The best thing I have ever read on the topic of the Bible and homosexuality is Richard Hays’s essay, “Awaiting the Redemption of Our Bodies,” published in Sojourners almost thirty years ago. (This article became part of Hays’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament. Hays is one of the most important New Testament scholars working today.)
This piece is required reading for anyone who deals with progressive Christian arguments in favor of the potential “holiness” of same-sex marriage, etc. Hays rightly concludes that there is no way to reconcile biblical Christianity with affirming homosexual practice.
In the essay, Hays describes his conversations with a gay Christian friend, dying of aids. The friend, who had fought his same sex attraction for most of his adult life, said “the gay subculture encouraged homosexual believers to ‘draw their identity from their sexuality’ and thus to shift the ground of their identity subtly and idolatrously away from God.”
It’s this point that I want to focus on; the core of people’s identity before God is not supposed to be their sexuality. The core of a person’s identity before God AND IN THE EYES OF GOD’S PEOPLE is not supposed to be whether they are sexually attracted to the same gender or the opposite. (Or whether they think there are two genders or twenty.)
The core of a person’s identity is supposed to be that they are individuals, loved by God, created in God’s image, for whom Jesus died, and in whom his Holy Spirit dwells. Making anything else the core of your identity, or imposing upon anyone else an identity built upon another basis, is idolatry.
Christian pro-homosexuality arguments make this mistake by treating sexual attraction as a monolithic thing, unchanging and unchangeable except by individual personal agency. “You are GAY! Be proud of who you are! Be proud of who you love! Build your identity on what you are!”
This is idolatry, making something other than Jesus the center of your identity.
And you can’t graft Jesus onto an idol-centered religion, any more than you can reconcile biblical Christianity with homosexual practice.
But here’s a twist: traditional Christian arguments AGAINST homosexuality make the same mistake. When we treat homosexuality with fear and loathing, when we dehumanize LGBTQ people, when we treat same-sex attraction as the unforgivable sin …
(Since when does temptation = sin? I don’t read that in my Bible. Yet we shame people, call them perverts and worse, and push them out of the church over the temptations that they face.)
When we do these things, what are we doing? We are imposing on them an identity that does NOT see them as individuals, loved by God, created in God’s image, for whom Jesus died, and in whom his Holy Spirit dwells.
We’re making HETEROSEXUALITY an idol, rather than simply acknowledging it as the biblical norm. And we’re treating non-heterosexuals like their temptations are the true core of their identity.
We’re abusing and turning away from Jesus people who deeply need our love, friendship, prayers, acceptance, understanding, encouragement, …