Galileo was persecuted for revealing what we now know to be the truth regarding Earth's place in our solar system. Today, the issue is homosexuality, and the persecution is not of one man but of millions. Will Christian leaders once again be on the wrong side of history?
When religion loses its credibility
By Oliver "Buzz" Thomas
What if Christian leaders are wrong about homosexuality? I suppose, much as a newspaper maintains its credibility by setting the record straight, church leaders would need to do the same:
Correction: Despite what you might have read, heard or been taught throughout your churchgoing life, homosexuality is, in fact, determined at birth and is not to be condemned by God's followers.
Based on a few recent headlines, we won't be seeing that admission anytime soon.
(Illustration by Adrienne Lewis, USA TODAY)
Last week, U.S. Roman Catholic bishops took the position that homosexual attractions are "disordered" and that gays should live closeted lives of chastity. At the same time, North Carolina's Baptist State Convention was preparing to investigate churches that are too gay-friendly. Even the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA) had been planning to put a minister on trial for conducting a marriage ceremony for two women before the charges were dismissed on a technicality. All this brings me back to the question: What if we're wrong?
Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop.
It's happened to Christianity before, most famously when we dug in our heels over Galileo's challenge to the biblical view that the Earth, rather than the sun, was at the center of our solar system. You know the story. Galileo was persecuted for what turned out to be incontrovertibly true. For many, especially in the scientific community, Christianity never recovered.
This time, Christianity is in danger of squandering its moral authority by continuing its pattern of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the face of mounting scientific evidence that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with choice. To the contrary, whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother's hormones or the child's brain structure or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability.
Answer in Scriptures
So, why are so many church leaders (not to mention Orthodox Jewish and Muslim leaders) persisting in their view that homosexuality is wrong despite a growing stream of scientific evidence that is likely to become a torrent in the coming years? The answer is found in Leviticus 18. "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination."
As a former "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.
For many of gay America's loudest critics, the results are unthinkable. First, no more football. At least not without gloves. Handling a pig skin is an abomination. Second, no more Saturday games even if you can get a new ball. Violating the Sabbath is a capital offense according to Leviticus. For the over-40 crowd, approaching the altar of God with a defect in your sight is taboo, but you'll have plenty of company because those menstruating or with disabilities are also barred.
The truth is that mainstream religion has moved beyond animal sacrifice, slavery and the host of primitive rituals described in Leviticus centuries ago. Selectively hanging onto these ancient proscriptions for gays and lesbians exclusively is unfair according to anybody's standard of ethics. We lawyers call it "selective enforcement," and in civil affairs it's illegal.
A better reading of Scripture starts with the book of Genesis and the grand pronouncement about the world God created and all those who dwelled in it. "And, the Lord saw that it was good." If God created us and if everything he created is good, how can a gay person be guilty of being anything more than what God created him or her to be?
Turning to the New Testament, the writings of the Apostle Paul at first lend credence to the notion that homosexuality is a sin, until you consider that Paul most likely is referring to the Roman practice of pederasty, a form of pedophilia common in the ancient world. Successful older men often took boys into their homes as concubines, lovers or sexual slaves. Today, such sexual exploitation of minors is no longer tolerated. The point is that the sort of long-term, committed, same-sex relationships that are being debated today are not addressed in the New Testament. It distorts the biblical witness to apply verses written in one historical context (i.e. sexual exploitation of children) to contemporary situations between two monogamous partners of the same sex. Sexual promiscuity is condemned by the Bible whether it's between gays or straights. Sexual fidelity is not.
What would Jesus do?
For those who have lingering doubts, dust off your Bibles and take a few hours to reacquaint yourself with the teachings of Jesus. You won't find a single reference to homosexuality. There are teachings on money, lust, revenge, divorce, fasting and a thousand other subjects, but there is nothing on homosexuality. Strange, don't you think, if being gay were such a moral threat?
On the other hand, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how we should treat others. First, he made clear it is not our role to judge. It is God's. ("Judge not lest you be judged." Matthew 7:1) And, second, he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves.
So, I ask you. Would you want to be discriminated against? Would you want to lose your job, housing or benefits because of something over which you had no control? Better yet, would you like it if society told you that you couldn't visit your lifelong partner in the hospital or file a claim on his behalf if he were murdered?
