I am a Christian.
I am a bisexual.
Some may have the assumption that being both is not possible without conflict. But here I am. I love my sexuality and my religion, and I'm not at all conflicted. I understand my faith (my personal beliefs and relationship with God) and my religion (the organised collection of beliefs, practices and values that theoretically I share with other Christians) to be completely welcoming and accepting of sexuality and gender variety.
Here I will explain my reasoning about the more personal one for me - sexuality. Bisexuality itself is not often talked about when Christians argue about sexuality, but if people do have a problem with any sexuality, it is the same-sex love, to whatever degree, to which the majority of people object. A common opinion is that bisexuals should abstain from any same-sex love or sex, ignoring attractions to the same-sex and behaving like a straight person, just romantically and sexually interacting with the opposite sex. This is bisexual erasure, plain and simple, and based on ignorant, outdated views on sexuality and gender.
First, let's cover a Christian defense of same-sex attraction. I'm going to do Biblical, Positive, Intellectual, and Secular arguments, and conclude with some bisexual-specific thoughts.
To start, there is no 'One Christian View' in homosexual attraction. It is a common assumption that all Christians are ‘anti-gay', and that they all have the same reasons. In fact, there are a range of viewpoints, and they are often categorised into:
- Rejection – view homosexual acts and orientation as incompatible with Christianity; often hostile
- Rejection-compassionate – homosexual acts are not permissible, but orientation is still welcomed
- Qualified acceptance – homosexual attraction is not ideal, but acknowledge that it can’t be changed and same-sex relationships could be fulfilling.
- Full acceptance – gender is immaterial in a healthy romantic and/or sexual relationship
Prejudice and hate are often more about the individual than the minority it is directed at, but putting that aside, let's have a look at the biggest arguments those people who are against LGB sexuality claim are based on their Christian faith.
Beginning with 'because it's in the Bible', a very broad statement that refers to specific verses. I will go through each verse, but I would like to say first that a recurring issue I have found with arguing for Christian acceptance is that in regards to Biblical support, disagreements ultimately come down to scriptural interpretation - how do we believe the Bible to be 'true', how exactly is it 'the Word of God'. If you disagree on that fundamental understanding, no amount of reasoning about the Bible's specific verses is going to get past that.
For example, first there is Genesis 1 and 2 – man and woman are created as a pair, and the argument goes that this is taken as the correct ordering of how humanity should pair up in love and sex. However, in my opinion, the purpose of Genesis is to tell us why the world was created, who’s in charge of it, and our relationship with the Creator; to me it is not a literal account of the history of the beginning of the world. You see here, to me Genesis is full of truth without being real, and some Christians disagree - it can only be true if it was real. So I can't argue about interpreting Genesis without diving into the nature of the truth of the Bible!
So moving on through the specifics - also in Genesis, humanity is commanded to have children, and this is sometimes interpreted as a mandatory thing, and the basic way to do that means male/female couplings. However, if it was sinful to not have children, it is not just homosexuals who are sinful – life-long singles or couples without children, and the celibate and sadly infertile all are too. So for me, that doesn't hold any water for proving homosexuality is a sin. (John Corvino, links below, covers this well).
Then there's good old Sodom (Gen 19) – men destroyed for desiring other men. This is, I feel, not how it really reads. The story’s main point is about hospitality and its importance, plus they were men desiring angels; if it were trying to make a point about improper relationships, it's not the genders that is the problem, but the desire for not-human-beings. Or it is about the sin of sexually driven attacks by a mob, which doesn't relate to safe, sane and consensual sex between adults of the same sex.
The other mention in the Old Testament (the entire Bible doesn't have many mentions) is in Leviticus – this is where the rule, and later the punishment, is set down. "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is detestable...They must be put to death." Seems pretty clear. But it uses the word ‘detestable’- it is the only rule in the long list with an adjective. This shows the influence of the culture, ie the human element of scripture, not the divine, [another sticky issue in the debate over Biblical authority] and so should not be seen as divine mandate.
And Christianity simply does not apply to the OT belief in ritual purity, of which this one and many of the other Jewish rules that don't make sense. Ours is not the Jewish covenant, but a new one. Jesus came to fulfill the law, and very pointedly ended the concept of ritual purity. It was an important part in the history of the nation building of early Israel to advocate for cleanliness and differentiate themselves from other cultures, some of which included sex between men; but Jesus moved us onto a new phase, not nation building, but kingdom building! Things progress towards the kingdom of God, leaving behind what was useful at the time but is no longer needed ie outdated law.
In my mind, we have to look at it as twenty-first century Christians. The Old Testament was written by a majority heterosexual, ancient culture without the benefit of the knowledge we have gained since, and the OT is scripture that is not as important to us as the life and message of Jesus. So while it remains significant in our religion, it does not play as big a role in setting examples for us.
