I’m feeling more and more convicted lately… You know when God has been nudging you for a few days, a few months, in my case a few years? Your conscience won’t let you rest, and it churns you up inside until you just can’t take it anymore!
This is where I find myself. Though I also believe God created this thing called conscience to keep us honest, keep us going towards Him, Bringing darkness into the light, Helping us know our limitations, and surrendering into his beautiful and strong arms admitting we can’t do this alone.
Just a few weeks ago when, Glenn Davies at the Sydney Anglican Synod announced recently (October 16, 2019) that people that approve of same sex marriage are betraying God’s word, are ‘ruining the church’, and that if you support Gay marriage, please leave...
The nudge from God became a large, unstoppable push.
I have found myself unravelling. And as I wrote to my gay friend the night of that Synod, who was once a believer and pushed out many years ago (something at the time, I did not stop from happening) to see how he was holding up - it became clear that my time of silence and being a coward needs to end and it is me who is deep up to my eyeballs in sin and needs to repent.
It is me, who has held my financial security, my place in the family, my belonging, above people’s humanity. Their hearts, their mental health. Dearly. Loved. People. Those for whom Christ died.
Throughout my upbringing in Sydney, Australia and into the bible college years, the message was clear.
"We”, hold the "correct theology" and WE are "contending for the Gospel".
I used sentences like; 'they are watering down the gospel', 'sad denial of the gospel of Jesus', "Abandoning the clear teachings of scripture", "making up their own Jesus", "picking and choosing". I called them 'liberal', on a 'slippery slope', 'dodgy theology'. In my memory, or at least for me, I never asked how they came to these conclusions, I never went close, I never listened to them, or how they read the scriptures or asked their perspective. I just said they were out, almost like lepers, and avoided them.
I sectioned off whole states, denominations, labeling them as people who "don't really love Jesus".
This was me.
This is my sin.
And I know I wasn’t alone in this, it was common chatter in my circles. But I now see the horror of it all. Christ has convicted my heart, and I am deeply horrified by my behavior.
I am deeply, deeply sorry. I threw my brothers and sisters away, I didn’t go close to them, I didn’t ask them why they believed what they did, I just slammed the door of my heart to them, they were liberal and ‘too far gone’.
It is not ok.
I am devastated that my actions hurt my LGBTQI+ brothers and sisters, whose only crime was wanting to find a place to worship Jesus in community, and I wouldn’t let them in.
I am doing the devastating and exposing work of repentance and it hurts. Though it’s making me appreciate repentance, grace, absolution and the act of communion and Christ’s body, given for me, more than I have ever felt the weightiness of it before. I am living with the shame now, and waiting for God to do what God does and heal it, but it may take some time because I have not yet done the work of coming clean, and the work of “turning around” will be long and constant.
Tim Otto Writes “People on the “traditional” side of the divide believe the historic teaching of the church: same-sex unions are wrong, for in the words of 1 Corinthians 6:9 (ESV), those who “practice homosexuality” will “not inherit the kingdom of God.” Therefore, those who affirm gay unions are ignoring the plain sense of Scripture, and in doing so are endangering their own salvation as well as the salvation of others. People on the “affirming” side believe the overall story of Scripture points toward an ethic that celebrates same-sex unions. They are concerned that, like the Pharisees of the first century, the traditionalists are reading Scripture in literalist ways that don’t apply to people who have a natural and normal variation on human sexuality. For people on the affirming side, traditionalists, in the words of Matthew 23:4, “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” If either side can agree on anything, it is that the question of “right or wrong” is essential, and any other approach is a cowardly and harmful evasion.”
And I know this stance that Tim Otto speaks of, and I don’t want to be on either side. I want Jesus. And I want to see what God is doing in the world through this. For myself, I am convicted that I was wrong. As you will read later on, I am still not crystal clear on the nitty gritty theology, but what I do know, is the fruit of how I have acted out of these beliefs, is incredibly rotten.
I know enough now, to know that I personally, was deeply wrong, and I need to repent, and for my conscience I choose to go outside to those whom I hurt, the LGBTQ community and love them the way I know best.
My deep heart is that I am allowed to stay in the family, but I fear that on either side it is always “us and them”/”in and out”. Coming clean about this is hard, because we know that this is not just a matter of different theology. This is a matter of “ignoring the plain sense of scripture” from the traditionalist side.
And so like the coward that I am, I deflect, I shut my mouth, I leave the room, I take a nap and hope it will go away. Instead of rejoicing in what I believe God has done, opening his arms wider and wider for all who believe. Instead of rejoicing in people’s healing and salvation. I care more about my security in the system, than people’s hearts. And I am ashamed, and I am so sorry, and I pray that over the next weeks/months/years as I begin to stand up for those on the outside, that Jesus will do the beautiful, deep and healing work of redemption.
