Why Christians Should Embrace the LGBT Community

Night City Lights Abstract Heart Bokeh Trick

There are to be no second-class citizens in the United States! We established a long time ago that “separate is not equal,” and all American citizens are entitled to enjoy equality under the law. Any society that presumes to refer to itself as “decent” and “civilized” must not in any way discriminate against any group of people through its laws or their enforcement.

We should have learned this painful lesson during the struggle for African American civil rights, and we must now apply that lesson in this struggle for full and equal civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (hitherto referred to as LGBT) people. LGBT people are entitled to the same rights and privileges that accrue to all other citizens of the United States

Gay people are certainly entitled to full and equal civil rights, including the right to marry! The lies and other nonsense purveyed by many self-proclaimed arbiters of “morality,” often cloaked in the guise of religion, that same-sex marriage destroys “the sanctity of marriage” is ludicrous on its face!

I have been married to my wife for fifty two years, and I can’t see how same-sex marriage will in any way negatively impact my marriage or in any way destroy the sanctity of my marriage! No rational person can believe that same-sex marriage in any way compromises the institution of marriage, an institution that has taken many forms in our history.

As a Christian, I am profoundly embarrassed and outraged by those professing Christians who are in the vanguard of discrimination against LGBT people; who spew hateful rhetoric, borne out of their ignorance and/or their hatred and/or their avariciousness, that is diametrically opposed to anything Jesus said, lived, or taught to all who would claim to be His disciples! Indeed, Jesus saved His harshest words for those who claimed to be “godly” and yet sought to put yokes of bondage onto others!

Christians love other people, and the only Gospel to be found in Christianity is comprised of: grace (God’s unmerited favor to us), faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances), love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness. There is no other Gospel!

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we are to love and not judge or condemn others! Any professing Christian who thinks that he/she is representing Jesus by doing the very opposite of what Jesus told us to do is not only seriously misled, but is woefully misleading the public, many of whom are gullible enough to take the purveyors of the false gospel of legalism and perfectionism seriously.

Moreover, we are under the Constitution of the United States and we are not a Theocracy! Since when are we to take a group of people’s understanding of the Bible, an “understanding” far more informed by their preconceived prejudices than it is by anything else, and enshrine those prejudices into our laws of the land; impose those prejudices onto a minority group that all too many professing Christians and others view as being relatively “safe” to persecute?

The discrimination against LGBT people in the names of “Christianity,” “morality,” “tradition,” “the well being of our children,” and any other specious reasons given for this oppression has many of us saying: “Enough is enough!” We’re not going to take it anymore!

For those of us who are Christians, we are sick and tired of having those who would hate and/or discriminate against others presume to speak for us! For those of us who are heterosexual, we are sick and tired of watching our LGBT sisters and brothers be oppressed! For those of us who are LGBT, we are sick and tired of being viewed and treated as second-class citizens, denied marital and other rights and benefits that heterosexual taxpaying citizens are given and take for granted.

In sum, LGBT rights activists demand full and equal civil rights that every other citizen of the United States possesses, and we won’t rest or stop until that goal is achieved!

Christianity and Morality

Woman Reading a Book in Bed

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:102)

The above verses of Scripture show that we must strive to lay down our lives for God’s sake. It is in giving our bodies and minds over to Him that He can best use us; this entails sacrifice that must be considered our “reasonable service.” We are enjoined to struggle to increasingly lay our lives down so that God can use us; the more we give ourselves over to Him and His sovereign working in us, the more He can and will use us for His purposes.

Unfortunately, we often equate the manifestation of virtues deemed to be “moral” with Christianity itself. By equating the two we are in error and set ourselves up to be viewed as hypocrites. Many of God’s people sometimes behaved “immorally.”

For example, in our culture, incest is forbidden. Yet, Abraham, the father of the faith, the friend of god, married his half-sister. (Genesis 20:12) Lying is immoral. Yet, both Abraham and his wife, Sarah, lied to Abimelech (Genesis 20:5), as they had previously done with Pharaoh (Genesis 12:13) to ostensibly help save Abraham’s life. This role model of faith didn’t trust God enough to protect him, and was willing to let his wife be sexually used by others. Lot offered his daughters to be raped by the people of Sodom rather than let them homosexually rate the two angels sent by God. (Genesis 19:8) Rahab was a prostitute, yet considered by God to be a hero of faith. (Hebrews 11:31) David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and arranged the murder of his lover’s husband.

How can we reconcile our obligation not to lie, commit incest, offer our daughters to be raped, commit adultery, or murder with the standing of those who belong to God as His anointed ones? It is because “morals” are not the major part of the Christian message; our transgression of them is seen by God from the very foundation of the world.

Clearly, God’s ways and his assessment of people are not our ways. Before we were born He knew what we would do. Before they were even born He said, “… Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Romans 8:13) Frankly, I much prefer Esau to the conniving Jacob who stole his brother’s birthright and conned his blind father into giving him Esau’s inheritance. Just one more example: before Ishmael was even born God said to Hagar, given to Abram by his wife Sarai to have sexual relations so as to beget a child, “And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him …” (Genesis 16:12)

God’s people are all sinners and transgress morality. By equating morality with Christianity we do so at our peril. There are many atheists who are moral, decent people. What distinguishes the Christian from the atheist or anyone else is not only behavior that allows God’s light to shine through, but the faith we have in Him to keep His promises to us, to save and keep us, and to love and accept us, as He knew we would before we were even born. What defines a Christian is the knowledge that only God is our righteousness!

