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Religious Tolerance logo

Homosexuality and the Bible

Part 2 of 2
Conservative Christian Teachings
and Beliefs About Homosexuality

gay marriage 1

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This topic is a continued here from Part 1

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Teachings and beliefs about the LGBT community by evangelical Christians (Continued):

More common evangelical beliefs are:

bullet Evangelicals use inclusive terms such as "sodomite" or "homosexual" to refer to both lesbians and gays. However, when referring to some topics like sexually transmitted infections, they often use only gay data to refer to both lesbians and gays, even though STI rates among lesbians are lower than among either gays or heterosexuals..

bullet Some refer to the many references to Sodom in the Bible as implying that the adults and children of the city were all destroyed by God for their many sinful behaviors, one of which was their homosexual activity. This is contradicted by many biblical passages that imply that Sodom's sin was being uncharitable and unwelcoming to strangers and the poor.

bulletThere are no committed, consensual homosexual relationships described in the Bible.

bullet A growing percentage recognize that sexual orientations do exist and are either fixed or nearly unchangeable for adults. A few even accept that people can be "born gay." Some agree with human sexuality researchers that three sexual orientations exist -- heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual.

bullet Same-sex practices are very offensive to God, but not uniquely so. Homosexual behavior is one of many sinful behaviors, like assault, theft, murder, etc.

bullet Some interpret 1 Corinthians 6:11, as implying that if gays and lesbians are truly saved, God will help them change their behavior, perhaps by remaining celibate, even though their feelings of same-gender sexual attraction remain unchanged.

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wedding ringsResponse to the legalization of gay marriages by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the failure of reparative therapy to change people's sexual orientation:

On 2013-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case Windsor v. United States. It found that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and unenforceable. This gave access for some same-sex married couples to 1,138 federal marriage programs, protections and benefits. Another major effect of that ruling was contained in Justice Kennedy's arguments that showed Section 3 to be unconstitutional. During the following two years, many dozens of state and federal courts quoted Justice Kennedy's arguments and declared individual state gay marriage bans to be unconstitutional. By early 2015, marriage equality had come to 37 states and the District of Columbia. On 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized gay marriages across the entire country.

Jonathan Rauch is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Writing in the New York Daily News, said:

"Evangelicals stand alone in their strong opposition to gay marriage in particular and to homosexuality more broadly. Most American Catholics support gay marriage. So do most mainline Protestants. Pope Francis, while not revising the church's doctrine, is dramatically softening the church’s tone on homosexuality. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done the same, helping to pass a breakthrough anti-discrimination law in Utah.

Evangelicals stand apart. Seventy percent of them oppose gay marriage. Theirs are the theology and culture that most fiercely resist altering what they regard as the Bible’s unambiguous and unalterable condemnation of homosexuality." 2

However, there are signs of change even within the evangelical community towards the LGBT community:

  • The millennial generation -- those born about 1990 -- is the first cohort in which a majority have a friend or family member who is lesbian or gay. They are learning first-hand what homosexuality is all about, without distortion. In particular, they are realizing that all or essentially all adults cannot change their sexual orientation.

  • Although evangelical support for marriage equality remains low, it has doubled over the past decade. 2

  • Their understanding of homosexuality is changing. Exodus International was the largest non-profit dedicated to the use or reparative therapy and prayer to convert lesbians, gays and bisexuals into heterosexuality. This group contributed massively for over 35 years to the belief that people could alter their sexual orientation if they committed considerable effort to change. In mid-2012, they made major alterations to their teaching. They began to promote the beliefs that:
    • Reparative therapy is ineffective and sometimes dangerous.

    • Lesbian and gay adults will always be sexually attracted to persons of the same gender.

    • Sexually active lesbians and gays can still be saved and go to Heaven after death.

    In mid-2013-JUN, the president of Exodus sincerely apologized for the harm that his organization had done to lesbians, gays and bisexuals. The organization shut down. This generated a major shock to the evangelical community who had based much of their beliefs about change by homosexuals and bisexuals upon the use of reparative therapy and prayer.

  • Some faith groups are now accepting lesbians and gays, and trying to persuade them them to lead lonely lives without an intimate partner.

Jonathan Rauch, concludes that evangelicals are now experiencing cognitive dissonance caused by two incompatible beliefs:

  • A recognition that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals cannot change their sexual orientation and attractions.