I believe that Christ has stretched out his arms to LGBT Individuals and has invited them into relationship with Him. Just as Christ welcomes more than just the Jewish Nation, more than just what is in the sheep fold, as he welcomes the prostitutes, the tax cheats, the corrupt, the climate change deniers, the racists, the rich, the poor , the corporate criminal, the Dalit women, so he welcomes the LGBTQI community. I may not like God’s choices of people that he welcomes, but then again this is why God is God and I am not.
So I am here to say this, I, Naomi, believe that LGBTQ+ people are fully welcome to the life of Christ, to walk together with us, to lead us, to build healthy thriving marriages and families, to be discipled in the fruit of the Spirit, in prayer and communion and worship and community.. And those who do not follow Jesus are also worthy of love, safety, security, respect, and kindness. (Adapted from Sarah Bessey’s affirming statement)
I don’t say this because I am ‘liberal’, ‘back slidden’, ‘lost my faith’, or because “I don’t care about scripture’, etc.
I say this BECAUSE of Scripture and because of Jesus. It is not my lack of faith that has led me here, it is because of Jesus, the one who so captured my heart that I am here.
My great fear, and that sick feeling in my stomach is because I know that this stance means that I am far outside the gates of what is considered ‘the correct theology of my upbringing’ and I also know there are consequences for that, and it is time that I faced them.
I get it. It is what we have been taught to do since we were kids. “Contend for the Gospel” and this is our way of doing it - cutting people like me off.
I wish to propose a better way, following Jack Bernard’s example, rather than latching onto whether same-sex relationships are right or wrong, a better initial question might be: how is God working for the good? How is God working for the good through the controversy in the church around homosexuality? How is God working for good through those who identify as LGBT?
This approach puts faith first. The most fundamental marker of God’s people is not that we are right about everything, but that we are people who live by faith...By admitting we are fallen - that we are not little gods and our best reasoning of scripture, tradition and morality is human and fallible - we are free to trust God is with us. (Otto, Tim “Oriented to Faith”)
I do not believe that if you hold the traditional view that you are a horrible person and are a Pharisee, and I hope that if I hold an affirming view , you don’t regard me as someone who has thrown out Jesus and the bible. Rather I believe that we need each other, to come closer to God’s truth. In placing Love and Christ and unity in the center, rather than being ‘right or wrong’. I pray that we can do better than what I did, which was to throw out my brother and sister.
As you will read later, I do not have a nice neat bow tied around my theology on this. I do not have the correct answer. I have my thought process, hours of reading, prayer and seeking God, and the answers are not conclusive, but what I know is that the way I was going about my life - ordering people into categories or worthiness of the kingdom, was and is sin, and I need to turn and repent.
I am not willing to say I am right and that my position won’t change, or evolve, nor that I am the gate keeper of correct theology. I don’t know any of that. What I do know is Christ, and I will cling to HIM. He is the hill I will die on, not my opinion on an ‘issue’.
And what I hope out of this paper/confession is to encourage us to look to what Jesus is doing in the world.
If this is all you read, I am grateful and thank you. The next section is my reasoning from a biblical perspective.
To My LGBTQI+ Friends,
I have watched you go through “conversion” courses, I have watched you fight this ‘sin’ with all of your might, I have watched you swiftly get pushed out of ‘ministry’ positions, and very soon, shown the door. I have watched you be disowned by your families, I have watched a gang target a group of gay people and beat them to a pulp for no other reason but that they were gay, I have watched you as you plunged into depression, isolation and suicide. You don't need to go far to find the statistics, and it is not because you chose it.
No one chooses to be disowned by their family, their community, their church, no one signs up to be a target for hate crimes. This is not a fun game that people are playing. These are people with deep trauma, with weighty loads and with dire consequences.
And so I come before God and ask for forgiveness. I repent for making my brothers and sisters for whom Christ died feel unsafe, unwelcome. I repent of believing that you weren’t welcome within our churches, that you were always on a slightly lower level than the rest of us. I repent of believing you were ‘not allowed’ in leadership, or in any position of authority because you were actively caught in sin. You were seeking God, together with your partner in the confines of a committed relationship (and now that marriage is legal, in the confines of marriage), and I was wrong. I ask for forgiveness for not trusting that God’s love is big enough. I ask for forgiveness for denying Christ as healer, as the one who makes people whole - even people who society or the system says are irredeemable.
But most of all I ask for forgiveness for caring more about my financial security and acceptance ‘within the church’ than people’s stories and humanity. I am so ashamed, and I need God to take it and do what only God can do; but it to death, and bring new life and exchange my sin for life. To take out my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.
