The Unending Debate -- Homosexuality in Suburban American Life

If you watch TV you will see an increasing number of Gay and Lesbian characters, and they are portrayed more often than not as pretty normal people.  Just like you and me (that being we heterosexuals).  They have their issues and their concerns, but they're human beings.  Growing up there were few if any such characters.  The one Gay character I can remember from years ago is Jodie Dallas of Soap (played by Billy Crystal), back when I was in college.  When Ellen Degeneres's less than successful sitcom came out -- remember that one -- that is, in my memory, the first time there was a lead homosexual character on TV.  There was much cultural angst about the show, but now Ellen is a wildly successful Daytime TV Host.  

I take us through this media history as a reminder that the national understanding of homosexuality is changing.  It may be true that the Republican Presidential candidates have all agreed to uphold "traditional values," and maybe even compare homosexuality with bestiality, but the nation is moving past such understandings.  The number of Americans saying they are okay with Gay Marriage stands at about 50%, with the numbers of those under 40 being much higher.  It is true  that the Church, even Mainline Protestant Churches, has not made their peace with this trend.  Some churches offer an overt anti-gay position, others a "don't ask -- don't tell position, and a small but growing number take an "open and affirming" stance.  The struggle is with traditional understandings of marriage, the way we read and interpret the Bible, and the way in which many of us were formed culturally.

Homosexuality has become a major topic of debate in the city of Troy, MI.  The debate has been triggered in large part by comments made by the new Mayor of Troy, Janice Daniels.  Not long after her election it was revealed that she had placed an anti-gay slur on her Facebook page.  Her response to criticism was to offer herself as a victim of political enemies, and she appeared tone deaf as to the concerns of many in the community about her understanding of homosexuality and the way she spoke of it.  I wrote a blog post and was interviewed, where I gave my own response to the Troy Patch.  

The problem has worsened in recent days after the Mayor met with a group of students representing the Gay-Straight Alliance at Troy High School.  Although there is some confusion as to what exactly was said, it appears that she implied or stated that the homosexual lifestyle was dangerous and that she would like to hold an event where a panel of psychiatrists would tell the students why this is true.  The mayor claims to have been misrepresented, but at this point has refused to release a recording that would clear this up.  

It needs to be said that while there are diverse opinions on whether homosexuality is innate or learned (a majority opinion is that one's sexual orientation is innate -- we're born that way), the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in the 1970s.  So, it's unlikely that the mayor will find such persons outside a few religiously oriented ones.  But that's not what the students hoped to hear when they approached her about having a conversation about why bullying can lead to suicides among gay teens.  She doesn't seem to be listening to what they are saying. But then again, are we as a society listening?

I would like to say to the students of the Gay-Straight Alliance -- some of us are listening, but we likely aren't doing enough to stand with you.


Gary said…
I don't know the mayor of Troy, but she seems a bit naive. She will get no backing from the "mental" profession, as most of them are in accord with the homosexuals. I also find it strange that she would meet with the group of sodomites and supporters. I can't imagine what she thought would be gained from that meeting.

The opinions of many Americans seem to be changing regarding homosexuality, if the polls are correct. Increased favorability toward homosexuals could result in their achieving much of what they want in terms of the law and of public opinion. But God does not define morality based on public opinion. He has not changed His mind about homosexuals; He still considers them perverted and wicked, and He still condemns them to Hell.
David said…
He really screwed up, didn't he Gary?

Obviously, you don't think homosexuals evolved. They were created "perfectly designed" as-is.

Will you ever forgive Him (and/ or Her)?

God in Gary's eyes must be a real smart-alack.
Linda Marie said…
Gary, It's fascinating that you have a direct line to God.

In my opinion, God made all of us and wants what is best for us. He wants us to lead lives of self-respect and to respect others. He is an all encompassing God. He loves all!

It is also not our place to judge. We should be accepting of our fellow man and strive to work together. Each of us is different in one way or another, some differences are more apparent.

Here is some food for thought: Did you ever think that maybe some people are born gay as God's way of awakening others to differences in people and learning acceptance?

How would you feel if your child came to you and said they were gay? Would you consider them "perverted and wicked?" I would hope, as a parent, you would have unconditional love and want them to lead a full and happy life.

