities while behaving like Pharisees and Sadducees. Instead of judging others whilst at fault themselves, how about extending the hand of friendship and working towards a more loving, accepting, world?
What did Jesus do?