You are being very brave in the face of huge opposition to your faith-motivated stand on the gay and lesbian marriage license issue. It must take huge courage.
PART 1. The basic issue
I’m writing because I would like you to be even more brave! Let me explain how, with a little personal ramble.
I used to be a pastor of a Baptist church in England. Like you I was a firm believer that the Bible was the word of God and if it spoke clearly on any given subject then it superseded any laws or edicts of men.
I was very troubled about gay people coming to my church; two gay men in particular. Well, we did not so much mind them coming, but we thought it would be an issue if they wanted to take communion, or become church members. So nobody really said anything because we didn’t want to be rude. But we believed, as I’m sure you do, that the biblical abhorrence of homosexuality was to be taken very seriously.
This put me in a bind when preaching the Word on Sundays. Occasionally I would encounter a passage from the Bible that dealt with homosexuality. I needed to teach my people faithfully, as I understood it, but there were these two gay men, sitting there together, listening and learning. It was quite hard to be true to our evangelical understanding of the Bible and not at the same time appear offensive to these two perfectly gentlemanly individuals. What was to be done?
I happened across a book called “Brain Sex” – quite an old book by now. Very well written, it drew upon wide research into the differences between men and women, and heterosexual and homosexual people in particular. I’m not going to start quoting from it now but I’d like to share with you what I discovered. Here are the points in brief (some of which many of us already know):
- Basic gender differentiation is determined by the X and Y chromosomes. If you have two X chromosomes you are a female. If you have one of each, you are male. But, of course, it didn’t stop there.
- The actual development of the very young fetus, and in particular the set of cells that will form into gonads and genitalia, is conditioned by hormones, not genes. That was a surprise. Furthermore, these same hormones impact the wiring of the brain. Yes, the brains of men and women are differently wired. Of course I speak generally and there is no space here to develop this.
- When this “wash” of hormones (in minute quantities) hits the fetal brain and the primary gender cells, the mix of hormones might be slightly off. Too much (or too little) of one or another hormone could cause cells to develop contrary to the basic genetic sex of the fetus. The results may be mild or dramatic! You could get a genetic girl born with male looking genitalia. Or vice versa. And the effect on the hard wiring of the brain is similar. Here is a girl who feels and thinks more like a boy; or here is a boy who prefers boys to girls and yet who loves girls’ toys and dresses. It’s very confusing. The point is that the child has no control of this whatsoever. It’s how he or she is formed in the womb and molded by sex hormones.
- When puberty comes these pesky hormones kick off all over again – about which the young teen can do absolutely nothing – reinforcing the sex profile first developed when the child was only a six week old fetus.
- The growing self-awareness of young teens as to whether they like other kids of the same sex, or the opposite sex, is not a choice; it is a discovery of how they ARE; how they have been from before birth.
- The effect of the puberty hormone release also affects the brain. The wiring may become more feminine in some boys and more masculine in some girls. These are the gays and lesbians. There is a huge range of possible outcomes. I have made this very simple so that we can all grasp it.
So I began to understand that God could not possibly judge someone for being what they are if they cannot help it. It would be like saying I reject little people because they are little – but they can’t help that. Hopefully God does not reject little people.
Three possibilities are used to summarize why some people might be gay or lesbian. 1) they made a moral choice to go that way; 2) they were influenced by others or some subculture to go for a gay lifestyle, or 3) they had no choice. They were born that way.
The only correct answer is 3. They were born that way. End of argument, unless you live with your head in the sand.
Then I began to wonder why God would be so discriminatory and judgmental about gays and lesbians if they could not help how they were? This made me very uneasy. I mean, VERY!
Of course there are those who then add to all this their personal revulsion about the sexual behavior of gays and lesbians. They do things that the human body was not designed to do! And you know what I discovered? That there are many heterosexual people who do ALL the things that homosexual people do. Do I need to be more explicit? I hope not. So why the revulsion?
This brings me almost to my conclusion – a very brave one; braver than your stand right now.
I had been in the ministry for 20 years and was a well known and respected Bible teacher. I had two degrees in theology and related Christian studies. I did not really know anything other than pastoring and preaching. Sure, I always had to wrestle with my own doubts and failings – who doesn’t? But intellectually I was solid and honest with my Bible based beliefs.
Until then. Slowly I had to accommodate my mind to the fact that with regard to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality it was written before people understood that gay people were as normal as straight people for they were, if you will, as God had made them. They were formed in the womb and popped out with no choice as to the sexuality they developed when only a ball of cells six weeks old.
Then this: if God was going to condemn people for being what they could not help being then I was not sure I liked his program. That did not seem just, let alone loving. I wasn’t sure I liked him, and I told him so.