The Apostle Paul knew he was immoral. (Romans 7:15-25) Yet, he would say to the Sanhedrin, “…Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” (Acts 23:1) He could only make this remarkable statement because he knew that he was a sinner in the very core of his being. Although he sought to present his body a living sacrifice and be transformed by the renewing of his mind, these actions were processes, not accomplishments. He knew that his faith was not defined by conventional morality, although he made it clear that we were not to use our liberty in Christ as a license to sin, hinder the Gospel, or to cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble in the faith. He was able to have a clear conscience despite his sins and sin-nature because he trusted Christ to be his only righteousness and to deliver him to God as one whose sins were covered over by the shed Blood of Christ.

One of the most compelling reasons to take the Bible seriously is that it doesn’t sanitize the failings of God’s people. They commit incest, they murder, they are prostitutes, they are adulterers, and they are liars. Sometimes they don’t trust God. Even the father of faith, Abraham, after being called by God, Who appeared to him, and given the promises that He would “…make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great….” (Genesis 12:2,10) ran to Egypt because of a famine in the land that God promised him and his descendants.

What differentiates the Christian from all others lies not particularly in the area of morality, but lies in his or her tenaciously hanging onto God as his or her fortress, enabler, defender, and deliverer! And being LGBT isn’t immoral in the first place, so all of God’s children, chosen from the foundation of the world, have no reason to feel condemned by God!

Never Let Other People Define Your Reality

Young Man Watching the Sunrise From Top of the Mountain

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:38-39

From the time my children were born I exhorted them to obey as a mantra the title of this article. God is to be our Revelator, not mere man! As Isaiah said, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? — Isaiah 2:22

The scriptures above tell us that nothing can separate us from the love of God to those who “… call upon the name of the Lord”. (Romans 10:13) We are frequently hammered over the head by perhaps well-intentioned people within and without the Church as to how to think and behave in order to be a Christian. Preachers and evangelists frequently bombard us with guilt-inducing sermons designed to make us feel fragile and fallen. Of course, we are fragile and fallen creatures, and that is why the Church is a hospital for the spiritually sick.

One example of seeking to define others’ realty is that on this very day, a Methodist pastor, Rev. Frank Schaeffer, who blessed the union of his gay son’s marriage was told in a “church trial” that he must renounce same-sex marriage or be defrocked as a minister in the Methodist church. This pastor has stated that he will continue to bless same-sex unions, and it’s very likely that he’ll be defrocked by that denomination. This courageous man refuses to let anyone or any institution define his reality for him!

What a travesty that this church would seek to define his reality and punish him for showing love and acceptance to God’s gay children. It is an outrage that bespeaks the loss of credibility to a church that claims to have “open heart, open hands, open doors.” It is attempting to usurp the conscience of Rev. Schaeffer and enact punishment that violates its very stated tenets.

There is nothing that we can do that takes God by surprise! God is not stupid! He has known from the foundation of the world what each of us would do and how each of us would respond to the free gift of His Sacrifice on our behalf. Moreover, He knows us better than we know ourselves!

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down and art acquainted with all my ways. — Psalm 139:2-3

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! Not even our sins! That’s the Good News of the Gospel!

We even see this type of God’s unmerited favor to us in the Old Testament.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who dealeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who croweth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies… As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressioins from us… For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. — Psalm 103:2-4, 12-14

And that is what we all are: mere dust whom God has inscrutably chosen to use to fulfill His will on this earth.

The easiest way to go astray is to let others, including denominations and other professing Christians, tell us what to think and how to act and, thereby, put us into bondage to their views of the world and their view of how a Christian is to think and act. Clearly, we don’t want to cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble or cause hindrance to the proclamation of the Gospel. Moreover, we are to struggle to live up to God’s will for each of our lives. However, it is a struggle, not an accomplishment. Even the Apostle Paul said that with his mind he served the law of God; “… but with the flesh the law of sin”. (Romans 7:25)

You must not be inauthentic, manifesting seemingly desirable attributes as peace and sweetness when you don’t possess these attributes. God has called us all to be authentic so He can use us as we are and as He and He alone can mature us in the faith. You may solicit others’ advice regarding problems in your life, but if these people love you they will respect your choices, even if they disagree with them.

There has been a long tradition in Catholicism that one’s “informed conscience” trumps any papal pronouncement, Church dogma, and teachings from the Magesterium, or teaching arm, of the Church. There is good reason for this tradition, and that is that in Christianity one size doesn’t fit all. You aren’t a Christian on the basis of what you do as much as you are a Christian on the basis of what you are; what you are is comprised of God’s imputation of His righteousness to you because you trust Him.

Let God have His way with you and never let others define your reality or put you into bondage to their views of the world. Their views may be right for them, but not necessarily right for you.

Some Christians are more mature than others. However, it is God Who does the maturation process within each of us—an accomplishment that no human being can achieve. Before we can mature, we must become broken before God; unfortunately, others may likely home in on our frailties and brokenness—the very qualities that God can use to mature us in the faith and enact His will upon the earth.

Therefore, practicing this article’s title will set you free to be more fully used by God!

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. — John 8:36

And LGBT, and all, Christians are free, if we truly internalize the Gospel that Jesus taught and epitomized!

Churches Must Forfeit Tax-Exempt Status

As I’ve often contended, there are two venues in which civil and sacramental rights for LGBT people must be fought: the courts, and homophobic churches the influence of which cannot be underestimated. In the latter venue, peaceful and continual picketing during services of selected homophobic churches in each city or jurisdiction, showing how their false gospel of exclusion is antithetical to the Gospel of grace, faith, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness, should be undertaken.

When you hit, or threaten to hit, discriminatory institutions in the pocketbook, we might reasonably expect them to tone down their hateful rhetoric and discriminatory actions. Withholding funds, such as removing churches’ tax-exempt status, can be a major way of gutting the homophobic rhetoric and actions that exists in many, if not most, denominations and churches, because those churches would then lack sufficient funds to bankroll the prevention of equal civil rights as has hitherto existed. For the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to give just two examples, to enjoy tax exempt status is, in my opinion, a profound injustice!

