Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Scriptural Basis for What I Believe about Same-Sex Relationships

I don't normally like to debate Scripture. There are so many different interpretations of any given passage, so many ways to take stuff out of context and use it to suit our own purposes. Even Satan quoted Scripture when trying to tempt Christ. I also am not a Bible scholar (though I am a Bible student... I've read it cover-to-cover many times over, still read it daily, and have done many studies through resources like the HarperCollins Study Bible and with various teachers who are Bible scholars.) I don't read Greek or Hebrew, so I must rely on flawed English translations (as is the case for most people reading this, I'm guessing) and other people’s opinions on what the Greek and Hebrew words might really mean. I am painfully aware of how limited I am, how I am no less likely than anyone else anywhere on the theological spectrum to misinterpret something to suit my own fancy. I’m aware of how likely it is that I'm just plain wrong on any given point. I fall short. We all do. And my view on Scripture isn't going to change anyone else's opinion any more than people quoting a few verses of Scripture at me is going to change mine.

So I don't tend to debate Scripture. But an anonymous responder to an earlier post asked for my position solely from Scripture: "I want to see that your main points come from the word of God first and foremost." I also have had a couple of e-mail exchanges with Daniel McLain Hixon, to whom I am seriously overdue in responding, and that discussion also kind of boils down to how Scripture forms my beliefs, so hopefully this will address both of their questions.

I also get the feeling a lot of conservatives believe theological liberals ignore the Bible or don't read it (not necessarily from either Anonymous or Mr. Hixon… it’s sort of a general impression I get), so I'm going to make this rather long post explaining how my views are rooted in Scripture. It's not really intended to make anyone change their own minds. It's just to show that yes, I do read my Bible and yes, my opinions are based on it, not in spite of it. All quotes come from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Bible.

What the Bible Says About Same-Sex Relationships

First I think I need to start with some of the common Scriptures that are tossed out to defend stances against inclusiveness for GLBT people. Two of the big ones are Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13:

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

This comes from the Purity Code and is part of the Torah, or Law for the ancient Israelites. There are several things to note here. The law is specifically directed towards males. Females were more property than individuals in that time and culture, so no one really cared about two women sleeping together. But for a man to "lower" himself to "act like a woman" by having sex with a man? THAT was huge. Also, the Hebrew word translated to English as "abomination" meant "unclean." Other things taken from the same passage defined as "abominations" include but are not limited to: sleeping with a woman during her menstrual period, reaping to the edges of your field, eating sacrificial meat on the third day after it was sacrificed, eating pork or shellfish, wearing clothing made of mixed fibers. Punishments for "abominations" varied, but usually involved either banishment or death.

In the New Testament, Paul argued vociferously against applying Torah law to Gentile Christians. Peter had a vision where God specifically nullified the dietary laws as a metaphor for accepting everyone into the church, including Gentiles who did not follow the Torah. Few Christians today keep kosher or follow the purity code. Therefore, I fail to see its stipulations against men sleeping with men as any more binding than its stipulations against eating lobster.

Other Old Testament passages used to argue against men sleeping with men (there are no OT passages that say anything about women sleeping with women, and only one NT passage that does so) really aren't about sex at all. The Sodom and Gomorrah story is a prime example. It's a story about violence and rape and has nothing whatsoever to do with consensual, committed, monogamous relationships. In fact, the real sin of Sodom was actually not sodomy at all, but inhospitality. Jesus himself describes it this way in Luke 10:10-12 (emphasis mine):

’But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.’

Moving to the New Testament, the one and only verse that mentions women sleeping together in the same light as men sleeping together is Romans 1:26-27, but I'll quote 1:18-32 to keep it in context (emphasis mine):

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

Paul is discussing idolatry in this passage. It starts out saying what the sin is: "exchang[ing] the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles." Idol worship. The next word is "therefore;" Paul is now talking about things that have happened as a result of idolatry. He's describing temple prostitution, not monogamous committed relationships (something he would have had no concept of in his time).

The entire letter to the Romans addresses tensions between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians and argues for the inclusion of all, regardless of their adherence to Jewish laws. He specifically calls those who are scrupulous about observing special days and diets, for example, "weak in faith" while those who are lax in such things are "strong." He argues that the "strong" should support the "weak" by not tempting them out of their "strength," but he certainly does not applaud those who keep the law as more righteous.

