We are writing you this letter in hopes that you will understand our thoughts on same-sex marriages and gay rights. In no way are we going to haunt you because of your opinion. We pray that this note will open you eyes to the truth of reality that we gays and lesbians are human and have needs like the traditional heterosexual marriage and rights. We are a part of the society that you live in no matter where we may be. We deserve those rights just like you do.
Marriage itself should not be controlled through government agencies, society, or through the church whether it is gay, lesbian, or heterosexual. No matter what, we are a family.
Families are always a subset of the society of which they are a part. Marriage, likewise, is conditioned by the values and sensibilities of the social context. As society has come to understand the essential unchosen nature of same-sex desire, the offering of new forms of matrimony that support such couples would seem consonant with a contemporary sense of justice and social responsibility. Same-sex marriage, like marriage generally, is a conservative institution expressing lifelong commitment, caring, love and support. It is fundamentally not about rights, but about duties and their love for God and each other.
While it is true that procreation is one of the intents of marriage in our society, same-sex marriages would not prevent such endeavors any more than heterosexual marriages require them. Surely we would not claim that sterile couples or couples who choose not to produce children are not “really” married. There is no difference between a heterosexual couple that cannot have children or a gay/lesbian couple. It is a relationship, love and marriage that counts above all their relationship with God. Your sexuality has nothing to do with your relationship with God because God looks at your heart.
Gay people cannot be asked to be straight, but they can be asked to “hold fast to the covenant.” Holding fast to the covenant demands that gay people fulfill the mitzvoth (commandments) that are in their power to fulfill.
The point here is: No one is born hating gay people. They learn that hatred somewhereÛfrom the culture and from its predominant moral influences. And the primary institutions teaching right and wrong are? The religious denominations, government agencies, and society itself.
1. Homosexuality is an unchangeable nature; it is not a lifestyle choice.
This is an essential basis for understanding homosexuality. There may still be a few knowledgeable people who do not believe this, but practically all behavioral scientists now accept this statement as a fact. Down through history same-gender sex was universally considered to be acts by (heterosexual) people who had chosen to engage in perverted sex. Advances in the sciences, particularly psychology, in the last 100 years have shown that not all people are heterosexual; some are homosexual, and their homosexuality is an unchangeable nature, not a choice.
The concept of a homosexual nature first appeared in print in Europe in 1869 and in the United States in 1889.
Helmut Thielicke, a theologian conservatives respect highly and quote often, recognized in his work, The Ethics of Sex, written some forty years ago, that at least some gays and lesbians have “constitutional homosexuality,” and therefore we must “accept” the fact that it is “incurable,” that “our attitude toward [it] changes,” and that it is “a divine dispensation” and “a talent that is to be invested (Luke 19:13f.).”
Evidence that homosexuality is unchangeable includes:
(a) ten thousand suicides each year of young homosexuals unwilling to face life with that orientation;
(b) the high percentage of homosexuals who go to psychotherapists desperately wanting to change their orientation, and then
(c) the very small percentage of them reportedly being changed after hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars being spent in psychotherapy;
(d) the millions of homosexuals who remain “in the closet,” not acting like homosexuals and not wanting anyone to learn of their orientation;
(e) the thousands who are reported as coming to pastors and counselors devastated to have to recognize their unchangeable orientation and wanting assistance in dealing with it.
The APA President stated, “There is no scientific evidence that reparative or conversion therapy is effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. There is, however, evidence that this type of therapy can be destructive.”
2. All people are created in the image of God. The homosexuality of gays and lesbians, created by God, is good and not evil.
This is the second essential basis for coming to a right understanding of homosexuals. If the heterosexual can say God made me as I am, a heterosexual, then homosexuals can say God made them as they are. If God made them that way, that way is good. If you are created in the image of God, homosexuals are created in the image of God. And if God has a purpose for every life, the lives of homosexuals have a God-given purpose. Then refusing to accept and affirm them in the same way we affirm others would be trying to thwart the purposes of God.
