Category Archives: LGBTQ

The Pain to Gays in Africa Through the Evolution of Joel Osteen

joelfoxBy Melanie Nathan | Reblogged from O-blog-dee-o-blog-da

The Public Relations office of Joel Osteen sent a huge Timeline Memograph asking me to post it here on my BLOG. It was titled, The Evolution of Joel Osteen. I read it and all it did was brag about how he has evolved into the biggest Church in America, how many millions of books he has sold and how he is impacting the rest of the World, including Africa.

But has anyone heard Osteen and his ministry speak out against the anti-Gay fervor in Africa generated by the export of Christianity? Now one may argue that it was not Osteen’s brand of Christianity that hit the streets of Africa – that it was not his Church or denomination which caused the anti-homosexual fervor and the current new laws that target LGBT Africans for condemnation through arrest and persecution. However, one can argue that each and every Church,notwithstanding its brand or form, has a duty to speak out very loudly to vehemently condemn the new laws in Uganda.

People like Osteen have had five years to intervene, since we first learned of the pain caused in the name of Christianity to the Africa’s LGBT community, and yet there has been very little to zero outreach, be it quiet diplomacy or noisy protest. And now look at what is happening.

A great amount of publicity has been in mainstream press speaking to the genesis and evolution of the hate in Africa, touted in the name of Christianity. Yet people like Osteen have not only failed to speak out forcefully or at all against it, failing the LGBT populace, but they have actually failed Christianity itself, by allowing this type of anti-gay sentiment to prevail- to such a fever-pitch extent – in the name of Christianity.

Yes, I assert that Osteen’s silence hurts not only gays, but also Christianity. Especially since Osteen is now bragging that he has the largest ministry in America, and since he now asserts its growing influence in Africa.

Since President Museveni of Uganda and President Jonathan of Nigeria signed their respective Jail the gays Bills, Osteen and other mega pastors have not been seen or heard of on the issue. In case they do not know, here is the result: – Tabloids are outing gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people and others perceived as such,  and people believe they have license to attack in the name of Christianity.

Christian families, neighbors, employers and landlords are seeking retribution against this small minority and the wrath is palpable. People are in fear of their lives and have gone into hiding, with little to no resources. We now have hundreds of gays that we know of and possible many more, and an entire country of LGBTI people scrambling into hiding, some already lynched and beaten, and all are struggling to find shelter and food. Many want to leave their countries and have nowhere to go.

Now Osteen are you ready to talk EVOLUTION?

And all the while this so called Christian Nation ( as per Yoweri Museveni) has done little more than perpetuate the persecution. And Osteen’s evolution by virtue of its silence on the issue and bragged influence, is complicit.

And the Public Relations Office of Joel Osteen has the audacity to ask my BLOG – which stands for Human Rights and advocates against the persecution – to publicize Osteen’s Evolution?

Here was my response:

Dear Aniya

What has Joel Olsteen and his Christian Ministry said or done about the export of hate by Christians to Africa against the target gay group?  – Now That would be an evolution right?

Have you read my BLOG and the nature of its work?

I fight Christians and others who export hate to Africa – and now I will fight those who do not speak out vehemently against it.

Has Osteen come out and spoken against the Jail the Gays bills – the handy work of Christian Evangelicals in Africa- namely Uganda and Nigeria.

Do not speak to me about the evolution of Osteen until he has the guts to speak out very LOUDLY in the name of Christianity to thwart the anti- gay fervor in Africa.

People are dying in Africa right now – all LGBTI – in the name of Christianity and you want me to promote it further?

Osteen can brag as much as he likes about his church, but until he does something concrete to undo the harm of Christianity, albeit other denominations, as far as I am concerned he is complicit.

Take care

Melanie Nathan.

Please note that I understand it is the fringe group of Evangelical extremists that have exported this form of hate. However what people need to know is that while the people in Africa have responded to  that fringe notion, as exported,  to promote the anti-gay laws and to to persecute, to them it is simply “Christianity.”  So all this persecution is being done in the name of Christianity, without any regard for the fact that it may be fringe. This places a much larger duty on the “good” Christians to come for ward to counter the harm.

Lest we forget that part of the BRAG that speaks to money. How about Osteen hit up his membership for the much needed dollars to help Africa’s LGBT fight the harm perpetuated by Christianity,  on the Continent.

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melMelanie Nathan is the publisher of the “O-blog-dee-o-blog-da” blog, and is a lawyer, mediator, equality activist, and human rights advocate who speaks and writes on issues impacting LGBTI communities around the world, with a focus on the U.S.A. and Africa.

