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liberal Christians argue the Bible should be interpreted as society
changes, conservatives argue for a more literal reading, leading to
differences in belief about God and homosexuality.
When President Obama announced he now supports same-sex marriage, he cited his Christian faith.
thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing
himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know — treat
others the way you would want to be treated," he said in his interview with ABC News.
other people cited their religion to disagree, raising the question:
How can people read the same Bible and come to opposite conclusions
about same-sex relationships?
Homosexuality: In Biblical Terms
true, says Carmen Fowler LaBerge: You can be a Christian and support
same-sex marriage, but, she says, "nobody can say gay marriage is
biblical. That's just foolishness."
LaBerge resigned her post as minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) after the denomination voted last year to ordain noncelibate gay clergy. She says the Bible is clear.
the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament, the only sexual
relationships that are affirmed in scripture are those in the context of
marriage between one man and one woman," she says.
the Old Testament does condone polygamy. Still, LaBerge says, from
Leviticus to Paul's writings in Romans and First Corinthians, homosexual
acts are called vile and detestable, and legalizing same-sex
relationships does not change the sin.
fast, says Rev. Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest at All Saints Church
in Pasadena, Calif. She takes her cues from Jesus.
"Jesus never said a single word about anything even remotely connected to homosexuality," she says.
does say the most important commandments are "Love God" and "Love your
neighbor as yourself." Given that, Russell believes if Jesus were here
today, he would celebrate committed, same-sex relationships.
The Bible Vs. Culture
Russell says you take the Bible literally at your folly.
you read the Bible, you can find justification for almost anything,"
she says, "including slavery, the subjection of women and an argument
that the sun actually revolves around the earth."
and other liberal Christians argue the Bible is the living word of God,
and much like the U.S. Constitution, needs to be interpreted as society
But LaBerge says the issue is which has more sway: the Bible or culture?
a stream of faith that would recognize that the Bible continues to have
authority, and that we are obligated to submit ourselves, our wills and
our desires to it," she says, "and there's a stream of faith that would
say that human experience actually trumps — or is an authority over —
the Bible at this point."
Reaction In Black Churches
Homosexual behavior is
a fault line splitting Christian denominations in two — Episcopalians,
Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics — there's even a wide gulf between
young and old Evangelicals. But nowhere is this question more fraught
than in African-American churches, says Tony Evans. He pastors the
9,000-member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas. One reason, he says,
"The breakdown of the family is the single greatest challenge that we face today," he says.
and others say the black family is in crisis — a majority of babies,
for example, are born to single mothers — and that's why black ministers
are often the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage. Asked about
the argument that this is a civil rights issue, Evans bristles.
"The issue of race is not an issue of choice. It's an issue of birth," he says.
Does that mean that homosexuality is a choice?
Bible is clear on that one too. And that is, sexual relationships are
to be between men and women within the context of marriage," Evans says.
"That's not only related to the issue of homosexuality, but adultery,
or fornication or bestiality. All of that is proscribed in the Bible."
Envisioning God's Kingdom
Hagler, the pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ
in Washington, D.C., says "of course it's a civil rights issue."
notes that there are plenty of blacks who are gay, and they, too,
should have access to the God-given institution of marriage. To him,
legitimizing marriage for committed gay couples is precisely what the
"I just think of the words
from Galatians where it says, 'There is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor
female, slave nor free," he says. "And what is happening there is that
they're pointing to what the kingdom of God looks like ... it's open to
everybody and everybody has equal status."
course, conservatives say that the best blueprint for God's kingdom on
earth does not spring from what you read between the lines of the Bible,
but what you read in black and white.