Other NT passages that use the English word "homosexual" or "sodomite" (and as noted above, "sodomite" might not have anything to do with "sodomy" at all but rather the violence and inhospitality of the people of Sodom) are Greek words that are vague or which the true meaning is unknown. For example, in 1 Corinthians 6:9, the Greek word translated to "sodomite" means "soft." In 1 Timothy 1:9, the word translated to "sodomite" is a compound word unheard of anywhere else in either the Bible or other contemporary Greek scholarship: "malebed." No one really knows what these words mean. It could mean male slaves held for the gratification of their male owners. It could mean temple prostitution. It could mean anything.

So I am far from convinced that the Bible condemns committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.

What Jesus Says

It's interesting to note that Jesus says absolutely nothing about same-sex relationships. He specifically says that marrying a divorced woman is the same as committing adultery (and adultery is covered in the same Purity Code as men sleeping together... punishable by death), and we allow divorced people in our churches. We allow divorced women to remarry and perform those marriages. We're allowing something Jesus specifically condemned but not allowing something he didn't even think was worth mentioning? I find this somewhat inconsistent.

Jesus did have a lot to say about mercy and justice, however.

He criticizes the Pharisees (the religious leaders of his time) for their strict adherence to the Sabbath in Matthew 12:3-8 (emphasis mine):

He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.’

He criticizes the Pharisees for caring more about the letter of the law than about the spirit in Matthew 23:13-24 (emphasis mine):

‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

‘Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.” You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, “Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.” How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

In Luke 10:25-28 he was asked what the greatest commandment was:

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

Note that this serves as an introduction to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the purpose of which was to define “neighbor.” Jesus was basically saying even Samaritans, the most hated enemy of the Jews of his time (think “terrorists” today and you’ll get an idea of how repulsive Samaritans were to the Jews of his time), were included as “neighbors.”

In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus condemns judging others:

‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.’

He goes on in verses 15-20 to describe how we are to discern false prophets:

‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.’

I know too many GLBT people who have good fruit--people who are in beautiful, loving, committed, monogamous relationships with someone of the same sex. I only wish I was as spirit-filled and close to Christ as they are. It also seems to me that the people who most strongly oppose GLBT rights use a lot of hateful rhetoric and quote a lot of false studies. (9th Commandment prohibits bearing false witness.) If I follow Jesus’s advice about looking at the fruit individuals bear, than I have a hard time laying a blanket condemnation down on all GLBT people or everyone who is in a committed, monogamous, same-sex relationship. And I have a hard time supporting those who advocate for laws that would hurt families headed by same-sex couples.

In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35), Jesus condemns those who would be unforgiving of others’ sins despite having been forgiven for their own. Verses 32:-34:

’ Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt.’

In John 8:1-11, Jesus saves an accused adulteress from being stoned by an angry, self-righteous mob:

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

Note here that Jesus doesn’t make “go[ing] and sin[ning] no more” a condition for her salvation. He tells her that only after he has already saved her. If sinlessness were a requirement for admittance to either the church or to Heaven, then both would be awfully empty places. Population: 1. (Or 3-in-1, perhaps.)

Erring on the Side of Mercy

Do I expect that these Scriptures, which are such a small and admittedly hand-picked batch will convince others? Not really, no. But these are just some of the Scriptures that deeply impact why I believe what I believe and do what I do. I believe God has called me to work for GLBT rights. I believe Proposition 107 (the marriage amendment) that is on the ballot in Arizona this November is an ugly, mean-spirited, un-Christlike initiative that I must fight if I’m to follow Christ as I understand him. I do these things, not in spite of Scripture, but because of it. And because of Reason, Experience, and Tradition because despite my blog’s title, I am at heart a Methodist.

However, I am well aware that I might be wrong about whether or not same-sex relationships are inherently sinful. I admit that freely. I might be wrong. But since I already know I’m going to err, I’d rather err on the side of mercy rather than judgment. I’d rather have to explain to God why I was too easy on sinners (I am one myself, after all) than have to explain to him why I barred the doors against others. It’s what Christ did and this is how I (imperfectly) follow him.

HarperCollins Study Bible


At 2:19 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Thank you.

At 3:27 PM, Anonymous Jodi said...

I am not done reading or absorbing yet, but I wanted to comment on this blurb:

"We allow divorced women to remarry and perform those marriages. We're allowing something Jesus specifically condemned but not allowing something he didn't even think was worth mentioning? I find this somewhat inconsistent."