Jesus I trust you. I trust you to bring resurrection, even if it looks different to what I expect. Even if I’m outside the city gates - even there, I will trust you.
The Nitty Gritty Theology
I know that I need to explain my position - this after all is the language of the Sydney Evangelical.
This is in no way because I want to convince you to come to my side, Lord knows there are enough Christians arguing about ALL THE THINGS. My husband has encouraged me that if I'm going to be so public on a contentious issue it's worth being able to articulate my position well so others can hear my mind and heart clearly and not fill in the gaps with their worst case thoughts, I need to show how I came to this conclusion.
I don’t want to convert anyone to my way of thinking, we are all adults here.
All I want is the hurt to stop, because there is So. Much. Hurt.
What follows is for ME. Because I love these scriptures that told the stories of my beautiful Jesus, that reflects the heart of God in the world, I need you to see that I still love Jesus and I still love this book of hope. If anything Jesus is more beautiful to me than ever before.
I see the scriptures as less of a few pulled out verses of rules and more as a bigger over arching narrative… and the narrative is this: Jesus is the God of grace, it was never about what we have done, but instead what God has done. It is a story of what God is doing in the world, bringing death to life, bringing good news to the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for the prisoner and the oppressed. (Luke 4:18)
Where once God was for the Israelites, the chosen people, now God is for all people.. and as God’s circle of inclusion keep getting wider, wanting no one to perish, the invitations keep getting sent out - Come in! Come in!
I’ve put the actual scriptural things last, because I believe points 1-3 play are the foundational base to diving into the scriptures. Can I urge you, those points matter, because our incarnated Jesus matters, the fact that Jesus put on flesh and blood matters. Because feelings and emotions DO matter, because the lives of people matter, their mental health matters and because humanity matters.
Point 1: The Circles Get bigger
I fell in love with Jesus. I fell in love with the scriptures that speak of a God who has chosen the nation of Israel as His Holy people. And yet as the books go by, we watch the circles get larger, and roomier and more expansive as God welcomes in Midianites (Exodus 18), Cananites (Joshua 2), Moabites (Ruth), Namaan (2 Kings 5), Ninevites (Jonah), and Samaritans. We see rules laid out, and rules broken, always evolving, grace trumping the law.
And then Christ enters in.
Christ that walks straight into Samaritan land, sits down and speaks with an ‘unclean’, promiscuous women and welcomes her into the kingdom - The circle of belonging gets wider. This same Jesus allows an unclean woman to touch him and he heals her - the circle of belonging gets wider. Jesus touches and heals lepers, invites in sexworkers and crooked and corrupt rich folk, the desperately poor, the desperately sick and even the already dead. We hear of the Good shepherd who cares for the sheep, and learn that there are more outside the sheep pen - The circle of belonging gets wider.
The Ethiopian Enuach chooses Christ, the circle of belonging gets wider. Peter has a vision of a blanket coming down of four ‘unclean animals” and says “kill and eat”, nothing is unclean which God has made clean - the circle of belonging gets wider. Peter walks into the house or Cornelius, the circles get wider.
And I believe this has always been God’s story, of radical inclusivity, of hope to those sent out. Those deemed not right enough, not clean enough, not normal enough, not theologically correct, enough. This is the gospel of Grace. It’s never been about what we can do, it’s always been about what God has done, and about his Character that draws every person, every story, every journey into relationship with him. There is no one out of reach of His grace and love.
And I believe we are in the time of the now and the not yet, and until Jesus returns, he is still handing out the invites, throwing open the doors, and I don’t have all the answers, but I am open to the mystery of what God is doing in the world.
Sarah Bessey writes: “Through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, God inaugurates a whole new world of open doors and generous tables. Second-class citizens belong. Outsiders belong. Despised, cast-out, refugee, immigrant, uncelebrated, oppressed, all find their place at this party. The food we never used to eat tastes good on our tongue, the people we never used to speak to become our dearest friends, the homes we wouldn’t enter become our place of belonging. This is reconciliation.”
Point 2: Proximity Matters.
The story of Christ was always about ‘coming close’. God taking the very nature of a servant, he was despised and rejected. A man of sorrows. He found the downtrodden, the despised, the outcast, the unclean, the sex workers, the samaritans, the cursed dead bodies and he “moved closer”. Often times, moving close enough to touch with his own flesh, the ones the church deemed ‘untouchable’. One of the reasons I love Christ so much.
