How I Came to Support Same-Sex Marriage, Part 4: A Biblical Breakdown

By | February 6, 2014

Trigger warning for rape and violence. The Bible is heavy stuff, kids.

An article by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin started my questioning the Biblical interpretation of homosexual sin. They didn’t intend it, I’m quite sure, but the first place I saw Ezekiel 16:49 was in their series on Childish Homeschooler Syndrome.

The sisters wrote, “When many of us ‘good kids’ think of the sins of Sodom, we think of flagrant debauchery and perversion (no danger of going there, we reassure ourselves). But this is what God actually condemned them for: ‘Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.’ – Ezekiel 16:49” (emphasis in original)

I would come back to this post years after reading it as a teenager. In the meantime, I was looking for answers from Christians about homosexuality.

My first impression was that gay Christians who had gay relationships took the Bible very lightly. One YouTube video, made by a Mormon lesbian, explained that heaven might not be as great for her because she was sinning, but she didn’t want to live an unhappy life. The same explanation was in my university’s production of “Next Fall,” which depicted a gay couple’s relationship. One of the men in the relationship was a Christian, but a very loose one who said it was sin, but it didn’t matter that he was sinning.

That line of reasoning didn’t work for me. I needed proof that a homosexual relationship was or wasn’t sinful, not some excuse for sinning. If Christians should live like their desires are more important than the commands of the Bible, every wrong action is allowed. Besides, some verses in the New Testament went so far as to say certain sins would keep people out of the Kingdom of Heaven, which sounded pretty serious.

I was already convinced that I should accept gay people at the political level and as a friend. What felt disproportionately wrong was how my intuitive convictions and my regular reliance on the Holy Spirit weren’t lining up with what I heard about the Bible.

Maybe, just as the church so often overlooked love as the greatest commandment, it had gotten this issue wrong, too.

So I looked further. I contacted an old friend who had come out as gay since we’d last talked, and got his insights. I watched this sermon, and I read this book. The number of reasons to believe the Bible opposed a committed, loving same-sex marriage began to diminish.

Below is a breakdown of my personal findings. I gathered them from research and discussions, but they are not a representation of all Christians who support committed gay relationships. They are also not the only possible arguments; just the ones I found to be the most clear and convincing.

Sodom

In the biblical story of the two cities God destroyed for their sinfulness, Gomorrah isn’t mentioned in relation to homosexuality at all. The term “sodomy” comes from the city of Sodom, however, because the story has long been interpreted to mean the city was evil for its acceptance of the atrocious sin of homosexual relationships (among other sins). There are a few problems with this, though. In the story (Genesis 19:1-11), two angels visit Lot, and all the men of the city gather at his door, wanting to rape the angels.

It seems unlikely that the entirety of a city would be gay, if same-sex attraction was the definition of the time for “being gay.” It was also clear that these men weren’t looking for a committed, consensual relationship with the angels, but just wanted to harm them. The distinctions are so polar, it makes no sense to think Sodom’s sin was homosexual relationships. Another similar thing happened in the book of Judges (19:16-24). A group of men threatened a foreigner with gang rape, but were satisfied to be given a woman instead, meaning they weren’t merely attracted to the same sex. Further, there was that verse in Ezekiel (the one I opened this post with) specifically saying Sodom’s sin was a lack of hospitality. Perhaps the problem was that people shouldn’t gang rape foreign visitors, not that they shouldn’t have loving and committed relationships. I moved on.

Idol Worship

There were, surprisingly, not many other mentions in the Bible of homosexuality. I thought the topic would be rampantly scattered throughout every chapter, considering how seriously Christians take it. Jesus never speaks against homosexuality in the gospels. Several passages are contextually referring to homosexual practices as a form of pagan idol worship, rather than committed love. These include Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, 1 Kings 14:24 and 15:12, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Each of these mentions refer to idol worship, cult activity, and prostitution rather than a committed, loving, and exclusive marriage. It’s just as odd to compare the activity in these verses to heterosexual marriage as it is to compare them to the modern definition of a dedicated same-sex marriage, for they are so different.

