Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15)
Note: All letters are posted as they were received. No spelling or grammar errors have been corrected. Links to responses are at the end of the letter.
Hello, I am sure you all get many hate letters. I do not think that is the way to go about things especially if you claim to be a Christian. I just want to say that I will pray for you all. The purpose of the Bible is to show the correct way to do things. If you read the Bible with preconceived ideas or hopes then you will get what you want out of it. If you read the Bible to try to see what it is saying then you will receive blessing upon blessing. I would encourage you to read the Bible for what it is and not for what you would have it be. We do not create God or his ideas or commandments. He created us in His own image. I think you know in your heart that these things are not so….If I found a non-opinion non-Christian and gave him these versus, he would without reserve say that the Bible says the homosexuality is wrong. Changing what the Bible says can only hurt you. If you let the Bible change you and submit to all of God’s commandments then you will be changed for the better (not just your homosexual lifestyle but other things also) and the peace of God will rest upon you. Submit to God don’t hold the bitterness in your heart or you will not grow in Christ.
Rev. Dr. Jean Orost responds: Dear Lynn,
I truly appreciate the gentle spirit in which you have written of your concerns. There are many points on which we can agree as fellow Christians. I do not, however, agree that “the purpose of the Bible is the show the correct way to do things.” In II Timothy 3: 16, we read that “all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the people of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” It is probably from your focusing on this one verse that you have generalized to arrive at your conclusion.
However, I believe that the God of the Universe is so profoundly omnipotent, having all resources and means of communication available, that God could have provided a simple rulebook if he had chosen to do so. But instead, God chose to use humans, with all their differences and shortcomings, to tell the stories of God’s faithfulness to all of creation from the beginning. God, in various times, in various cultures, with various peoples and situations, has demonstrated undying love and faithfulness to whosoever would seek God’s presence in their lives. When the Israelites got hung up on rule keeping, God sent Jesus to violate most of the agreed upon rules and to not only accept but to love and fellowship with people from all the Reject groups of that day: women, children, lepers, Samaritans, adulterers, tax collectors, ritually impure, Roman centurions, and other gentiles. I am blessed whenever I read that story, for it gives me witness of God’s great all-encompassing love.
Be careful of living by the law, for the law leads only to death. Read Romans 7 and 8 for an expansion of this idea. Galatians 5: 18 tells us that “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” In fact, all of Galatians encourages us to stand forth in the liberty wherewith Christ has set us free. It is in this Spirit that we write our website. A Spirit which is full of love and the joy of our salvation, rather than any bitterness, as you allege.
I am sure that if I gave any of a number of verses about a number of things to a “non-opinion, non-Christian” I would receive numerous uneducated opinions. But fortunately, God, the keeper of all wisdom, has permitted Biblical scholarship that gives us insight into these confusing issues. Throughout biblical times and later history, there have been numerous groups who have had their turn to be ostracized. Read I Corinthians 8 for one example. More recently, the Bible was used to persecute slaves, children born out of wedlock, and the divorced. You just happen to be living in an era when homosexuality is the current cultural demon. For those who have an ear to hear, the Spirit reveals much through the enlightenment and diligent scholarship of those who put forth the time and effort. I hope that you will avail yourself of their collective wisdom as you read other portions of this website and some of the books listed in the bookstore. God’s Word does contain the truth, and the truth shall set us all free.
As you continue to submit yourself to God, you, too, will be changed, just as we have been. May you continue to grow in the grace and peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Rev. Dr. Jean Orost
Candace Chellew responds: Lynn,
Thank you for your letter. I agree with you that the Bible is a guidebook on how we are to live. Let’s start with Jesus’ words, shall we?
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Matthew 7:1-2
Great words to live by. But, it gets better:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut the kingdom of heaven against others; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” Matthew 23:13-14
I think that says a lot about whether any of us can decide who will receive the kingdom of God. I don’t stand in your way before the gates of heaven, Lynn. Why do you persist in standing in my way? Please hear Jesus’ words in this matter.
