Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Bible and Sexuality

It is clear to me that the current ongoing debate over homosexuality is more about the authority of the Bible than sexual orientation.  Those who still feel strongly that homosexuality is sinful point to Paul and the Old Testament scriptures.  To those who feel this way I have a question.  If you believe this way simply because it is written in these scriptures, do you feel the same way with regards to all other teachings?  There are not many United Methodists who believe women should be silent in church.  Why don't we hear anyone railing against gluttony, yet the Old Testament warns against it.

From my perspective this debate about whether UM pastors can officiate gay weddings or if gay people can marry needs to be about how we view scripture.  Furthermore, I observe that most Christians already give more authority to certain parts of scripture than others.  I certainly do.  I give more weight to the words and actions of Jesus than obscure admonitions in Leviticus.  For me the authority of scripture does not rest in the words themselves.  They are just words on a page.  But they have power to shape and transform my life when I insert myself into the scripture, when I see myself in the biblical story.  The power comes when I bring my humbled spirit to the narrative that God speaks to me and changes me!

We United Methodists are guided not only by scripture, but by tradition, reason, and experience.  For me this principle really does help me discern truth in our complex world today.  Obedience to scripture needs to be checked and balanced by tradition, reason, and experience.

So my two cents is that this debate needs to be re-framed because it is not about sexuality, but about the authority of the Bible.

Grace and peace,
Dave

11 comments:

Unknown said...
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Kenneth Brewster said...

1. The reference to Leviticus is a poor one, since Paul teaches in Galatians that Christians are not to follow the law of Moses. 2. Yes, all Christians do give greater weight to some scriptures than to others. Yet most do it for the wrong reasons. We must be self-critical about this. 3. The thing that changed my mind on homosexuality was becoming convinced that it is biological in source, not primarily a choice. When this is nailed down, the church will change.

Peter said...

Thanks, Dave!

Kenneth Brewster said...

Yes, I agree. Thank you!

fancyn said...

@Ken B...#3 is well said. Would that the rest of humanity were as informed.

Unknown said...
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dave said...

As a former science teacher I have been persuaded by research and studies also. In my conversion on this issue this was a coming together of science, biblical criticism, and a spiritually deepening understanding of the grace of God.

"Napartaq" said...

Coincidentally (?) this article comes as a UMC pastor is being disciplined for officiating at his (gay) son's wedding. I wouldn't be surprised that there are those in leadership positions in the Alaska UMConference who hold views on homosexuality that would contravene the Book of Discipline. And is this article hinting that the theological argument for the official UMC position on homosexuality needs to be revisited? How would this pastor be treated in the Alaska Methodist Conference? And how does one "change" the Book of Discipline? By open defiance? defection?

Susie said...

I think this blog post made some good points, and I wish it went further in dissecting the subject. Too many people have dug in their heels with the thought that anything other than being a heterosexual is abnormal, immoral and sinful. It just boggles the mind to wonder about how anyone would choose their orientation, weigh out the pros and cons of the variations that one could choose, and then make a choice of what to be. I challenge any of the people who are discriminating against LGBT people to describe to the rest of us how and when they made the choice to be heterosexual; what age were they, and how did they decide? That is just ridiculous! God made us each just the way He wanted us to be, some heterosexual, some homosexual, some transgendered, some bisexual. I don't presume to know more than God does about why HE made so many differences in us. I think the UMC is getting a lot of publicity about its current activities with trials, and not enough about UMCOR and the many ways that so many of us work to be the hands and feet of Christ here on earth. The UMC is practically marketing itself in the news lately as some type of heterosexual-supremacy group, and I don't agree with or like it one bit.

Eric Treider said...

Dave, I agree with your assessment, especially the part about how people sort of cherry-pick the parts of Leviticus they choose to be outraged about. The executive summary of Christ's teachings is love God and love one another. Condemning people for being the people God made them to be is neither loving to God or to these people. Also, I think people often equate homosexuality with promiscuity and that's a mistake. There are plenty of promiscuous heterosexual people who are much more worthy of our concern that committed same-sex couples.

Kenneth Brewster said...

I thought I had made it clear I believe homosexuality is biological in source, not a choice. The problem, however, is that science has not yet determined a mechanism. This is what I meant by "nailed down". Until then, like it or not, we will not convince most conservatives, and we will never develop anything approaching a consensus.
And BTW, the problem with Leviticus is not cherry-picking. It is a classical distinction between the "moral law" vs. the "ceremonial law", going back to Martin Luther.
But do I appreciate the discussion!