Where do I find the answers?

Image by Steve Sammon from Pixabay

This month I have resisted the urge to write anything about the loss of our late Queen because so many have been doing that recently, and with much greater skill.  I also decided against writing about the economic and governmental woes we are facing. Again, I’m not really qualified to comment with authority.  However, there will probably come a time when I will have to express my anger with our current woeful government for their anti‑Christlike attitudes towards the poor and marginalised, whilst lining the pockets of the rich.

Instead, I thought I’d answer a totally unrelated and safer question.  On the Resource pages of this site, I have references to a good number of tools and source material looking at the issue of sexuality from a Biblical perspective.  But what do I regard as the most important links to focus on?  That, in itself, requires qualification.  Clearly, it’ll depend on where your interest lies.  What are your life experiences?  Do you have a lifelong Christian upbringing or are you new to faith?  What is the issue that really screws you up?  Is it something that is threatening the very essence of your faith – maybe you are asking whether you can trust the Bible – or is it simply a vague curiosity, or is it some other issue?  How do I approach it?  Whatever your starting point, it’ll probably be different to me.  So, I think I will simply try to answer the question: what did I find most eye-opening as I researched the issue of how I saw being both LGBTQ+ AND a Christian? 

You’ll remember I came at this from an Evangelical background, having grown up, and grown old(!), in a Baptist church environment.  Nowadays, although I am a wholly committed Christian follower of Jesus, I can’t put up my hand and say I am an Evangelical Christian.  For most of my life, in the church of which I was part, it was a given that if you were an active “born again” (see John 3) Christian, holding on to fundamental doctrines, you were automatically regarded as an Evangelical. 

But what is an Evangelical?  Some might use the term to simply differentiate themselves from those of an Orthodox or a Roman Catholic background.  However, in simple terms, it is a person committed to sharing the good news of Jesus the Saviour, but these days it is more complicated.  Often those outside the church will regard an Evangelical as someone who will fervently push their beliefs, which are presented as unchangeable certainties, along with an unwillingness to accept or debate with an open mind, other ideas on issues that are controversial.

Generally, most Christians would describe Evangelicals as someone who believes:
– that a person must be born again (See John 3 – the story of Nicodemus);
– that we need to be actively seeking to win other people to Jesus,
– that the Scripture/the Bible is inerrant. 

Part of my reason for positioning myself away from Evangelicalism is that these days it is a horribly loaded descriptor, badly tarnished by largely “white” American Christians who are against: “same-sex” marriage, any kind of abortion, transgender rights, any reduction of male privilege and any gun-control.  This is largely exemplified by the GOP/Republicanism/Trumpism.  I am well aware that is a horribly sweeping generalisation, and that there will be all sorts of groups that aren’t in that category who will nevertheless want to hold evangelical identities and doctrines.  Why do I specifically mention American Evangelicals and not British – after all that’s where we are?   Basically, here in the UK Evangelicals get tarred with the same brush in conversations because where American Christians go, British Christians frequently follow soon after.  American speakers/preachers frequently come here on tour; worship songs get imported from the USA (and Australia); US TV evangelists are on our screens if we want to seek them out, and their values trickle down.

Evangelicalism in the UK isn’t really that different.  If you look at the issues that the Christian Institute handle, you’ll see they are treading a similar path to our American friends.  If you feel a bit fragile, don’t follow this link, but if you are curious have a look at their website here. My reason for caution is there are articles around attitudes to Trans* and conversion therapy on the front page, where they write from a non-affirming stance.

For much of my life the leading organisation for Evangelical Christians was the fairly safe, Evangelical Alliance, and the language on their website is a bit more measured.  They don’t really tackle many of the hot-button issues on the site, however they do have some resources on how churches ought to welcome those who identify as Trans*.  Whilst I was relieved at much of their content (e.g. they don’t see gender dysphoria as a choice) there is reluctance to encourage transition, and they still quote that wretched Deuteronomy 22:5 verse out of context, in their booklet called “Transformed”.  I was also pleased I could affirm much of their statement of faith – with a wrinkle here and a caveat there!

