This is a VERY interesting read that was posted on fb by a friend of mine who is a Methodist minister here in NC(educated at Duke Divinity School) and a writer. She offered it on fb as a great place to find arguments to use against the Bible thumpers when they are attempting to use the Bible for their rationale to oppose homosexuality.
It is particularly interesting given the NC Legislature override today of the Governor's veto of the bill allowing magistrates
in North Carolina to use their religious beliefs as an excuse not to marry gay couples. I apologize for violating DU rules
on quoting more than four paragraphs, but wanted to give those who won't read the entire essay a better feeling for
the point of view, so that maybe, more people would read it.
Sexual issues are tearing our churches apart today as never before. The issue of homosexuality threatens to fracture whole denominations, as the issue of slavery did one hundred and fifty years ago. We naturally turn to the Bible for guidance, and find ourselves mired in interpretative quicksand. Is the Bible able to speak to our confusion on this issue?
The debate over homosexuality is a remarkable opportunity, because it raises in an especially acute way how we interpret the Bible, not in this case only, but in numerous others as well. The real issue here, then, is not simply homosexuality, but how Scripture informs our lives today.
Nevertheless, the Bible quite clearly takes a negative view of homosexual activity, in those few instances where it is mentioned at all. But this conclusion does not solve the problem of how we are to interpret Scripture today. For there are other sexual attitudes, practices and restrictions which are normative in Scripture but which we no longer accept as normative:
The Old and New Testaments both regarded slavery as normal and nowhere categorically condemned it. Part of that heritage was the use of female slaves, concubines and captives as sexual toys, breeding machines, or involuntary wives by their male owners, which 2 Sam. 5:13, Judges 19-21, and Num. 31:18 permitted and as many American slave owners did some 150 years ago, citing these and numerous other Scripture passages as their justification. The point is not to ridicule Israels sexual mores. Jews right up to the present have been struggling with the same interpretive task as Christians around issues of sexuality. The majority of U.S. Jewish groups (Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist) have gay-rites policies and have been involved in the same kinds of debates over homosexuality, masturbation and nonprocreative sexual intercourse as their Christian neighbors The point is that both Jews and Christians must reinterpret the received tradition in order to permit it to speak to believers today.
For example; virtually all modern readers would agree with the Bible in rejecting:
Intercourse with animals.
But we disagree with the Bible on most other sexual mores. The Bible condemned the following behaviors which we generally allow:
intercourse during menstruation
celibacy (some texts)
exogamy (marriage with non-Israelites)
naming sexual organs
nudity (under certain conditions)
masturbation (some Christians still condemn this)
birth control (some Christians still forbid this)
And the Bible regarded semen and menstrual blood as unclean, which most of us do not.
Likewise, the Bible permitted behaviors that we today condemn:
sex with slaves
treatment of women as property
very early marriage (for the girl, age 11-13).
And while the Old Testament accepted divorce, Jesus forbade it. In short, of the sexual mores mentioned here, we only agree with the Bible on four of them, and disagree with it on sixteen!
The crux of the matter, it seems to me, is simply that the Bible has no sexual ethic. There is no Biblical sex ethic. Instead, it exhibits a variety of sexual mores, some of which changed over the thousand-year span of biblical history. Mores are unreflective customs accepted by a given community. Many of the practices that the Bible prohibits, we allow, and many that it allows, we prohibit. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, or culture, or period.
Approached from the point of view of the Spirit rather than the letter, the question ceases to be What does Scripture command?, and becomes What is the Word that the Spirit speaks to the churches now, in the light of Scripture, tradition, theology, and, yes, psychology, genetics, anthropology, and biology? We cant continue to build ethics on the basis of bad science. In a little-remembered statement, Jesus said, Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? (Luke 12:57). Such sovereign freedom strikes terror in the hearts of many Christians; they would rather be under law and be told what is right.
If now new evidence is in on the phenomenon of homosexuality, are we not obligated - no, free to reevaluate the whole issue in the light of all the available data and decide what is right, under God, for ourselves? Is this not the radical freedom for obedience in which the gospel establishes us?
Where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether that Biblical judgment is correct. The Bible sanctioned slavery as well, and nowhere attacked it as unjust. Are we prepared to argue today that slavery is biblically justified? One hundred and fifty years ago, when the debate over slavery was raging, the Bible seemed to be clearly on the slaveholders side. Abolitionists were hard pressed to justify their opposition to slavery on biblical grounds. Yet today, if you were to ask Christians in the South whether the Bible sanctions slavery, virtually every one would agree that it does not. How do we account for such a monumental shift?
We in the church need to get our priorities straight. We have not reached a consensus about who is right on the issue of homosexuality. But what is clear, utterly clear, is that we are commanded to love one another.
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