(RNS) Could there be a future where most American Christians support same-sex relationships? If so, it will be due to the emergence of conservative Christians who say orthodox believers can support lifelong, monogamous gay relationships without undermining their commitment to biblical authority.

In evangelical gay Christian Matthew Vines’ new book, “God and the Gay Christian,” he examines the six biblical passages on same-sex behavior and argues that they do not address today’s long-term gay relationships.

New Testament scholar James Brownson, who wrote the 2013 book “Bible, Gender, Sexuality,” concurs. He told me: “Male-male sex in the ancient world was episodic. It was mainly young boys with older men or male slaves and masters. It was not mutual. These were not relationships, they were not marriage and they were not meant to turn into marriage.” Brownson said to compare what ancient writers viewed as heterosexual “sexual excess” — akin to gluttony — with the modern concept of sexual orientation is misguided.

This is not a matter of molding biblical teaching to satisfy a personal belief. Both Vines and Brownson hold a “high view” of Scripture, meaning it is the final authority on all matters of faith and life. They oppose unbiblical divorce and premarital sex, for example. But Brownson says, “The issue of sexual orientation represents new data that the church needs to ask itself, ‘Should this change the way we look at this?’”

The church has done this before, on issues ranging from slavery to the solar system.

Vines writes: “Christians did not change their minds about (the sun revolving around the Earth) because they lost respect for … the authority of Scripture. They changed their minds because they were confronted with evidence their predecessors had never considered.”

Both men argue there is plenty of new evidence to consider, including the fact that same-sex orientation is not a choice. Even the head of the now shuttered leading “ex-gay” ministry has stated that 99.9 percent of people he has met with same-sex attraction “have not experienced a change in their orientation.”

Kirsten Powers writes weekly for USA Today. Photo by Len Spoden Photography, courtesy of Kirsten Powers

Kirsten Powers writes weekly for USA Today. Photo by Len Spoden Photography, courtesy of Kirsten Powers

Renowned Christian theologian Lewis Smedes wrote in 1999 that the closest parallel to this debate is the church’s former opposition to nearly all remarriage after divorce. Scripture states that remarriage after an unbiblical divorce is adultery. To gain good standing in God’s eyes, those who had remarried were told to divorce their new spouses and either remarry the first or remain celibate for the rest of their lives.

Smedes noted, “as long as (the church) read Jesus’ words with no regard for the devastation that its policy inflicted on the human families involved … the church could go on believing that it was only following Jesus’ own instructions. But once it factored human reality into its reading of the Lord’s words, it was bound to ask: Could Jesus actually have meant the church to cast away people?”

The answer was no. Perhaps the same question should be asked about gay Christians.

(Kirsten Powers writes weekly for USA Today.)

41 Comments

  1. I, for one, have never suggested or expected Christians to change their perspective on homosexuality. I would be content if they would simply leave us alone. That means a few things that seem perfectly reasonable to me:

    1. Stop the bullying. Parents need to teach their kids to respect other children – NO MATTER WHAT.

    2. Get out of politics. The Church should be content with its teachings to its adherents. Trying to impose their will on everyone else, by force of law, has serious consequences. While now reversed, California Proposition 8 and Maine Question 1 were successful campaigns for discrimination because the Church (through NOM) fostered the notion that gays are a threat to children. Young gay people hear that nonsense and endure increased stress in already stressful lives. Kids are dying! Don’t people get that?

    3. Comply with anti-discrimination laws. Baking a cake is not a religious sacrament. Sometimes you would think that we are forcing people to marry someone of the same sex against their will.

    These three things not only benefit the gay community. Religious institutions can focus on more important issues. Moreover, they stop driving people away. Somewhere around 40% of our citizenry have an immediate family member who is gay. They are sick and tired of hearing their family members denigrated. If you want an issue of greater importance try economic inequality which affects FAR more people every single day (as a retired CEO
    I’m no socialist).

    • Chris Calloway

      So, summing up, Mr. Hart — the church must do what you command. Got it.

      1) Not much with which to disagree

      2) So, in a representative republic, Christians should just withdraw and not exercise their freedom to participate equally in policy discussion and free election. We should just allow whatever others want to impose on us to be imposed and live with what we get.

      3) So whatever the state demands we do — including participating in celebrations of sinful behavior — we must do. Freedom of conscience and freedom from religious suppression doesn’t mean that the state merely “allows us” to participate in the sacraments.

