Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

As Mike & are planning our Civil Partnership in a few week's time, I've been following the public outcry by SOME people in SOME OF the Christian churches against the prospect of Equal Civil Marriage with a degree of sadness. I would love a marriage ... it is a deep public expression of our love for each other, with the community gathered around us, pledging their support. We can't have a marriage, because the law doesn't yet offer it.  Many think that Civil Partnership is the same as marriage, but it isn't (see I also don't see why some Christians are being so outspoken and bitter about it, when the proposal is about CIVIL marriage equality. It wouldn't affect them, and they would not be forced to perform same sex marriages, in the same way that some churches can refuse to remarry divorcees without repercussions.
I don't believe that Christianity is exclusive or judgemental, and I think people have got it wrong.  To explain this better, I will include the conversation between myself and a facebook friend...
Hi Andy, noticed you've been putting a lot about Facebook on this issue. I'm not coming to start an argument, I just genuinely want to know how you (and I guess how Tutu too!) would interpret a verse like this from the NT?
Hi Sam,
No offence taken, as I couldn't expect you to understand how deeply hurtful and exclusive the common interpretation of these verses are for gays, lesbians, bisexual & transgender people. In my view, there are a grand total of 6 in the whole of Scripture that COULD speak of homosexuality, but whether or not they do is arguable.
For a start, as I say, there are only 6 verses, while there are hundreds that deal with behaviour in straight relationships that get overlooked. Why is the religious right focusing on loving gay relationships, but not being outspoken about other issues condemned in Scripture like divorce, adultery, etc.? Why are they focusing on condemning loving, consenting relationships, based on a POSSIBLE interpretation of 6 verses, when there are bigger Biblical issues like corruption, murder, war, poverty, deception, etc., etc.? Why are they focusing on excluding the LGBT community from discovering the loving, inclusive nature of Christ's love, while ignoring other commandments to not eat pork or wear mixed fabrics, or marry their deceased brother's widow, etc., etc.?
If ALL Scripture is infallible, what gives them the freedom to decide which bits they can enforce or not enforce.
Think for a moment, that they did not understand Homosexuality as we do, when they wrote Scripture. They didn't even have a term for it. As far as Paul was concerned, these were straight people engaging in sexual practises with other stra...ight people of the same sex.
Clearly that would be unnatural, but he had no idea that there could be people who were not straight, or who could only love people of the same sex, because that was how they were made.
Consider what it would be like, if you were only able to love someone of the same sex, and people told you that that was wrong. How would facing a life of loneliness feel to you? If you were told that you were unable to love a woman ... where would that leave your desire for a future and happiness? Celibacy has to remain a higher CALLING, not a sentence.
And then, think, if the term "Homosexual" didn't exist, where did it come from ... which translater decided on that possible translation, when they could have used words that translate to mean someone who is morally weak or someone who uses... power to get sex. Is the current exclusion of the LGBT people, and the attempt to enforce their loneliness in order to belong, based on a possible mistranslation?
Can we afford to exclude from the faith, an entire segment of the community, based on what may not be an accurate translation?
Hi Andy, Yeah I totally agree with all of that. I think there are much more important issues that we need to focus on as Christians. And it goes without saying that Christian persecution of the LGBT community is outrageous and horrible.
I'm also pleased we agree all scripture is infallible. And I agree it's not always easy to interpret the OT law and how it applies. I think most people would make a distinction between moral and cultural laws which would help iron out some of what you mentioned about pork, fabrics etc...though not all of it.
It's your second comment that really gets to the heart of the issue, I think. Although I have to admit I've never encountered the view that the above scripture was about straight people engaging in sexual practises with other straight people. Surely by definition, sexual practises between 2 straight people would mean they were gay? (I assume you don't mind me using terms of straight/gay, let me know if you do and I'll happily change. Have to be careful as some find them offensive.)
Paul was a devout Jew who knew the Torah inside out so if the OT verses didn't actually mean that homosexuality was morally wrong - wouldn't he correct them? And wouldn't Jesus? Again - I'm just asking the question, not trying to get at anyone. I really appreciate you taking the time to write a detailed response as I have yet to discuss this with anyone and have been somewhat afriad of doing so for coming across as a nasty homophobic so and so and adding to the unfortunate stereotype that christians hate gays. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I'm pretty sure that homosexuality was being practised in places like Corinth and Paul would have known about it. I've also yet to see any scholarly work that says the NT hasn't translated words around homosexuality correctly.

Do either of your links talk about this issue of mistranslation further? For me, as someone who believes in scripture as the ultimate authority, it's where I'd like to focus my reading.
I don't think they mean the same thing ... two straight people of the same sex engaging in sex does not make them gay, and would not be thought of as natural. It is also not the same as two people of the same sex who fall in love. I'm uncomfortable with the obsession on genitalia and the ignoring of deep love. Homosexuality has always been around, but not with the same level of understanding as we have now. Paul would not have understood that people are born gay, and can only fall in love with others of the same sex. He would have made the assumption that they were straight and choosing to do gay things (which is the misconception people still make ... that it is somehow a choice). It is definitely not a choice, and if it was, with the struggles and the bullying and the hatred they receive, most would choose to be straight. People are gay because they can only be gay. And it's not about sex ... it's about identity, and who they fall in love with.
Both of the links deal with the Scriptures.
I should add that in the current understanding of sexual identity, two people of the same sex engaging in sexual activity could mean any number of things, but in Paul's understanding, I think he assumed that they were straight and engaging in unnatural behaviour, rather than being aware of any other way of being.
I also think that, for me, the core of the matter is about love, and who people are able to love, and how we support that. Some of the ignorant comments coming out about this potentially leading to the legalisation of paedophilia, beastiality or rape, are obviously unhelpful and incorrect, as they are about malicious and harmful behaviour, and not about love between consenting adults in love with each other.
As for the infallibility of Scripture, I agree, but I think we may have different angles on it. I view the WHOLE of Scripture as infallible, not necessarily all the parts thereof. So, I think as a whole, Scripture is a guide to life and a witness of the love of God for all of creation & the saving grace of God through Christ. But where the parts can potentially be used to disagree with that core message, I disagree.

Surely the best way to encourage healing, wholeness and family values, and at the same time, discourage promiscuity, is to allow people to enter into loving long-term relationships that they can be open and honest about, without having to hide them.
I take your point but I can also see why people would want to preserve and not re-define what marriage is. I'll respond to the rest of it later :)
Indeed, but Marriage is not a Christian instution. It's origin is in secular, civil contracts between wealthy people or rulers. When Christianity became popular under Constantinople, it was brought inside Churches, because the wealthy wanted to show they had religious approval. It was also brought into churches to try to encourage openness.
The current consultation is about Civil Marriage, not religious marriage. So it is wrong for some Christians to assume that they own the whole of marriage, when historically they only have involvement in the very recent history of marriage as a whole.
No churches will be forced to perform same sex marriages, and will still be able to marry, bury, baptise & confirm who they wish to (in the same way they can now, and many churches have the practise where they won't remarry divorcees, and have the freedom to do so).

But same sex couples will have the opportunity to have Civil Marriages, with the same protection that offers to the rest of society. Because, at the end of the day, a Civil Partnership is not the same as a marriage (see )

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