  • Their historical interpretation of the Bible's six "clobber passages" "... [that] provides no morally positive place for gay people to be gay."

He predicts that soon:

"... evangelicals [will] follow Catholics and Mormons in putting homosexuality and gay marriage on the back burner. Where homosexuality is concerned, American evangelicalism is on a collision course with itself."

However, it might take a while. A Gallup poll sampled the approval rating of U.S. Supreme Court among political conservatives and liberals. Similar values probably exist among religious conservatives and liberals. About two weeks after the High Court's legalization of same-sex marriage Gallup found that:

"... a record-low 18% of Republicans approve of the job the court is doing. With 76% of Democrats approving, the party gap [of 58 percentage points] is the largest to date." 3

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2017-JUL-06: Pastor John MacArthur commented on the Bible, sin, and homosexuality:

After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage for same-sex couples in mid-2015, public acceptance of loving, committed same-gender sexual behavior by the LGBT community increased significantly throughout the U.S. Support for gay marriage has exceeded 60% recently and is continuing to increase. With increasing support for marriage equality, some commentators are beginning to refer to personal opposition to LBGT equality as a form of bigotry. Apparently, many pastors would prefer to avoid being swept up in this controversy.

John MacArthur is the pastor of the evangelical Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA, as well as president of The Master's University in Newhall, and president of The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles. Judy Clair, writing for Faith Family America, notes that he an exception, 4 At a panel discussion during the 2017 Ligonier Ministries regional conference in Los Angeles he answered two questions raised by the members of the audience:

  • 1. He was asked whether it is sinful for a Christian retail store owner to agree to provide goods and services for a same-sex wedding. He responded:

    "No, it's not sinful for a cake maker to make a cake for a gay wedding anymore than its sinful for a guy who runs a restaurant to serve dinner to somebody who is gay, sits in a booth and eats the food. ... What the issue is, is not whether that's sinful. It's whether the ... government can demand that people do certain things, which goes against their Christian conscience."

He referred to the Golden Rule that Jesus required his followers to obey, saying:

    "I actually think that we need to show love to everyone and particularly, we need to do good to all those that are outside the Kingdom, as well as inside the Kingdom, as much as possible. A gesture of kindness toward some unregenerate person is in itself not a sin."

  • 2. He was also asked: "Can a gay person who trusts in Jesus go to heaven?" He gave an unusual response: that there is no such thing as a person being gay. By this, he apparently meant that there is no such phenomenon as a person having a homosexual orientation! He said:

    "If you mean by that, 'That's some hardwiring,' [then] no one is gay. People commit adultery, they commit sins of homosexuality, they lie, they steal, they cheat. That's like saying, 'You know, I keep robbing banks, but I'm a robber. I'm a bank robber. What am I gonna do? I'm a bank robber.' That is not an excuse for what you do."

    "Are there certain kind of impulses that lead people in that direction? Yes. But I think one of the really deadly aspects of this is to let people define themselves as gay. They are not gay any more than an adulterer is hardwired to be forced by his own nature to commit adultery. Those are all behavioral sins that are condemned in scripture. God didn't hardwire anybody in such a way that they are not responsible for certain behaviors." 4,5,6

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Photograph by BhaktiCreative. Downloaded from https://pixabay.com/ In the Public domain.
  2. Jonathan Rauch, "Evangelicals, the last gay-marriage holdouts," New York Daily News, 2015-JUL-06, at: http://www.nydailynews.com/
  3. Jeffrey M. Jones, "Republicans' Approval of Supreme Court Sinks to 18%," Gallup, 2015-JUL-16, at: http://www.gallup.com/
  4. Judy Clair, "Pastor John MacArthur Stuns With Answer To Gays Getting Into Heaven," Faith Family America, 2017-JUL-06, at: http://www.faithfamilyamerica.com/
  5. Samuel Smith, "Pastor John MacArthur Answers: Is It Sinful to Provide Services for a Gay Wedding?" The Christian Post, 2017-JUL-01, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  6. "Discovering the God of the Bible: 2017 Regional Conference; Message 6, Questions & Answers #2," Ligonier Ministries, 2017, at: http://www.ligonier.org/
Copyright © 1996 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-JUL-10
Author: B.A. Robinson
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