Explaining an accepting evangelical position to gay marriage- any tips?

(66 Posts)

Just trying to think how I can explain an accepting evangelical position with regard to gay marriage.

Does anyone have any tips?

I am from an evangelical originally Anglican) background and spent my time with lots of evangelical and sometimes with liberals too! wink

I know the Bible has various passages which appear to say that homosexual sex is wrong and I know that some Christians would say this means all homosexual sex is wrong. I think this is based on how this passages are translated these days and how they are interpreted.

In the past some of these passages may have translated a little differently and their meaning can be a bit obscure. The reason that some Christians will feel these passages refer to all homosexual acts/relationships is (I think) because they are taught to interpret them in this way. This is how they have been interpreted for a while (could someone wiser be able to say more!).

A number of Christians would argue that these passages are talking about different things, for example Leviticus referring to homosexual acts as a form of temple prostitution, which was rife in the time that these books were written. The book of Leviticus was talking about a different situation from gay men and women now, it was talking about temple prostitutes. There is more to it than that and I wonder if anyone can say more?

There have always been liberal minded Christians who were very happy with gay relationships but now a growing number of evangelical Christians are also trying to understand what the Bible says about homosexual/gay relationships (and the answer seems to be not a lot!) but what it does say needs to be properly interpreted.

I know some might read this who are not the least bit interested in what the Bible says so it will mean nothing to them, and that is fine, but to those of us who have made a decision to take the Bible seriously, though not always literally, and to take it in context it is very important to understand what it really means. Here are a couple of links I found.

www.upworthy.com/every-biblical-argument-against-being-gay-debunked-biblically?g=2&c=go1

www.acceptingevangelicals.org/

Those Christians who do not think any kind of gay relationship is OK are totally entitled to their opinion too, and I know and love some very traditional evangelical Christians, I also know and love some liberal ones and some like me who are trying to make sense of what the Bible says for these areas and have found themselves feeling differently to committed gay marriage than they expected to feel! grin

Most Christians I know (regardless of their views) are very loving and kind in their actions towards others, whatever they personally believe about different lifestyles they behave kindly to all, and this is something I treasure and value. But I really want to be able to explain my views as an accepting evangelical. Any help welcome. Thanks.

The other problem I have is that individual Christians and the church are expending an amazing amount of time and energy on this 'issue' when all kinds atrocities are happening worldwide and it seems very sad. sad

I'm not an evangelical but I have debated this issue and others with people from an evangelical background.

The biggest question when talking about any issue with someone from an evangelical background will be the nature of the authority of scripture.

At one end of the scale you have conservative evangelicals who hold that scripture is the actual word of God and as such what is written is true for all times and all places. At the other end of the scale are open evangelicals who take seriously 1 Timothy 16-17 'All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.' but note that God breathed is not God written or dictated. Open evangelicals are open to the work of Biblical Criticism of the last 150 years or so which has included:

Form criticism - what genre is the scripture - poetry, myth, letter?
Redaction criticism - how has the work been edited and reedited?
Historical criticism - what is the historical context of the scripture?
Language - the OT is in hebrew and the NT is in greek and both languages have to be translated.
Post modern approaches which include the impact of the reader on the text.

All of the above are looking at context.

Open (and accepting) evangelicals would say I think that scripture is central to their faith but you have to read for context so the passages in the bible that appear to condem homosexuality have to be read in their historical and cultural context which is different to that of today. The same is true of marraige which was very different in OT and the 1st century context of the NT.

Does that help giving some of the background?

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Thu 09-May-13 08:21:36

I take issue with this kind of argument from a religious standpoint. Mainly because the first argument presented is almost invariably, "the bible may appear to say this, but you have to read it in its original language to really understand", or, "it's all about how you interpret it, you've been told to interpret this way, but you could also interpret that way".

Basically what it boils down to is that whatever your personal feelings on a topic, you can find a way to make the bible support it, either through cherry picking passages or interpreting those passages in different ways, either literally, metaphorically or through different understanding of the definitions of certain words. This is the genius of religious texts, everyone thinks that the text supports their view, thus everyone believes they are right.

Greenheart thanks very helpful. Do you find it easy talking with evangelicals! No, don;t answer that PM me. I am one and I know it is heard!! Thanks, yes, marriage, what it means now and then. I have tons of questions and I would love to PM you.

