Although the Bible doesn’t say much about homosexuality, what it does say is all negative. What’s more, the Bible celebrates heterosexuality from the first chapter of Genesis through the last chapters of Revelation.
Growing up in a church that taught that the Word of God in the Bible is inerrant, I therefore assumed that homosexual behavior, if not the homosexual orientation, was sinful. That is, until I started getting to know actual GLTB (gay/lesbian/transgender/bisexual) people. The more I got to know real gay people, the more I became an agnostic on the issue.
I’m making up the following story so I don’t out anyone who doesn’t want their orientation to be made public, but it is factual in the sense that I’ve heard versions of this story from many, many people.
Bill and Sue were married for 15 years and had two children when Bill started to feel a certain disquiet inside himself. He couldn’t figure out what was causing it. He had a good job as a middle manager and loved his wife and family very much. He was on the worship committee at church, was liked by friends and respected in the community.
As he tried to figure out what was troubling his spirit, he noticed that he wasn’t as attracted to -no, more like obsessed with – women in the way the other guys at work seemed to be. Gradually, he became aware that all his life he had been more attracted to men than to women. The reason he was figuring this out first at the age of 37, he realized, was because the consequences of admitting to himself that he was gay were, to him, intolerable.
He loved his family very much and didn’t want to lose them. He feared the reaction of friends and a condemnation to hell by his church. “Who in his right mind would choose to be a homosexual?” one gay man had written in a weekly free newspaper he picked up at a local used bookstore. Indeed, there was so much to lose.
Therefore, it was a kind of Sophie’s choice he made. If he chose to at last affirm who he was, he would lose his family and his place in the community. If he chose to keep all of that, he would lose himself. He considered suicide several times as the easiest way to resolve the issue.
He was burdened by a huge load of guilt for what he would be doing to his family.
His wife and family were devastated when he finally came out. His son is still angry with him, 20 years after the divorce became final and has a hard time being in the same room with his father’s partner of 15 years.
This man has been one of my best friends. I travelled with him on his journey of self-discovery and have grown to like his partner. I’m still friends with his former wife.
In the years following my friend’s divorce, I’ve gotten to know a lot of GLBT people. Not one of them ever told me that they chose to be gay. The only choice they ever made was to finally be honest about their orientation.
You see where that leaves me? Here I am, a Bible-believing Christian on the one hand, with a lot of experience with gay persons on the other. Three hundred years ago it was called the conflict between faith and reason. When I was a child, it was framed as the tension between the Bible and science. Now it’s referred as the clash between religious tradition and experience.
I don’t believe anyone is a consistent biblical literalist anymore. For example, the Bible reads as if the sun “rises and sets,” so 400 years ago the Roman Church issued a decree that Copernicus’ theory that the earth moved around the sun was “false and altogether opposed to Holy Scripture.” No one would defend that picture of how the universe works now.
So, the challenge for many of us moderate believers these days is to figure out how to be bi-focal, i.e. how to view life through a biblical lens and take the Scriptures seriously as revelation and at the same time see reality through a scientific lens believing that empirical observation is able to discern truth in ways that revelation cannot.
Right now, I haven’t figured out a way to synthesize the two views I get when I look at the issue of homosexuality. One thing I have decided, however, is that I’m no longer willing to label a committed gay relationship as sinful, especially when we heterosexuals have such a terrible track record when it comes to expressing our sexuality.
Tom Holmes has worked in Forest Park since 1982 as a pastor and as a writer. He is grateful that his children grew up in this town and finds inspiration in the personal relationships he has developed with so many.