What I fear is happening in the west, both in Churches on this issue and on other issues is what resembles ‘dehumanisation’, I know that sounds harsh and if it is not accurate, let it go - but I think dehumaisation is a very real danger, not just in the church but in the west (Brene Brown has an excellent article on this, particularly with it beginning with language you can find that article here)
I say ‘dehumanisation’ because I fear that those who hold unswervingly to certain opinions don’t actually know Gay people, don’t know Refugees, don’t know Muslims, don’t know homeless people, don’t know mentally unwell people - and if they do it is from a distance. And so we make up what they are like in our heads. And so we ‘other’ them, and we read the scriptures in light of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Anyone who has met a Gay Christian knows that this has been a road travelled for YEARS, of deep anguish and emotional pain.
Christ shows us the example of “going close” to people we are told by society to run the other way from.
And so I ‘go close’ and I am here to tell you these are people, desperately loved Children of God, and if you want to have a ‘case closed’ position on this (or refugees, or Muslims, or racism), I urge you to not put your stake in the round until you have “gone close”.
“Coming Close in the Scriptures”
In Mark 4:40, there is a story of a man suffering with Leperosy who knelt in front of Jesus and begged him “Lord if you are willing, make me clean”. In Levitical law it says that one with Leperosy must “ wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkept, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!'” Leviticus 13:45, for to have Leperosy, rendered you both physically and spiritually unclean/non kosher.
Jesus looked at the man in Mark 3 and it says he was “moved with compassion” and not only was he moved with deep compassion, he reached out and physically touched the man and healed him. Jesus responded emotionally. He was moved. Because he looked into the eyes of that individual and saw his life, his story, his journey ‘outside the club’’, excluded from corporate worship, rejected from the community, and he was moved.
In the next chapter Jesus heals the man with paralysis, and then even raised a life back from the dead. In Mark 3 we see Jesus meet a man with a deformed hand “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!” Mark 3:3-5
Again we see Jesus touching people, going straight towards people that are ‘unclean’ and even when the levitical law says “no” Jesus knew the true meaning/purpose/scope of the law and instead drew close. Because of this “drawing close” he healed the man. It says that Jesus was “deeply saddened by their hard hearts” that could not see past the ‘law’ for the humanity of this man.
Luke 7:11 tells a similar story of Jesus raising the widow’s son in Nain, “When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said.” Jesus was ‘overflowing with compassion’ and this compassion trumped the ‘law’, The Law that says “He must not defile himself by going near a dead body. He may not make himself ceremonially unclean even for his father or mother.” Leviticus 21:11
And yet, Jesus extends his hand and touches the coffin/stretcher/wrapped body and brings the son back to life. Jesus knew what life would be like for this widow, he husband gone, her last child, gone. These were societies built on families, and this woman had lost it all. Her story, Jesus’ ‘coming close’ meant that Jesus willingly and unrepentantly broke levitical law and touched the dead body - defiling himself.
The scriptures show story after story of Jesus ‘getting emotional’ and then flat out, unrepentantly breaking Levitical Law.
Now I’m not here to tell you that we should keep Levitical Law, but I know that Levitical law is one of the main passages drawn on to condemn Homosexuality, so I do this only to say that we have a beautiful Holy and rebellious man in Jesus who seems to have no issue breaking that law, unrepentantly, and it matters to me that people don’t become dehumanised and subjects of Law.
When we come close to people, we are moved to compassion, and sometimes our hard lines drawn in the sand start to get a little fuzzy...because they should - because Jesus cares about people. Jesus cares about individuals, about people’s stories of trauma and loss. We believe in the incarnated Christ, the one who came close, Immanuel, God with us. The one who wept, the suffering servant, the one who was moved to compassion, gut wrenching compassion.
“People are hard to hate close up. Move in” - Brene Brown
One of the most beautiful stories on this to me is the woman who wipes Jesus’ feet with her tears. When the Pharisee, who knew so deeply the law, what was right and wrong, though “If Jesus was a prophet he would know what type of woman was touching him”. Where is gets profound for me, is that Jesus turns his back to Simon, looks straight into the woman’s eyes and challenges Simon “Look at this woman kneeling here”. In other words, come close, LOOK AT HER, do not take away her humanity. Look at her! And then he goes on to explain the woman’s actions all that she has done to be close to her Lord.
This is the Jesus I love. Not only the man who is moved to compassion, but the one who challenges others to not turn away. To look at people, their stories their humanity.
