About The Bible
The Bible is a collection of writings which span more than a thousand years recounting the history of God’s relationship with the Hebrew and Christian people. It was written in several languages, embraces many literary forms, and reflects cultures very different from our own. These are important considerations for properly understanding the Bible in its context. There are vast differences in doctrines between various Christian denominations, all of which use the same Bible. Such differences have led some Christians to claim that other Christians are not really Christians at all!
Biblical interpretation and theology differ from church to church, and Biblical Interpretation and Theology also change from time to time. Approximately 150 years ago in the United States, some Christian teaching held that there was a two-fold moral order: black and white. Whites were thought to be superior to blacks, therefore blacks were to be subservient and slavery was an institution ordained by God. Clergy who supported such an abhorrent idea claimed the authority of the Bible. The conflict over slavery led to divisions which gave birth to some major Christian denominations. These same denominations, of course, do not support slavery today. Did the Bible change? No, their interpretation of the Bible did!
The Bible has brought comfort, hope, healing, and redemption to many people in so many places… Sadly, it has also (and too often) been used as a weapon to inflict pain and cause separation. Don’t be fooled by false arguments. Read some of the insights offered here and decide for yourself what this enduring book of wisdom has to say about you and God, and love and life.
Is The Bible…Bad News Or Good News?
Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) folk face discrimination because of societal attitudes. Unfortunately, these attitudes are often taught by the church. Sadly, the Bible is often used as a weapon to “bash” GLBT people. It is important to remember that such hurtful things are not a reflection of Christ, or the way God wants the church to be, or even what the Bible really says. They are the products of the fallible and imperfect human beings who guide these churches. Ultimately, a Christian’s personal faith should not depend upon a particular church or clergy-person, but rather it should be solidly placed in Jesus. In addition to the biased teachings of certain ministers, Scripture sometimes presents a stumbling block for people who are both gay and Christian.
Thoughtful Bible study reveals that the Bible does have Good News for GLBT folk, and it does not say what you may have thought it did!
Understanding the Bible in a New Way…
There are at least two important things to keep in mind when reading the Bible. First, you must always consider its context. In order to understand any writing (whether it be a letter, a speech, or a Biblical text) it is necessary to understand its background. Think about who is speaking, to whom it is addressed, why it written, and what the culture was like. In the case of Scripture, the cultural and social context of Biblical times was very different from our own. For example, when the Bible says God commands humanity to “increase and multiply,” remember, among other things, this was addressed to Israel, a small, desert nation surrounded by many enemies. They needed to “multiply” just to survive. Secondly, the Bible began as an oral tradition and then was written in ancient languages (primarily Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament) over many centuries. It was copied and re- copied in the original languages, and then translated into other languages. As anyone who speaks or reads more than one language will understand, translating requires interpretation and personal judgement. Even with the best of intentions, translators and copyists are quite capable of human error.
Homosexuality and The Church
The most beautiful word in the Gospel is “whosoever”. All of God’s promises are intended for every human being. This includes GLBT people. How tragic it is that the Church has excluded and persecuted people who are gay! We are all created in the image of God to need personal relationships. Our quality of life depends upon the love we share with others, whether family or friends, partners or peers. Yet, GLBT people facing hostile attitudes in society are often denied access to healthy relationships. Christ calls us to find ultimate meaning in life through a personal relationship with our Creator. This important spiritual union can bring healing and strength to all of our human relationships.
Not a Sin, Not a Sickness
For many centuries, the Christian Church’s attitude toward human sexuality was very negative: sex was for procreation, not for pleasure; women and slaves were considered property to be owned by males; and many expressions of heterosexuality, like homosexuality, were considered sinful. Such tradition often continues to influence churches today. Many teach that women should be subordinate to men, continue to permit forms of discrimination against peoples of color, and condemn GLBT folk. They say that all same-sex love is sinful, often referring to their interpretation of scripture. Other churches today are influenced by a century of psychoanalytic thought promoted through a powerful minority in the field of medicine. They see same-sex attraction as some kind of sickness. Although this view has now been soundly discredited by the medical profession, some churches and clergy continue to be influenced by the idea. They say that GLBT folk are “imperfect” and in need of “healing.”
The Good News
The Good News is that, since 1968, when Metropolitan Community Church was founded, the emergence of a strong lesbian and gay community, and the conclusions of new scientific studies on homosexuality have forced the Church to reexamine these issues. A growing number of biblical and theological scholars now recognize that Scripture does not condemn loving, responsible GLBT relationships. Therefore, GLBT people should be accepted – just as they are – in our churches, and GLBT relationships should be celebrated and affirmed!
For further reading:
The Bible and Homosexuality by Rev. Dr. Elder Mona West
Not a Sin, Not a Sickness by Rev. Elder Don Eastman
Our Story Too…Reading the Bible with “New Eyes” by Rev. Dr. Elder Nancy Wilson