The Official Student Newspaper of Calvin College Since 1907
March 16, 2007
Volume 101, Issue 23
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Perspectives
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A theological defense of homosexuality

My desire to write this article stems from the challenge that most pro-gay theology has been pretty shoddy, amounting to nothing more than Scripture evasion. In all seriousness, Scripture evasion was a fair first-response defense of homosexuality because it was precisely decontextualized Scripture that was being shoved down the gay community’s throat.

I also wanted something controversial: not only will I argue that it’s OK to be gay, but that God condones gay orientation and subsequent life decisions made in accordance with said orientation. Most religion professors will probably scoff at my arguments. Most students will probably refuse to engage me. To some it is laughable that the long-standing tradition of heterosexuality and marriage could ever be questioned or modified.

I would first like to remind you that “the Reformed Church is always reforming.” This is our motto. The changing tides of culture call us to reexamine our theology. Theology is the vehicle for our faith, and bad or impractical theology is not going to take us anywhere. There is precedent for calling into question the status quo.

First and briefly, the Scripture evasion: there are only a handful of Scriptures that explicitly address homosexual activity. There are the lists (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:9), which are sometimes translated as homosexuality and sometimes not. There is the Sodom and Gomorrah passage that people have unfairly applied to the gay community — most people find it offensive when rape is called sex when it comes to heterosexual interactions, so the same applies for gay interactions.

And then there’s Leviticus 18:22 and 20:18 and Romans 1. In a broad stroke, I’m going to say that these authors did not understand homosexual behavior in the context that we do today — and this is important (for precedent, think of feminist theology and how it has affected our evaluation of women).

Sexual orientation, namely “I’m gay” or “I’m straight,” is a product of a modern individualist society that says: “I’m a woman that feels attracted to men/women so therefore I am straight/gay.” In opposition, role based sexuality says: "I don't care whether I feel attracted to men or women; I am a man so that means I am a son, husband and father.” This is crucial, because role-based identities seemed to be a function of antiquity.

In ancient China, a man would marry his first wife out of his filial duty. If he was wealthy enough, he would marry more wives or entertain male lovers, none of this interfering with his role in society as husband or father.

But the prevailing cultural understanding of homosexuality has dramatically changed — enough for me to think that these passages cannot easily be carried over to our modern society. At any rate, more is needed.

So what did Moses see when God commanded him to say that a man laying with another man is detestable (by the way, so is sleeping with your wife during her menstruation — Lev 20:18)? He probably saw: 1) men in their role-based marriages performing homosexual acts, 2) men after a battle, sodomizing the losing side to emasculate and thus humiliate them, or 3) temple prostitution in honor of false gods, from whom Moses was carving out a definition of the true God, El Shaddai.

He probably saw something similar to what Paul saw when he defined an origin for the homosexual activity that he forbade: “the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom 1: 18). Paul saw people who knew the truth of God via creation and turned their backs against him “because of this” (Romans 1:26) God turned them over to a very nasty lust. And Paul here clearly shows that this lust has a particular origin: turning away from God.

To me these Scriptures don’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that homosexuality today is inherently wrong or that they encompass our current understandings of what homosexuality is. Instead, I propose they must be bracketed and set aside as culturally irrelevant if and only if I can show you from Scripture that there is credence in affirming homosexuality and its expressions (like the way we usually deal with 1 Timothy 2:9-15; though some theologians try pretty hard to make it work).

Again, Scripture evasion is not my goal. For more effective Scripture evasion, check out chapter 7 of “What God Has Joined Together?” (Myers and Scanzoni).

But Scripture evasion, coupled with a feeling of affirmation because “God is love,” has generally been the sum of pro-gay theology. Similarly, anti-gay theology rests its arguments on these Scriptures, coupled with a profound need for homosexuality to be wrong so that current understandings of heterosexual relationships and marriage can stand strong.

Neither argument does it for me.

I see in Scripture broader themes that can guide me in my life as a gay Christian. First, I must respond to the claim by anti-gay theologians (this isn’t really a fair term because many of them have loved me dearly) that there is a picture in Scripture, from beginning to end, of a place for sexuality and its expression, namely between a man and a woman in the context of marriage.

To them I respond: the end of Scripture is not the end of our reality. Feminist, philosopher and psychologist Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen gives the analogy that Scripture is like a Shakespeare play where Shakespeare only wrote the first four acts. He then gives the script to a troupe so that they may read it, study it, learn it and know it to the point that when, during their performance, it comes time to act out the fifth and final act, they are able to perform based on fully intimating themselves with the first four acts. Similarly, we are in the fifth act, and it is decisively different from, though coherent with, the first four, which are represented in Scripture.

In my non-religion-major terminology, I see our reality as beginning with Creation and ending with the New Kingdom. In between, I see an Old Dispensation and a New Dispensation, with Christ being the pivotal point that defines them. The Bible uses such language: “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer. 31:33).

In many ways, Jesus’ fulfillment of the law changed things.

Laura Smit in “Loves Me Loves Me Not,” shows how in the Old Dispensation, a primary function of marriage was to bear children because God’s people was a carnal race that depended on natal birth for its continuation.

In the New Dispensation, Christ shows us that the continuation of God’s people is contingent upon a spiritual rebirth (John 3:7), alleviating marriage as a necessary part of God’s plan for the New Kingdom. This may sound shocking, but it seems consistent with passages in which Jesus seems to speak harshly against family (Luke 14:26 — hating your father and mother; Matt 12:47-48 — Jesus’ disciples are his family).

Most marriage-loving Christians shake these verses off and say, “Well, Jesus has to be your first priority, of course, but family is still important.” But it is more significant than that. Blood no longer has meaning to the Kingdom.