But, wait, the Bible has more direction for us.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
Where is the justice, kindness and humbleness in your words, Lynn? You’ve already decided my fate. How is that following the Bible?
Oh, and one more for you.
“And [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands depend all the law and prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
On those two commands depend all the law and the prophets, Lynn! If you’re truly busy loving God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself you’ll find very little time in your schedule to go about condemning me and other GLBT people. I find that learning to love my neighbor as myself is very time consuming. I also find that when I truly love my neighbor as myself I don’t feel the need to condemn them, but instead I feel the need to lift them up. I only pray for your happiness and joy in God, Lynn. I do not write to condemn you for your narrow views on the Bible.
I certainly could say the same thing to you that you have said to me: “If you read the Bible with preconceived ideas or hopes then you will get what you want out of it.” You are reading the Bible with the preconceived idea that it condemns homosexuality. Therefore you believe that it does. I approach the scripture with no such idea. I have searched the text and I have discovered no condemnation of homosexuality within the scripture. Certainly there are some acts condemned. All the homosexual acts that are condemned however have to do with prostitution, idolatry and abuse of another person. Certainly these acts are to be condemned whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. There is no condemnation of loving, committed acts of homosexuality within the Bible. If you would take the time to put your preconceived idea of what the Bible says about homosexuality aside and do some research you may come to the same conclusion. But, I understand it’s very hard to put those notions aside since you have probably been taught them from childhood. I only ask that you step into my shoes for a moment and stop trying to read your own prejudices into the Bible. The text doesn’t say what you think it says.
You also say that you could show someone the Bible passages you believe condemns homosexuality and they, “would without reserve say that the Bible says the homosexuality is wrong.” Certainly they would, and for a variety of reasons. First, your own bias would influence them. I’m sure your words to them would be, “See, these are the passages that condemn homosexuality. Don’t you agree?” They probably would, especially if they have no real working knowledge of the Bible.
You say that “[c]hanging what the Bible says can only hurt you.” The book we have today has gone through many changes! The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek originally and none of the original manuscripts of the Bible have survived. Instead, what we have today are copies of copies. The oldest surviving manuscript of a portion of the Old Testament so far discovered dates from the third century B.C. The earliest extant New Testament manuscript is a fragment from the Gospel of John that dates from the early second century A. D. We have no idea what the original manuscripts of the Bible said! There is an entire section of biblical study dedicated to tracking down textual variations from copy to copy. The variations from sentence to sentence in many of the Bible books are vast! Many scholars admit that we may never know if we have any of the original words or the original message that the Bible writers meant to transmit to us. The Bible is not error free by any stretch of the imagination.
Couple that bit of truth with the fact that every translation of the Bible into English has been done with a set, usually political, agenda. King James had his agenda … so did the interpreters of every other version. The reason you read “homosexual” in a passage today has very little to do with what the Bible writers intended, and everything to do with what the interpreters intended. In fact, the word “homosexual” was not even coined until the 1800s. How then could the Bible writers use such a word? In short, they didn’t. Nowhere in the copies of the copies of the original manuscripts will you find the word “homosexual.” It’s simply not there. Why? Because the word didn’t exist. The interpreters put it in there, Lynn, not the Bible writers!
So, your uneducated Bible reader will certainly say the passages condemn homosexuality … and that’s the danger of showing biblically uneducated people a passage that YOU have already decided condemns homosexuality. Of course they’re going to agree because they don’t have the knowledge needed to disagree! Read any of the reputable biblical scholars out there and you’ll find that most of them agree that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality as we know it today.
