The change in Americans’ views about equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) is unprecedented, and the changing views on gay marriage is the best example.
In 2004, popular support for same-sex marriage was 30-40 percent. Now polls show support around 55 percent. Gay couples can now wed in 19 states. Laws prohibiting gay marriage in 30 states are being challenged, leaving North Dakota as the last holdout.
For religious people who view opposition to LGBT orientation as discriminatory and an example of bigotry, the use, or rather misuse, of the Bible is particularly disturbing. Two brothers recently had their HGTV program cancelled, due to past anti-gay remarks, and cited their “faith” as the reason.
Let us be clear — the Bible has been used to mask prejudice for many centuries. Many passages support slavery and discrimination against women. As a society, we have recognized that those passages applied in historical times and should be interpreted differently in today’s times.
In contrast, the Bible says little about homosexuality. It is not even a word in either Hebrew or Greek. As author John Boswell argues, Christianity was basically indifferent on homosexual practices until the late 12th century. Further, biblical teachings were not the source of anti-gay Christian attitudes that occurred later. Since we are reading translations of the Bible, we know that they are subject to the biases of the translators.
A recent seminar at the First Congregation Church in Tulare clarified that rational review of the Bible shows it is not anti-homosexual, as authors have maintained since about 1980. The seminar used the book, “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality” by Daniel A. Helminiak, as a base, along with other writers that historically and critically review biblical passages. (Dr. Helminiak holds a Ph.D from Boston College and was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome.)
The seminar pointed out that the translations have been used to “clobber” LGBT’s for many decades. The “clobbering” verses used to condemn are not about LGBT practices as we know them today. Placing these verses in historical perspective, it is clear that there was no understanding of these individuals in biblical times. The Bible has been misinterpreted for centuries in this regard, just as it has been to support slavery and discrimination against women.
The “clobbering verses” are few in number. The advice to love, not judge, and welcome all who are different are much more pervasive.
The seminar also addressed being tolerant and patient with our conservative brothers and sisters. As with civil rights for Blacks, and equal rights for women and minorities, the war for equality for LGBT and questioning is being won, but there will be battles for many years, nevertheless. Let us hope they are few and end quickly. While the misuse of the Bible to support homophobia can be termed hateful and bigoted, again, the “war” is over. We need to be tolerant of those still suffering from misguided teachings.
When we devalue another person, we do harm to the human family. Fortunately, there are churches that recognize that God is welcoming and radically inclusive. Just as our society now rejects slavery and prejudice against women and interracial marriage, we will soon collectively recognize discrimination against LGBT’s as not biblical but a symptom of human prejudices, as well.
In striking down Virginia’s ban on same sex marriage, Federal Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen correctly put gay marriage in the historical perspective. She wrote, “Justice has often been forged from fires of indignities and prejudices suffered. We have arrived upon another moment in history when ‘We the People’ becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.” Hallelujah!