Distortion: Does God Really Hate the Gays?
By Christopher Donaldson
Who decides what’s right or wrong?
We all know the Bible
appraises self-worth according to strict sets of laws and hierarchies: Go to
Hell if you covet the neighbor’s house, kill the neighbor, or take off with
the neighbor’s wife.
It runs moral meanings
smooth over broken fine lines that fall somewhere between fact and fiction
and good and evil. God still hates figs and shrimp, right?
It also often hides
contradiction and its very own accommodating history under stories that once
upon a time were not its own: Remember, Christmas and Easter grew from Pagan
Unfortunately for us,
the Bible and people's interpretations of it can brew misguided thoughts
about homosexuality. But it does deserve our attention. Its words read just
like modern humans behave: We wake hand-in-hand with dissension; we evolve,
yet still keep patterns of judgment close. And we all at some point in time
ask, “Where did we come from? What’s the point?”
So where do the gays go
Well, former United
Methodist minister and Duke University seminary scholar, Jimmy Creech,
suggests that maybe it’s time we re-evaluate what the Bible really says
Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of
Lesbians and Gays, straight-identifying Creech defends
same-sex love against the Church’s dangerous distortion of homosexuality as
sin. He digs deep into Biblical texts, mines credible sense from scripture
and history, and writes passionately about his decision to reconcile his
stance on gay rights and same-sex marriage even though these things
ultimately led the Church to revoke his ordination credentials.
What would Jesus do? Jimmy Creech might know.
Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?
No, it’s actually not possible for the Bible to say this in any way. First
of all, the writers of the Bible had no understanding of the innate human
trait of sexual orientation. Consequently, there were no words for
homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality. These words were coined in
the late 1800s when the young science of psychology studied human sexuality
and discovered that sexual orientation is an innate aspect of human
personality. We’ve come to understand these three sexual orientations as
equally normal, natural and healthy. There are a few references in the Bible
to same-gender sexual acts, though all of them are condemned because of the
context in which they are found: violent rape, idolatry, and promiscuity.
There is, by the way, no condemnation in the Bible of same-gender loving
relationships. However, because of the fear and prejudice against
same-gender loving relationships, church leaders have used these
condemnations of violence, idolatry and promiscuity to condemn same-gender
loving relationships. If the logic used against homosexual sex acts was used
in the context of condemned heterosexual sex acts, one could claim the Bible
says “heterosexuality is a sin.” But, of course, no one does.
Another issue at play is
patriarchal culture. Men are considered the masters (the Hebrew for husband
actually means ’s only one biblical
reference to women having sex with women (chapter one of Romans), most
likely because the writers of the Bible (men) weren’t concerned about that –
it didn’t threaten their patriarchal culture.
The few references to
same-gender sexual acts have thus been interpreted and used in ways to
justify the persecution of LGBT people. In similar ways, passages in the
Bible were interpreted in ways to justify slavery, white supremacy and
racial segregation. The Bible denies equal rights to women because of its
patriarchy and allowed the persecution and mass murder of Jews. Modern
society has rejected the misuse of the Bible to justify these injustices
even though each case is a form of abuse. Using the Bible to justify the
persecution of LGBT people is no less an abuse and can no longer be
tolerated. It’s intellectually dishonest, pure bigotry.
you explain how the word “homosexual” is misused in Biblical texts?
First Corinthians and
Timothy, the Apostle Paul used Greek words that no one else had
ever used – either before him or after him. These words came to be
associated with homosexuality in the late 13th Century after
Thomas Aquinas condemned same-sex sexual acts in his writings. From then on,
the Greek words in these two passages were understood to mean, a “man who
has sex with a man.” Because there was no Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek words
(the three languages in which the Bible was written) for a “man who has sex
with a man,” the term Sodomite was invented. It is often found in
translations, but has no basis in the languages of the Bible – it’s purely
an example of bigotry written into those translations after the fact.
Aquinas was the first
church teacher to associate the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with
same-sex acts. Before then, the destruction was attributed to the violent
inhospitality and greed of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. A similar
thing happened when the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was published
in 1952. Instead of using “a man who has sex with a man,” or the King James
version, “them that defile themselves with mankind,” or Sodomites, the
translators chose to use the modern term homosexual – even though there was
no basis for it in biblical languages. Consequently, people who do not know
this history innocently claim that the Bible says “homosexuals can’t inherit
the kingdom of heaven” because First Corinthians says so; and, that
“homosexuals” are contrary to sound doctrine.