Abandoning God as a Prerequisite

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul rants about the danger of false images of God. He describes what happens to people who have redefined God, and who worshiped things instead of God. Among the results of such behavior are God’s abandonment, and letting such people pursue their evil desires.

For those who have never known a Christian who is gay (or known that a Christian they knew was gay), this seems like the most logical argument against homosexual relationships within the Christian world. Gay people must have turned away from God, and they must have a wrong idea of who God is, and that’s why they have their attractions. If they hadn’t abandoned God, they wouldn’t have the attractions they do.

This misunderstanding may be one major reason Christians believe that being gay is a choice, and that a gay person can become straight through therapy. It’s the same explanation that leaves so many disappointed with an emphasis on a charismatic experience or healing through spirituality. Have more faith, and you or your loved one will be healed, some reassure, when Jesus specifically refused to perform miracles for the purpose of making people believe in him (Matthew 16:1-4). Many discouraged people lose faith because they can’t seem to have enough of it for the vending-machine god of miracles for signs instead of for love and compassion. In the anti-gay church, we’re doing the same to teenagers and young adults struggling with same-sex attractions: have more faith, and your problem will go away.

No wonder so many gay Christians think God doesn’t love them.

If these verses mean what they’ve been interpreted to mean, praying away same-sex attractions would work. It would work because under Christ’s new covenant, pursuit of God is personal. Salvation is not by generational blessing, and curses are not due to a sinful culture. If a sinful culture could make Christians be a certain way, Christianity could never have grown from a minority in a sinful culture, because God would have to cut them off as Romans 1 says. That message is the very opposite of the gospel, which claims redemption for anyone who chooses to take it.

The evidence shows that committed Christians have been unable to become straight. Last summer, Exodus International, which was known as the largest Christian organization providing therapy for gay people to become straight, shut down with apologies for hurting those they’d set out to help. There are countless stories of people who earnestly seek out God who are still attracted to people from their same gender.

Have gay people redefined God? There are two gigantic reasons not to believe this. First, if every person who redefines God at some point is gay, there should be a lot more gay people in the Christian church. Second, this group of verses in Romans 1 deserves a very serious reconsideration when the Gay Christian community is more closely observed. The modern church has many people who define God by personal ideologies and doctrines and teachings, divided by denominations. Articles like this one describe a different picture of gay Christians: they have found love in the face of adversity from the church, and not just an affectionate and romantic love. They’ve spread the love of God, and there is real revival toward Christ’s core message of love.

I must therefore venture to suggest this logical setup and ask a sobering question: Romans 1 says that God lets people turn to their selfish desires after redefining Him. Gay Christians – both those who choose to remain celibate and those who pursue same-sex marriages alike – are turning to a deeper understanding of God, the Bible, and putting into action the command to “love one another,” and are bridging gaps between divisions in belief. The anti-gay church, by contrast, is casting out their brothers and sisters who identify as gay, regardless of their lifestyle choices. Which of these two groups has redefined God? Which of these two groups is turning to selfishness?

Companionship

When God created Adam, he said that it was not good for man to be alone. Similarly, Paul says that it is better for a man to marry than to burn with passion. This doesn’t apply to all people, as Paul and Jesus were single and Paul admonished singleness. However, if there are gay people, and they long for a lifelong committed partner for companionship, is it then good for them to be alone?

Some may suggest that gay people should turn to God for fulfillment and choose to be celibate. As Justin Lee put it in his book Torn: God didn’t look at Adam’s loneliness and say, “I am sufficient for you.” He made him a suitable companion. As I said in my first post, this doesn’t mean I don’t support gay Christians who choose to be celibate. It does mean there’s a reasonable question about the need for human, committed, intimate relationships.

Procreation as a standard for marriage

During the days of the Bible, marriage was different than it is today. This does not mean God has changed, or that God’s plan has changed, or God’s law has changed. Marriage is never defined in the Bible, it is simply assumed by the culture of the time, and changes with the stories therein. Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, is notably the first wife of a man who took a second wife so he could have children. Elderly couples don’t get married in the Bible. In fact, the problem of elderly people being unable to procreate gets Abraham and Sarah into a lot of trouble. There is no condemnation of polygamy in the Bible.

