by Susan Russell
June is Gay Pride Month. It is a time for parades and for festivals, for rainbow flags and for dance tents. It is a time to recognize the amazing progress that has been made on LGBT equality as we recommit ourselves to continuing the struggle until liberty and justice for all really means “all.” Everywhere.
And this year it is not only about gearing up for Pride; it is about counting down to “Decision Day.” It is about awaiting the Supreme Court rulings on the Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee marriage cases — rulings due any day – that could finally make marriage equality a reality in all fifty states.
So here’s the 2015 version of my Top Ten FAQs about God, Jesus, the Bible and LGBT People — offered in hope that together we truly can be the change we want to see in the world and offered in rebuttal to the rabid rhetoric of the anti-gay religious right that infuses our public discourse and infects our political process. Those who use God, Jesus and the Bible as weapons of mass discrimination do not speak for me. And they do not speak for All Saints Church.
1. Is being gay a sin?
No. Sins are acts that separate us from God and keep us from loving our neighbors as ourselves. Being gay is not a sin. Bullying is a sin. Being hateful to other people is a sin. Putting yourself in the place of God to judge others is a sin. Being gay is not.
2. What did Jesus say about gay people?
Jesus said the same thing about gay people that he said about all people: God loves you beyond your wildest imagining and calls you to walk in love with God and with each other. He also said a whole lot about welcoming the stranger, embracing the outcast, ministering to the marginalized and loving – not judging – your neighbor.
3. Does the Bible really condemn homosexuality?
The short answer is no, it does not. The handful of passages in the Old and New Testaments that talk about God condemning specific sexual acts have nothing whatsoever to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with contexts such as cultic prostitution or gang rape. To put it another way, using the Bible as a handbook on human sexuality makes as much sense in the 21st century as using it as a handbook on astronomy did in the 16th. The church got it wrong when it misused the Bible to condemn Galileo and it gets it wrong when it misuses the Bible to condemn LGBT people.
4. How do I respond when people say “God hates f–s”?
First of all, God’s nature is to love, not to hate. We believe that what God cares about is not our sexual orientation but our theological orientation — and that the question that matters is not “who do you love?” but “do you love?” Recognizing that homophobia causes some folks to project onto God their own fears, prejudices and biases against LGBT people, sometimes the best response is simply no response. It can be a challenge, but getting triggered by hate-mongers prevents us from being the change we want to see.
5. What do I tell people when they say being gay is a sin and a choice?
Tell them that Jesus said absolutely nothing about being gay, but he said a lot of things about judging other people. Then tell them that while there is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation, there is consensus that sexuality is a continuum. So the “choice” is not to be gay, straight or somewhere in between; the “choice” is to build our own healthy relationships — and give other people the grace to build theirs.
6. How about transgender people? Where do they fit in?
The same place all God’s beloved children fit in: smack dab in the center of God’s care, love and desire for health and wholeness for every single human being.
7. How do I respond when politicians condemn my sexuality, citing their belief in the Bible?
Remind them that the First Amendment protects them in believing whatever they want to about what God does or does not bless, but it also prohibits them from using those beliefs to decide who the Constitution protects or doesn’t protect. Tell them to stop confusing their theology with our democracy. And then campaign for and donate to their opponent in the next election cycle.
8. What about those who say they need “religious freedom laws” to protect their right to discriminate against LGBT people because of their religion?
They are wrong. The Constitution already protects their the right to exercise their religion. It does not protect their right to impose their religion. Just as using the Bible to justify racial segregation was wrong in 1965 using it to justify LGBT discrimination is wrong in 2015.
9. So is your church in favor of marriage equality?
Yes. All Saints has been blessing same-sex unions since 1992 and equally marrying both same and opposite sex couples since Prop 8 was repealed. In 2012 the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution entitled “End Discrimination Against Same-Sex Marriages” urging the repeal the of DOMA and the extension of federal benefits to couples in a same-sex marriage. And hundreds of Episcopalians – including the President of our House of Deputies – signed the Faith Leaders Amicus Brief in support of marriage equality in the cases currently pending in the Supreme Court.
10. Should I try to “pray away the gay”?
No. If you need to pray away something, pray away homophobia. Homosexuality doesn’t need healing. Homophobia does.
[This piece was previously published in the Huffington Post where it engendered quite a flurry of comments and conversation.]