Nathan and her guests highlight their work in a world where gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, intersex, and gender-free people are the subjects of persecution and discrimination.

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Dear Arizona – A Letter From George Takei

George_TakeiDear Arizona,

Congratulations. You are now the first state actually to pass a bill permitting businesses–even those open to the public–to refuse to provide service to LGBT people based on an individual’s “sincerely held religious belief.” This “turn away the gay” bill enshrines discrimination into the law. Your taxi drivers can refuse to carry us. Your hotels can refuse to house us. And your restaurants can refuse to serve us.

Kansas tried to pass a similar law, but had the good sense to not let it come up for a vote. The quashing came only after the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other traditional conservative groups came out strongly against the bill.

But not you, Arizona. You’re willing to ostracize and marginalize LGBT people to score political points with the extreme right of the Republican Party. You say this bill protects “religious freedom,” but no one is fooled. When I was younger, people used “God’s Will” as a reason to keep the races separate, too. Make no mistake, this is the new segregation, yours is a Jim Crow law, and you are about to make yourself ground zero.

This bill also saddens me deeply. Brad and I have strong ties to Arizona. Brad was born in Phoenix, and we vacation in Show Low. We have close friends and relatives in the state and spend weeks there annually. We even attended the Fourth of July Parade in Show Low in 2012, looking like a pair of Arizona ranchers.

The law is breathtaking in its scope. It gives bigotry against us gays and lesbians a powerful and unprecedented weapon. But your mean-spirited representatives and senators know this. They also know that it is going to be struck down eventually by the courts. But they passed it anyway, just to make their hateful opinion of us crystal clear.

So let me make mine just as clear. If your Governor Jan Brewer signs this repugnant bill into law, make no mistake. We will not come. We will not spend. And we will urge everyone we know–from large corporations to small families on vacation–to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent.

And maybe you just never learn. In 1989, you voted down recognition of the Martin Luther King holiday, and as a result, conventions and tourists boycotted the state, and the NFL moved the Superbowl to Pasadena. That was a $500 million mistake.

So if our appeals to equality, fairness, and our basic right to live in a civil society without doors being slammed in our face for being who we are don’t move you, I’ll bet a big hit to your pocketbook and state coffers will.

George Takei

The Wisdom of Bishop John Shelby Spong

spong1For those seeking to experience Christianity in a new and vibrant way, Bishop John Shelby Spong offers fresh spiritual ideas. Over the past four decades, he has become one of the definitive voices for progressive Christianity.

He is a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church, formerly the Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. Bishop Spong is a liberal Christian theologian, a commentator  on religion, and an author.

Spong often speaks about the need for a fundamental rethinking of Christianity, including a move away from traditional doctrines and theism, in general.

Here are two videos from the “Future of the Progressive Church” conference, held at the Community Christian Church in Springfield, MO

First Lecture:

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Second Lecture:

Stop Arguing About the Bible and Homosexuality

2706852-3x2-940x627by Candace Chellew-Hodge 

“Nothing in regard to controversial matters ha(s) ever been settled by the Bible.” – William Lloyd Garrison

Gays and lesbians will never “win” the argument over what the Bible says or does not say about homosexuality. The good news is: we don’t have to.

It will not be arguments over the Bible that will ultimately secure the civil rights of gays and lesbians. Sure, those arguments are being made and they can be loud and raucous, but the Bible is not the “other side” of the issue of homosexuality. Just like in the days of slavery, it has been made out to be the “other side” of the issue because those who oppose homosexuality can seem to find a vast ammunition dump of verses to use in the battle over gay and lesbian rights. They load their Bibles and use them to shoot down any arguments against biblical authority on this subject.

If you think making a pro-gay argument from the Bible is difficult, try to make an anti-slavery argument from it. There is precious little in the Bible that can be made to speak against the owning of another human being as property. Not that the abolitionists didn’t try. They did – valiantly. They twisted the scripture with expert ease. They made Paul condemn slavery in Colossians 4:1 where he writes, “Masters give unto your servants that which is just and equal.” The abolitionists, according to J. Albert Harrill, argued that the words “just” and “equal,” “revealed that Paul understood slaves to have natural rights; since chattel slavery means absolute denial of rights and justice, Paul implicitly condemned the institution.” In this way, Paul sowed the “secret seed” that Harrill said, “later bloomed as the Enlightenment philosophy championing inalienable rights, a cornerstone of antislavery and abolitionist theology.” [1]

If you think gay and lesbian scholars have little to work with, try making a case from that scrap of shaky evidence. It makes arguments about temple prostitution and gang rape absolutely rock solid. At least we don’t have to talk about “secret seeds” and make excuses for Jesus and Paul not coming right out and saying gay and lesbian people are just alright with Jesus. We at least have plenty of evidence to support our argument that Bible writers were talking about abusive sexual practices when they spoke of homosexual acts. No “secret seeds” and semantic wrangling needed.

