Gender and Sexuality
Final Court of Appeal
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Today I share thoughts from Episcopal priest and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault on an important question, “What does the Bible say about sexual orientation?” For the record, I couldn’t agree more with her response, so I will allow her words to stand on their own. I hope you will take them to heart.
How you answer this question depends hugely on what you take the Bible to be. If you believe that the Bible is a single, timeless, internally consistent teaching on matters of human morality dictated by God then yes, the Old Testament book of Leviticus is definitely uncomfortable with “homosexuality.” But it is also uncomfortable with menstruating women, shellfish, and pigskin. (And for the record, it has some very harsh words to say about lending money at interest, a prohibition that even biblical literalists seem to find it perfectly permissible to disregard!)
Like most other critically thinking Christians, I see the Bible as a symphony (sometimes a cacophony!) of divinely inspired human voices bearing witness to an astonishing evolutionary development in our human understanding of God (or God’s self-disclosure as we grow mature enough to begin to comprehend it, another way of saying the same thing).
As a Christian, I am bound, when I listen to this diversity of biblical voices, to set my compass by the teachings and the path walked by Jesus himself. Where biblical testimony is internally inconsistent (and even Jesus experienced it this way!), I am bound to honor Jesus as my final court of appeal. And thus, the bottom line must inescapably be that nowhere does Jesus condemn gays or lesbians (or any other person identified in the diverse range of LGBTQ+), and certainly nowhere does he wish harm upon anyone, even those whom the religious culture is so quick to condemn as sinners. His harsh words are reserved entirely for those whose certainty about their religious rectitude causes them to condemn others. Jesus is all about inclusion, forgiveness, and empowerment. In the light of his compassionate presence, people are set free to live their lives in strength and hope, regardless of whether they be considered outcasts by those in the “religious know.”
There’s a part in each one of us that would prefer the certainty of an unchanging rulebook to the radical open-endedness of God’s ongoing self-revelation in love. But as a Christian, when confronted by a tension between a religious certainty which leads me to violate the law of love and a deep unknowing that still moves in the direction of “loving my neighbor as myself,” (Matthew 22:39) I am bound to choose the latter course.
“I will be what I will be” is the name God asked Moses to know God by in the book of Exodus (3:14). With that as one line of bearing on my thinking, and the steadily increasing revelation of God’s mercy and compassion as the other, I am compelled by my Christianity to refrain from any behaviors or judgments which arrogantly demean the dignity of another human being or cause them to lose hope.
Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, “Cynthia Bourgeault on Homosexuality in the Bible,” Goop, https://goop.com/wellness/spirituality/homosexuality-in-the-bible/.