Sexuality and Christianity
By now in society, it is clear to say that we have accepted homosexuality as a sexual orientation of choice by a person but not so much as heterosexuality. Homosexuality, meaning the sexual attraction or the tendency to direct sexual desire towards another of the same sex. Or the more literal definition of sexual activity with another of the same sex. But homosexuals have not been accepted wholly by society or the church in today’s world like heterosexual people. Homosexuality has been seen in a negative light in society and in the Christian community in the past and we can see that in some ways still today. For example, some churches still do not support gay marriage and even condemn homosexuality in their teachings. And for society, homosexuality was once illegal in America and up until 2003, some states in America still prohibited gay marriage. (Farah)
Kenneth A. Locke in an article titled “The Bible on Homosexuality: Exploring Its Meanings and Authority,” relates that there are only a few passages in the Bible that address the issue of homosexuality. The story of the destruction of Sodom, a number of prohibitions in the Torah, and statements by the Apostle Paul. Locke states that from these passages in the Bible, some Christians believe that these are proof that God condemns homosexuality or at least the acting out of homosexual behavior. But as Locke states, the Bible’s text itself does not condemn homosexuality because it has no awareness of it. The authors wrote about erotic encounters between people of the same sex without reference to individual orientation. The actual term homosexuality was not in existence yet. Locke agrees with the studies of Martti Nissinen in thar he finds the word ‘homoeroticism’ much more relevant to the biblical texts because of its application to “all erotic-sexual encounters and experiences of people with persons of the same sex, whether the person is regarding as homosexual or not.”
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After reading this article, this provided more information for me to further affirm my thesis of how homosexuality in the Christian community, meaning those who believe God condemns homosexuality from those passages from the Bible stated earlier, but more specifically within biblical texts, have been seen in a negative light. The Bible does not say that homosexuals are condemned because it is a very different world now than when the Bible was written. In the literal sense, the very term, ‘homosexual’ was not used yet so they focused on the sexual acts by persons of the same sex.
From this article, and from reading the Bible, it can be said that God has a preference for heterosexuals over homosexuals, and this can be seen in the specific example of Sodom where the men of Sodom demanded to “know” the two male angels staying in Lot’s house. When Lot denied the men of Sodom to come in, they tried by force and the angels then blinded the men for wanting to come in and then the following day, God destroyed the city of Sodom by pouring down sulfur and fire. (Kea) It was inferred that the phrase “to know” had a sexual connotation attached to it since Lot offered up his virgin daughters to the men as an alternative which is a sexual reference. By this interpretation, one can say that these men were punished for wanting to do something sexual to the male angels. An alternative interpretation of the sin in this story is the lack of charity or hospitality to outsiders or visitors to Sodom by the crowd of men outside of Lot’s house. It has been said that the mob of men were inciting violence to visitors which is a sin of Sodom and that is why they were blinded and then the next day, Sodom was destroyed by God. It depends who you talk to about which interpretation is more believed but to me, it is hard to ignore the fact that the men wanted to “know” the angels, who are divine beings which makes it an even bigger sin, and then were also offered virgin daughters as an alternative but the men were not interested in the women, but rather the male angels.
There are many more specific examples from biblical texts that show how homosexuality has been seen in a negative light. In the New Testament it says, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27) This is saying that for those men and women who go against the ‘natural relations’ of society, meaning if they are not heterosexual, they will receive the ‘due penalty’ for their actions. Some debate has been done about what ‘due penalty’ means but it is commonly inferred as the denial into the kingdom of God. Or since it says, ‘receiving in themselves’, it has been inferred that it could mean some internal disease from same-sex relations. Another clear example from the Bible about the negative connotation about homosexuality is, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…” (1 Corinthians 6:9)
This is a very straightforward statement saying that anyone who is unrighteous in any way will not get into the kingdom of God. This verse also puts homosexuals in the same category with thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers and swindlers. Another verse that clearly supports the negative view of homosexuals is 1 Timothy 1:9-10. “Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” (1 Timothy 1:9-10) This verse is another example of how the Bible has thrown homosexuals into categories with awful groups of individuals. All these different passages from the Bible are clear examples of how homosexuals have been portrayed as very negative and inferior to those that are heterosexuals.