You also use the tired, cliched phrase “homosexual lifestyle.” I’m really very interested in why heterosexuals continue to use this phrase that connotes there is one “lifestyle” that all gay and lesbian people lead. Where do you get this idea that our lives are defined solely by our sexual orientation? Is yours? My “lifestyle” is not driven by my sexuality … it’s mainly driven by my income! Believe me, I wish I could afford a different lifestyle! My sexual orientation is just a part of me, like being heterosexual is a part of you … it doesn’t DEFINE me. You choose to define me that way, but I assure you, my sexual orientation isn’t how I define myself. I’m a Christian, a southerner, a journalist, a writer, a book lover, an animal lover, a Xena fan, a theology student, a preacher’s kid, a momma’s girl … all these things define me. Yes, I’m a lesbian too, but that’s not the first thing out of my mouth! And, as someone who knows a lot of gay and lesbian people, I can tell you that I am the norm and not the exception. I’m not trying to berate you. I’m just trying to help you understand that there is no one “homosexual lifestyle” that we all live just because we’re gay. There is no “heterosexual lifestyle” either. Please don’t define me by my sexual orientation … it’s an unfair and narrow definition of who I am.
Thank you, also, for inviting me submit to God, but I already have. My life is in God’s hands and I seek God’s will on a daily, if not hourly basis. It’s interesting that God has not asked me to change my sexuality, even though as a teenager I begged to be made a heterosexual. Instead, God has given me a purpose and a mission to help those who are hurting because they believe God does not love them as GLBT people. As for bitterness … I can assure you that is gone as well. It is certainly hard to receive letters from people like you because it underscores just how much education needs to be done to change the hearts and minds of people who have been so misled by bigoted preachers and churches over the years. I turn my frustration and my bitterness over to God constantly and, yes, I have found healing there … and also a strength I’ve never known before.
You, and others like you, will continue to condemn me and tell me that I must change, and I will continue to tell you that I have changed … immensely. God has transformed my heart and my life. God has shown me great blessings and love … just as I am.
Angela Rose responds: Hello Lynn!
Glad you stopped by the website!
I am sure you all get many hate letters. I do not think that is the way to go about things especially if you claim to be a Christian.
I agree! Proverbs 12:18 says “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” I hope that your words will be healing and not piercing.
I just want to say that I will pray for you all. The purpose of the Bible is to show the correct way to do things. If you read the Bible with preconceived ideas or hopes then you will get what you want out of it. If you read the Bible to try to see what it is saying then you will receive blessing upon blessing. I would encourage you to read the Bible for what it is and not for what you would have it be. We do not create God or his ideas or commandments. He created us in His own image. I think you know in your heart that these things are not so….If I found a non-opinion non-Christian and gave him these versus, he would without reserve say that the Bible says the homosexuality is wrong.
I agree with you that the Bible talks about the correct way to be. Mark 12:28-31:
(28) One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
(29) “The most important one,” said Jesus, “is this; `Hear this, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
(30) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
(31) “The second is this: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (NIV)
I have given much prayer and study time to my own personal situation. I know full well that when I chose to live according to how other people told me to live and how I thought I was supposed to live, I received nothing but misery. When I finally said, “God, I’m tired of trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do. Go ahead and take over and point me in the direction you want me to go,” I received the blessing upon blessing you speak of. Turns out that the blessings I have received have been from following His lead and trusting His strength as I have transitioned from male to female, and in marrying another woman that is as loving and caring to me as I am to her. But it only came from trusting in His love.