Despite the slim exegesis of abolitionists slaves were eventually freed. In the end, it wasn’t biblical arguments and expert exegesis that freed the slaves. The slaves were freed because the conscience of the majority of Americans could no longer countenance the owning of other people as property. The idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – that originally was not extended to slaves – gradually came to be recognized to encompass them as well.

And so it will be with gay and lesbian Americans. We will not win our rights by having the best biblically based argument. We will never triumph in that arena – but we don’t need to. As the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison so boldly proclaimed, “Nothing in regard to controversial matters ha(s) ever been settled by the Bible,” and neither should it.

The Bible still speaks with approval about slavery. It still speaks with approval about the subjugation of women and division of the races. It still forbids divorce and proscribes the death penalty for adultery. The Bible has not changed. What has changed is our conscience. We find it unconscionable to own other people and to deny rights based on gender or race. We find it unreasonable to say that women or people of different races deserve harsher treatment in society. We understand that it is sometimes best for a marriage to end and partners to go their separate ways. We understand that sexual infidelity, while harmful and painful, is not an infraction worthy of death. In many churches, it is no longer a bar to ordination. In all these areas, our conscience has trumped biblical authority, and it will be the same with gay and lesbian rights.

A quick look at the polls shows that acceptance of gays and lesbians grows stronger with each passing year. A Gallup poll, taken in June 2008, shows 55 percent of those polled believe gay and lesbian relations should be legal and 57 percent said it should be “accepted as an alternative lifestyle” (whatever that means). In addition, 89 percent believe gays and lesbians should have equal rights in the job market.

The challenge remains over the issue of same-sex marriage – simply because the fallacious religious argument has been made the “other side” of this issue by the media. Only 40 percent say gay marriage should be permitted, while 56 percent oppose the idea. The other religiously fueled argument – whether homosexual relations are “moral” – split respondents evenly at 48 percent.

What those who fight tooth and nail for the supremacy of biblical authority don’t realize is that while their arguments may hold some weight in the church, in society, they’ve already lost the battle. It will only take a few more years for all of those numbers to climb well into the majority. Polls are consistently showing that young people have no problem accepting gays and lesbians. As the old guard dies off, so will their arguments. Eventually, they will seem as quaint as the pro- and antislavery arguments.

Certainly, gays and lesbians face a rougher time within the church where issues of biblical authority are not as easily disregarded as in the secular world. Here the matters are weightier, but I think the same rule applies – only in slow motion. In the time of slavery, churches split over the issue – some for it and others against it. We see the same thing happening now, but eventually, even those churches that sprung up around support of slavery have found themselves apologizing for their slave holding and racist pasts. I expect (perhaps not in my lifetime) that many churches now dividing over the gay and lesbian issue will find themselves, hat in hand, years down the road asking for forgiveness for how they treated gays and lesbians.

That’s not to say that the Bible still is not authoritative. I’m not advocating tossing the Bible as Garrison did when he declared the book “a lie and a curse on mankind.” [2] I still believe the Bible to have authority in many areas of morality and spirituality. The Bible can be a solid guide on how to follow Jesus and love God, ourselves and our neighbor. It simply can’t be used as the authority on areas where God has spoken a new word and has raised our conscience.

For gays and lesbians this means we don’t need to worry about the soundness of our biblical exegesis – even though our scholars have produced extremely sound theology that is much stronger than the average abolitionist had. Ultimately, though, we don’t have to make our argument from scripture, because the conscience of those in this world is rising. More and more people are coming to the conclusion that it’s ridiculous to discriminate in housing, jobs and even in marriage, against a group of people who are only different in who they choose to spend their lives with.

We should not be spending our energy arguing the Bible or even worrying if the Bible condemns us as gay and lesbian people. It might well condemn us. But it is a book that also approves of slavery, the division of the races and the subjugation of women. In all of these areas we have heard – and heeded – a fresh revelation from God and disregarded what the Bible does or does not say about these matters without disregarding the Bible itself.

