As years go by, more and more is understood about the scientific and social causes of homosexuality. Christians, however, are divided about what the implications of this are for homosexual men and women who want to be followers of Jesus.
Christians who think that the way God has created the natural world should be uppermost in shaping our moral views have come to the conclusion that gay relationships which are faithful, loving and monogamous are blessed by God. However, to hold that opinion means overturning an almost unbroken history of opposition to homosexuality in the Bible and Christian thinking. The majority of the world’s Christians hold the view that all sexual activity outside the context of marriage falls short of God’s ideal.
Opinions about whether or not having sex with someone of the same gender is sinful are so entrenched that this threatens the unity of Christians more deeply than any other issue in recent years. However, all agree that sex which is abusive, promiscuous or violates children is repulsive. And all agree that violence or hatred against gays and lesbians is abhorrent, because all human beings are loved equally by God.
Christians who have a ‘liberal’ understanding of God urge the world to recognise the worth of lifelong same-sex partnerships by encouraging vows of commitment and accepting that being homosexual should not prevent a person from becoming a Christian leader. Christians who have a ‘conservative’ understanding of God maintain that celibacy is the best path through life for those who are inclined naturally toward homosexuality, and that the church community should provide a loving context to support people who have made that choice.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.
Where to find it:
About these words:
These are words of Jesus. Although he appears to have said nothing about homosexuality, he strongly endorsed marriage as the right context for sex. There are three direct references to sexual acts between people of the same gender elsewhere in the New Testament. All are negative, but Christians disagree over whether they condemn homosexuals or revile the paedophilia that was a common feature of the communities in which they were originally written.
And they said…
Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
I have been fighting discrimination all my life. It’s very easy. On human characteristics that are not chosen – skin colour, gender, sexual orientation – no discrimination. We are all born in the image of God. All, all, all! Black and white and yellow and brown and pink. African and European and Asian. Men and women and children. Lesbian and gay and so-called straight. All, all, all!
If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America:
I had hesitated on gay marriage … I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word ‘marriage’ was something that invokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth … When we think about our faith, the thing at root … is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but also the Golden Rule. You know! Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate:
This is a very tender and sensitive topic … My view is that marriage itself is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that’s my own preference.
Basil Hume, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, 1923-1999, declaring that ‘homophobia should have no place among Christians’:
To love one another, whether of the same sex or of a different sex, is to have entered the area of the richest human experience.
Anne Atkins, journalist:
God created us, and it is very clear that sex is created to be between two people of the opposite sex for life exclusively. That is what Christian marriage is. There’s no getting away from it, so anything outside of that is outside the ideal … Jesus was the perfect example. He didn’t have sexual relationships, but he was perfectly fulfilled.
Rt Revd Alan Wison, Bishop of Buckingham:
It all comes down to how we see gay people and how we see God. We don’t actually believe gay people are sick or stunted or criminal. We don’t believe God is an angry old man out to get us. Let’s stop behaving as though we did.