No reason for Christians not to support their gay brothers and sisters
Sexual equality is on the rise, but despite this trend, religious beliefs remain a major obstacle to acceptance.
Many conservative Christians believe the Bible condemns all same-sex relationships. There are six passages in the Bible that refer to same-sex behaviour; three in the Old Testament and three in the New Testament.
The most famous passage is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. God sends two angels disguised as men into the city of Sodom, where the men of Sodom threaten to rape them. The angels blind the men and God destroys the city.
For centuries, this story was interpreted as God's judgement on same-sex relationships. But the only form of same-sex behaviour described is a threatened gang rape.
Ezekiel 16:49 sums up the story's focus on violence and hostility towards strangers. "And this was your sister Sodom's sin: she and her daughter were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."
In Leviticus 18:22, male same-sex intercourse is prohibited and violators are to receive the death penalty. "Do not lie with a male as one does with a woman." It is an abomination. Other things called an abomination in the Old Testament include having sex during a woman's menstrual period, eating pork, rabbit or shellfish and charging interest on loans. But they're part of the Old Testament law code, which was fulfilled by Jesus.
Hebrews 8:13 says that the old law is obsolete and ageing. Romans 10:4 says that Christ is the end of the law, so the Old Testament doesn't settle the issue for Christians. But let's look to the New Testament, which contains the largest reference to same-sex behaviour in the Bible.
In Romans 16:26-27, people who turn away from God to worship idols are then turned over to lusts and vices. "Even their woman exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In that same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."
Paul's words here are clearly negative, but the behaviour he condemns is lust. He makes no mention of love, commitment, or faithfulness. His description of same-sex behaviour is based solely on a burst of excess and lust.
In the ancient world, same-sex behaviour mainly occurred between men and adolescent boys, between master and their slaves or with prostitutes. Most of the men who engaged in these practices were married to a woman, so same-sex behaviour was widely seen as stemming from out-of-control lust, like a vice of excesses like gluttony or drunkenness.
And while Paul labels same-sex behaviour unnatural, he says in 1 Corinthians 11:14 that for men to wear their hair long also goes against nature, and most Christians interpret that as a reference to cultural conventions. In the last two references to same-sex behaviour in the Bible, two Greek words — Malakoi and Arsennokioitai — are used to described people who will not inherit God's Kingdom.
Many modern translators have rendered these terms as sweeping statements about gay people. But the concept of sexual orientation didn't even exist in the ancient words. Yes, Paul did not take a positive view of same-sex relations, but the context he was writing in was worlds apart from gay people in committed, monogamous relationships.
The Bible doesn't address the issues of sexual orientation, so there is no reason why faithful Christians can't support their gay brothers and sisters.