The words I am about to paste into this post are the words I was invited to say from the pulpit of my local Anglican Church for a conversation on the Church's response to Gay Marriage...
The question for Christians has to come down to the simplest command of Jesus. Love one another as I have loved you. And to me, the simple denial of equality on the basis of sexuality is failing to show love. Some people may say that 'we love the sinner but hate the sin'. Quite a popular phrase in this discussion. I don’t believe we can do that very well and certainly I can see that a lot of what Christians think of as hating the sin is seen just as hate. If we are seen as hateful, how do we show Jesus to the world?
But, I want to look at the verses some Christians use to condemn homosexuality.
Firstly the story of Sodom (Genisis 19:1-3). There is nothing in this story which comes close to being about gay marriage. It is a story of the breaking of hospitality laws and the use of rape as a tool of dominance. The same is true of the story in Judges 19, the point of the story is not that the house-guest was wanting to get out and enjoy the night life of the city.
Plus, on a personal note, I would ask. Are you going to take your moral bearings from a story where the ‘correct’ thing to do was to send out your virgin daughters to be raped by a mob? Why is this verse being used as evidence of homosexuality? If the mob were homosexual the daughters and concubines would have been perfectly safe, no this is a morality tale about power and dominance.
The (possibly, but not really) clearer verses are Leviticus 18:21-22, Leviticus 20:13. However, the first refers to child sacrifices to Molech and the homosexuality mentioned may be part of the same idolatrous pagan worship. The section in verse 20 also begins as a discussion of idolatrous behaviour. Plus, it is part of a long list and if we want to keep this part of the old testament law, can we choose just this verse or do we need to keep the whole chapter (or the whole book). Because we allow people who curse their parents to marry, but it is on the same list. We do not, as a church, condemn sexual activity during menses, yet there it is on the same list.
Remember, our bible is not the Old testament list of rules, the law has been set aside for it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God (Hebrews 7). It is the much, much harder call to fulfil the whole law by loving your neighbour as yourself. It is a call to love and relationship with God and we do not bring anyone into a relationship with God by imposing our favourite of the Old Testament laws on them and claiming it is love.
So, onto the new testament...
Romans 1:26 Is not a prohibition against homosexuality but a warning about what will happen to you if you exchange God for idolatry (verse23-24). It may well refer to sexual acts as a part of worship in some pagan temples.
The word that is presently translated as homosexual in the new testament (in 1 Corinthians 6 & 1 Timothy 1) is arsenokoites. But this is a very recent (1946) translation of the word and is by no means a clear one. Paul’s use of the word arsenokoites is the first recorded use and he does not define it. In fact, in all of classical literature there are fewer than 80 uses of the word. The word literally means ‘Man Bed’ and during the reformation because the word was man and not men, scholars translated it as masturbators. While to our modern ears, man bed may seem obvious, the Greeks already had a word for two men having intercourse (androkoites) so one must wonder why Paul felt the need to coin a new word if that was what he wanted to say.
Some people suggest that Paul was talking about shrine prostitution or about sexual relationships between a teacher and pupil (certainly, until recently pederast is how the 1 Corinthians verse was translated). Others suggest that (like the old testament verses I mentioned earlier) it refers to the use of sexual domination as a way of showing superiority and power. Perhaps a master and his slave, or to update the verse somewhat in light of the current Royal Commission a priest and a congregant?
So, am I saying that Paul wasn’t talking about homosexuality? I doubt he was, but I can’t be sure. However what I am sure of is that Jesus' message can be condensed into whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). So I feel no need to invent reasons to discriminate against people or deny them the same rights I have, nor do I feel the need to bring back the old testament strictures, otherwise I am guilty of crimes enough to see me stoned to death every few days for the rest of time.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28