Recently, I was asked to give an interview on a public listener sponsored radio station that largely has as its audience rather politically progressive people, most of whom can be expected to have an understandable disdain for anything “Christian.”
Given the fact that most of the organized Church has been so enmeshed with the interests of the State, tenaciously adhering to the status quo, and has embarrassingly been in the vanguard of historically providing “justification” for the oppression of all sorts of minority groups, such as women and, in the not too distant past, African Americans, I very much welcomed this invitation, and sought to show how Christianity has been perverted by its all too frequent identification with Americanism, militarism, and capitalism; how there was absolutely nothing in the Bible that condemns same-sex love and, in fact, the Bible actually affirms same-sex love. I clearly wanted to dispel the false notion held by many that Christians are a bunch of harsh, censorious, judgmental people, and sought to credibly present the Gospel, both in and of itself, as well as present it in the context of the lives of LGBT people and same-sex love.
I made the distinction, first suggested to me by my friend Bishop Leland Somers, between the Christian Church and the Constantinian Church, the latter initiated when Constantine, in the fourth Century, made Christianity a State religion. We have yet to recover from that debacle.
The Christian Church extols the only Gospel to be found in Christianity: the Gospel of grace, and those who are Christians indeed seek to be agents of God’s grace in this world to try to make the earth, in the words of St. Augustine, “a colony of heaven.” The Constantinian Church, on the other hand, has historically aligned itself with Empire and the oppression of others for assorted psychological and/or social and/or political and/or material gain.
The Christian Church, comprised of the world wide body of believers who seek to live out the Gospel, should have no affinity with the Constantinian Church; to the degree that Christians who belong to Christ find themselves within its clutches, I strongly urge that they flee those churches and/or denominations, and either find a Christian church that reinforces our need and Godly mandate to live out the only Gospel to be found in Christianity: the Gospel of grace (God’s unmerited favor to us), faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances), love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness or, absent that option, form their own worship communities, or even, if necessary, worship God alone “in spirit and in truth,” thereby avoiding the toxic, soul-destroying, churches that have aligned themselves with Empire and oppression that are diametrically opposed to Jesus’ Commandments for us to love God and to love others, including our enemies, as much as we love ourselves.
The following, although not a literal rendering of my responses to the questions asked of me, which followed a conversational style, reflect what I said on that program, and I thought you might find them of interest, and might want to adopt some or all of them in your interaction with others who feel that God can’t possibly love LGBT people, and who have a distorted view of Christianity, tragically given how it has been portrayed in the mainstream media, and how much, if not most, of the organized Church has been “infiltrated” by the influence of those who really belong, and are best consigned, to the Constantinian Church.
How do you define Christianity?
The Gospel means: Good News! The good news is that we are God’s children by God’s grace alone (unmerited favor) and we appropriate that grace through our abiding faith (implacable trust) in God (i.e. trusting God over and above seen circumstances), love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness! That’s the only Gospel to be found in Christianity.
Unfortunately, we are primarily exposed to the false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion, a false gospel that is diametrically opposed to the good news, to Christianity itself. Far too many propound the gospel of genital placement, rather than the Gospel of Christ; ignore such egregious sins as unjust war, poverty, and disease.
That’s undoubtedly why so many intelligent, sensitive, and decent people want nothing to do with Christianity, and even resent it (and who can blame them?), because so many have never been exposed to it, either by word or by deed, and relate it to a harsh, censorious religion which is diametrically opposed to what Christianity really is. In Christianity, all of the Commandments are fulfilled by loving God and by loving others! These are the only Commandments Jesus gives us! We are to never judge or condemn others! (Mt. 7:1; Romans 2:1)
What are some of the basic Bible quotes you’ve heard used by religious leaders to demonize LGBT people?
First of all, a tribal society, living on the edge, and surrounded by enemies must be “fruitful and multiply” if it is going to survive! Therefore, under those conditions, there is no premium placed on homosexual activity! However, we are no longer a tribal society living on the edge; it’s inappropriate to blindly translate the cultural practices of ancient societies to contemporary society as to do so cheapens the Bible; is intellectually and spiritually dishonest; the Bible never makes such a claim for itself. Biblical principle of freedom from yokes of bondage must always trump biblical practice!
Gen. 19-The Sin of Sodom: It has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality. It has to do with attempted gang rape! One would have to assume that all the men of Sodom were gay, which is foolish on its face; if the 2 angels that visited Lot had been women, I doubt that the homophobic religious leaders would be condemning heterosexuality. Whenever Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in the Bible, homosexuality is never mentioned as its sin. Inhospitality and not taking care of the poor were its major sins! In Jude, in the NT, in referring to Sodom and Gomorrah, “giving themselves over to fornication” and going after “strange flesh” are mentioned, but “strange flesh” probably meant the men seeking to gang rape angels and not human beings.
Lev. 18:22-“Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman. It is an abomination.” If homosexuality were being condemned here, beyond the fact that women would have also likely been included in the prohibition, all that the writer would have had to write is, “Thou shalt not lie with a man. It’s an abomination.” Everyone knows what “to lie with” means, and they certainly knew its meaning.