My pastor/denomination will not marry two people in a situation where there was adultery/divorce that is in contradiction to Scripture. If a man had an affair and decided to divorce his wife, the man would be disciplined by the church (to the point of excommunication if he is defiantly unrepentant) and vice versa if it was the woman who cheats. Society certainly doesn't stand up for people who get cheated on...the Church definitely should, and should not condone that sort of behavior by ignoring it and granting new marriages.

At 7:36 PM, Blogger TimT said...

I understand the pain of your dilemma; sexual addictions are tough to deal with. One group doesn't know how Jesus heals this addiction, just can't cope and rejects the addict. Another group tries to stamp out conscience, change the rules and 'celebrate' their addiction.

A third group knows how to deal with this kind of addiction or where to send addicts for help. Sometimes the addiction was caused by molestation as a child. Sometimes it was caused by a bad or absent father figure. Sometimes it was caused by a voodoo love spell that can be bought on the internet for $20. But the third group can offer Christian love and healing -- if you are willing to return to conscience.

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

I don't understand what "dilemma" you mean.

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Very interesting post and you make some valid points especially about erring on the side of mercy.

I have probably as many Scriptural reasons to stand in opposition as you do to support, but I will make only this point.

Jesus is not "silent" on this particular issue. The introduction to the Gospel according to St John specifically reminds us that Jesus was, is, and will always be. Jesus is God is Jesus; this is our tradition. Therefore if it was spoken in the Hebrew text and if we believe that text to be the voice of the Lord, then we must necessarily default to only one God, not two (YHWH and Jesus). To proclaim Jesus silent on the issue is to change the nature of the Christ who is "God in the flesh".

As for whether the Hebrew prohibitions refer specifically to slaves held against their will for the pleasure of their male masters or temple prostitutes may be valid only to a point. The Hebrew text also specifically refers to males made for females and vice-versa.

Sodom was exclusively punished for inhospitality? Respectfully, I think that is quite a stretch even as I also think that homosexuality as THE sin for which Sodom was destroyed is quite a stretch, perhaps in an effort to demonize something we don't quite understand.

I will agree that we conservatives have not been very good at allowing grace into our opposition; indeed the same problem exists in my own opposition to abortion. As a pastor, however, I will be consistent with my opposition to those who leave hearth and home for the company of another as an illegitimate relationship just as I believe a homosexual relationship to be illegitimate. There is no doubt that we are inconsistent. It is a perfect testimony to our imperfection.

Blessings to you and yours.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Betty Newman said...

Although I cannot totally support same sex relationships, I am open to seeking God's direction in this area.

However, it is not the "G" and "L" of the acronym "GLBT" that bothers me as much as the "B" and "T".

I also know Gays and Lesbians who are in committed, monogamous relationships. But "which" would the "B" and "T" choose? And if they choose, then, would that make them a "G" or an "L"?

"Committed, monogamous relationships" don't bother me. It's the "whatever I want" that does.


At 10:23 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

It's been my experience that bisexuals are like anyone else; some of them choose to be promiscuous and others choose monogamy one way or the other. I have a bisexual friend that is happily married to a man, for example. Being attracted to both genders doesn't mean you indulge that attraction anymore than it does for straight people.

I admit I am the least familiar with transgendered issues, but sexual orientation and sexual identity are two separate things. A transgendered woman who once was a man is now considered a lesbian if she's attracted to women and straight if she's attracted to men. Marriage becomes very sticky here; how do we define gender? Is the trans woman considered a female or male legally? If she's still considered a man legally despite having gone through sex reassignment surgery, then legally she is only allowed to marry women.

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Andy B. said...

Bad Methodist,
Thank you for this thoughtful post, with which I agree whole heartedly. I think your insight, that "Paul argued vociferously against applying Torah law to Gentile Christians," is mostly overlooked in this conversation. It will be interesting to dwell here for a while and hear how/if some of our more conservative friends might respond to that.
As for Jesus being silent on the issue, I suppose you mean the teachings of Christ Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Gospels, right? There may have been a bit of misunderstanding there, judging from Michael's comment.
In my book, you are a Bible scholar unparalleled!

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

Heh. Scholar notsomuch, but thanks!

And yes, I mean there is nothing in the gospels of Jesus saying anything about homosexualiaty.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger j2 said...

Bad Methodist,

You are quite capable of presenting some scholarly insight, and that is good. But the methodology you are using concerning the issue of homosexuality is not your own at all. It is a very contemporary methodology which I have heard regurgitated by Amy Jill Levine person. And there are many other biblical scholars who are making their claim to fame based in such deconstructions of the ancient text and subsequent translations. While it may grant them academic achievement and notoriety it really doesn't help the truth seeker at all. The point of deconstruction is specifically to cast doubt and inject alternative meaning.

