The current Supreme Court debate over the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 has captivated the hearts and minds of the American people, and strident voices on both sides of the issue have been making themselves known more boldly than ever before. So often I find that, as a Christian, I am expected to be a steadfast opponent of marriage equality, and it’s because of this that people are often surprised to learn nothing could be further from the truth.
In my four years as a religion major, I’ve studied the Bible extensively and discovered it doesn’t say much about same-sex relationships. In fact, it’s possible to count the number of references to homosexuality on two hands, an indication it wasn’t that important of a topic for the authors of the Bible.
In the Old Testament, injunctions against homosexual practice occur alongside laws that prohibit eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:9-12) and wearing clothing woven from two different fabrics (Leviticus 19:19). This makes sense when one views the Levitical law as Israel’s means of distinguishing itself from its pagan neighbors. For the priestly authors of Leviticus, then, breaking one of these statutes was not committing an ethical wrong but a ritual one. In the New Testament, references to homosexuality are conspicuously absent in the teachings of Jesus and primarily referred to male prostitution and pederasty in the letters of Paul.
These practices were common in the Greek world at the time and are a far cry from the kind of monogamous relationships we think of today when we talk about same-sex relationships.
Going beyond the realm of Biblical studies, anyone who has studied Christian history knows gays are just another group in a long line of “others” (Jews, “heretics,” women, African-Americans, etc.) Christians have persecuted over the years by misusing and misinterpreting the Bible.
But a bunch of scholarly literature about the Bible and homosexuality wasn’t what made me a supporter of LGBT rights. It was one of the most fundamental aspects of my faith — loving relationships.
It was only when I heard some of the heartbreaking stories told by gay men and women that I really came to understand how serious an issue this was.
After all, it’s difficult to really see things from someone else’s point of view when you build up barriers by living in a world dominated by theory and rhetoric, a world devoid of any notion of dialogue and true understanding.
How can you judge something you don’t really understand? Particularly touching was the story of a gay Christian who had contemplated suicide because he thought God had made a mistake when he made him.
One need not be a Christian to realize just how toxic a theology this is.
Put frankly, I believe in a God of love, one who accepts us and loves us for who we are. When I hear stories like this, I wonder if the Christians who convinced this young man he was an abomination ever stopped to think if what they were doing felt like love, whether it felt like Jesus. I find it extremely unlikely anyone would consciously choose a life of persecution, so we are left to contend with the cold, hard fact that being gay is not a choice — and if it’s not a choice, how can God punish someone for being who they really are?
As Christians, we should be fighting for justice and for the dignity of all people — gay or straight, black or white, Hindu or Muslim.
Just like we are all equal in the eyes of God, we should all be equal in the eyes of the law.
All Christians are supposed to strive to live like Jesus, right? So, like Jesus, let’s stand with the marginalized and oppressed. Like Jesus, let’s be advocates for love and human dignity.
My prayer, then, is this: “[L]et justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” (Amos 5:24).
Jordan Kassabaum is a classical studies and religion senior at UF. You can contact him via [email protected]