He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” — Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV
Pride Month is here, and with it have come more arguments about what “the Bible says.” Some people are arguing that the Bible is “clear” that any sexual orientation or gender identity that deviates from heterosexual, cisgender classification is to be considered sinful, even damnable. Others appeal to Scriptures like Galatians 3:28, which seem to relax such distinctions insisting that in Christ, “there is no longer male and female.” Everyone seems to be hiding behind the text, declaring that it “says what it says.”
Well I have had it.
Yes, the words of Scripture do promote particular views and concepts, but what you do with those is your choice. I get tired of hearing the false sympathy of conservative Christians who imply they *might* believe differently if only the Bible said something else. I am equally bored by liberal attempts to carve an affirmed, homosexual relationship out of Scripture, usually with David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18.
All. Of. It.
Such views are attempts to justify pre-existing beliefs by claiming Scripture clearly and objectively supports what the reader thinks. The decision has already been made, usually by way of cultural or familial influences, and we just need the evidence to make it “legit.” This sickening display of confirmation bias runs rampant in Christian circles of all persuasions, and it all amounts to avoiding personal responsibility.
The truth is that the Bible is a very old collection of documents from other countries and cultures. Yes, I believe the authors were inspired by their experience of the Divine, but the language, imagery, and concepts clearly place those authors in a very specific place and time. Therefore, the biblical texts need to be interpreted.
This is an uncomfortable truth, because interpretation is up to the reader and the reader alone. You choose what to do with what you read in this ancient text, and how you choose to use it will be something you are held accountable for. This isn’t because God is really worried about the Bible, but because our interpretations of it influence our treatment of those who are made in God’s very image and likeness!
We have been sold an insidious lie that to take the Bible seriously means to take it “literally” or at surface level, guided only by the traditional voices of Christian faith. I submit that taking the Bible seriously means taking into account all that went into writing the thing. We must explore the history, cultures, and religious views behind the text, not to “shoot holes” in it, but to actually help it make a lick of sense!
When we do this, there are perfectly valid arguments for maintaining traditional views of sexuality and gender based on long-standing Christian tradition… and for relaxing those distinctions in light of the fact that homosexuals have by and large been proven not to automatically be idolatrous, violent, or exploitative people. What’s left is for everyone to choose an interpretation, and this is where I really want to urge some caution. How you decide to read Scripture will have an impact on other people.
Am I unbiased? NO. But I own it. I also try to base my choice of interpretation on the Scripture quote at the beginning of this article. I ask myself if my interpretation is going to help me better love my neighbor (and thereby God), or not; Will it make me a more generous, peaceful, loving person or not? It is at this point that I want to encourage the same thoughtfulness in all believers before we go spouting off our usual rhetoric regarding our LGBTQ+ people.
If your biblical interpretation has you thinking it’s okay to disown or abuse a gay or transgender child, reconsider.
If your biblical interpretation enables you to disregard the feelings, opinions, and experiences of others because they challenge yours, reconsider.
If your biblical interpretation allows you to act toward others in ways you would never accept for yourself, reconsider.
If your biblical interpretation feels safe, comfortable, and doesn’t challenge you, reconsider.
Whatever your interpretation is, be honest about it. The Bible didn’t grab you by the collar and demand you think the way you do. It’s your choice. It’s my prayer that we all make the right one.
Peace be with you!