I also agree with you that it is very easy to read the Bible with the idea of proving some point that you feel strongly about, and then finding a verse or two to support it. It’s called proof-texting, and many of us do it practically subconsciously. Also, it’s very evident that different translators will choose a particular word or phrase and translate it so it says what they want it to say. I had a Bible study a couple weeks ago, and one of the verses we looked at was 1 Sam 20:41. Around the room were half a dozen translations. Lucky me had the parallel Bible, and got to read four versions to the group. It was unbelievable how the different versions were translated – they were nothing at all like each other
But with the issue of homosexuality, if you were to actually read your Bible and try to find anything about the issue (you offer no Scripture references in your letter, which leads me to believe you don’t know for certain if the Bible actually says anything on the issue one way or the other), you could find maybe a half dozen verses that seem to possibly have something to do with homosexuality. However, either they don’t relate to it at all or refer to idolatry. And one doesn’t come to that statement trying to make the Bible say what they want it to say. The Bible says it itself. I know for me, I tried to make the Bible say that I was condemned by being transexual and by being lesbian. And the Bible does neither. And far more importantly, God does not condemn me either. It seems to me, in what I have studied both in regards to homosexuality and transgenderism that those who would condemn either are simply reading the Bible in a way that makes it say what they want it to say, rather than allowing the Bible to speak for itself. These people are uncomfortable with people who are different than they are. These people, to justify trying to make others change so they can be comfortable themselves, say that God Himself disapproves/hates/despises/condemns the ones they themselves are uncomfortable with. And when anyone comes to them with knowledge and study and prayer offering another way to view the issue, they will simply say that “You are just twisting Scripture toward your own ends,” not realizing or accepting that it is they themselves that simply do not have an ear to hear what is written.
I’m saddened that you say that “If [you] found a non-opinion non-Christian and gave him these versus, he would without reserve say that the Bible says the homosexuality is wrong.” For that means to me that you would only be giving him the verses you wanted him to see, and neither the other verses nor the exegesis that would show the whole picture. And again, interestingly enough, you say “these verses” without offering any in your letter.
Changing what the Bible says can only hurt you. If you let ! the Bible change you and submit to all of God’s commandments then you will be changed for the better (not just your homosexual lifestyle but other things also) and the peace of God will rest upon you. Submit to God don’t hold the bitterness in your heart or you will not grow in Christ.
Yes indeed changing what the Bible says can cause great hurt. When others and I tried to change what the Bible said in Deuteronomy 22:5 and make it condemn me, I had a decade of hurt, misery and depression. When I saw what was really being spoken of through that chapter and surrounding chapters, I saw how there was no condemnation from God. When others told me and I tried to believe that Genesis 19 condemned me (by their changing what the Bible said), grief and pain were mine. When I looked to Ezekiel 16:49-50 and Genesis 18 and saw the situation in context – saw what the Bible itself was saying – blessings again were freely given by God. I pray you receive the same blessings and grow in your ability to love your neighbor as yourself.
Maarten van den Driest responds: Dear Lynn Ray,
Thank you for your letter.
Hello, I am sure you all get many hate letters. I do not think that is the way to go about things especially if you claim to be a Christian. I just want to say that I will pray for you all.
Yes we do get rather a lot of those but almost none of them are interesting enough to answer on the site. We have an archive on-line, as you must have noticed, with answers to questions. It is no use answering, for example, a hate mail with only ‘the Bible says it’s wrong’ in it. We did that before.
This is one of the most difficult things I have to do in Christian life. Thank you but I’d rather not. Forget the prayer for us. I’m sure you mean quite well but I would rather you wouldn’t pray for our ‘cure’. I consider that to be a negative prayer, aimed at destroying some of my most basic and deepest personality traits. That wouldn’t be very Christian, now would it?
The purpose of the Bible is to show the correct way to do things. If you read the Bible with preconceived ideas or hopes then you will get what you want out of it.
Exactly, I couldn’t agree more. This is precisely why so many Christians refuse to discuss with us on an equal level. They are so sure of their case, so intensely blind to the possibility that they may be wrong that they send us nothing more than messages of contempt, thinking they’ve ‘dealt’ with us. Although I am convinced that you mean well, that you have a good heart that wishes only the best, I still consider some of your e-mail lacking of respect. I will explain later.
My point: an honest review of relevant verses would clearly show the Bible saying a huge amount of things about bad heterosexual sexuality but nothing about homosexuality – good or bad – at all. A Christian with a cool head and a warm heart would never, in my opinion, call the love between two human souls evil or against God’s will. We’re speaking mature, consenting, loving, adult souls here, of course.
If you read the Bible to try to see what it is saying then you will receive blessing upon blessing. I would encourage you to read the Bible for what it is and not for what you would have it be. We do not create God or his ideas or commandments. He created us in His own image.