Homosexuality is not an act. It is a nature. It is unfortunate that heterosexuals often focus on same-gender sex when they think about homosexuality, but — and this is why the analogy is dangerous — “to do so is to miss the point of the larger context of the relationship. It is to dehumanize and depersonalize gays and lesbians, caricaturing them only in terms of their sexual activities rather than seeing them as whole persons with lives that include more than sex.”
There is no reason for not admitting that the homosexual is simply made in the image of God, as is every other person. The only reasonable statement is that homosexuality is God-given and, therefore, with a God-given purpose. We should embrace gays and lesbians and mutually help one another achieve the purposes God has for us all.
3. The homosexual is just as normal a person as a heterosexual and should not be thought of in sexual terms.
The homosexual has all the interests and concerns in life that a heterosexual has. Whatever importance sex has for the heterosexual, it has the same importance for the homosexual — no more, no less. The best definition I have read of a homosexual is that he or she is a person who falls in love with someone of the same gender. What made me, a heterosexual, fall in love with a person of the opposite gender? I can’t say — it is just some innate characteristic of my makeup. In the homosexual, that characteristic works differently for some yet unknown reason, and the falling-in-love process is directed at the same gender. But it is a true falling in love. It isn’t a sexual thing for them any more that it is for heterosexuals.
While some homosexuals are sexually lustful and promiscuous, the percentage may actually be lower than that of heterosexuals. The pornographic industry, estimated at up to one hundred billion dollars a year, the gentlemen’s clubs, the brothels, Internet pornography, etc. are all supported by heterosexual lust. That industry annually leads thousands of teenage girls into prostitution in the major cities around the world. Homosexuals have little if at all interest in any of that widespread industry. Every fifteen minutes in America a heterosexual rapes a woman; homosexuals don’t rape women or kidnap young girls or give birth to babies infected with AIDS. If we look at a heterosexual man or woman and do not immediately think of sex, then when we look at a gay or a lesbian, we should not immediately think of sex either. They are people like us with the same needs and concerns, problems and failures and successes and sorrows and joys that we have, plus lots of problems that we do not have. What is a homosexual act? Examples: a gay man walking his dog or a lesbian fixing her supper.
4. Several passages in the Bible speak of same-gender sex. In every instance, the Bible is talking about heterosexuals who, filled with lust, have become sex perverts. The Bible says nothing about innate homosexuality as we know it today or about people who are homosexuals.
Until the late nineteenth century, as already mentioned, the concept of homosexuality was totally unknown. No Bible writer knew of homosexuality, so no Bible writer could have said anything about it. When the Bible speaks of same-gender sex, it is always talking about heterosexuals who are given over to such lust that they commit lustful acts. There cannot be anything in the Bible that says anything about (unknown) homosexuality or homosexual people or acts by homosexuals.
No one questions the Bible’s condemnation of sexual lust, and today that would be whether it was homosexual or heterosexual. Some want to say that all same-gender sex acts are condemned by the Bible and it doesn’t matter by whom they are committed. No, lustful same-gender sex acts are the only one’s condemned. The Bible also condemns heterosexual sex acts whenever they are lustful, but that doesn’t mean all heterosexual sex acts are condemned. It is the lust that is condemned, not an act. If we recognize that opposite-gender sex can be either lustful and evil as in rape or be moral and beautiful as between loving spouses, we must recognize the possibility that same-gender sex can be moral and beautiful, as well as lustful and evil. The Bible says nothing about homosexual people being sent to hell.
5. The burden imposed on homosexuals by society is a great evil. We should stand in revulsion against, and do all we can to oppose, the prejudice, the hatreds, and the condemnation of a society that make the homosexual’s life so difficult.
The evidence is overwhelming that the United States is a society where there is a strong fear and a deep hatred of lesbians and gay men. This hatred and fear are manifested in discrimination, oppressive laws, social practices, and the churches. Homosexuals do not have the natural protection of the law that others have. There are nationwide laws against discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, but only one-fifth of our states have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — there is no federal law.
