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I don't want to spark a debate, but I'm curious how Christians in support of gay marriage interpret seemingly anti-gay Bible verses? See the following:

Leviticus 20:13

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people-none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Timothy 1:8-10

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine ...

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There's also an argument from "my kingdom is not part of this world", where "this world" means the political system, that Christians shouldn't care about the secular, legal definition of marriage one way or the other. But I suspect this question is specifically about same-sex marriage within the Church, so that's a different issue. –  TRiG Sep 23 '13 at 18:56
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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I would first like to thank you for asking in a polite and constructive way! The following answer is based on my experience as a member of a congregation which is accepting of QUILTBAG people - a category which includes the minister - and their loving relationships; not everyone is in favour of same-sex marriage, but we've talked about it quite a bit. I have affection and respect for people who disagree, and I hope that we can all get along as we learn about this issue in good faith.


There are two sides to the answer. You asked about one of them, which is how to deal with the apparently anti-gay passages in Scripture. The other one, which I'll get to as well because it is closely related, is the positive case for affirming homosexual people and relationships on the same level as heterosexual ones. (The title of your question asks about marriage, and to get all the way over there one must do a bit more than just say that homosexual behaviour or activity isn't that bad.)

As far as the "clobber verses" go, the usual answer is to distinguish between what it is that homosexual people do today, and what is being condemned in those passages. Today, the idea of "same-sex marriage" is proposed to be exactly the same as opposite-sex marriage, except that the two people in the marriage are the same sex. In all other respects - love, mutual trust, shared commitment, and so on - it is meant to be identical. But this is indeed a new idea, and is not characteristic of the way that relationships between people of the same sex were construed in the ancient world. In a system where the institution of the family hinges on the dominant presence of the paterfamilias, typical male homosexual relationships ended up being socially marginal (no inheritance is going on here) and unequal (the penetrator being treated differently from the penetrated - the latter was shameful because he had degraded himself to the level of a woman). The point is that what's being condemned may be the unequal, abusive, lust-filled sort of relationship that would have come to Paul's original readers' minds when they thought about men in sexual relationships with other men.

Accompanying textual criticism has tried to understand just what Paul might have meant by his neologism arsenokoites, for example. This is the Greek word that is often translated as "homosexuals" or "sodomites" in the two NT passages you quote. It seems that there's definitely a sense of men (arsenes) going to bed/having sex (koite) but some have argued that he was upset about paedophiles, or procuring male prostitutes, or something else, in addition to the option I presented in the paragraph above. Lesbians do not seem to be treated here.

There is also a strand of interpretation that says that Paul did mean all homosexual people, but that he was wrong - and equally, that the Law of Moses did intend to condemn everyone who participated in a male homosexual act to death, but that it was wrong to do so. This differs from what I've mentioned so far because it doesn't even attempt to recover anything from Paul's words, instead only dismissing them as the product of a flawed culture. (In so doing, some obvious other problems are created.) This view is probably quite common but it is far from universal.

Now at last, the positive case is about believing that the love that exists between a couple is the same love regardless of their sex, and that their love is of divine origin. In other words,

God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Acts 15:8-9 (NRSV)

Peter was speaking there about whether Gentiles could become Christians, but he is also making a general point about the testimony of the Spirit. We Gentiles can be saved because

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 (NRSV)

Recall that for Paul, these three distinctions were all about social caste. There is still such a thing as male and female identity, but what has vanished is the associated power relationship and privilege that denies proper love. This goes right back to the divergent ideas about homosexuality I spoke about above. Christians who support same-sex marriage find that it fits better with passages like these than with the clobber verses. Moreover, the ideas expressed here by Peter and Paul are felt to be closer to the heart of the Gospel. While this is very far from an open-and-shut case - there's a ton of stuff to consider about natural law, reproduction, and so on - it is the central pillar of the argument.

