John 3:16

There’s quite a tizzy over at Pandagon over same-sex marriage and, thanks to commenters like GBaker, the inherent immorality of homosexuality. In throwing myself into the fray (I really don’t know why I do this, except perhaps a genuine curiosity about why so many religious folk, particularly evangelical Christians, so abhor homos) I mentioned for the first time in quite a while that I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior.

And, yeah, I’m a big homo.

There are a lot of reasons this is possible. First, I’m non-denominationally Christian. I was raised in a pretty non-religious household–the only specific religious instruction I can ever remember getting was when I was about six and upset about some bees, and my mom told me not to use the Lord’s name in vain because it was like blaming him for the bees, which was dumb. I’m still pretty bad about peppering my speech with “Jesus” and “God” and more blasphemous variations, but my mother, bless her heart, at least makes me more conscious of it.

So I had to discover the church on my own in elementary school, through youth group activities. Unfortunately, the church I discovered happened to be pretty fundamentalist, and despite a few years of devoted participation and even a good stretch of regular grown-up sermon attendance, I found that questions were unwelcome and had to leave. It wasn’t until middle school that things really clicked for me. (Sort of hilariously, I had a deeply religious experience while reading Christie, and I’ve never been the same since.)

Then I went on to a private Catholic college prep school for eighth grade and high school. Now, we weren’t extremely religious; every year brought a mandatory religion course (exceptions, to the best of my knowledge, were only made for Mormons already attending seminary every morning; we only had a couple of Jewish students while I was there, and I’m not sure if they were in any kind of outside religious instruction) and a set number of masses per year. But the place was really pretty relaxed, and I got to appreciate a lot of the ritual and mystery of Catholicism without all the guilt. I mean, I’ve never been confirmed, and I’ve never received communion in a Catholic church.

So, as a non-denominational Christian, I don’t have any major religious authority figures constantly denouncing my lifestyle, which is nice. I also live with a pretty loose interpretation of the Bible. That’s not to say I’m a picker and a chooser–I just happen to think the Bible was written by men, not by God, and that a lot of what made it into the versions we read today had more to do with the culture and politics of the times than what was ever communicated directly from the big guy himself. I also think the beautiful language of the Bible shouldn’t be ignored, and should be taken figuratively or symbolically in most cases.

Also, I’m a New Testament kind of a guy. I don’t want to completely ignore the Old Testament, but really, the concept of a wrathful god just doesn’t sit too well with me. The message of love, forgiveness, and mercy from the Gospels strikes me as much more representative of a God who would create something in his own image and give it such amazing gifts as free will and the capacity for love.

So, being a New Testament believer, I tend not to pay much attention to things like the Levitical codes or Deuteronomy, which happen to be two major places where The Gay is actually discussed in the Bible. I feel comfortable discounting these because some of the other stuff is just so wacky in a modern context. I mean, shellfish can now be safely prepared, shaving will soon be revolutionized when Gillette finally adds that nineteenth blade, and hanging out with women on their periods–while perhaps unpleasant for emotional reasons–is generally quite sanitary.

It’s also noteworthy that even in the New Testament, any mention of men lying with men (or whatever wording one might interpret to mean homosexual behavior) is specific to men. While a passage from Romans was quoted in the Pandagon comments as evidence to the contrary, I have a hard time with it:

Rom 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature:
Rom 1:27 and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due.

I mean, what is the “natural use” of women? For starters, that sounds an awful lot like women are commodities for men. (In the Bible?!? I know–you’re shocked.) It’s also hard to say if the “natural use of passion” necessarily refers to sexual acts. What if it refers to romantic love?

But I don’t really want to get into the whole “lesbians are off the hook” argument, because that’s counterproductive.

Really, my main question is this: do religious folk who denounce homosexuality on the basis of immorality do so only from a scriptural standpoint? (Again, I’m speaking here mostly of Christians, since my personal knowledge is only of potential support in the Bible, but I assume non-Christians with similar feelings have interpreted their own holy texts to the same end.)

If they do, why? I mean, what makes a book someone’s only moral compass? The Bible condones an awful lot of things that American society (among others) now widely condemns. You know, women as property, people as property, sleeping with your niece (okay, not specifically condoned, but also the only form of incest not specifically prohibited)…

It also just seems odd to me that someone could consider things like murder wrong only because the Bible said so. I had a pretty firm anti-murder stance from a young age, and well before I’d read any scripture. I also felt guilty about filching from my dad’s change jar before I’d even heard of the Commandments.

Anyway, I don’t have any major point here, except that I’m tired of being considered inherently immoral due simply to my chosen sexual partner’s gender. Because that’s what it really boils down to–denouncers of homosexuality privilege the sexual act over everything else, and use it as the cornerstone of “the homosexual lifestyle” and “the homosexual agenda.” This is the root of the ol’ “love the sinner, hate the sin” fallback position. Forget homosexuals who choose abstinence. Forget homosexuals who never engage in penetrative sex (sodomy or otherwise). Forget homosexuals who never find a sexual partner.

I just don’t understand. I don’t assume that a heterosexual’s morality is tied solely to his or her choice of sexual partners. Knifing someone in an alley or devoting your life to ending poverty or embezzling or feeding the hungry has nothing to do with doin’ it missionary style. So why do so many people think otherwise?

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4 Responses to John 3:16

  1. cindy says:

    Why did I never know that you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior? You KNOW how obsessed I am with the Bible.

  2. pandanose says:

    ‘Cause I’m a closeted Christian. Well, was.

  3. nobody special says:

    Maybe check out a chapter titled “Homophobia and
    Heterosexism in the Black Church and Community” in Kelly Brown Douglas’ book Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective. I suspect there’s a good deal out there backing your contention that the Bible is being misconstrued as the sole basis for homophobic vitriol, but douglas talks specifically about how black communities are derailing their own liberation project by falling into that false rationale. She also wants, nevertheless, to preserve a liberation theology…

  4. pandanose says:

    Thanks for the tip! Reading suggestions are always appreciated, even if I have to finish the world’s most boring textbooks (Reference and Evaluation) before I can get to something interesting.

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