I want to start by saying that any time there are two people with opposing views concerning a third group of people, the resulting conversation will involve much audacity, hubris and privilege. That I am given a platform to speak here is a sign of that privilege, and I hope to be a good steward of it. For all the ways I will screw that up, I want to apologize to my LGBT sisters and brothers in advance.
It’s against my nature to spend a lot of time in arguments – they seldom do anything to convince the other and serve to fuel the fires of the already converted. So, this post, while written as a result of the previous post on gay marriage, should not be seen as an argument with the author of that post.
Rather, what I hope to do is present an alternative view of how, to use that author’s term, Biblical Christianity can be used to shape a worldview that is not only open but affirming.
Our differing views, I think, come down to how one views scripture: Is the Bible a book where we seek precedents or a book where we find principles?
You can make a much stronger textual case against woman preaching or divorce or in favor of slavery or women being submissive than you can against same gender relationships. Each time we have faced one of these issues, we have thought it prudent to disregard Biblical precedent in favor of Biblical principle.
Today, we cisgender Christians face a similar question to the one faced by the Apostle Paul – How do we act toward the follower of Christ who is outside our own category?
For Paul, the question involved circumcision – could a male with a foreskin be a faithful and fully included member of the body? The Jewish leadership of the church said no, but Paul argued for a “circumcision of the heart” – that it was the intent and inner actions of the believer that made a person a follower of the Christ and not a matter of their belonging to a given category.
To Paul, their identity as a follower of the Christ trumped all other categories. Paul believed this revelation to be at the heart of the good news of the Christ – that we no longer regard anyone from a human point of view, but that God, through Christ, has reconciled the world unto God.
Paul said that anything less than full inclusion of all Christians was wrong. He argued this in Jerusalem to the 12, and he again in several of his letters, most famously in Galatians. In Christ, he said, there is no longer slave or free, Jew or Greek, male or female, we are all one in Christ Jesus. If, as he says in Romans, there is nothing that can come between us and the love of God, would Paul limit himself with only those categories? What categories are stronger than the love of God?
My understanding of Biblical Christianity leads me to believe that all Christians are my brother and my sister – whether black or white, gay or straight, transgendered or cisgendered. ALL are one in Christ Jesus.
So, I can hear the author of the previous post ask, where is our sexual ethic to be found? In Biblical principle, not precedent. Jesus tells us to love our neighbor and to do to others what we want done to us. Is cheating on my partner wrong? Yes, because it is not how I would wish to be treated, and it is not loving toward my partner. It has nothing to do with my or my potential bedmate’s genitals.
Is having sex with a child wrong? Yes, because the child cannot consent, and thus it is an occasion of of power and coercion, neither of which is loving or how we would wish to be treated. Are two people (of any gender or orientation) having mutually consenting sex as an expression of their love and commitment wrong? It is loving and how I want my sexual relationships to work, so no, it is not.
I know this will not satisfy those who want to pick the Bible apart for rules and regulations, but that’s nothing new – Jesus talked about those who strained gnats and swallowed camels, who focused on letters instead of spirit and intent.
In short, I feel, as a result of Biblical principle and conscience, that to be less than fully inclusive is to participate in less than the fullness of the Gospel. In my reading of scripture, to actively oppose the full inclusion of LGBT Christians is an act that is less than Christian. In fact, I would argue that when we erect categories that preclude people from fully participating in the life of the church (and marriage is part of the life of the church) we are working against the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God on earth and we deny the very testimony of the resurrection of Christ.
Now, I am the first to admit that this might not convince you. I understand. But if so, ask yourself a few questions: Would you rather be on the side of love or on the side of power? If you have to face your God over this question, is God really going to condemn you for privileging love? If you are married, and I told you the only way you could be fully right with and love God was to leave your partner and be celibate forever, would you see that as Good News?
Neither do they.
Hugh Hollowell is an activist, a speaker and a Mennonite minister. He’s the founder and director of Love Wins Ministries where he pastors a congregation made up largely of people who are homeless.