In the article titled “Online Evaluative Conditioning Did Not Alter Internalized Homonegativity or Self-Esteem in Gay Men,” Fleming and Burns talked about how individuals identifying as homosexual (lesbian or gay) and bisexual in the United States experienced higher rates of mental disorders due to societal stigmas. They point out that children grow up learning that there is something negative or “bad” or at least very different about people who are sexually attracted to the same sex. And those individuals who are young and happen to be homosexuals, grow up learning these same things, and as they get older, can internalize this homonegativity, which could be a unique stressor that may contribute to mental health disparities among themselves and those who are not homosexual. So, Fleming and Burns conducted a research survey by recruiting gay men online by emailing responsible parties in the homosexual community such as college groups, social clubs, and performing arts groups. The study was described as “an online research study to learn more about attitudes about sexual orientation and the ways people perceive themselves.” There were eligibility requirements that the participant had to meet to be able to participate in the study. 1) the individual had to be at least 18 years old, 2) the individual had to be of male birth sex and male gender identity, 3) the individual had to identify as gay, and 4) the individual had to be located in the United States.
After reading this article about how different society stigmas affected homosexuals, it further proved my thesis of how society has shed a negative light on homosexuality. Just the fact that there was a study done for homosexual men on how they respond to seeing words like “gay” on a screen and how they internalize feelings about that shows us that there is something wrong. Children grow up in a world where they are taught, maybe indirectly, that it is “weird” or “not normal” to be in a same-sex relationship and that is the root of all the societal judgements, negative connotations, and stereotypes homosexuals face in today’s world. In the study done by Fleming and Burns, they used a technique called evaluative conditioning (EC) which “comprises modifying the affective evaluation of one stimulus by pairing it repeatedly with other stimuli that elicit either positive or negative affective responses, resulting in modi?cation of individuals’ implicit likes and dislikes.” This was to test the internalized homonegativity within the participants in the study that were homosexual men and the results found that even gay men have internalized homonegativity because of the society around them. This is a prime example of why homosexuals experience higher mental disorder rates than those that are not homosexuals because of the world that they were raised in together.
It would be naive to say there has not been any progress made though for the homosexual community. In a Pew Research study done, they found that the overall level of acceptance of homosexuals has risen. “The number of Americans who had a favorable view of gay men stands at 55%, an 18 percentage point increase compared to a decade earlier; 58% had a favorable opinion of lesbians, a 19 percentage point increase over the same time span.” (Drake) While this is a good thing that the percentage of accepting Americans of homosexuals is increasing, it still shows us that just over half of America is accepting of gays and lesbians, leaving just under half of the country still not accepting. Of this large portion of the country still not accepting of homosexuality, it is not just about other people in their community or society, it is also within their own home. “About one-in-five adults (19%) say they would be very upset if they learned their child was gay or lesbian. That contrasts with 1985 when 64% said in a Los Angeles Times survey that they would be ‘very upset’ if their child told them he or she was gay or lesbian.” (Drake) The fact that a parent would change their view of their child because they were homosexual baffles me but over the years, as society evolves, so has the number of understanding parents. According to the Pew Research study, the number of Americans that know someone who is gay, or lesbian is growing. “An overwhelming percentage of Americans (87%) say they know someone who is gay or lesbian, compared to 61% who said so twenty years ago.”