I am a Christian who is quite theologically conservative, and not only don’t I see any warrant to prevent same-sex marriage, or justify any type of homophobia, in the Bible, I am also adamant about the need for the separation of Church and State.

Currently, the Church and the State have become so enmeshed with each other that most “conservative” churches extol as virtues Americanism, patriotism, militarism, and capitalism. Indeed, most of the institutional Church is a handmaiden of the State, and often parrots the ideology of the power elite in secular society, and does so by calling it “biblical.”

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth! If anything, the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, subscribes to anything but capitalism, as can be easily seen when reading Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-37.

In any case, it’s a profound tragedy that it’s quite likely that if you ask the average person to say the first word that comes to his/her mind when the word “Christian” is said, “Love” is not likely to be that word! We’re far more likely to hear words such as “sin” and “discrimination,” thanks to the perversion of the Gospel of grace (the only Gospel to be found in Christianity) that exists in most of the institutional Church. It is crucial that discrimination, be it in the religious or secular arena, be taken to the judiciary, and not pathetically taken to the public to win their votes on this or any civil rights matter! And, we must do our best to remove public funding of church and para-church organizations.

After all, if clergy within denominations and churches really have faith in God to provide for their needs, they don’t need tax-exemption to help fund their operation!

There Must Be No Homophobic Churches

“O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” (Isaiah 3:12) “… he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.” (Isaiah 5:7) About twenty years ago, I was asked by a pastor of a Presbyterian Church to speak to the congregation and community members who would attend as to why gay people should not be ordained to the ministry. Conventionally reading the Bible, I saw such words as “abomination” and “against nature” ostensibly associated with homosexuality, and I thought it was a no-brainer. To my current embarrassment, I gave that speech.

Subsequent to giving that speech, I started to think more deeply about the issue and asked myself the question, “Why would someone voluntarily choose to become part of a despised minority group?” I started searching the Scriptures, looking up the original languages to see what they meant and, more importantly, what they didn’t mean. I also read extra-biblical sources on the subject and finally decided that the Bible not only did not condemn same-sex loving relationships but, in fact, tacitly affirmed them.

I examined the relationship between David and Jonathan and saw that even a cursory reading of the biblical account of their relationship showed King David, called a man after God’s own heart (1Samuel 13:14), to have been at the very least a bisexual. (1Sam. 20:30-31; 41-42; 2Sam. 1:26; 9:1) Moreover, in Matthew 8, a centurion beseeches Jesus to heal his servant. The typical Greek word that is translated “servant,” although a more accurate translation is “slave,” is doulos. However, in Matthew 8, the Greek word that is translated in the King James Version of the Bible as “servant” is pais and, given this account as recorded in Luke 7 that says that this slave (doulos) was “dear unto him” (Luke 7:2), it may very well be translated “slave boy.”

The term “slave boy” was a term that was commonly used to describe one who was in a homosexual relationship in those times. That may well be why the centurion was so concerned about this particular slave. (If he was a young boy, this would be considered pedophilia, and not condoned by the Bible.) This being a reasonable and probable translation in Matthew 8 given the context (Such as seen in Charles B. Williams, The New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People.), it is interesting that Jesus never condemned the centurion’s relationship with his slave boy, and He had the perfect opportunity to do so if He felt that their relationship was in any way sinful or inappropriate. Jesus merely commended the centurion on his faith and promptly proceeded to heal the man’s slave boy.

The legalists and the self-righteous, smug fundamentalist professing Christians, who seem to monopolize the media, don’t speak for Christianity — at least not the Christianity that I know. These purveyors of a false Gospel impose their prejudices on the Bible, selectively picking certain verses that they feel affirm those prejudices, and preach a message of legalism and perfectionism that is diametrically opposed to the Gospel of grace, faith, love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness.

The Apostle Paul, who adamantly fought legalism (Acts 15; Ephesians 2:8-9), saved his harshest words for those who preach a false Gospel. He said in Galatians 1:8 concerning those who preach a false Gospel, “… let him be accursed.” He felt so strongly about those who preach legalism rather than the Gospel of grace that he repeated himself in the very next verse.

To be “accursed” is to be damned by God! In other words, he wrote, “God damn them.” (Galatians 1:8-9) Once can’t use any stronger language than that! These preachers of a false Gospel have wittingly or unwittingly attempted to hijack the true Gospel and redefine Christianity in their own twisted image of God, the Bible, the world, and of themselves. They make Christians look like a pack of hate-mongering, harsh, judgmental freaks and I terribly resent it!

Every single church and denomination is obligated to embrace and welcome into its fellowship everyone who worships Christ as his or her savior, and afford each such person full rights of inclusion, including the partaking of every sacrament of the Church, as befit members of the Body of Christ! Yet, many denominations are struggling with issues surrounding the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (hereafter to be called GLBT) people. The struggle is said to largely center on biblical interpretation regarding gay people and their relationships, as well as Christian tradition, despite the fact that Jesus says we make void the Word of God by our traditions. (Matthew 15:3)

Many people who seek to deny GLBT people rights of ordination, marriage, and other rights and privileges that accrue to others, may be well-intentioned, but they are misinformed. The root of this misinformation is largely the religious leadership that seeks to impose their world-views that bespeak ignorance and insensitivity upon not only other people, but upon the Bible and upon God Himself.

Just as Peter’s experience of Cornelius in Acts 10 showed him that even Gentiles were receiving God’s Spirit, we must realize that GLBT Christians can receive, and many have received, God’s Spirit as well, as the reception of God’s Spirit has absolutely nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation. Many people in the Church still think of GLBT people as Peter and Paul once thought of Gentiles. Yet God told them, and us, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” (Acts 10:15)

Peter and Paul called the Jewish Christian church in their day to not merely tolerate Gentile Christians, but welcome their full inclusion. Similarly, in our day we are being called by God to not merely tolerate GLBT Christians, but welcome their full inclusion in every aspect of the Church and society.

