Not because He sometimes makes mistakes. Not because He enjoys to watch them live lonely, frustrated, unfulfilled lives. And not to give Christians a chance to practise their praying skills.
I think God actually creates people with homosexuality as part of their identity, and intends for them to fall in love and have happy, fulfilling relationships.
When I was a teenager, being gay was definitely a sin. But if you were unfortunate enough to have such inclinations you could escape hell by simply being celibate. Just take a minute to imagine that when you were sixteen, someone told you that all the urges and desires you were feeling would have to be repressed; you would never be allowed to have a happy, longterm relationship. You had to be single forever, or you would spend eternity in a burning lake of sulphur.
I became less sure about this around the time of going to university. I spent the next nine years not really knowing what to think. I wanted to be OK with it, but those few Bible verses that appear to condemn homosexuality kept nagging at me. Conveniently none of my family or close friends were gay, so it didn’t really matter that I didn’t have a strong opinion either way.
About a year ago, I arrived at the conclusion that it really is OK. God makes people gay. To explain how I got here, I will address some of the strongest arguments against homosexuality and show how for me, they have all come crashing down.
1. The Bible says it’s wrong.
This comes back to the point I made in my previous post about how we read the Bible. If we take it as an instructional manual, from God’s lips directly into our lives, then the conclusion has to be that it’s an abomination. But if you do that, you should also be keeping slaves, killing your enemies with a sword, avoiding pork and only wearing clothing made of single fabrics. If you’d rather stick to the New Testament, then don’t even think about getting divorced and remarried. If you think that’s inappropriate, then you are already admitting that some things that were culturally relevant in Biblical times simply aren’t applicable today.
Here are the main texts Christians use against homosexuality (all NIV), and why I don’t think they condemn gay people today:
Genesis 19 – Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed.
In this story, God sends two angels disguised as men to visit one of two cities called Sodom and Gomorrah, already known for being particularly wicked. While they are staying with Abraham’s nephew, Lot, men surround the house and demand that Lot bring the men (angels) out so they can have sex with them. He refuses, so they try to break down the door. God then gets really angry, rains down burning sulphur and destroys the two cities.
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were immoral, wicked, violent and very inhospitable to visitors. They tried to gang rape angels. Yet somehow, many Christians have interpreted this passage to mean that being in a loving, long-term, monogamous, homosexual relationship is wrong. The word ‘sodomy’, meaning the act of homosexual intercourse, comes directly from this passage. To me that is a gross misinterpretation, and by getting caught up in the specific issue of homosexuality today we are turning a blind eye to all the actual immorality and wickedness in our world.
Leviticus 18:22 – Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
Leviticus 20:13 – If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
You just need to step back a bit and read the chapters surrounding these verses to see that these were laws written for specific people at a specific time and are not applicable today. Leviticus 17:12 says None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood. Bad news for any black pudding fans out there. Leviticus 19:27 says Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. Sorry boys. Leviticus 21:16-20 says The Lord said to Moses,“Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles.
I think I’ve made my point.
Mark 10:6-8 – But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
Lots of people will happily interpret Leviticus as being culturally irrelevant, but this one is more tricky. You can take it to mean that being in a heterosexual relationship is God’s ideal, and anything else falls short. Or you can take it to mean that this is the norm (which it is – there are far more straight people than gay people in the world and that was presumably the case then too), so it made sense to phrase it in this way. In that case the passage doesn’t necessarily condemn homosexuality – it just doesn’t mention it.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – 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.
Paul is talking about the bad things people can do that will get in the way of them ‘inheriting the kingdom of God’ (this isn’t just about going to Heaven when they die – see previous post!). He’s talking about people who are selfish, reckless, deceitful, greedy and out of control. Loving, long-term, monogamous, homosexual relationships simply did not exist in that culture – relationships, like an awful lot of other things, have changed over time. I can think of lots of people in this world who are selfish, reckless, deceitful, greedy and out of control; gay people in loving, faithful relationships do not belong in that list.
There is also a passage in Romans 1 about ‘shameful lusts’ which mentions men committing ‘shameful acts with other men’, for which I would argue the same.
2. It’s a choice.
That’s an easy statement to make if you are straight. Think about the number of Christians who try almost anything to cure themselves of their gayness, or the number of young people who are bullied, depressed and even driven to suicide because they are gay, and tell me again that it’s a choice.
3. It’s unnatural.
Animals have been scientifically proven to engage in homosexual activity. There’s lots of evidence to suggest that sexual preference is biological, and even some evidence of an evolutionary advantage. Have a look at this, this, this and this for more information.
It does seem a shame that people in longterm relationships should have no possibility of producing biological children. But if gay people are to be judged for that, we also should be piling the guilt on couples who can’t have children for any other reason. Because clearly, what this world needs is a population increase.
4. It just feels wrong.
That’s hardly surprising, seeing as the church has condemned homosexuality for hundreds, even thousands of years. It was punishable by death for much of history and was illegal in the UK until 1967. There has been a seismic social and cultural shift in a relatively short period of time. So of course it sometimes still feels a bit odd.
If in eighteen years’ time my children turn out to be gay, that means that right now, aged six months and two years, they already are. To be extremely honest, right now I would prefer it if they weren’t. That is because of the culture I have been immersed in growing up, and the prejudices that have been planted deep in my psyche. It will take time for the nasty remnants of homophobia that still lurk within me to be completely shaken out, and the same is true for society as a whole.
5. We don’t want to change marriage.
Marriage between a man and a woman has been an institution, an unshakeable pillar of society for hundreds of years. Changing the definition of it is scary and we wonder if we have the right to meddle with something that has stayed the same for so long.
Marriage in Biblical times was a very, very different thing. Marriages were usually arranged by the family; the husband effectively bought his wife from her father and she was then forced to stay with him until one of them died. Divorce and remarriage counted as adultery, and adultery was punishable by death.
It has changed since then, so I think it’s OK for it to change again.
Of course you might still disagree – that’s allowed, I just hope you will at least take some time to think about it.
Imagine for a moment that I am right, that God makes people gay and loves them as much as anyone else. Imagine what He would feel about how the church has treated gay people throughout history.
If I am right, then we need to spend the next two thousand years making it up to them.
If you’re interested in reading more about this whole issue, this is a good place to start.
I welcome comments whether you agree with me or not – I’m looking to start a conversation. If you’d like to discuss with me any issues raised in my blog posts but would prefer not to write a public comment, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.