The Role of Religion
- Buddhism – One of the five precepts of the faith is that one should refrain from sexual misconduct that may cause harm to oneself or another. Sexual identity is not considered a matter of choice, but is due to the balance of conditions and karma that influence physical makeup.
- Hinduism - While sects within Hinduism vary considerably, traditionally homosexuality has not been a big issue. In Vedic literature there is much evidence of acceptance and inclusion, indeed even honoring, as a legitimate part of society for people of the "third" gender - those with mixed masculine and feminine qualities. Ultimately everyone’s true nature is divine and beyond a sex orientation. Hindus accept people as they are and help them become more spiritual.
- Islam – Homosexuality is seen by Muslim scholars to be a sinful and perverted deviation from the norm. All Islamic schools of thought and jurisprudence consider gay acts to be unlawful and sinful. Islam neither accepts nor promotes any form of homosexuality. Islam does not deny that homosexuality may have a biological origin, but a person must control the feelings through fasting and prayer.
- Judaism – In Orthodox congregations, homosexuality is not acceptable. In Conservative congregations, it is believed that if homosexuality is a choice, then it is a bad choice. If homosexuality is a given, then they would accept and not judge the person. Homosexuals cannot be ordained in either of these branches of Judaism. In Reform and Reconstructionist congregations, it is generally believed that whether homosexuality is a given or a choice, a person should be accepted as he or she is. LGBTQ persons can join congregations and be ordained in these branches of Judaism.
- Unitarian-Universalism - Unitarian-Universalism has been on record as supporting the rights of LGBTQ persons since 1970. They have advocated against sodomy laws and job and housing discrimination. They have advocated for ceremonies of union and same-gender marriage, the right to serve in the military, the right to lead congregations as ministers and religious professionals, and the right to be parents. They are now on record as supporting the rights of transgender people.
- Wicca/Witchcraft - Wicca is a religious branch of contemporary Paganism and is a nature based spiritual practice that fosters personal growth. Each local group or coven is autonomous and so acceptance of LGBTQ people may vary from group to group. Traditional Wicca emphasizes gender polarity and the majority of congregates are heterosexual. Many groups that practice feminist Witchcraft welcome LGBTQ people, others welcome only "women-born women," regardless of sexual orientation. There are also groups that are limited to gay men. Religious rituals that are open to the public are open to all who come to participate.
- Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—This denomination is still studying LGBTQ issues and discerning their position.
- Episcopal – Official policy is being debated. It is a congregation-by-congregation issue. Some dioceses allow gay priests, others do not.
- Latter-Day Saints – Homosexuality is a form of deviancy and is grounds for disqualification of missionaries. “Non-practicing” LGBTQ individuals can be members in the church and hold leadership positions.
- Lutheran (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) – LGBTQ ordained ministers are expected to abstain from sexual relations, as are heterosexual ministers outside of marriage. All persons are welcome to attend and join congregations. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod tends to hold more conservative views.
- Metropolitan Community Church—This denomination was formed in the 1970’s by LGBTQ people for LGBTQ people and their families, friends, and supporters.
- Presbyterians – Voted that no one who has sexual relations outside marriage can be ordained or hold leadership positions requiring ordination in the church, regardless of sexual orientation. All persons are welcome to attend and join congregations.
- Roman Catholic – According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, homosexual practice is considered an act of grave depravity contrary to the natural law, which is life-promoting. LGBTQ clergy and congregation members are called to chastity but are accepted as individuals. Select congregations are openly welcoming of LGBTQ persons.
- United Church of Christ – Each association and congregation decides its own policy. The national body recommended that associations and churches be “open and affirming,” allowing for LGBTQ ordinations by associations and commitment ceremonies by congregations. All persons are welcome to attend and join congregations.
- United Methodist – No “self-avowed, practicing” LGBTQ individual can be ordained, but the church is reviewing its policy of ordinations and commitment ceremonies. The church’s Social Principles call on congregations and individuals not to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and all persons are welcome to attend and join congregations.
