Monday, 16 July 2012

5 reasons why I can't follow a religion that condemns homosexuality

1. What I know of Jesus.

Society is obsessed with sex, the church is obsessed with sex, human beings are obsessed with sex. Jesus, was not obsessed with sex. In fact, sex wasn’t really a topic Jesus is recorded as talking about. The closest Jesus got to giving us guidance on relationships was in urging people not to divorce. This tells us that Jesus is big on commitment, monogamy, and love, suggesting these are the keys to a healthy relationship rather than gender.

Jesus told us to love others, to give to the needy, to forgive, not to worry, to not judge others, to seek him, to give freely, to recognise that we are
valuable, to acknowledge him, to love God, to lead others to him, and to trust in him. Yet I’ve never known someone to get kicked out of a church for being stingy with their money, for worrying, for having low self-esteem. So why does the church decide that being gay is a greater evil than the sins that actively disobey Jesus’ teachings?

I always like to think about if Jesus were here today, right here amongst us, and living in our culture and our times. Do you think Jesus would be a vicar who exiles members of his church upon hearing they are gay? Do you think Jesus would be a leader of a Christian organisation who keeps a blog in which he constantly speaks out against all gay people? Do you think Jesus would be a Bishop who expresses fear and disgust at the idea of homosexuality? Do you think Jesus would start a campaign rallying people to deny gay people equal rights? Do you think Jesus would marginalise, discriminate, or even hate? Do you think Jesus would judge a person based on their sexuality rather than who they really are inside? Do you think Jesus would perpetuate division in the church over the issue? Do you think Jesus would hold up a sign saying “I hate fags”?

Do you think, that if you could answer yes to any of those questions, that you would even want to follow that Jesus?

The Jesus I know is about goodness- love, acceptance, forgiveness. He isn’t about casting blind, blanket judgement.

2. What I know of God.

God created me. He planned what I would be like, and he put this plan into action when my DNA first existed on this earth. He knew the twists and turns my life would take, and he knew that one day, when I was 18 years old, I would meet someone special. Someone who complemented my personality perfectly, someone whose DNA fitted together with mine in a very beautiful way, someone whose face made my God given body parts flutter and dance, someone I could share a love for him with, someone who brought me happiness, someone who made my soul sit up and wonder what had just hit it. Someone who he had formed before birth, who he had planned a life for, who he loves very, very much.

God is good, a fundamental Christian truth. Would it be good to create two amazingly compatible people, who were bound to fall in love because of the way they were created, because of the life they’d had, to watch their independent lives as they edged closer and closer to the moment their worlds collided, to watch the joy they brought each other, only to say “nah, not allowed”?

Would it make any sense at all for God to create gay people, or allow them to be gay, knowing that they are severely disadvantaged in terms of their eligibility for Christianity? It would be like a mother only allowing her children to be part of the family if they are born blonde. The child can either live their life dying their hair blonde, covering up who they really are, or they can face inevitable exclusion. Church leaders require celibacy from gay people, yet this would be like the mother making the child shave their head- its ok to have the genes of a brunette, but you cannot practise being brunette, you cannot outwardly be brunette, you cannot enjoy your brown hair, and you will surely never be loved because of it. Oh, and don’t forget the blonde sibling, they’ll shun the brunette too, telling them that they must shave their head, that mum won’t want them otherwise. But isn’t that incredibly easy for the blonde to say? How would the blonde child feel if they were the one who would never feel good enough, would never be good enough? 

Does God love us unconditionally? Does he love us regardless of our sexuality? Would he want us living as people we are not inside? Would it be fair of him to create us all, heterosexual and homosexual, knowing that only the former are allowed to enjoy sexual, close relationships? Would God really expect homosexual people to deny, ignore and resist and entire part of who they really are?

The God I know loves us unconditionally, and is fair, and wants the best for us. Can this still be true for a God who does not accept his gay children? If God were a God who rejected the love of a person (towards him) because of their love for a person of the same sex (who he created to be compatible), then is this a God you would want to follow?

3. What I know of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit (among other things): anoints for service, assures, calls and commissions, convicts us of sin, guides us in truth, helps us in our weakness, lives in us, leads us, moulds our character, and teaches us.

