There are six passages traditionally used to say you can’t be gay and Christian: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10.
Genesis 19 is about gang rape. Anyone who says this has anything to say about consensual relationships has bigger problems than Biblical interpretation.
Leviticus is part of the Law of Moses, which is not binding on Christians. In any case the verses use an obscure Hebrew idiom that is rather unclear (as can been seen in the KJV translation).
Romans 1 26 and 27 does speak about same-sex relationships in a negative light, but then again verses 25 and 25 speak about opposite-sex relationships in an equally negative light. Nobody believes that Romans 1 teaches you can’t be straight and Christian.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 use an obscure Greek word, arsenokoites, which is also used to refer to heterosexual sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 also uses the word malakos, which is not a sexual term. If these passages were supposed to be about same-sex relationships, the writer could have used a lot of other, more common, terms.
Yesterday we had our monthly Faith, Pride, and Chat meeting at St George’s in Belfast, which was followed immediately by a service for World AIDS Day.
Although I am now very close indeed to someone living with HIV, my first contact with HIV came in the early 2000s, when I first became acquainted with the work of John Boswell, Michel Foucault, and John J. Winkler. Those scholars were invaluable to me in my studies of the New Testament texts on same-sex relationships. Even today I find myself reaching for Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality to check something, and I almost always seem to refer to Chapter 1 of Winkler’s The Constraints of Desire when writing about ‘nature’ in Romans 1.
Foucault died in 1984, Winkler in 1990, and Boswell in 1994. Foucault was 57, Winkler 46, and Boswell 47. When I reach for the books they published, I can’t help but wonder about the other books they might have written had they lived longer, especially Foucault’s planned fourth volume of The History of Sexuality which would have covered Christianity. In October of this year I found myself wondering what Boswell would have thought of my own understanding of arsenokoites and malakos.
Gay Christians owe a huge debt of gratitude to those three men. Their scholarship has enabled us to claim our rightful places in the Christian churches. They all died of AIDS-related illnesses. I thought of them in my prayers during the World AIDS Day service, and when I lit a candle I lit it for them. HIV affects everyone, not just gay people, but gay Christians should never forget what HIV has taken from us.
But nor should we forget what modern medical science has given us. HIV is no longer a death sentence. With today’s antiretroviral drugs it can be fought and held at bay. There are many people who are living with HIV today, including my wonderful husband Michael. In your prayers, remember all who have gone before, but also remember all who are still here and will still be here. Remember and be thankful for all those who have fought and will continue to fight HIV, through their work or through their lives.