Many problems… make a positive adjustment to a [homosexual] life extremely difficult. Among these difficulties can be enumerated the agonies of remorse and self-torture over what typical homosexuals feel to be their immoral desires, whether these arise from conscious identity with the condemnations of Church, government agencies, and society or from neurotic conflicts within themselves; their openness to blackmail and other forms of intimidation; their status of being outside the normal protection of the law; their necessity continually to conceal what they frequently believe to be their true identity from public view, with the added threat that accidental revelation could result in loss of their job, expulsion from school, dishonorable discharge from military service, loss of future security and job opportunities, loss of friends and the respect of family and dependents. Still other problems involve their propensity to sexual promiscuity [because they are] divorced from a complete and healthy interpersonal relationship; and the resulting tendency for sexual desires indulged in, but never fully satisfied, to occupy a disproportionate place in their life. Above all else, there is the very real threat of ultimate loneliness to one to whom all the normal structures of society – marriage, children, dependents, etc. – are closed. It should be noted, however, that all these negative aspects of homosexuality are not due to homosexuality as such, but are the results of both society’s and the Church’s attitude to the homosexual. All these rather common aspects of homosexual life can effectively paralyze all initiative, result in a feeling of inferiority, and lead to an emotional breakdown that could make social adjustment impossible.
6. Homosexuals are being sinned against by our churches. Like our society, government agencies, and our churches need to change.
Take a moment to think about this subject was that the millions of gays and lesbians in this nation will never, with few exceptions, darken the doors of our churches, because they know our attitude toward them is one of hatred and condemnation. Is “hatred” too strong a word? “Those of us who have published opinion pieces in favor of gay equality can testify that most of the hate mail we get cites religious justifications for the hate.”
Our churches need to change, for the churches ought to be havens for gays and lesbians from the insufferable burdens they bear constantly. But when the world believes that churches despise and condemn homosexuals, those who hate them find encouragement. When we know of the hate and the hate-crimes against lesbians and gays, we should not be silent; we (the heterosexuals) have a responsibility to fight it. Our silence encourages it and makes us guilty.
Our government needs to take a good look at what they are doing to our society by not accepting the gay community. Throughout the years so many announced and unannounced gays and lesbians have accomplished great goals in the entertainment industry, along with sports, in the political arena, in your workplace/society, and they perhaps may be sitting next to you or in your congregation. We deserve our rights and freedom to marry. It may not be to your liking but then again we gays may not like who you have married. What would you do if your rights are being denied and you are being told that you cannot do things because that you are heterosexuals? Is that fair? Absolutely not!
Whose fault is this? It’s the fault of us all. It’s the fault of any of us who make jokes about gay people, who insult them with the use of demeaning names. It’s the fault of us who are silent when others do these things or when they publish lies about what homosexuality is. And it’s the fault of us who don’t provide a safe place and a caring response to those of homosexual orientation. Who knows how many hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost – to violence, to suicide, to drugs, to promiscuity, to AIDS, to shattered self-esteem, to life forever outside the doors of the church – because we have participated in or by silence colluded with the demeaning and the ostracizing of homosexual people? In this respect there is blood on the hands of the church. And that’s what has driven me more than anything else to talk with you as I am doing. I have had a vision of Christ at the judgment asking, “Why were you silent?” Why has the church abandoned these children of God to despair and to death? When people are lost and dying by the millions you don’t pontificate about sexual morality, you reach out to them, you give them a safe place, you listen, you talk, you love with the love of Christ. The church itself is shooting and killing their own wounded.
They must be made to realize that honesty and integrity demand they make judgments on the basis of knowledge and not on groundless feelings and prejudice.
The church can’t begin its reexamination too soon.
7. Gays and lesbians in general have the potential for outstanding character and accomplishment; some may have greater potential than most heterosexuals to be exceptional persons.
It is well known that while certain characteristics are dominant in men and others dominant in women, all people have some of both characteristics. Psychologists have found that the gay man has an exceptional supply of feminine characteristics (enough that he falls in love with a man), and the lesbian has an exceptional supply of male characteristics (enough that she falls in love with a woman). Psychologists are recognizing that this special combination of characteristics in homosexuals often results in their having exceptional potential.
