Homosexuality and bisexuality
Why are conservative Protestants
gay rights, while liberals
favor equal rights for all?
Difference of opinion:
The Southern Baptist Convention, (along with other denominations within the
conservative wing of Protestantism) and the United Church of Christ, (along with
other liberal faith groups), all consider themselves to be Christians. They all
use the contents of the Bible as a main foundation for their beliefs. Why have
they reached such different conclusions concerning:
||The morality or immorality of same-sex behavior;
||Whether sexually active homosexuals should be allowed as members or
||Whether loving same-sex committed couples should have their
relationships recognized by a church ritual similar
to a marriage ceremony.
||Whether same-sex committed couples should be allowed to marry in the
church where it is legal to do so.
Understanding the different beliefs:
One approach to understanding this difference of opinion is to consider how
each wing of Protestantism develops their religious beliefs. Whether expressed
by Christian individualsor denominations, their convictions are mostly based on
a blend of four factors. In the case of homosexuality, this involves:
||What the Bible actually says about homosexual behavior;
||The historical position of the denomination on homosexuality;
||Personal observation and experience from one's involvement with
||Rational study -- the findings of researchers working in genetics, child
psychology, human sexuality, etc.
It is important to realize that conservative and liberal Christians place
different emphasis on the four factors. Generally speaking:
||Conservatives rely mostly on the content of the Bible,
as they interpret it to mean. "Sola Scriptura" ("Scripture alone")
was one of the rallying cries of the Protestant Reformation. "Quod non
est biblicum, non est theologicum" ("What is not biblical is not
theological") was one of its slogans.
They give far less emphasis to the findings of researchers. In this
case, the findings of researchers are generally rejected because they
conflict with their interpretation of the Bible. Relying on their
interpretation of the Bible can be disastrous. Consider the debate over
slavery in the mid 19th century. In those days, some denominations
enthusiastically quoted biblical passages to support the owning of human
slaves as pieces of property.
||Liberals give far greater weight to the findings of scientific research,
and are willing to abandon the traditional interpretation of biblical
passages in favor of new analyses which harmonize the Bible and scientific
discoveries. This also can be disastrous from time to time. Although science
is inherently self correcting, sometimes scientists develop theories which
deviate wildly from reality, are inaccurate, and cause harm. Always remember
that one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize for medicine was the physician
who developed frontal lobotomies.
Typical conservative Protestant beliefs about homosexuality:
Conservative Christians generally believe that the Bible
authors were inspired by God to write
text that is inerrant -- free of error. They often
quote the Bible's seven passages -- often called "clobber
passages" which have traditionally been used to condemn homosexuality. They
have generally concluded that the Bible clearly and consistently condemns all
homosexual behavior, no matter what the nature of the relationship is:
||Genesis 19 discusses God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in
response to the rampant homosexuality of the men in the two cities.
||Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 clearly condemns same-sex behavior; it
is described as an abomination. The latter passage actually calls for
the death penalty for sexually active homosexuals.
||Various passages in Deuteronomy, Judges and Kings also
||1 Corinthians 6 condemns "homosexual offenders," "homosexuals,"
"sodomites," or "abusers of themselves with mankind,"
depending upon the English translation used. Such will not "inherit the
kingdom of God" -- they will not attain Heaven
||Romans 1 condemns both men and women engaging in same-sex
behavior. Bennett Sims, the former Episcopal bishop of Atlanta,
believes that these verses have done more to form conservative Christians'
negative opinion of homosexuality than any other single passage in the
Bible. He writes:
"For most of us who seriously honor Scripture these verses still
stand as the capital New Testament text that unequivocally prohibits
homosexual behavior. More prohibitively, this text has been taken to
mean that even a same-sex inclination is reprehensible, so that a type
of humanity known as 'homosexual' has steadily become the object of
contempt and discrimination." 2
||1 Timothy 1 contains thoughts similar to Romans 1.
||Jude 1:7 reinforces Genesis 19 and condemns the men of Sodom and
Gomorrah for their desire to have sex with male visitors -- described in
various Bible translations as "perversion"
"perverted sensuality," "unnatural lust," "unnatural sex,"
"lust of men for other men," and "pursued unnatural desire."
Their conclusion is obvious: homosexuality is consistently condemned
throughout the Bible. Further, they interpret 1 Corinthians 6 as showing that
homosexuals can be cured and converted to heterosexuality by first being
They generally believe that the proper approach of a Christian to a
homosexual is to convince him to be converted to heterosexuality either through
reparative therapy or by becoming saved.
Typical liberal Protestant beliefs about homosexuality:
Liberal Christians generally reject the inspiration
and inerrancy of the Bible. They acknowledge that the
Bible consists mainly of material promoting the authors' evolving beliefs. To
that is added text imported from nearby Pagan cultures, some religious
propaganda, and some material -- like the execution of rape victims, religious
minorities, and homosexuals; forced divorce of inter-faith couples;
genocides; etc. -- which they view as definitely
against the will of God.
