What is homosexuality?
This is a term coined in the late 19th century to describe the understanding that some people have an inborn physical and emotional attraction to members of their own gender instead of the opposite sex. Sexuality involves much more than whom one is attracted to; it is an integral part of one’s personality and way of seeing and relating to life and other people. Gay is a term commonly used to refer to male homosexuals. Lesbian is a term that describes female homosexuals. Bisexual refers to people who may be attracted to either gender.
What do transgendered and intersex mean?
Transgendered people may have the body of a woman, but self-identify as being male, or they may have the body of a man, but self-identify as being female; they feel that they are "trapped in the wrong body." They find integrity and authenticity only when they are able to live as the gender which they feel themselves to be. Many go through a physical sex-change (transsexual) in order to integrate their physical characterisitics with their self- identity.
Intersex refers to people who are born with ambiguous genitals or who have sex characteristics of both sexes. Including all types of intersexuality, this occurs about once in a hundred births. This condition is usually treated by assigning a sex at birth and is treated with surgery and hormones. However, many intersex people feel they have been assigned the wrong sex, or that they don't identify with either sex..
Is homosexuality a choice?
Have heterosexuals chosen to be attracted to the opposite sex? The majority of homosexuals give heartfelt testimony to the fact that (1) from their earliest memories they always knew they were somehow "different" and that (2) in puberty they came to realize that this difference included physical and emotional attraction to the same sex, with a corresponding lack of this attraction to the opposite sex. For most, the acceptance of this basic awareness is a slow, gradual and very painful process. The idea that they "chose" to be homosexual is completely unrealistic to them. They often reply with an incredulous, "Who would choose to be scorned and hated by their family, church and society?"
What causes homosexuality?
During much of the 20th century, study focused on environmental causes of homosexuality, but over the past few decades the focus has shifted to biological factors.
As yet, there is no absolutely conclusive proof of causation, and some researchers believe that homosexuality is the result of a complex interaction of both biological and psycho-social elements.
Some studies point to childhood non-gender-typical behavior as a strong indicator of adult homosexuality. Other studies show that fluctuations in the levels of pre-natal sex hormones between the 16th and 26th week of gestation can interfere with masculinizing the mating center of the brain. Too few androgen receptors in the brain may also result in incomplete masculinizing of the brain. Some research indicates that the more older brothers a boy has, the more likelihood that he will be homosexual, suggesting that some mothers build up a sensitivity to male hormones. Studies have found various physiological differences between homosexual and heterosexual males, primarily in the brain, inner ear, and olfactory system. Several genes have been identified that are related to homosexuality and passed on through the mother. Homosexuality often seems to "run in families." In a well-known twin study, when one twin is gay the likelihood that the other twin will also be gay jumps from 20% in fraternal twins to 50% in identical twins. Less research has been done for lesbians, but it is also believed that gestational hormone levels plays a role, and certain biological differences have been noted. Of related interest, homosexual behavior has been observed in over 450 species of mammals, birds, fish and insects. See Scientific Research
What percentage of the population is homosexual?
Anywhere between 1% and 10% has been estimated. It is not easy to discover the exact proportion, because many people are not willing to admit their homosexuality. Also there are differences in how people define and understand homosexuality. When the most recent US Census was taken close to 5% of the population identified as gay or lesbian.
Why do gays want to flaunt their sexuality?
To many heterosexuals, any mention of homosexuality whatever seems like flaunting it. They forget that much of their own conversation is laced with both indirect and explicit references to their own heterosexuality. They have pictures of their spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend in their office, and talk freely about their significant other, but when gays and lesbians do the same they take offense.
It is spiritually and emotionally dishonest and unhealthy for people to pretend to be something they are not. If they feel that they cannot admit they are homosexual, they must constantly be monitoring what they say to be sure their secret doesn’t "slip out." Having to hide it makes it loom larger and more important in their lives until it becomes an obsession and makes it much harder to deal with. Being able to be "real" with others and share their need for spiritual support is an important aspect of Christianity for gays and lesbians just as much as for the rest of us.
Do homosexuals "recruit" children?
This question shows a confusion between pederasty (a desire to have sex with children) and homosexuality. Most pedophiles were themselves sexually abused as children. They need to be in a position of power sexually. While some pedophiles abuse children of the same sex, the large majority of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by the opposite sex. Gays and lesbians are sexually attracted to adults of the same sex. They do not "recruit" children, although many of them, remembering the agony they went through as they were growing up, want to help youngsters who are coming to terms with their sexuality today.
What is a "gay lifestyle"?
Many heterosexuals use this term as a euphemism for "gay sex" of any kind. Homosexuals object to the term, because they point out that there are just as many homosexual "lifestyles" as there are heterosexual lifestyles. There is selfless, committed love, as well as promiscuity, uncommitted sex, adultery, rape, child abuse, sexual addiction and pornography, among both straights and gays.