The eminent psychologist Jung gives five very positive aspects of the homosexual male:
1. This [homosexuality] gives him a great capacity for friendship, which often creates ties of astonishing tenderness between men, and may even rescue friendship between the sexes from its limbo of the impossible.
2. He may have good taste and an aesthetic sense, which are fostered by the presence of a feminine streak.
3. Then, he may be supremely gifted as a teacher because of his almost feminine insight and tact.
4. He is likely to have a feeling for history, and to be conservative in the best sense and cherish the values of the past.
5. Often he is endowed with a wealth of religious feelings, which help him to bring the ecclesia spiritualis [the spiritual church] into reality, and a spiritual receptivity which makes him responsive to revelation.
8. It is not only unrealistic to expect homosexuals to live without sex, but also it is psychologically harmful to them for them to do so.
At least we can know that the definition is not in either a certificate or a specific sex act but is somewhere in the heart and mind of the participants. This does not define moral sex, but it tells us that the definition is not in an objective rule, but in the subjective psyche of the participants. Since the minds and hearts of gays and lesbians are in no way limited, are no different from the minds and hearts of heterosexuals, they can have the same criteria as heterosexuals for a moral sex act.
Things clearly indicate that requiring celibacy of gays and lesbians cannot be supported by the Bible, is unjustifiable from an ethical standpoint, and can be damaging psychologically. Many psychiatrists believe:
(a) it is wrong to consign a person to such isolation and loneliness, one who is thus cut off from close relationships with either sex, not temporarily but until death;
(b) it is unrealistic to expect this for it is virtually impossible for it to be done;
(c) many of those who attempt to do this do so for pathological reasons;
(d) the “almost inevitable results [of attempting celibacy] will be tragic in terms of suffering, guilt, and mental disorder;” and,
(e) growth and maturity require deep and committed relationships in one’s life. Therefore, I would heartily advise all gay people to develop the most intimate and committed relationship possible for them.
It would seem that a sound scriptural argument against requiring celibacy would be Paul’s writing clearly in I Corinthians 7:9 that he does not expect all the church people to be able to be celibate even for the brief time before the (expected) return of Christ. Some commentators suggest that I Timothy 4:1-4, in speaking of marriage being good and not to be denied because “everything created by God is good,” would include homosexual marriage because God created homosexuality.
Once sex is no longer confined to procreative genital acts and masculinity and femininity are exposed as social ideologies, then it is no longer possible to argue that sex/love between two persons of the same sex cannot be a valid embrace of bodily selves expressing love. If sex/love is centered primarily on communion between two persons rather than on biological concepts of procreative complementarity, then the love of two persons of the same sex need be no less than that of two persons of the opposite sex. Nor need their experience of ecstatic bodily communion be less valuable.
If you can believe as I do, that gays and lesbians can have in their hearts and minds the criteria set forth here in their relationships, then I can believe, as I have come to, that they can engage in loving sex that is moral and that provides for their psychological needs — God-created needs — as celibacy cannot. And I can believe that their sexual love is not condemned by scripture, but is within the principles God expects us to live by.
You understand this is not a blanket approval of all homosexual sex. It is speaking of loving, committed relationships. Many believe that number would increase if society accepted homosexuality for what it is and encouraged committed relationships, as it does heterosexual relationships.
9. Full acceptance by society, including the blessings and legality of marriage should be extended to gays and lesbians in the same way it is extended to others.
It is moral as well as psychologically needful — a God-created need — for homosexuals to live as couples in committed relationships, as many theologians and psychologists have said it is, then homosexuals who are in loving, long-term, committed relationships should have the societal rights and privileges that marriage can give them.