“Many established Christian leaders do not have close relationships with gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender christians, so they are more than likely to view the “LGBTQ issue” through a political lens rather than a relational one. Given the controversy surrounding the issue, they generally choose to accept the status quo in order to focus on matters that seem less fraught with peril. Meanwhile, the young people in their congregations don’t have the luxury of avoiding the challenging questions this issue raises. Our best friends from church tearfully tell us they are gay and have anguished over that fact for years. Our peers at school come out and don’t feel safe to set foot in a church again. For millennial christians, this issue isn’t an abstract political football. It’s a question of how much space and grace we will make for friends we dearly love, and friends whose differences have made them feel incredibly alone, afraid and unloved. So we look to our church leaders and see unbudging opposition of fear in the face of controversy, we begin to realise that we will have to go elsewhere for answers. As our friends are shown the door, we watch our pastors decline to open their hearts, privilege their careers and reputations over meaningful engagement with tears and trials of many whom we love the most. Our leaders continue to preach about the self sacrificing love of Jesus, but their words ring more and more hollow in light of their actions.” - Changing our Mind, David Gushee
POINT 3: And they will know us by our Fruit
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” Luke 6:43-44
This passage comes just after Jesus is talking about not judging others. And I think this is hinting to the messier, non clear cut stuff in the world, that no doubt, if you have lived long enough, you know exists. And Jesus is giving us here, a hint of what to do with that stuff that we can’t wrap up in a nice theological package. Look to the fruit.
What is this fruit exactly? And who gets to decide whether it is good fruit or bad fruit?
I’ve heard those on the conservative side say for years things like “These churches that go Liberal have the fruit of dying congregations”. It was always used as a way to affirm that they were in sin, and that God was not blessing them, and what happens when you “loose the gospel”.
Can I challenge this notion that the “fruit” of holding firmly to the conservative position on homosexuality has little to do with growing or diminishing congregations, but more about people and their relationships with Jesus?
Of course these churches seem to be ‘thriving’ (or at least ‘not declining’) when they attract only the same types of people; rich, middle class, anglo, straight, able bodied, mentally well, politically similar - in short, a mono-culture.
I would argue however, this is ‘a’ church, but it is certainly not reflective of THE church of God.
God’s church is a beautiful, big, messy kingdom and it is vast and rich and deep and wide.
The church of God was always vast, radically inclusive and there is always room for the homeless, the mentally ill, the widow, the poor, the abandoned, the disabled, and yes the LGBTQ+ because this book was never written to those in power. It was always written to a people who were oppressed, who were occupied, who were exiled, those who were on the outside of society..
Can I tell you the “fruit” I see on this issue?
I see families torn apart, I see christian parents no longer allowing their kids home to dinner.
I see the gay community with self harm, and suicide rates 4 times higher than the rest of the population.
I see the gay community being told they will burn in hell (not because of their love/or lack of love for Jesus, but because they are gay).
I see the gay community terrified of Christians and feeling completely unsafe whenever they meet one (and it is not because they are being ‘personally convicted of their sin’ it’s because Christians can not move past someones sexuality to see their heart).
I see Christians who have never even met a gay person. I see christian’s who refuse to meet a gay person and dehumanize whole community’s.
I see a church obsessed with the sexuality of others.
I see division: Christians throwing out affirming Christians without even asking how we came to this position. We are just liberal. We have just “watered down the gospel”.
I see fear, shame, anger, hatred, digust and silencing.
I see dehumanisation.
I see people describing Christian’s as “judgemental”, “Angry”, “homophobes” and “gay haters”.
As someone who is in the minority as a follower of Christ in my community, I am not exaggerating - this is an accurate picture of what people view Christians to be.
Friends, this is NOT good fruit.
If the Good News of the gospel isn’t good news for the most marginalised in society something is desperately wrong.
I don’t think this is a particularly striking point that will win anyone over to becoming affirming… But this point in important for me, because in the context of the scriptures and my wrestling with them, and seeing the fruit of what is currently happening, something is not right, in fact something is desperately wrong.
Wherever you sit on the spectrum, and even if you hold the conservative position to the day you die, you have to admit, we are not doing; whatever it is we are doing, the right way. There is so much pain, so much hurt. This is not good fruit for any of us.
Point 4: Tackling the Scriptures
7 Scriptures: Genesis 1-2, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22/20:13, Judges 19, Matthew 19:1-12/Mark 10:2-12. Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:20
Whilst I have come to my conclusions from many sources, I have found most of the heavy lifting and the most convincing arguments for me are found in “Changing our Mind” by Davis Gushee.
If you think I’m going to tie it all up in a nice bow and say “see it’s CLEAR” you are deeply mistaken. As I said, I am wrestling, I am still wrestling, the bible is not clear, and it never will be on MANY issues… because the purpose of these scriptures is to wrestle with God, to move closer to God, to speak to God when things rub us up the wrong way, and to ask the spirit to show us truth, to humanise us and to allow the Lord of compassion to give us eyes to see. I know people will read this and not be convinced. Can I remind you again, my purpose is NOT To convince you, but to share with you that I have done the work.
There is no neat bow here, it is messy, but I am convinced enough for now.