Pedro why do you say your take issue with this kind of argument from a religious standpoint are you arguing for a literal take on scripture, I don't actually know a single person who takes all of it literally. Or are you saying (as I suspect) throw it all out? Because if the later then I can't see that as a 'religious' stand point.

As my day today is about to be spent getting to grips with the language, context, history etc of Sunday's readings so that I can write the sermon I'm grateful to Pedro for revealing to me that all I have to do is tell my congregation what my personal views are and dressing them up in Biblical language. Horrah!

As the OP was framed within a Christian worldview then that is how I've approached it. Silly me.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Thu 09-May-13 08:33:28

Sorry, I probably could have worded that better. I meant I take issue with people using religious arguments based on religious texts to make their points.

The 'trouble' is we have these religious texts, Pedro how are we to view them?

madhairday Thu 09-May-13 13:17:20

Just posted this by mistake on the other thread, but it's an article by Steve Chalke who still self identifies as (open) evangelical that may help your thinking clickity

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Thu 09-May-13 13:18:42

The texts existing is not the problem. The problem comes when people try to use the texts to determine what's right and wrong. They are obviously ambiguous because they can be used to support pretty much any view you want to hold.

I don't personally think that the bible provides a moral code. It has a list of commandments which could be ok if they weren't mostly about which god to listen to. Thou shalt not kill is a good instruction to follow generally, but not because God says so. It's just generally good for society. I'm sure before the bible came along that people would have been aware that killing other humans was not a great way to keep the race going.

The rest of the bible contains stories, some of which can be used to demonstrate 'moral' actions but no more than any other story which contains such morals. Take Harry Potter, it contains many, many examples of characters demonstrating moral actions (even the 'bad' characters). You could quote these examples to explain why you think certain actions or beliefs are good, but you wouldn't say that HP is a book of moral guidance any more than the bible is. And you certainly wouldn't attribute any truth to the story.

I don't think the Bible is the Highway Code. It is the story of a journey. It has morals in it for sure. I have admitted freely elsewhere it has massive mistakes, David and bathsheba - watch neighbour taking bath on roof, sleep with neighbour, kill neighbour's husband, not exactly a moral guide of what to do!

It's easy to say why you think the 10 commandments are (excuse me Pedro I am paraphrasing!) so old hat! But before they came along would all those things have been obvious. Did the cultures around the Hebrews back in the day view adultery as wrong? For example? Greenheart, any thoughts?

Sorry Greenheart Or Mad?

For starters I'm no expert on Ancient Near East (ANE) societies. From what I can remember from college the 10CC are a form of social contract similar to others in the ANE but the difference with the 10CC is that roughly the first half of the commandments are about the relationship between God and mankind and the second half are about social contract between people. This second part; do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not covert, do not steal, do not lie are simple which is their great attraction and why they endure as the basis for moral decisions today.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Thu 09-May-13 18:34:10

It's easy to say why you think the 10 commandments are (excuse me Pedro I am paraphrasing!) so old hat! But before they came along would all those things have been obvious. Did the cultures around the Hebrews back in the day view adultery as wrong? For example?

I can say with certainty that at least some people considered adultery to be immoral before the bible was written because otherwise they wouldn't have put it in the bible!

FloresCircumdati Thu 09-May-13 19:00:55

The Leviticus passage refers to 'heathen' practices in a neighbouring land which are 'abominable'. 'Temple prostitutes' is a polite way of saying mass abduction of children who were ritualistically abused, mutilated and trafficked. It is trafficking, abuse, mutilation and sex slavery that God abhors, and which any right minded person would find abominable.

So, for me, Scripture has been abusing the word 'homosexual' since it was first used (i.e. before the birth of Jesus). I realise I am in a minority, as I disagree with what leaders of our 3 main world religions preach! I disagree with the leader of the Anglican church in this country, and so I have stopped attending church. I will not have anyone think that I think that God expects gay believers to be celibate and/or single or living a lie and married to someone of the opposite sex! I have a relationship with God, and I am happily married (to a man; I'm female). I was stopped from teaching in Sunday school (nothing about this, I was just deemed 'unfit') because of my stand on this in the women's Bible study group. All I can say is, that church made God (and me) weep. I was battle weary (from praying) when I left.

Steve Chalke is great. Please pray for him, and for more like him.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=560756123965319&set=vb.100000928096156&type=2&theater

RufflingFeathers Thu 09-May-13 19:08:45

Sorry, no time to write properly, but wanted to mark my place.
Think it's important not only to look at scripture but also the big picture of creation/fall/redemption/restoration. It's not simply a case of proving or disproving particular scriptures, but asking if this fits with how God made things.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Thu 09-May-13 19:36:21

Think it's important not only to look at scripture but also the big picture of creation/fall/redemption/restoration. It's not simply a case of proving or disproving particular scriptures, but asking if this fits with how God made things.

