I Survived the Christian Right
Ten Lessons I Learned on My Journey Home
Lesson 7: Support Gay Rights Not Wrongs - Most of my evangelical friends thought I went off the deep end when I changed my view on this issue. I have to admit, for years I had wondered how anyone could defend homosexuality in light of certain passages of the Bible. But that was before 2004, when I did an honest study of those passages and discovered misinterpretations and before I learned that several words in those passages are almost certainly mistranslated.
It started when I began hearing stories from Christian gay people on how they had pleaded for God’s help to overcome their “sin” of homosexuality. They were saying it didn’t work. A personal friend told me a similar story. Despite seeking help in “ex-gay” ministries, God wasn’t changing them into heterosexuals nor taking away their sex drives. I read a Philip Yancey book where he recommended people read Mel White’s story (without endorsing his conclusions). White was a former ghostwriter for evangelical heavy weights and had come out declaring his homosexuality and the futility of trying to change. It was then that I clearly saw there was a pastoral problem with homosexuality. But was there a scriptural problem? Was there evidence evangelicals were misreading the Bible on this issue?
Turns out there is. For instance, one word in the Greek New Testament commonly translated “homosexual,” is the word, arsenokoitai, which is rarely found in ancient literature and whose meaning is uncertain. It must be a condemned sexual behavior but does not denote homosexuality across the board. To translate it “homosexual” without at least including a footnote about its ambiguity is irresponsible. To understand what the New Testament teaches on homosexuality, one must understand the landscape of sexual practices in the first century.
For instance, when Paul talks of homosexuality in Romans, he’s speaking in the context of idolatry. Historical and literary context leads many scholars to conclude that when the Bible alludes to homosexuality it is talking about common forms of it in the ancient world, namely pederasty, cultic prostitution, and homosexual rape (e.g. implied in the story of Sodom), and not committed, loving homosexual relationships, which are supported by Christian movements like Metropolitan Community Church, SoulForce, and even the late Lewis Smedes, an evangelical author who taught at Fuller Seminary.
Don’t misread the Bible on homosexuality. Open your heart to gay people, who can’t change their orientation despite well-intentioned efforts.
40 Stossel, John, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel—Why Everything You Know is Wrong, page 185.
41 Yancey, Philip, What’s So Amazing About Grace
42 White, Mel, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America.
43 See Campolo, Tony, Speaking my Mind, page 67 and Rogers, Jack, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, pages 73-74
44 Helminiak, Daniel, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality and Cannon, Justin R., The Bible, Christianity, and Homosexuality
45 The oppressive male-initiation practice in the Greco-Roman world of men having sex with boys
46 For example, Cybelene worship in Corinth, Athens, Ephesus, and Rome, which included castrated male priests, and the temple of Aphrodite in Corinth, which had 1000 sacred female prostitutes. See Stark, Rodney, Cities of God, pages 50 and 92.