By Jared Riemer
The Opinions Expressed here are those of the writer
Homosexuality, it is a topic that many people find to discomforting to talk about. Despite those statements that relate the Gay Rights Movement of today to the Civil Rights movement, people just put onto the long list of groups that are discriminated against and move on. This can bring up a question: what makes this movement so different from the others?
Since I am not gay I do not fully realize the oppression that goes on in the gay community. We do not experience it directly. But we do know that there is more than just the issue of homosexuality discriminatory issues going on. This brings up a tough question: what brings this issue to the top of the list?
Like the discrimination against Hispanics and the Muslim community. Could we say that this is worse than the oppression against homosexuals? Maybe the difference is that people feel permitted to be openly intolerant toward someone of a person of less common sexual orientation than of less common ethnicity. Most people have a better understanding of the wrongness of prejudiced feelings toward people because of their ethnicity, so they are not as vocal about it. When people are more outspoken about prejudices, the government and its supporters also feel freer to enact discriminatory laws on the deviants. That brings out the opposition to this discrimination in greater strength, too. Perhaps this is the difference.
I recently had a conversation with a friend that is openly homosexual. He concluded that the bigotry is not as bad toward him as toward a lot of other gay people. He explained that is probably for several reasons, like his location (a very diverse university in a somewhat diverse city) and self-presentation. My friend noted that even if he is walking down the street holding hands with a guy, people are not so appalled because, other than that, he does not seem so deviant.
As Christians, Christ followers, we are called to a degree of love and an acceptance of people so high that absolutely no one is to be left out of the grace of God and His Son Jesus Christ. The Church holds a prominent position amongst believers and is expected to nurture and accept people of the faith as well as appeal to those who are not yet aware of Christ’s love for them. However, the subject of homosexuality often brings a cloud of negativity over the Church which tends to blind Christians, making them forget their calling to love everybody despite their ethnicity, sexual orientation, or social identity. Scripture is indeed the divine authority of God. So, in times such as these it is God’s Word that we turn to rather than relying on our worldly emotions and thoughts.
There are three main passages in the Old Testament (Gen. 19: 1-13; Lev 18:22; 20:13) and three in the New Testament (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; I Tim. 1:10) that have traditionally been read as prohibiting homosexuality. On top of this, the entire biblical narrative presupposes that sex is supposed to take place between a man and a woman in the context of marriage (Gen. 2:23-24). The biblical definition of “sin” is “missing the mark”, and on the basis of this scriptural evidence, we would have to regard homosexuality as “missing the mark” of God’s ideal. So yes, in my own personal opinion homosexuality is considered a sin.
Having said this, three important points must be made:
1. There are a number of theologians who argue that these six passages are not as clear cut in denouncing all forms of homosexuality as they may initially seem. For example, some point out that the word Paul uses in 1 Tim. 6 and 1 Tim. 1 that is usually translated as “homosexuality” is very unclear. It is never used before Paul (the author) coins it in these verses and historically it has been translated in a wide variety of ways. Also, some scholars argue that the kind of homosexuality Paul had in mind when writing Romans 1 would have been the kind typically practiced by Romans and would not have included loving, respectful, innocent committed relationships. Though some of these arguments may be deemed invalid we also cannot just casually dismiss this debate.
2. There is absolutely no justification for the way many Christians today make homosexuality out to be worse than other types of sin. Judging from the way certain Christian leaders have publicly crusaded against homosexuality, you would think it was the number one sin in the Bible and the most damaging sin to society. Yet, while we have at most six verses in the Bible that mention homosexuality, we have around 3,000 passages that address greed, gluttony and the need to care for the poor. Not only this, but if there are any sins American Christians are most guilty of, they are greed, gluttony and apathy toward the poor. And if there are any sins that demonstrably kill people, it is these ones. Yet Christians go after gays. I mean why? I cannot help but suspect it might be because it is one sin we can feel self-righteous in condemning.
3. There is no justification for the way many Christians make homosexuality a “deal breaker” sin. That is, many seem to think that it is impossible to be a Christian and also be gay. You can be Christian and be greedy, an overeater and never sacrifice for the poor, but you cannot be gay? You can be Christian and be divorced and remarried, gossip and judge others (all mentioned in the Bible more than homosexuality) but you cannot be gay? Why?
When people get their life from their religion rather than from their relationship with Christ, they need to find some sin-group they can positively contrast themselves with. Sadly, for many Christians, this happens to be gay people.
This tendency to put sins on a scale of importance, ranking homosexuality near the top and other sins (the ones we are guilty of and that are mentioned more frequently in the Bible) towards the bottom is opposite to the Kingdom. Jesus commands us to do the opposite. We are to regard our sins, whatever they are, as planks sticking out of our eyes, and other peoples sins, whatever they are, to be mere dust particles (Mt. 7:1-3). With Paul, we are to confess that we are “the worst of sinners” (I Tim. 1:15-16).