Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Coming Out

I've hesitated to go internet public with this topic for a while now, because I don't think the internet is the best venue to debate hot topics.  However, the more I've prayed about and researched this topic, the more I've realized that it's important for me to express my thoughts publicly.

I'm in support of gay marriage.

Years ago, my position on this topic was much softer.  I believed the "act" of homosexuality was a sin, but I didn't feel it was right for the government to put restrictions on those who called themselves homosexuals.  And the only reason I believed homosexuality was wrong was because I had heard this in a general sense from the church.  I hadn't researched the topic, and I hadn't gone out in search of opposing viewpoints to inform myself.  I just took it with a grain of salt and let it be.

In college, some experiences broadened my horizons (cliche, right?).  Specifically, I had a dorm roommate who was gay, closely followed by two friends who came out together with their gender identity.  I was suddenly faced with a very real version of this hypothetical situation.

I started to have discussions about this with people I respected for their faith and morality.  On the surface, I found there were people I believed to be good, faithful, well studied Christians who believed that homosexuality was perfectly acceptable.  And, of course, I found plenty of the opposing viewpoint.

Recently, with the gender identity issue coming to the forefront of our politics, I've started to dig deeper.  I haven't found a clear answer, but I've found the source of the controversy.

The problem lies in the assumptions of our translations.  People who translate Hebrew or ancient Greek into modern languages rely heavily on context.  The rest of us tend to take the words at face value, so it's easy for us to assume an English word read in Leviticus (Hebrew) has the exact same meaning as the same English word read in Corinthians (Greek).

One of the more common assumed meanings (and one that has even made it into pop culture comedy) is the phrase "lay with" or the word "know."  We've all heard jokes that someone was "known in the Biblical sense," implying a sexual relationship.  But think of all the different ways the word "know" could be used!  It can imply a personal relationship, book knowledge, or a wise understanding.  In the same way, "lay with" isn't directly equated with sex in every instance of the word.

The translators take context not only from the verse they are translating, but also from other uses of the same Hebrew or Greek word throughout scripture.  They scour the Bible for every use of that word, and they try to find a common context between them.  True, a word may be associated with sex, but the context may imply something more like rape.  This is the case with Hebrew words used in scripture about homosexuality, specifically Leviticus 18:22.

Unfortunately, the context isn't as cut and dry as we would like it to be, so nobody can strictly argue one specific English translation of the verse without flaw.  One detailed breakdown of this verse came up with 7 possible meanings of Leviticus 18:22 based on the original Hebrew, only one of which narrows the issue down to a man having sex with a man.  Others include a man raping a man or a married man having sex with a man, which I would consider wrong regardless of gender.

The issue of rape is consistent with other scriptures involving homosexuality, specifically the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  This story is often referenced as an example of homosexuality being wicked.  However, this ignores a major part in the story: that the men of the town wanted to rape the angels who were staying with Lot.  Even worse, Lot offered up his daughters to be raped to protect the angels.  While homosexuality is involved, the clear element of rape may have been enough to condemn the cities, and supports the translation of homosexual rape in Leviticus 18:22.

The breakdown of this verse also points out the severity of Leviticus 18:22.  The word we tend to translate as "abomination" is now more commonly translated as "taboo," and is used similarly in laws about mixing fabrics, Jews associating too closely with non-Jews, and other "non-mixing" laws common to that day.  These customs were introduced early in Jewish history to solidify their identity, but these customs were not required of non-Jews, as Paul discussed in his letters and even argued about with Peter.

When it comes down to it, I believe that Leviticus 18:22 and other verses discussing homosexuality were intended to communicate the wickedness of rape and extra-marital sex, and foster the unique identity of early Hebrew culture.  I'll admit that the difficulty in translating scripture isn't an exact science, but that difficulty itself leads me to my final thought.

To assume that I know fully the meaning of writings in an ancient language that I do not speak, to assume that my understanding is the right understanding, to assume that the knowledge I've been given is the full authority of God is to overstep my boundaries.  We will never fully know the heart of God while living on the Earth.  The Pharisees thought they had all the answers, and Jesus called them guilty because of their assumption (John 9:41).

While the heart of God never changes, our understanding of it does.  It's more than we could ever comprehend, so we always learn more and more about it.  I believe we're in a generation to which God is revealing his love in acceptance.

We don't have to agree with each others' choices, and we don't have to become like others to understand them.  Jesus commanded us to love each other.  To refuse that love on the basis of an assumed translation of scripture crosses a line, and it's not a line I'm willing to cross.

I hope you'll stand with me today in loving an ostracized part of our community.  I hope you'll support the expansion of rights to the gay community.

Always moving forward,


1 comment:

  1. I love you and thank you, Tyler. I adore your family and Thanks to people like you I may get to have one someday too. Xoxo Lindsey