Ask Ivor

Juanita asks:

"What did Jesus himself, not his apostles or anyone else in the Bible, have to say, if anything, about homosexuals?"

Whatever comments Jesus may have had on homosexuality, no record exists. In the Bible, Jesus does not once address the subject. It's unfortunate he didn't, because the subject certainly needs some clarity. Here's what the Bible does say:

Leviticus 20:13: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death."

The book of Leviticus also prescribes the death penalty for those consulting mediums or spiritists (20:6), for those that curse their parents (20:9), and for those who eat fat (7:25). Also prohibited for the ancient Israelites were: eating shellfish (11:12), planting a field with two kinds of seed (19:19), wearing clothing made of two kinds of material (19:19), and shaving (19:27). There are many who are confused about exactly what the Bible is, and consequently they are confused about how to use the Bible. Anyone who professes that Leviticus 20:13 is to be applied in contemporary discussions as a statement of God's attitude toward homosexuals is either sorely uneducated, or the worst kind of demagogue.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: "Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

Is this passage saying that all homosexuals are offenders, or is it referring to only those homosexuals who are offenders? Anyone assuming the former is not exercising objective analysis of the text, but is a victim of their own preconceived bias.

Romans 1:26-27: "Women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

This passage is where a clear word would be most welcome. What exactly does Paul mean when he speaks of an unnatural relation? Or of indecent acts? Or of due penalties? Is this passage referring to heterosexually-oriented individuals engaging in homosexual acts? (Pederasty was a common practice among the upper class of Greco-Roman society at the time Paul wrote this cryptic passage.) Is Paul critiquing homosexuality, or only perverted sexuality? The words are vague. A homophobic individual will interpret the passage as a blanket condemnation of homosexuality. Another individual—for example, a homosexual man who does not regard relations with women as natural, nor consider relations with a man as indecent or perverted—can read the passage quite differently.

Mel White, pastor, professor, author, filmmaker, and (former) ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, and other leaders of the religious right, serves as a thought-provoking example. Here's part of his story (from Strangers at the Gate):

"I discovered my... homosexuality in earliest childhood. I know what it feels like to be president of my youth fellowship, of my Bible club, and of my high school Student body and still feel lost, cut off from God and from my family by my terrible secret.

"...After decades of needless guilt and growing despair, after my own emotional collapse and suicide attempt, I have learned to accept and even celebrate my sexual orientation as another of God's good gifts.

"...I was counseled, exorcised, electric-shocked, medicated, and prayed for by the saints.... I began each new day really believing that God had 'healed me,' when in fact, I was simply refusing to face the facts.

"Finally, I realized that my sexual orientation was permanently and purposefully formed in my mother's womb or in my earliest infancy. Because of simplistic, well-meaning, but uninformed teachings on homosexuality... I wasted thirty-five years in guilt, fear, and personal agony. And though there were times I could not feel God's presence, God never left my side. God's spirit was there always to comfort and guide me. Now, I have accepted my sexual orientation as a gift from my loving Creator. Finally, as our Savior promised, the truth has set me free to be a productive, responsible, Christian gay man.

"All across this country our gay Christian brothers and sisters are suffering in silence, leaving the church in anger and disappointment, and even taking their own lives because too few Christian leaders have the courage to tell that truth: 'We can be gay and Christian.'

"...There is a war raging against gay and lesbian people in our country right now.... Our freedom is at stake. The homophobic lies of the religious right are murdering the souls and threatening the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans. We must stand against those lies.

"...Don't give in to the barrage of misinformation, hyperbole, half-truths, and lies. Believe in our cause. It is just. Truth will win the war even though some of us will be wounded and even killed in the battle. Love your enemies. It is still the best weapon we have...."