Fear, the bible and Homosexuality
One of the most important things to remember when studying the bible is to know who you are and what your potential biases are. The study of homosexuality in the bible is polarized. On one side of the issue is the cause of human rights and an honest desire to protect those who have been mistreated in the past. On the other side we have tradition, the assumptions of most of the world’s societies and religions, and sometimes an irrational fear of homosexuals.
We can’t approach the bible with a hermeneutic of fear. Many evangelicals are afraid of becoming liberals. For them accepting homosexuals is the primary gateway to liberalism and heresy. When we interpret text with an underlying fear of reaching a certain conclusion we are naturally biased against reaching that conclusion.
I’ve seen this in a denomination I’m very familiar with. There is a move towards affirming women in all areas of church leadership. Among some this is perceived as another step down the slippery slope towards *gasp* affirming homosexual marriage. People valiantly defend the status quo like it was a trench on the plains of Europe.
I know that deep down a lot people would say that they don’t want even consider the idea that the bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality because they feel that the church has compromised too much already. They believe that through each ethical compromise the church descends down the slippery slope to moral corruption and irrelevance. This may be true of a lot of things but living in this fear does not help us interpet the bible. There are a number of perceived moral compromises which turned out to be very good. The Anglicans couldn’t handle the Methodists preaching outside. In the era of slavery the south had a far stronger biblical case than the abolishionists. For many the defence of slavery was considered a defence of the authority of the bible much like the issues of women in leadership and homosexuality are today.
Those who approach the bible through the lens of human rights or victimization are similarly sidetracked. Hurt and bitterness change our percpetion. Negative experiences will impair our ability to interpret biblical text. Someone who has been abused by a spiritual authority will be wary of submitting to authority. A woman was abused by her father may have a hard time with the concept of God as a father. I wouldn’t blame either victim in these examples but that doesn’t change the fact their perception will probably be skewed.
The lens of human rights skews us to a predetermined conclusion as well. In much the same way that evangelicals fear the slippery slope, those who are committed to the cause of human rights are afraid of affirming the oppressors.
As I look at the texts pertaining to homosexual sex there are number of words and phrases that can be taken more than one way. It is on these key words where interpetive bias can show through. I see people deciding to go one way or another without providing much of a convincing rationale.
On the issue of homosexuality I’d say there is less of a calm rational middle that cares first for God’s desire. The bible has become a pawn between competing world views rather than an authoritative source of truth. What would it look like if we took an honest look at scripture and accepted it for what it says despite the ramifications. Maybe the authors of scripture say something we don’t like. Some may choose to disregard scripture as the primary authority for understanding God and what we would want for us. I think that people who do this should be honest about it. Hiding it to yourself and others won’t ensure salvation.
Fear is what makes smart people stupid and rational people irrational. As Christians we ought to be people of faith rather than fear.