Agreed again. Know then that you judge with your own human mind – and straight against God’s will as written down in Romans 1! – a significant part of God’s image. I believe that homosexual and bisexual people are as much God’s image as the others. Without us, God’s image wouldn’t be complete.
Anyway, how will we ever know what God looks like? How can you be so sure, apart from the discussions about separate verses, of God’s will? I am perfectly willing to go into a discussion on each separate verse if need be, but the first thing that comes to my mind is that believe in a God of love, who is bigger than human prejudice.
Think of all the despicable lies told about gay men alone. We would ‘recruit’ children, now how would we do that? How does that work? I don’t know. Do you? We would be child molesters, if you believe some people. Although some homosexual people indeed commit those sins, heterosexual molesters exist in far greater numbers. Now, tell me, why do homosexual people suffer from child molestation cases, even if the perpetrator was straight?? Tell me why I am now afraid of answering questions children ask me on the street. Tell me why all those thousands of children are taken from their houses and put into care each year by the government. Tell me why so many heterosexual parents abuse their children, verbally and physically. A big gay plot? I don’t think so! If you believe others, we would make more money and be more successful than straight people. Where’s my check then? How is that possible? Even if it were true, wouldn’t we be doing something good? The list goes on and on. Now if you look honestly at all those lies, don’t you stop and think twice before judging me before you’ve even spoken to me?
Dear Lynn, you could have sent a mail along the lines of: I am concerned about you because my current view on the Bible doesn’t really support homosexual love. Yet, I see you loving each other so intensely all the time? How can that be?
Instead, you send out a flat condemnation. What did you expect me to do? Agree? Or did you never see a gay or lesbian couple really? I can’t believe this, Lynn. Do you judge us without first talking to gay people in the first place? You seemed so kind in your letter at first.
I think you know in your heart that these things are not so….If I found a non-opinion non-Christian and gave him these versus, he would without reserve say that the Bible says the homosexuality is wrong.
Here is the contempt-bit again. This bit is terribly awfully impolite. I studied the Bible for years! Some of our members are ministers. Most of us spend enormous amounts of time contemplating the living word of God. How dare you insult us this way?!
Do you know why this non-opinionated person would agree with you? Because you’d show him personally selected verses and tell this non-Christian – who probably doesn’t know the first thing about the Bible – your explanations. Well, I’d show him mine and I think he’d agree with me ‘without reserve’.
Now do you see how empty and shallow your comment was? I can easily claim the contrary and we’re stuck. Why not just give us the verses? Why not tell us, from human to human, why you wish us to disappear from the face of the Earth? Why not explain to me why you believe that I personally am unacceptable to the Eternal because you read the Bible a certain way?
I think I know why you didn’t. You must have seen the staggering amount of research we’ve devoted to those same verses. You clearly aren’t stupid so you must have read at least some of our site before e-mailing and you therefore must’ve realised that we actually know chapter and verse of our beloved Bible, that we endeavor to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus in all our worldly affairs. And now you can’t really give us a good reason for judging us so you went for the aggressive approach.
My heart weeps for the pain you must be feeling. Why do you hurt so much, Lynn? Have we ever done something to you? Will you allow me to share your pain? I will pray for you. I will not pray that you change your opinion, however. Although I obviously disagree with you about this subject, I still recognise your inalienable worth as a human being and your right to think for yourself. I cherish that and only hope that you will use that sacred ability to the world’s advantage. I also don’t need to invoke God’s authority to win arguments. If you ever need any help or any advice or if you ever just want to talk … please don’t hesitate to write us. Click on my name at the bottom of this page and you can email me in private if you like. I will be there. Even in those hours that you envision me burning in your vision of hell and get that warm fuzzy feeling of biblical correctness.
Changing what the Bible says can only hurt you.
