[Contents] [About the Participants] [Opening Statement by Steven Kindle] [Opening Statement by John Rankin][Dialog] [Questions from the Audience] [Closing Statements]
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Is Homosexuality a Gift of God?
 
Opening Statement by Steven Kindle

Good evening. I am here tonight, admittedly, to support a minority position in the church. It is, however, a growing, vital and seriously grounded point of view. It is a view held by many of the most respected academics, thousands of clergy, and hundreds of thousands of American Christians. So, it may be a minority position, but due to the results of serious research recently given to it, homosexuality as a gift of God is becoming a respected position in the church. No longer can it be said that the church speaks with one voice on this matter, and no longer can the Christian Right claim to be that one voice.

But isn't this always the way change happens in the Church? Anti-slavery, anti-segregation, and women's suffrage were all minority points of view that challenged views long held by Christians. Pro-slavery advocates, segregation advocates and anti-women's suffrage advocates all sincerely believed that the Bible supported their position, even as many well-meaning Christians believe the Bible supports anti-homosexual positions. In time, as enough attention was brought to bear on these issues, we abandoned them as unbiblical and unchristian. No one today, except the most extreme, would champion these causes.

This is what is happening in our time with issues regarding homosexuality. So, I may be in the minority now, but history suggests that this oppression will fade away, as did the others. And frankly I am very eager to help it on its way.

Part of the process of transition from one point of view to its opposite could involve the "which came first" conundrum of the "chicken or the egg". Were people becoming convinced that the Bible was actually anti-slavery, or anti-segregation, and then went about remedying the situation, or did the abuses associated with slavery and segregation become so apparent that the Bible began to speak differently to them? I believe we are dealing with both aspects operating at the same time.

Uncle Tom's Cabin awoke the nation to the cruelties of slavery. The water hosing and beatings of non-violent black marchers in Selma, Alabama, viewed on TVs across America, jump started the Civil Rights Movement. The brutal torture and slaying of Matthew Shepard has brought a new consciousness to us regarding non-heterosexuals. But with all these the emotional side of our being needs reinforcement by our intellectual side. My prayer, tonight, is that I may be able to assist you to see why so very many of us have been able to make this transition from homophobia to inclusiveness.

So, now, to the question of the evening: Is homosexuality a gift of God? I say yes, it most certainly is! I say that as a straight, married father. I say that as one who has no gay children, no gay agenda, no reason other than I truly believe that the gospel of Christ compels me to take this position.

I mean to say yes to this question on a variety of levels. I mean to say that non-heterosexuality is a gift of God in the same way that heterosexuality is a gift of God. The primary gift is sexuality; the secondary gift is the form it takes.

Rev. Rankin is correct in insisting that all good theology comes from the book of Genesis. In that spirit, I wish to call upon that great witness in the defense of non-heterosexuals. What you will find there, if you can remove your 21st century, Evangelical/Fundamental lenses, may surprise you.

But before we move directly to the text, a little preliminary work is in order. It needs to be said that there is no such thing as the absolutely true reading of any text. All interpretations are biased in one way or another. If biblical interpretation was straightforward, there would be little or no disagreement about conclusions. The nastiest fights among Christians come from those who insist on their interpretation over all others. This is born of the notion that the Bible is literal, even self-evident truth. One with that mind set says, "I understand the literal truth to be such and such; it is self evident. Therefore, my understanding is equal to scripture, and if you disagree with me, you disagree with Scripture, itself. So, to hell with you and your heresy."

If the Postmodern study of the Bible has taught us anything, it is that we all come to the Bible wearing a specific interpretive lens through which we understand what we read. I, as an American male of a certain age and experience, approach the Bible with certain preformed ideas about what words and concepts mean that I read. A woman comes to the Bible with different understandings. An African or Asian would have another equally different way of reading the Bible. This list could be expanded indefinitely.

Another factor, just as important, is that we are each finite individuals, incapable of holding the infinite, absolute truth of anything. Therefore, to represent our interpretation of any biblical passage as the absolute truth is saying the impossible. Rev. Rankin insists on the impossible when he insists that "The Bible must be understood on its own terms." Well, my friends, wars have been fought over disagreements over what the Bible means on its own terms. Let us not, either or any of us, presume we have the unvarnished truth to share with you tonight.

However, we do have the right to insist on consistency. With this in mind, let us now turn to the Book of Genesis.

The first thing that strikes me about Genesis is that the picture of God's nature is very different from what I, as a young Lutheran, was taught to believe. That God can be said to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent may be true, but having said that, one does not necessarily understand how it works out in reality. One of the longstanding arguments in theology relates to this: Does God know everything that will happen before it happens? (As with the Calvinists.) Or, does God limit God's omniscience to allow unhampered free will? (As with the Arminians.)

Interestingly, Genesis sides with the latter. On at least three occasions in the Torah God is found to NOT know the consequences of God's actions. The first is found in Genesis 6:5: "The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, 'I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created -- people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.'"

I am sorry said the LORD that I made them. The LORD was sorry. So sorry, in fact that God went about UNDOING the creation of humans. God did this, not because God planned it that way, but because God regretted the outcome of this act. The LORD saw, that is to say, observed that which God had not intended, and went about to reverse the unwanted outcome.

The second occasion is in Genesis chapter 22, with the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. In 22:7ff, we read: "Isaac said to his father Abraham, 'Father!' And he said, 'Here I am, my son.' He said, 'The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?' Abraham said, 'God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.' So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.'"

"...for now I know...". Were it not for this reality, this truly not knowing if Abraham were indeed the fit subject for the promised covenant, this whole episode is a sham and a merciless torturing of Abraham. But God did not know, and needed to find out.