I laud your attempts to present what you have learned, but I strongly encourage you to follow through completely. Deconstruct all of the ancient texts and see what doubt it casts on all facets of both the new and old testament. Ask yourself how this helps your quest for truth and meaningful life. Even more important live your life as an experiment to validate your findings. Do not expect others to validate your truth for you, though. If it is true and you are faithful to it then the joy it brings will be your reward. If not, pain and desparation are also excellent guides.

At 10:26 PM, Anonymous Larry B said...

Andy B said

"Paul argued vociferously against applying Torah law to Gentile Christians," is mostly overlooked in this conversation. It will be interesting to dwell here for a while and hear how/if some of our more conservative friends might respond to that."

I would only say that often overlooked in the scripture is the results of Paul's argument with the council and what ultimately was accepted by both himself and the council.

Acts 15:29 lays out the conditions for gentile believers - You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality.

Those were the only 4 requirements lifted from the Torah to be applied to gentiles. The reference to sexual immorality according to most biblical scholarship is a direct reference to the levitical sexual laws.

This is often conveniently dismissed, overlooked or ignored in most debates concerning this matter, yet it was clearly of prime importance to the council and to Paul to settle these matters for the church as it was the first time Paul had sought to resolve an issue through the council and it was recorded in great detail by Luke.

Paul even instructs the church to expel a fellow christian for his sexual immorality. It seems to me either you consider Paul in error here, or you see the consistency of his message that sexual immorality is a problem for christians and we ought not to accept it in any form.

Like it or not, scripture is consistent in condemning any form of sexuality other than that experienced between a man and a woman who have covenanted to be bound together whether that be through property type laws as in early jewish society, or the more romantic forms of love Paul encountered in Roman society. There is no distinction made by any scripture writer as to when a form of sex different from male/female sex is acceptable.

The modern arguments are just that, modern thoughts applied retroactively to scripture to attempt to justify sexual activity outside the covenanted male/female sexual relationship upheld within scripture.

Bad Methodist's post is simply that - a modern retrospective on ancient writings. One can neither prove or disprove it's assertions with purely rational grounds, which leaves the logical ambiguities we now find ourselves with. So some people prefer to rely on experience to guide them here, and others choose tradition. Who's right and wrong? Who knows, but I'd hate to define my christianity on the idea that I can reject traditional sexual standards to rebuke those conservatives and prove I'm more loving than they are rather than using a more balanced approach that acknowledges the core difficulties in the subject and the wisdom of avoiding the ambiguous areas found here and dealing with what is clearly defined.

But that's what makes me a conservative :)

At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Among the the central themes of the Bible are wholeness and community. When one considers both the personal witness of many gays, along with modern understandings of human sexuality as offered by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Sociological Society and more, it would seem that anti-gay theology is destructive to the spiritual well-being and mental health of most gays. The overall purpose of Paul's teachings was to promote Christian community. Perhaps that can best be done by integrating gays into society rather than segregating or ostracizing them.

Many who support celibacy for gays ignore a crucials aspect of Paul's teaching. Paul said it was better not to marry, but if people could not control their sexual yearnings it would be better to marry. Is Paul really saying that gays are better-equipped to abstain from sexual relations than straights?

At 6:26 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

Larry B:

So then this applies to having sex with a woman during menstruation as well? 'Cause I've ever heard that used to, say, remove a clergy person from ordination or deny anyone membership in a church.

At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Larry B said...

"So then this applies to having sex with a woman during menstruation as well?"

hmm - that would be my understanding.

I guess I don't know why you are asking? The lack of an example of being expelled for sex during menstruation doesn't logically negate the idea that sex during menstruation would be an offense to God's laws as codified in the Torah .

But perhaps you do make a point that maybe the church in general isn't consistent in it's application? I certainly wouldn't disagree with that.

(Off topic - I'm also a fellow inhabitant of the old pueblo.)

At 5:43 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

But perhaps you do make a point that maybe the church in general isn't consistent in it's application?