Changing what the Bible says can also hurt others. I can name you dozens of names of my people who were brutally murdered, often enough after being tortured hideously, just for living, breathing the same air as their heterosexual attackers. I can list you names of children who were suddenly thrown out of their ancestral homes, never to speak to their family again. I can tell you stories from my own experience where parents of a dying teenager forbade his lover and him to take leave of each other. I can tell you stories of finding lone teenagers at the front door of the local gay rights organisation who don’t know where to go, suddenly robbed of their place in life, not knowing when there next meal will be. Children who, after being loved for thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years in a warm home were, without warning, physically beaten out of their ancestral homes. I don’t have to tell you about the dozens of countries and states where our very being is illegal and can be punished, sometimes by death. I don’t have to tell you that you, the Americans, have allowed a situation wherein gay people have no civil rights in some states.
Here you see the evil and enormous power of the Bible when it’s twisted, warped into people’s personal needs and power plays. This is a travesty of Christian law and a perversion of Jesus’ ministry on Earth and nothing else.
If you let the Bible change you and submit to all of God’s commandments then you will be changed for the better (not just your homosexual lifestyle but other things also) and the peace of God will rest upon you. Submit to God don’t hold the bitterness in your heart or you will not grow in Christ.
My bitterness must be clearly evident in this mail. I apologize for slipping some of the time. I really meant to write a wonderfully Christian and loving mail but I failed. I fail in a lot of things and continue to work on getting better. I promise you I won’t be bitter anymore as soon as you send Whosoever a respectful mail, stating your precise troubles in a clear way, quoting evidence. By the way, what other things?! Gullibility perhaps?
Another mail, another broken chance at real human contact. I’m sorry Lynn, for not being able to reach out to you and probably failing to get across. I know from experience that my words will in all probability only cause anger and contempt in the hearts of the people who write us letters and I know that my thoughts can be explained away easily. I’m just ‘misled’, end of discussion. And why not, I sometimes think. Why should I continue to struggle? Why not just give in to straight oppression and lie all my life. I am quite sure God would be very happy if I lied all my life about who I am.
Well, actually I am not and that is why I stay in there — battling. I wish you a lot of luck, love and inspiration.
Rev. Vera I. Bourne responds: Dear Lynn Ray,
Nowhere in Scripture is homosexuality mentioned, and even more importantly there is no commandment given by God the Father or by Jesus Christ that forbids same-sex couples from genuine loving relationships. Close attention to the Bible enables us to develop a deeper and more intimate relationship and understanding of God and all who study its words. Those who choose to follow Christ’s commandments to love God and their neighbours, and pray for this love that is a gift of the Holy Spirit, will indeed reap blessing upon blessing, more than they can ever imagine. Unfortunately the words of God, contained in Scripture, have been surrounded by rules and regulations, and there are some people who choose to obey these regulations rather than obeying God. Jesus spoke of the people of his time who were held in chains by the law rather than knowing the liberty that the Holy Spirit offers. When he preached in the synagogue in Nazareth he reminded his listeners that prophets are not liked in their own country, and it was for this reason that God had, on occasions, bypassed the Jewish people and blessed people of other nations instead. Remember the widow whose cruse of oil and container of flour were constantly replenished by God during the drought that lasted three and a half years. God could have brought food and water to the entire nation of Israel, but instead singled out just one woman, a person despised by the Jewish people. Why was this?
We continue to hear the words of people who choose to live by the laws made by humankind, words which do not issue from the mouth of God our Parent, Jesus our Redeemer or the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier. And we know, because of the way God has drawn us close, and the blessings we have known, that once again God has reached outside those who are bound by the letter of the Law and ministered to those whom the self-righteous have called outcasts. We are truly made in God’s image, and our eternal soul bears witness to this. As we commune deeply with God, the voices of those who would condemn us become irrelevant, for we know peace and joy, gifts given freely to all who follow Jesus the Christ. We are not bitter, rather we grieve that many have not understood Christ’s commandment to love, or his warning not to usurp God’s role by judging others.
Thank you for your expression of concern for our lives here on earth and also for our future. May God bless you greatly, Shalom,
Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. 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 serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., and blogs at Motley Mystic.