The third incident is in Exodus, chapter 32, following the incident of the golden calf, which turns out to be the proverbial last straw demolishing God's patience with Israel. Beginning at verse 7: "The LORD said to Moses, I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.' But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, 'O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, "It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?" Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, "I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever."' And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people."

The LORD changed his mind. God was willing to destroy all of Israel, but for Moses, and begin again with him. Were it not for Moses' intercession, this story would have had an entirely different outcome. That's taking this story seriously. I think that this is taking it and the other examples of God changing God's mind on their own terms. Think about this: If this were not the case, then prayer is useless. What Moses did we call intercessory prayer. Don't we believe that prayer works because God changes outcomes that would have gone otherwise had we not prayed?

I am committed to the notion that what we are living through in our lives is not some movie that God is watching with the heavenly court that never changes no matter how many times it's replayed. God is indeed watching and wishing to partner with us, and often does, as we live our lives out together, in an open-ended future. That's Genesis!

We are now ready to turn to the creation stories in Genesis to answer the question, "Is homosexuality a gift of God?"

We will see that God's first intention for the human being, ha adam (the man or earthling) was not heterosexuality or even sexuality, for ha adam was created as a "stand alone" being. Don't be confused by chapter 1 where in verse 27 we read: "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." This is, of course, true. However, it is a summary statement that concludes the events of chapter 2, a much earlier story of creation than chapter 1. So we need to read chapter 2 before the summary of chapter 1 makes sense.

To save time, I will not read the entire chapter; you are surely familiar enough with it. The story begins with God creating ha adam as someone who would be placed in charge of the garden, to care for and tend it with God as partner. For reasons not disclosed, God deems that it is not good for the man to be alone, and goes about making a suitable helper for ha adam.

What happens next is unexpected and likely a surprise to some of you: the first thing God does to provide a suitable helper for the man is to create animals and bring them to the man for his possible approval. In chapter 2 verse 20 it says: "The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner." We must take this seriously as an authentic search for a partner.

Consistent with what we have seen in God's actions, God's first experiment to find a suitable helper for the man ended unsuccessfully. It is only after the man turns down every creature presented to him that God created the woman. Verse 23 is very telling here: "Then the man said, 'This at last [after all the foregoing effort] is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.'"

Among the many details of this story, I find three appropriate for our discussion:

1. God's first intention was to limit humanity to ha adam, "the man". The man's loneliness precluded this.

2. God's first choice for a companion to the lonely man was not a woman, it was a creature.

3. No matter what the man's choice was, it was the man's choice. God did not force the woman on the man; the man told God, this is the one I want.

God trusted the man to make the appropriate choice. The decision was always the man's. God's role here is facilitator to end the loneliness of ha adam, not the dictator of how that loneliness is overcome.

There is no way that a doctrine of the priority of heterosexuality can be adduced from this story. If anything, the woman, and sex, are afterthoughts, contingencies required of the changing situation. This is consistent with what we have seen in the other texts regarding the experimental nature of God with humanity. Perhaps better put, God is willing to adapt to realities that present themselves owing to the nature of free will and its, often, unintended consequences.

From these realities, I ask these questions:

1. Since heterosexuality is a contingency, why cannot non-heterosexuals be considered a contingency?

2. Since God allowed the man to make his own choice, why is it not consistent for today's homosexual to make his or her own choice?

3. Since overcoming loneliness is the objective, and since a non-heterosexual's loneliness cannot be overcome in a heterosexual relationship, is it not proper for a non-heterosexual to find a companion suitable for him or her?

Let's be clear about what we are asking of Christian non-heterosexuals. Richard B. Hays, in his "The Moral Vision of the New Testament," writes, "Heterosexual persons are also called to abstinence from sex unless they marry (1 Cor. 7:8-9). The only difference, admittedly a salient one in the case of homosexually oriented persons, is that they do not have the option of homosexual 'marriage'. So where does that leave them? It leaves them in precisely the same situation as the heterosexual who would like to marry but cannot find an appropriate partner (and there are many such): summoned to a difficult, costly obedience, while 'groaning' for the 'redemption of our bodies' (Rom. 8:23). Anyone who does not recognize this as a description of authentic Christian existence has never struggled seriously with the imperatives of the gospel, which challenge and frustrate our 'natural' impulses in countless ways."

So what Hays is saying is the non-heterosexual who can not marry is in the position of the heterosexual who can and doesn't. The flaw in Hays' reasoning is clear: the heterosexual has hope; the non-heterosexual has no hope. The heterosexual's loneliness is capable of being overcome, while the church is unwilling to allow the same for non-heterosexuals. This is far from being in a similar situation. Our non-heterosexual brothers and sisters are forever denied the way out of what God called the first lo tov, "not good" reality of God's creation: loneliness.

In effect, we are not asking non-heterosexuals to deny themselves sex. We are asking them to deny themselves a loving, fulfilling, loneliness-overcoming relationship. We are asking them to deny their humanity, to commit suicide of their souls. This I find to be profoundly unchristian and unworthy of a compassionate Lord.

So we need to listen carefully to the stories of creation in Genesis. Since heterosexuality is merely a contingency of creation, what can be adduced from Genesis is heterosexuality, expressed as the procreative ability, is the norm, but certainly not the sole sexuality. Yes, the couple is now told to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it"; but reproductive (heterosexual) capability has never been a mandatory criterion for being a full human being who bears the image of God.

This is how I believe Genesis must be taken on its own terms. I anticipate some interesting questions from Rev. Rankin and from you, and look forward to engaging in our common search for truth based on our common submission to the Word of God.

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  [Contents] [About the Participants] [Opening Statement by Steven Kindle] [Opening Statement by John Rankin][Dialog] [Questions from the Audience] [Closing Statements]
[Return to Mars Hill Forum]