What I am about to say, then, is not in contradiction with a command in the Bible. It is an observation about culture: procreation is no longer the reason for marriage. We no longer need polygamy, for people can adopt children or go without having children, at least as long as others are still reproducing so the species can survive. I think the modern approach to marriage – that is, people marrying for attraction and compatibility and being committed to one person instead of more than one – is more consistent with Christ’s message than the traditions of older cultures. Jesus chose marriage to one bride as a metaphor for his return. Jesus preached against trying to serve more than one master, also a lesson Solomon taught in Proverbs about polygamy. Jesus’ salvation is a gift accepted by individual choice, and modern marriage is by mutual choice rather than being arranged or one-sided.

These were the main arguments I found most convincing as a Biblical defense for same-sex marriage. Once I was able to support same-sex marriage, and more importantly, people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, at the political, relational, and spiritual level, I couldn’t keep silent about it. I prepared with careful prayer, earnest study, focused discussion, and engaging with people who disagreed with me.

Keeping this information to myself and my inner circle wasn’t enough.

I will end this series with a video addressing questions and comments, so please leave your thoughts here on my blog, or on Twitter (@cynthiajeub) or Facebook (Insights on Epic Living).

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

  • Anonymous

    Wow.

    I no longer feel awful about myself.

    Thanks, Cynthia.

  • Christi Wells

    I could see your argument if I could see that you were interpreting the Biblical passages as they were intended to be interpreted. I won’t worry about the Old Testament ones – we can assume, for the sake of this argument, that, as someone posted on your Facebook link to the next article, Peter’s vision might apply to that, but it would not apply to anything mentioned in the New Testament.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which you brushed off by saying that it refers only to homosexuality in the context of pagan idolatry, actually includes it not as a description of pagan idolatry, but only in a list that also happens to include idolatry, along with several other unrelated sins:

    “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do
    not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male
    prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.Some of you were like this; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    It also includes sexually immoral people in the same list (before idolaters), as well as thieves, greedy people, drunkards, etc.

    I do believe that this passage has an implication on how we as the body of Christ should treat gay people. We don’t have protests in the streets about people being greedy or even thieves, and most Christians would agree that we shouldn’t be “drunkophobes” (granted, those aren’t exactly hot-button political issues, either). We are to welcome people into the church and show them love no matter what they have done or are doing. Homosexuality is included among a list of sins, which implies that it is considered a sin, but not singled out as a “worse sin” than any of the others.

    Also when people do commit their lives to Christ, He deals with the sins in their lives in different ways. Some people experience almost immediate freedom from sins they have struggled with for years, while others continue to struggle with the same temptations and habits for years and perhaps for the rest of their lives. There are cases of people who have come away from homosexuality and developed satisfying straight relationships after their conversion. These cases are either rare or underrepresented (I’m not sure which), but they do exist. I am thinking of two examples from my personal experience – one a speaker I heard who spoke frankly about his journey from a lifestyle of open homosexuality to a fulfilling straight marriage, and the other was a friend of mine who was in the “experienced lesbian attraction and chose to remain celibate because of her beliefs” group, but who is now happily in a relationship with a man. These cases don’t specifically prove that gay relationships are a sin, but they do contradict the argument that prayer doesn’t change peoples’ attraction. In fact, the above Bible passage says that some of the people to whom the book was written once were involved in the sins on the list and brought out of those sins, which would imply that some of them may have been gay in the past. Sometimes prayer does change people’s sexual orientation. Then again, sometimes it doesn’t. Or sometimes it takes years. But it doesn’t *always* break people’s addictions or temptations for greed or lying or other sins either. God brings sanctification in different ways and at different times for different people.

    Therefore, I believe that it is possible for a person to be a Christian and also experience same-sex attraction. Because it’s included in the same list as sexual immorality, adultery, thievery, greed, and other sins, I conclude that I must interpret it in the same way. If a person’s life is characterized by those sins, these verses are implying that that person is not at that point a believer. However, a person who is a believer may still be tempted and/or commit sin in those ways, in which case, 1 John 1:9 provides a comforting promise, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

  • Truth Seeker

    Response to How I Came to Support Same-Sex Marriage Part 4: “Do not make a habit of reading the Bible unless you want to make a habit of changing your character.”