McGraw, C. (1997). Christian and Gay. The Orange County Register. April 29. And The California State University Long Beach Interfaith Center.
Homosexuality & The Bible: A Closer Look
LGBTQ individuals face discrimination because of societal attitudes. Unfortunately, these attitudes are often taught by churches throughout the world. The Bible is often used as a weapon to condemn LGBTQ persons.
On the Defense
Here is a closer look at some of the verses of Scripture traditionally used to condemn homosexuality, and what many scholars believe are more accurate interpretations.
- Genesis 1 and 2. The creation story is frequently used to condemn homosexuality because it is not mentioned. This argument from silence is difficult to support. First, Eve was created not just for sexual reproduction, but companionship (Gen. 2:18). Also, the accounts of Creation and the early stories of Genesis are an explanation - not a prescription. Taking these stories as literal guidelines would lead to peculiar conclusions. For example, it would imply that brothers and sisters make suitable husbands and wives. (How else could the offspring of Adam and Eve multiply?)
- Genesis 19:1-28. To suggest that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality is to misinterpret Scripture. The Sodom story is really about inhospitality and attempted rape. Ezekiel 16:49-50 (NIV) 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 the needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.”
- Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. “Thou shalt not lie with a man as thou would like with a woman.” Levitical law is no longer practiced today. Consider other laws in the book of Leviticus, such as no eating of pork, lobster, shrimp, oysters, or rare meat; no intercourse during the menstrual period; no interbreeding of cattle; and a whole host of other laws, including the law to kill all people who commit adultery.
- Romans 1:26-27. “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men . . ." (Revised Standard version) This passage is saying you should not indulge in sexual behavior that is unnatural for you. It specifically says heterosexuals should not try to become homosexuals. It could equally be understood to say gays and lesbians should not try to become heterosexuals.
- I Corinthians 6:9-10 and I Timothy 1:5-10. Scholars disagree about the true meaning of the original Greek words “malakos” and “arsenokoitai,” which were translated to mean “homosexual” in these particular verses. Their real meaning more likely has something to do with prostitution, but some translators have arbitrarily inserted the word “homosexual” instead.
On the Offense
There are many biblical passages that suggest God not only loves gays, lesbians, and bisexuals as much as other human beings, but also embraces same-sex relationships.
- The Gospels. Nowhere in the gospel texts does Jesus ever discuss or even mention homosexuality. Jesus himself lived an alternative lifestyle. He did not marry, but instead associated closely with twelve men. John’s gospel refers no less than eight times to the “one whom Jesus loved”, also called the “beloved disciple.”
- The Book of Ruth. The story of Ruth and Naomi is a romantic story between women. “And Ruth said, ‘Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whether thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16). It is clear these women shared a lifelong, passionate, and committed relationship celebrated in scripture.
- The Book of I and II Samuel. The story of Jonathan and David occurred during a time when male warrior/lovers were common and considered noble. “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.” (II Samuel 1:26) The story contains references to love and loyalty marked by romance (I Samuel 18:1-5), secret meetings (I Samuel 20:1-23; 35-42), kissing and weeping (I Samuel 20:41), and the explicit warrior/lover covenant, which David keeps after Jonathan’s death (I Samuel 20:12-17; 42).
A prominently occurring theme throughout the Bible is that God sides with the oppressed and shows unconditional love. The gay, lesbian, and bisexual community can proudly say that “The Bible is our story too!”
- Adapted from Adams, et. al. (2000). Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. New York: Routledge. Jernigan, F. (1992).
- What does the Christian Bible Say? GLBSB Newsletter, 3-4. Homosexuality and the Bible. Good News or Bad News? (and) Our Story Too… Lesbians and Gay Men in the Bible. Retrieved online from http://www.ufmcc.com on Jan. 21, 2003. and the California State University, Long Beach Interfaith Center.