What to do? I could have changed my theology and become some pallid liberal who sits loose by the “inspiration” of the Bible and can therefore skip round or reinterpret what the Good Book says about homosexuality. But that would have been intellectually dishonest – to me, anyway. Many theologians hold views like that, and I am not going to debate them here.
Here is what I did. I concluded that with regard to homosexuality, the Bible was wrong! And if the Bible was wrong about this, then everything might begin to crumble. For what else could be wrong? It was no longer the inspired, infallible Word of God.
And I quit the ministry. In fact my discovery that the Bible was wrong was being rumbled by my elders and deacons and they gave me such a push that I had no choice but to go out into a world where I had no idea what to do next.
What do you do when you’re in your late 40s and you discover that the solid ground on which you had built your faith and public ministry is no longer solid? I tell you it ripped me apart. Of course I recovered in time, and I am by far the better for it. But that’s another story.
Kim, I said at the beginning that I wanted you to be yet more brave. And I do. I would like you to be brave enough – even though you have made such a huge stand on principle – to open your eyes to the possibility that you may be wrong. Not just that you may be wrong but, horror of horrors, that the Bible may be wrong.
Does that seem like everything will collapse? That’s where the bravery comes in, because it will. But I ask you to believe me when I say that being divested from a cruel and judgmental belief system is more liberating than you could ever image.
And there will be tens of thousand of people here in the Unites States who will welcome you and your extraordinary bravery. I will be just one if them.
This is the toughest time of your life. The agony will be intense. But it’s a pathway not only you, but millions of others, need to tread.
PART 2. Gay marriage
Let’s come now to same sex marriage. The very term evokes strong antipathy with many people, for reasons we all know. By definition, it is said, the only valid marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
It’s interesting how some Christians have tried to corner the market on the definition of marriage claiming it is a God-ordained institution specified in the Bible.
This resonates strongly for the Christian believer, but in fact the scope and definition of marriage owes far more to history, geography and culture than to the Bible. The ancient Chinese, Greek and Roman peoples did not know about the niceties of Christian marriage. But their men and women still married each other, as they did in countless other cultures where the joining of a man and woman was a great event, often representing some compact between the two families, and with the prospect of children. From slaves, serfs and servants to the high born marriage has had roughly the same definition for centuries.
I find that in many ancient cultures gay marriages also took place! Not surprisingly it seems that the practice, though allowed, was not as widely acceptable as heterosexual marriage. But it was no secret.
In the United States the mindset about traditional Christian marriage has been very deeply rooted in our culture. But cultures and attitudes change. More and more people refuse to be bound by the religious definitions of the few.
Here, in my opinion, is the crucial issue. I have shown already that being gay is not a choice. So the extension of rights and opportunities to gays and lesbians through marriage is a matter of justice.
Gay people who love each other, and choose to live together have, until recently been denied the many hundreds of special provisions made for married people with regard to tax regulations, healthcare, funerals and wills, banking, and so forth.
If there were not so many special provisions for married, straight people, there might not be an issue. But this simple question is unanswerable: why should gay people, who want to commit their lives to each other, be denied the rights extended to straight couples simply because the hormonal “wash” at six weeks in the womb, set them up to be homosexual?
In our modern age it is a monstrous travesty of natural justice that equal treatment should not be extended to gay couples. Of course, there is no way the thousands of relevant rules and regulations can be picked though and modified to accommodate gay couples equally. There is only one quick, simple remedy. Let them be married on equal footing with other couples.
And that’s where we are now. Deep emotional or religious reasons might make individuals balk at the changes. It takes a very brave decision to let go of outmoded principles to embrace the reality of our modern culture.
Remember, I have shown that the biblical attitude to gays and lesbians is hideous, and based on cultural and scientific ignorance from over 2000 years ago. It is morally indefensible to contend that what the Bible says on the subject comes from a heart of infinite justice and love. And if God really did utter all those biblical condemnations of homosexuals, then I do not believe that THAT God even exists. The Bible was tempered by the prejudices and beliefs of a bygone era. We now know so much more. We have moved on.
So we come to our conclusion. It takes a brave person to change their mind. It can be personally costly and emotionally confusing – as it was for me. But that’s where courage comes in. For whatever the personal cost, we sometimes have to change our minds, free ourselves from the prison of an unreal belief system, and give space for other people to live their lives the way they deserve to.
Kim, ponder these things carefully as you continue your struggle to try and maintain your conscience against so much social pressure.
It is no longer brave to stay where you are. The only brave thing to do is to change. Many have done it before you. You will not be alone.
Wishing you wisdom, courage and humility.
Yours, with care and tenderness,
September 1, 2015
Moir, A and Jessel, D. Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women. 1992
History of same-sex unions, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_same-sex_unions.
History of same-sex unions, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_same-sex_unions.