If you feel gays are unacceptable, do you also feel those with physical and mental challenges fall into the same category because they were made "different." What about a child that does not meet educational standards and needs to be held back in school. Is that child also "different." Just because someone does not fit your perceived "ideal" does not mean they should be cast off or made victims of bigotry.
Anonymous said…
The question is: Is this term to'ebah an absolute, meaning that an act that is a to'ebah is wrong in itself and can never be otherwise? Or is the term relative – meaning that something that is a to'ebah to one person may not be offensive to another, or something that is a to'ebah in one culture may not be offensive in another, or something that is a to'ebah in one generation or time period may not be offensive in another – in which case the law may change as people's perceptions change?

When one examines all the occurrences of this technical term in the Hebrew Bible, one finds that elsewhere the term is in fact relative. For example, in the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that, if the Pharaoh asks them what their occupation is, they should say that they're cowherds. They must not say that they are shepherds. Why? Because, Joseph explains, all shepherds are an offensive thing (to'ebah) to the Egyptians. But shepherds are not an offensive thing to the Israelites or Moabites or many other cultures. In another passage in that story, we read that Egyptians don't eat with Israelites because that would be an offensive thing (to'ebah) to them. But Arameans and Canaanites eat with Israelites and don't find it offensive. See also the story of the Exodus from Egypt, where Moses tells Pharaoh that the things that Israelites sacrifice would be an offensive thing (to'ebah) to the Egyptians. But these things are certainly not an offensive thing to the Israelites.


Now, one might respond that the law here is different because it concerns an offensive thing to God – and is therefore not subject to the relativity of human values. But that is actually not the case here. The Bible specifically identifies such laws about things that are divine offenses with the phrase "an offensive thing to the LORD" (to'ebat yhwh). That phrase is not used here in the law about male homosexual acts. It is not one of the laws that are identified as a to'ebah to God!
If this is right, then it is an amazing irony. Calling male homosexual acts a to'ebah was precisely what made the biblical text seem so absolutely anti-homosexual and without the possibility of change. But it is precisely the fact of to'ebah that opens the possibility of the law's change. So, (1) whatever position one takes on this matter, left or right, conservative or liberal, one should acknowledge that the law really does forbid homosexual sex between males but not between females. And (2) one should recognize that the biblical prohibition is not one that is eternal and unchanging. The prohibition in the Bible applies only so long as male homosexual acts are perceived to be offensive. This could involve arguments and evidence from specialists in biology, psychology and culture. They are beyond our range of expertise as Bible scholars. Our task here has been to make the biblical evidence known.

"Are Biblical Laws About Homosexuality Eternal?"

Richard Elliot Friedman
Shawna Dolansky
(authors of "The Bible Now")

Huffington Post
posted 8/1/2011 04:52 PM ET
retrieved 9/16/2011

as quoted in
a resource document of support
by Douglas C. Sloan
Gary said…
Linda Marie,

How do you know that your opinions about God accurately reflect what he is like?

God is the one who said homosexuality is a sinful perversion, not me. If you disagree with His judgment, then you will have to deal with Him about it.

If my child were to announce to me that he or she was a homosexual, I would be heartbroken because 1. it would mean that they were not ashamed of their sin, 2. they would be in a damned state and in danger of dying that way, 3. the fellowship and love between us would now be broken. I would still love them and pray for their repentance and deliverance from that awful sin, but I would also be required to withdraw fellowship from them, per the New Testament.

Physical and mental defects are not sins.
Anonymous said…
I support the letter and spirit of the First Amendment - and the responsibility that goes with it.

Gary needs to be aware that many of the readers of this column are legally tasked to report child abuse.

If Gary has children, he has offered prima facie evidence of the willingness to commit emotional and physical child abandonment.
David said…
Well said Linda-Marie

I have an adult son with Down Syndrome. I appreciated the example.

In answer to your question. He IS ideal. He adds a lot of love to our world. He often appears to read a person's most inner, masked, feelings and respond appropriately.

He also vacuums and does the wash.;)
David said…
"God is the one who said homosexuality is a sinful perversion, not me."

Hearsay? Or is that heresy (which originally meant "choice")?

Sounds like false witness to me. He etched that one in stone, remember?
Gary said…

You don't know the Bible. Common error for heretics, I would guess.
David said…
Wrong Gary,

I consumed tons of Christian literature as a child from our (Catholic) family library and even took 2 semesters Bible study in college as a man.