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Wow, do you see any parallels with Eunuchs "so born" –  Rick Jul 23 '13 at 12:42
    
@Rick, that sounds like the seed of a good question that you could ask here or on BH.SE (depending on the exact question) –  James T Jul 23 '13 at 13:45
    
@Rick I find that passage (in Mt 19) quite mysterious and I don't have an answer at this time, sorry! –  James T Jul 23 '13 at 13:47
    
@JamesT I understand how this answers OP's question. However, as someone who doesn't agree with the interpretation in your answer, is there a stackexchange network where I can ask for an exhaustive analysis of the verses mentioned above? Thanks. –  Fofole Dec 11 '13 at 13:37
    
@Fofole, you can ask on this site, or maybe on the Biblical Hermeneutics site if you are more interested in textual than doctrinal issues. Do check the existing Q&A first, though, to see what's been asked and answered before, as well as the guidance for both sites. –  James T Dec 11 '13 at 14:10
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To very briefly summarize one point of view:

Old testament: These are understood as a purity law that was meant for Israel, alongside the other "abominations" like eating shellfish.

New testament: These are references to the adult male / young boy relationships that were rampant at the time in Greek and Roman culture, and understanding them to mean all homosexual relationships is misunderstanding their meaning and intent.

There's a lot more detail and discussion about interpretation out there, but these two points seem to be the crux of the matter. Another thing to note, is that the verses you quote have nothing at all to say about female homosexual relationships.+

Another entirely separate point of view follows from classic liberal democratic values - marriage is no longer a religious institution, but rather a civic one, and the rights, status, and responsibilities that go with it should not restricted based on any religions standards. Provided that the arrangement is entered into willingly and uncoercedly, the age, gender, sex, religion or race of either participant should not be taken into account.

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"Nothing at all to say about female homosexual relationships" -- except for this part: "or practice homosexuality"... –  Matt Jul 23 '13 at 4:28
    
The NIV has this note about that phrase: The words "men who have sex with men" translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts. –  Eclipse Jul 23 '13 at 5:49
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There are many interpretations of the so-called clobber passages that are LGBT-affirming. I will give just one set of interpretations of these passages below:

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) is about gang rape, not about monogamous same sex relationships.

The 2 verses in Leviticus (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13) seem to be in the context of Molech worship, which would indicate that what is being condemned is ritual same-sex sex, again not monogamous same sex relationships.

The Romans passage (Romans 1:26-27) is describing idolatry leading to same-sex sexual rituals, not homosexuality in general (read the entire chapter, not just verses 26-27).

Then we have the problem of translating the terms arsenkoitai and malakoi in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. No one really knows what arsenkoitai means because Paul coined the term. Many LGBT-affirming Christians believe this is harking back to the Leviticus passages and thus refers to those participating in the same-sex sexual rituals.

If you accept these interpretations, monogamous same-sex relationships are never condemned in Scripture.

LGBT-affirming Christians also like to point out that Jesus never explicitly condemned homosexuals. Also, the Bible only has 6 passages which seem to condemn homosexualit, yet has dozens, if not hundreds, of condemnations against other sins like adultery, fornication, greed, etc. If homosexuality was as big a sin as many Christians say it is, why would Jesus have never mentioned it, and why would it be mentioned so relatively few times in the Bible?

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I appreciate how uncontroversially this question was asked. Personally, I know that homosexuality is a sin. However, one of the things the Bible tells us we are not to judge one another. Who are we to judge when we are not free from sin ourselves. In a modern time especially we cannot kill someone for being homosexual. That would be a hate crime, and illegal. The Bible warns us against homosexuality. It tells us that it is a sin, and punishable by God. However, Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:39 that the second most important commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself." So this is what affects my interpretation. While homosexuality is a sin, it is not any different from the sin that we have all committed and continue to commit. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves and most of us would not kill ourselves or even punish ourselves, so why would we do that to our neighbors. We are to love everyone, regardless of their sin. When the time comes they, just like ourselves, will have to answer to God for their sins. Until that day, let them live in peace. We cannot pass judgement on them because of their sin.

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Sure, but we also shouldn't assist them in committing sin. You'll recall that God is VERY vengeful when it comes to those who would lead His sheep astray. –  Juann Strauss Aug 5 '13 at 8:18
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protected by wax eagle Sep 24 '13 at 12:07

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