Yesterday was a strange day on my little blog. According to the “stat sheet,” I usually get four or five hundred daily readers to the site. Yesterday, the site had ten thousand hits. I have to assume that interest came from an article I wrote about homosexuality. The piece seems to have been picked up by a conservative site, because there were lots of Christians offering to correct the “errors” in my thinking.
There were too many responses to respond to them all, but they were all versions of arguments I’ve heard before. It gets so tiring to hear the same parroted phrases presented as original thought. My mind went back over decades of conversations on this subject and debates all over the country. It made me tired just thinking about it. It always feels like you are starting over. It is exhausting work to have these conversations, so rather than writing a thousand emails I will try to respond to most of the letters as though I were addressing one person.
The letters usually start with some disclaimer, “I don’t hate homosexuals but…” I know you sincerely believe that, but I wonder what your definition of “hate” would be? If someone you did not even know branded you as evil, worked to ban your marriages, and to take your children, and never gave you a moment’s rest would you feel that they love you or hate you?
The letters go on, “This isn’t my opinion, I’m just defending the Bible clearly says…” Please put down the conservative commentaries you know will reinforce what you believe, and pick up actual unbiased study tools like a concordance. Test yourself to see if you might be wrong. After all we are not debating about you, we are debating about someone else. You should be sure beyond the shadow of a doubt. Any benefit of the doubt should go to the people you are accusing.
The English Bible is a translation. The original languages did not have a word for “homosexual.” The condemnation we see in scripture of what looks like homosexual behavior is from a larger code called the “Levitical” or “cleanliness” code. That code condemned as “unclean” sex between two men, certain foods, women on their period, men with crushed testicles and many other things. It is incredibly dishonest to waive the cleanliness codes for everyone but gays.
This is why, in Hebrews, Paul called such scriptures only a “shadow” of what God had in mind. When, in Acts we are commanded to “call no one unclean,” it is saying that the cleanliness code is no longer in affect. So please stop saying that people who loved scripture enough to learn the Biblical languages are twisting it, and that the ones too lazy to learn them are the ones protecting it.
Finally, please stop trying to turn the tables and say you are the one being attacked. No one was calling you a “pervert.” You called someone else that ugly word and we rose to their defense. No one was questioning your right to have personal beliefs that differ from ours. It stops being a question of your personal belief when you start bothering someone else. We aren’t talking about what you personally believe, we’re talking about your efforts to keep your brothers and sisters from having full lives. We are talking about the ugly lies you are spreading about them. We are talking about the lies you are telling about what Jesus said and didn’t say. Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality, but he directly commanded you not to judge. We are asking you to learn that basic lesson before you appoint yourself judge over the rest of us.
Thank you for all you do! I believe that God is bigger than what we can think or imagine and doesn’t really need us for defense. The Bible is not a guide book to morality as some seem to use it. It is also much more about love. Showing love for God by loving neighbor. Keep up the good fight!!!
Thank you Karen. Well said. Love implies morality, but morality doesn’t necessarily imply love.
Once again, thank you for a sensible and measured response. One of the things I have always struggled with is the apparent dichotomy of “Love your neighbor as yourself” and the “God hates _____” statements. Last I checked, none of us have a true understanding of the mind of God and attempting to speak on God’s behalf is something I find abhorrent.
Thanks for keeping the overall message about love, specifically God’s love, which we should all be called and able to share.
Thank you, Lowell.
I have survived, yes survived a unbelievable life. It is so very hard not to judge but it is the right thing to do. I judged my husband when I found out he was homosexual, I tried not to but I was weak in my faith at the time. I had other feelings about people being gay. I was wrong. I learned the hard way that being gay was not any different than anyone having feelings for someone. That is what it is about, who you choose to love not why.
Again I thank you for your words and kindnesses to all people who need to know the truth.
Susan, that must have been terribly hard. Even loving person can get confused in times of such terrible pain. You are obviously a loving woman of very strong faith. Thank you for sharing this.