Notes: 

1. Harrill, J. Albert. Slaves in the New Testament: Literary, Social and Moral Dimensions, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2006, p. 172. 
2. Ibid. p. 176 

WWGD: What Would Galileo Do?

galileoBy Rev Susan Russell 

Here’s a question from an email I received not long ago. The subject line was, “The Clear Truth of Scripture.” The question was, “What we’re asking for is a straight answer out of you people on where in the Bible you find a passage that shows God approves of same sex marriage. Can you do that or not?”

Finally a question I can answer without hesitation.

And the answer is “no.”

There is no single text, no specific chapter and verse, that I can point anyone to and say, “Here it is: the clear truth of scripture in support of same-sex marriage!”

Nor is there any “clear truth of scripture” in support of the equality or ordination of women.

Nor is there any “clear truth of scripture” on the sanctity of interracial marriage.

Nor is there any “clear truth of scripture” opposing the death penalty, supporting the abolition of slavery, or proving that the Earth revolves around the Sun — which you may remember got Galileo in all kinds of trouble with the clear-truth-of-scripture crowd in his generation.

And yes, Galileo’s opponents also cited biblical references in defense of their position that the Sun revolved around the Earth, including Psalm 93:1, which states that “the world is firmly established; it cannot be moved”; Psalm 104:5, which states that “the LORD set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved”; Ecclesiastes 1:5, which states that “the sun rises and sets and returns to its place”; etc.

Meanwhile, Galileo defended the science of heliocentrism to the point of being condemned by the Catholic Church for “vehement suspicion of heresy” — and of course history eventually proved him right. In 1992 the Roman Catholic Church issued a declaration acknowledging the errors committed by the Church, and in 2008 Pope Benedict XVI praised Galileo’s contributions to astronomy.

They say that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it — and an excellent example of that theory is the folks who, 400 years later, are throwing around isolated scripture passages to support outdated understandings of human sexuality, just as others have done through the ages, on everything from slavery and integration to equality for women.

So here’s the “takeaway” from this today’s object lesson on life, the universe, Galileo, and heresy: the Bible is no more a textbook on human sexuality in the 21st century than it was a textbook on astronomy in the 17th. And the folks who get that part confused repeatedly end up on the wrong side of history as the arc of the moral universe continues to bend toward justice.

And here’s the good news: we live in a country where the First Amendment protects not only your right to read the Bible any way you choose but your right to be on the wrong side of history. It does not, however, protect your right to write your theology into our Constitution and take away the equally protected rights of all Americans from some Americans because you’ve gotten the Bible confused with a textbook on human sexuality.

We begin this new year with anti-gay rhetoric in the presidential primary debates escalating while we await a decision on California’s Proposition 8 to come down literally any day now and watch the move to repeal DOMA gaining support on Capitol Hill. There is therefore every indication that gay and lesbian Americans will continue to experience the collateral damage of seeing their lives and relationships treated like sacrificial lambs on the altar of partisan politics by those firmly planted on the wrong side of the history of LGBT equality.

It is a time of opportunity for everyone who holds fast to the fundamental American value of liberty and justice for all to remember that the First Amendment is both a protection of and a protection from religion, and to say so loud and clear.

It is also a time of challenge for people of faith to stand up and speak out in rebuttal to those who presume to speak for “traditional Christian values,” which have nothing to do with God’s values of love, justice, and compassion and everything to do with their own homophobia projected onto biblical texts taken out of context.

Galileo didn’t live long enough to get the apology he deserved from the institutional church, and neither will we. But we’re not in it for the apology. We’re in it to win it — as we work to make “justice roll down like waters” and to turn “liberty and justice for all” from a pledge to a reality for LGBT Americans.

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Copyright �2012 Rev. Susan Russell. All rights reserved. Rev. Russel is the Senior Associate for Communication and Inclusion at All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA. Originally published on January 11, 2012 in the Huffington Post . Follow Rev. Susan Russell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/revsusanrussell 

What about Forgiveness?

Give-Forgivenessby Thomas Gale – July 16, 2010

Probably one of the most overused “to-dos” or mandates in the American church and Christian counseling is that of forgiving one another. When someone is struggling with some issue in life and there is a sense that another person has hurt or offended them, then what is commonly taught is that “You need to forgive them” before you can feel better or be healed. Granting forgiveness towards one who has hurt you can either come from your heart or your head. Where it comes from determines if it is life giving or lifeless. 

