Re-thinking "Gay Marriage"
About 4 years ago a guy started attending my church. He was, visibly, very effeminate, which led others to wonder if he was gay. He was. And he wasn't necessarily trying to hide it either. Shortly after he began attending the church, he asked if he could meet with me. I said yes, of course. And though I wasn't exactly sure what we were going to meet about, I had a feeling that somehow it was going to be bigger than just a meeting. At least as it pertained to the events in my life and ministry. And I was right, sort of.
We met in my office at the church. It was there that he told me that he was gay and joked that it was probably obvious. I laughed. And then agreed that it was. He gave me his background, explaining what he thought contributed to his being gay. And he made it clear that he WAS gay. This was not simply same sex attraction but that he had been involved in multiple sexual relationships with men. Often as a prostitute, satisfying their every request. His details were very graphic but were "necessary for you to know who I am," he stated. At that moment I still wasn't sure why he wanted me to know who he was.
He was also a Christian. And he said that he knew that his sexual preference went against the "clear teaching of scripture." He wasn't at a place where he didn't think it was wrong, he just felt like he didn't know how to stop. That he had gone too far and that he wanted to be discipled by a "strong godly man" that would help him understand how to honor the Lord. He wanted that man to be me. I accepted, not because I thought I was that man. Or that I could or even should change him. I accepted because he claimed to be a believer and was tormented in his soul. And I wanted to do whatever I could to help him. Though I wasn't clear what that was or even should be. The discipleship process didn't last long enough for me to find out. He eventually left the church succumbing to the sexual habits he had developed. Yet, was grateful that I had tried to invest in him despite "how obviously feminine he was." A joke that became the theme of our friendship.
Since then, gay marriage has passed in my state. Public acceptance of homosexuality (not necessarily gay marriage but just same sex activity) is at an all time high. The Orthodox Christian view that homosexuality is a sin has been equated to being in the KKK of the Civil Rights Jim Crow era. And Christian businesses and colleges are now innundated with shouts of bigotry for not accepting gay rights. Which seems to mean the right to be gay in whatever capacity, despite what convictions a person may have religiously, or biologically, against it. And this has been fascinating to watch, if for no other reason because the "gay cause" is a glitch in the matrix of "human rights." In the sense that historically "gay marriage" was not even an issue people would've taken seriously. Probably because marriage has never been seen as a "right" until now. So, while gay sex is nothing new, the pressure on the church to accept it as not sinful most certainly is. We are in unprecedented times.
This reality may be the greatest cultural shift in the history of the world. Simply because, since the dawn of humanity, the notion that marriage was between a man and a woman has been understood by virtually everyone. As well, that the laws of religion transcend the laws of man, and that the church was, well, the church, and does not have to submit to any cultural trends outside of the bounds of scripture. Not anymore though.
In the last 50 years or so, a new brand of theology called "Pro-Gay Theology" has risen to the challenge of trying to prove homosexuality is not sinful in scripture (the bible). At its root, this theology states that the bible doesn't speak against monogamous gay relationships. And that the biblical authors did not know that these kinds of relationships would occur, because they weren't around during the time the biblical authors wrote scripture. So this means that Paul, and Moses, as well as other biblical evidence to the contrary, were not speaking about the kind of gay relationships we see today. As I said above, unprecedented, and fascinating.
In the past year I have read quite a bit of pro-gay theology. Some of it really dumb. Some of it really compelling. But I'm afraid, all of it inaccurate. I began reading it because a friend challenged me, saying that my thinking on the issue was too shallow. I agreed. While statements like "God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve" have a degree of validity to them, they are crude at best, lacking the intellectual substance needed in this newly intensified debate on the authority and interpretation of scripture as it relates to homosexuality. So I read and read and read and read, a ton of theology in books and on pro-gay blogs. I even prayed consistently, "Lord if I'm wrong here, change my perspective." And he did, but not exactly the way I was praying for.
As I have observed both the theological framework along with the cultural framework that is pressuring churches to change their position on homosexuality, there was something I had overlooked about the pro-gay position that has made me re-think gay marriage and those who are proponents of its validity. You may think this is dumb, but to me this has changed how I address the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage.
