LGBTIQ People of Faith
LGBTIQ people often face discrimination as a result of societal attitudes, which unfortunately, are often taught and perpetuated by churches. The Bible is often used as a weapon to justify these attitudes. It is important to remember that such hurtful beliefs are not a reflection of Christ, and we believe it is not the way God wants the church to be. Ultimately, a Christian’s personal faith should not depend upon the views of a particular church or clergy person, but rather it should be placed solidly in Jesus Christ.
Thoughtful Bible study reveals the Good News for all, including those in the LGBTIQ community. When reading the Bible, it is important to consider the context in which it was written, thinking about the background to the passages, the audiences that were being addressed, why it was written and what society was like at the time. The culture and social context in Biblical times differs greatly from our own.
Importantly, the Bible began as an oral tradition and was then written in ancient languages over the course of many centuries. It was copied and re-copied in the original languages and then translated into others. Translating, particularly from old languages, requires interpretation and personal judgement and is subject to human error.
The Old Testament
The very beginning of the Bible, Genesis chapter 1 and 2, is often used to condemn those in the LGBTIQ community, with the all too familiar refrain “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. This argument from silence cannot be supported. The accounts of creation and the early stories of Genesis offer an explanation, not a prescription. Taking these stories as literal guidelines would lead to peculiar conclusions, for example implying that siblings make suitable spouses.
In Genesis chapter 19, the story of Sodom is often used as ‘evidence’ that God is displeased with homosexual acts. When considered in conjunction with passages from Ezekiel and Luke, however, it becomes clear that this is a misinterpretation of scripture. Ezekiel 16:49-50 suggests that God was displeased with Sodom for a vastly different reason, namely being “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me…”. Further, in Luke chapter 10, Jesus didn’t refer to homosexuality, but rather used Sodom as an example of a city that was inhospitable. If taking the interpretation that the men of Sodom planned to sexually assault the angels, the story serves as a strong condemnation of such sexual violence, a clear sin whether heterosexual or homosexual.
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are often quoted as definitive instructions from God that anything aside from heterosexuality is forbidden. The passages do say that men should not “lie with a man as you would with a woman”, however the rest of Leviticus also forbids eating of pork, lobster, shrimp, oysters, rare meat. Additionally, the laws in Leviticus demand no tattooing, no piercing of one’s body, and require authorities to kill those who commit adultery. Many laws in Leviticus, including those used to condemn the LGBTIQ community, are now considered by many to be extreme and outdated. Also, the laws are irrelevant because we are now under the 'New Covenant' ushered in by Jesus, rather than the 'Old Covenant' that the Jewish people lived under as well.
The New Testament
The New Testament contains the exciting Good News that whosoever believes has the right to become a child of God, despite some Christians wish to exclude those who are sexually or gender diverse. Those who preach discrimination often rely on two passages, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10, which contain lists of forbidden acts. Paul used the Greek works ‘malakoi’ and ‘arsenokoital’, which are often inaccurately translated to mean homosexuals.
Some translations of ‘malakoi’ suggest “the effeminate” or even “sissies”, but the most accurate translation of the word is “the self-indulgent”. Self-indulgence is not unique to the LGBTIQ community, so an implication that ‘malakoi’ specifically refers to homosexuals is biased and misleading. Similarly, ‘arsenokoital’ is often mistranslated. Taken from two words, ‘arseno’ meaning men and ‘koital’ meaning bed, it is often wrongly assumed that these two words together must mean men in bed with other men. With no other record of this word, however, it is not possible to make this assertion. Languages often put two separate words together to create an entirely new meaning. Carpet is not a pet for your car, abreast does not refer to a single breast, and diehard does not refer to someone who is struggling to die.
Romans 1:18-32 refers to people trading their natural sexual inclinations for those unnatural to them, which is condemned. Some will imply that this means having bisexual or homosexual relations; however the passage does not state this. For example, if a gay man is to have sexual relations with a woman, it would mean he is trading his natural inclination for one that is unnatural to him. It can be inferred then, that one should remain true to their natural God-given inclinations.
Jesus teaches about adultery and the sanctity of marriage but says nothing to condemn the relationships of LGBTIQ people, even though such relationships were common in Jesus’ day. The message from Jesus was one of love, not bigotry or discrimination.
Testaments Old and New
Psalm 139 tells us that God creates each of us exactly how we are meant to be, which includes LGBTIQ individuals and in Acts 11:9, Jesus said “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean”.
Some Links for Further Reading