Dispelling the Myth of God versus Gay

By Michaelson, Jay | USA TODAY, November 2011 | Go to article overview
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Dispelling the Myth of God versus Gay


Michaelson, Jay, USA TODAY


IMAGINE LYING to everyone you know, all the time, and feeling that your soul is distorted, evil, and broken--and, because of something you cannot change, God hates you. What would you do? If you are like me, you would do everything you could to hide this awful part of yourself, constructing ever more elaborate masks that concealed (you hope) the dark truth inside--and, when all else failed, maybe you would think about ending your life.

Studies indicate that 40% of gay teenagers consider suicide--four times as many as straight kids. Strange, is it not, that some people say sexuality is a choice, or a lifestyle. Yet, if that is true, why would kids want to kill themselves if they could just choose the other way? I was one of those statistics myself. Now I am married, successful, and happy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Before I came out, though, I was miserable and suicidal.

There are some people in religious communities who would have us believe that such self-hatred and contradiction is required by a loving God, a God who cares for human beings and nurtures them. These individuals believe that God wants five percent of human beings to repress the very parts of themselves that can lead to love, intimacy, and holiness; that He wants us to lie about who we are; that it is better to be alone than find companionship in a loving same-sex relationship.

However, God has said otherwise: "It is not good for a person to be alone" is the first flaw God finds in creation in the story told in Genesis. "He that works deceit shall not dwell within My house," the Psalmist sings in Psalm 101. The prophet Micah tells us that what is required of religious Wayple is to "act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

Notwithstanding these and hundreds of similar exhortations, some people believe that five verses---two in Leviticus, and one each in Romans, Corinthians, and Timothy--are all the Bible has to say about homosexuality. Five verses out of 31,102.

Here is a key point: those few texts are ambiguous, marginal, and subject to interpretation. Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, despite living in a culture where it was widespread. The Ten Commandments never mention it. either. So, the question is how we interpret them. We all know that the devil can cite scripture for his own purposes. I can read Leviticus to ban all gay people from ever gaining respectability, or as proscribing one particular act in one particular con text that does not apply to anybody today. That is easy. The hard part is deciding how to interpret them in the first place, and that is where the other 31,097 verses of the Bible come in, as does our conscience, reflection, science, and sincere engagement with one another as human beings. These sources tell us how to read and how to live.

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We do this all the time, of course. For instance, the Sixth Commandment states very clearly "Thou shalt not kill." Yet, other texts in the Bible speak approvingly of religious wars, and most people believe it is acceptable to kill in self-defense.

So, even the most straightforward commandment gets interpreted-how much more so these obscure verses about sexual behavior? Sacred texts and traditions do not exist in a vacuum. Individuals have to apply their fundamental values, and the truths of their hearts, to the teachings of their tradition. For instance, God's statement that "it is not good for the human being to be alone" is a remarkable utterance. Everything is good until then: the stars, the seas, the animals. Humankind even is "very good." Then suddenly, in Genesis 2:18, something is not good: loneliness. This tells me that the reality of loneliness, and its opposite, love, should guide how I understand ambiguous scriptural teachings.

Of come, for most people, the "solution" to that problem is Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve--but not for all.

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