Friends, I don't often get a chance to dive into the Biblical basis for my support of gay rights and same-sex marriage, but a recent discussion with a Facebook friend got into the fundamentals of our different interpretations of Scripture. Interested in what y'all think!
----There are some Biblical passages that cast homosexuality, particularly male homosexuality, in a negative light. (For some reason the Bible doesn't say as much about being a lesbian, my guess is that the writers were all male and didn't really think much about female sexuality at all, let alone female sexual orientations.) I won't shut my eyes and pretend that the Bible says nothing about homosexuality - it obviously does. The reason that I don't take these passages on face value is because I believe that reading the Bible in a legalistic manner, without consideration for the culture to which each author was addressing, is an inherently flawed way of reading the Bible. Now, no one follows the Bible literally in all cases, it's just that fewer people will admit they don't. There are plenty of commandments in the new testament that we think are out moded today. Slavery being the most obvious. To me, condemnations of homosexuality will be the next area that we decide that the Bible does not directly speak to our cultural about. I don't read the homosexual passages as any more relevant to my path as a Christian in 2012 than I do passages promoting slavery or condemning women speaking in church.
But that isn't to say that we stop hearing the word of God in the Bible. Just as we now take a less literal interpretation of "slaves, obey your earthly masters," or we decide that women don't need to cover their heads in prayer - we can still listen to God's message in those passages, just not take it literally. I allow myself to hear God's message that I should know my role in this world and be willing to submit to the fullness of that life when I read, "slaves, obey your earthly masters." Or I hear God' message to be modest in my dress and allow that modesty to make me a more humble person when I read, "every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head." I read the homosexuality passages as God telling us to bring the truth and light of Christ into all our relationships with others - including our sexual relationships. Don't cheat, be honest, do not abuse anyone sexually, recognize that sexuality can very easily become exploitative and be vigilant to prevent this abuse.
The reason that I choose to lump anti-homosexual passages along with slavery passages and other "let's read these metaphorically" parts of the Bible is because I follow the common idea that homosexuality is a natural though rare form of human sexuality. There is nothing inherently bad about it. This is something our culture has been enlightened to. I recognize that a lot less was known about human sexuality back when the Bible was written and later canonized. I also know that there were some pretty horrific sexual practices in Greek and Roman society then, when men in power would take pubescent boys as concubines in a form of institutional rape. This was so widespread that I have no doubt that the Bible's authors would have been more familiar with this form of homosexual pedophilia, called pederasty, than they would be with anything remotely resembling the monogamous relationships between consenting adults that our culture is blessed to have today. If it suddenly became common for members of the Senate to enslave prepubescent boys for sexual pleasure - as was common then - you better believe I would be the first person whipping out my Bible and decrying this practice.
So here's where those of us on opposite ends of this issue really find difference: what we think the Bible was mostly referring to when condemning homosexuality, if more is known today about homosexuality than was known then, and finally if we think that gay monogamy between two consenting and loving adults bears little resemblance to sexual exploitation 2,000+ years ago.
I choose to make this distinction as a faithful disciple of Christ trying as hard as I can to love my neighbor, seek justice, and do my part to do God's will as it applies to today's cultures and realities.