As a liberal, white, male, heterosexual Christian, I stand somewhere between the politically correct and the Christian correct. There is an old joke that says, “What happens when you stand in the middle of the road? You get hit by trucks going both ways.” It’s time for me (and others) to take that chance and speak about gay rights.
My friend Eric, the other day, said on his Facebook page, something along the lines of wondering why the vote in Maine went the way it did — against gay marraige. He, too, is a good Christian man who longs for the day when gay folks get the same rights as everybody else. But the fact that he doesn’t understand why it’s this way leads me to step forward and explain to him and all my good UCC friends and all my gay friends why (I think) it happened and how to fix it. (This analysis applies to other political movements, as well.)
First things first: There is no Biblical way to make a case for homosexuality. Sorry to say it, but there isn’t. The very thing that makes it a non-issue for many is the very thing that makes it impossible to make a case for homosexuality using only scripture texts. The Bible simply doesn’t say enough about homosexuality, and what it does say isn’t pro-gay. Jesus never said anything about it, the apostle Paul didn’t like it, and the Old Testament (“Hebrew Bible”/ “Hebrew Scriptures” for the politically correct out there) uses words like “abomination” and “stone them”. “Proof texting” — using each of the texts which mention it and analyzing them — does not yield a very good picture.
The only things scholars can point to which might be pro-gay are two (actually 4) texts. In the Old Testament, there is a passage which talks about King David as a boy loving his best friend Jonathan.
- 1Samuel 18:1 “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David , and he loved him as himself.”
- 1Samuel 18:3 “And Jonathan made a covenant with because he loved him as himself.”
- 1Samuel 20:17 “And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.
And in the New Testament, there’s a passage where Jesus might be talking against homophobia: Matthew 5:22 has Jesus saying,”But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’, is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” In this case, the word “Raca” might possibly translated as “faggot”, according to scholars. Other scholars disagree as it’s a word that only occurs once in the Bible. In any case, this text is — at best — ambiguous.
By the way, in case anybody cares, there’s only one text that speaks about lesbianism — Romans 1:26 “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.” All the other curse stuff seems to be about gay men and “laying with a man as you would a woman”.
Given that there are people the world over who believe in “Solo Scriptora” (“only scripture”) as the way to figure out the Christian way, those people are never going to say that gay marraige is OK. Sorry, it’s not going to happen. Give up on them now.
Virginia Satir, the most incredible woman thinker I know, says “Everything makes sense, if you understand the premise”. If part of your premise is that God has to people to hell for being gay, and your only premise is scripture, then it’s loving to warn people about being gay. This is how good people can come to different opinions.
For liberal Christians who try to use a balance of “scripture, reason, tradition, and experience” to figure out the Christian way, things can get totally different. Where we might lose on scripture, and tradition, we can more than make up on experience. 5 or 10 scriptures and 2000 years of tradition don’t compare to millions of gay men and women who are just plain, nice folks in love.
But reason and experience can go either way, and here’s where I want to vent.
Let’s talk about experience, first. The radical left has fantasies about life that are just as ridiculous as the radical right. Just as the religious right says that all gay folks are evil, there are people who talk as left-wing propagandists who say that all gay people are good. People in the middle are not — I repeat not — idiots. They know what they see. There are jerky gay people, just as much as there are jerky “straight” people. And don’t tell me that the jerky gay people don’t have an agenda to force through their position. They did and they do.
Michael Musto who used to write for the Village Voice is simply not my kind of person. Rosie O’ Donnell was a much more sell-able woman when she said of Musto, “it’s none of his business if I’m gay” and calling him names. In the early 1980’s and ’90’s, outing people was a controversial method of strengthening the movement at best. And men who had supposedly had AIDS biting policemen wearing gloves, willing to share their bad fortune, is an image that doesn’t escape my mind. My experience and my reason tell me that not all gay people are good people, simply because NO group of people is all good.
For instance, I don’t like promiscuity in gay men any more than I like in heterosexual men. It’s not the gay-ness that’s the problem, it’s the promiscuity. In theory, gay marraige will curb that in the same way that heterosexual marraige does — kudos to the idea, then!