“Family” need not mean the traditional heterosexual family to the exclusion of all others. Gays and lesbians want the right to marry for the same reasons other Americans do: to gain the moral, legal, social and spiritual benefits conferred on the marrying couple and especially on their family unit. The material benefits of marriage are considerable, but it is the moral benefit that is especially attractive to many couples, including gay and lesbian ones. Marriage is, or can be, a moral commitment that two people make to one another. The marriage vow enshrines love, honor, respect, and mutual support and gives people access to resources and community acknowledgment that serve to strengthen their bond.
The institution of marriage in our society appears to be one that encourages monogamy as the basis for stable personal lives and as one aspect of the family. If we think about what marriage is for, it becomes clear that it is for people to find ways to live ordered, shared lives; it is intended to be the most stable possible unit of family life and a stable structure of intimacy.
In many ways, we [gays] have an easier time of creating a truly egalitarian, mutual and mature relationship. In fact, some researchers are now beginning to look at the same-sex couples as a model for helping heterosexuals to create more human relationships. it would enable those of us who are involved in gay or lesbian relationships to get the rest of society to understand that we take these relationships just as seriously as heterosexual married couples take theirs. And without marriage, we remain second-class citizens – excluded, for no good reason, from participating in one of the basic institutions of society, government, and or church.
There is an interesting note from church history.
John Boswell has discovered that, whereas the church did not declare heterosexual marriage to be a sacrament until 1215 C.E., one of the Vatican Library’s earliest Greek liturgical documents is a marriage ceremony for two persons of the same sex. The document dates to the fourth century, if not earlier. In other words, nine centuries before heterosexual marriage was declared a sacrament, the church liturgically celebrated same-sex covenants.
10. As in society, gays and lesbians should be accepted and affirmed in our churches and given any opportunity for service, including ordination, that others have.
The texts that set down guidelines for the selection of officers focus on three basic prerequisites – giftedness for leadership, spirituality and character, and public reputation (e.g., I Tim. 3:1-13)…. These criteria give central emphasis to the importance of one’s present life of faith.
It is arbitrary to single out homosexuality as a special sin that precludes ordination. (Certainly the New Testament does not do this.) The church has no analogous special rules to exclude from ordination the greedy or the self-righteous. Such matters are left to the discernment of the bodies charged with examining candidates for ordination; these bodies must determine whether the individual candidate has the gifts and graces requisite for ministry.
The Story of Sodom and Gomorrah is more based on the riches of Lots wife and nothing to do with gay sex. The Hebrew verb used here, yadha, “to know,” is used 943 times in the OT and only ten times clearly to mean “have sex,” then it always means heterosexual sex. The word normally used for homosexual sex is shakhabh. Many scholars believe that in (Gen. 19:5) yadha means “know” in the sense of “get acquainted with” (the city’s men may have wondered if these were enemy spies or they might have sensed the city’s impending doom and been concerned with what these strangers were doing there) and have several arguments for this, including Sodom’s being used as an example of great sin numerous times in the Old and New Testaments with nothing ever said about same-sex sex, and the context of Jesus’ references to Sodom (Luke 10:10-13) which seems to imply lack of hospitality as the sin. We are not told in Genesis what Sodom’s sins were, only that they were so great that God determined to destroy the city. In Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, has nothing to do with homosexuality.
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are the only direct references to same-gender sex in the Old Testament. They are both part of the Old Testament Holiness Code, a religious, not a moral code; it later became the Jewish Purity Laws. [“Abomination” is used throughout the Old Testament to designate sins that involve ethnic contamination or idolatry. The word relates to the failure to worship God or to worshiping a false god; it does not relate to morality.] Professor Soards tell us, “Old Testament experts view the regulations of Leviticus as standards of holiness, directives for the formation of community life, aimed at establishing and maintaining a people’s identity in relation to God.” This is because God was so determined that his people would not adopt the practices of the Baal worshipers in Canaan, and same-gender sex was part of Baal worship. (The laws say nothing about women engaging in same-gender sex; probably this had to do with man’s dominance, and such acts by the subservient had nothing to do with religious impurity.)