      • As for #2, if your political actions are informed solely by religious/sectarian concerns they have no place in a representative government. It is simply trying to establish a government backed religion. Separation of church and state demands that the laws be used for something besides your interpretation of God’s word. That they have a rational and secular purpose.

        As for #3, that is untrue. People are claiming their alleged religious freedom to engage in discrimination is being attacked. Its a sham. Merely trying to excuse uncivil and spiteful behavior. Your right to free exercise of religion always ended where it causes harm to others. Engaging in business discrimination is intentionally inflicting harm on others. If one is doing business in open commerce, they are subject to the rules which govern that.

  2. Christians don’t need to re-write the Bible; they just need to stand up and actually agree with their own Bibles. Just doing that little bit, would significantly impact our secularized culture.

    Meanwhile, “human reality” is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

    “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

    Change is real. Choice is real. Christ is real. Christ CAN do what the gay activists say He can’t do. You don’t have to be gay. You don’t have to be (insert favorite sin here). Christ offers salvation, freedom, healing, deliverance, and a new life, to all.

    • Sure, Christ has the ability to make a gay person straight. However, in my experience (years of begging and crying and pleading to be changed), He hasn’t exercised that ability. So either He wants me to suffer under this or perhaps He doesn’t care that I’m gay.

      • It’s true, Josh, many people know the hard pain of “my prayers didn’t work.” In fact, I know a homosexual man who was, as you say, “begging and crying and pleading to be changed”, but his prayers did not work.

        And so he lived the gay lifestyle, got himself into some problems, and when it all was exposed, many of his family and friends turned their back on him.

        I did NOT have any faith that Jesus could do anything about his homosexuality problem, and certainly not about the full combination of problems that he faced. I even told Jesus (quietly) that I had NO faith and I had my own problems anyway.

        But that gay guy was family, we grew up together, so I wound up praying and crying with him week after week, the same useless, “don’t-work” prayers for Jesus’s salvation, healing, and deliverance.

        But then something happened.

        One day, I got a 3-hour phone call from my gay relative. Something happened to him, he said. A totally unexpected blast of “something powerful” had struck him, coming directly from God, he said. Even this man’s voice sounded different, full of surprised amazement.

        He was NOT HOMOSEXUAL anymore, he was no longer at the merciless addiction of “those feelings”, he said. God somehow “neutralized them”, he said.

        No longer a gay slave. No longer a gay toy. NOT GAY anymore. He was saved. Healed. Cleaned up. Free.

        (He also reported an additional miracle, an equally astonishing one, that resulted in his **other** major problems being resolved.)

        He kept saying, “Jesus is real, this really happened to me, I had to tell you about it.”

        Everybody’s different. Christ tailors his powerful help and healing (and timing) to the individual. It’s a process for all of us. But 1 Cor. 6:11 and 1 Cor 10:13 are still true. Jesus can make them come true for all of us.

        So don’t give up on praying and crying. Don’t give up on the Bible’s promises. Don’t give up on Jesus.

  3. “And [God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”
    Acts 17:26

    God wanted you to live in segregated communities. Go figure

    • Wow. How wrong can you be, Larry? The verse clearly proclaims the equality of all humans (NOT the equality of all lifestyles and all boudoir choices, just the equality of all humans). The verse says right out loud that all humans were created of ONE blood (which necessarily that means all humans are the same, all created equal).

      The verse clearly says that “all nations” (which are again created from ONE blood), are for to dwell on “all the earth”, and it clearly says that the geographical extent of each nation is already known and pre-determined by God.

      There’s absolutely nothing about racial or any other segregation in there.

      • Tell that to Bob Jones University and every Southern Baptist from 1865-1995.

        It still is used for that purpose
        http://thetencommandmentsministry.us/ministry/blog/articles/30-reasons-for-segregation-of-races/.

        “Miscegenation caused Israel to be cursed (Judges 3:6-7; Numbers 25:1-8)”

        “Miscegenation means the mixture of races, especially the black and white races, or those of outstanding type or color. The Bible even goes farther than opposing this. It is against different branches of the same stock intermarrying such as Jews marrying other descendants of Abraham(Ezra 9-10; Nehemiah 9-13; Jeremiah 50:37; Ezekiel 30:5).”

        Hmm, people using the bible to justify bigoted behavior. I guess some things never change

        • If you are going to circulate totally wrong statements about specific Scriptures in this forum, please know that you won’t be able to excuse or justify YOUR mistakes by hiding behind any racism or biblical misinterpretations attributable to Bob Jones University or other folks.

          • And yes, you’ll likely get called out again on each Scripture you mess up on, such as your mangling of Acts 17:26.