It dawned on me recently (though I've always known this) that there a ton of people who say they are gay, and that they are Christians, who DO NOT believe that their sexual preference glorifies God. For some reason this is blowing my mind right now. Here's why. If everyone that was gay and Christian (though I think "gay" Christian is an oxymoron, placing sexual identity over the Christological one) thought that the bible did not condemn homosexuality, there would at least be a much more powerful witness to their claim. But as it turns out, there are many gay people who know (believe wholeheartedly) that the bible doesn't endorse their sexuality.
In fact, on gaychristiannetwork.com (a resource for gay people, by gay people, they appear to be split on the issue of what scripture says) Ron, a gay Christian, opposes Justin, the gay christian network's executive director, on this very issue in a blog series called the "Great Debate." This is a big deal.
But why is this a big deal and why does this have me rethinking gay marriage? Here's why. The people that are gay, that have tried to convince me and others that the bible does not condemn monogamous gay relationships (gay marriage), are not even convincing people who are just like them. People who have the same struggles, the same temptations, some of whom have even delved deep into the lifestyle, are not convinced that God is okay with it. Ron, whom I mentioned earlier, explained that he took Koine Greek (The Greek used when the bible was written) just to dismantle the traditional biblical arguments stating homosexuality is a sin. He concluded by saying "Is that the best argument we have? That biblical scholars don't know what the word arsenokoitai (the Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 translated as homosexual) means?"
That is one of the chief arguments for proponents of gay marriage. The word that Paul used (arsenokoitai) should not be translated as homosexual because there are other words that he could've used to make what he meant crystal clear. Their point is this, Paul made up a word and nobody knows what he really meant. The reason being is that it hasn't been used before him or after him in the Greek language. And since it is unclear what he meant, we cannot assume that he refers to homosexuality in the way we understand that word today.
However, opponents of gay marriage/homosexuality state that Paul used two words from Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 "Arsenos" which means "male" and "Koite" which means "bed" and combined the two, making it perfectly clear what he meant. Don't go to bed with a man in the way you go to bed with a woman. Ron, from gaychristiannetwork.com uses this analogy to make the point about the usage of arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. "The linguistic problem seems to me to be exactly analogous to this: suppose I have an Old Testament text which says, “it is unlawful to lay bricks,” and I have a New Testament text that says “bricklayers are lawbreakers.” It would seem inconceivable to me to say that “Greek scholars don’t know exactly what bricklayer means.” Yet Mel White (a gay theologian, in some senses considered the father of pro-gay theology, this parentheses mine) claims (with an apparently straight face) that “Greek scholars don’t know exactly what arsenokoitai means.”
This is big because Ron himself admits that he wanted desperately to push back against what he had been taught the bible teaches, so that he could justify his sexual urges. But after studying scripture, he cannot, in good conscience at least, say that scripture is unclear on homosexuality. Ron, and countless others who are gay believe that engaging in sexual behavior (not necessarily tempted to do so, which I would agree with) is a sin. So then, why do I need to change my position, or even defend my position, when there are people who are gay that agree with my position, that homosexuality practiced in any form is a sin? The onus is not on the church to do the convincing, especially since the gay community isn't even unilaterally convinced itself. In this, we see a stark difference from what has traditionally been known as the civil rights movement for black people. Blacks were not divided on freedom from slavery and equality for black people. You didn't have a large portion of black people saying, " I don't agree with these guys man. I think we should still be slaves, and I think we should still be beaten, hung from trees, denied education, and falsely accused and imprisoned because we are black." No. That didn't happen. Black people may have had differences in methodology (peaceful demonstrations versus fighting back with weapons) but not in ideology. We were unified in our goal. So in this way I have been re-thinking gay marriage. And I conclude that gay is not the new black or the new anything. It's that old temptation from that old inherited Adamic identity that I says "I define good and evil on my own terms." May God grant us the ability to stand strong or better, may he return soon. Maranatha!