To add, “as with a woman,” only makes sense if we understand the inferior status of women in that society, so that it was viewed as shameful, an abomination, for a man to act like a woman. Also, these laws in Leviticus are part of the purity laws in the OT that don’t apply to Christians. If we really want to follow the OT law, we couldn’t play football, as we couldn’t touch the skin of a dead pig; we couldn’t wear mixed fibers in our clothes; we couldn’t be near a menstruating woman; we couldn’t eat shell fish; we would stone adulterers to death; we would stone to death those who work on the Sabbath etc. I don’t hear homophobic religious leaders seeking to impose these laws on others! At least, not yet!
Romans 1:27-32 — – But they never read Romans 2:1 that provides the context for the above passages. Also, in Rom. 1:26-27, “against nature” (para physin in the Greek) is also used when God brought the Gentiles into the fold (Romans 11:21-24). This term is probably best translated as “unexpected,” or “something not done in the usual way.”
Also, you’ll notice that the men and women spoken of here “gave up” the natural use of the member of the opposite sex. They “gave up” what was natural for them and then engaged in sexual behavior that was unnatural for them. Paul is not talking here of homosexuals, but of heterosexuals who gave it up and acted in ways that were not natural to them so as to worship pagan deities, after they had first turned their backs on God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-‘Malakoi” is frequently mistranslated “effeminate,” as it means “soft,” and is used elsewhere in the Bible (in Luke) to denote soft clothing. In this context it probably means “people with soft morals” or “people who lack courage.” There is no warrant to translate it as effeminate.
It’s important in this context to point out that the word, “homosexual,” never appears in any biblical manuscript, as it is a term coined in the late 19th Century. The first time it appeared in an English translation of the Bible was in the 1946 RSV. It is translated from the Greek word, “arsenokoitai,” which is an obscure word that does not seem to be found in other Ancient literature, and that seems to only have been used by the Apostle Paul. It literally means, “male beds.”
In the context Paul uses that term it seems to be where male cult prostitution is practiced-e.g. heterosexual and homosexual sex in homage to assorted pagan deities, such as those related to fertility, to have the crops grow. Paul undoubtedly wrote the Book of Romans from Corinth where there were many pagan religions, such as the fertility cult of Aphrodite, where such pagan deities were worshipped in this fashion, so it’s most likely that it is to that practice that he’s referring, and is not in any way condemning same-sex love, or even dealing with sexual orientation.
Nowhere is same-sex love condemned in the Bible! In fact, it is affirmed, most notably in the case of King David (called “a man after God’s own heart”) and Jonathan. Even a cursory reading of their relationship in 1Samuel shows David to have been either bisexual or a gay man!
Moreover, if homosexuality was so important, why is it not mentioned in the Ten Commandments; why did the prophets never write about it; why didn’t Jesus ever condemn it? If it were that important, don’t you think that it would have been mentioned in at least one of these contexts?
Why are most organized Christian church members not accepting LGBT people at their services, while other organized Christian church members are leaving when their church does accept LGBT people?
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister said something that is, unfortunately, all too true. He said that no matter how big the lie, if it’s repeated often enough, people will come to believe it!
Most professing Christians, and others, have been sold a bill of goods by most clergy and their followers in most of the organized Church. The lie that same-sex love is condemned by God because it’s in the Bible has been repeated so often, that it has become a virtual axiom that has erroneously come to determine in the minds of many one’s standing with God, and has also come to be defined as “immoral,” and people have come to believe that lie.
All too many clergy use their pulpits to distort the Bible to be in accord with their own prejudices, and neither they nor their followers seem to see any contradiction between their demonizing Gay people, and presenting and living the Gospel of Jesus, which is diametrically opposed to their hateful and discriminatory rhetoric and/or actions.
Moreover, many fail to realize that even if the Bible condemned LGBT people and same-sex love, which it most definitely does not, civil society in America lives under the U.S. Constitution and not the Bible! Since when do we let others’ interpretation of selected biblical passages determine what civil rights accrue to others? There is absolutely no justification for denial of full and equal civil rights, including the right to be civilly (and sacramentally) married, to LGBT people, either constitutionally or even biblically!
In addition, black and white thinking, having an “us against them” mentality, gives many people certain psychological, social, and material benefits. Creating out-groups helps bring members of the in-group together; it gives many people who are uncomfortable with ambiguity and the many grey areas of life “the illusion of certainty” in life; homophobic rhetoric is likely to make members of the in-group feel morally superior at others’ expense; such rhetoric may well garner more money in the collection plates. (I would really love to know how much money is garnered each time a mailer is sent out by religious homophobic leaders to their constituents soliciting contributions to “fight against the homosexual agenda.” I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s in the millions of dollars.)
Since it’s no longer politically correct or socially acceptable to any longer publicly discriminate against women, or Afro-Americans as occurred by many clergy and other professing Christians in the not too distant past, LGBT people have become the enemy de jour, and are blamed by certain professing Christians for everything from “the breakdown of the family” to Hurricane Katrina.
It’s very important for professing Christians and all others to realize that just because one attends church, or just because one is called “Reverend,” and has his or her collar turned around, doesn’t necessarily make that person a Christian! Just because I go into a garage doesn’t make me a car!
I truly hope that some or all of these points, although perhaps familiar to many of us, can be of use to you as you witness to others the truth of the Christian life as it relates to the living out of the Gospel, and as it relates to the fact that God makes LGBT people whom, like His other children, He chose before the worlds were formed (Ephesians 1:4-5) to be His own possession, and whom He loves like crazy!
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, 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. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.