Had it not been for adherence to God’s revelation concerning inclusiveness, Paul would not have had a ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47), and had it not been for Paul and his ministry, Christianity would likely be but a mere sect of Judaism, rather than its fulfillment! We must obey God; not man-made dogmas, rules, regulations, and traditions!

On June 17, 2004, Reuters reported, “The Roman Catholic Church in Massachusetts is considering firing gay employees who marry their same-sex partners in the only American state where such unions are legal, a church official said on Thursday.” Hence, even though the law in Massachusetts permits same-sex marriage, the Roman Catholic Church, viewing gay relationships as “intrinsically disordered,” may seek to discriminate against those who take advantage of that law.

Given the extensive sex abuse scandals that have rocked that denomination, it would seem prudent for it to take the beam out of its own eye before tackling what isn’t even a speck in another’s eye. Yet, sexuality and sexual orientation are such highly charged topics for them, and most others, that they may feel free to disregard the law and discriminate against people who seek to make a lifetime commitment to each other before God and the community through the sacrament of marriage.

Marriage is a matter of love, but also a matter of legal and property rights! Just ask anyone who has gone through a divorce! As citizens, GLBT people have every right to partake of the same rights and privileges, as well as the responsibilities, as other citizens.

Why would we allow a bunch of celibate men, men who seemingly choose to deny a core part of the self, a deep primal urge and vehicle for the expression of deepest intimacy between two people, be allowed to define romantic and sexual reality for us? In this vein, we must ask, “Why are so many ‘religious’ people, clergy and non-clergy alike, so obsessed with others’ love and sexual lives that they read into Scripture, taking a few passages out of context and without regard to the original languages, justification for discriminating, stigmatizing, demonizing, and oppressing GLBT people, which judgment and discrimination is clearly un-Scriptural?” Their prejudices have clearly blinded them to the biblical mandate to love others and not judge or oppress them!

The Gospel of love trumps any particular verse or verses of Scripture, particularly those taken out of context and interpreted without regard to the original languages. In Leviticus, the men who sought to gang rape the two angels weren’t gay, as Lot wouldn’t have offered his virgin daughters to them. If they were gay, young women certainly would have been no inducement to them. The issue was gang rape, abusing others, not sexual orientation or gay relationships.

Indeed, whenever Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in Scripture, homosexuality is never mentioned as its sin. Rather, the sins that are dealt with are inhospitality and not taking care of the poor. Moreover, if the two angels who visited Lot’s house had been women, it is unlikely that those professing Christians who discriminate against GLBT people would be condemning heterosexuality!

The word translated “homosexual” in some translations (Such as the New English Bible: New Testament.) is arsenekoitai, an obscure Greek word, which actually means “male bed.” It probably refers to male cult prostitution (See the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.) that was not uncommon in much of the ancient world, where sex was sometimes a worshipful act to various pagan deities and to have the crops grow. Paul was most likely talking about the use of sex for these purposes. In this connection, it is important to note that the word “homosexual” does not appear in any of the biblical manuscripts, as the term was coined in the late 19th century, and first appeared in an English Bible translation in the 1946 edition of the Revised Standard Version.

Moreover, prohibitions against homosexual activity in ancient Israel was done in the context of a tribal society living on the edge, surrounded by enemies, that had to “be fruitful and multiply” in order for it to survive. Therefore, all types of sexual activity had to be geared to procreation. The sin of Onan, coitus interruptus, was to do otherwise. (Genesis 38:9-10)

Romans 1:21-32 that is erroneously used to condemn gay people talks about those who turned their backs on God. Even though many professing Christians and clergy have turned GLBT people away from the church, many of these people still worship God. Many of them have long, fulfilling relationships. For example, one gay couple who attend our church has been together for 40 years.

In any case, what those who quote from the first chapter of Romans to erroneously condemn gay people apparently don’t read is the very next verse: “Therefore Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

The word “abomination” frequently refers to anything the Gentiles did. For example, eating fish without scales was an abomination. Also, the Greek words that are translated “against nature,” para physin, are also used in reference to God when He brought the Gentiles into the covenant relationship with Him. (Romans 11:24) Hence, the term “against nature” is not necessarily meant to be pejorative; may well refer in Romans 1:26-27 to heterosexuals who engage in homosexual acts as seen in cult prostitution.

In 1Corinthians 6:9 the word “effeminate” is used. The Greek word is malakoi, and it means “soft.” It’s used elsewhere in Scripture to denote soft clothing. In this connection, it probably means people of soft morals or people who lack courage.

It is important to realize that homosexuality is never mentioned in the Ten Commandments, never written about by the prophets, and never discussed by Jesus. If it were that important, it would have likely been dealt with in at least one of these contexts!

Yet these facts, and many others that have been put forth, are not likely to change the minds and hearts of those who actively discriminate against GLBT people. Those who spend a great deal of their time condemning other people “in the name of God,” by picking and choosing selected verses of Scripture without seeming regard to context and original languages, may well be materially and psychologically gaining a great deal from these endeavors, all the while claiming that they are being faithful to the Bible.

Just one example as to how these people don’t seem to be as ‘Bible believing’ as they would have us believe: Jesus specifically condemned divorce and remarriage, saying that those who did so, absent fornication, were themselves committing adultery. (Matthew 19:9) I don’t hear many homophobic clergy condemning these people and telling them that they should leave their current spouse and either reunite with their previous spouse or remain single. Nor should they! My point is that many of their constituents are made up of these people who give them tithes, offerings, and contributions and they don’t want to bite the hands that feed them. They have, however, helped drive many GLBT people away from the church, so these people become viewed as “safe” targets to persecute.

