History tells us that the Christian church, by
upholding certain ‘beliefs’, have been the instrument of oppression of
certain people and groups. Until enlightenment came Christians did not
see what they were doing as oppression as they believed (based on the
current worldview) that they were upholding God’s word. Unchangeable
traits such as race, gender and currently sexual orientation, have been
the criteria for treating others like second-class citizens, inferior and even evil. By not
treating others as equals, a hierarchy created that can never
liberate only oppress.
Initially, when the
church was birthed, Jewish males were at the top of the hierarchy, with
Gentiles, women and others seen as lesser in value. From what I
can see, if God is trying to do anything in this world, He is trying to
get through our thick skulls that all people are of equal value and
worth and should be treated with dignity and respect. That kind of
theology will create a better world for all.
History has a sober warning to us all when we feel so convinced we are defending the 'truth'. The
statement ‘the bible says homosexuality is a sin’ is not unlike other
‘truths’ the Christian Church has upheld over the centuries.
1. The Christian church once believed this was the absolute truth — The earth is the centre of the universe but we now know the world revolves around the sun
centuries ago church leaders refused to believe scientists such as
Copernicus and Galileo, who said that the world revolved around the sun.
The current worldview, based on several verses, including Joshua 10:13
where Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, implied that the earth
was already standing still and therefore the sun moved. Galileo was
placed under house arrest in 1633 as a heretic for stating a scientific
fact that was in opposition to what the church leaders taught.
Eventually the scientific evidence could no longer be denied but it
wasn’t till 1992 that Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the
Galileo affair was handled—that’s an embarrassingly long time to wait
for an apology.
The Catholic leaders were not
the only ones to see the scientists as heretics. Martin Luther said,
‘This fool Copernicus wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy;
but sacred Scripture in Joshua 10:13 tells us that Joshua commanded the
sun to stand still, and not the earth.’ John Calvin quoted Psalm 93 in
his attack on Copernicus. ‘The earth also is established. It cannot be
moved.’ Calvin added, ‘Who will venture to place the authority of
Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?’ To all Protestants, these men
are the founders of their faith but today we must acknowledge that their
‘biblical’ beliefs were in error. Or it would be better to say their
interpretations were in error. The worldview was based on limited
understanding which created wrong interpretation as they were not open to new understanding.
2. The Christian church once believed this was the absolute truth - White is superior, black is inferior — but we now know all people are created equal
the start of the 19th century, most religious groups believed that
human slavery was totally acceptable based on a biblical mindset. Black
people where considered to be morally and intellectually inferior to
whites and it was the Christian landowners’ God-given service to
humankind to keep them in check. According to the biblical understanding
of the day black people had inherited the ‘curse of Ham’ (black skin to
mark the cursed race) because Ham saw his father Noah lying naked after
he’d passed out from too much wine. It seems quite bizarre that the
drunken Noah should curse his son and black skinned people from that
time because he didn’t know how to hold his liquor.
passages in the Old and New Testaments that approve and regulate the
ownership of human slaves. It’s interesting to note that for nineteen
centuries people focused on those verses and somehow missed the
fundamental biblical themes of love, mercy, justice, and equality. In a
more enlightened world today, when Christians read those passages on
slavery, they consider it an injustice that belonged to another time and
culture. A remnant remains like white supremacist organisations such as
the Klu Klux Klan whose existence is justified by an outdated
interpretation of the scriptures.