What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
The Bible condemns same-sex behavior of various kinds (just as it does such kinds of heterosexual behavior), such as temple prostitution, rape, lust and pederasty, but it doesn’t address the issue of homosexual orientation, as we understand it today. The recognition that some people are innately attracted to others of their own sex in the same way that most people are attracted to the opposite sex is a relatively recent understanding that was unknown when the Bible was written. The terms homosexual, homosexuality and homosexual orientation were coined in the late 19th century. Although some versions of the Bible use the word homosexual because the translators think this is what the Bible writers were referring to, there is no word in the original languages of the Bible for such a concept.
Does the Bible say anything relevant to homosexuals today?
The Bible really has little to say about sexual relationships between two men or two women. It is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments or by Jesus or the prophets. There are only six biblical references to same-sex behavior, and there is much debate in the Christian world about what they actually mean. People who take these words at face value have no doubt that such behavior is unequivocally condemned for everyone.
Others who believe we must evaluate the context in which they are written, as well as take historical and cultural considerations into account, and then decide how they apply to us today, do not see them in such black and white terms. Although this second view is not that of all, or even most, church members and leaders, it is shared by a significant number of thoughtful, respected Adventists who have given serious study to this subject and want to understand it in as accurate and redemptive a way as possible, while remaining faithful to the fundamental principles of Scripture and Adventist belief. If you disagree with this view, I hope that you will still consider it carefully and prayerfully. Let’s take a look at these references.
Genesis 19:4-9 "…all the men from every part of the city, both young and old, surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’ Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’ ‘Get out of our way,’ they replied. And they said, ‘This fellow came here as an alien and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.’
The traditional interpretation: Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality.
The contextual interpretation: First, we must remember that God had already decided to destroy Sodom before this incident took place. Second, it’s not likely that the mob which gathered at Lot's house - every single man in the city - were all homosexuals. We also have to ask ourselves why Lot would try to distract them with his virgin daughters (a reprehensible act, indeed) if they were. So we cannot simply assume that they were motivated by homosexual desire. What this story most likely suggests is that the men of the city regarded these two strangers with suspicion - perhaps they thought they were spies who had been taken in by Lot, himself an outsider. They were determined to humiliate these strangers in the way common to that time and area, by "treating them like women," by brutally raping them. In much the same manner today, new inmates are introduced to prison hierarchy. Sodom's sins are enumerated in Ezekiel 16:49, Luke 10:12 and Jude 7 as inhospitality, greed, pride, haughtiness, refusal to help the poor, and unspecified sexual immorality. It is ironic that this story which condemns a city for its mistreatment of the poor, the stranger, is used to condemn another vulnerable group - homosexuals.
Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable…If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."
The traditional interpretation: Sex between two men is a sin punishable by death.
The contextual interpretation: This command to the former Israelite slaves seems quite straightforward. Yet we must remember that it was a command made specifically to the Israelite nation. Many of the other Levitical commands, including those about sexual sins, seem to be in the context of ensuring and emphasizing that the Israelites were to be different from the pagan idolaters, both those they had known in Egypt and those they would be living among in Palestine. Leviticus 18:3 says, "You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices." Leviticus 19:19 forbids mating two different kinds of animals, planting a field with two different kinds of seeds and wearing clothing woven of two kinds of material. Leviticus 19:27 forbids men to cut the hair at the sides of their head or clip the edges of their beard. Leviticus 11-15 contains many laws and regulations concerning ceremonial uncleanness – laws which were broken by Jesus when he touched lepers, dead people, and the woman with a discharge of blood. The injunction against two men lying together immediately follows the command against sacrificing one's children to the heathen god, Molech. We can conclude that God did not want His people to practice the many perverted or detestable kinds of behavior common in the pagan nations around them which were often associated with lascivious temple fertility rites in which worshippers had sex with as many people as possible, regardless of their family relationship or sex. They believed this would bring blessings on their crops and livestock. No doubt these practices were what made idolatry such a temptation to the Israelites. As for the death penalty required for men who lie together, the same penalty was required for anyone who cursed his father or mother, for those who committed adultery, for a man who married his sister, etc. There is no indication that those involved in homosexual sex as part of their idol worship did so because of the kind of orientation we recognize today.
Romans 1:25-27 "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
The traditional interpretation: Women having sex with women and men having sex with men is called shameful lust and will be punished.
The contextual interpretation: The point Paul is making in Romans 1-2 is that all people, whether pagan or Christian, Jew or Gentile, have sinned and stand in need of God’s grace. His condemnation here is directed at pagan idolaters, people who have refused to acknowledge and glorify God and have turned to worshipping images of the things God has made. They have given up their natural desire for the opposite sex and turned to an unbridled search for lustful, sexual pleasure. Their lives are full of covetousness, malice, envy, strife, slander, disrespect for parents, pride, and hatred of God (see verses 1-31). Jews, on the other hand, had been given God’s law but were guilty of breaking it and, even worse, of judging the pagans. Paul uses the example of sexual perversion, knowing his readers will immediately identify it as an act of pagan idol worship. He speaks of women exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones and men abandoning natural relations with women in an obvious reference to heterosexual behavior, since what is natural for heterosexuals is not natural for homosexuals. No doubt there are heterosexual people today who engage in gay sex simply because they are lusting for a new kind of pleasure, to whom this text may apply. But most gay, lesbian and bisexual people who have grown up as Christians have struggled for long years against their same-sex attractions and have tried their best to love and serve God. Paul's description simply does not apply to them.