In my experience walking with women for 20 years primarily coming out of severe childhood abuse backgrounds, I have not yet once had Jesus require forgiveness to be spoken/granted prior to their healing coming. Why would that be the case if the scriptures seem to paint a different picture, a different requirement? Could it be our understanding of the scriptures needs to be re-evaluated? Could it be that we have so become a people living out “right behaviors” in the name of “obedience” that we have totally missed the heart of God behind every so-called command found in scripture? We are masters of sin-management, living not from the heart but out of sheer determination from our heads. Jesus’ comments on the subject were given in the framework of the Old Covenant still. There was a major shift of paradigms after His finished work thru His death, resurrection and ascension. The dividing line in the scriptures is not the Old Testament vs. the New Testament, rather the Old Covenant vs. the New Covenant. The New Covenant began with Christ’s finished work thru His death, resurrection and ascension. 

The Apostle Paul’s words on this topic in the epistles are “forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Hmmm…our forgiving one another will flow from us when we have experienced His forgiveness towards us. No more mandates or conditional responses on His part. We are forgiven! 

Love is the same way in the believer’s life. Jesus said since we love Him we will keep the commandments. He didn’t say that our keeping the commandments is the signpost of our love for Him. Obedience never precedes love when it comes to living out of relationship with God, ourselves and with one another. 

Back to forgiving one another, let me paint a common scenario, a person has had something painfully done to them by another person. Typically the first response by others is “You need to forgive that person if you expect God to help you.” Now the assumption is that the person has taken up an offense towards the one hurting them. That’s an assumption but not necessarily the case. If I know “Bob” has hurt me, I feel that pain in my heart; I may go directly to Jesus and ask Him to bring healing and wholeness back to my heart. What I have seen as I have walked with others is that as Jesus brings healing to these women out of severe abuse backgrounds, “Bob” is either no longer an issue or forgiveness flows freely from a healed and whole place in their heart. 

Why might forgiveness not even be needed? Several thoughts, when a child is hurt by another, especially an adult in a position of trust, the child often concludes in that event that they were somehow at fault and therefore really don’t have anything against the perpetrator. “Adults are right, children are wrong” type belief. Now as that person grows up with unresolved pain from past trauma, the adult may take up an offense against the perpetrator which is quite common. Again, in my experience I have never had Jesus ask or require the adult to resolve this “unforgiveness” prior to Jesus doing His work in their heart. 

Could we as well meaning adults when offering our counsel from “the scriptures” be trying to play Holy Spirit here in convicting the adult “to do” what is a commonly required practice among believers? Forcing forgiveness to be spoken by the adult can take place with lip service but I can virtually guarantee you that as long as the wounded heart is still in place, relational pain unresolved, the adult will continue to feel like forgiveness hasn’t taken place towards the perpetrator(s). So now we have created an environment ripe for the enemy to bring his tirade of accusations against the adult. The adult feels bad for still hating the perpetrator, has forgiven him multiple times and yet something inside doesn’t feel right because the pain remains, that is because no healing has occurred. 

The other problem that arises is for the adult to “grant forgiveness” from their head as the “proper Christian behavior to do”, this causes an offense against their own heart. We teach forgiveness isn’t a feeling it’s a choice of the will. What that teaching is really saying is: ignore what your heart is feeling, choose to live out of your head, fulfill the sin-management program of proper external action and then everything will be fine. It NEVER works but actually in the long run makes things worse. This belief in the church against feelings and emotions, that they are somehow bad, “don’t let them control you” is not of God nor found in the scriptures. We have once again defaulted to where the Tree of Knowledge is supreme and emotion is faulty and weak. 

So when we live by the “I should or have to forgive” behavior, that part of the heart that was severely abused still has painful emotions around the one who hurt them. That child part of our heart is often sad, mad and even feeling hateful towards the perpetrator. So now the adult steps in to forgive and therefore dismisses the little one’s feelings. Besides the trauma the little one has already experienced in the past, now the little one has just had added to their little heart a huge dismissal, “I shouldn’t feel this way”. Honestly young places in the heart have very little if any cognitive concept of what forgiveness or unforgiveness really even is. We teach our children when hurt by a sibling, “Johnnie you need to say you’re sorry. Susie you need to forgive Johnnie.” What is the end result usually, the “right behavior” was accomplished, lip service was paid most likely from their heads, not their hearts but we as parents stand proud. At the youngest of ages we are teaching them to dismiss what their little hearts are feeling, stuff the pain away, ignore it but God forbid if they don’t say the “right” words or act out the “correct” behavior. Not only do we want them to dismiss their own little hearts but we are totally dismissing their hearts also. How might we better present to each one involved how to receive from Jesus what they need from Him, His life, the Tree of Life? Why don’t we get Jesus involved in the moment to do some “heart surgery” for the one hurt? Are we more comfortable avoiding the heart issues because we don’t like facing our own heart issues as parents? Christian behaviorism rules! 