In Australia, approximately
100,000 Indigenous children (the stolen generation) were removed from
their families by Australian government agencies and church missions
between around 1900 and 1969. Originally this was carried out in the
name of child welfare but resulted in extensive family and cultural
damage. A well-intentioned ‘Christian’ nation created this policy
believing indigenous Australians to be inferior and that they should be
bred out. Today we think of this as an horrific injustice and violation
of human rights. Indigenous and other Australians are still waiting for
our church-going, Christian Prime Minister, on behalf of our nation to
say one word that could begin healing—sorry. (A new Prime Minster changed this)
3. The Christian church once believed this was the absolute truth - God separated the races therefore they should never marry - but we now know two people who love each other should marry no matter what colour their skin
last states in the US to remove the law that banned interracial
marriage were in the ‘bible belt’ (the area in which conservative
Christian Evangelical Protestantism is a pervasive or dominant part of
the culture). As late as 1959, a couple from Virginia, the bride black,
her husband white, were sentenced to one year's gaol for getting
married. In a land settled by the pilgrims that boldly proclaimed
‘liberty and justice for all’, the law stated: ‘Almighty God created the
races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on
separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement
there would be no cause for such marriages.’ In 1967 the US Supreme
Court, against opposition from Virginia and North Carolina (both ‘bible
belt’ states), unanimously ruled the inter-racial marriage restrictions
unconstitutional. The freedom to marry, the court said, was a basic
human right. It’s hard to imagine today legislation like that even
existed in a civilised society but similar laws were in existence in
Australia till 1967. Finally when two people of different races fell in
love they were allowed to marry. The oppressed were set free.
4. The Christian church once believed this was the absolute truth — men are superior, women are inferior - but we understand today that men and women are of equal value and worth
until the middle of the 19th century, most Christians had a pretty
clear understanding of the role of women. It was all there in the bible.
To be a good Christian woman you had to dress and behave in a certain
way, your chief roles being that of keeping house, raising children, and
submitting to the will of your husband. She promised in her marriage vows to always obey. Being given such basic
privileges as the right to vote, hold office, preach or pastor a church -
God forbid, that was men’s work and too much responsibility for the
less intelligent, weaker female sex. Again, there were specific passages
in the Bible that justified this kind of inequality and oppression.
Whilst some denominations still treat women as second-class citizens,
most have realised ‘hey what’s the issue?’ and embrace their
contribution on every level.
The churches previous but changing position— the Bible says homosexuality is a sin - slowly but surely the church is beginning to understand that same-sex-orientation, for a percentage of the
population, is the normal expression of their sexuality and occurs in all of
statement ‘the Bible says homosexuality is a sin’ is actually a false
statement. It’s impossible for homosexuality to be a sin. We know from
science today that homosexuality is a sexual orientation like
heterosexuality and therefore it’s amoral. As I find myself saying
repeatedly to people who have been taught to believe the equation that
homosexuality = promiscuity—‘my morality is a choice, my sexual
orientation, however, isn’t’.
Many are surprised
to find there is no chapter or verse for that quote we hear so often
‘the Bible says homosexuality is a sin’ in either the Old or New
Testaments; it is a belief or assumption based on an interpretation of
several verses—six passages out of 31,240 verses.
The majority of Christians have never really looked at this topic in depth but only come to conclusions through reading an English translation that says something like man shall not lie with man as a woman this is an abomination. Context is everything.......and that is what an in-depth study reveals. That is the meaning of the passage written to the people at that time.
Some things to consider:
1. There is no word in Hebrew or Greek for homosexual or homosexuality
2. Sexual orientation as we know it today was not a concept in biblical times (that didn’t happen till the late 1800’s). Either was the concept that the world revolved around the sun not vice-versa or that women played an equal part in conception by providing the egg that was fertilised by male sperm. Biblical teaching was that the man implanted the child in the woman.
3. The six passages that we have assumed to be about homosexuality and God’s condemnation of it, when looked at in the light of the historical and cultural contexts as well as the original languages we come up with a more enlightened interpretation. That is, when ever same sex activity is mentioned it is never in the context of same sex relationships as we know them today but always in one of these contexts
A little know fact that seems to have passed many "Bible Believing" Christians is that the word homosexual didn’t actually appear in an English translation of the bible till 1946.
- Rape and humiliation of an enemy
- Temple prostitution
- Ritualistic orgies to fertility gods
- Pederastic relationships
- Sex with angels
© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest
network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian
backgrounds. He is also an educator
and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and has been a leader in deconstructing
the ‘ex-gay’ myth. His autobiography 'A
Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile
preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as
an openly gay man.
Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders
International whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering
caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering
LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources
and media/social networking activities.
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential
Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011
ACON Community Hero Award.
Labels: bible and homosexuality