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Gospel Message and Sermon

June 4, 2017

multiple citations God, the Bible and Gay Pride—Part 1

Pride—deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

Pride from our achievements—school, occupation, arts, athletics

Pride from the achievement of others—Cubs pride, Sox pride, Cardinals pride, Illini pride, Saluki pride.

Pride from qualities that are widely admired: national pride—American, German, Italian; ethnic pride—Asian, Latino; religious pride—Catholic, Protestant.

Pride in this sense offers dignity, self-esteem, honor. But what if the qualities are not widely admired?

Imagine with me for a moment that your qualities are ones that are not widely admired. Imagine what it must be like to see yourself through that lens. Pride, dignity, self-esteem disappear. Pride becomes shame. Shame causes us to hide—from others but also from our own identity.

Throughout history groups of people experienced what it is like to feel shame for who they are. Some we know too well—Africans who were taken from their homeland to be enslaved in other lands. When those enslaved were freed, they still experienced shame because of the color of their skin and the sense they were not fully human. Jews, who are found in many ethnicities, became the target of an evil regime and literally had to hide for their lives. We think those things are over, but some of us still cringe when we hear black pride or women’s pride or gay pride. That is a sign of our privilege for most of us don’t have to worry if we will be widely admired because of what we look like, whom we love or what religion we follow.

When Dean, my husband, and I walk into an establishment, we never worry about whether we will be treated with respect. Why? We are white, appear to be middle-class, and most likely heterosexual (straight). Imagine what it is like to always, always, wonder if you will be treated with respect—if you will be able to feel pride in who you are.

June is Pride month for the LGBTQ community—people, who for many years in modern times, lived with shame just for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. They were targets of brutality—many were beaten; kicked out of their homes; told to change their names; and lived hiding that part of who they were—“in the closet” is the term. Why? A principal reason was the Bible. The Bible was a reason Jews were persecuted prior to the Holocaust as the ones who killed Jesus; a reason that slavery was allowed for as long as it was; and a reason women were second class citizens—plus more that we won’t get into today.

So, what does the Bible say about being gay? We are going to look at the 6 passages that are used to condemn homosexuality—three are from the Hebrew scriptures and three from the New Testament epistles. Let me be clear—I cannot cover the whole of this Biblical study in worship. But I can give you more study books to read if you want to know more. My hope is that we can see that the Bible has been misused to condemn the LGBTQ community. And others as well. My hope is that while you may not be ready to have a discussion with someone who disagrees, you will at least be able to hold your head up with pride for no matter who you are, you are first and foremost, God’s beloved child.

Here are passages:

Hebrew or Old Testament--Genesis 19:1-29, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 New Testament—Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9; I Timothy 1:10

Before we look at Genesis, there is something we should know about language in the Bible. One—the words homosexual and heterosexual were not coined until 19th century. In other words, those words did not exist in biblical days. So why did translators begin to use them in scripture? That will wait for another day.

Second—the writers of the Bible, including the Apostle Paul, did not have any understanding of sexual orientation—only sexual acts. The words in the Bible do not consider same gender loving, committed relationships as we know today. It doesn’t mean they didn’t exist anymore than opposite sex, loving relationships. Remember women were property, marriages were arranged, and men could have multiple wives and concubines.

Genesis 19 is the story of Sodom. It is early in the Hebrew scriptures—Abraham is the key figure; no Moses, no ten commandments, just the man who would be the father of 3 world religions someday. Three strangers come to Abraham’s tent and as is the custom in ancient times, are treated to the best of Abraham’s hospitality. Abraham recognizes the strangers as the Lord. After the meal, they are to set out for Sodom, a wicked city. The Lord decides to tell Abraham that the plan is to destroy the people of Sodom if they have not changed their ways. Abraham bargains for their lives—if you find 50 innocents, if you find 40, all the way down to 10.

In chapter 19, two angels arrive in Sodom. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, is seated at the gate. Lot offers them a place to stay and they say, no—they will sleep in the city square. Lot persists and they agree to stay at his home. At dark, the townspeople, described as the men of Sodom, young and old, all the people to the last man, show up at the door. The story says they wanted the two men so they could know them—be intimate with them. Lot knows what this means and offers his 2 daughters who are virgins. The townspeople turn against Lot and the angels must save him. The angels tell Lot to flee with his wife and daughters and as we know, Lot’s wife turns to look back at the city and turns to a pillar of salt.

In ancient times, strangers were treated with respect, fed and sheltered. Not so in Sodom. The men of Sodom, young and old, said “we don’t want you strangers here. If you set foot here, we will do the most violating things to you.” They were full of hate, mistrust and prejudice. This story does not condemn same gender loving committed relationships. It does not even condemn same sex acts. It condemns gang rape, violence towards another person, and power over another. In ancient times, women were property. To be treated sexually like a woman was the ultimate humiliation for a man in ancient times.

Later in the Bible, the prophet Ezekiel states plainly the sin of Sodom in chapter 16. “Only this was the sin of your sister Sodom: arrogance! She and her daughters had plenty of bread and untroubled tranquility; yet she did not support the poor and the needy.” The history of the name Sodom is strewn with hatred and became associated with what we call sodomy laws. That history is not based on legitimate Biblical authority. That history is full of what power over others does and how the Bible has been misused to support it.

We will continue with the other texts next Sunday and continue to explore how the Bible has been misused to shame others. I know that this is not without controversy. There’s hardly a day goes by that something does not come up in my online reading that takes the other side of Biblical interpretation—especially around these passages. It’s also the case, however, that other evangelical groups and preachers and churches are coming forward to say they’ve been wrong. I want you to know the reasons why many believe that the Bible does not condemn people who are LGBT. I hope you will stick with me as we look at the rest next week.

My own family believes differently. I know the struggle is real. If my father came with proof that the Bible does condemn those who are LGBT, I would be faced with a decision. I could either keep doing what I’m doing—serving God as a Christian pastor of an Open and Affirming Church; or I would walk away from God.

We have so many issues that need our attention. Being gay is not an issue—it’s a person. And all Jesus ever said about any of it is “love one another.” Do we really think God won’t honor our love for one another?