    Let me start out with a few words from Ron, a side B Christian:

    “Jesus answered: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female (cf. Genesis 1:27), and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ (cf. Genesis 2:24)? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    Why would Jesus be so strict about marriage? I believe the Apostle Paul this when he refers to the two becoming one flesh, and then observes: “This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:32). Christ is deeply concerned with marriage because it is intended to be an image of His love for the world.

    The division of the human race into two distinct genders who both participate in child rearing is not a biological necessity. An atheist can regard it as an accident; but a Christian who believes that God intimately guided the creation must accept that the details of creation have significance, especially when Christ explicitly points to them as significant.”

    God made a male and a female. God seems to always use the metaphor of marriage to convey a relationship between His people and himself. However, what is the purpose of having two physically differing beings? Since we are completely the same in every way except for physically, as you claim, why did God make us physically different? Why didn’t he make everyone with both sex organs? Brains between males and females are also different, but why? A female by herself, or a male by himself indicates something missing. In the article that I cited earlier, it talks about how male and female minds compliment one another. Therefore, could the analogy of marriage be conveying that the the bride of the Church is not complete without the groom of God? Or that God would not be fulfilling His role as God without allowing the Church to His splendor? A male and a female. Each has their role, an equal role, to carry out. Is it not then indicating, in consistency with the analogy, that in a female seeking a female or a male seeking a male, one is denying their need for God or God’s gift to man?

    Sodom: “Please pass the salt.”

    As both of us know, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because they were sinful in the eyes of God. I think that many people make the mistake of believing that Sodom’s greatest sin was homosexuality. In addition, many seem to skip over “lesser” things that Sodom was accused of (which hit close to home for many people). The following are all the verses that I could find that talk about Sodom.

    Amos 4:11 (NKJV): In reference to the rebellion of Israel.

    Jeremiah 49:18: In context of overthrowing Edom for its corruption

    Jeremiah 23:14: In context of the corrupt prophets of Israel.

    2 Peter 2:6-7: In context of God’s mercy toward Lot.

    Isaiah 3:9 (NKJV): In context of judgment on Israel.

    Jeremiah 50:40 (KJV): In reference to the destruction of Babylon.

    Genesis 13:13 (NKJV): In context of when Lot moved near Sodom.

    Deuteronomy 29:23 (NIV): In context of what will happen to the Israelites if they abandon their covenant with God.

    All of these verses relate to God threatening a nation with destruction as great as Sodom’s. However, let us look at what Sodom was actually accused of. For this, I will refer to the same verse that you did in Ezekiel, plus the verse after it.

    Ezekiel 16:49-50 King James Version

    “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
    And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.”

    (In context of Jerusalem abandoning God and becoming a prostitute who denies Him)

    There are many abominations that are mentioned in the Old Testament. One of these is the abomination of homosexuality as mentioned in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Though you said that these verses were in reference to idol worship through sexual intercourse, I beg to differ. Did you read the rest of the chapters? It lists laws for the Israelites. In 20:13 specifically, it says “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” Notice here that the verse does not exclude laying with a women. If the verse was talking about idol worship, it would then indicate that sexual worship with a women is acceptable.

    Taking into consideration that the only specific example in the Bible of Sodom’s sin is in Genesis 19, it would logically follow that one should be able to identify what abomination the city committed from those verses. Because the only abomination that can be specified is that of a male with another male, it only makes sense that this is the abomination mentioned in Ezekiel. The following is another verse which implicates the immorality of homosexuality through the reference of “strange flesh”.

    Jude 1:7
    “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

    As for the reference to sodomy, it is actually used in the Bible to reference male prostitutes! It is not just some word that our modern culture uses!

    1 Kings 14:24 (KJV)

    “And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.”

    1 Kings 14:24 (NIV)

    “There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.”

    In context of the reign of king Rehoboam.

    Deuteronomy 23:17 (KJV)

    “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.”

    In context of commands from God.