          • The statements are correct, its the interpretations which are funny. People have never had trouble using the Bible to promote bigotry of all stripes. You are no different than the racists I linked to in that regard.

            Both you and them believe that Christianity demands that some group is hated and discriminated against. The only difference is you are of group they are hating.

            Doc, the judge who was overturned by SCOTUS in the Loving v. Virginia case directly cited Acts 17:26.to justify anti-miscegenation laws.
            “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
            Evidently in 1960, they thought that quote supported segregation.

  4. Here are some people with the interesting notion that Christianity supports racism
    http://faithandheritage.com/2011/05/the-moral-status-of-miscegenation/

    Real sickening stuff. Not much different than some of the stuff spewed out by others who claim their bigotry has a biblical basis.

  5. Kirsten would have learned much more by studying gay scholar and Harvard professor, Dr. John Boswell’s “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality”. Boswell gives overwhelming evidence, and comes to conclusions, that are the direct opposite of of the ones Kristen cites.

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Christianity_Social_Tolerance_and_Homose.html?id=v-MR5_AdG68C

    [Page 28] “Unfortunately, an equally distorting and even more seductive danger for the historian is posed by the tendency to exaggerate the differences between homosexuality in previous societies and modern ones.

    “One example of this tendency is the common idea that gay relationships in the ancient world differed from their modern counterparts in that they always involved persons of different ages: an older man (the lover) and a young boy (the beloved). Some scholars even propose that such age-differentiated relationships cannot be considered examples of ‘real homosexuality.’…On the other hand, it does NOT seem likely that, with a few exceptions, the apparent prevalence of erotic relationships between adults and boys in the past corresponded to reality.”

    [Page 28] Footnote 52. “…It is clear that in many cases it was superior beauty which earned one the position of beloved, not inferior age: while Socrates, know for his homeliness, always appears as the lover of others, Alcibiades, equally famous for his beauty, was a beloved all his life. In any event, one did not have to be young in any accepted sense: Euripides was the lover of Agathon when Euripides was seventy-two and Agathon forty; Parmenides and Zenon were in love when the former was sixty-five and the latter forty; Alcibiades was already full-bearded when Socrates fell in love with him. According to Plutarch…Achilles was a beloved when he was a father.”

    [Page 30, N.58] “Often the beloved in a discussion of ‘pederasty’ will be designated with a word which refers to an adult…and in very many cases where both parties are known to be full grown the words used imply youthfulness on the part of the beloved…IN THE MAJORITY OF INSTANCES HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONS ARE DESCRIBED AS OCCURRING BETWEEN FULLY GROWN PERSONS, AND NO DISPARITY IN AGE IS IMPLIED OR STATED.” [my emphases]

    The Apostle Paul was a man who grew up in a city which had been under Greek control for over 300 years. He was educated in Greek culture and history. He could quote, off the cuff, even minor Greek philosophers and poets such as Aratus and Cleanthes (Acts 17:28), Epimenides (Titus 1:12), and Menander (1 Corinthians 15:33). Certainly, Paul knew about famous Greeks and their “committed, loving” relationships, yet he condemned them anyway.

    Keep studying, Kirsten.

    • The Bible has been used to support a lot of different forms of bigotry:

      Racism
      http://faithandheritage.com/2011/05/the-moral-status-of-miscegenation/

      Antisemitism
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2009/07/new-testament-anti-semitism/

      Sectarianism
      http://thetencommandmentsministry.us/ministry/blog/articles/30-reasons-for-segregation-of-races/

      Obviously its always been easy to claim to be a Christian and act like a bigot at the same time.

      Kirsten’s point is that over time, there is the revisionism where a group formerly hated under God’s command suddenly isn’t so bad after all. It is surprising that in this day and age Evangelicals and Mormons are on speaking terms. Not more than a generation ago, they were branding each other as heretics.

      • To quote a source over a Scripture is to quote a dog over its owner. The sacred beauty of race and gender are given to man as a gift. Any alterations of that gift is racist and sexist. If all men mix with men, humanity will perish, and if all races marry in-ex-changeably, races will perish. Both outcomes are a blight to the earth. We need to exist, and we need different races to exist. Egyptians made the wheel, Americans made the car, Britain made the phone, Africans made the Digital Laser, and the Filipinos made a cure for leprosy. It is not an absolute need to have every single race, but it is an absolute blessing.

        • That would work if you had direct and unambiguous communications with God. We only have people who claim that is the case. If it were the real thing we would have far fewer people taking psychotropic medication.