1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." (KJV) "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (NIV)
1 Timothy 1:9, 10 "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; (KJV) "We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine (NIV)
The traditional interpretation: Homosexuals will not go to heaven.
The contextual interpretation: Paul uses two Greek words, malakoi and arsenokoitai, that have been translated various ways, often reflecting contemporary understandings. Malakoi literally means "soft or woman-like" and most often referred to those who were rich, lazy decadent, self-indulgent or lacking in courage. The KJV translates this word as effeminate, and probably refers to male prostitutes who painted their faces and wore soft clothes to attract both male and female clients. If they served male clients, they were also considered effeminate because they played the "receptive" role of women. Arsenokoitai is made up of two Greek words - arseno, meaning "male" and koitai meaning "bedder." It is only found twice in the Bible and this is the first use of it found in literature generally. In subsequent Greek writings over the first six centuries arsenokoitai is usually found in a list of sins similar to Paul's. In these lists it is adjacent to words with an economic connection, such as robber, swindler, thief, etc. In the Corinthians verse quoted above it is followed by "thief" and in the Timothy verse it is followed by "slave-trader." If it is a sexual term, why is it in these lists? Could it be referring to a pimp, who profits from selling the services of male prostitutes? Or might it refer to a man who pays for the services of a prostitute? Although we cannot be absolutely sure what is meant here, these words obviously refer to a specific kind of homosexual behavior, so we cannot generalize from these verses that all homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.
A word of explanation:
How can I – a faithful, committed, fourth-generation Adventist; a minister’s wife and long-time church employee – even consider a different interpretation of these texts than the one endorsed by the church? I have never been liberal, much less radical, in my views. But a close acquaintance with hundreds of gay and lesbian people and their families, hearing of their confusion and painful struggles, has forced me to re-examine my understanding of this issue.
I have come to realize that many of our beliefs have changed over time. God does not change, but our understanding and interpretation of God’s Word has developed and changed over time. For instance, Christians for many years fiercely resisted the scientific discovery that the earth revolves about the sun, not the sun around the earth, on the basis of Joshua 10:12-14. They believed the Bible clearly taught that the sun moved across the sky, and those who believed otherwise were persecuted.
The Old Testament is strongly patriarchal in its focus. The last of the Ten Commandments even recognizes women as chattel, belonging to their husbands. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s." It doesn’t say, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s husband." But Paul saw that Jesus brought a new paradigm. "In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." In God’s sight every person is equal. We are still learning to apply that understanding.
A century and a half ago southern Christians defended from the Bible their right to own slaves. Nowhere does the Bible forbid slavery and there are many more references condoning and regulating slavery than there are condemning same-sex behavior. Yet Christians gradually came to understand that for one man to own and force his will on another was not in keeping with God’s principle of free will. Many slave-owning Christians believed that the Bible taught the Black race had been condemned to slavery and was inferior to the White race, because of Noah’s curse. (Genesis 9:25) No one would dare say that today.
In an age when polygamy was practiced, God did not condemn this practice. He even gave Moses a law to protect the first wife if another wife was taken. (Exodus 21:10) God blessed people like Abraham, Jacob, Elkanah, David and Solomon, who had multiple wives, and the Bible records no reproach from God about this. Yet today we understand that monogamy is God’s plan for our best happiness.
So I have come to believe that we have read those few verses that mention same-sex behavior through the lenses of prejudice and ignorance. I believe that someday in the future we will look back and be ashamed of the way we have treated homosexuals.
If I am homosexual in orientation, how does God expect me to live?
Although the Bible does not give specific instructions for every situation we meet in our modern world, we can look for principles that apply throughout time and across cultures.
Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a pure heart, O God." If your heart is pure you will resist temptation to treat God’s gift of sexual intimacy in a way that cheapens it and hurts others, such as promiscuity, adultery, rape or incest.
Psalm 38:9 "All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you." God understands and sympathizes with your longings, your loneliness and your pain.
Genesis 2:18 "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.'" God Himself put within you the need and capacity for a close emotional, mental and physical relationship with another person.
Isaiah 49:13, 23 "For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. . .those who hope in me will not be disappointed." John 10:10 "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." God promises you comfort, compassion and an abundant life.
Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." This is a promise that God will not only give you the desires of your heart, but that if you find your joy in serving Him, He will see that your desires are for the right things.
Isaiah 30:21 "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’" Philippians 2:12, 13 "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Psalm 25:4 "Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me." God wants you to study for yourself what His will is for your life and to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding you. If you ask, God will give you the desire to follow His plan for your life, whatever that may be.