A rich young ruler once walked up to Jesus and said “Teacher, what must I do to follow you?” and Jesus replied “Sell all you have and give it all to the poor and then you will have treasures in heaven.” He could not do that, so Jesus turned him away and said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.
Later, someone walked up to Jesus and said “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment” and Jesus said “Love the Lord… and love your neighbor as yourself.” Nothing about marriage, sex, homosexuality or anything else, but simply treat other people the way you would like to be treated.
What I see from the teachings of Jesus is that the message isn’t about living by a code of abstract rules, but about helping other people, treating them as equals, and making them happy. Jesus said we are to be servants and not masters.
When we go to the Old Testament, however, we see Sodom and Gomorrah being judged for what seems like might be homosexuality, yet, many modern scholars of the Hebrew language believe that the entire message about homosexuality in that story is a mistranslation based on the biases of the 17th century translators. The Bible itself hints at this mistranslation in Ezekiel 16:49 when it says “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Once again, the sin we are talking about isn’t homosexuality, but not loving our neighbors as ourselves and loving money, sins we are all guilty of to the max.
The second major discussion of homosexuality is in Leviticus, where Moses lists rules for the Hebrew people while they are in the wilderness wanting to create their own great nation. It is important to note that, in order to create a great civilization, they needed to grow their population fast and, in their laws, they outlawed anything that slows down population growth, such as contraception and masturbation. Equally interesting are other laws within a few verses that talk about not eating shrimp or pork, not wearing clothes of two fabrics, not working on the Sabbath, and not touching the dead corpse of a pig (football, anyone?). Even though these verses are all within a page or two of the homosexuality verse, we ignore them because these are all things we are guilty of, and we focus on the part we are mostly not guilty of.
The other major discussions of homosexuality come from Paul and John in the New Testament, both of whom are writers who never claimed to write on behalf of God, but who we have, through tradition, decided were writing on behalf of God. I feel, however, that if we were to go back in a time machine and kidnap Paul, he would tell us “You have it all wrong, guys. These are not God’s words but my words that I wrote to my friend Timothy, to the church of Thesolonica, etc”. Where is the Biblical evidence that the writings of Paul are to be considered “the word of God”? This belief is not backed up in any foundational writings of the church and was not accepted until generations after the death of Paul, Peter, James, John, and everyone else. This being the case, why should we accept Paul’s words as God’s?
Furthermore, even the people who wrote the books of the New Testament did not agree with each other on things they wrote about. Not only do Paul, Peter, and James contradict each other entirely in their theologies, but they admit that they disagreed with each other. Paul in Galatians 2:11-14 talks about his disagreements between Peter and James (the brother of Jesus, according to the writings of the Roman historian Josephus). If Paul, Peter, and James all disagreed and none of them claimed to be writing on behalf of God, how can we take all of their writings as “the word of God” and not simply as the word of these three very sincere men? Is a tradition that began generations after their deaths really a good enough reason for us to base our lives upon their contradictory opinions?
Ultimately, I choose to try to base my life upon the teachings of Christ. I try to always ask “What would Jesus do?” and, according to my best systematic understand of the Bible (and I have spent many years studying it, both on my own, in church, and in Bible classes in college) I do not see gay marriage as the all out catastrophe many Americans make it out to be.
What I do see, with gay marriage, is a major blow against an American tradition of male masculinity and female femininity that goes back to the frontier, if not further. We live in a society where men are expected to be strong, brave, and masculine people who work with their hands, are brash, and desire women. On the flip side, women are supposed to be weak, submissive, shy, quiet, and desire men. Those are the traditions we have held in western society for quite some time.
Men, in Western society, get their value from being considered strong by other men. As children, our fathers instill this in us, and society beats it into us over and over again from the time we are born until the time we die. This being the case, the worst thing a man can be in our society is feminine. Yet, all men have a feminine side, naturally, that we are encouraged to hide. We worry that another man will find out that we are weak and sentimental inside, so we act tough to try to pretend we are the strong, macho men society wants us to be. Men are all like boys on a playground not wanting to be the “sissy” that the other boys make fun of. We are afraid that we will be pereived as weak and an authority will say something like “I will give you something to cry about”.
Yet, when homosexuality comes around, that challenges our traditional ideals of manhood and womanhood. By challenging these ideals, they challenge the worth and value of the men who gain value through them. For many strong American men, if we are not valued for our masculinity, we have nothing, therefore, we want to fight against anything that challenges our value. In other words, we fight against homosexuality with all that we have, not because we hate homosexuals, but because we worry that we will lose the self worth we have fought to hard to have.
Unfortunately, to fight against homosexuality is not nice. It is rude and discriminatory, so we need an excuse to do so. Luckily for us, the Bible has a few scattered verses in it about homosexuality. With great joy, we overlook all of those 5,000+ verses saying to love our neighbor, we overlook all of the 2,000+ verses saying to help the poor, we overlook the verses saying not to eat things we like and not to work on Saturday and all of that stuff. We overlook the verses we do not like and we grasp on to those few verses talking about homosexuality and we preach them with all of our might in hopes that we can validate our discrimination that we feel we must institute in order to protect us, as men, from our greatest fear, which is being like women.
Ultimately, that is what this is all about. If it were about the Bible, we would follow every verse and truly live every verse. But it isn’t about that. It is about us protecting ourselves from our fears, and hurting other people in the process to do it.