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Education about the reality of sexual and gender diversity is key to understanding our struggles. The greatest need in the area of education, however, is in our understanding of unconditional love and acceptance. It’s not about who you love, just how you love!
To experience anything that isn’t heteronormative in the christian world (or many other religious contexts) requires a massive paradigm shift. This can be extremely challenging, especially as many traditional beliefs start to unravel in the process. But love, hope, peace and joy are worth every second of the effort.
The christian heritage uses the bible as the “source of all truth”. Because of that, for many the first step is to understand the concepts of sexuality from an accurate biblical perspective – the cultural climate, the sociological interactions, politics, religions, traditions, everything that makes a multicultural society what it is. We must also understand the original languages, their use of colloquialisms, cultural assumptions and all factors associated with language. This may sort out a lot of issues for some. But for many others, its only the first step on the journey. The real freedom comes when we look at the role of the bible in the bigger picture of who God is – when we see that its not just the interpretation of the homosexual scriptures causing problems. The whole biblical fundamentalist paradigm begins to unravel and “religion” starts to crumble, slowly revealing the pure simple “good news” of God’s unconditional love.
There is also the area of science, which includes psychology as well as medical fields of study. The amount of serious, scientific, peer reviewed work being done on sexual and gender identity is extensive and growing very rapidly, and there is a great deal of evidence to support genetic/epigenetic causes for variation in sexuality. (Born this way An evolutionary view of ‘gay genes’ _ IFLScience)
The simple classifications of straight and gay have also been expanded into a series of continua that place all humans on sliding scales of sexual and gender characteristics. In reality, it isn’t as simple as “gay or straight”. The future is bright as understanding of ourselves and true spirituality continues to grow!
This psychological condition is the reason why LGBT people suffer so much in religious institutions.
“It’s the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values” [Wikipedia]. For gay people in religious belief systems, this can lead to depression, mental illness and suicide.
Our minds simply can’t handle trying, on the one hand, to adhere to a belief system that says we are sinful, broken and have to change to be acceptable to God, and on the other, knowing that everything our mind and body says is in direct conflict with this.
Every Silent Gay knows this feeling intimately. They spend their lives in conflict trying to reconcile who they are with who the church says they should be. It brings death, emotional, spiritual and, all too often, physical.
Ex-gay therapy – the facts
There is a very large movement promoting ex-gay or reparative therapy (pray away the gay), that claim we can become straight through the power of God.
I personally (Jim Marjoram) was involved with many forms of this therapy throughout my life and spent many years working with Living Waters (part of Desert Streams led by Andy Comisky). Although a wonderful loving bunch of people, they are totally deceived. A very sad situation, especially as they have become even more hard line fundamentalist since the demise of Exodus Ministries.
This site lists the main ex-gay organizations and works to demolish the foundation of ex-gay prejudice.
A brief biblical overview
In the various eras of the bible same sex acts and relationships came into a few different categories. We have to completely put aside our own cultural biases to understand them.
For many tribes, (Philistines etc, and many others from around the world) it was part of the rituals of the victors in battles to humiliate their captors by raping the men. Then there was the various religions that had prostitution in various forms as part of their worship. This often included same sex acts and very often with young boys. The biblical aversion was focused on the fact they these acts were associated with heathen Gods. They didn’t actually have the same problems with sexual relations with young teens that we have. Girls were married as young as 12 and boys were “initiated” into manhood around the same age in most cultures, as soon as they became sexually mature.
All the biblical references that speak against same sex actions (not to be confused with relationships) are based on these premises. There are also the references to eunuchs that we assume were just castrated males. However, the cultural paradigm kicks in again when we do some digging around. Eunuchs were actually a broad category of males who couldn’t have children and families – who were either castrated, chose to be celibate for religious reasons and were bound by oath or men who had no interest in women at all. This included gay men of course. Although the last category is disputed by some bible scholars, literature from other sources in those cultures suggests its true.
There is also the matter of David and Jonathan, which most Christians flat out deny implies they were gay, but in the light of the real attitudes and cultural norms of the times, its not far fetched at all. Their love was genuine and intimate, and surpassed that of a woman. There’s not many options on how to interpret that if we are honest. And there is much more…Our biggest problem is we are thousands of years removed from the book we desperately try to interpret as a set of rules for life. We interpret that book through our modern cultural paradigms – not a successful move at all!
Perhaps one of the most obvious and rather glaring problems is this: ancient Greek had only two words for homosexual – arrenomanes and erastes. Neither of these words were ever used once in the bible. It’s that simple.
There are currently three main views in traditional christendom about being gay:
- It’s just plain wrong, a sin, and you need to repent, get healed and be straight, no matter what it takes.
- Being gay isn’t wrong or a sin, but acting on it is. Its okay to experience same sex attraction but to engage in same sex activity in any form is sinful, therefore you must either be healed or be celibate. Celibacy is however, simply an outworking of Stockholm Syndrome.
- “we don’t know” so lets welcome everyone and let God sort it out. It sounds good, and is getting traction in some churches and groups, but it still ultimately ends up facing the same question – at some point we have to determine if God approves of it or not. It’s currently best described as the “agree to disagree” arrangement. It’s a workable stop-gap for some and gives time to sort through the issues, but in the meantime, LGBT people are still silently suffering while being “pseudo accepted” on the innocent until proven guilty basis.
Here’s an actual conversation by a pastor friend of mine that sums up the traditional biblical view (and the bias behind it) extremely well.