2 Reasons Why We Need a New Conversation About Homosexuality
Has Christ’s Church handled the question of homosexuality with Christlike love? Are we sure we’ve understood what Scripture really says about same-sex relations?
Preston Sprinkle weaves together these two questions in a new book, appropriately titled People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue. With rhetorical deftness, pastoral sensitivity, and theological depth, he offers Christians from across the spectrum an honest, engaging, surprising look at the Zeitgeist’s most important existential topic.
“Studying the issue of homosexuality is not enough,” writes Sprinkle. “We need to listen to gay and lesbian people…Homosexuality is about people. At the same time I want to be ruthlessly biblical about how we formulate our thoughts about homosexuality.” (19, 21)
Defying simple, thin answers to complex, thick questions, Sprinkle creates space for a new conversation about homosexuality. In so creating, he holds both the reality of people’s stories and the revelation of God’s Word in the kind of tension often lacking in such discussions.
We need this new conversation. Because as Sprinkle reveals the people behind it aren’t just an issue to be poked and prodded; because Scripture itself is far more complex on the subject than we care to admit.
Homosexuality Is Not Just an ‘Issue’
Meet Eric Borges. Sprinkle introduces us to this gay man who was raised in a conservative Christian home.
As a child, Eric realized he was different, and he was bullied for it. As he revealed in his YouTube video, “My name wasn’t Eric, but faggot. I was stalked, spit upon, and ostracized.” When he came out to his parents in college, his mother performed an exorcism on him and said he was “disgusting, perverted, unnatural, and damed to hell.” One month after making this video encouraging other youth with similar stories, Eric killed himself.
There are millions more Erics. Sprinkle explains:
Most of my gay and lesbian friends have diverse stories, but they are held together by a common thread that looks a lot like Eric’s:
I was raised in the church, but everyone knew I was different.
I was made fun of, mocked, and made to feel like a monster.
When I came out, I was rejected, so I found another community where I was accepted. (14)
Sprinkle contends if we Christians truly want to solve this issue, we need to stop seeing it as an issue: “Homosexuality is not an issue to be solved; it’s about people who need to love and be loved.” (20)
People like Tim, Jeremy, Matt, David, Andrew, Laura, Julie, Caleb, and Maddie. When Sprinkle reads the passages in Scripture used to condemn same-sex relations, he says “I no longer see words on a page but people with a story—people whom I know and love.” (190)
The Bible Isn’t ‘Very’ Clear
Still, there are passages in the Bible that seem to clearly say homosexual behavior is wrong. Yet Sprinkle reveals there's “a massive debate about whether those passages apply to monogamous, consensual, loving gay relationships.” (17) That's the real question Christians are asking nowadays.
The question is whether two men or two women can date, fall in love, remain sexually pure before their wedding day, and commit to a life-long, consensual, Christ-centered, self-giving, monogamous union. (17)
Does the Bible clearly address and prohibit these types of relations? Consider these biblical arguments on both sides:
Those who affirm that God sanctions same-sex relationships offer three strong arguments (124–125):
- None of the Bible’s positions about heterosexual marriage originally addressed homosexual relations;
- Paul probably didn’t envision homosexual marriage when he wrote Romans 1;
- Though the Bible condemns exploitive, immoral homosexual erotic behavior, it doesn’t condemn consensual, monogamous, same-sex unions.
The nonaffirming position, which denies that God sanctions same-sex relationships, offers several arguments (122–123):
- The Bible only affirms heterosexual marriage;
- Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 state men should absolutely not have sex with other men;
- Every Jewish writer in the Greco-Roman period condemned same-sex relations, and the New Testament shares this ethic;
- Jesus didn’t mention same-sex relations because he would have shared his Jewish audiences views;
- Romans 1 echoes the Jewish belief that same-sex relations is “against nature.”
We’ll address these biblical arguments in greater detail in another post, but we can see there are strong arguments that defy clarity.
“Homosexuality is not about either truth or love,” writes Sprinkle, “it’s about both truth and love, since truth is loving and love is truthful. Our God is both.” (21)
I appreciate Sprinkle’s affirmation of the twin polarities of love and truth, of reality and revelation. Decades later, I believe we will still be using this book to affirm both the reality of people’s stories and the revelation of God’s Word in a way that’s truly good news for gay people.
Over the next few months we’ll engage Sprinkle’s work more deeply. Until then, do yourself, your community, your world a favor: digest People to Be Loved; let it stoke your love and inform your truth—for the glory of God and good of the LGBT community.
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