FaithLGBTTheology

“But the Bible Says…” is not a reason…

The conversation around LGBTQ inclusion has definitely developed rapidly in the past few years. The Reformation Project has gotten more recognition. As has The Gay Christian Network (soon to change its name) and hashtags like FaithfullyLGBT, we’re no longer in the closet. We’re quite visible. And what’s more, churches are beginning to engage in conversations surrounding sexuality and gender. More people are curious to know what “the other side” thinks. (And so many folks have this idea that if they have one gay friend, that it makes them an ally, or a good person at least, and excuse themselves from doing any other critical work.) And that’s all very exciting.

But I notice so many people get hung up on just one thing.

“But the Bible says…”

Yes, those pesky six verses in the Bible that talks about “homosexuality” (even though they really aren’t talking about homosexuality in the modern sense of the term). And I get it.

As someone who grew up in a Christian, Evangelical household, where we believed the Father, Son, and Holy Bible to be the Trinity, I totally understand why scripture is held in such high esteem and why it’s so hard to look at it from a different angle.

We have been taught that there is only one way to look at scripture, one way to understand scripture, and if you question it, it is a mark of unbelief. And we forget that we’ve been questioning things since the beginning of our faith tradition.

Nadia Boltz Webber had a brilliant observation in a talk she gave at the Wild Goose Festival this past year. She said that when Martin Luther, the father of the protestant reformation, nailed his 95 theses to the church door, it was not a matter of being more deeply theological than the Church at the time. It wasn’t an issue of being more spiritual or more in touch with God than the Church.

Martin Luther was doing something deeply pastoral.

He was looking at what Church teaching, practice, and principle was doing to the people right in front of them. He was seeing the hurt and damage it was causing, and he said, “Enough.”

A more modern example is the first Civil Rights Movement, when Martin Luther King Jr. did something similar. He was not being overly theological or spiritual. He saw what the teachings and laws of the state were doing to people, and the Church’s complicity in that, making it a matter of faith, and he organized a movement that was deeply pastoral. He saw what was right in front of him, and he cared for those right in front of him.

And let’s jump back to the very inception of our faith.

Jesus was just a man from a no-name town, with no rabbi under whose authority he taught. He was not being more deeply theological with the text in front of him. He saw what the teachings and practices of the day were doing to people right in front of him, and he started something that was deeply pastoral.

For example, in Luke 14, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath though it is against tradition and practice to work on the Sabbath. To which Jesus replied, “If one of your children or your ox falls into a ditch, would you not rush to get it out?” Of course, you would. Doesn’t matter what the practice or tradition says, if there is someone’s life or livelihood at stake, you should take action to help. Jesus is begging us to see what is right in front of us. 

Jesus is begging us to see what is right in front of us. Click To Tweet

What is right in front of you?

I think that’s a big question we need to start asking, because too much of us have been taught to not trust what we see, not to trust that inner voice.

When it comes to LGBTQ inclusion in the church, and LGBTQ justice, and justice of all kinds, what is right in front of you? 

People who are suffering, dying, longing to just have enough, to just have a seat at the table, to feel like they belong. Just like when MLK marched on Washington, just like when Martin Luther nailed some paper to the Church doors, just like when Jesus showed up and shared the brilliance that is, “You’ve heard it said, but I tell you…”

This is my point in all this:

The Bible is important, yes. But a holy text cannot be used as an excuse to stand idle, be complicit, or willfully harm or exclude people from the family of God. We cannot keep saying, “But the Bible says…” we all know by now that it’s much more complicated than that.

People are dying. 

LGBTQ folks are suffering because of a society and a Church that tells them that God cannot love them because of who they were created to be. And you can look at the stats and see that this is true.

This conversation around sexuality and gender has to move beyond mere Biblical interpretation and start dealing with the issue of pastoring the people right in front of us, caring for the folks who need love, kindness, community, and resources. 

I frankly don’t care if people think I am right or wrong, because if I have to literally stand before God at the end of time and give an account for my life, I’d like that to include that I loved and cared for those who were in front of me, not that I couldn’t because “the Bible said…”

The field is ripe for the harvest, but the workers are few. It’s time we get out in those fields, people. It’s time we see what is right in front of us and do the right thing.

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  • Bill White

    In the Good Samaritan story, the priest who passed by the ‘half-dead’ man was simply following the law. Lev 21:11 was clear that priests were supposed to go nowhere near the dead because it could make you unclean, and for all the priest could tell, that guy was dead. Jesus seems to think there’s a better way… to remember to heart of the law, which is love, and to go over and find out if the guy is okay, not caring if it would make you ‘unclean’. Jesus was a big fan of caring for the people right in front of you.