Friday, 24 April 2009

Chritianity and Homosexuality

This blog has been prompted by something Miss California allegedly said. The wonderful Stephy has blogged on this here:

http://www.stuffchristianculturelikes.com/

but rather than blog on her Comments I'm setting down my thoughts in my own blog.

A few years ago we had a major issue at the church I attend when someone in an active same sex relationship applied for membership. At the time I came within a whisker of leaving the church when the vote went in favour but, in retrospect, this had more to do with the way the issue was handled than the outcome. I was starting from the view that the Bible banned homosexuality and nothing in the discussions changed this point of view because there was no attempt to examine and explain the scriptures. Instead the arguments in favour were all based on modern social thinking to the point where one person said that if we rejected this it would go against everything she was learning in her secular counselling course. I'm sorry but a secular source is not an authority within the church.

However since then I have learnt to read the scripture in a contextual way and this raised all sorts of questions that a literal word based reading doesn't even think about. Firstly in the Old Testament the arguments against homosexuality are based on the need to grow the population and the treatment of women as breeding machines and property; neither of which are consistent with Jesus' teaching on the place of women in society and marriage. Secondly Paul's teaching in Romans may have coloured by his view of temple prostitution (male and female) having been brought up in a Greco-Roman town and so may only apply within that historical context. Thirdly I usually get the "God made them male and female" argument thrown at me when trying to discuss this but there are a significant proportion of the population (between 0.05% to 1% depending on where you get your figures) who are transgender; i.e. neither male or female in the conventional understanding of those terms.

As a result I have moved from an "anti" position to one of "not sure but I don't see Jesus condemning it." Interestingly the person who nearly split the church by joining now only appears when his "son" comes to church parade as a Cub Scout lending credence to those who say a lot of these issues are politically motivated; I for one am happy to see him there and make a point of speaking to him and making him welcome.

If you want to know more I would recommend the book An Acceptable Sacrifice (ISBN-10: 0281058512) which was written to inform the debate within the Anglican Church (without much success from what I've read) for further reading.

4 comments:

David Rudel said...

Your post suggests that "literal reading" of a text is different from reading a text "in context." I don't see why you consider these opposing notions.

I wrote a book based on a very literal hermeneutic, but the point of the whole book was to understand the context of 1st century Judaism and the effect that context has on our (literal) interpretation.
Unsurprisingly, I came to conclusions far removed from what conservative Christianity claims, but that is really beside the point.

It sounds like you are not really talking about "reading the Scripture in context" but rather "seeing the Bible as a reaction and tool of the dominant culture, and therefore without any normative value at all."

It seems to me that if the Bible was to be thought of in that way, Jesus would not have validated it by quoting from the Old Testament scriptures so generously.

I have some excerpts from my book at The Gospel You've Never Heard in case you want to check them out.

Julie said...

look here! http://neilbrighton.typepad.com/

Julie said...

The church did not agree to admit the person concerned into membership on the basis that their lifestyle was acceptable if it had been a number of people would have left - I have sent you the report I gave to the meeting by e-mail - but that we are all sinners and none of our lifestyles match God's ideal and there are areas of each of our lives that we refuse to change - what was proposed was that we walked together in openess to God challanging any of us about our beliefs and attitudes and actions

Alastair said...

For me, this is the most divisive issue facing the church today. A few thoughts strike me:

1. As a (hopefully) soon-to-be member at a Baptist Church (Elm Road), I've been attending "classes" with the Ministers. One of them involved a discussion of the 5 core values of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, one of which is to be "An Inclusive Community". How do we as a church reconcile that desire to be an inclusive church with our strongly held beliefs about what makes someone a sinner, and, in particular, what makes someone a worse sinner than anyone else? I don't think I have an easy answer to this!

2. I'm not convinced by the "God made them male and female" argument at all. What about people who either can't or won't have children despite being heterosexual? Celibacy has no greater advocate than St Paul!

3. For an interesting consideration of Romans 1, see the Catholic theologian James Allison here:

http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng15.html

In my view, it makes for interesting reading.