Enough, to feel deeply convicted that I have brought so much sadness and hurt to this community, and that I repent of it, and am turning around.
ANCIENT RAPE AND EXPLOITATION
Genesis 19 + Judges 19
Two stories, remarkably similar, many scholars believe they are parrallel stories of the same event. Both involves gangs of men, wanting to violate. Both involve the offer of women as an alternative to the crowds asking for the men. In Genesis 19, the women (daughters) are refused but in Judges 19, a woman concubine is accepted by the gang, tortured and rapes and then dismembered by her own master.
In part this is a story about a Holy God and a wayward humanity at its very worst.
These passages were once held as a story of the sin of homosexuality. I believe, and even most scholars now believe this is more a horrific story about the attempted gang rape of strangers, the violations of an Isrealite and ancient New Eastern standards of hospitality, Lot’s willingness to sacrifice his own daughters to a crowd of men ready to rape and abuse and the depravity of an entire city. Never once in these references to Sodom is their evil described as same-sex interest or behaviour. Sodom is referenced in New Testement texts Jude 6-8 and the parralel text in 2 Peter 2:6-7, with their references to interest in “other flesh”, but on closer looking this refers to fragrments of a tradition related to unholy human interest in sex with angels - a theme derived from the book of Enoch.
Genesis 19 and Judges 19 are narratives with huge implications for the ethics of war. Prison, gender, violence and rape. But they have nothing to do with the morality of a loving, covernental, same sex relationship, just as they have nothing to do with the morality of a loving, covenantal, opposite-sex relationship. (GUNSHEE)
I think, or at least I am led to believe that MOST people these days, would not use Genesis 19 and Judges 19, as a basis for a stance against homosexuality. It has been written about again and again, that these passages are about rape and torture, not about same sex relationships.
Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination”, and “If a man lies with a man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them” Leviticus 20:13
Between these two verses are all kinds of acts banned and collectively called abominations. Including sex with blood relatives, broader family circle and menstruating women. Food is often connected with the concept. Never again outside of Leviticus are same-sex acts mentioned in Old-Testement Law, leaving at least 111 of the 117 used of the term “abomination” to describe other issues (lying, arrogance, untruthful speech, false balances and scales used in business, justifying wickedness and condeming the righteous etc.) If we say that Christians may not accept all the the laws or the principles offered in the Old Testement, but are committed to believe in the core character of God as revealed there, such as the idea that God is holy and demands holiness, this is better. But this does not resolve the question of whether all same-sex relationships violate the character of a Holy God. Nor does it settle the question of whether divine holiness - at least the kind of holiness emphised in Leviticus - fits with the character of God as taught and embodied by Jesus Christ.
I am not going to say that I can get around the Leviticus passages, but I will say, when I read them in light of Jesus, in fact when you read the whole of Leviticus in light of Jesus, we have sifted out most of these laws, believing them obselete, along with the death penalty that was prescribed for each of the 117 abominations. It is hard to single out this verse as an accurate way to exalt homosexuality to level it has been exalted to in the church.
ARSENOKOITAI: HOMOSEXUALITY… OR SEXUAL SLAVERY AND EXPLOITATION?
1 Corinthians 6:9 amd 1 Timothy 1:20
The context of 1 Corinthians; is Paul dealing with an unruly congregation who have fallen prey to ‘lax’ morality. Paul writes to correct them and to remind them that salvation is offered by grace and yet does not offer an exemption from basic moral requirements. He goes on to list 10 types of people who will not enter the Kingdom.
In 1 Timothy, the passage falls in the middle of a discussion of Law and false teachers. With Paul saying that the law is intended for the Godless and giving 7 examples of such godlessness.
In both 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy the Greek word “arsenokoitai” is used, and in the first list malakoi is used directly in front of it.
Malakoi is a greek word with its english translation varying widely from “weakling” to “debaucher”, to “sensual” to “licentious” to “male prostitutes”. When placed together with the word “Arsenokoitai” creating a compound word, it is meant to loosely mean “men who go to bed with men”.
Paul has created this ‘new word’, that seems not to exist anywhere else in scripture. Traditionalists believe that this is Paul drawing the Leviticus scriptures from the Septuigent into the New Testament. However, as the word is not found anywhere else scholars have had to figure out how to translate these words into English.
Certain groups within the church have used 1 Corinthians 6:9 to say that all such people are just flat out excluded from heaven. This despite other New Testament texts related to the criteria for eternal life, such as those emphising God’s grace and forgiveness for all who believe (John 3:16). Few people say however that both “practicing gays “ and “practicing greedy or drunkards” go to hell.