Romans 1:18-32 speaks of Gentiles (heterosexuals) who could and should have known and served and given thanks to God but would not, so God gave them up and let them do whatever they wanted to do, and that resulted in degrading and shameful acts, including same-gender sex. It is almost a moot point, but Paul is not listing sins for which God will condemn anyone, he is listing sins that occur because people have forsaken Him. These are acts committed by those who have turned away from God and so become “consumed with passion.” All of us recognize that those who forsake God and give themselves over to lustful living — homosexual or heterosexual — stand condemned by the Bible. This passage is talking about people who chose to forsake God. No direct appeal to Romans 1 as a source of rules about sexual conduct is possible.
A comparison of how the two Greek words are translated in the different versions shows that translations often, unfortunately, become the interpretations of the translators. In I Corinthians 6:9 Paul lists the types of persons who will be excluded from the kingdom of God and for some he uses the Greek words malakoi and arsenokoitai. King James translates the first “effeminate,” a word that has no necessary connection with homosexuals. The NIV translates the first “male prostitutes” and the second, “homosexual offenders.” The RSV in its first edition of 1952 translated both words by the single term, “homosexuals.” In the revised RSV of 1971, the translation “homosexuals” is discarded and the two Greek words are translated as “sexual perverts;” obviously the translators had concluded the earlier translation was not supportable.
Malakoi literally means “soft” and is translated that way by both King James and RSV in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25. When it is used in moral contexts in Greek writings it has the meaning of morally weak; a related word, malakia, when used in moral contexts, means dissolute and occasionally refers to sexual activity but never to homosexual acts. There are at least five Greek words that specifically mean people who practice same-gender sex. Unquestionably, if Paul had meant such people, he would not have used a word that is never used to mean that in Greek writings when he had other words that were clear in that meaning. He must have meant what the word commonly means in moral contexts, “morally weak.” There is no justification, most scholars agree, for translating it “homosexuals.”
Arsenokoitai, is not found in any extant Greek writings until the second century when it apparently means “pederast,” a corrupter of boys, and the sixth century when it is used for husbands practicing anal intercourse with their wives. Again, if Paul meant people practicing same-gender sex, why didn’t he use one of the common words? Some scholars think probably the second century use might come closest to Paul’s intention. If so, there is no justification for translating the word as “homosexuals.”
I Timothy 1:10 says nothing about homosexuality or homosexuals and nothing about same-gender sex unless that of temple prostitutes or possibly the molestation of young boys by heterosexuals.
In view of the facts set forth above, we realize there is no moral teaching in the Bible about homosexuality as we know it, including homosexual sex (except possibly pederasty). The Bible cannot be used to condemn as immoral all same-gender sex. It clearly condemns lust, whether homosexual or heterosexual. There is certainly nothing in the Bible about anyone going to hell because he or she is homosexual. All who go to hell will go for the same, one reason: failure to commit their lives in faith to Jesus Christ as their lord and savior.
The basic model in today’s Christian homosexual community is so different from the model attacked by the New Testament that the criterion of reasonable similarity of context is not met. The conclusion I have to draw seems inevitable: Biblical judgments against homosexuality are not relevant to today’s debate.
The “problem,” of course, is not the Bible. It is the Christians who read it, and the church that condemns the gays or lesbians in the community.
Until we become more Christ-like, the prostitutes and homosexuals will never want to come to us. Unless we think the church is a community of sinless perfection, we will have to acknowledge that [gays and lesbians] are welcome along with other sinners in the company of those who trust in the God who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5). If they are not welcome, I will have to walk out the door along with them, leaving in the sanctuary only those entitled to cast the first stone. We are in no position to judge them.
Yes, I am gay and I am married in a committed monogamous relationship to my partner that the government will not recognize and on top of it we both are pastors of the Unitarian Church. We have a Web site for the gay community that is full of encouragement and support called The Gay Community Faith Center and if you so desire you are invited to sign our guest book. It is ok to be gay and love Our Lord Jesus Christ. He loves us just as much as HE loves you.
May we hear from you soon? May God bless you and your ministry, always.
Pastor Glenn Fosdick and Pastor Wally Kostick (my partner)