Yes, that is my point. I know few Christians who regard sex during menstruation as sinful. Gross maybe, but not sinful. But it is in the exact same passages and if one wants to argue that they think it ALL applies, then all means ALL. One of my biggest frustration with this issue isn't so much that people regard same-sex relationships as sinful. That in and of itself doesn't bother me any more than Catholics regarding use of birth control as sinful. What does bother me is how it's blown out of proportion and treated so differently than others. In the UMC, people lose their ordination over not following this portion of the Social Principles ("Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching") and yet supporting the war (also against UMC Social Principles) is left up to individual conscience.

I'm also a fellow inhabitant of the old pueblo.

I hope then this election you will really look at Prop 107 and what it will do even if you don't support same-sex marriage. It's so broad and vaguely worded it will really hurt a lot of families. Same-sex marriage is already illegal in AZ and is not in danger of being overturned in the courts (a case against the Defense of Marriage Act lost.)

At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Larry B said...

"In the UMC, people lose their ordination over not following this portion of the Social Principles ("Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching") and yet supporting the war (also against UMC Social Principles) is left up to individual conscience."

You are confusing two parts of Methodist doctrine here. The statement that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian Teaching is part of the book of discipline and is regarded as church law that a Pastor is bound to.

The teachings regarding the war are part of the social principles which are not part of church law and Pastors are not bound to it.

Methodist teachings against drinking, gambling, etc. are all part of the social principles. Thus a pastor can engage in any of these and not be in violation of church law.

Affirming homosexual practice is against church law because it is part of the book of discipline that can only be amended by a general conference. Thus, for now, such an affirmation is a chargeable offense.

If you want to make supporting a war a chargeable offense, or remove the language regarding homosexuality, you can have a petition sent to general conference to make it part of the discipline as well and it will be voted on. That's one of the rights conferred on you as a member.
In fact there will be several petitions before the general conference in 2008 to remove the language regarding homosexuality from the book of discipline. There will also be petitions to strengthen that language and make it more restrictive. Be sure to let your respresentative to general conference know how you want them to vote.

As for prop 107 - I haven't yet decided, but based on the editorials that have been written in the paper, I'm almost inclined to vote for it as a reaction to the negative hate speech that has been leveled towards evangelical christians by those who oppose the amendment in their editorials. I don't think you have to worry though, the last poll I saw showed that the amendment only had 32% support.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

My understanding is that the "incompatible with Christian teaching" in the Book of Discipline was not given the level of church law, but I could easily be mistaken.

Yes, there have been some harsh words in various editorials against the marriage amendment, but I haven't seen anything near the level of hate that has come from the Center for Arizona Policy which sponsered the amendment. They have quoted studies that have been shown to be unsound and which were conducted by a scientist kicked out of the ASA and APA for bad methodology. They've done this to try to convince people gay men are 17 times more likely to be pedophiles (they're actually no more or less likely). It's a really vicious and unfounded accusation. That's the kind of hateful things coming from Christians that make me embarrassed to be one. (Not embarrassed of Christ, mind you, just in how poorly we're representing him.)

At 9:11 AM, Blogger Sower of Peace said...

Bad Methodist -

Thank you for your thoughtful study here. As a Methodist Seminary student concerned about his lgbt brothers and sisters and their full inclusion in the life and practice of the UMC, I appreciate your insight and discussion.

This is not an "issue" that we as United Methodists must deal with, it is truly a matter of human rights and equality for all persons of faith.

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous chelsea merz said...

Dear Bad Methodist,

I'm a producer for a national public radio show Open Source,

We are producing an election series, focusing on many states across the US. Next Monday we are broadcasting a show on AZ's 8th congressional district, We always aspire to bring bloggers into this conversation and your blog caught our attention. It's nice to get a perspective on politics from those who are not directly enmeshed in a campaign. Would you be interested in possibly participating in this show? What we normally do is record a phone interview, which we then play during our live broadcast.

Please email me if this prospect appeals to you and we can schedule a time to talk.

Best, Chelsea

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Questing Parson said...

Thank you for the work you put into it, although I know it was a labor of love.

I'm telling friends about it.

At 10:37 PM, Blogger Art said...

Very good post! Thank you.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Lemuel said...

As one bad'um to another bad'um, I would say to you what one of our spiritual ancestors (from the German side of the house) famously said to another: "Wir sind Brueder."

Well done.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Neil said...

I appreciate your desire to dig deeper into scripture, but I encourage you to keep reading more. Specifically, I encourage you to read Responding to pro-gay theology. It concisely rebuts most of the flaws in this post.

For starters, go back to Leviticus 18. The fact that it only mentioned men doesn't mean it doesn't apply to women. Using that reasoning, one would conclude that most Proverbs only apply to men.