Amen and Amen! Well said. I tell my church folks that we humans love to make lists of who’s out of God’s party. And sooner or later, you are going to have to put your name on the list of who’s out once you start that list. It’s God’s party and only God decides who’s out, and the last time I checked, everyone gets an invitation. God decides who’s invited. We get to come to the party.
Well said, thank you Tom.
I believe the word, Christians in your first paragraph should have been “Christians”. True Christians do not judge or hate.
There are Christians, better and worse. Those who call themselves Christian have put themselves under an expectation of attempting to approach the standard that is Christ. But in accordance with that “All men sin and fall short of the glory….” By this reasoning no man is saved, but conversely Christians are forgiven sins of which they repent. If sinning they do not become “Christians” but are simply Christians who have sinned, (like everybody else.) Now that was Paul talking, but for a direct quote try “there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matt: 19)
The statements of moral behavior we subscribe to are to guide us as individuals aim toward the moral perfection of being good. I believe you are arguing for the Christian ideal. Understanding that is a long work and involves reconciling many apparently contradictory statements across the biblical records. I like the summary of Jesus’ in (Matt:22)”Love … God … love thy neighbor” that gives a spiritual basis and a practical application..
Definition of a Liberal: A person who says, “I don’t like that so I won’t do it.”
Definition of a Conservative: Someone who says, “I don’t like that so you can’t do it.”
Great piece….maybe you did mean wave…
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Jim, Nice try. I just am a terrible speller when I write quickly. I like your take on it though. Jim2
Amen, Jim. Keep shining the light!
What are your thoughts on incest Jim? Is it judging to call incest a sin?
That’s a good question Kari. It illustrates our problem quite well, because we do see incest in the Bible, along with polygamy and an injuction to impregnate the widow of your brother if you are next of kin. I suspect that you and I would agree that none of that is a good idea, but it isn’t necessarily condemned directly or at least consistently. So when is it wrong to judge, and when is it necessary?
As I look at Scripture, it seems that judges played a role in maintaining the health of the community. They didn’t just go around looking for cases, but people came to them with justice claims. They were asked to judge between people’s claims, in other words. But obviously, children need to be protected whether or not someone steps forward or not, so any abuse or expoitation of a child is an injustice by definition. The New Testament overrides the older practice of polygamy perhaps because one person cannot really be faithful and intimate with more than one person. We would know incest is a problem even if we didn’t have scripture because we know it has negative genetic implications.
Paul said everything is permitted but not everything is helpful, which means the new ethics of Christianity are based on spiritual traits and their consequences to humanity not on individual physical traits like race or gender.
This is great. I agree completely except for one thing.
I’m wondering where you see the NT forbidding polygamy. I can only familiar with one place polygamy is directly discussed, which calls on church elders to have only one spouse. But the implication would be that it is acceptable for everyone else. Is there another passage I’m missing?
God bless you jim for speaking the truth in the face of those ‘faithful’ who condemn your words despite the light that they bring forth. I saved your blog on my favorites list in response to your efforts. Thank you for your honesty…
I am not speaking of incest as in abuse to a child. I know cousins that have come together and have two beautiful genetically perfect children…my question was very simple, do you see incest as sin and is it judging them by calling it sin? Yes or no? I know that you can love someone and not judge them, but still call sin what it is. I do not appreciate you telling me I am judging homosexuals by stating what I know from reading the Word of God. If God did not want it in the Bible for me to read, it would not be there. Once again everyone sins, you, me, everyone…whether we are gossiping, lying, cheating, stealing. I am not condemning anyone to hell, that’s not my place. I am simply stating that you need to call sin, sin. Not bend and twist the words of God.
