As the longest election cycle in the history of voting heads into the home stretch, it seemed like a good time to offer this refresher course on what the Bible actually says and doesn't say about LGBT people -- along with a reminder about what religious liberty is and isn't.
1. Is being gay a sin?
No. Sins are acts that separate us from God and keep us from loving our neighbors as ourselves. Being gay is not a sin. Bullying is a sin. Being hateful to other people is a sin. Putting yourself in the place of God to judge others is a sin. Being gay is not.
2. What did Jesus say about gay people?
Jesus said the same thing about gay people that he said about all people: God loves you beyond your wildest imagining and calls you to walk in love with God and with each other. He also said a whole lot about loving your neighbor, welcoming the stranger, embracing the outcast and ministering to the marginalized.
3. Does the Bible really condemn homosexuality?
The short answer is no, it does not. The handful of passages in the Old and New Testaments that talk about God condemning specific sexual acts have nothing whatsoever to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with contexts such as cultic prostitution or gang rape. To put it another way, using the Bible as a handbook on human sexuality makes as much sense as using it as a handbook on astronomy. Just as those who wrote the Biblical texts had no concept of the science that would prove the earth actually revolves around the sun they had no concept of homosexuality (which wasn't defined until the 19th century).
4. So are you saying the church has been wrong for 2000 years?
Yes. I am saying there is a really long list of things the church has continued to figure out over the last 2000 years -- including how it has marginalized women, supported slavery, denied science and treated LGBT people.
5. How do I respond when people say "God hates f--s"?
First of all, God's nature is to love, not to hate. We believe that what God cares about is not our sexual orientation but our theological orientation -- and that the question that matters is not "who do you love?" but "do you love?" Recognizing that homophobia causes some folks to project onto God their own fears, prejudices and biases against LGBT people, sometimes the best response is simply no response. It can be a challenge, but getting triggered by hate-mongers prevents us from being the change we want to see.
6. What do I tell people when they say being gay is a sin and a choice?
Tell them that Jesus said absolutely nothing about being gay, but he said a lot of things about judging other people. Then tell them that while there is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation, there is consensus that sexuality is a continuum. So the "choice" is not to be gay, straight or somewhere in between; the "choice" is to build our own healthy relationships -- and give other people the grace to build theirs.
7. How about transgender people? Where do they fit in?
The same place all God's beloved children fit in: smack dab in the center of God's care, love and desire for health and wholeness for every single human being.
8. How do I respond when politicians condemn my sexuality, citing their belief in the Bible?
Remind them that the First Amendment protects them in believing whatever they want to about what God does or does not bless, but it also prohibits them from using those beliefs to decide who the Constitution protects or doesn't protect. Tell them to stop confusing their theology with our democracy. And then campaign for and donate to their opponent.
9. But doesn't "religious liberty" protect discriminating against LGBT people?
No. Religious liberty protects the freedom to believe or to not believe whatever you choose to about God - not the freedom to use your religion as an excuse to discriminate against other Americans. The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection for all Americans - and equal protection isn't equal protection unless it protects all Americans equally. There was no asterisk in 1960 that said "unless you're an African American who wants to eat at a lunch counter" and there is no asterisk in 2016 that says "unless you are a same-sex couple who wants to get married or a transgender student who wants to use the bathroom." So called "Religious Freedom Acts" are nothing less than unconstitutional smokescreens for bigotry against LGBT people. Period.
10. Should I try to "pray away the gay"?
No. If you need to pray away something, pray away homophobia. Homosexuality doesn't need healing. Homophobia does.