More importantly, read the context of Leviticus 18. These aren't ceremonial laws! Note the beginning and the end of that section. God is judging the Canaanites most harshly for disobeying his moral laws. He was not holding them accountable for disobeying Israelite ceremonial laws.

The Bible couldn't be clearer that homosexual behavior is a sin. Tacking on "committed and monogomous" is worldly thinking. You could add those words to incestuous or pedophilic relationships and they would still be sinful.

You bring up a good point that the church is soft on divorce and remarriage (and on sex outside of marriage, I might add). But the answer isn't watering down the standards even more. We need to get back to a Biblical model.

So Jesus didn't mention homosexual behavior? He specifically mentined that marriage was between one man and one woman. Is that good enough to determine what He thought?

He also didn't say adultery wasn't a sin. He just raised the bar and pointed out that lust was equivalent to adultery. I have a tough time reading this and drawing that conclusion that Jesus thought homosexual behavior of any kind was ok.

"In fact, the real sin of Sodom was actually not sodomy at all, but inhospitality."

Are you saying that God wiped out two whole cities for bad manners?

Remember that God had already judged S&G before the angels went there, so the attempted rape wasn't the reason they were annihilated.

I find the "bar the door" argument to be a straw man. I'm not saying we shouldn't take the Gospel to GLBTs. I think we should take it with grace and truth to all sinners.

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Alex said...

I believe that your reasoning on this subject is flawed. I don't believe this is the case because your not a scholar but rather the product of bad Hermeneutics. This all boils down to whether the law is still binding today for all or not. The two simplest ways to answer this is by asking the question...on what grounds does God judge people and has the authority to send people to Hell.
Also what does Jesus mean when he said Mathew 5 17"Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
18For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.
19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
God established his Law's at the beginning of creation else Cain would
have had nothing to fear when he was caught by God as being the murder of his brother and had a sever judgment laid down on him. Likewise God would have had no grounds to destroy everyone on earth with the flood for all of their evil. The purpose of the giving of the tablets (Ten Commandments) was a way of making a distinct peoples for himself that would be an example to the nations. As well as establishing a pure and distinct lineage for the Messiah threw these people. They are shown in scripture to fail God many times and turn away from him...and it is God's law that they are judged with for their apostasy. God continued to bring them back into his grace time after time. God knew that they would not be able to maintain fidelity. All of the nations where and are under the Law. It is the way God is able to pronounce judgments. With all of this please don't think I am putting God in a box...but rather I am pointing out the standard He himself has chosen to rule and judge by. Grace is seen by some Christians as being a New
Testament creation but this is in fact a distortion of God's character. God has always shown himself to be full of grace and loving. So in conclusion what holds true in The Old Testament holds true now unless specifically abrogated or fulfilled by Jesus Sacrifice. The new Testament says's nothing about bestiality being wrong which is a classic argument in attempting to argue from silence. We should unless implicitly shown otherwise presuppose that something still stands and is binding today when it comes to our personal actions. It is not tradition or interpretation that we are bucking against but rather God's word. Homosexuality whether it be practiced monogamously or not is an unacceptable union in God's eyes and is condemned in both Old & New Testament. The reason for this is it violates God's covenantal forming of the marriage union between man and woman. Which by the way the Islrealits did many times and in various forms and where either condemned as unlawful or looked down upon such as polygamy which Jesus and the Apostles speak of in the New Testament.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger info said...

God created all creatures including people, male and female for a reason. One was to procreate and in the case of man it was also for conpanionship to give us a helpmate. If we follow God's plan of creation then all species will continue. If He had intended for us to be in sexual relationships with members of the same sex God would have made only one sex and allowed us to procreate through another means. I know My God does not make mistakes and He created man and woman for specific reasons according to His plan. I am sure that it did not include members of either gender having intercourse with other members of their same gender!

At 6:52 PM, Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Hey there,

I have been a bit remiss in check on your blog for some months as well. I appreciate your thoughtful response.

Also, I agree totally with what you say about divorce, although in my view the proper thing will be for the Church to think long and hard about what situations warrant a divorce. Jesus himself does allow that it can be justified in the occassion of unfaithfulness (which might include abuse and neglect as well as actual adultery), and in such cases I see no reason to prevent a second marriage. This might account for a higher number of the divorse instances than you realize. But clearly in our situation, it is also true that many people decide the are 'out of love' and then get a 'no fault divorce.' Its all very easy, and the Church (Protestants, at least) doesn't say much.

