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What the Bible says and means about homosexuality

Overview:
Diverse Christian interpretations of
biblical passages on homosexuality

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Christian diversity:

Many regard Christianity as being more than a single religion; they view it as a group of religions that:

bulletFollow the Bible, and
bulletShare some historical theological beliefs and traditions,
bulletBut differ on many topics including deity, humanity and the rest of the universe.

Christianity can be roughly divided among three main groups of denominations on the basis of their view of the Bible, their views towards women, homosexuals & bisexuals, other sexual minorities, other controversial social topics like abortion access and physician assisted suicide:

bulletA conservative wing made up of hundreds of denominations of fundamentalists and other evangelicals;
bulletA progressive wing;
bulletA mainline group of denominations whose beliefs that are intermediate between these other two wings.

This division is further complicated because so many denominations contain a blend of members from all three groups.

Evangelical and progressive Christians interpret the Bible in very different ways. This leads to two distinct and contradictory sets of beliefs within Christianity on just about every conceivable topic, from abortion to sex. Belief in equal rights for homosexuals and bisexuals is no exception.

Since the two groups approach the Bible with different assumptions about its nature, and look for different content, one can expect that their conclusions will be very different:

Factor Typical conservative view Typical progressive view
The Bible The Bible was written by authors who were directly inspired by God. Thus their writings are seen as inerrant -- completely free of error as originally written. They are often interpreted as "God's Word." The Bible was written by authors who were intent on promoting their own evolving religious and spiritual beliefs. The writers lived in a pre-scientific age, which treated slavery, genocide, mass murder, and the oppression of women as acceptable behaviors.
Bible's authority The Bible as the actual Word of God and is the prime source of all religious, spiritual and moral truth. Whenever the Bible and science disagree, the former must be right. Since meaningful scientific study of sexual orientation did not begin until circa 1950 CE, biblical authors had little or no awareness of the topic. When the Bible and science disagree, we have to give major weighting to the findings of modern-day human sexuality researchers.
Creation stories They interpret the Garden of Eden story in the book of Genesis as indicating the fall of humanity into sin. They view homosexual behavior as one manifestation of that sin. Most interpret the creation story in Genesis as composed of myths derived from earlier Middle Eastern pagan writings. Some do not accept that the story implies the fall of humanity from a holy state. Since homosexuality is found in many non-human species, it must be a natural development and not due to sin.
Basis of study Conservative theologians typically look for proof texts -- passages that clearly and directly deal with the topic. These are commonly referred to as "clobber" passages described in this section. Progressive theologians generally look for applicable biblical themes, like those advocating justice, love, monogamy, caring, commitment, etc.
Basis of truth concerning human sexuality Derived "Sola Scriptura" -- solely from the Bible, according to their interpretation of what the Bible says. Denomination tradition is also important. What the authors of the Bible intended to say to their culture + what church tradition says + what reason and science tell us + what personal experience informs us, with stress on the latter two.
God's expectations Christians should follow the Bible, God's word. It is the source of absolute truth, is fixed and unchangeable for all cultures and all eras. Christians should be open to the Holy Spirit teaching the need for change. This has happened in the past centuries concerning matters like slavery and the role of women. It is happening now over equal rights for those with a homosexual orientation. The next conflict will likely be over gender identity and transsexuality.

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Rigidity of beliefs and the possibility of dialogue:

We have exchanged Emails with hundreds of visitors to this web site about the Bible and homosexuality. Most fall into one of two groups:

bulletReligious progressives promote equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations, including homosexual ordination, same-sex marriage, civil union ceremonies in the church, equal protection under hate-crime legislation, protection against discrimination in employment, etc. These are regarded as fundamental human rights issues.

bullet Religious conservatives feel that the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is always a serious sin. Some regard it as the most serious of sins; others view it as being on a par with other sins. Allowing sexually active gays and lesbians to be ordained, or to have their committed relationships recognized by the church would involve a drastic and unacceptable lowering of church standards. The church would be condoning sin. Most also oppose including sexual orientation in hate-crime, and in anti-discrimination legislation. Most oppose same-sex marriage; they prefer that loving committed same-sex couples be regarded as simple roommates without legal protections, with their children regarded by the state as illegitimate.

We have been unable to change the beliefs or actions of any of these hundreds of people on even one point related to homosexuality. Their views appear to be absolutely rigid.

It is doubtful that much progress towards compromise on homosexual rights can be made by means of dialogue among people who have adopted firm beliefs. However, we still advocate attempting such dialogue on topics like bullying and civil rights for sexual minorities because the stakes are so high. Every year thousands of LGB and transgender youth give up hope that it will ever get better for them, and committ suicide. Through dialogue, but only if they care, the opposing sides might be able to develop policies and programs to prevent this tragic loss of life.

We don't expect that the attached essays will change the beliefs of many visitors to this web site who have already made up their mind. However, the essays may help people at least understand opinions that are not their own. They also might help people who have not yet made up their mind.

In the absence of formal dialogue, countless numbers of youth and others within the LGB community are risking coming out of "the closet" and openly revealing their sexual orientation to friends and family at some considerable physical and emotional risk. They are changing people's minds about the nature and morality of same-sex relationships. One result of this is the gradual increase in the national polls of acceptance of same-sex behavior as moral activity among gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. The percentage of American adults who support same-sex marriage is also increasing. As of early 2012, both factors have attained majority support in national polls, and the margin between percentage support and opposition is increasing at about 2 percentage points a year/20 percentage points per decade.

Site navigation:

 Home page > Christianity > Bible passages > Bible homosexuality > here

or Home page > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Bible homosexuality > here

Copyright © 2009 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-JAN-30
Latest update: 2013-JAN-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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