If the gay-rights movement in general and the gay-marraige movement specifically want to make progress, it seems to me that they should do it honestly. If I see somebody who’s gay and a jerk and I say so, if they also think so, they should say so instead of looking at me strangely. I mean this in much the same way that when someone says “that Christian doesn’t seem very nice”, I confirm their reality. I mean this in much the same way that Bill Cosby does (and gets in trouble) for saying some Black kids are punks. Being gay, or being Christian, or being Black doesn’t make you a good person, being a good person makes you a good person. It has been my experience — particularly at seminary — that there are people on the far left who won’t acknowledge this. I’m not “homophobic” for saying this, I’m honest. And the more they won’t acknowledge this, the more the far right can say, “See, they’re trying to pull something over on you!” and be credible. And, as someone in the left-leaning middle, I hate it when the right seems to understand me better than the left. Rush Limbaugh is seductive for a reason. It just doesn’t do my soul any good to go down that path.
This leads me to my second reason/experience thing: the movement needs to come to terms with the existence of bi-sexuality. For every time that a gay person says, “I can’t help it, that’s the way I am!”, the right can counter with two words: Anne Heche (or Julie Cypher, Melissa Etheridge’s partner for years that went back to being with guys or any number of people). Love ’em, hate ’em, disagree with ’em, whatever — they exist. And their existence refutes the notion that all gayness isn’t a choice. I had a gay client who was about as well-adjusted a person as you’re likely to meet and she and I discussed the trend among teenage girls to try out “lesbianism” as a way of being, sort of like being a “Goth”. We both just didn’t get it, but we both had experienced it. “Who knew?”, we said. If we take Kinsey seriously at all, there certainly are people who are 100% gay, just as there are people who are 100% heterosexual. But that leaves 80% of people somewhere in the middle. And those people make — at least on some level — a choice. People in the very middle of the Kinsey spectrum have to make a choice if they’re going to be in a relationship. If you think it’s a sin to be gay, then you’re going to say it’s a sin to make the gay choice. If you think it’s acceptable to be gay, you’re going to think it’s acceptable to make the gay choice. That’s just all it boils down to. If you say, however, that for some apparently “gay” people it is a choice and for others it isn’t, there is no way to deny it. You win the point for reality and “reason based in experience”. The middle-to-left people will go to your side because you’re not trying to convince them. Instead, you’re believing them. They connect with you.
Pedophilia and gays — same thing. There are gay pedophiles, and there are “straight” pedophiles. Certainly, and without any doubt, there are millions of gay people who have no interest in children. But to say that no pedophiles are also attracted to the same gender is preposterous. Admit it and move on. If somebody asks, don’t say “Gay people are not pedophiles”, because some of them are. Instead, add in, “Yeah, but there are also lots more “straight” pedophiles”. Again, no one can argue with that. I imagine it’s scaryto admit, but it’s still true. AND, of course, pedophiles aren’t wanting to get married — gay or straight. Virginia Satir said that “we connect in our sameness, be grow in our differences”. The more reality we can share, the more we connect. The stronger the movement becomes in its differences.
A little more reality: Ellen Degeneres is, apparently, nice and she’s gay. As much as the left has to acknowledge Anne Heche, the right has to acknowledge — no matter how much they don’t want to — that there are nice gay people. She (and they) act more Christian than Rev. Phelps and his band of not-so-merry men. They are what’s going to make the change happen.
One last thing: change the rules. Instead of pushing for gay marriage, push for heterosexual unions. If everybody gets recognized by the government as having a state union, you take the religious thing off the table. If God ordains marriage, churches who want to say gay couples are married can and churches who want to say “marriage = man + woman” can say that too. Everybody gets their civil rights. Everybody gets their marriage/religious rights respected and gay folks get their marriage rites respected by people who can respect them.
This may not be what people want to hear, but it’s true — or at least I think so. I hope the good people win the right to be in love.
EDITOR’S NOTE: My friend David Ratz corrected me re: this article. Apparently, there’s some kind of public relations campaign against gay marraige, possibly based on false info, that worked in both California and in Maine. Just so you know.