Some More Thoughts on Homosexuality

In this post I am going to touch on two things. First of all, having in my previous post touched on ‘scriptural matters’ pertaining to LGB folk, I am going to look, very briefly, at what the bible may have to say about Transgender and Intersex folk.

Transgenderism probably wasn’t ‘a thing’ in ancient Mediterranean culture - there seem to be no references to anything like it - or at least I haven't found any. Intersex isn’t mentioned explicitly either. Jesus does talk, briefly, about eunuchs - castrated males - and that’s about as close as the bible gets to talking about either transgenderism or intersex people…

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Matthew 19:11-12

This passage is translated a number of ways, depending on the point the translators think Jesus is trying to make. Some translations imply that Christian men should castrate themselves in order to live as though they were in the heavenly kingdom, whilst others, as here, make it seem metaphorical. What it does say, at least the way I read it, is that Jesus has no problem with eunuchs in the Kingdom of God… And there’s nothing, anywhere, other than some obscure passages in the Levitical laws about which animals make acceptable sacrifices, to suggest that God has any problem with what, if any, sexual organs a person has.

There’s also the passage in the book of Acts, where the Apostle Philip has an encounter with a eunuch from Ethiopia:

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

...

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him. Acts 8:26-38

There seems to be nothing stopping eunuchs becoming members of the body of Christ, so why not others whose gender is not defined by the ‘usual’ male/female binary divide, such as intersex or other 'non-binary’ categories? There are all sorts of moral and ethical issues around transgenderism, and whether, or when, to begin medical or surgical ‘interventions’ - but that is way beyond the scope of what I want to do here on this blog. Let’s just say that there’s nothing, anywhere, even suggesting that being a eunuch is sinful in the eyes of God.


So, let us move on now, and talk about why I think it is unjust to exclude LGBTQI+ folk from belonging to churches and from receiving the sacraments (amongst which I include marriage).

Christians are deeply divided over the issue of whether or not to accept and include LGBTQI+ people in the church. The debate is usually framed as a dichotomy between believing and followingthe bible on one hand and compassion and social justice on the other.

But I don’t think God expects us to choose between the two. I don’t think those two are in opposition at all.

Why not?

I believe that the cornerstone of Christian ethics is compassion for others - whoever they are. That is what Jesus modelled for us during his incarnation; he went out of his way to include those whom the religious authorities went out of their way to exclude.

Reconciling what we read in the Bible with acceptance and equality for LGBTGI+ folk does not necessitate ignoring or denying anything the Bible says. What it does take is the willingness to re-examine with an open mindthose passages of the Bible in which homosexuality is mentioned and with the same care that we should lavish upon any passage of the book. I did my best to do that in my previous post on the subject - I ‘tackled’ one of the so-called ‘clobber passages’ head-on and showed, I hope, that it is nothing like the ‘open and shut’ case many in the church believe it to be.

In the absence of an explicit directive from God to exclude and condemn homosexuals (which, in my opinion, the ‘clobber passages’ do not provide) the Christian community’s treatment of gay folks clearly violates what Jesus and the New Testament writers pointedly identified as the second half of God’s most important commandment:

‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

Many in the gay community have, sadly, pretty much given up expecting equitable treatment from Christians - who actually have a biblical mandate to act justly:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8 amongst other passages)

Where ‘act justly’ does not mean seeking vengeance on God’s behalf, as so many people’s warped theology seems to infer, but does mean demanding equitable treatment - at minimum.

The suffering meted out upon gay folkby Christiansis so severe that I believe in order to justify it, the biblical mandate for it would have to be absolutely clear, and completely unequivocal.

It definitely isn’t clear, and it’s certainly not unequivocal.

And therefore, I believe, such iniquitous maltreatment is morally indefensible and must cease forthwith.

Moving forward a little.

Christians are being ‘unbiblical’, not to mention hypocritical, in using the ‘clobber passages’ to justify applying absolute standards of morality towards homosexual ‘sins’ which they themselves are not the least bit tempted to commit.

Furthermore, they heap judgement upon themselves by accepting for themselves lesser standards of morality for those sins listed in the ‘clobber passages’ which they themselves routinely commit.

I’m not a fan of the NIV, particularly here, because of the way it translates some words (see my previous post here for an explanation), but it’s popular so I shall quote it to drive home the point:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Do you ever overeat or tell lies? Or gossip about other people? If you do, and you apply a different moral standard to yourself from that which you apply to gay folks, then you are, quite frankly, a hypocrite… You deserve exactly the same treatment as you mete out to gay folk - you should be cast out of the church, and ostracised.

Unfair?

You bet it’s unfair.

It’s at least as unfair as excluding homosexuals on equivalent grounds.

Remember that Jesus said:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

This is exactly the kind of circumstance he was referring to when he said it.

Homosexual behaviour is referred to, briefly, in only six or seven verses in the bible. There are over thirty thousand other verses which do not mention it at all. It was clearly not that important to the writers of the bible!

Whilst the bible is virtually silent on homosexuality, it has a great deal to say about how Christians should behave. The four gospels spend a lot of their words describing Jesus’ interaction with, and acceptance of, those whom the ‘religious leaders’ ostracised… And he rarely had a harsh word for anyone - except for those who sought to exclude others from God’s grace because they were ‘sinners’. For them he reserved his harshest words… Hoping, I feel sure, to shock them into examining their motives and actions, so that they might come to repentance.

Jesus spends a lot of time insisting upon fairness, equity, and love. He rejects, utterly and repeatedly , any notion that legalism should ever triumph over compassion. We Christians are called to follow Jesus, in all that we are, all that we do, and all that we say. So we too should be seeking fairness, equity, and love for those marginalised - by society or by the church.

There is much more that I could say, particularly regarding why I think it is unjust for homosexual Christians to be denied the sacrament of marriage, but I think this is plenty to grapple with for now.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022