From what I here you saying, it’s a sin in your interpretation of the bible, if you believe the bible should be followed without question literally. I believe the bible is a guide that needs to be looked at in context of history and social mores of the time it was written. We believed a lot of things 2000 years ago that we no longer believe today because as humans we use critical thinking and we learn over time. Frankly I don’t care if YOU think it’s a sin. That’s your belief, you’re entitled to believe any thing you want. But keep your beliefs out of my life. Don’t tell me that I can’t marry the person I love or that I can’t adopt children or that I can’t inherit my spouses property because of your beliefs. I still don’t get how me loving another person and pledging to live with and care for that person through out my life is more of a “sin” than people who have nothing better to do than say “this is a sin”, “that is a sin”, “we are all sinners”. What does that do??? It marginalizes people. Jesus said “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. If everyone would just do that, all the rest wouldn’t matter. Maybe you don’t love yourself that much, but if you were here I’d give you a hug, everyone needs more love in their life.
Amen to that!
Jesus and Paul are clear that the standard is to love. Sins, the things we should not do, are those that harm ourselves and others. Homosexuality is not harmful and therefore not sinful. When you call it a sin, it is a damaging lie, it causes harm to gay people, which makes that a sin. And yes, we should call sin, sin, so that we can stand for the oppressed like Jesus did.
I have sent your list of 10 to everybody I know. I also have sent today’s blog. You are a breath of fresh air. I work in a church and have for over 40 years. I am frustrated that mainline denominations( who have treated both women and blacks in similarly abominable fashion) continue to “tolerate” this kind of inhospitable behavior toward those with alternate lifestyles. They do it in the name of “church unity”-which makes me cringe.
Again…thank you for the courage it takes to take the “slings and arrows” of the fundamentalists in regards to this issue. I will continue reading your comments daily.
Thank you for the kind words and for your own efforts to stand up for our human family.
Powerful and reasoned words. . . . “If someone you did not even know branded you as evil, worked to ban your marriages, and to take your children, and never gave you a moment’s rest would you feel that they love you or hate you?”
I’d like to answer the question . . . I would feel hated.
Hoping others recognize this as well, and become kinder in the future!
Also . . . . love that you give us an example of how to present reasoned thought, and expose those “parroted phrases presented as original thought”!
Exactly. They makes themselves our enemies.
But one good thing comes from it, we can try to learn how to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who persecute us. We can try to turn the other cheek, to advocate for our right but not take an eye for an eye.
And much of the LGBT community is making the attempt. It’s striking under the circumstances how many gay Christians there are and how many belong to churches and religious organizations, how important full church acceptance is to them. Why would the church do these things to those so desperately just trying to be a part of it.
Very nice, Rev. Rigby, as usual. I wonder if you’d “lend” your original article to the Dallas Area Christian Progressive Alliance e-newsletter. We have about 350 on our mailing list and I’m sure all would appreciate your wisdom on this issue.
I would be honored. Feel free to use anything I ever do.
Cheap self esteem-boosts are nourished by self aggrandizement which is in turn fed by the dehumanization and devaluing of other humans; either on an individual basis or in large groups. We are gratified when we feel better than others, for whatever reason we get that feeling. It’s all sorts of silly, ugly, weirdness. But as long as we’re concerned with other people’s gardens, we don’t have to tend to our own.That’s why “reality” television supplies us with examples of humanity that we can all feel superior too. Some people need to make others feel bad for themselves to feel good.
I appreciate your thoughtful explanation of the cleanliness code, as well as the reminder that Paul called the Old Testament scriptures a shadow of God’s bigger picture. However, I’m wondering how you handle Paul’s other words that specifically pertain to homosexuality within the larger arena of sexual sin? For instance Romans 1:24-28:
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
I don’t ask this to be antagonistic. I really do want to know how to reconcile this passage with the idea that today’s understanding of homosexuality has nothing to do with what the Bible seems (at least to many Christians) to teach against.