I still feel a kind of identification with evangelical values because I still treasure the Bible – perhaps more so these days than when I was part of a Baptist church, even though I read it differently.  I also believe there is a value in being able to point to a day, or a period in time where you recognised that Jesus was really there, really with you, and welcoming you with an embrace, into His Kingdom.  I probably view my own coming to faith like a 100m race: there was a period during which I could see where I was heading – and ‘ran’ towards it.  The line was there.  I knew what it looked like, and what to expect, but it became clearer as I got nearer the “finish/start” line.  Once I crossed the line, I realised I was now in a different race.  Yes, I now realised I was a Christian, but had just started a very new, longer event (Hebrews 12: 1-3).

However, during that period of coming to faith, supposing I had died 5m short of the ‘line’ (or, a day before I ‘formally’ ‘chose’ to become a Christian) would I go to Heaven, or Hell – to use those unhelpful Evangelical descriptors?  One of the frequently used lines I grew up with is: “if you died tonight, would you be certain you would go to heaven?”  Hard core Evangelicalism would say I hadn’t become a Christian at that point, so I was in danger of Hell.  These days I believe in a loving, gracious and merciful Godhead, who would have welcomed me into their Kingdom, because they knew where I was headed.  Other than dogmatism, my primary difficulty with Evangelicalism, as you will know by now, is that I don’t accept the inerrancy of the words in our Bibles, for reasons I have written at length about elsewhere.  Finally, for this bit, I am a lot less precious about “trying” to proselytize.  If I get into a conversation, I’ll take the opportunity to chat to someone about my faith in Jesus, but I won’t  force it, because many folks don’t appreciate God being forced down their throats – and generating resentment is no good to God.  These days though, I get into far more, and interesting, conversations with those who have no faith than I ever did when I was younger.  So maybe, just don’t try to force them, but take the opportunities when they come.

A little of what I have just written was influenced by this web article.  It was written in 2019 and has an American slant, so is both, not quite so relevant to a UK situation, and, is a little out of date.  However, there is a superb and somewhat prophetic quote on that page by Billy Graham, dating from an article in “Parade” magazine 1981: “I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form.  It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right.  The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” 1st February 1981.

That strikes at the heart of contemporary American Evangelicalism.

To get back on course: when I was looking for help to explore whether you could be an LGBTQ+ Christian, or was that just an oxymoron; where did I find the most helpful information?  At the same time, I must also ask what resource would have been most helpful to me if I had discovered it sooner?  This is relevant because I have subsequently come across material which would have been really helpful in the early days.  I hope that some of these links will also be helpful and interesting for any of you who simply want to know you are okay in the eyes of Jesus, but have been repeatedly told that God hates gays.  By the way, if you don’t read any further, know that you are more than okay in the eyes of Jesus – you are precious to Him.  As the website Whosoever (wonder where that name came from – keep reading!) says:

There are two answers to the question of what the Bible says about homosexuality: The short answer and the long one.  The short one is that nowhere in the Bible are same-sex committed and loving relationships condemned.

The long answer is that there is plenty of reputable scholarship showing that the six “clobber passages” commonly used to make the claim that the Bible condemns homosexuality are simply misunderstood by those making those claims.

Perhaps that is a bit glib, but at it’s root that is correct.  In my chapter on “Transgenderism/Transsexualism and Intersex” in my essay I have quoted Isaiah 56: 3-5 and Acts 8: 35-38Both of those passages hold promises for those identifying as Trans*- not condemnation.  And don’t forget John 3: 16-21, which uses the word “whoever” four times in those verses.  “Whoever” is unconditional, with no exceptions, exclusions, provisions, caveats, or riders.  LGBTQ+ or straight – it matters not, the verses apply identically to us all, equally.

