Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Not in God's name

Christians should be as worried as the gay community are by Pope Benedict’s comments on homosexuality

Anyone hearing a Christian leader suggesting there is a moral equivalence between homosexuality and the destruction of the natural environment could reasonably assume that either Christianity condemned homosexuality unambiguously or that the harm caused by tolerating same sex relationships is both massive and evident. Neither of these is true.

If one was to try to discern God’s view of homosexuality solely from specific references to it in the bible, then one would come away with no clear answer. In Leviticus there is the famous edict ‘that man shall not lie with another man.’ There are also (as every West Wing fan can tell you) rules covering topics such as eating shell fish, the correct price of slaves and only wearing clothes made from type of thread. These are now seen by most Christians – including presumably Benedict – as anachronistic pieces of Hebrew law that are no longer binding on Christians today. There is no obvious reason to jettison those rules yet retain the ban on same sex relationships. Other (generally negative) references to homosexuality may simply be injunctions against rape and male prostitution. There is no unambiguous biblical reference we can point to that says what is right, one way or another.

What we can say, however, is that homophobia contradicts many key Christian principles. The hate and violence directed against the gay community, ought to motivate anyone who believes in ‘loving their neighbour’ to trying to strip away any religious justification for such bigotry. The condemnation of all same sex relationships by people, who may themselves be in imperfect relationships, is hard to square with the injunction ‘judge not, lest you be judged.’ Most importantly of all, if Christians condemn people for being gay then we make it harder for anyone who is gay to become a Christian.

If we look away from scripture and look at the impact that homosexuality is having on the world around us the case against being gay looks even weaker. The millions of loving, faithful same sex relationships should be celebrated by Christians not condemned. Allowing these couples to marry, surely strengthens the institution rather than undermining it.

Christians ought to condemning homophobia and not homosexuality. To do anything else undermines too many Christian values. That really is more worrying the destruction of the rainforest.

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