Gays vs. God.
It’s a dichotomy the press just loves. We see it all the time: some religious leader from the far right is trotted out onto a national talk show or news show to denounce the latest civil rights crumb that may be tossed the GLBT community’s way. Some spokesperson from HRC makes a weak defense against the Bible thumper since actual logic can’t hold up to the “God does not condone this sinful lifestyle” canard.
It’s too bad this is a false dichotomy. There is no “other side” to homosexuality. To say that the religious argument against homosexuality is the “other side” of the issue is like saying the flat earthers are the “other side” of the global warming issue. There is simply no “other side” to the issue of our very lives.
Yet, this view that religion is a valid argument against homosexuality persists because it’s easy to tag homosexuality as a “sin.” In fact, a recent study from Ellison Research found that 52 percent of those surveyed thought “homosexual activity or sex” was sinful. In this case, the researchers define “sin” as “something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective.”
That may seem like a powerful argument for validating religious views as the “other side” of the issue of homosexuality. After all, if more than half of those asked listed us as “sinful” doesn’t that make it a viable counter argument? No, it doesn’t. If it did, we’d see some far right religious leader on television arguing against left-handedness and interracial marriage. These were once considered “sins” in the sense that they were “almost always considered wrong particularly from a religious or moral perspective.” Those opinions didn’t make these issues sins for all times and, in the end, the religious argument against them proved to be a spurious “other side” of the issue. The same will eventually hold true for homosexuality.
The Bible’s definition of sin is a bit different from that used by the researchers. It isn’t concerned with social ills that may be considered wrong for all time, but instead is more concerned with personal responsibility. Both the Hebrew and Greek words used for sin mean simply to “miss the mark.” Sin means that we may know the right thing to do, but fail to do it. It’s true that the larger social mores often dictate what would be “right” or “wrong.” Our ancestors may have “missed the mark” in society’s eyes by giving freedom to a slave. But that person understood a deeper truth – the sacred worth of each human life – and was vindicated in the end.
Those who condemn homosexuality today as a sin will, in the future, be just as much of an oddity as those who used religion to fight left-handedness and interracial marriage. Religious arguments are not the “other side” of these issues, no matter how long and loud the arguments may have been. Argued prejudices are always dying prejudices and those who use religion to shout down or condemn gay and lesbian people will soon find themselves on the wrong side of history.
That’s why Jesus’ counsel is probably the wisest: “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.