So I’m a Christian, the Holy Spirit therefore lives in me and does all of the above tasks. So why do other Christians try and take over the role of the Holy Spirit in my life? Why does my (former) vicar think that his conviction of my sins, his anointing, his truth, his guidance, is greater than that of the Holy Spirit’s in my life?

I have certainly struggled over whether I am right to pursue same-sex relationships. I have looked to Jesus and found he said little about it, but that his emphasis on love does not condemn me. I have looked to God and figured he loves me unconditionally. But to be absolutely sure, I feel like I need to listen to the Holy Spirit, to let him guide me. I let the Holy Spirit convict me, any Christian knows that feeling of conviction, it isn’t quite like guilt, it’s not necessarily a sudden remorse, it isn’t even always a desire to repent. It’s just that feeling deep within that lets you know you’re barking up the wrong tree, that what you’re doing isn’t what God wants you to be doing. But in regards to my sexuality, I am not yet convicted. I am passionate about seeing equality in this area, I am alive with thoughts and arguments (more than I have ever had about any topic), I am (humbly!) proud to be who God made me to be, I feel like my purpose is to be an agent of change on this issue.

Either, the HS isn’t doing his job very well, which is a ludicrous claim as God does everything perfectly, or I am simply defying the HS, which wouldn’t make sense for me to do- why would I change my ways based on what the Spirit was telling me in all areas except one. Or maybe I’m not really a Christian and so the HS isn’t really in me, in which case why am I ever convicted about anything? Or maybe it’s the devil who is enticing me to false security, making me think it’s ok when it isn’t… but if that’s the case then I don’t see how I’m not powerless to that in which case I don’t see how it’s my fault.

Long story short, the Holy Spirit lets me know when I am doing things wrong, and someone else telling me I’m wrong isn’t going to make any difference unless I hear it first from God himself.

4. What I know of the Church.

The church is made up of people, people get things wrong, ergo the church can get things wrong.

Let’s imagine the church is right, and it really is sinful to be in a same-sex relationship. Does that mean the church is right to marginalise gay people? That it is right for them to put homosexuality on top of the hierarchy of sin (that they have created)? There is no denying the church has gone the wrong way about it all, even if they are right.

The hypocrisy of church is a theme that runs through this entire blog, because the church is repeatedly undermining its own authority on the issue. Divorce, sex before marriage, financial sins, pride, unforgiveness etc etc… the congregation arrives each Sunday rife with sins that they don’t intend to repent from. Some feign repentance and some hide the sin altogether, and quite often the church turns a blind eye. They take the mentality of ‘if we can’t see it then it isn’t happening’, and how many people do you think remain active members of the church, leaders even, under this pretence?

Then someone like me comes along, I don’t start serving until I know the church would be comfortable with it, I don’t hide my ‘sin’ or my intention to ‘sin’, I don’t make excuses. I tell them outright that I am in a same-sex relationship. And it’s game over, my only lifeline is to repent from something that I do not believe is a sin. I am penalised for being honest, I am outside the church while all those with covert affairs, numerous marriages, ill-gotten gains, a disinterest in the needy, hatred in their hearts, are on the inside. None of us are without sin, yet my ‘sin’ is not allowed to co-exist alongside the sin of other church goers.

If the church treated me in the same way that it treats straight people, then I might actually listen to what it has to say. All I can see is one set of rules for one group, and another for us.

Another issue I take with the church, is it’s equation of homosexuality with sex. The bible seems to say a lot more about sexual immorality in general than homosexuality and for that reason, I personally believe abstaining until marriage/civil partnership is the best way. That means that, unlike a lot of Christians (a LOT more than the church is willing to recognise) I am not being sexually immoral, yet I am treated as if I am. When I was kicked out of my church they said to me “we’re kicking out the straight couple who are having premarital sex too”, as if that assures me of their equality. But I just felt frustrated, that I am trying to be as holy and godly as possible, considering the fact my sexual attraction to the same-sex will never be seen as holy or godly, and yet I am placed in the ‘sexual sin bin’.

