Is It A Sin To Be Gay In Christianity?
The question of whether or not it is a sin to be gay in Christianity — and more widely in any of the Abrahamic faiths — has been widely debated for many years. The stance of Christianity on homosexuality is, for the most part, unaided or even outright homophobic in many cases. Depending on which cleric or church you visit, you can find a variety of nuanced positions on the issue. Some denominations of Christianity serve as absolute and vocal opponents of homosexuality, while some are much more accepting and open-minded.
So why is there such a wide sense of disparity among Christian churches and communities when discussing homosexuality? The answer lies in how the Bible speaks of gays, who are generally mentioned during the Old Testament and in some of Paul’s writings. In Leviticus 18:22, a passage in the Old Testament, the entirety of homosexuality is defined as an “abomination”. Other passages, such as Romans 1:27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9, seem to suggest that homosexuality is an immoral act, although the language is often vague and open to modern interpretation.
Today, strict and conservative believers tend to take these arguments plainly and as-is, claiming homosexuality is a sin according to their interpretation of the Bible. However, other churches have adopted a progressive approach to homosexuality, likely due to shifting sentiment on sexuality in both modern and past societies. There is no denying that the way homosexuality is seen today is more open and unbiased than centuries past, but due to a dearth of modern Scripture to cite, differences abound in how the topic is approached.
Despite the differing views on acceptance of homosexuality in Christianity, the church’s overall opinion is generally one of love. This is because together with a statement against homosexuality, the Bible is also filled with verses that advocate for compassionate treatment of non-heterosexuals and other marginalized groups. As such, many beliefs when looking at the subject matter of homosexuality shift to allow a space of compassionate understanding and guidance, instead of one of damnation.
Many scholars and reverends cite a common idea when it comes to modern Christianity and homosexuality: hate the sin, not the sinner. This is a concept of showing love and sympathy for homosexuals, but not condoning their actions. This stance has been used for many subjects over many years and is echoed throughout the church today. Ultimately, it is up to personal interpretation how one may go about this concept and how it applies to significant lived experiences.
Though there are honestly no easy answers, it’s plain to see that the perspectives of churches, churches leaders, and communities show a wide variety of stances on homosexuality. What’s equally clear is that further acknowledgement, compassion, and understanding is needed for all people, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.
Perspectives from Conservative Church-goers
As previously mentioned, most homophobes in the Christian faith tend to cite Biblical interpretations when backing up their claims against homosexuality. When discussing the topic, many resort to harsh judgement instead of those of compassion, which is written about prominently in the Bible itself. There is an often misoften view that homosexuality is a result of a sinful lifestyle rather than a God-given trait.
Many conservative believers interpret the Bible to say that any non-heteronormative forms of living or love are not acceptable in the eyes of God, and thus must be properly rectified and corrected. This often results in individuals being pressured to suppress their sexuality and explore a heterosexual lifestyle, or face the opposition of their conservative congregations.
On one hand, this approach has been used by conservative Christians for years in order to discourage gay persons from pursuing non-religious relationships. On the other hand, the overall view ignores all of the other Biblical verses that cite God’s loving kindness, and erases from view the larger theological narrative of God’s unconditional love for all humankind.
Enforcing rules written about in Old Testament verses alone, conservative church-goers risk disregarding all other teachings of love and acceptance, as well as demonizing and shunning their Christian gay members. This displacement of Christian themes and values in favor of conservative opinion does not help to foster a loving and accepting atmosphere within the church.
Examples from Progressive Churches
In the same manner that conservative churches tend to draw examples from select scriptures and use them as a base for their beliefs on homosexuality, progressive churches are making an effort to look outside of the Bible in order to further their understanding and love of all people, regardless of sexuality. Instead of accepting the common views of homosexuality being a sin, progressive churches embrace it and actively try to foster treatment with dignity and compassion for homosexuals, regardless of their lifestyles.
Many progressive churches have since begun offering inclusive services such as wedding ceremonies and child baptisms, actively welcoming homosexuals into their spaces and encouraging them to practice their faith openly. Other denominations have chosen to demote homosexuality as an issue altogether, foregoing passages directly aimed against gay people in an effort to promote full inclusion of all individuals.
