I take the Bible just as seriously as any other Christian from Northern Ireland. If there were really a single sound-bite verse that could prove that you cannot be gay and Christian, as Good News Messenger seems to think (Writeback, November 17), then I would listen to what it said, and close my organisation Faith and Pride.
As proof that you can’t be gay and Christian, Good News Messenger quoted the 2011 NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. On the face of it, that translation does seem to be convincing, but only on the face of it. There are two Greek words (malakos and arsenokoites) that are translated together to become “men who have sex with men”. In other translations they become things like “effeminate”, “self-indulgent”, and “sexual perverts”. It seems that translators are not in agreement about what is meant.
People in the 1st Century Graeco-Roman world often wrote about all sorts of sexual relationships between men, in both positive and negative terms. Malakos and arsenokoites are not used in those discussions. This is a very strong indication that in the 1st century those words did not mean “men who have sex with men”. The arguments for that translation are based on a mixture of modern prejudice and a misunderstanding of how etymology is related to meaning.
It is perhaps foolish to depend on one translation of one verse for guidance. It is far better to look at what Christ himself said about the topic, in a passage where there is no significant dispute about the meaning: Matthew 25:31-46.
ANDREW McFARLAND CAMPBELL
Faith and Pride
IT seems that much of the coverage of the gay marriage cake affair has portrayed it as Christians on one side and gay people on the other. It is too easy for people to forget that some of us are both.
There are gay people who are Christians and there are Christians who support same-sex marriage. Indeed, there is a long Christian tradition of fully supporting same-sex relationships.
While this tradition has, arguably, always been in the minority, being in the minority does not mean that you are not Christian.
I am lucky enough to know the “gay activist” who ordered the cake in question. I am perplexed by that label. I think he is better described as a “community worker”. He is a man who goes out of his way to help people, particularly those at the edges of our society.
While I don’t want to judge anyone in this case, it seems to me that kindness, particularly kindness to those at the edges of our society, is a key Christian virtue; after all, Christ himself said loving your neighbour is like unto loving God (Matthew 22: 36-40).
ANDREW McFARLAND CAMPBELL
Faith and Pride
Accepting Sexuality Annual Lecture: “Political Correctness gone mad or a Gospel imperative—changing attitudes in the Church and the world”
Accepting Sexuality’s annual lecture is on Friday 18 October 2013 at 8pm, at Belfast South Methodist Church, 238 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 6GF.
The title is “Political Correctness gone mad or a Gospel imperative—changing attitudes in the Church and the world” and the speaker is Ruby Beech, Vice-President of the British Methodist Conference 2007-2008.
For more information, please contact email@example.com.
Accepting Sexuality is an informal group of Methodists, ordained and lay, working for the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Church. Everyone is welcome to its events.
Today is Belfast Pride‘s parade day. We are holding two events.
- A group of gay (and gay friendly) Christians will be supporting the parade. We will be gathering at St George’s Church on High Street from 10.30. More details… (Facebook event page). If you are on the parade, give us a wave as you go past!
- Our final 15 minutes with Christ is at 6pm in St George’s. More details… (Facebook event page).
For full details of Belfast Pride itself, check their website.
A few people have suggested to me that I gave my Faith and Pride talk, Jonathan Loved David, to be offensive. Nothing could be further from the truth. I gave that talk because it was what I sincerely believe, and I thought other people would be interested in what I had to say. Faith and Pride isn’t about being argumentative or offensive, it is about putting forward an alternative point of view. It is about saying that you can be gay and Christian.
There are some Christians who find that offensive. Equally well, there are some Christians who find it offensive to say that you can’t be gay and Christian. However, just because one group has beliefs that are offensive to another group, it doesn’t mean that the first group should be afraid to say what it believes.
This isn’t just confined to issues surrounding gay people and Christianity. Roman Catholics believe that the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. The Westminster Confession of Faith has this to say about the Pope.
There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV, section VI
There can be no doubt that that statement is offensive to Catholics. Does that mean that churches that adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, such as the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, shouldn’t be allowed to express their beliefs? Or maybe Catholics shouldn’t be allowed to express their beliefs because they are offensive to Free Presbyterians?
This even goes beyond issues that only concern Christians. The majority of Jews and Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, which is a position that is offensive to the majority of Christians. Does that mean that Jews and Muslims should not be able to express their beliefs, lest a Christian is offended? Or maybe it is Christians who should remain silent, for fear of offending people from other faiths. Taking it a step further, many atheists find any expression of a belief in god offensive, and many people of faith find an expression of atheism offensive. Should one group be silenced to avoid offending another?
In Northern Ireland, we understand what it is like to live in a society without religious tolerance. We know how damaging that can be. In Northern Ireland we are learning what it is like to live in a society with religious tolerance, and we are seeing how wonderful that is. Religious tolerance means you can freely believe whatever you want, but that means you must also allow other people to believe what they want. Putting it another way, you have the right to stand up and say what you believe, but you do not have the right to stop someone else standing up and saying what they believe, no matter how much it offends you.