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But the Bible Says So— A Case for LGBTQI+ Inclusion in Our Faith.
By Meredith Jade Garrett
*Editor's Note: First appeared on Meredith's blog The Reader Project . Look for Meredith's upcoming book Unseen, referenced in this piece.
While writing Unseen, there were several occasions when I wanted to dive into theology and defend my beliefs, but I realized that would A) take away from the larger story and B) make me appear insecure in my faith. Nevertheless, like many people who are struggling with the idea of inclusion and hitting a brick wall at Biblical fundamentalism, I find it necessary to address the “clobber passages.” Sadly, these few verses in the Bible acquired this name because they are wrongly and hatefully cherry-picked and hurled at gay Christians without any regard to context. Though my heart’s desire is to dwell on any of the other verses in the Bible which promote Jesus’s love, mercy, and unconditional inclusion, there is a need to solve the intellectual quandary that many face. For some, a misunderstanding of these verses may be the only thing tethering their hearts to disapproval.
In anticipation of the release of Unseen, I’ve decided to act preemptively and lay some Biblical groundwork. Because theology is something I don’t dwell too heavily on throughout the story, I thought this would be a great prelude and one that might prepare hearts and minds for this affirming perspective. I’ll admit, the material is a little uncomfortable. I’m not even a fan of the term “homosexual” because it holds with it such an awful stigma— one of sexual obsession, uncleanness, and defilement. But despite the cringe I feel upon hearing the term, I choose to reclaim it, understand it, and give truth to it’s hurtful origins. I’m grateful that you are taking time to be receptive, to broaden your mind, and join this movement of radical inclusion.
So let’s dig in.
The infamous story of Sodom in Genesis 19.
In ancient times, being hospitable was of utmost importance. In this story, Lot invites travelers into his home, which, by the cultural standards I mentioned, is the proper gesture. What happens next is less than hospitable. Some random men of Sodom suddenly demand entry into Lot’s home with intentions to assert their dominance over the newly-arrived travelers. Terms used in this passage indicate that the men wish to rape the newcomers in order to prove that their presence isn’t welcomed in the city. In response to this outrageous request, Lot makes an even more outrageous counteroffer— that the enraged men could have the daughters of the house. Let’s face it: the Old Testament isn’t the best conduct manual. And Sodom isn’t condemned to damnation because of gay people. These men from Sodom were rapists.
The many abominations in Leviticus.
To preface this fiery passage, let’s begin by understanding that the term “homosexuality” wasn’t even coined and used until the 19th century. And get this: it wasn’t taken off the American Psychiatric Association’s mental disorders list until 1973. Gay people were just straight people with a problem. Yeah, chew on that for a second. The realizations of sexuality are in their infancy, folks. Matthew Vines, prominent author an founder of the Reformation Project explains: “Leviticus forbids the eating of pork, shrimp, and lobster, which the church does not consider to be a sin. Chapter 19 forbids planting two kinds of seed in the same field; wearing clothing woven of two types of material; and cutting the hair at the sides of one’s head. Christians have never regarded any of these things to be sinful behaviors, because Christ’s death on the cross liberated Christians from what Paul called the ‘yoke of slavery.’ We are not subject to the Old Law.”
Paul and the degrading passions.
Here are the verses that act as an ostensible nail in the coffin for many Christians who do not affirm the LGBT community. But do we really understand what Paul is saying? More specifically what he is saying in the Greek language? Most people interpret the portion of the verse that says “exchanging natural relations for unnatural” to mean that anything besides heterosexuality is abnormal. Obviously personal prejudices, biased leanings, and cultural traditions skew everyone’s view of normal. Besides, this is a faulty interpretation Paul’s writing anyhow. Mark Sandlin, an ordained Presbyterian minister from the South writes: “In reality, physikos [produced by nature] has more to do with how things naturally occur in God’s Creation […] It is concerned with what is of our nature and not with what is defined as acceptable. That is to say, Paul is concerned with how God created something or someone to be.” Like I mentioned before, the understanding of the spectrum of sexualities is still in its infancy, so we can’t expect Paul to have had any frame of reference beyond heterosexual relationships. Sandlin goes on to say that “understood this way, it would be equally sinful for someone who is only attracted to someone of the same sex to have sex with someone of the opposite sex. It goes against their nature; they just weren’t born that way. Ironically, those telling LGBTQ folk that these verses mean they have to stop being LGBTQ folk are actually telling them to commit the very sin against which these verses warn, going against their nature. God has a wicked sense of humor.”
Genesis, the Creation, and the “Adam & Steve” joke.
God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. Hilarious, you guys. The rhyme and everything. Hilarious. But let’s really understand this! Yes, man and woman were created in God’s image. It’s a wonderful illustration to begin our understanding of God and infinite possibilities. All things which God has created are beautiful. You know who else God created? The 1.7% of children who are born intersex in the U.S. Intersex is when someone doesn’t fall into the typical definitions of female or male. Or they may perhaps exhibit physical traits of both. The fluidity of the human body and how we are bathed in hormones in utero become beautiful pieces of evidence that we are created in God’s image— a mysterious God without bounds, without gender, without partiality. With God, patriarchy dims, prejudices subsides, and preconceived notion vanishes like a vapor.
These handful of verses that I’ve covered are among the most quoted when some Christians persecute the LGBT community. It is comforting to know that there are faith communities who are the exceptions to this, though. And on the flip side of that coin, there are gay people who don’t care about Biblical standpoints or Christianity in general. But, when the dust clears, there is small and often frightened community of gay Christians who yearn for their allied counterparts to understand their plight— their plight to be accepted, understood, loved. My relationship is monogamous, committed, and God-centered. My heart aches to know that some might discount its validity.