The coup de grace comes in Luke 20:34-35, when Jesus was confronted by Sadducees who were questioning the resurrection. He effectively reminded us that marriage is indeed only “until death do us part.”

What does this mean? God loves and affirms and blesses the institution of marriage, but man built that institution (on Godly principles, of course). I could show more examples, but it will suffice to say that marriage needs to be put in its place so that the heterosexual community may rightly understand their marriages and come to a fuller understanding of God’s plan for gay Christians.

Re-understanding marriage is also how Jesus and Paul find deep significance in celibacy — a newly authenticated extra-marital lifestyle. Though the Old Dispensation saw celibates, they were certainly in the minority. Matthew 19:12 implies that the fact that people will forsake marriage for being a eunuch (not literally) was a shocking one to the disciples. I think that the redefinition of marriage in the New Dispensation that authenticates celibacy is also sufficient to authenticate homosexual unions.

I see a discrepancy regarding marriage. And any time there is a discrepancy between Creation and New Kingdom, we always, in this dispensation, opt for acting out the New Kingdom norms whenever we can because we are in forward motion. The definition of marriage has fundamentally changed, and this is very important to note in our discussion of a pro-gay theology. But I have only yet cleared a path for gay unions. When I look to Scripture I see a few very important themes that can be summarized with the concept of Shalom.

Shalom is God’s desire for peace and wellness both in society and in the individual person. It is a greeting the Hebrew people use with each other — wishing health, wholeness and wellness on the recipient. Many have criticized the gay community for falling into the naturalistic fallacy, which says: “I am this way so I ought to be this way.” I think this is a misunderstanding. Honestly, anti-gay theology is falling back on a similar naturalistic theology when it says: “You were born with a penis/vagina, so you ought to use it properly.” (Any heterosexual who uses that naturalistic argument better not be having non-coital sex; i.e. oral, anal and the like.)

But the true heart-cry of the gay Christian is: “I long to be authentic before God; I long for wholeness.” This is the truth of the current situation: current models for integrating (if any attempt is being made) persons with same-sex attractions into the Christian community are leaving people feeling broken.

Look at Michael Bussee (a co-founder of Exodus International — a Christian-based, ex-gay movement) and Gary Cooper. In 1979, three years after Exodus International was born, the co-founder (Bussee) left the movement to have a commitment ceremony with a man he loved (Cooper).

Also, gay social justice major Matthew Shepard was lashed to a fence and pistol-whipped in 1999 in Wyoming all because the attacker was embarrassed and made fun of by his friends when Shepard asked for a ride home. What kind of culture is the church creating with its attitudes?

Jesus said that we shall know a tree by its fruit, and after meeting many gays who are the fruit of the Church’s efforts, I say, “Church, you are a bad tree.”

I turn to Galatians for my guidance. In Galatians, I see that the cross has purchased freedom. This is not a freedom to live as I please, but a freedom to live and walk under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells me that the acts of the sinful nature are obvious (5:19); they are contrary to the Spirit (5:16- 7).

I know I’m living in the Spirit when I am living out love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. Against such things there is no law (5:22-3).

I see fruit when I look at my own relationship. I am in a relationship with another man. And before you think we’re only about sex, I want to tell you that is not something we want for our relationship right now. Since our relationship began a little under a year ago, my desire to view porn has nearly left me completely. Before meeting each other, we’ve both — much to our chagrin — had one-night stands. I had a jack-in-the-box lifestyle: lust would pop up, I’d indulge it, and I’d push it back down. But now patience and self-control have footholds in my heart. I know true joy being with someone who genuinely cares for me and wants to go through life with me.

I feel my relationship is not only permissible but beneficial.

There is a biblical precedent for committed relationships. I think of Jonathan and David or Ruth and Naomi. I am not about to claim these relationships were sexual, but I bet that if Ruth and Naomi lived in the United States today, Ruth would want to be allowed at Naomi’s deathbed and receive the relief of tax. Civil unions should be celebrated in the church, not feared.

Before I finish my pro-gay theology, I want every reader to understand that I am not trying to minimize sin. Paul clearly sees sin all around him. People used to say that Julius Caesar was every woman’s husband and every man’s wife, a reflection of the perversion of the time. God has wrath towards all mankind that was only alleviated by the cross, the ultimate act of propitiation. The men and women of Romans 1 turned their backs on God. As a result they were given over to sinful lusts. There is such a thing as sexual immorality, and I will not hesitate to say that it is rampant in the gay community’s promiscuous and careless lifestyle. I just do not believe that a committed homosexual couple embodies it.

I am not only carving out a space where my partner and I can worship God in a loving community; I am calling gays to holiness. I am not trying to authenticate the hyper-sexualized gay community at face value. I am advocating what Paul advocates: “It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife” and vice versa (1 Corinthians 7:1). With immorality rampant, it would also be good for homosexuals to settle into committed relationships.

Paul was a master at bridging the gaps between Gentile culture and Godly truths, which is why I have a hard time using Paul as a proof text for what God wants for me. Paul wrote letters and his intention was not always transcendental truth, but practical application. He curbed disruptive women in Timothy’s church by showing how they were to blame for the Fall to humble them, not to make transcendent statements about women.

Paul also conceded marriage because he understood both the break in the significance of marriage and because he understood the needs of his people. I believe if Paul were here today, he would also concede gay marriage because he would understand both the break in the significance of marriage and the needs of gay Christians.

As I write this, my heart is overjoyed because I am finally giving the heterosexual community something to grapple with. I am not merely dismissing Scripture in favor of a feeling but seeking truth and authenticity in my life via Scripture.

So please: take your potshots; try to pigeonhole my arguments –—I will not be too prideful to say I am wrong if I am convicted by your words. Regardless, I am finally finding peace to replace my anger.

 
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