The New Testament only has two mentions, both from Paul. He condemns homosexuals in both Romans and Corinthians. So again coming from the human element more than the divine, plus there have been strong disputes to the translation of the Hebrew to 'homosexuals' anyway. And we don't agree with other things he says either, like about women...so he hasn't gotten everything right. And again, it's part of a wider message trying to motivate the first churches to be different to the cultures around them, some of which were very sexually indulgent, disrespectful and ethically problematic. It's a misinterpretation, seeing the hedonistic homosexuality as representative of all same-sex relations, which we know not to be true.
There's so much interpretation in reading the Bible - it isn't a simply how-to guide, and we much use reason and experience as well as scripture and prayer to form our beliefs.
Here are my positive arguments that Christianity supports sexuality in general. The most important this for me is it comes down to the basics - Jesus. We Christians measure all scripture by and look for answers from Jesus and his teaching, first and foremost, and we certainly measure the text for Jews by him. We are Christ-followers, we follow Christ and his message.
I don't want to sound corny, but his message was one of love. He taught about love and the expression of love, advocating its universality, and finding joy in relationship, abolishing hierarchies, ritual purity, and the gender divide. Jesus' emphasis was on the treatment of others and the quality of relationships, not who those relationships are with. He makes a point of befriending the minorities and proving how they are the equals of those in the majority, with much for the majority to learn from. He became their champion, and told the world once and for all, we're all God's children, how He made us.
Jesus does not even mention homosexuality. Romantic commitment between two people is a key part of human relationships, so he would have said something against homosexuality if it was prohibited by God. When you get right down to the cornerstone of Christianity, it is a Christ-follower's first and foremost principle to value love irrespective of differences.
Then there's intellectual arguments. What is sin? It is not a simple abstract concept, nor is it a list of mystery rules. Sin is simply that which separates us from God. Why is something a sin? Something is not a sin simply because it is a rebellion against the Bible. As I said earlier, Christians do not comply with the laws that do not make sense; and there is no sense in prohibiting love between people that helps them to grow, makes them happy, where they feel respected, trusted, and they care about each other. God is our Father, and a parent teaches a child what not to do, but also why not to do; we should be able to understand why something is a sin, not just mindlessly follow rules.
And finally my secular arguments.
- It feels natural to the minority – it is not automatically wrong just because the majority feel it is not for them. A previously held ‘natural’ classification was the inferiority of women and black people. (The Catholic Church once debated whether native Americans had souls! We get it wrong, we learn, we progress. Ours is a living faith).
- Sexuality is just another variant in the human population - the application of 'correcting' principles will not stop it, there will always be a minority who aren't straight.
- There is nothing medical or scientific that proves it is dangerous or harmful to a full, happy, healthy life. “Scientific evidence suggests that homosexuality is not a pathological or psychological disorder but a consistent sexual condition of a minority”
- It is a common state in other species – some animals live full homosexual lives
- How does a loving, mutually beneficial relationship harm anyone? Judge each relationship individually eg. abusive is wrong / loving and cooperative is right
On being bisexual specifically, there are many things in common between a Christian identity and a bisexual identity. Bisexuals are on the margins in both mainstream and queer spaces a lot of the time, and Christians are called to the margins - Matt 10 "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves...You will be hated by all because of My name." We are encouraged to be our full selves and trust in God without fear.
A great quote from another blog about being a bisexual Christian is that "the multiplicity of my sexuality [colours] my view of my faith [and teaches] me to appreciate multiplicity within the body of Christ". I would add that it's also a great insight into some confusing Christian concepts like Jesus being fully human and fully divine is akin to us having to explain that we're 'fully straight and fully gay' - Jesus was a different condition of humanity/divinity in the same way we're a different condition of sexuality! And the same with the Trinity being three in one -we're one person, ours is one love and different love, for more than one gender.
Because I am bisexual, I feel closer to the minorities and outcasts that I as a Christian am called to serve, especially those who are labelled as inferior because of simply who they are, how they were born, or being outside the mainstream. Living as a bisexual in this world pushes me towards following Jesus' political, rebellious way of being, to stand up for human rights and justice for the silent, ignored and erased. I thank God that I am bisexual - I get to experience God as Love in more ways than the majority - how great it that!
Phew, what a topic. Contentious, personal, confusing. I've covered it as best I can. Ask questions in the comments!
- Amazing Love http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/leading-theologians-urge-the-church-of-england-to-celebrate-same-sex-relationships
- John Corvino - http://www.youtube.com/user/johncorvino / http://johncorvino.com/books/
- Eliel Cruz http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/bisexuality-christian-inclusive-eliel-cruz
- Queer Grace
My other bisexual Christian blog posts:
- Bisexual Priest
- The Pilling Report - a bisexual perspective
- A tricky situation with other Christians
- Being a bisexual Christian
- Being C of E this week: same sex marriage
- 'Men & Women in Marriage' by the CofE / a bisexual Anglican rants
- LGBT at a Christian festival
- Church Times celebrate BiVisibilityDay
My other blog following my journey exploring a vocation to priesthood (as an out bisexual!):