Hello. My name is Fletch. I have something to say.
I, as a disciple of Christ, affirm gay marriage.
I have been asked how I could come to such a conclusion. How could someone who, in high school, was against same-sex marriage have their mind changed so drastically?
It all started when I went to college. People warned me about going to school. It would be a place where I would simply be force fed opinions and be left with no room to think for myself. The funny thing is that both my undergraduate and seminary have proven to do the exact opposite.
I learned a lot of things while attending college. Church history, Christian Theology, Biblical Theology, World Religions, Hermeneutics, psychology, how to write an effective and proficient exegesis of scripture, vestiges of the Trinity, the recapitulation of Christ, etc.
But do you know what was the most dangerous thing I learned in college?
I learned how to do research.
Many have asked me in my recent declaration in support of gay marriage to supply biblical evidence. I have refrained because I do not believe that the bible should simply be used to refute others or used in a cherrypicking way to prove a point. The bible is a dynamic narrative, and must be treated as such. It is part of the overall story with a contexts that needs to be taken into account. So, I will not pick a verse to prove a point, I will tell you, in brief, my journey toward this understanding.
I went through several stages in my understanding of same-sex attraction. I asked lots of questions in my research.
Is it a sin to be gay?
Does someone choose to be gay?
Does the context of those verses in the Old and New Testament really discuss monogamous relationships?
I was not content with being told what to believe anymore. So I began to do this research while talking with many friends, as I do not believe anyone person has the right to form an opinion on their own. It must be done in community and in dialogue.
So I began to talk with friends and my professors. We talked a long while. I learned that one of them had a son that was gay, another a daughter who was. But none of them left me with a simple answer like, “Well…what does the bible say?” If they did they would not have been good professors. My friends and I were not content with such answers either. I did have a few who refused to budged on their stance, but that was fine. They were still very valuable in their perspective. We are still friends and get together when we are near one another.
But I was not taught in school that same-sex attraction and acting on it behavior and acting on it was permissible. No. Never did a professor at the school of theology I attended ever tell me that it was permissible. They did however tell me to keep searching for truth. So I did.
They did not want to give me a quick answer. I knew that at this point of my college career there was so much more than going to class and getting lectured.
They showed me where to go to and how to find answers to topics such as this…
So I went there and began to read many, many books, from all sides of the issue.I read essays that made me cringe in their obvious biases and essays that were so poorly written (like this blog post) that I had to fight to find anything worth keeping. I read book after book about multiple perspectives. I found a good middle ground, but I did not stay there. That was my sophomore year of college. I was happy where I was settled on this issue. I thought I was done. But I was far from it.
I read a lot in school. It was very informative.
I also met many gay people in school, both men and women. Ate lunch with them, went for walks, talked to them, got to know them. The only difference between them and me was that I was attracted to someone of the opposite sex, and they were not. I began to really question my own thoughts on the matter. I remained vigilant in my research, and it was not until a couple years later that I would affirm same sex-marriage.
But I could not for the life of me simply accept that they were shrouded in sin for being gay. I needed to know more.
Where was I in my thinking as a junior in college?
I was welcoming, but not affirming.
I thought that acting on same-sex attraction was a sin, but being gay was not. It was only a sin as someone acted on their desires.
That was a safe place for me to be.
I began to be much more tolerant, loving, and accepting of those around me. I did not believe that being gay was a choice and not something someone could control. How did I come to this conclusion? I asked one of the psychology professors at my college who provider me with her research. She sent me papers on this topic of whether or not being gay was a choice. Yes I read essays that spoke against that viewpoint, but felt that it was laced with biased opinions. Regardless of whether or not I found the research compelling, I did not find it my right to decide whether or not being gay was a choice.
I concluded, however, that it was not a choice, and that my friends who were gay were then called by God to live a life of celibacy.
I felt that the passage in the New Testament affirmed what the Old Testament has said. That gay acts were sinful, but being gay was not.
That, again, was a safe place for me to be. I did not rattle too many cages as I made many pastors and mentors happy in knowing that I would still preach against acting on their same-sex attraction.
This was my senior year. But I couldn’t stop there. I had to do more research.
I wanted to look deeper into the same biblical passages that helped me draw my conclusion that being gay was not a sin, but the acts were sinful.
I did this research on and off until I finally had an opportunity to produce a paper on it in my masters of ministry program. My journey in actually studying this topic had made it close to 5 years. I did not wake up and instantly look at those texts differently. I began to look at it the way it was intended…with the eyes of those who first wrote them. Context became more key in my study.
What became interesting is that as I began to study the proof texts that I used to vehemently oppose same-sex attraction and action, I started to see what exactly was going on in the context of those passages when they were written.
These are those passages:
Genesis 19. Sodom and Gomorrah. Probably the most used proof text in opposition to same-sex attraction, behavior, and marriage. Many have come to view the sin of the residents of this village as sex with men. But that is a large misrepresentation of this passage. I believe the issue goes far deeper than the fact that these men desired to have sex with these two male visitors. The issue was inhospitality and rape. These villagers wanted to rape two men just coming for a visit. Next thing we read is that Lot offered his daughters to be rapped in their stead! The place of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitable, and judgement was reaped because the residents were more concerned about hedonism than serving God. Gods judgement was not in regard to same-sex attraction, but the desire to rape and be inhospitable to those around them. Remember when I said that the Bible is a narrative with a context? Check out Ezekiel 16 and tell me what you find to be the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The misuse of this passage is almost proof that many Christians want to isolate the issue of same-sex attraction by calling it a greater sin. It is easy to misrepresent a passage of scripture when your need to prove a point outweighs the need to understand the context in which it was written.
The issues within the Leviticus and Romans passages are also not about monogamous same sex relationships. The issue in Leviticus deals primarily with gender roles of that time. Engaging in homosexual acts was punishable by death because the man took a passive role. The issue was of ritual purity. In Romans the issue is not against monogamous same-sex relationships, but rather the gender roles of both men and woman being challenged. 1st Corinthians deals with acts of rape, not monogamous same-sex relationships.
If one takes time to look at the cultural context of the passages used to refute same-sex relationships, it is easy to see that they do not discuss same-sex attraction in the context we understand it today. The context today would be monogamous relationships, or marriages. The bible affirms monogamous same sex relationships.
Probably the most dangerous thing I was taught in school was how to do research and have educated conversations with those who disagreed with me. It has led myself, and many others, to come to the conclusion that same-sex relationships are not in conflict with scripture.
People will read this and still think that I am still missing the mark. That I am someone who is grabbing onto the coat tales of society and going for the ride. I came to these conclusions through prayer, dialogue, and careful research. I presented a different conclusion when I presented my paper in school. I played it safe. I didn’t want to rattle the cages.
But I continued to meet gay and lesbian people who serve Jesus in their local congregations, communities, and nonprofits. How could such people be shrouded in sin?
I do not buy it anymore.
But why did I decide to share my thoughts? What use is it? What could a straight, married, Christian have to gain from support such a cause? Could I have just continued to hold these affirmations and remain silent? Yes. I could have. Remaining silent, however, would not help anyone.
I have nothing to gain for sharing my affirmation. If anything, I have lost credibility. But I needed to share my stance. I needed people to know that they are not alone. We need more people who support this cause to come forward and support the LGBT community. There are still many issues that need to be brought to the public’s attention. Let’s continue to fight for equal rights. #lovewins
For more information, please go to www.hrc.org.