The Gospel of love negates any attempt to misrepresent, stigmatize, demonize, or oppress other people. Those who seek to exclude GLBT people from partaking fully in the life of the Church and society have missed the message of the Gospel!

In any case, it’s inappropriate to blindly apply the cultural practices of ancient societies to contemporary society, as it does not do justice to the Bible; the Bible makes no such claims for itself; to do so cheapens the Bible. As Peter J. Gomes wrote in his superb book, The Good Book: Reading The Bible With Mind And Heart, when we read the Bible we must take account of what it says, what it means, the text, the subtext, the context, what we bring to the text, and what we take out of the text. Without such examination, we have the egregious example of many Black churches, ministers and lay people, aligning themselves with the KKK to fight against same-sex marriage.

What is interesting in this context is that the KKK has demonstrated against same-sex marriage. So, the Vatican, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (that, even with its checkered sexual history, talks of traditional family values) and others who oppose equal rights for gay people are aligning themselves with the KKK that opposes equality for all citizens. And these professing Christians have the temerity to do so “in the name of God.”

For far too long we have listened to people who just uncritically assume that what they heard from the pulpit or Sunday school, as ignorant and hateful as it may be, regarding GLBT people is true. Being gay is not a lifestyle! It’s a life! It’s not a choice, any more than being straight is a choice!

Moreover, although each minority group has its own particular history, each has suffered from misinformation, discrimination, stigma, and oppression. Unfortunately, the Church has been the last institution in society to accept the disenfranchised and “least among us.” As has been noted for many years, the Church has been, and continues to be, the most racially segregated institution that exists on Sunday mornings in our society. In addition, the major justification for oppressing minority groups has been appeal to the Bible. Witness the subjugation of women, slavery, and segregation.

Even the most “Bible believing” Christian would not condone such biblical practices as stoning to death adulterers, stoning to death those who work on the Sabbath, requiring all women to wear long hair, women not talking in church, women not teaching men, not wearing mixed fibers in our clothes, etc. Yet these are all taught in the Bible!

The Bible is part of God’s revelation to us. It gives us a glimpse into a small part of God’s heart and a few of His many dimensions. God didn’t stop talking to His children 2,000 years ago! He still speaks to us regarding His will for our lives, and to proclaim in each generation, in and for His name, the cause of justice, and to manifest Jesus’ love toward others.

God bless the work of Soulforce that seeks justice for GLBT people, the United Federation of the Metropolitan Community Churches that largely minister to GLBT Christians, the Online magazine, “Whosoever,” for which I have written a great deal, that is primarily geared to GLBT Christians, and to the work of the late Rembert Truluck (Steps to Recovery From Bible Abuse) and Rick Brentlinger (Gay Christian 101) who point out the destructive aspects of Bible abuse and how misuse of the Bible has caused the untold suffering of GLBT people. It is these, and other such ministries, that have undoubtedly saved, and immeasurably enriched, the lives of countless GLBT people, Christian and non-Christian alike, who were previously wracked by feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathing, and condemnation, hitherto believing the lies and ignorant pronouncements emanating from much of the Church.

The seemingly oracular pronouncements regarding GLBT people and their relationships by those who parade their ignorance as “Godliness” have helped lead to the suicides, bashings, and murders of countless GLBT people. Indeed, in this connection, it is estimated that gay youth have at least three times the suicide rate of non-gay youth.

Make no mistake, every drop of blood shed by GLBT people either through suicide, bashing, or murder, are on the hands of all those religious leaders, their followers, and their allies who spew forth their ignorance, prejudice, and hate against GLBT people and their relationships! These wolves in sheep’s clothing take the Bible, God’s love letter to His children, and selectively and perversely use it as a club to condemn others, and deny GLBT people full inclusion in the Church and in society.

The tradition-bound parts of the Church have so indoctrinated people, many of whom have never even set foot in a house of worship, that many people even disown their own children when they “come out” and divulge their sexual orientation to those whom they thought unconditionally loved and cherished them. There are many children living on the streets because their own parents trusted ignorant clergy and their followers over their God-given duty and privilege to nurture and embrace their own children!

The Church should concentrate on the real sins that deserve our attention and that cry out to God for redress, such as invading another country on false pretenses; the working poor who can’t afford medical insurance; the Supreme Court ruling that people can’t sue their insurance company in state court for denying needed medical services; many elderly people having to decide whether to buy food or medicine; the gigantic rip off perpetrated by drug companies, hospitals, and the medical establishment on sick and vulnerable people. Why not focus on and address issues such as these, instead of obsessing on who loves who and who sleeps with whom? Such obsession tells us much more about the pathetic and moribund state of much of the Church than it does about the reality of the lives of GLBT people.

Indeed, those who seek to exclude others from full fellowship in church, and in secular society, commit the greatest sin of all: the sin of pride. Jesus “…spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Throughout our lives, we have been bombarded with ignorant, homophobic messages from much of the Church world that don’t resonate with, and do contradict, the revelation of God in the Person and words of Jesus! Let’s not let the ignorant, the haters and hate-mongers, many of whom gain psychological, social, and financial advantages by their condemnation and exclusion of GLBT people, define Christianity for us.

We must rise above their ignorant and hateful pronouncements, cynically made “in the name of God,” “tradition,” “church law,” and “family values,” and finally practice Christianity. Hear Jesus’ call for inclusion of all of His people, and let’s fulfill His mandate for us to love our neighbor by embracing in every facet of our lives His GLBT children, whom He gave as a gift to the church and society to be cherished every bit as much as He cherishes us.

A Brief Response to the Negative Comments About Gays in the Church

This article appeared in my June 22nd column entitled, “Christianity and Society,” that appears in the “Sacramento Valley Mirror.”

