I am uncompromisingly pro-gay marriage and I am unapologetic in my affirmation of LGBT equality. This is one issue that I refuse to compromise on, and because of this, it has gotten me in trouble in the past. One church that it did get me in trouble with was my local Presbyterian Church USA congregation. The congregation and presbytery I was a part of were and are socially conservative, but I was a flaming liberal. Naturally, I found myself in some serious disagreement, and it didn’t help that I was a universalist, pacifist, and straight up commie-pinko. While the local Presbyterian community did not appear very welcoming, I am happy to see that the PCUSA has recently become fully LGBT-affirming at the national level.
Now that this has happened however, I am seeing the same old arguments from my conservative brethren that I have heard over and over again. It happens whenever any Christian denomination becomes welcoming and affirming, and I see the battle lines being drawn in the Mennonite Church as well. This is especially the case in Pittsburgh, because Pittsburgh Mennonite Church just became officially LGBT-affirming, and even lost their pastor because of it. I remember mentioning my uncompromising position on this issue to the local Mennonite conference minister as well, and I think I saw her cringe. If I remember correctly, she said that might be a problem at some point, but whatever.
The main argument that I see from conservatives on this issue is that gay marriage is somehow against the clear teaching of the Bible. Whenever we become open and affirming in our Christian faith, it is because we are ignoring the authority of the Bible. Guess what, I am not open and affirming in spite of the Bible, but because of it!
I know it is hard for many to believe, but all Christians sects take the Bible seriously. I don’t know of any Christian that doesn’t claim to be Bible-believing. The thing with the Bible is that it is complicated. It is a library rather than a single, coherent book, and it was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek rather than the King’s English. Also, there are entire academic and theological fields devoted to Biblical interpretation. The Bible is perhaps one of the most complicated works in all literature. It is not even limited to one genre. In one book of the Bible, we could have poetry, mythology, politics, theology, philosophy, and history all present at the same time. The Bible is one loaded book that cannot be taken lightly or superficially.
It is due to this complexity of the Bible that so many opinions exist. For example, a Calvinist, a Lutheran, and an Anabaptist are all going to read Paul very differently, and the importance they place on the ethical teachings of Jesus is also very different. As an ex-Calvinist turned Anabaptist, I obviously think one of those interpretations is more “Biblical” than the others, but that does not mean the others aren’t based in the Bible either. The real difference between these opinions are matters of interpretation. LGBT-affirming Christians do not disagree with the Bible; we disagree with the conservative interpretation of it.
If you are traditionalist, I know what you are thinking by this point. You are wondering how us on the other side can look at passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and not agree with you that same sex marriage is a sin. At this point, it is helpful to remember that we are not reading the Bible in its actual and original languages. In fact, we English-speaking Christians are not reading the Bible at all. Rather, we are reading a translation of the Bible. Even though translation is an art and a science, it is also an interpretation. Because ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are so far removed from modern English, there is always going to be a degree of error when it comes to translation. There is never going to be a “word-for-word” translation, and there will always be mistranslations or alternative (and equally valid) translations.
Not only do we disagree with marriage traditionalists about their interpretation of the Bible, but we also think that many of the passages used to condemn the LGBT communities are based in mistranslation. It is not that we are disagreeing with what the Bible says. Not at all. Instead, we are disagreeing with what a particular English translation of the Bible says.
I am an open and affirming Christian. I am convinced that the church must be on the side of LGBT equality (both civil and religious) or the church is in sin. I also believe that women should be leaders in the church with the same rights and opportunities as men. I also believe that the church should be a deeply abolitionist institution, one that should oppose slavery, wage-slavery, and racism wherever it may rouse its ugly head. I do not believe these things because I am a “liberal” who does not accept the authority of Scripture. I cannot scream “No!” loud enough to such an accusation. I believe these things because I believe in the Bible’s authority. I look at the original contexts and languages, alternative translations, scholars’ opinions, and (most importantly) the prophetic and apostolic teachings of reform, peace, and justice. When I look at these things, such as God calling the Apostle Paul to evangelize the Gentiles or Jesus hanging out with people perceived as sinners by the religious establishment, I cannot be anything but open and affirming.
Cross-posted from my personal blog.
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