Being gay only leads to sexual sin because it is impossible for us to confine sex for marriage- because the church withholds marriage from us! If we could get married, then we could keep sex sacred (from the viewpoint of the church) and be treated in the same way as our heterosexual brothers and sisters, without having a ‘sexual sin stamp’ placed on our forehead.

The only way homosexual people can meet the standards of the church is to never have sex, whether in a civil partnership or not. This is unfair, shows no compassion, is very easy for a married heterosexual with a life of abundant sex to say, and doesn’t allow a gay person to express who they truly are. Not to mention we have to somehow never lust, somehow quench any sexual attraction that naturally comes with love, somehow cease to be sexual beings altogether. It is completely repressive, and makes me imagine the church as some sort of slave driver, who enjoys a lavish lifestyle while laughing at the slaves who will never get a taste of it.

So the church needs to stop criminalising homosexuality, to stop making it into a bigger sin than any other, to stop assuming being homosexuality invalidates you as a serving member of the church, to stop placing unrealistic expectations on gay people, to stop repressing them, marginalising them and treating them differently. And to stop assuming that being in love with someone of the same sex means that we are all automatically sinners.

5. What I know of the bible

This is the crux of the matter. Those few words printed in that book are the beginning of all of this. If just a few words in the bible had been omitted, or translated differently then (technically) there would be no argument whatsoever to assume homosexuality is wrong, as a Christian.

Firstly, we are going to have to assume the bible is infallible. That means there is no chance it has been interpreted wrongly, there is no way that they views express the writers’ rather than God’s, that every word written has been preserved with its original meaning intact.

I’ll let us assume that, because it’s a widely held view by Christians that the bible is infallible. But then we’ve got more issues, the issue of context mainly. Can a Christian categorically, definitely, doubtlessly argue that the few verses which mention homosexuality are a) relevant to our culture, b) semantically interpreted in a way that reflects the context of the time it was written, and c) are read with regard to the immediate context of the surrounding verses.

I won’t go into the verses here, because I have before and because there are many websites explaining it better than I can.

But what I know of the bible, is that it has a whole lot more about a whole many more issues. Homosexuality is a tiny issue embedded between teachings about hundreds of things. It is a secondary issue, with doctrinal teaching requiring our main attention. Where it is briefly mentioned, there is ambiguity around translation, context, intent, applicability etc.

I follow as much of the bible as I can, and the bits I don’t manage I repent of. But I don’t see how, or why, I should follow a few questionable verses which defy my very nature and innate being. I go back to my earlier analogy- imagine there was a verse that said “brown hair is unnatural and detestable,” firstly, you would think it unfair that you were penalised for the way you were made, you’d be frustrated that you had to spend your life covering up or denying the way you were made. You would find it almost impossible to imagine how God could say such a thing, or how other Christians could so easily pass judgement on you.

Now imagine, that the verses saying your hair is a sinful colour, might not be so true. Imagine it was translated wrongly, it might not mean ‘hair’ as such but might actually mean ‘wig’ and it’s been saying all along that brown wigs are sinful. But if it did mean hair, then it turns out, that at the time brown hair had entirely different connotations, meaning it meant a lot more back then than simply hair colour, that brown hair was used in an evil way which it isn’t used anymore. Imagine there was a small chance the verse was only there because the writer didn’t like brown- haired people.

All the blonde people don’t bother to look into whether the verse meant wig, or whether the verses apply in the current context. They don’t need to- they are blonde, if the bible says being brunette is sinful then it is. They’ll point out to all the brunettes who haven’t shaved their heads, or dyed their hair, that they don’t belong, that they can’t be members of the church, that they don’t deserve the same rights as blonde people. All the while, the brunettes will easily say that the verses are out of context, translated wrongly, that condemnation based on the way they are born does not tie in with the overall message of the bible, that even if it is completely wrong then that doesn’t give the church the right to treat them badly.


And so, those are five reasons that the church's anti-gay stance infuriates me. If homosexuality is sinful after all then there is still no justification for the way gay people are treated by the church and by other Christians. The God I know puts love over condemnation, grace over law, and understanding over judgement. And that is the God I choose to follow.

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