“He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8)

With the exception of relatively few denominations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are fully welcomed in churches or allowed to partake of all the sacraments of those churches. Most churches view homosexuality as a sin!

The Roman Catholic Church views homosexuality as being “disordered,” and its practice as being “intrinsically evil.” And most other churches, in one way or another, concur with this view.

This view seems to arise from a relatively few selected Scripture verses that have nothing to do with one’s having a homosexual orientation, but has to do with same-sex expressions of idolatry to false gods. An excellent book that goes into great detail on the subject of Christianity and homosexuality is written by Rick Brentlinger entitled, Gay Christian 101: Spiritual Self-Defense for Gay Christians – What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, and I strongly urge all Christians to read this book. This book eruditely and incisively debunks all of the apparent justifications that professing Christian homophobes when invoking the Bible to support their erroneous contentions.

The reality is that I can use the Bible to far better affirm slavery, segregation, and the subordination of women that I can to assert that homosexuality is in any way sinful, unless the latter is used as a means of idolatry or temple prostitution to appease or beseech false gods. In any event, the big lie has been that God condemns homosexuality within the context of same-sex love, and when a lie is repeated often enough, many people come to believe it as true. Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, used this fact to manipulate the minds and behaviors of most in Nazi Germany, and it has been no less effective in making most of the institutional Church homophobic.

As the above verse of Scripture enjoins us, we must do our very best to live just lives so that we can be salt and light in a sin-cursed world; be merciful to others and always be humble when reading Scripture and in our walk of faith with God. In all our pronouncements and attitudes, we must be humble, always recognizing that God is far bigger than the Bible; He can’t be put in a box that meets our personal and/or cultural biases. Frequently, people read the Bible and impose their own biases on the text, when they should let the Bible speak to them in its own terms, always recognizing the biases they may be bringing to that text.

Moreover, we can easily fall into the trap where we worship the Bible, rather than our frequently inscrutable God Whose ways are past finding out; Whose ways are higher than our ways; Whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Romans 11:33, Isaiah 55:9) It is easy to fall into dogmatism and legalism, particularly when we perceive we have a vested interest in maintaining our paradigm or way of seeing a particular subject, such as what we perceive to be “normal” sexual expression. If we let the Bible speak to us, rather than impose our own biases upon it to justify ourselves and our perceptions we will, indeed, be able to walk more humbly with our God.

As I get older, I realize not only how little I know about the mysteries of life, but also how many gray areas of life there are. Sometimes, even willful sinning, known to be a sin by the person, may be beyond his or her control, and may be the best for that person to be used by God in his or her brokenness. (2Corinthians 12:9) And, although God is not the author of sin, that sin, as all sins, is still covered over by the Blood of Christ and through that brokenness, God can best use that imperfect crock of clay through whom to work His will.

If a person has to spend his or her life suppressing emotional/sexual feelings and activity within the context of monogamy, he or she can become warped to the point that God can’t use that person as He would like. After all, God knew when He saved us everything we would do, and even every sin we would commit.

He saved us because of His love for us, and because He could use us to work His will in us and in the world. This fact is certainly true for LGBT people as well! God doesn’t only choose heterosexuals to be His own possession!

We show our love for God by fulfilling the commandments that Jesus prescribed: love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; love our neighbor as ourselves. And LGBT people are our neighbors!

Frankly, I think that God is much more concerned with “corporate sins” than with “personal sins,” especially those that are imagined constructed sins! Downsizing, mergers and ensuing layoffs, technology that displaces individuals and families, an economy that requires most couples to work outside the home often to barely make ends meet, homelessness and our callousness to the poor and disenfranchised, an increasingly sociopathic culture which diminishes human worth and dignity, honed to a fine art in the medical and drug establishments so as to main a robust “bottom line,” etc. are the sins that cry out for vengeance from God rather than one’s affectional/sexual desires.

Regarding Scripture verses that are often used to condemn LGBT people, in the Old Testament people were to be fruitful and multiply, anticipating the birth of the Messiah. Clearly, in this context, homosexual conduct was forbidden. In the New Testament in Romans 1:21-32 and in 1Corinthians 6:9 the thrust of Paul’s argument is that once having known God one turns his or her back on God and worships the gods of this world, be it sex, alcohol, pride, etc. When one worships any one or more gods of this world over and above God Himself he or she is not fit for the kingdom of God.

This is the thrust of Paul’s arguments in these verses of Scripture. And the worship of the false god of homophobia also represents this type of idolatry that God hates!

The Bible is called “the lively oracles of God” because it speaks anew and afresh to each generation, with its own particular problems and struggles. By reading the Bible both literally and literately, we see that we are dealing with lively things that must always be approached with the utmost humility; the humility that must also be manifested when we walk with God on our journey through life.