Where ever you stand, you must accept that arsenokoitai is a contested word. It also needs to be known what Paul was thinking about when he was talking about if indeed he was talking about same-sex activity in the Greco-Roman world. Was he talking about consensual adult sex? Man-boy sexual abuse? Prostitution? Rape? Abuse of slaves?
Scholar Michael Vasey observes that in Imperial Rome, same-sex activity was strongly associated with idolatary, slavery and social dominance, often the assertion of the strong over the bodies of the weak
Where we find “arsenokoitites” in Greek literature outside of the New Testament it is concerned with Economic exploitation and abuses of power, not same-sex behaviour. More precisely perhaps, economic exploitation, violence in a pimping and forced prostitution situation (Martin, Dale, Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation)
Scholar James Brownson, draws us to the fact that in 1 Timothy 1:20 in the 7 ‘vices’ listed collectively placed together is it referring to kidnappers or slave dealers (andropodistai) acting as pimps for their captured and castrated boys (pornoi or male prostitutes) servicing the arsenokoitai - the men who make use of these prostitutes. (Brownson, James V. “Bible, Gender Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same -Sex Relationships)
All this to say, it does seem likely that “arsenokoitai” does in fact mean “men laying with men”, but it is even more likely that it means in a situation of abuse, power, dominance and most likely in the context of slavery.
“How might the history of Christians treatment of homosexuals have been different if “arsenokoitai” had been translated “sex offenders”, “sex traffickers”, “sexual exploiters” or “rapists” or “pimps”.” (Gunshee, Kindle Loc. 1222)?
Now, I am not Greek scholar, but if this is in fact true, that Paul is talking about Sexual exploitation, sexual slavery an d male prostitution in the Greco-Roman world, this is something I can not overlook, and just say “yep, homosexuals - same same”.
It is NOT the same as a consensual loving relationship, two people seeking God together. Nor is it the same as an abusive heterosexual relationship. Where there is sexual exploitation, where people are getting hurt, where people’s bodies are being used and exploited, we should always condemn, but this is not the same as a consensual loving relationship.
I clearly, as a non scholar, reliant on others work to point me in the right direction, am in no position to convince you of this. Though we ALL have access to the greek, we have access to scholars if you are willing, and we have access to the Holy Spirit. I ask you if there is any inkling that the Holy Spirit is asking you to look into this for yourself, please do.
I take the bible seriously, and if the bible translators have simplified that word from sexual exploitation to homosexuals, that is a big deal to me.
GOD MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE
These passages (Genesis 1 + 2 and Romans 1:26) have all been used to suggest the illegitimacy of same sex relationships based on God’s original design for human sexuality in creation, often defined as male/female, sexual/gender complementarity.
The function of the book of Genesis, and in particular the first few chapters is to be an Origin story for the people of Israel. Origin stories “Contrary to what many of us are told, Israel’s origin stories weren’t designed to answer scientific, twenty-first-century questions about the beginning of the universe or the biological evolution of human beings, but rather were meant to answer then-pressing, ancient questions about the nature of God and God’s relationship to creation.” (Rachel Held Evans: Inspired).
Most scholars agree that Genesis 1:1-2:4a and 2:4b-25 are two different creation accounts interwoven by an editor. The first account (1:1-2:4a) says humans are made in the image of God, created with “sexual difference”, male and female. and told to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth. The second account (2:18-25) describes God’s recognition of loneliness of the original man and his need for a helper/companion, partner. Leading to God taking a rib from the man and creating woman. These verses serve to function as an origin story of marriage.
I do not in anyway believe that the Creation, origin story, was ever meant to be a literal reading. Many scholars agree with me here. There is a clear shift in genre with Genesis 1-11 Poetic or Mythic History and Genesis 12 - 50 being Historical Narrative. The Genesis accounts do describe “male and female” and I agree that this is the “normal” genders that we see in society, and it is out of this majority or norm that societies have structured their marital, sexual and family expectations, and thus the account most likely to be reflected in any ancient religious text.
You can not deny however that there is sexual variation. We know there are intersex people (a variation in sex characteristics involving chromosomes, gonads, and genitals that do not allow a person to be distinctly identified as male or female) there is a small percentage of society that is not normal.
This extends far past sexuality. With history and philosophy and science books all pointing to “normal” but everywhere we look, and particularly if we are “Going Close”, there is so much variation on what ‘normal’ means - and what if a person isn’t normal? What if they are born with a birth defect or chromosonal abnormality? What if there is variations because we are human and part of a broken world, and what if we are humans who were always intended to be created as individuals, seen and known as individuals. What if this Mythical History, Poetic Narrative was not ever created to be a literal reading of every single person on this earth for the past 6000 years, and God’s kingdom spans way past normal…. because even those in the minority, those that are ‘not normal’ still hold a place in these scriptures, and have a right to not “be alone”.
