Today I bought a rainbow-coloured clerical shirt for going to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. I’m not gay and, to be totally honest, gay marriage still makes me feel slightly weird. It’s not that I don’t support the idea, I do—it’s just that it is the current not-so-much-an-elephant-more-a-sodding-mammoth-in-the-room for a minister.
There are two sides to this story, and whenever there are only two sides, there is always a problem. Two sides to any problem means argument.
Side One is quite clear: the Bible forbids homosexuality and Jesus stated that marriage is between a man and a woman. No substitutions.
Side Two says the Bible is archaic and the law is unkind.
Now, I realise that I am wasting time/preaching to the choir if I nit-pick at this, but what the heck…
Let’s start with the Hebrew Testament part. There are 613 laws in the Testament (including the Ten Commandments), all of which Orthodox Jews still follow. One of them is that ‘a man shall not lie with another man as with a woman for it is an abomination’ (Lev 18.22).
Christianity has let go of all of these laws except (nominally) the Ten Commandments and Leviticus 18:22. Christians may eat pork and shellfish, may have tattoos, may sow two different kinds of seed in one plot of land, may wear mixed fibres, may eat the same food three days in a row, may remain seated in the presence of the elderly… I could go on.
Jesus said nothing about homosexuality at all. It is St. Paul who is the source quoted in the New Testament. It was St. Peter who released us from the food laws and we have steadily released ourselves from the others as time went on.
How does it make logical sense that 602 of the laws are obsolete to Christianity but gay sex is not? Except, of course, that it’s about sex. There’s no doubt that St. Paul had a problem with the flesh aspect of life, believing that the spirit and the flesh are directly opposed (Gal 5:13-18). It’s worth noting that he has huge problems with heterosexual marriage too.
It’s important always to remember with St. Paul that he genuinely believed that the world was about to end; Jesus Christ would return in his lifetime and we would all be taken off to be judged. Therefore those who were married or loved each other might face being separated after judgement and it was better not to get involved if you weren’t already or you could get hurt. This is not exactly the mystical view.
Here’s the essential paragraph that is used to condemn homosexuality from Romans 1, 23-32. It is St. Paul’s diatribe against the Pagans:
‘Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.’
Now, you can see, can you not, that this is a much wider diatribe than just dealing with sex? It damns the Pagans for unnatural acts and then brings in all the other sins which are all equally deserving of death. I don’t know about you but I know I’ve managed to lack understanding, disobeyed my mother, whispered about the boss, boasted about my husband’s talents and been implacable in the last week and no one has condemned me to death.
Orthodox Christianity will say that doesn’t matter; it is the weakness of the flesh which is the sin and that whatever may or may not be allowed, Jesus did not allow gay marriage.
He didn’t allow divorce either. Ultra-orthodox Christianity still holds to that… and, as a minister whose ex divorced her when he found someone he loved more, I had a huge problem with the concept at first. I had to work with it because I didn’t get a choice on divorce; the most I could do was make him wait five years if I wanted to be mean. It turned out to be an amazing spiritual journey where I learnt an incredible amount and absolutely the right thing to have happened. As can be being LGBTQ.
Okay,we could play Bible tennis back and forwards forever and nobody would be convinced against their will—and, obviously, I’m only talking Christianity’s beliefs here. So, instead, I’m going to posit a different theory. A theory that has been banging itself back and forward inside my head for quite some time now. It’s a third theory—a non-dual one—which can, I hope, be used to make peace between the opposing factions. It’s along the lines of Cynthia Bourgeault’s theory of The Law of Three:
Proposition: God Does Not Make Mistakes.
Proposition: God allows us to evolve and change.
After all, God knows that we have invented fridges, antibiotics, effective condoms and that we in the West, at least, have hot running water: we can keep our food safe, cleanse our wounds and prevent disease. And God also knows that this world desperately needs the human population to drop for us to be able to sustain life.
Maybe there actually are more LGBTQ people being born because God wants them to be born because they are a/ An invitation to open our hearts to the different and the outsider (something Jesus was very good at and frequently recommended) and b/ An answer to world over-population.
So the third theory is that God is willing and capable of changing His/Her mind and has changed the law because the law needed to be changed. This stops the debate from being one of ‘yes… but’ and changes it to ‘yes… and’ and means that both the Bible believers and non-believers could be right.
I support LGBTQ not because of the Bible, although it is a book I love and refer to frequently. I support it because God speaks to me (and to you) here and now—just as Christ spoke to St. Paul and speaks to everyone all the time (we just don’t listen). I know that God loves us all whatever our gender and sexual preference. Why? Because these do not define us. Our soul defines us and our soul is concerned with love, service to humanity, evolution and spirituality, not with the ‘sins of the flesh.’ All of this flesh argument is a distraction from the development of our souls. Once we have made peace with our sexuality we can move on and start to develop our soul. If we won’t make peace about gender we will remain stuck at the level of the ego, arguing, and we will not evolve.
I know this because God told me.
So, I shall wear my rainbow dog collared shirt to the Edinburgh Fringe next week with confidence. And if any fundamentalist should challenge me, I shall say, ‘Yes, I believe you. AND God changed his mind; He told me so.’ And we’ll take it from there…