Anyway, these are the things I regard as the key links on my Resources (General LGBTQ+) and Resources (Trans) pages.  You won’t be interested in them all, so dip in and out till you find something that interests you:

Books:

  • ‘God and the Gay Christian’ by Matthew Vines (Convergent Books).  Matthew writes from the position of being a Christian, but also gay.  His book is a “go-to” book for anyone struggling with the issue of being LGBTQ+ and trying to reconcile their experience with the standard superficial reading of the Bible.  There is also a video on YouTube you must watch, but see the video section below.  This is the book that Don (whose story you can read here) always recommends to anyone. 
  • ‘Undivided: Coming Out, Becoming Whole, and Living Free From Shame’ by Vicky Beeching.  Harper Collins.  This was my favourite book because I came at it as a new ally, straight cis-gendered man with only a growing realisation at the time of the real damage churches do, in the name of Jesus, sadly.  It came out after I had realised with excitement that it was possible for someone who was gay to be a 100% committed Christian as well as being in an active relationship, but it was while I was still writing earlier drafts of my essay.  At times the book is heart-wrenching, so keep your box of tissues handy!  At other times it causes the blood to boil because of injustice.  Primarily it is the story of growing up and working through what being gay means in real life, in a real Christian family, in a real Christian church, and the pains largely inflicted by people who don’t really understand what is going on.
  • “The New Woman” by Charity Norman.  First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Allen & Unwin.  This book received enthusiastic praise despite its difficult subject matter when Charity Norman appeared on Simon Mayo’s Radio Two “Drivetime” Book Club.  Personally, I cannot recommend this highly enough, because although it is fiction, the experiences are based on real-life.  It depicts the context and scenario for someone struggling with gender dysphoria, not just portraying the doubts and fears of being in a situation they can’t control, but describing the very real reactions of family and friends.  This is a brilliant introduction to the issues if you have never come across gender dysphoria – a must read for anyone trying to understand what is going on.

Alternative Biblical overviews of the whole issue:

  • “Letter to Louise”.  In my view this is a vitally important essay by the late Rev Bruce W Lowe.  It is long (short in comparison to my document!) but detailed, and once again I came across it late in 2015 after completing one of the earlier versions of my essay.  I wish I had come across this at the beginning – but if I had, this site might not have existed, because I might have simply sat back and argued “… What he said…” when challenged, rather than having to work out my own way through the problems.  Definitely a must-read if you are serious about the issue.  Currently it is available here:  http://godmademegay.blogspot.co.uk/p/letter-to-louise.html
  • Here is another downloadable essay: https://gayprejudice.com/GayPrejudice.pdf.  The essay is by Richard Wayne Garganta and is very helpful as it covers some of the material I have used, but I only came across it in 2020, long after I had finished writing my own work, other than minor edits.  I notice we come to essentially the same conclusions but sometimes taking a slightly different route, which I found interesting.  Richard’s excellent document is 32 pages long, and definitely worth reading.
  • Once again, this is another page I wish I had found earlier, and yes, it is that Whosoever site: https://whosoever.org/the-bible-and-homosexuality/. It looks at and repudiates the prevalent ideas conveyed in the various Biblical “Clobber” passages.  It is also a quicker read if you are finding you want something more straightforward.
  • The resource in that previous paragraph consists of links to a series of essays “derived from a paper prepared as a service of the Metropolitan Community Church of Topeka”.  The authors are Rev. Jonathan Loppnow and Rev. Paul C. Evans. ”  The source document (THE SCRIPTURES ON SAME GENDER SEXUAL BEHAVIOR) can be found here.  However, because some browsers will regard that link as unsafe, since the web address uses http rather than the secure version which uses https, I have placed a copy on my Downloads page.  If you are wary of going to pages regarded as unsafe, you can use that instead.  Once again, I wish I had known about this document earlier!
  • Evangelicals Concerned Inc. is a US based site started by Dr Ralph Blair, referred to in his book by Mel White – Stranger At The Gate.  The pages are very measured and without rancour and contain a lot of scholarly information written in an accessible manner.  The Home Page is: https://ecinc.org/ and there section on the clobber passages can be found here:  https://ecinc.org/clobber-passages/.  Their comment on the Leviticus passages is six lines long, is clear and does the job.  How long did I take?  Ouch! Another useful page is https://ecinc.org/looking-back-evangelicals-and-homosexuality/
  • The Reformation Project is a Bible-based, Christian organization that works to promote inclusion of LGBTQ people by reforming church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The site was founded by Matthew Vines (yes, again!) and provides some very good and clear arguments from scripture in support of same-sex relationships   https://reformationproject.org/biblical-case/