Studies have repeatedly shown that divorce is harmful - especially for children and women in numerous ways, and yet the church (in my view) does to little to prevent them - including requiring "covenant marriages" (available in some states) which require counselling before a divorce can be had - and in providing more marriage-enrichment resources and indeed a renewed emphasis upon marriage as an arena for charity (rather than a realm for personal sexual and romantic fulfillment) should all be factors in combating divorce.

I don't want to UMC to go the way of some Roman Catholic or Fundamentalist congregations, that seem sometimes to respond to divorce in ways that merely compound the hurt; yet I think we must call people to take FAR more seriously that they have made covenant vows before God and his church to remain married for life "in good times and in bad" - we might add "when I feel 'in love' and when I don't" to the marriage vows.

But I agree that our policies our inconsistent - though I think we ought to seek to correct this by raising the bar of holiness in the areas of marriage and divorce, thus calling people to obedience to Jesus' actual words, rather than dismissing those words.

Grace and Peace to you

At 11:11 AM, Blogger chros said...

What it really comes down to is: Does the bible say homosexuality is wrong. I believe there are many many verses talking of homosexuality and sexual immorality being wrong and sinful. With that being said, we should take the gospel message to all, and I mean all. The liars, murderers, homosexuals, everybody. The true gospel message of repent and believe. Yeah, I used the repent word. I never cared for the whole "born gay" or "God made them that way" arguments. If that is so, then should murders not have the right to kill. Or maybe pedophiles should be allowed to act out there lusts and passions. I know this is taking it to the extreme, but its exactly what we are doing by saying gays should have the same rights in the church as straight people even though the bible teaches old and new testament that what they are doing is indeed a sin. If we keep feeding that sin it will grow and grow til it reaches the extreme examples I mentioned. My prayer is that you keep studying the word of God daily in prayer and by the leading by His Holy Spirit.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

Chros: so I assume, then, that you keep Kosher, since the Bible is very clear that to eat unclean animals is an abomination? In fact, there are many more instances where the Bible mentions this prohibition than it mentions same-sex relationships, since there are only seven passages in the entire Bible that refer to the latter.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger chros said...

We are free in Christ. (Galatians 2:19-21) Therefore I don't tithe, but do give cheerfully (1 Corinthians 9:6-8) I don't follow the OTs dietary laws (Romans 14:14) I read the scripture as it says. I pray for Gods leading, mercy and grace. I just don't see how so many people can twist scripture (especially Romans chapter 1) all to say that being gay is biblical and God sees no problem with it. It pains me to see you and many others like you teaching false doctrine like this. Why? What for? So that one can give into unnatural lusts and desires with a clean conscience? Jesus said to repent and believe. John the baptist said repent and believe. How have we shrunk the gospel not only to just believe, but also to it's not a sin to give into sexual immorality? I'm not mad at you, I don't hate you, I just feel you are very wrong on this matter and not for my sake, but yours reevaluate your position and scripture on this topic. May God bless you and touch you with His grace, mercy, and love.

At 4:21 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

Romans 1 is very specifically about idol worship and temple prostitution, not loving, committed relationships. And none of the other New Testament verses that have been translated into English as "sodomite" or "homosexual" have any clear meaning at all in the Greek.

What pains me is to see the spiritual violence done to LGBT people in the name of God and a so-called "literal" translation of the Bible that is not applied consistantly but rather is used to single out this issue.

I thank you for your prayers, but I've been studying and praying about this issue for close to two decades, and the more I study Scripture (ALL of it), the more God has convicted me that the way I used to view LGBT people was wrong and even sinful. I similarly pray for you, that you will re-evaluate your position.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger chros said...

In 1 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul addresses the issue of a man who is in wrong relations with his fathers wife. Now many will say thats his mom, but considering the text don,t say that this could be a new wife after a divorce or from his first wife (the mans mother) passing away. Either way, Paul says this is not acceptable and he has, though not being there, passed judgment on this fellow and that he should be removed from among the brethren. So by your logic, would this be acceptable if the man and this woman were in a loving and committed relationship?

We are to love our God with our all, and love our neighbors as ourselves.

Many say people like me are full of hate towards homosexuals, and I agree there are many out there that are, but i speak out that homosexuality is wrong because ALL of scripture says it is. Because I do love my neighbor and don't want to see them drawn into this temptation and addiction just like the porn addict or the drug addict or etc...