          But since we do not have God coming down from on high and delivering his own interpretations of his word, we have to make do with what people are willing say it means.

          Christianity has allowed people to excuse all sorts of hatreds and then disavow them when it becomes inconvenient and socially unacceptable.

          I made a quote with Biblical based proscriptions against miscegenation in an ironic fashion. You do not. (Or appear not to anyway, damn Poe’s Law!)

          You provide a perfect example of Christian dogma carrying over to supporting bigotry of at least 3 different kinds. Somehow you have employed the same rhetoric used to attack gays to also support segregation.

          Thank you for doing the job for me.

    • John Boswell has been refuted by so many PhD-level religion scholars (including 2 or 3 who are pro-gay) that it’s not even worth trying to quote him anymore. His stuff is old as the hills and as wrong as a 3-dollar bill (counterfeit, of course).

      Do you see the “Trash Bin” icon on your computer desktop? That icon was specifically created with John Boswell in mind. Toss all his messed-up writings right in there IMMEDIATELY!

      (Also be sure to splash two cups of Lysol on your computer monitor afterwards. It’s important to disinfect ALL the septic slimy oozing cancerous virus of Boswell’s snake-oiled words that appeared on the monitor. Three cups may be necessary, so don’t hold back!)

      • Don’t really care about Boswell. Not my point. I don’t take any claim that the Bible has a definitive text supported position on a subject to be one capable of rational and logical support. The Bible is not believed in a rational or logical manner. Any interpretation can be supported with the right selective quotations, talk of context and spurious arguments.

        Even people who claim to follow it to the letter are just massaging their egos. There is enough in the Bible that people drop because of the vagaries of a modern existence to make such claims woefully dishonest.

        So claims that one person’s theological interpretation is any more valid or correct than another is pure nonsense.

        History is not on the side of people who use the Bible to support bigotry. Somehow those groups who God told the believers to hate so vigorously in the previous generation somehow aren’t so bad after all. Revisionism takes hold because Christians don’t want to feel embarrassed. They claim way after the fact that their faith made acceptance of such people intuitive. (Like how conservative Christians like to take credit for MLK and the church based civil rights efforts). Never mind that they were attacking those groups not long before.

      • Doc, I think your posts here are very intelligent, but I don’t get this one. Did you get what AaronC was saying by quoting Boswell? Of course pro-gays would condemn Boswell. What he says destroys the basis of their arguments. I thought AaronC’s post was the best one on this site.

  6. Kirsten? The slavery analogy only works if you can show me where in the Bible anyone is commanded to own a slave. Because you and I both know that there are a whole lot of verses in the Scriptures commanding us not to do what Gene Robinson or Susan Russell do in their off-hours.

    • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

      When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

      Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

  7. The Bible is full of sex
    as it encourages lust for all sorts of weird sex.

    Jacob has wild sex with sisters and a handmaiden (Genesis 29: 21-28)
    If you can’t hold back just masturbate (Judah 38:8-10)
    Sex with a prostitute happens to be your daughter in law (Gen. 38:15-16)
    Women’s breasts are endlessly wondrous (Song of Solomon, 1:13 – 8:10)

    “She lusted after her LOVERS, whose penises are like those of donkeys, and whose emissions are like those of horses.” (Ezekial 23:20) :-)

    Now that you are feeling lusty as god intended in his holy Word….

    “Let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4)

    Talk about a cold shower, God. :-(

  8. Let’s look beyond the earth for a minute … or maybe a life time.
    There will be no gays in Heaven … There will be no heterosexuals in Heaven.
    Have you ever thought of that?
    You also may want to consider what Christ says about food too.
    There will be no Big Macs in heaven either … We will all be vegan/vegetarians.
    There will be no sin, no misery, no sickness, no strife … There will only be love, happiness, a community of brothers and sisters worshiping God and in complete an utter peace. There will be no day and night. We will live in the total loving light of God for eternity.
    If you read the Bible you will see in prophesy and the saying of Christ, that all the signs of the end, His return are all around us.
    Peace be with you and may His glory not singe your coat tale!
    -

    • Nah, Christians will never go for it.

      You can’t treat heaven like it is a club where anyone can join, where all the crap you have accumulated in your life accounts for nothing. Where is the fun in that? :)

      How will people know who to hate?