And. I can Google any verse.
Gary said…

I should have added that you don't believe the Bible, which is really the heart of your many problems.
John said…

You don't know God. Common error for idol worshipers, I guess.
John said…

Jesus was the true Word, not a bunch stories, albeit sacred stories, written down by mere mortals, just trying to do their best to be faithful to what they felt inspired to record. Thus we worship Jesus, not a book.

Those whom Scripture sentenced to death, Jesus protected from those others who sanctimoniously claimed to be speaking and carrying out God's judgment.

That's why we worship him, and in modeling his protective behavior, that's how we give him the greatest glory.
David said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary said…

What does the "Jesus" you worship think of those who participate in vile affections?
John said…
"where are your accusers? Neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more."
David said…
If Gary was a Roman, the lions would have needed Weight Watchers.
Gary said…

You are saying that the Jesus you worship has no problem with homosexuals? That he thinks homosexuality is not a sin? Is that right?
John said…
I think he is well aware of who we are, and whose we are. I think that his love for us is the paramount aspect of his relationship with us. I think that he abhors abuse of others and especially the use of faith and faith-related weapons as instruments of abuse and/or control. I think that his principal concern was whether we love God and one another and that our lives live out and visibly manifest that love. I think that Jesus considers anger at another, abuse behavior and even insulting language as abhorrent as the crime of murder.

I am saying that as far as Jesus is concerned, whether one is a homosexual or heterosexual is irrelevant. Jesus was concerned with whether we treat each other as cherished children of God, cherished by Jesus and cherished by his followers. When our behavior fails to communicate such love for each other, fails to live out that single commandment, when our faith leads to anything other than a feeling of love for the 'other', and the communication of anything other than such love, that is sin.
Gary said…

Yeah, that's what I thought. Do you understand that the "Jesus" you believe in is not the Jesus of the Bible?
John said…
And here I thought I was quoting what he had to say to someone caught in the act of a "vile affection" for whose conduct Scripture absolutely compels execution.

So that was a different, unBiblical Jesus?

Is this image of Jesus not brutal enough for you?
Robert Cornwall said…
Just a comment here -- I think it's interesting how a posting about how a mayor speaks of gays leads us to a debate about how we understand Jesus.

If we look closely at our conversation we discover that we tend to formulate understandings of Jesus that resonate with our own understandings. I think that Gary and John can find support for their very different understandings of Jesus.

So, perhaps that is another conversation -- how do we perceive Jesus? What is he to us? John and Gary have two very different answers to that question.
Gary said…
"as far as Jesus is concerned, whether one is a homosexual or heterosexual is irrelevant."

If you can provide them, I would like to see some Scripture references that confirm your statement.
David said…
"as far as Jesus is concerned, whether one is a homosexual or heterosexual is irrelevant."

You don't suspect they get "extra credit" for living a life of fear and putting up with hateful/ evil and/or ignorant people?
Gary said…

No, I know they don't.

And I put the same question to you that I put to John.
John said…
Didn't mean to ignore you just preoccupied.

The problem with your request is that you have it backwards, since Jesus makes no specific reference to homosexuality, it would appear to be a non-issue for him. It is therefore your burden to show that it was an issue for him.

Now in responding, it's no help to refer to Jesus' statement in Matt 10 about being created male and female, etc. because the statement has nothing to do with homosexuality. In fact, you have to get past the language in Matt 19 where Jesus actually attacks the institution of marriage and speaks positively on behalf of eunuchs.

So again the burden is on you to prove a concern on Jesus part where Jesus was silent.
Gary said…

I would like to clarify one thing before I continue: Is Jesus God, or not? Please give your answer to that question.
John said…
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known."

So yes, Jesus was the incarnation of God in the world.

However, Jesus was fully human while he was alive, because he had emptied himself of his divinity, and thus what the father knew (knows) Jesus did not necessarily know, and whatever the father in the fullness of his divinity may have been concerned with, Jesus only addressed those issues which were relevant to his incarnational ministry, which I infer to have been of paramount importance, over and above the range of issues raised in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Gary said…

In Mark chapter 10 Jesus endorsed marriage between a man and a woman. That is relevant to the discussion of homosexuality because it shows that Jesus did not think two men, or two women could rightfully marry.