A prime example of this type of progress is the Church of England, whose leadership body has recently proposed the institution of official liturgies for same-sex marriage, asserting that “love is love” and should not be limited by human judgement.
As progressive Christian denominations continue to grow, they also continue to open up their congregations in order to facilitate a growing acceptance, inclusion, and celebration of all persons, regardless of their sexual identity.
Different Mental Health Challenges
Unfortunately, in the atmosphere of acceptance and understanding that progressive churches try to cultivate for their gay members, the mental health of many homosexuals remains ignored and unaided. This mental burden of being gay, marginalized, and berated despite efforts to be good, is often abandoned in an atmosphere of negative judgement.
Since homosexuality has only been viewed by church-goers over the last few decades with an increasingly open mindset, it is unfortunately often the case that individuals are left to face the mental anguish of being ignored, left out, and scorned within the church.
Many mental health professionals often state that the lack of experience in this area, coupled with the traditional opposition that many churches offer to gay people, often results in a deep sense of loss, isolation, and depression.
These types of effects are a direct result of the lack of understanding and misguided mentality of many churches and partakers of it. In this sense, we can seeg that it’s not only a disservice to non-heteronormative individuals, but to the larger church as a whole.
Replacing Old Testament Laws with New Ones
To counter regimes of homophobic bullying and hate, some progressive Christian denominations have taken the first step in replacing outdated Old Testament laws with ones that reflect a greater understanding and respect of gay individuals.
The signatories of such measures have begun to argue that as laws and societies continue to move further and further away from traditional anti-gay stances, it is essential for churches to do the same and actively take part in fostering a more inclusive, welcoming, and compassionate atmosphere towards all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.
In an effort to do so, a growing number of revivals and church gatherings have begun to provide discussion, resources, seminars and panels on how to create genuinely inclusive spaces. These discussions commonly focus on how to provide restorative justice, remove prejudice and stigma, express compassion and understanding, as well as create an environment of trust and support.
Though it remains to be seen how progressive Christian denominations are able to swing the tide of opinion on homosexuality, the call for a more compassionate approach to the issue is one that is certainly worth listening to.
Rise in Gay Acceptance
With the rise of open-minded societies and cultures, the Christian stance on homosexuality has also grown more progressive worldwide. This can be seen in the number of openly gay clergy members, the existence of LGBT Christian ministries, as well as the many churches who have begun to embrace same-sex relationships and offer blessings for them.
While acceptance of gay relationships as well as LGBTQ identities is still relatively low among conservative Christians, and in some cases it is even seen as blasphemy, there is an increasing acceptance of gay relationships in modern Christianity, and a growing appreciation of their value and importance within the greater theological framework.
In certain jurisdictions, full rights are now available to homosexuals and transgender people, and many of the world’s most well-known Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church and Anglicanism, are starting to recognize the value and place of non-heteronormative individuals within their churches.
Numerous gay Christian movements, organizations, and grassroots initiatives have sprung up in support of gay, lesbian, and transgender Christians, often proclaiming that God’s love is greater than all of man’s laws, and that their faith should be centered on love, not on labels and definitions.
Outdated Views of The Bible
Religiously speaking, quite a lot of the Bible’s teachings regarding sexuality are outdated and far removed from today’s values. Throughout the Old Testament, a number of passages outline what is “right” and “wrong” when it comes to sexual activity, many of which are completely outdated, misinterpreted, and no longer applicable in our modern age.
As such, Progressive Christians have sought to rethink the scriptures and focus on passages that reinforce the idea of love, acceptance, and embracing one another’s differences. This also requires taking into account the context in which the various scriptures were written, as well as reflecting on our modern-day and past societies to comprehend why certain laws and beliefs may have arisen.
In doing so, individuals are encouraged to have conversations between themselves, with others, and with God in an effort to better understand the applications of their faith and how the beliefs of the Bible fit into our modern age. This reconciliation of faith and modern life is often referred to as contextualization, and it is done by churches and faith practitioners across the globe.
At the end of the day, a wide range of different perspectives exist when it comes to the question of “Is it a sin to be gay in Christianity?” and it will ultimately remain an issue of interpretation, perspective, and faith. But no matter what side you fall on, the important take away lesson is to ensure that we all treat each other with kindness, respect, and acceptance.