Rather than concentrating on the seven "clobber" passages, they derive their
beliefs from biblical themes of love, caring for other humans, inclusiveness,
and justice. When they do study the "clobber" passages they often interpret them
very differently and conclude that the Bible is silent on loving, committed
consensual same-sex relationships. Typical interpretations are:
||Genesis 19 discusses the city residents' intent to rape
||Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 condemns same-sex behavior, but only in
||Various passages in Deuteronomy, Judges and Kings condemn
||1 Corinthians 6 condemns child molesters.
||Romans 1 describes heterosexuals going against their nature by
engaging in same-sex behavior.
||1 Timothy 1 contains thoughts similar to Romans 1.
||Jude 1:7 accuses the men of Sodom of intent to commit bestiality:
having forcible sex with a non-human species -- angels in this case.
Their conclusion is obvious: The Bible condemns same-sex abuse -- rape,
desecrating holy places, prostitution, child molestation, bestiality and sexual
activity against one's basic nature. It is silent on consensual same-sex
activity by persons with a homosexual or bisexual relationship within a loving
They generally believe that the proper approach of a Christian to
homosexuality is to:
||Help them accept their sexual orientation as ethically neutral, normal,
natural and unchangeable.
||Work to end oppression of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals; and
||Work to end special privileges for heterosexuals -- like the
right to marry.
||Reject reparative therapy as ineffectual and
Opinion expressed by John S. Spong:
Waterfront Media publishes a regular Email newsletter in which retired
bishop John S. Spong answers questions submitted by the public.
3 "SXL" wondered about the growth of
conservative Protestant denominations and was "rather appalled that their
'love' for humanity does not include homosexuals" and other groups The asked
Spong's opinion about the future of these groups in the U.S.
J.S. Spong suggested that religious fundamentalism is a mechanism to generate
security and stability in its members who live in a culture that is in rapid
change. Unfortunately it requires that some group be demonized. Currently, the
group selected are persons with a homosexual orientation. He writes, in part:
"I think that we have in recent years entered a 'New Dark Age' in the
Western world. It is marked by the rise of religious systems that seek to
build security by encouraging prejudice against a designated victim. Both
evangelical fundamentalism and the kind of ultra-conservative Roman
Catholicism that is at present installed in the Vatican are publicly defined
by their visceral and uninformed hostility toward homosexual persons. What
the heretic was in the Middle Ages, the black in the days of slavery and
segregation, and the Jew in Nazi Germany, the homosexual has become in the
religious hysteria of our day. This kind of behavior is always a response to
fear and to a rapidly changing world. Security-providing religion, which
always requires a victim, is like a drug that carries us over the rough
places of life. It is certainly not the wave of the Christian
future....Beyond that I think we ought to recognize that truth and unity
cannot ever be built on identifying a victim that creates the illusion of
unity because there is a common enemy. When these institutions say that God
hates the same things that the worshiper hates, everyone should be very
"Dark Ages do not last forever. Ten years from now this phase of our
religious history will surely be over. The contemporary scientific and
medical data that suggests that homosexuality is a perfectly normal but
minority aspect of our humanity, that it is a given and not a chosen aspect
of life, will have challenged these prejudices so deeply as to make them
seem not only quaint but ignorant. Remember that less than one hundred years
ago we were still persecuting left-handed people as evil, deviant and
unnatural. In the meantime I share your enormous embarrassment that the
Christian church is today the major voice in the Western World in the
persecution of those members of our society whose only 'sin' is that they
were born with a sexual orientation different from the majority. 5 Someday we will be terribly
ashamed of the Christian leaders in our generation."
If Bishop Spong is correct, then
fundamentalists will have to move on, leaving homosexuals to demonize another
group -- perhaps Muslims, or
Witches, other Neopagans, or some other religious
A book to help the general public understand homosexuality:
Standards: Biblical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives," iUniverse,
Inc., (2005), 588 pages. Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
Standards Task Force of North Como Presbyterian Church in Roseville,
MN, has produced a most impressive book on homosexuality. Its main theme is
whether candidates who are in loving committed same-sex relationships should be
allowed to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church, (USA). It also covers many
other topics associated with sexual orientation, including reparative therapy,
suicide among gay and lesbian youth, homosexuality in the natural world, etc. Unlike almost all other books which take
either a liberal or conservative approach, this book attempts to explain all
viewpoints objectively. An amazing accomplishment.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
James Akin, "The
Practical problems of Sola Scriptura," at:
"How to be true to the Bible
and say 'Yes' to same-sex unions," at:
You can receive the free
newsletter by signing up at:
John S. Spong, "Bishop Spong
Q&A on Growth of the Evangelical Community," Beliefnet weekly mailing,
2005-DEC-07. We deleted part of Bishop Spong's reply in order to stay within
Strictly speaking, Bishop Spong
many be incorrect here. The available scientific information on
homosexuality seems to indicate that the 5% of adults who are homosexual
were not actually born with that way. Rather, a
larger number of infants -- perhaps 10% -- are born with the propensity to
homosexuality which was later triggered in some children before school age.
It lies dormant in others. The trigger is an unknown factor in the
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-DEC-07
Latest update: 2005-DEC-08
Author: B.A. Robinson, who happens to have been born left-handed, and thus -- by
definition -- is deviant.