In Matthew 15:19,20 Jesus declared adultery and fornication to be immoral. Every sexual sin is covered under either adultery, or fornication, including homosexuality. Since Jesus didn't recognize "same-sex marriage" as being legitimate, and since he said that all sex outside of marriage is immoral, he destroyed the idea that homosexuality can ever be moral. And there goes your theory that he doesn't care whether one is heterosexual or homosexual.
John said…

It is interesting that you point to Mark 10 as support for your anti-homosexual crusade, because in that passage Jesus was not speaking to homosexuality or even marriage per se, but to divorce, saying that for God's purposes divorce was a sin, a sin which some people have no choice but to commit, but clearly a sin. Why do you not crusade against dicorce, or pronounce judgment on all those who have been divorced? Surely this teaching by Jesus is more clear and straightforward than any inference you may want to draw regarding homosexuality, and this commandment is not only violated by far more people, but is actually regulated by the state! Where is your indignation!

The teaching of Mark 10 is instructive on another level. Jesus begins by saying that marriage is instituted by God, but divorce was allowed by Moses in response to human hard heartedness (oppression). This suggest to me the truth that even though God wills that we observe a general rule, God permits us to set aside a general rule when compliance would cause misery and an otherwise oppressive result.

The teaching of Matt 10 is not all that helpful for your crusade.

It is also interesting that you would rely on Matt 15 for support. In that passage Jesus challenges the Pharisees reliance on clear Scriptural Law regarding purity and holiness, and asserts that compliance with such rules is less important than the intentions of the heart. In fact if the intentions of the heart are righteous, then those intentions trump Scriptural mandates.

To me Jesus is saying the actual culpable fornication and adultery are actions of the heart and not the body. See also Matt 5:28. This is consistent with his conversation with the woman caught in the act of adultery. The only way Jesus could release the woman without condemnation is if her indisputably contemnable actions were overcome by a righteousness of heart, which re-cast her conduct in a whole new and acceptable light for God. While one's actions have consequences, the most important consequences are how they are perceived by God, and this perception turns on qualities of the heart, and thus righteousness of purpose is the controlling factor for God in judging sin. And we are told what is the most important and righteous quality of the heart: that we should speak and act out of love for one another.

By the way, only God can judge the intentions of the heart.
Gary said…

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that sex with someone other than your wife, if you are a man, can be acceptable to God, if your motives are pure. Is that what you meant to say?

Can you give an example of a pure heart motive when having sex with your neigbor's wife? Or how about a pure motive in having sex with another man? Or, what would constitute a pure motive if your wife decided to leave you to go live with a woman?
John said…
Only God knows what in people's hearts. I am not going to try to imagine other peoples motives. But I can point to the idea of multiple wives, as well as the notion of Leverite marriage as instances where Scripture gets a little elastic in its provisions regarding sex. Would this notion condone sex with someone other than your spouse for the sake of surrogate child bearing? I am not advocating these practices, just observing that Scripture is not closed to the idea. Is it fair to say that fornication happens in the heart?

Again the issue is what is the loving thing to do in a particular circumstance. And if one's motives flow from genuine, God-inspired love, then who am I to judge against the quality of their intentions?

(By the way my word verification is "schame".)
Gary said…
In Matthew 15, Jesus said that adulteries and fornications come out of the heart (verse 19), and "defile"(v.20). It seems clear that given this, and given what else we read about marriage and sexual relations, not only in the Gospels, but throughout the New Testament, which we have not discussed, that there is no doubt that God condemns ALL sex outside of marriage. In other words, God allows moral sex only within marriage, and marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, and any other form extramarital sex, are forbidden by God. Limiting moral sex to marriage is very narrow, and very restricting, but that is what God requires.
David said…
I'm not a farmer, so no temptation.

City Laws in Michigan

There is a law that makes it legal for a farmer to sleep with his pigs, cows, horses, goats, and chickens.
John said…
Your question was: "What does the 'Jesus' you worship think of those who participate in vile affections?"

You cited several text out of context for the inference that Jesus agreed with you. I then put them back in context showing that in context your inference was directly contradicted by Jesus actual teach. You now say bluntly that the bible says its wrong and that's your bottom line.

