In search of solace...by Gene Bixler
I have often wrestled with a difficult question for which there is seemingly no answer. But I have recently become comfortable in my guess of the answer, so I've chosen to break from tradition and share a personal story in the hopes that anyone facing the same problem might find some comfort as well.
My question was a simple one: How does my sexuality fit in with the church? The response was not nearly so simple. I posed this question to a local United Methodist minister in whom I place an unbelievable amount of trust.
We talked for a couple of hours that day and I've decided to include a brief rundown of our conversation so that some of your questions may, too, be answered. But, first, I'd like to make my disclaimer. The views represented within this article are my own coupled with the views of one particular minister of the United Methodist Church. I am not familiar with the inner-workings of other religions or how they view this issue. Okay, moving on...
To begin our conversation, he told me he wasn't talking to me out of some need to change me, nor did he even desire to change me. He believed that if God wanted a change to be made, He'd make it himself. It was at this point that I came at the Reverend with one of those most difficult questions I could think of: "Did God make me this way?" He informed me that he believed scientific evidence would show that there was some sort of genetic pre-disposition to be being gay, and if that is the case, it cannot be reasonably argued that God did not have a hand in that creation.
Of course, others have argued that it could be a genetic defect, thus still not something done by God. To illustrate this ideology, a point was raised: If it is shown that there is a genetic link to murder, does that mean murder is okay in the eyes of God? Certainly a good point, and one that had me at a loss for a moment. But the very reasoning behind this idea calls into question whether God looks at homosexuals as less than favorable.
So I asked the minister about the Biblical references to gays and how I could possibly think God feels anything but contempt for me. His answer was actually something I had considered myself. Because the collection of "stories" we now call the Bible did not even begin to be largely compiled till some 400 A.D., no one is entirely certain some stories in the Bible were not added to the original manuscripts because the committee of priests that compiled it felt God had intended to say those things but they were never recorded.
Whether or not that is the case with references to homosexuals is just conjecture, but it does offer some comfort. But the Reverend didn't stop there.
We next discussed the fact that historians agree the word "homosexual" does not appear much in the earliest versions, or translations, of the Bible. In fact, roughly translated into English, in the place of the word "homosexual", in those early versions, you'd find "faint of heart." In later versions, it became "weak of spirit," then "effeminate," which finally became "homosexual." So once again, we're left questioning what the intent really was. And yet another theory has surfaced regarding the New Testament writings of Paul and his references to homosexuals, which are likely his true words.
This theory asserts that, insofar as it appears, Paul was referring to irresponsible sexual behavior, which was, at that time, more often exhibited by homosexuals that heterosexuals, but he was not referring to homosexuality in general. Of course, that is also conjecture, which I pointed out, so the minister came at me with one more point.
The specified scripture for the week in which this conversation took place was the story of the woman at the well. Basically, what happens is this: Jesus, who was a Jewish Rabbi, was passing through a town with his disciples. Being tired, he decided to rest by a well outside of the town while he sends his followers into town to get some food. While Jesus was sitting there, a Samaritan woman "of ill repute" came to draw water from the well. Now, this event took place at "mid-day."
It was extremely uncommon for women to draw water from the well outside of town alone at mid-day. All these signs pointed to the fact that the woman was a social outcast. Add to that the fact that she was from Samaria, and Jesus, being a Jewish teacher, should have had nothing to do with her.
The Jews and the Samaritans had, at this time, been feuding for generations, so that alone should have caused Jesus to shun this woman. Because she was a social outcast, a Rabbi should have ignored her, and because she was a woman, a man should have paid no attention to her. She had everything against her, but Jesus showed her kindness; showed interest in her life, and spoke to her of the "living water." By every stretch of the imagination, the religious doctrine of the day demanded that he should not have spoken to her, but he showed her love.
The minister to whom I was speaking posed this question to me: "Who do we today cast out in the name of religion that God would embrace, that Jesus would love?" Good point. And dealing with Christianity here, if the great commandment is to love one another, how could God punish such a large group of people when we are only doing what was asked of us - loving?
It should be pointed out that there are church within the United Methodist Church, known as Reconciliation churches, that openly accept homosexuality. However, the official position of the United Methodist Church is more like "Don't ask, don't tell", even though the church passed in 1992 a resolution condemning any and all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by the church, by the government, and by the people.
The minister with whom I spoke does not represent a Reconciliation church, but says he is abhorred and appalled by the ministers of any church who would turn away anyone who only wanted to seek God. After all, he said, Jesus commanded that the "Good News" be spread to all people. Nowhere will you find a statement by Jesus that said, "And turn back the homosexuals, for they are doomed to hell."