Best background website

  • I want to give an honourable mention to a site which has provided a lot of really helpful information from the start of my work in 2014, while I was trying to make sense of my changing theological understanding. Helpfully it is called Religious Tolerance.  There is no rancour and it simply presents information in a no nonsense fashion, explaining the views of various factions without criticising particular views.  As they say “Unlike essentially all other religious web sites, we don’t promote the beliefs and practices of a single religion, or of one denomination, faith group, or sect within a single religion.
    Instead we try to explain the beliefs, practices, moral teachings and histories of a wide range of faith groups within many religions. We promote religious tolerance, freedom, understanding, coexistence, respect, and cooperation. We also promote equal rights and treatment of persons of all races, nationalities, genders, gender identifications, and sexual orientations.”
     

It is good, not just on issues around sexuality, but many other issues, so if you want to find out what other faiths belief, it’s an excellent place to start.

Video?

Best LGBTQ+ podcasts

  • Geeky Justin Live.  Available on most Podcast providers.  Justin Lee has been an excellent Christian communicator for the last couple of decades and his Podcast is well worth a listen, though recently it has been very much more sporadic – but that gives you a chance to catch up without thinking “there are hundreds to wade through, and is it worth it?”!  If you can’t find it, you will still be able to access it on Justin’s website along with a lot of other useful resources
  • The Log Books.  This is an absolutely fabulous resource for anyone wanting or willing to learn – winning the “Best New Podcast (Gold) at the British Podcast Awards 2020”, in addition to other awards.  Because I’ve been late to the party, it helped me understand so much of what I saw and heard earlier in life – but didn’t understand.  It is available on all good podcast providers, and can also be downloaded from its own website.  The podcasts tell the “Untold stories from Britain’s LGBTQ+ history”.  These stories are held in the “archive at the Bishopsgate Institute, the volunteers’ log books offer a unique insight into the range of issues facing LGBTQ+ people in Britain in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
    Stories range from police entrapping gay men meeting for sex in toilets, to women losing custody of their children for being lesbians, to people kicked out of pubs for wearing pro-gay badges and to those struggling with their gender identity before anyone had the right language to help them.”
      Some stories require their own “mascara warning”.
  • Obviously, there are a lot more podcasts like: “Making Gay History: LGBTQ Oral Histories from the Archive”; “Always Here: An LGBT History Podcast”; “History is Gay”; and others.  Do your own search! 😊

Useful Historical resources

  • One site I must make a real effort to point at is Canyonwalker Connections run by Kathy Baldock.  Kathy’s work has had a huge impact on convincing me I was on the right track when I started exploring the issues around 2014.  I loved her book “Walking The Bridgeless Canyon” and I am looking forward to her new book with Ed Oxford now slated for early 2023: “Forging A Sacred Weapon”.  This tells the story of how the Revised Standard Version of the Bible incorrectly translated the Greek words, “arsenokoitai” and “malakos” as “homosexuality”, causing successive other Bible translations to do the same, setting off the current hostility of churches towards those who identify as LGBTQ+.  This hostility churches cite to the Bible, but it is not a traditional idea or doctrine, whatever they tell you.
    Other than the books, there are a handful of Podcasts available on the site and a wealth of other articles and documents.  If you want to understand the history and background theology, you’ll find this a hugely rewarding site.  My only negativity is that there is so much, and I think that it could be laid out better.  Anyway, I strongly recommend you view the videos called “Unclobbering the Tangled Mess” Pt 1 & Pt 2 and Untangling the Mess – The Reformation Project in Los Angeles. The final video is called An Evening With Rev. David: The Story Behind a Historic Letter About Biblical Translation, which is the story behind that translation error.

Finally, if you are someone who is looking for an affirming church in the UK, I point to several sites on the Resources (General LGBTQ+) page that might suggest some possibilities.  If you know any other useful sites, please let me know, since those site listings are far from comprehensive.  

I hope you find that useful.  I certainly did, because I found several sites I had previously listed, had disappeared, so it has been good housekeeping to check every link on both of the Resources pages.