The Role of Capitalism in Creating Homophobia

I’m a disciple of Christ first and foremost! Actually, I’m very theologically conservative in that I believe in the Resurrection and ascension of Jesus into heaven, the virgin birth, that Jesus is God incarnate, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (if seen contextually and accurately translated), and in virtually all theological and Christological contentions that conservative theologians support. Of course, I vehemently disagree with homophobic clergy, be they evangelical or mere haters who seek to frame their hate in the name of “Christianity.” And, it must be acknowledged, that there are many self-defined and self-deluded evangelical Christians who speak from the hateful preconceived prejudices that exist in their hearts! However, secondarily, I also agree with Marx’s analysis of capitalism, save for his dismissal of God. As much of organized religion does serve as “the opiate of the masses,” and that many people create God in their own image, Marx was unfortunately correct. He was dead wrong, however, when he proffered that there is no God and that God is a mere fiction created by the gullible. However, I don’t want to deal with this particular issue here, but I do want to deal with the role of Capitalism that Marx correctly said “contains the seeds of its own destruction.” Some of those seeds in the U.S. can be seen by the fact that capitalism requires many workers to live lives of exploitation, and that exploitation has as one of its results the need for affirmation that often comes by creating one or more out-groups, constructed enemies, so that one can feel better about him/herself and feel morally superior, as well as cement in-group solidarity that shared hate can bring to those who are exploited. Wealthy people can, of course, be homophobic, but that homophobia may in great part be used to influence the exploited workers to cast as the enemy groups other than those who are, in fact, exploiting them. Workers are needed in order for capitalists to be successful, so they must be lulled into believing that they have a stake in capital property, as well as a stake in the values of the capitalists, the power elite; what better way of deflecting workers’ animus against capitalists who are exploiting them than to monopolize the media, manipulate the media, to get many Straight people to think that Gay people are somehow a threat to the well-being of children, families, “our American way of life,” and religion? The capitalists, the owners of the means of production and the media, have a vested interest in having workers fighting against each other rather than direct their resentment where it should belong. Outsourcing, diminishing of workers’ salaries in proportion to the economic gains of the corporate elite must be subordinated in workers’ psyches by encouraging a war of all against all, be it against Gay people, Jews, African Americans, immigrants, women, etc. This is not to say that homophobia doesn’t occur in the absence of capitalism, for I am a firm believer in Original Sin! It is to say that in developed countries such as in the U.S., where survival of the fittest, the hallmark of Social Darwinism without which it is impossible to understand much of the values and fabric of the U.S., and in the ideology of many workers who have no vested interest in believing this sociopathic axiom, an axiom that can be heard on a daily basis on most of talk radio, leads to the seeking out of scapegoats against whom to vent their frustrations and resentments borne of their own economic oppression and exploitation. Marx called this phenomenon, “false consciousness,” where people act against their own best interests because they are misdirected by the media and other institutions ruled by the capitalists. Homophobia is one such manifestation of false consciousness! Let’s face it, why would anyone care if two adult people of the same sex love each other? Why would there be people making a veritable career out of condemning Gay people unless there was money to be made by doing so, and/or unless they were fearful of being Gay themselves? Why would most churches have such animus against Gay people unless they were acting as agents of the power elite and/or were comprised of clergy many of whom are self-loathing Gay people? When there is relative scarcity of goods and services that capitalism demands for the owners of the means of production to maximize their profits, workers become frustrated and angry, and they seek out all sorts of constructed “enemies” against which to direct their anger, so that they can remain safer than they would if they directed their frustration, anger, and aggression against those creating their exploitation; direct that very frustration, anger, and aggression against groups that they feel are safe to persecute, and seek to justify their persecution of that constructed enemy by lying about them, often doing so in the name of God. Now, the major scapegoats that serve to assuage the frustrations and consequent aggression of the exploited are Gay people! Carl Jung once said that only the tortured are torturers! And one doesn’t have to be a Marxist to understand this truth!

Distinguishing Religious Conservaties from Religious Fascists

There has to be a distinction between “religious conservatives,” and “religious fascists.” Those who seek to deny others basic civil rights, and cast aspersions on assorted minority groups such as gays and illegal immigrants are religious or secular fascists. People like Franklin Graham, Ken Hutcherson, Ralph Reed, and their ilk are not “religious conservatives” but “religious fascists,” as I see it. I am a religious conservative, as I believe in the contextual rendering of Scripture, the virgin birth, the Resurrection, etc. I think that it’s crucial that we make that distinction. True Christian Conservatives do not seek to in any way judge or defame others! Even non-Christians know that Christians are to address the injustices of society, and care for the poor and unfortunate who are down on their luck; Christians should be able to be counted on to help others, and not to seek to judge or exclude others from good will and good works. Indeed, they well know that Christians are called upon by Jesus to love other people and not to judge them! Yet, they and we are constantly bombarded in the media and in all too many churches with the propounders of a false gospel of legalism that is no Gospel; with those who show no love, but seem to delight in engaging in faulty biblical exegeses to justify condemning their fellow human beings; with those who would much rather erroneously select some obscure verse out of Leviticus to condemn others and seek to deny LGBT people civil and sacramental rights than do the work of a ministry that seeks social justice for all of God’s children; by a gospel that has as its litmus test genital placement rather than the exercise of love toward all of God’s creatures; with those who embrace the most reactionary elements in society and do so in the name of God, rather than heed the words of Jesus that we are to care for the least of His children; with those who are haughty, smug, and arrogant, rather than witness the expressions of the meekness and humility Jesus admonishes us to have in dealing with other fellow human beings and with the things of God. There is a judgment! And the professing Christians who, by their ignorance and/or avarice and/or twisted psyches cast aspersions on the Gospel of grace, the unconditional love of Jesus toward all of God’s children, thereby turning away countless intelligent, decent, sensitive people from God, will drink the dregs of that judgment to the very last drop, for, “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:2)

What is Meant by Biblical Faith for LGBT and All Others?

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10)

The above verse of Scripture epitomizes biblical faith! Biblical faith is the firm belief, which is subsequently acted upon, that no matter what the sufferings, seen circumstances, sins, and betrayals in my life, I will cling to God and to His promises; love God; love others, even my enemies.

If anyone needs to understand biblical faith, it’s LGBT people, who have not only been demonized, but condemned by those who erroneously resort to the Bible to try to justify their ignorance and/or hatred. This is one reason why it’s so important for all Christians, particularly LGBT Christians, to understand biblical faith.

The word “faith,” as used in Scripture, is used both as a noun (pistis) and as a verb (pisteo). What is of interest here is that mere belief as denotes by the noun is not sufficient to tap into God’s grace, as the devil also believes in God.

What is imperative is that our faith-action follows our belief in God! This action requires courage and tenacity, particularly when times get tough, and sooner or later they always do get tough.