I have been around adults where every other comment from their mouth is “I am sorry”. They sound like a broken record. Wonder where they have learned that response… 

I suggest a different approach when we find we have “unforgiveness” towards another. Why not give Jesus the opportunity to address our heart issues first, let Him bring resolve, reconciliation, His redemptive work applied, then I can guarantee you forgiveness will flow if it even needs to be expressed. Don’t deny how His Spirit is using your heart to be the signpost for that part hurting inside; an opportunity or might I say an invitation by Jesus to bring life, bring healing, bring freedom to us once again. When we avoid pain at all costs we are therefore avoiding the very thing Jesus wants to resolve most within us, that part of our heart hurting so. Jesus is ready, waiting and wanting to bring a greater experience of His love, His forgiveness to each of us. As we experience Him more and more in everyday life, He truly does become that for us, LIFE! 

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Relational Prayer Ministry – Tom Gale – Colorado Springs, CO – 719.278.4343 
©2010 Thomas Gale. All rights reserved. 

On homosexuality, many Christians get the Bible wrong

Good-Samaritan-Ministries-Portland-Oregon-Bible-StudyBy Adam Hamilton, a United Methodist pastor and author of “When Christians Get it Wrong” (Abingdon, 2013)

Homosexuality is one of the most divisive issues within churches and across our country today. The issue has become, for some, a litmus test on fidelity to God and the scriptures. The divide is not just between the progressives and conservatives. It is also a generational divide, with younger Christians generally seeing this issue differently than older Christians.

I recently delivered the sermon for the National Prayer Service at the presidential inauguration. While in Washington I took my family to the Lincoln Memorial. This iconic structure stands as a reminder of America’s great dream of equality and President Lincoln’s role in the emancipation of America’s slaves and the abolition of slavery in America. The words to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address are inscribed on the north wall of the memorial’s interior. In them Lincoln noted that at the center of the conflict over slavery were very different interpretations of the Bible. Lincoln said of the two sides in the war, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

Southern preachers and slave owners believed the many references in the Bible permitting and regulating slavery (well over 100 verses), in both the Old and the New Testaments, were clear evidence that the institution was a part of God’s social and moral order. Abolitionist preachers argued in their sermons that the verses related to slavery in the Bible were a reflection of the cultural context and times in which the Bible was written and did not reflect God’s endorsement of slavery. They argued that there were “weightier” scriptures on justice, mercy and love that superseded those on slavery. This was the position that Lincoln himself adopted.

At the center of the divide over homosexuality today is the Bible. Conservatives and progressives “read from the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

There are a handful of Scriptures (five or eight depending upon how one counts) that specifically speak of same-sex intimacy as unacceptable to God. Conservatives or traditionalists see these as reflecting God’s timeless will for human relationships. Progressives look at these same scriptures in much the same way that progressives in the nineteenth century looked at the Bible’s teaching on slavery. They believe that these verses capture the cultural understandings and practices of sexuality in biblical times, but do not reflect God’s will for gay and lesbian people.

In my own life, it was both reading the Bible’s passages on same-sex intimacy in the same light as passages on slavery (and violence and the place of women) and coming to know gay and lesbian people that led me to see this issue differently, particularly children who grew up in my church who loved God and sought to serve Christ. As I listened to their stories I saw that they did not fit the stereotypes I had been taught about gay and lesbian people. The love they shared with others looked very much like the love I share with my wife –a deep friendship and companionship. And their faith was as authentic as that of anyone else in my congregation.

For many Christians today, particularly young adults, the handful of Bible verses related to same sex intimacy seem more like the 100 plus verses on slavery than they do the teachings of Jesus and his great commandments to love God and neighbor. Their gay and lesbian friends are people, just like them, in need of love and community. I believe that in the years ahead an increasing number of Christians, not only progressives, but also conservatives, will read the Bible’s passages regarding homosexuality as all Christians today read the Bible’s passages on slavery. And the sermons preached from America’s pulpits decrying the rights of homosexuals today will sound to future generations much like the pro-slavery sermons sound to us today.