      If you can’t point your finger at someone and say, “You are not going to heaven when you die, you will be cast into the pit of perdition”, there is no point to being a Christian :)

      • The Bible is very clear. When we die we are dead. When Christ’s returns the living wicked will perish from the brightness of His coming. Then the saved that are in the grave will be drawn up to Him. Then the living saved are called up to Him and they shall all rule in Heaven above for 1000 years. Then the New Jerusalem will come down to earth where the they will live forever with Jesus & God. There is more detail if you read the book of Revelations of Jesus Christ. The 66th and final book of the Bible. There are and will be many claiming to be Christ. The only thing that will separate them is that Christ’s feet will never touch the earth when He returns. The false Christs will preform many wonders and miracles. When Christ comes everything on earth will perish instantly, except those that belong to Him. No, there is no eternal burning in hell. That is just a myth. There is no purgatory. Only the remnant church will be in Heaven. Those who keep the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Christ in there hearts & minds. God is a merciful God. God is love!

        • @Jack,

          “God is love”

          Now this nonsense must end!
          Stop that sort of claim, please. This is the God you are referring to:

          GOD SAYS – CUT OFF YOUR WIFE’S HAND IF SHE TOUCHES ANOTHER MAN’S PENIS.

          “If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and SEIZING HIS GENITALS, you shall cut off her hand; show no pity.” – DEUT. 25:11
          Cut off your wife’s hand? Show no pity?
          JESUS AGREES! (JOHN 1:17), (Mark 10:19)

          Believe this garbage if you want! Go to church and pray to this monster of the imagination if you want!

          But do not claim to me that LOVE has anything to do with your god.

  9. There is no love in affirming, condoning, celebrating, being tolerant of or being silent of sinful behavior. Anyone who accepts homosexual behavior as ok is not loving.

  10. So the change is due to new and/or improved interpretations of the six or so negative statements found in the Bible regarding homosexuality, such that they are all culturally explained away. Combined with relatively recent explanations and/or understandings about “orientation” and committed monogamous relationships. Yet, there are no positive verses regarding homosexuality nor any references espousing monogamous relations as the standard for defining a marriage in God’s eyes. Hmmm. I find this change as unconvincing at this point in the debate. I think that Matthew Vines and many others have fallen pray to eisegesis and are reading in their own desired interpretations.

    • “nor any references espousing monogamous relations as the standard for defining a marriage in God’s eyes.”

      And yet Christians opposing marriage equality all proclaim “The Bible supports marriage of one man and one woman”. Even though polygamy, concubinage, marriage by abduction, marriage as commercial transaction are referenced pretty clearly.

      It seems the bigots have fallen prey to eisegesis of their own.

      Go figure. :)

      • Of course, you’ll notice that any and all biblical instances of “polygamy, concubinage, marriage by abduction, marriage as commercial transaction” do NOT involve any same-sex partnerships at all.

        It’s ALWAYS male-female marriage in the Bible, NEVER same-sex marriage.

        If it ain’t male AND female, it’s not even a marriage — it’s just a Mess!!!

        • Actually many times its male, female, female…

          All that talk of marriage of one and and one woman as being Biblically proscribed is just not there. Even Philip admitted that much. Just another example of people putting their own spin on the text. No different than the people who find Biblical endorsement of gay marriage.

          People use the Bible to support all sorts of things.

          • Actually, that is not what I said. What I said was that being committed and monogamous is not the biblical standard for defining a marriage. It certainly is an important part of it, but Matthew Vines in his book strongly states that because gay marriages can be both monogamous and committed that they are therefore biblically justified. This is incorrect and very poor exegesis and theology. Being both committed and monogamous does not a marriage make. And don’t get distracted with the false parallel of polygamy, rape, incest, etc. You need to be more discerning on what the real issues are in each of these and recognize the difference between what is descriptive and what is prescriptive in scripture.

          • Actually you continue to say it despite your denial. “Committed and monogamous is not the biblical standard for defining a marriage”. Your words.

            Monogamous and committed can only be interpreted 2 ways, 1 man and 1 woman or 2 of the same gender.

            So all talk of the Bible saying 1 man and 1 woman definition is obvious eisegesis of the text. What Vines is doing is really no different from those who support gay marriage bans. Stretching the text for their own purposes.

  11. Another prophecy fulfilled:

    2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    • John,

      Why was Jesus wrong about slavery? It seems he expected us to enslave each other forever.
      If God’s prophecy is always right, whey did we humans decide his slavery was an outrage to humanity?

      THE LORD SAYS, BE A GOOD SEX SLAVE. DON’T RUN TO FREEDOM!
      “Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those WHO ARE PERVERSE.” (1 Peter 2:18)

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