It’s easy to have and show faith when our lives are comfortable! It takes courage and tenacity to show our faith, pisteo, when seen circumstances in the natural scheme of things would seem to break us down.

In part, this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1Corinthians 1:18) “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Corinthians 2:14)

If we are intent on staying in the “natural man” we only have faith in what is amenable to one or more of our natural senses. If we are in Christ, we recognize the truth of God’s promises to us, embodied in the verse of Scripture, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2Corinthians 1:20)

So, when God promises to heal us we are confident of that spiritual fact, even though while on earth we may spend our lives in a wheelchair. We know that God doesn’t lie so we know that when we get to heaven there will be no more wheelchairs, or blindness, or mental illness, or any disease.

The write of Hebrews states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) All of God’s heroes of faith, some of whom are mentioned in the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews, were woefully inadequate in many ways, caught up in sin and frailty.

Yet they trusted God over and above the seen circumstances of their lives, even over and above their sins and sin-nature, and that is why they are God’s people. They stood in the gap for God. For example, Rahab was a prostitute, yet her faith in God saved her; David was a cowardly murderer and adulterer, yet he was also saved.

Our spirits are in Christ, yet our souls are housed in our “old man,” in Adam! Our sins and sin-nature do not determine the exercise of biblical faith! What exercises biblical faith is our tenacious recognition that God is sovereign in all things and people and we trust Him and His promises regardless of the ravages the world, the flesh, and the devil cause us to suffer. This recognition is a physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual acting out of love, compassion, mercy, and the embracing of our fellow man or woman; loving God by trusting Him and His sovereignty in all things in our lives and in this world as well as in the next world, the New Jerusalem.

The Apostle John wrote, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18) When John uses the term denoting faith the verb form is used. Although Paul uses both the noun and the verb forms for faith, he recognizes the importance of acting out our faith in manifesting “the fruit of the Spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

The New Bible Dictionary (second edition) states, “Faith is clearly one of the most important concepts in the whole NT. Everywhere it is required and its importance insisted upon. Faith means abandoning all trust in one’s own resources. Faith means casting oneself unreservedly on the mercy of God in Christ, relying entirely on the finished work of Christ for salvation, and on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God for daily strength. Faith implies complete reliance on God and full obedience to God.” (p. 368)

We are saved solely by God’s grace, mercy, that we appropriate through our unwavering faith (trust) in Him and in His many promises to us. He loves His LGBT children, just as much as he loves his Straight children, and there is nothing in Scripture that contradicts that assertion, that fact!

So many LGBT people have turned their backs on the Bible, on Christianity, and even on God because they have spent too much time listening to, and believing, the ignorant haters who happen to wear clerical collars. The Bible not only doesn’t justify such hatred, but also condemns it, and condemns all those who ‘bear false witness” (a violation of one of the Ten Commandments) against others.

Besides, if being LGBT was a considered a sin, don’t you think that it would have been mentioned in the Ten Commandments? Moreover, the prophets never talked about it, and Jesus never condemned it. If being LGBT was so important, it is inconceivable that it wouldn’t have been mentioned in at least one of these contexts.

Unlike the popular stereotype, Christians are not wimps! It takes guts to have faith in Someone we have never seen, Whose promises may not be realized while we inhabit the earth, particularly when much of the world views us as superstitious, weak fools. The only way we plug into God’s grace is through our acting out our love for Him by constantly trusting Him and His promises and showing forth our compassion to others, trusting that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Genesis 28:15; Hebrews 13:5)

It is a crying shame that more LGBT people don’t recognize the inestimable gift that God has given us, and it’s up to us, those who understand God’s grace, and the context of Scripture particularly as it applies to God’s LGBT children, to convey the truth to those who are ignorant of God’s inestimably wonderful gift to all those whom He has chosen from the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)

This trust in God’s grace; this faith in God’s love for LGBT and Straight people; this communication to LGBT and Straight people that being LGBT is definitely not a sin, and that God loves them, is a signal sign of faith without which is it impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

Perhaps it Should be Called “Affectional Orientation”

A person is Gay or Straight whether or not he/she can engage in sexual activity! Most Gay people engage in sexual activity just as most Straight people engage in sexual activity, but those activities don’t define whether or not they are Gay or Straight. There are many people who engage in same-sex sexual activity who are not Gay, as often seen in prisons and in boarding schools; there are many people who engage in heterosexual activity who are not Straight, as seen by many people who are in the closet.

What makes a person Gay is not basically his/her sexual orientation but his/her affectional orientation! The distinction between sexual orientation and affectional orientation is crucial to underscore to all people, particularly potential Straight allies of whom there are many.

When I was teaching in the university, when dealing with this subject, I would ask my class what is the first thing that came into their minds when I said two different words. I would say “Heterosexual,” and the words that they said were such words as “marriage,” “family,” and “children.”

I would then say the word “Gay,” and almost everyone said, “Sex.” Many people, when they think of Gay people think primarily of sex and sexual activities in which many Gay people engage. It’s relatively rare in my experience to have people first think of sex when, for example, a heterosexual couple gets married, or when a Straight person is characterized.

I suggest that the term, “Sexual orientation” may be retarding the Gay Civil Rights movement, and it might be far better to discard that term in favor of “Affectional Orientation.” Of course, sexual orientation is part and parcel of what make us Gay or Straight, but it is primarily the affectional orientation that we possess that ultimately defines us as one or the other.

Being Gay, just like being Straight, is primarily about love! It’s about our emotional connection to people of the same or opposite sex respectively!

And why shouldn’t we categorize and refer to people, when appropriate, by one’s affectional orientation when dealing with Gay and Straight people? It is far more accurate a description of Gay and Straight people than is the emphasis upon sex and sexual activity that seems to currently falsely embody the public’s major perception and defining of Gay people as distinct from their major perception and defining of Straight people.