While careful study of
these passages reveals no condemnation of same-sex loving relationships, the
mass of people who read these passages without the benefit of careful study
feel justified in condemning homosexuals. The harm that has been done to
LGBT people by this scandalous scholarship cannot be exaggerated.
you think Christianity will eventually embrace LGBT people in the future,
however near or far?
Yes, mainline Christian communities will fully embrace the LGBT community
with equal standing and participation in the
future. Christian communities actually have come a long way toward this goal
in a relatively short time. The Unitarian Universalist Association was the
first in this country, soon after Stonewall. And now the United Church of
Christ, the Presbyterian Church, USA, the Episcopal Church, USA, and the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America have all embraced the ordination of
clergy in same-sex committed relationships and marriage for same-sex
Even though the
ecclesiastical leadership of the Roman Catholic Church remains adamantly
against sexually active LGBT people, more than 74% of Catholic laity support
same-sex marriage or civil unions with support for their full civil rights
and equal protections. There will be some who will never accept same-sex
relationships, but they belong to the past of fear and hatred, not the
future of acceptance and equality.
What do you say to non-believers, atheists and agnostics? Do you see
religion as something essential and necessary to humanity’s place in the
No, I don’t believe religion is essential and necessary. Religion is an
organized or structured expression of the innate wonder and awe human beings
have about life, nature and time. This wonder and awe and the beliefs people
have about it are not dependent on religious language and concepts. I find
common ground with anyone who explores those big questions about life.
Being religious doesn’t
guarantee a person will be good, nor does being a non-believer make a person
bad. These are just two ways humans approach the mysteries of life. But, I
do believe everyone who is aware and sensitive to what’s happening in the
world, in their lives and the lives of others, has a keen sense of wonder
and awe about it all. What really matters is how we treat each other.
Your memoir, Adam’s Gift, is about the United Methodist Church's decision to revoke your
ordination credentials after you performed same-sex commitment ceremonies.
But what do you think the real gift was for you?
Adam’s gift was the truth about himself – a truth he’d concealed for nearly
50 years of his life. It was a gift because it opened my eyes to a reality
I’d not seen before – a persecution of LGBT people in which I unknowingly
was complicit. It was his humanity, his dignity and integrity, his
gentleness and humility that would not allow me to rely on my conventional
stereotypes and prejudice about the gay community. While there was much
study and understanding I had to pursue afterward, Adam transformed me in
the moment he revealed to me his true personhood and personal history. He
gave me his most precious gift: His personal truth.
do you feel about Christianity’s position in US politics? It’s sad, but a
holier than thou attitude still marginalizes the LGBT community.
It’s not possible to speak of “Christianity” as if it is one set of beliefs
and values. Today, Christianity is not a term that has meaning because of
the diversity within and among Christian groups. The Christians with whom
I’m aligned are progressives. There are large numbers of moderate Christians
too. And, there are Christian reactionaries who have found a political home
in the Republican Party. The attack on LGBT people by many Christian
reactionaries is sincere – meaning, it is an expression of their real fear
and prejudice. However, right-wing politicians cynically exploit this
bigotry for political ends (Karl Rove and George W. Bush). I believe that
the political strategy of exploiting anti-gay bigotry is coming to an
end. With marriage equality in a growing number of states, with the repeal
of DADT, and the current discussion of the Respect for Marriage bill, the
momentum is toward inclusion and acceptance, not exclusion. Even some
right-wing Republicans are saying their party should no longer talk about
do you think we can change the way other people less understanding think
about LGBT people?
People I know who’ve changed their hearts and minds about gay people have
done so because they got to know someone who is gay. They didn’t change
because of a good argument or debate about the Bible. They changed because
they couldn’t reconcile their fear and hatred with the dignity and character
of someone they discovered to be gay. Sometimes, this is a new acquaintance
whose respect is earned over time. Sometimes, it’s someone loved for a
lifetime. So, the gift Adam gave to me is a gift all lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender people can give to someone – a parent, sibling, child,
neighbor, pastor, friend or colleague. LGBT people should not undervalue the
power of their own dignity and integrity. There are, of course, some people
whose minds and hearts will never change.
In addition, those of us
who are straight must challenge anti-gay bigotry and malice whenever we
encounter it and challenge elected officials who perpetuate persecution. An
unjust world belongs to all of us, and all of us have an obligation to end
© 2011, Here Media Inc.
All Rights Reserved; originally posted on
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