And so it is.

However, you utterly failed to prove your point (there are no passages from the Gospels evidencing that homosexuality was a particularly relevant issue for Jesus). You also ignored the truth that the inferences you drew in support your anti-homosexual crusade are in point of fact contrary to the teachings which Jesus was offering in those very passages.

Someday you are just going to have to acknowledge that this is your issue and not God's. God is concerned with matters of the heart.
Gary said…

None of the scriptures that I cited were out of context. I demonstrated, beyond doubt, that Jesus considers adultery and fornication, which cover all sexual sins in the New Testament, to be immoral. Those who believe the Bible agree with me, and those who don't probably agree with you. According to Jesus, adultery and fornication are always wrong, regardless of the motive of those who partake in it. Jesus even went further than the physical act and said that when you lust after someone, you've already committed sin in your heart.(Matt. 5:28) Very unlikely that someone commits physical adultery or fornication without doing it in their heart. In other words, your theory that you can be an adulterer, fornicator, or homosexual, and still have a pure heart is a lie. Why are you lying? Are you trying to justify your own sin? Or maybe the sin of someone else? You must have some motive for excusing adultery, fornication, and homosexuality. What is your motive?
John said…
None of the above. Much to my surprise, given my youthful indiscretions and attitudes, that I can deny each of your suggestions with a very clear conscience.

Interesting that you would shift this to an ad hominem attack. Are you projecting?

By the way are you really claiming that Jesus condemns adultery and adulterers no matter what the context?
John said…
My motive, by the way, is a relatively new-found voice for the oppressed. Being a white Anglo Saxon male with status and a job and some degree of seniority, I have come to appreciate what the unfair advantage which I have received and to perceive what others have not received, and I am coming to terms with my complicity in the status quo and my obligation as a Disciple to pick up the cross of Christ and follow the Master, seeking freedom for the oppressed, provision for the poor, and acceptance for those children of God usually considered unacceptable.

Consider that my confession.
Gary said…

Your "confession" is hypocritical, just like your profession of following Jesus. You feel "guilty" for things you have not done, but no guilt for the wrong you have done. And, if that weren't bad enough, you add to your failures by calling good what God calls evil. Woe unto you.
John said…
I will gladly accept your prayers for me.
John said…

Can we agree that worship of God is through living a life of faith, hope, and love?

I understand that acts of judgment impede our effort to live out these three. When we have judged another we no longer have faith in God that God will be able to negotiate a worthy relationship with the one we have judged - whether because we don't think they deserve such a relationship or because we think they are irretrievably lost, all because we have judged their conduct, acts or omissions, to fall outside of what we know to be Christian.

But the fact of the matter is that while we anticipate that a faith-filled life will conform to modes of conduct which we have been taught are "Christian," in truth a faith-filled life is at its core a life lived in communion with God. And that communion is lived out and experienced in the heart and soul of the other and not necessarily in our relationship with them or in the external manifestations of their life and lifestyle.

When we have judged another we have also given up hope that God can no longer, or that God will no longer! try to bridge the gap and come into the life of the one we have judged - we have given up on God. We have concluded that God has abandoned the other.

And when we have judged another, we stop loving them. Having deemed them no longer worthy of God's love, we are hard pressed to cherish them ourselves. Often, the best we can muster is regret for a lost soul. They have become objects and as such are no longer worthy of our love.

Faith dictates that we continue to believe that God will find a way into their hearts (if in fact God is not actively there alreadY - neither God nor the other are accountable to us) even if we never see the fruits of God's work. Hope dictates that we never give up on God, and that we persist in praying that God will bring the wayward home, and we acknowledge that we too are as wayward as the next person. Love compels us to love the other as ambassadors of Christ, in the expectation that Chrits himself, hand in hand with the Holy Spirit will effectively intercede for the other at the most needful and opportune time.

There is no place for judgment in worshipful living.
David said…
"There is no place for judgment in worshipful living."

This is key and should have been drilled into us at an early age.

Luke 6:37

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

1 Timothy 4:3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.

Matthew 15:11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Too many to post. Please review-
David said…

Are we doing this right?

ps- I'm just trying to keep the average at ~50 comments)/this type post

Romans 14:1 ESV

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

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