First published on Benny’s Blog in 2010 and adapted for Accepting Evangelicals.
I remember the first negative comment I had on ‘Benny’s Blog’.
Anonymous said “You are an Evangelical and you presumably know your Bible yet you say homosexuality is fine ?
Accept the people, sins and all, but the practice is not OK and you should know it. Goodness, there are plenty of Biblical admonitions about it. I`m not even an Evangelical and it seems crystal clear to me.”
I was actually amazed that it had taken so long. When we launched Accepting Evangelicals in 2004, we immediately had a flood of the most awful emails expressing that hope that we would die a slow painful death and burn in hell – so actually, this mildly negative comment was not only long overdue, but also extremely polite and reserved.
What has not moved on however, is the mistaken belief about what the Bible does and does not say on the subject of same sex relationships.
It reminds me of the Little Britain sketch where the unhelpful bank clerk just keeps repeating “Computer says no” – no discussion, no debate, no reasons – just no.
Far from there being ‘plenty of Biblical admonitions’ on the subject there are only a handful of verses which talk about homosexuality, and understanding exactly what they mean or refer to is by no means straightforward. Yet the perception remains in many people’s minds that this is an open and shut case.
Even Theologians who are committed to a conservative line against same sex relationships, acknowledge that there is not much in the Bible to go on. One such theologian is R.Hays, quoted in the Church of England’s official document on the subject “Some issues in human sexuality” (2003). He talks about the “Slender evidence of the New Testament” in relation to homosexuality -and he is right. It is mentioned on only 3 occasions, and only one of these contains any attempt to portray a theological explanation for why such attraction might be wrong.
The Old Testament is no better. There are only 2 clear references, both in the same section of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) and the second is merely a reiteration of the first for the purpose of setting down a penalty for the ‘crime’. Other references in Deuteronomy are almost universally understood to be about temple prostitution whether heterosexual or (by inference) homosexual, so contribute nothing to the current debate on sex relationships.
Other passages – eg the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 – whilst having a sexual component to them, are not principally about homosexuality, but about rape, inhumanity, and breaking the laws of hospitality which were deeply ingrained in fabric and culture of the Middle East. Hence it was considered acceptable(even proper) for Lot to offer his daughters to be gang raped by the mob in order to protect his visitors!
On top of all this, Jesus appears to have been entirely silent on the issue, and if you are a lesbian, you can rejoice that there is even less to go on. Leviticus refers exclusively to men, and only one of the three references in the New Testament (Romans 1) includes sexual attraction between women.
So far from there being plenty of Biblical admonitions against homosexuality, the reality is that the Biblical evidence is both flimsy and fragmented. We need to delve deeper to see what exactly is being considered in those verses and to see to what extent it might apply today.
The problem is, just like the Little Britain sketch where the bank clerk says over and over again ‘Computer says No!’ – there are many too many Christians who are content to roll out the same mantra time after time – ‘Bible says No!’ – without ever considering the evidence and what the Bible actually says.
That doesn’t mean that what the Bible says is unimportant however. As an evangelical, I consider it vitally important to build my understanding of the Christian faith on the Bible.
So over the next few months, we will be taking a close look at what the Bible says on same sex relationships, and what that means today. We know, of course, that we are not doing anything new here, as many have trod this road before, but as long as there are people out there who think the same way as Mr/s Anonymous, I think it needs to be done. We just hope and pray that all who care about this issue will be a little more responsive than the bank clerk in Little Britain.