Gays And The Bible


Recently, the NYT highlighted the work of Matthew Vines, whose detailed, hour-long video attempts to dismantle Bible-based condemnations of same-sex relationships, all based on the six references to them in scripture that he then scrutinizes. He argues that the references have nothing to do with modern, loving gay couples:

"It is simply a fact that the Bible does not discuss or condemn loving, gay relationships," said Mr. Vines, eating an omelet at Tom’s Restaurant in Brooklyn the day after his church appearance. "The point is that these texts have a meaning, and the traditional reading of them is wrong. It is incorrect — biblically, historically, linguistically."

The core of his argument:

[K]ey for Mr. Vines was the realization that every instance of homosexuality in the Bible represented excess lust, gang rape or "unnatural" acts committed by heterosexual men. Portrayals — much less condemnations — of naturally gay men, for whom opposite-sex relationships are not an option, simply never appear.

"That’s huge, that argument," he said. "It’s key. It’s being made, but it needs to be made more, and more often.

Relatedly, David Sessions interviewed Gene Robinson, the first gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, who had this to say about how we read the Bible:

Religious people are always in danger of reading themselves and their preconceived notions into the texts they hold sacred. That is true for any religion, and we must always read those texts in the community of fellow believers and in light of the critique of non-believers, to ensure that we aren’t seeing and hearing what is not there. Even then it is difficult not to hear what we want to hear. Jesus did seem to prefer his family of choice over his biological family and surrounded himself with a group of men and women, 12 men of whom were selected for special tutoring, three of whom were groomed for special leadership, and one of whom was described as “the one whom Jesus loved.” That is simply descriptive of what is in the text. It is better not to be too ambitious about extrapolating from that description to conclusions about what that means. But it would be hard to construe from the text that Jesus was a big supporter of a husband-wife-and-2.2 children as the only model for a family.

But you raise a terrific point in your question. Isn’t some of the conflict over gay marriage related to the larger issue of a loss of nuclear family stability? I would answer, "Absolutely!" There is a lot of anxiety around. Have you noticed? Divorce and remarriage are common; people change jobs frequently, rather than working for one employer for a lifetime; middle-class wages have stagnated; and for the first time in American history, the next generation may not have a better life than their predecessors. Add to this the new fluidity of the family—blended families, single-parent families, same-sex-partnered families—and everything seems up for grabs. And when we’re anxious, we look for someone or something to blame. In this case, the tremendous changes occurring in American families and the anxieties that accompany those changes are sometimes blamed on gay and lesbian people and their quest for marriage equality. That’s easier than taking a hard look at the real stressors on the institution of marriage and family and trying to do something about them.