    Now that we have established that homosexuality was one of the many sins of Sodom, let us look at the other sins. According to the Ezekiel verse, the other sins of Sodom were gluttony, pride, laziness, (starting to sound like America yet?) and neglect of the poor. Finally, the last two verses that I found were referring to doom on any city who refuses to hear the “good news.”

    Matthew 10:14-15: In context of Jesus speaking to His disciples.

    Luke 10:8-12 (NKJV): In context of Jesus speaking to the disciples.

    However, I know that you may dismiss this argument by saying that all of this refers to homosexual relationships that are uncommitted, I will address that in a moment.

    Stereotyping 101

    In Romans 1, Paul talks about a lot of very unpleasant things that happen to a person when they abandon God. I agree with you that some people may believe that homosexual attraction is a sin in itself. I also agree that some people may think that it is a sin brought on by reinventing God. However, I feel as if you are making a huge sweeping generalization in claiming this. I do not know what kind of churches that you have been to or what kind of Christians that you have met, but the ones around me believe that a sin is not a sin until one acts on it. For example, being an alcoholic is not a sin, until a person starts to drink their problems away. The tendency itself is not a sin (I have a very addictive personality), however, actions that follow that tendency (me being addicted to food or drugs for example) and that hurt the person or those around him or her, are sins.

    Being gay is not a choice, similar to how I did not choose to be born into a long line of alcoholics and to inherit their addictive tendencies. However, I have to pray against these tendencies. Once I get caught up in one, I can pray for self control. You see, not everyone who prays for healing will be healed. Like you said, God’s healing is not based on an individual’s amount of faith, but on what God knows to be best for that person. For some people, when they come to Christ, their addictions and sinful desires are completely eliminated. For others, they must struggle with those addictions and desires for the rest of their lives.

    You stated, “Have gay people redefined God? There are two gigantic reasons not to believe this. First, if every person who redefines God at some point is gay, there should be a lot more gay people in the Christian church.” Whoa! Hold up! You are making a major straw-man here. Yes, some Christians believe that those who act on their gay attractions have abandoned God, but that does not mean that everyone who has abandoned God is gay! People who have abandoned God could be doing one of the many other things that are mentioned in Romans 1. Therefore, you cannot say that there should be more gay people in the church, this only means that people have redefined God to what suits them and have fallen into some type (not all the same type) of immorality.

    Somebody to Love

    Wow. I am very impressed at the creativity and originality behind your argument of God giving Adam a companion. Very well thought out. However, could it be that Adam needed not so much sexual interaction as he did human interaction? The Bible commands us to fellowship with one another. Solitary confinement is something so destructive to the soul that correctional facilities use it as a major punishment. In addition, it was said that “it is not good for the man to be alone.” The verse did not say that it is not good for a man to be without sexual relations. Genesis 2:18b cites God saying “I will make a helper suitable for him.” God made a helper who was suitable for Adam. Many people believe that God makes one person as a lifelong companion for another. Many people also believe that God brings and takes friendships according to His perfect will. Could it then be that the companion most suitable for Adam was Eve and that the companions most suitable for gay people are their friends and family. Not in the intimate sense, of course, but as providing support and fellowship?

    “Is it weird that I’m scared of babies?”

    Yep, the above question comes from me. However, this discussion is not about my fear of small children. So, the purpose of marriage? The standards for marriage have always been the same in the Bible, however, the way that the church fulfills those standards has differed over the years. Yes, the culture’s reasons for marriage these days is attraction and compatibility, but should not the Christian’s reasons differ? Should not the Christian’s reason be that of the glorification of God? Yes, it is important for attraction and compatibility to be present, but should not the reason for a pair of individuals joining together be that of serving God more sufficiently through combined efforts? Hmm. I do not know where you were actually trying to go in your “Procreation as a Standard for Marriage” section. You presented your premises and your conclusion, but you did not present how you drew your conclusion from your premises. To say the least, I was a bit confused. So, I will close this section off with one last consideration.

    Romans 1: 20 states “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” This verse basically means that even without the Bible people are able to distinguish a creator behind nature. In addition, one can also argue that moral standards are written upon our hearts and can also be seen in nature. Without the Bible, what would nature say about homosexuality?