Excellent question, Laurie. You answer that question by reading one more verse. Anti-gay propagandists cut off the point of the whole argument in the first chapter, which is found in 2:1- “Therefore, you have no excuse whoever you are when you judge another, by your judgment you condemn yourself since you do the same things.” He is speaking to the Jewish (conservative) and Greek (liberal) Christians of the early church saying that by the standards of legalism we would all be condemned. The whole point of the book of Romans is to move away from legalism without losing righteousness. His answer is to move from an ethics based on the flesh (physical rules or physical pleasure) to one based on the “spirit” (principles of our common life).
Hmmm, I see what you’re saying, but there’s still the problem that God Himself judges this sort of behavior (along with depravity, greed, envy, murder, arrogance, etc) as wickedness, not simply outdated cleanliness issues.
“Although they (godless and wicked men who suppress the truth by their wickedness) know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Rom 1:32
I read Chapter 2 as more of a “YOU have no right to judge others because you’re sinful yourselves, but GOD has every right to judge and He will judge with all righteousness.” Without Christ we all do stand condemned because of our sinfulness. No particular sin is worse than any other. I can only judge my own actions against God’s standard, which He spells out for us in His word.
If I were just to decide to judge homosexuality as wrong, I would be judging unrighteously. But if God has already judged it as wrong, then don’t I have a duty not to sin in this way or approve of those who do? That is my honest concern.
As a lifte-long Hebrew scholar I appreciate you taking this to the original languages. However, I do not appreciate your poor scholarship and complete misunderstanding of the Biblical context in nearly every use. There is neither the space nor the time to refute all of your arguments, however, simply put, God’s design for marriage as displayed in creation, Jesus’ commandment against pornaea (the junk draw of all sexual sin outside of one man and one women in a covenantal relationship) and Paul’s repeated teaching about homosexuality as seen, for example, in Romans are just the tip of the iceberg of Biblical evidence against your positions. YOU are dangerous because you only know a little Hebrew. Try studying it a bit more before you try to teach everyone.
John, I suspect if you were really a life long Hebrew scholar you would know that “pornea” is Greek not Hebrew.
A friend on a mommies board showed me the “Ten Things I Wish The Church Knew About Homosexuality” post and as a lesbian I just want to thank you for your positive writing and defending of the LGBT community. It is very rare to see a Christian, let alone a minister, standing up for people like me. Living in the Bible Belt, I am constantly on guard with everyone who approaches my family(my partner and I have 5yr old twin girls) in public because I am just fearful of someone talking bad about us to our face. Every time we go to the store and someone talks to use my heart quickens and my adrenaline rushes through me until they walk away. 🙁 It scares me. And even they no one has said anything rude YET, I just don’t know how I will handle it when it eventually happens.
You bring tears to my eyes because I know that there is some kind of hope out there for the LGBT community. And the more people like you speak out the more we will reach. Although I am not a Christian(I am a Deist) I do believe that if Jesus and God have anything to say about homosexuals it is that he created us this way, and loves us for who we are. And that unless we commit some kind of societal sin(such as murder, rape..etc) that we all are good in God’s eyes.
I just can’t thank you enough for standing up and doing the right thing. God Bless you Jim…..
I am so sorry that you have to feel unsafe. There are lots of us all over the country who respect and honor your love and will work tirelessly until you are given the same rights so many of us take for granted. I hope some of the people who have written to this site saying their criticism of you is not hateful will read your letter and get some kind of idea of the pain their arrogance costs beautiful and innocent people like yourself.
On the flipside, I’ve met a few Christians who used to be gay or lesbian; including my cousin – they tell me noone pressured them to choose Christianity nor do they feel condemned by church goers knowing they had same sex partners previously.
Love your work! You are inspiring…
Your exposition (to Laurie) of Romans 1:24-2:1 is absolutely terrible. Since you claim that no Biblical text supports a conservative reading on this issue, the onus probandi lies with you. What if it is true that homosexual sex is the depth and logical end of idolatry?
I’m not sure how you can claim to be a Christian and still condone, even encourage homosexual behaviour. 1Cor 6:9-11 says “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Isn’t that pretty clearly condemning homosexual behaviour. Practising homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
And what about Rom 1:26-27? It says “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Doesn’t this passage make it perfectly clear that practising homosexuals will receive punishment for their actions?
Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying that a person with homosexual tendancies can’t be saved (see 1Cor 6:9-11). Just like I might have a tendancy to be greedy, but the tendancy doesn’t exclude me from the kingdom. However, indulging that tendancy, unrepentantly practising greed, will exlude me from God’s kingdom. Similarly, according to God’s Word, a practising homosexual has no place in the Kingdom of God.
Nathan, all the points you are making have been addressed by other comments. If you don’t mind, do me a favor and read the comments and respond again so we won’t be repeating earlier comments. Thanks.
Also when you ask questions like how I can call myself a Christian, you are casting me as an outsider and yourself as sitting on Jesus lap. I realize that may be things look like that to you, but think about it from my position. Why would I be motivated to justify myself to someone who isn’t willing to meet me half way? I have studied the biblical languages for thirty years and taught two bible classes almost every week during those years. From my side, it’s exausting to think of having a conversation with someone with so little courtesy, not to mention training.
a. Judge not, and you shall not be judged: Despite the way this passage is quoted by many of those who are not Christians (who seem to have memorized it faithfully), and even by many Christians, Jesus is not calling to a universal acceptance of any lifestyle or teaching.
i. Note what Jesus says in Luke 6:43-45 in this same message. There, Jesus calls us to know people by their fruits, and some sort of assessment is necessary for that.
ii. The Christian is called to unconditional love, but he is not called to unconditional approval. We really can love people who do things we do not approve of.
I agree that whatever Jesus meant by “not judging” did not mean to be ethically neutral, but it seems to me that many literalists pretend like the words just aren’t there so they can hold on to the role of social censor. What do you suppose he did mean? Why did he make is such a cornerstone to his teachings if he wanted us to play the role of humanity’s watchdog?
Jesus said nothing about texting while driving either, but that does not mean it isn’t dangerous and wrong, even though many will insist no harm is done and it is none of your business.
We are forbidden to put ourselves in God’s place, sitting in judgement of a particular person. That does not mean God did not give us the capacity for moral reasoning, or that we must remain silent in the face of all evil. With all respect, it seems to me you yourself have plenty to say about right and wrong, and about those whom you think are wrongdoers.
Jesus said nothing about texting while driving, but that does not mean it isn’t dangerous and wrong, even though many will insist no harm is done and it’s none of your business.
We are not permitted to take God’s place sitting in judgment of another person, but that does not mean He did not give us the capacity for moral reasoning, or that we must remain silent in the face of every evil. You seem to have plenty to say yourself about right and wrong, and about those you see as wrongdoers.
I’m not saying that Jesus would approve of anything not specifically mentioned in his teachings. I’m saying you and I don’t have a right to claim something he didn’t talk about is central to his message. I don’t know how Jesus would feel about texting while driving, but I’m pretty sure you would agree it isn’t an essential of the faith. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, feel free to weigh in any time.
Of course we should judge everything, how else are we to recognize the difference between good and bad? Jesus may have said not to judge but he surely meant do not judge on appearance alone. He Himself judged the moneylenders in the temple and threw them out. To form an opinion of something or someone is a very human thing to do and if compassion is used, then it is even better. Today, our standards of good and evil have become very muddled.
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Jeff, thanks for writing. I disagree. We must judge behavior and speech, but Christ commanded us not to judge each other. We cannot say a person of another color is good or bad for that reason alone, nor can we say that someone was born with the wrong gender or sexual orientation. A person of any sexual orientation is doing wrong is he or she uses others as objects, has sex with minors, etc. But we must not cast the bad actions of a few upon the whole group.
The scene in the temple must not be used to erase the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. Instead, that one scene must be understood within the overall teaching not to judge. This would imply that Jesus knocked over the tables, but did not chase out the people who sat at the tables. He took a whip to drive out the cattle out, not to strike the people.