The suffering that gay and lesbian people have endured at the hands of religion is incalculable, but they can look expectantly to the future for vindication. Scientific facts, after all, are a stubborn thing. Even our religious beliefs must finally yield to them as the church in its battle with Galileo ultimately realized. But for religion, the future might be ominous. Watching the growing conflict between medical science and religion over homosexuality is like watching a train wreck from a distance. You can see it coming for miles and sense the inevitable conclusion, but you're powerless to stop it. The more church leaders dig in their heels, the worse it's likely to be.
Oliver "Buzz" Thomas is a Baptist minister and author of an upcoming book, 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).
Not sure were to begin. First, all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16). Homosexuality is condemned by Scripture (Lev, Romans 1;18-32, 1 Cor 6:9-11). I could go on but the problem I think you have is unbelief. Jesus came to save sinners (homosexuals, liars, adulterers, gossips, etc..) Telling a homosexual he/she is ok is to keep them enslaved in their sin. Jesus came to set the captives free. I don't hate homosexuals. I want them to be free. Only the Gospel can set them free. I'm not sure what you're a minister of. I hope you are a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. Speak the truth in love.
Chris M. (Texas)
Finally! Someone has actually read the entire bible and made an attempt to understand it. Anything can be proved by someone who wants to, if they are selective in the verses/portions of the bible that they quote, but living with tolerance and actually following the teaching of Jesus is much more difficult. It is also much less likely to gain you media attention.
Posted by: Jan from NC
I would like to see the evidence for your statement, "homosexuality is, in fact, determined at birth..." There are many studies suggesting that there are biological differences between gays and nongays, however, none of those studies proves your statement. If, for example, a gay man had a difference in a particular brain region, then all gay men would have that difference and all nongays would be missing that difference. Unless you know differently, none of the scientific studies prove conclusively that there is a biological determining factor. I do agree with you that the those who call themselves Christians needs to remember to "love your neighbor as yourself."
Posted by: Randy-MN
Sodom and Gomorrah??? And you are a Baptist Preacher?? Shame on You. What would Jesus do? He's already done it (Death, burial and resurrection) "Grace"! God's Word is the same yesterday, today and forever. Choice is everyone's decision: Heaven or Hell. This is the reason no one fear's God, is pastors like you that is suppose to be preaching the Truth, are tickling the ears with what the people want to hear. All of us will stand before the Lord's judgement; you and me included.......Now do your JOB! Their house is on fire....Tell them to come to the Lord for salvation. Talk about discrimination are you discriminating against GOD??? God won't let you starve, if He Called you to the ministry? Have a good day.
Posted by: Clair O'Connell
In spite of what you try to "prove" and your smear tactics against good Christian people, Bible-believing Christians will NEVER accept your lies and propaganda for a sinful lifstyle which God Himself in the Bible condemns. Homosexulality is sin and no one is born with it. Your hatred of the church only reflects your own bias. I you want to promote this perversion you have a right to do so, but don't condemn others who choose to believe the Bible instead of your lies and distortion!
Posted by: Michael Davenport
This is one of the best opinion written concerning the ongoing pronunciation that homosexuality is a sin by the religious community.
Thank you Buzz for the ethical analysis, not from a religious perspective, but from a human spiritual view.
Nature will go on without the permission of human rules of religion. Nature is trustful because it continues without human control. Religion is nothing more than man-made organizations with all their human frailties which blinds them of getting what Jesus got!!
Serenity is in the power of balancing your spirit
Posted by: Carol A. Nickell
As a homosexual, I think it's safe to say that I know a thing or two on whether or not I choose to be gay or I was born this way. Most individuals that are quick to condemn homosexuality and homosexuals have probably not spent much time talking to homosexuals. It's humorous how these individuals claim to have expertise on homosexuality. Based on my experience, I know that I have not chosen to be gay. I, like so many others, made every attempt to lead a heterosexual lifestyle. Despite all of my efforts, I just couldn't lie to myself about who I really was. As a gay man, I happen to know lots of other gay men and lesbians. Most of us share very similar stories. I know homosexuals from all different family situations, socio-economic backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and nationalities. What we all share in common is that not one of us woke up one morning and decided to be homosexual. I truly believe that in time, history will once again paint a very dark picture of religion's near universal condemnation of homosexuality and the political leaders that chose to exploit this condemnation. Future religious believers will be asking themselves why religion would not accept that the world was round, why religion was used to justify slavery, why religion was used to ban interracial relationships, and why the world's religions condemned homosexuals and homosexuality.
Posted by: Enrique
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