When I tell my girls not to go play in the street, it's not because I hate them, it's because I don't want to see them hurt.

I was going to go on and on with many other passages (OT and NT) that support the side that homosexuality is wrong but I will spare you since I am sure you have heard them before and it seems friutless too. I would like to know what you mean by "literal" in your last comment. How are we supposed to take the bible? It's not just a book of "fluffy and happy ideas" as so many seem to think. It's the written word of God, given to us to show us His will and Ways and to allow us to draw close to Him. With prayers and love for you and yours.
Chros (chris)

At 8:43 PM, Blogger Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I came upon your blog thru the "followers" aspect of my blog. There's an individual who follows my blog that is apparently a Xtian practicing homosexuality, as apparently you are too. Looking thru the list of blogs that he follows, it seemed like many if not most of them start with a warning that their contents might be objectionable. From their titles, it seesm most have to do with homosexual material. That's why I was surprised that this individual would want to follow my blog. Perhaps he thinks I also am "gay" to use the current terminology. I am a Greek Orthodox Xtian who has had quite a lot to say about the subject of homosexuality on my blog, tho it is not a topic I focus on; it just comes up from time to time, sometimes linked to a news item, or in response to articles on the blogs of others.

I haven't really read your blog, but I did want to know who you are and where you're coming from, so I read your bases on same-sex elationships, as well as many of the comments. I do believe in the possibility of same-sex relationships, but never in the context of what is currently termed gay or even homosexual. It's not my intention to lay out my philosophy of this in my comment, other than to say that what I think about same-sex relationships comes out of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and that on a superficial level would be considered as conservative, in agreement with the basic premise that homosexual activity is sinful, not merely ceremonially unclean. Though we arrive at a similar ideal and practical response, we arrive at it in a different way, and that also means there is a different set of possible outcomes that fall under the category of same-sex relationships, which are not sinful or ceremonially unclean. You can read about such things in my blog, but I am not even trying to lure you to do so; I only want to greet you in the name of the Lord, and hope that you will be led into the truth.

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous do pheromones work said...

A relationship with emotional and physical closeness, that may involve sexuality or may come close to sexual expression, when desired.There is no aspiration to long-term commitment and no expectation of exclusivity.


At 1:14 PM, Blogger Steve said...

A general question. I have always understood that the Hebrew word we have translated as 'abomination' was "to'evah", which mwant "not customary". I do not speak Hebrew, but am just looking for some input.

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment is mostly in response to Chros grouping homosexuals together with liars and murderers, etc. Your point about how if homosexuals were 'born that way' then murderers and paedophiles should hypothetically also be allowed to fulfil their undesirable instincts was well-reasoned to an extent. I would just like to point out what I think are some crucial differences, putting aside the whole scripture debate for the present. Murder is wrong, in our society, because the intentional and malevolent killing (not to quote the official definition, but I'm sure you know what I mean) of another human being hurts people. I don't mean to be obvious or sound condescending, I'm just trying to be as clear as possible. Murder hurts people. The victim, as well as anyone who knew them, as well as the members of the community in which the victim and/or murderer lived. The act of murder creates a web of, if not devastation, unhappiness. Paedophilia, on the other hand, is wrong because the subjects of the adult's lust cannot, logistically, defend themselves, nor do they have the maturity or experience to be able to make informed decisions in a situation such as a sexual encounter with an adult. Those are only a couple of reasons, but my point is, paedophilia hurts people. It may scar a younger person who isn't ready for whatever may happen, it most likely will scar their family or anyone else around them. No-brainer, I would say.
Homosexuality is not hurting anyone. I suppose it might be deemed fundamentally offensive to those conservatives and strongly religious people who see it as immoral and wrong, and many members of their families might not understand or be able to accept them. However, no lasting damage should really be caused from two boys/men liking each other or two girls/women liking each other in a sexual way. Anyway, as has been mentioned before, homosexuality does not in itself necessitate sexual relations between members of the same gender; of course, sexual relations are likely if you're in love with someone because that's just the way most people's bodies are wired.
Anyway, whew, long-winded explanation of why being homosexual isn't a sin the way being a paedophile or a murderer are, because it doesn't HURT people.
I'm not trying to change your mind, and I admire your commitment to your faith. By all means continue living the way that you feel is right for you, and stay on the path that has been lain down in front of you by the bible. Don't, though, try to pave the roads of others.
With the utmost respect,


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