I would infer this is due to the increase of homosexuals ‘coming out’ compared to the past. This also could be from more well know individuals ‘coming out’ as gay or lesbian, for example Ellen DeGeneres, and making it easier for others to follow in their footsteps. Now not all the statistics found in the Pew Research study were positive. When surveying LGBT adults, many saw religious institutions as unfriendly towards them in their community. “About three-in-ten (29%) said they had been made to feel unwelcome at a place of worship or religious organization at some point in their lives.” In a world that sheds so much shade on them, some homosexual individuals might turn to the church for refuge, yet some might yet again be turned away. And it is not just Christianity. “The Muslim religion (84%), the Mormon Church (83%), the Catholic Church (79%) and evangelical churches (73%) were viewed as more unfriendly than the Jewish religion or non-evangelical Protestant churches.” And finally from the Pew Research study, a great point is made that directly correlates the discouragement of homosexuality and religion is, “when the nearly one-third of Americans who say homosexuality should be discouraged are asked in an open-ended question why they feel this way, by far the most common reason, given by 52%, is that homosexuality conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs.” This directly ties back to my thesis of how homosexuality has and still is seen in a negative light, by society with all the previous statistics given, but also by Christian community and religion in general by the latter statistic of the study.
Another main reason I chose this topic of homosexuality and the relations between it and society and the Christian community is because I have had real life experiences involving the topic. I knew in middle school what homosexuality was, but I did not know anyone that identified as one. It was not until high school where other students in my school started to embrace their sexuality more and those who were comfortable enough, started to ‘come out’. I myself am not a homosexual but that does not mean I did not see the struggles those who were a homosexual went through. The majority of life that mattered to us students in high school, was our lives within the school itself. And life in high school can be a very hard thing to tango with at times. There was always someone judging another in some way or another. And there was always someone getting consumed with what others thought about them. But I would not be lying if I said that students who came out as gay or lesbian, had it the hardest at times. By just being in the halls during passing periods, in the cafeteria during lunch time, in the classroom, or even in the bathroom, it was not hard to miss the judgement thrown at these individuals. The stares, the whispers, and the exclusion they received on a daily basis from their fellow classmates was not fair.
But at the same time, it was not the same for all the students who had come out as gay or lesbian. The students who received the most attention like described above were the students who wore their homosexuality on their shoulders, loud and proud. But there were also students who had came out but were very much wallflowers. And these students received attention as if they were invisible. No one would really acknowledge them, no one would really care what they had to say, as if they did not even exist. I do not know what would have been worse, the constant stare from society or the lack of recognition as a whole. Granted, there was some students that had come out as gay or lesbian in our school and did not receive much backlash at all. Everybody loved them and were friends with them and I wish that was how it was for everyone, but that just was not the case. It has also carried into my college years but not as much as it was in high school. Nowadays, a lot of the hate I see towards homosexuals is the slang terms thrown around casually in society. “That is so gay!” or “no homo” or “what’s up fag?” These are all phrases I hear almost every day. People say these things without hesitation and they never know when someone is around that will be very offended by these statements. Myself not even being gay, feel a sense of being offended so I know individuals who are gay, or lesbian would be very offended.
I am not saying there is no hope for society or Christian religions to come around to fully accepting homosexuality as an equal to heterosexuality, but I am saying there is still a lot of work to be done. Through the past and some continued views of the church and also society’s judgements, it can be concluded that homosexuality and the individuals that identify with it as their sexual orientation have been living in a negative light and it is time for them to be able to step into the positive shinning light. No one should feel left out from their own society, and especially their own church.
- Drake, Bruce. “How LGBT Adults See Society and How the Public Sees Them.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 7 Feb. 2014, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/25/how-lgbt-adults-see-society-and-how-the-public-sees-them/.
- Farah, Raja. “Being Gay in America.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 2 Feb. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/raja-farah/being-gay-in-america_b_4762346.html.
- “Homosexuality.” Merriam-Webster, 2018.
- John B. Fleming and Michelle Nicole Burns, “Online Evaluative Conditioning Did Not Alter Internalized Homonegativity or Self-Esteem in Gay Men.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2017, 1013-1026.
- Kea, Perry. “Sodom and Gomorrah: How the ‘Classical’ Interpretation Gets It Wrong.” Westar Institute, Https://Www.westarinstitute.org, 18 Sept. 2018, www.westarinstitute.org/blog/sodom-and-gomorrah-how-the-classical-interpretation-gets-it-wrong/.
- Kenneth A. Locke, “The Bible on Homosexuality: Exploring Its Meaning and Authority.” Journal of Homosexuality, 2004, 125-156.”