Moving on to Romans
Romans 1:18-32, Paul, after celebrating the Gospel that is both for Jews and Greeks, references the Genesis account whilst drawing out the characteristic sins of the pagan gentile population. He indites those who “supress the truth” about God available in creation (Genesis 1:20) dishonouring God by engaging in the futile practices of idol worship and in response, the God grieved punishment is that “he gave them up” to the dishonourable/shameful lusts, impurity and degrading passions that they now desire (Romans 1:24-26) This downward spiral is then followed by a ‘vice’ list of 22 sins (malice, covetousness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, slanderers, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless etc. etc) .
Though fateful the one issue that Paul singles out is same-sex intercourse. Romans 1:26-27 is the most widely cited text in the whole debate.
“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.” Romans 1:24
Our starting point, as Gunshee says “ is of course the constant citation of this verse to describe contemporary gay and lesbian people as having grossly misdirected sexual passions, and to depict all same-sex acts as “unnatural”, “shameless”, and punishable by God. It is a fearsome legacy, especially if one cares about the suffering of those raise in Christian homes and churches who discover same-sex orientation.”
Theologian William Loader, suggests that Paul’s Jewish background is probably primary in cohesion with the Genesis text and Leviticus. What is known of Roman sexual practices and norms, including the wide acceptance of same-sex acts in various circumstances, including by married men, demonstrates their dramatic variance from Jewish sexual ethic. (Loader, William (2012) “The New Testament of Sexuality” )
Harvard Classics Scholar Sarah Ruden in her book “Paul among the people” sharpens the cultural issue significantly. Describing widespread and vial Greco-Roman cultural practices authorizing often violent rape of young men, especially slaves, but really anyone of a lower social status. This practice was cruelly accompanied by moral condemnation of the victims rather than the victimizers. Ruden is convinced that what Paul is speaking about when talking about Same-sex interest and activity. Ruden claims Paul’s teachings on homosexuality are in large part reflective of revulsion at this kind of cultural depravity, his desire to protect the bodies and souls of the innocent. If this indeed was Paul’s goal, we would all agree that a culture like this is depraved.
Paul was writing to the Roman Christians, some of whom had connections in the Roman imperial court, and all of whom would be familiar with the craziness there. The violence, carousing and orgiastic sexuality of that court, including Gaius Caligulas and Nero’s same-sex relations were widely known throughout the Empire (Caligulas was the Roman Emperor in 37-41AD and Nero in 54-68) a similar time that Paul was writing of Romans in 57-58AD. Caligulas raped the wives of dinner guests, had same-sex encounters, sexually humiliated a military officer amongst any other horrible crimes. If Paul had the Imperial court in mind while painting his broad brushstrokes about the debauchery of the Gentile world, that would mean Romans 1:18-32 ( please read it again, in light of this information) might have functioned as a highly evocative, deeply contextual,”thinly veilled depiction of the Roman Imperial court as a macabre, worst case symbol of Gentile depravity.
Even in the context of reading the Romans verse, it is very, very difficult to me to read it in the context of a covenanted same-sex relationship among devoted Christians. Furthermore to this point, what Paul is describing here is sexual promiscuity, regardless of Gender, outside of the confines of a committed (married) relationship. Alone, it reads as promiscuity, it reads as unfaithfulness, it reads as people getting hurt, it reads as lack of commitment. All of this, regardless of the same-sex discussion. Because Paul was writing to the church in Rome, under the Emporers who were infamous for sexual perversion, rape, incest and abuse of men and women. You can read some of the tales of both Caligulas and Nero here.
It makes sense to me, that if Paul was writing to the Roman Christians in Rome at the time of the Caligulas and Nero Empire, that he would want to warn against the human rights and sexual abuses advocated for by their Emporer who claimed himself to be God. This whole passage, makes complete sense to me in light of this knowledge of the Roman Empire at this time. It has to be said that you can not lay this verse, written to new Christians in an Empire run by rapists, murderers and sexual abuse and assult in first century Rome as reflective of a consensual loving, same sex covenantal relationship with two people who love Jesus.
Wrapping it all Up
If you made it this far, I applaud you! I’m exhausted.
I have nothing really else to say, I just felt like I couldn’t just stop! So here is my ending, and evidence which proves that I am indeed, not a writer!
”Changing Our Mind: The Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ” by David P. Gushee
”Oriented to Faith: Transforming the conflict over Gay relationships” by Tim Otto
”Does Jesus Really Love me? A Gay Christians Pilgrimage in search of God in America” by Jeff Chu
”Penny in the Air: My story of becoming Affirming” by Sarah Bessey