The September/October 2010 issue of Unity Magazine features an important article by Ken Daigle about homosexuality and Scripture. In it, Daigle closely examines key passages that are cited by fundamentalist Christians as evidence that God condemns homosexuals. Daigle concludes that the translations of the Bible’s original passages written in Greek are inconclusive at best; moreover, they have tended to be interpreted according to each translator’s biases and personal or political motives.
I believe we can go one step further in making the case for the religious acceptance of homosexuals and, for that matter, all people: If one studies the words and actions of Jesus, it is obvious that the Master Teacher embraced and loved us all.
The concept of compassion was central to Jesus: “Be compassionate as God is compassionate,” he said. He was compassionate to everyone, including and especially those who were considered outcasts or untouchables: the poor, the maimed, the chronically ill, lepers, untouchables, Samaritans, Gentiles, tax collectors, sinners and women, who fell to the bottom of the social strata at that time. Jesus pointedly rejected the purity system that dictated who had rights and who didn’t; who was to be acknowledged and who wasn’t; and who one could speak to, eat with, touch, help, defend or befriend.
In his brilliant book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, author Marcus J. Borg writes: “To put it boldly, compassion for Jesus was political. He directly and repeatedly challenged the dominant sociopolitical paradigm of his social world and advocated instead what might be called a politics of compassion.” Jesus ignored social boundaries and violated purity protocol, demonstrating again and again that the letter of human-made law is less important than the spirit of God’s law, which is love and compassion. (Or, as someone posted on the Unity Facebook site in response to Daigle’s article: “Jesus said, ‘Love one another.’ End of story!”)
We see evidence of the same struggle today between those who believe only some people are fit for the kingdom of God, and others who know it is meant for us all. Borg writes:
“I am convinced that much of the strongly negative attitude toward homosexuality on the part of some Christians has arisen because, in addition to whatever nonreligious homophobic reasons may be involved, homosexuality is seen (often unconsciously) as a purity issue. For these Christians, there’s something ‘dirty’ about it, boundaries are being crossed, things are being put together that do not belong together, and so forth …
“It seems to me that the shattering of purity boundaries by both Jesus and Paul should also apply to the purity code’s perception of homosexuality. Homosexual behavior should therefore be evaluated by the same criteria as heterosexual behavior. It also seems to me that the passage in which Paul negates the other central polarities of his world also means, ‘In Christ, there is neither straight nor gay.’ Granted, Paul didn’t say that, but the logic of ‘life in the Spirit’ and the ethos of compassion imply it.”
This is the Jesus I have grown to admire: the man who loved freely, and courageously honored the divine perfection in all people.
The fact that he would unconditionally love LGBTs as well as heterosexuals has personal significance for me, in that a young adult in my circle of friends is transgender. After his gender reassignment, it was the nonreligious side of his family that rose to accept him. Sadly, his father, a devout Southern Baptist, has not been able to accept this change, and now refuses to see his child. It is deeply painful to see such rejection of a beautiful young adult who, in being true to himself, has taken an unconventional path, and is happy.
I am certain that such stories are commonplace in the LGBT community. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and transgender individuals are frequently rejected, disenfranchised, mistreated and persecuted—all in the name of religion. Were Jesus here, I have no doubt he would embrace them all and tell the purists to “Be compassionate as God is compassionate.” Through his radical inclusivity, he showed us the way.