The following is an edited letter I wrote to a Roman Catholic priest who wrote a letter to me disagreeing with my views affirming gay marriage. My letter is designed to hammer home the “Good News” of the Gospel message that we are no longer under the Law, but under grace. God made GLBT people too, who should be allowed to share their love for each other as a sacrament of marriage affirmed in civil society and in the Church.
Thanks for taking the time to respond to my article affirming gay marriage entitled, “Let’s Talk About Love, Sex, And Prop. 22,” that appeared in my weekly column, “Christianity and Society, ” in the Sacramento Valley Mirror.
First, Jesus never talked about homosexuality, nor is homosexuality mentioned in the Ten Commandments. If it were that important, one would think that it would have been mentioned in these contexts. However, Jesus did specifically say that if one divorces and remarries, he or she is guilty of committing adultery. Yet this practice is hardly, nor should it be, talked about. Since there are many remarried couples in churches, that is hardly talked about from the pulpit, but gay people have become the “safe” people to persecute.
Jesus fulfilled the whole Law! We are not under the Levitical Law, as Jesus embodied the whole Law in Himself! By His perfect sacrifice, we are freed from every single one of the commandments, save to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The yoke of bondage that was viewed as necessary by God for a tribal society living on the edge; viewed by God as needed so as to be “our schoolmaster leading us to Christ,” was removed by that Perfect Sacrifice. The Law taught us that none of us can live up to it, and subsequent to the Resurrection, we negate Jesus’ perfect sacrifice by seeking to live by the Law.
There are 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law. As it is written, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” (Romans 3:20) (See also Gal. 2:16; 3:10-13) The Law, as you know, involves such “abominations” as eating pork, having sex with a menstruating woman, and even wearing mixed fibers in one’s clothes. In Leviticus 37:17, union or marriage is forbidden with the daughter or granddaughter of a woman with whom one had had relations. We would not likely forbid such unions today. This law was viewed by God as necessary to cement in-group solidarity in a society one step away from being fragmented.
It is inappropriate to translate many ancient customs to contemporary times. For example, we don’t discriminate against women wearing slacks; this practice was quite unusual as recently as 50 years ago.
In a society living on the edge, where people were to “be fruitful and multiply,” homosexual relations, regardless of motive, were condemned. However, if we bring back that condemnation then, to be consistent, we would have to stone adulteresses to death, stone to death recalcitrant children, and even offer our virgin daughters to a howling mob to protect strange visitors, if need be.
My understanding of the Gospel message is that Jesus saves. No buts attached! We are commanded to do only two things: love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. The gay man or woman is our neighbor! Jesus fulfilled the whole Law and even if one wants to view monogamous homosexuality by a Christian as a sin (which I don’t), that sin was covered over by the Blood of Christ. So, what’s the problem?
None of us brings our righteousness to God. He brings His righteousness to us. Therefore, we are holy by imputation of His Life in us. God in us is the hope of glory! Actually, the Law makes us aware of our sin. Sin is much more of a noun than a verb. Sin is not so much what we do, as what we are. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners!
That may be why the Apostle Paul called himself the foremost of sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15) If a gay person, or anyone else for that matter, who has been credibly presented with the Gospel message isn’t a Christian, he or she is judged by God according to His standards of holiness and righteousness.
However, if he or she appropriates God’s grace through implacable trust in Him to deliver, keep, heal, and protect him or her in all of life-circumstances and throughout eternity, he or she remains under the covering of His shed Blood. That is God’s grace that can only be appropriated by such faith! (See Romans 5:2 and Ephesians 2:8-9)
The metaphor or type of this deliverance apart from works that I like to use is when the children of Israel were told to put the blood of a lamb upon their lintels and door posts. If they did put the blood on their lintels and door posts the death angel would pass over their house; if they didn’t, the death angel would kill their first-born. It didn’t matter what kind of people were in that house! They could have been murderers or rapists. Their qualities, other than their faith, had absolutely nothing to do with God sparing their lives! They only had to show faith in God by putting the blood where they were told and to remain under that covering.
The Passover is a type of the covenant that God has with us. Of course, we are not to cause hindrance to the Gospel of Christ or cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble. We are to do our best to walk worthy of our calling, but not to mistake our walk as the way to heaven or to seeking God’s pleasure. He has already shown us His pleasure by the grace (unmerited favor) and mercy He has bestowed upon those whom He has chosen from the foundation of the world who respond to Him by trusting, thereby loving, Him.
He called each of us by name before the worlds were formed and knew us and what we would do. For example, God saying before they were even born, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Romans 9:13) Or God declaring to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee,” (Jeremiah 1:5) He also knew the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people whom He called by name, and their sexual activities have absolutely nothing to do with His call on their lives.
As I wrote in one of my columns in the Sacramento Valley Mirror on this subject, if the Apostle Paul had engaged in gay relationships, would it have in any way nullified his church-building, his theological explication of the Gospel, his writing of about two-thirds of the New Testament, or his overall ministry? No! God called him by name, as He did you and me, to fulfill the ministry He set for us to complete before we go home to Him.
As you well know, God is not stupid and knows us better than we know ourselves. He made us and he also made gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people as well. I have interviewed literally scores, maybe well over one hundred gay people, and I’m absolutely convinced that, with extraordinarily few exceptions, GLBT people were born that way.
The question always poses itself, “Why would someone voluntarily choose to be a member of a despised minority group?” The Catholic Church wisely recognizes the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice but unwisely lays guilt trips on these already marginalized and demonized people by calling their sexual relations “intrinsically evil.”
What kind of a message does this send from an institution that claims to speak for God, the embodiment of love? We can only imagine how many haters, many of whom have never seen the inside of a church, bash and kill gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, and do their evil in the name of God.
We are to show forth “agape.” To the degree that the Church condemns gay relationships, it is to that degree that the Church is culpable in the atrocities of bashing, discrimination, and killing of GLBT people.
The older I get the more I realize how many gray areas of life there are. We want black and white answers in a very gray world. There are some things that are intrinsically evil, such as murder, rape, and other sorts of predatory behavior. Yet, when consenting adults make a commitment to spend their lives together in love, and even seek to raise a family, the Church should be the first institution in our society to embrace them, that union, and that family.
If homosexuality were a “choice,” why would there be between 3 and 10 times the suicide rate among gay youth than among non-gay youth? And, many gay people commit suicide on the installment plan by their feelings of shame and guilt, that are reinforced by much of the church world, and by the use of drugs and excessive amounts of alcohol to help deaden these destructive emotions.
I am absolutely convinced that gay people’s orientation is not a choice, with which the Church agrees; for the Church to say they can’t act on that orientation is tantamount to saying that although you have the hunger drive, you can never eat. Some are called to celibacy; most are not!
As a Church, the institution that speaks for God, we are obligated come down on the side of love, mercy, compassion, grace, and inclusiveness, rather than on the side of being judgmental and excluding GLBT people and their relationships from full fellowship in the Church.
With the exception of dealing with predatory people, what people do is best left for God to judge; we are to allow Him to sort out the messiness of life. Jesus’ sacrifice fulfilled the whole Law! We as Christians are called upon to embrace GLBT people and their adult unions, thereby manifesting the grace of God that has been visited upon all of God’s chosen people, any of whom could be straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
P.S. I’ve shared my views with the Bishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican, and assorted clergy. They haven’t been as kind or thoughtful as you, as they did not even acknowledge my emails.
Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. He also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.