As any reader of Virtually Normal will know, I do not doubt that the Bible condemns homosexual sexual acts. Any intellectually honest, Christian defense of gay love and relationships needs to confront that reality. We reformists are clearly confronting what we believe are the false premises and assumptions about homosexuality that we find in Scripture. In this conflict with texts, of course, we are not the first Christians to challenge the Bible, as Luke Johnson expains:
Our situation vis-à-vis the authority of Scripture is not unlike that of abolitionists in nineteenth-century America. During the 1850s, arguments raged over the morality of slave-holding, and the exegesis of Scripture played a key role in those debates. The exegetical battles were one-sided: all abolitionists could point to was Galatians 3:28 and the Letter of Philemon, while slave owners had the rest of the Old and New Testaments, which gave every indication that slaveholding was a legitimate, indeed God-ordained social arrangement, one to which neither Moses nor Jesus nor Paul raised a fundamental objection. So how is it that now, in the early twenty-first century, the authority of the scriptural texts on slavery and the arguments made on their basis appear to all of us, without exception, as completely beside the point and deeply wrong?
Luke Johnson is particularly candid about this point:
We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality-namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God's created order.
Here's how I put it in an interview with the Jesuit magazine, America, some fourteen years ago:
"(The Roman Catholic Church) defines Gay people by a sexual act in a way it never defines heterosexual people, and in this, the church is in weird agreement with extreme Gay activists who also want to define homosexuality in terms of its purely sexual content. Whereas being Gay is not about sex as such. Fundamentally, it's about one's core emotional identity. It's about whom one loves, ultimately, and how that can make one whole as a human being ... a single person's moral equilibrium in a whole range of areas can improve with marriage ... because there is a kind of stability and security and rock upon which to build one's moral and emotional life. To deny this to Gay people is not merely incoherent and wrong, from the Christian point of view. It is incredibly destructive of the moral quality of their lives in general ...
You can't ask someone to suppress what makes them whole as a human being and then to lead blameless lives. We are human beings, and we need love in our lives in order to love others, in order to be good Christians! What the church is asking Gay people to do is not to be Holy, but actually to be warped ... no wonder people's lives, many Gay lives, are unhappy or distraught or in dysfunction, because there is no guidance at all. Here is a population within the church, and outside the church, desperately seeking spiritual health and values, and the church refuses to come to our aid, refuses to listen to this call."