Can You Be Both Gay and Christian? A Critical Look at the Scriptures

From The Ontario Centre For Religious Tolerance

Many people have been taught during childhood that homosexual behaviour is condemned both by God and by their religion as unnatural and morally degenerate. If they discover later in life that they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual they often go through a spiritual crisis. Too many realize that their sexual orientation is unchangeable, and that they cannot go through life as someone that they have been taught to hate; they commit suicide. (About 30% of teen suicides are due to this cause; one of the costs of homophobia). Survivors experience a conflict between what they are and what they believe. They sometimes abandon their religion. Some become enthusiastically anti-religious.

The purpose of this essay is to explore the possibility of a gay or lesbian restoring their faith by overcoming the apparent conflict between their religion and their sexual orientation. We will select what might be the most difficult example: that of a homosexual, ex-Fundamentalist Christian who believes that the Bible is inerrant; (i.e. is without error in its original form) and whose denomination condemns homosexual behaviour.

Step 1: What Did Jesus Christ Say about Homosexuality?

In a word, nothing. He is recorded as having given hundreds of instructions covering behaviour and thought; but none of these dealt with homosexuality. Jesus concentrated on a person’s interactions with God and his fellow humans. He did tell the woman who committed adultery to go and sin no more. But that was the only time he is known to have commented on sexual morality. Jesus may have felt that homosexuality was not a matter worth commenting upon.

Step 2: Understanding the Hebrew Scriptures

There are many places in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) that have been traditionally interpreted as condemning homosexuality. It is important that we go past modern day translations like the King James Version, and determine what the original authors wrote. In their eagerness to condemn gays and lesbians, the translators and interpreters of the Bible often introduced an anti-homosexual slant. A careful analysis of the original texts reveals a different story:

Genesis 19 describes the destruction of Sodom, which has been attributed to the homosexuality of its citizens; the men may have wanted to rape the (male) angels. Actually, the text at this point is ambiguous; the original Hebrew word sometimes referred to sexual activity although it usually meant “to know” in a literal sense. But a careful reading of Genesis and Ezekiel reveals that inhospitality pride, idol worship, and lack of consideration for the poor were their prime sins. If homosexuality was involved, it was obviously not consentual sexual activity; it was rape. So we can safely conclude that Sodom was destroyed because of the sins of its citizens which included their habit of raping visitors.

Judges 19 seems to be a duplicate of the Genesis story.

Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 condemns male homosexual behaviour, but appears to refer only to temple prostitution. Even if it did refer to lesbian and gay relationships, it would not be applicable to Christians today, any more than the passages which surround these verses which form the Jewish Holiness Code.

Deuteronomy 23:17, I Kings 14:24 and 15:12 are mistranslated in some versions of the Bible as referring to homosexual behaviour. “Temple prostitute” would be an accurate translation.

Ruth 1:16 and 2:10-11 describe a deeply intimate relationship between Ruth and Naomi which may or may not have had a sexual component.

1 Samuel 18:1-4 and 20:41-42 and 2 Samuel 1:25-26 describe a deeply intimate relationship between David and Jonathan which may or may not have had a sexual component.

We conclude that the Hebrew Scriptures condemn homosexual rape and temple prostitution, but do not disapprove of gay and lesbian relationships. One can be confident that centuries of fire and brimstone sermons on homosexuality based on verses from the Old Testament are misinterpretations of the Bible.

Step 3: Understanding the Christian Scriptures

There are many places in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) that have been traditionally interpreted as condemning homosexuality.

Romans 1:26 and 27 has St. Paul criticizing sexual activity which is against a person’s nature or disposition. This passage has been variously interpreted to refer to all homosexual behaviour, to orgiastic activity, to temple prostitution, or to heterosexuals who were engaging in same-sex exchanges. The meaning is unclear.

I Corinthians 6:9 contains a lists of activities that will prevent people from inheriting the Kingdom of God. One was translated as referring to masturbation, and is now sometimes translated as “homosexual”. The true meaning is lost.

1 Timothy 1:9 is similar to I Corinthians.

Jude 7 refers to the people of Sodom as “giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh”. The latter has been variously translated as women engaging in sexual intercourse with angels and as homosexuality. The exact meaning is lost.

We conclude that St. Paul in the Christian Scriptures seems to have condemned some homosexual activity, but it is unclear which ones. There is no mention of loving, committed gay and lesbian relations in the Christian Scriptures.

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