What do you mean by proving or disproving the scriptures?

The scriptures exist? Proven.

The scriptures are an accurate account of history? Refuted.

The scriptures are a moral framework? Refuted.

The scriptures fit with how God made things? If they don't, then they're not much good as scriptures. If they do then there's not much discussion to be had.

Pedro do you think things are just in the Bible because they happened to other people around the time, ie not the people the Bible was specifically about? If not, I can't see your argument. Sorry, not being awkward on purpose. Yes, I am sure some people would have thought adultery wrong but wonder what else others of the time did, e.g. ritual worship with sex involved?

Flores so sorry to hear of your experiences. I personally (as a non-Anglican) think the C of E is actually full of quit a lot of tolerant people. But I know the structures are not exactly reflecting that at the moment. With tolerance we must always ask the question, should we tolerate it (whatever it is) obviously tolerating things that are wrong is wrong but I guess this is the crux, deciding what is wrong! I am speaking of the C of E in relation to this topic only.

Hi Rufflng.

Greenheart I am curious if all cultures in the past would value all things we do now. I am not sure stealing would be viewed as 'stealing' if it was a fight for survival. If that makes sense? Only asking you as I have a hunch you are pretty wise! wink

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Fri 10-May-13 07:13:16

Pedro do you think things are just in the Bible because they happened to other people around the time, ie not the people the Bible was specifically about?

I'm sure people back then had a variety of views on what was moral and what wasn't, just like they do now. But someone must have thought adultery was wrong or they wouldn't have included it as a commandment when they wrote the bible.

niminypiminy Fri 10-May-13 09:55:11

As Greenheart says, there are two kinds of commandments in the 10 commandments. One kind has to do with the relationship between humans (specifically, in this case, the Israelites) and God, and the forging of monotheism out of an ambient polytheistic culture. The OT is many things, but one of the things it is is the story of how the Israelites came to see that there is only one God, the creator of the universe and all that is in it, who embodies the righteousness and justice that human society must strive for.

The second kind of commandment formulates a basic moral code -- as Greenheart says, of a kind that was known in other Ancient Near East societies. But it is not so self-evident that it is universal among all societies and therefore simply a collection of nostrums. Very different moral codes have existed. For instance, the warrior code of honour and virtue, which was the basic moral structure of Ancient Greece, did not forbid adultery or murder (for instance infanticide was an act which was not considered morally bad at all). One of the effects of the Mosaic code is that it makes any form of blood feud, and the wiping out of one wrong by paying back in kind, a sin.

Another effect of the Mosaic code is that it unfies the social order with the cosmic order. To murder is not only a socially catastrophic act, but it is also an act of violence against the divine order that underpins the cosmos. That is a very different conception from other ancient moral systems, in which the gods were themselves seen as moral actors, capricious and capable of doing wrong things, beings who needed to be placated with sacrifice. One of the major themes of the later parts of the OT is the struggle to get the Israelites to stop the practice of sacrifice, and to realise that what God wants is for us to live his way rather than to sacrifice animals, food and so on.

niminypiminy Fri 10-May-13 10:27:03

Italian, I wonder if another thing to think about would be to weigh up what scripture has to say about love, and faithfulness, against what it has to say about particular sexual acts. It is clear that fidelity and love are central to the biblical account of what is ideal in human relationships (even though there is a clear recognition of how often we fall away from living out that ideal). In particular, in the gospels, Jesus reiterates this message whilst remaining silent on the subject of sexual acts. So perhaps the question should be less about how we might understand particular sexual acts in the light of scripture as whether people can live out the scriptural injunction to 'love one another as I have loved you'. Are gay people capable of sacrificial love for each other? If they are, then that is all we need to know.

madhairday Fri 10-May-13 12:47:36

Great posts niminy smile

Thanks Ninny great post, very helpful.

neontetra Fri 10-May-13 19:44:47

Niminy has said, very eloquently, what I, much less eloquently, would like to say. Any whole-text reading of the NT will surely reveal to the reader that the text argues for love, tolerance, acceptance of difference, etc. Can any reader really see Jesus emerge as someone likely to be a homophobe? If not, job done!

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