Resources on LGBTQ people and the Bible
If there's anything we wanted to communicate in our video, it's that we didn't come to our current way of thinking by discarding our belief in the Bible. It was our prayers and our study of the Bible that lead us to this - and we would encourage you to not give up on Scripture either! Let your primary resource be Scripture. However, when dealing with such a small handful of passages, we also found it helpful to study up on both historical background and "modern background". By "modern background", I mean that although I (Will) have always had gay family members, I never really asked them about it - almost everything I knew about the topic of same-gender relationships came from discussions I had as a teenager with other straight church teenagers. It turns out this was not the most reliable way for me to learn about gay people ;)
Below are two lists of additional resources that we've encountered: the first list is "On the Bible and History" which is all about Scripture and it's context, but the second list, "On the experiences of LGBTQ people with Christianity" is equally important in that these resources help frame our case in a current context. We hope these resources will be helpful to you. In your journey, we would encourage you to do two main things: to listen to the testimonies of LGBTQ people to try to understand the world through their eyes, and to look into every passage that is thought to mention homosexuality and seek to understand the historical and Biblical context behind those passages.
If you only read one thing, read Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee - http://a.co/4AigFwm . I've seen this book become deeply meaningful for people on all sides of this debate. It's written with grace and honesty that can build bridges where so many are ready to tear them down. (God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines would be my suggestion for a follow up.)
On the Bible and history:
Passages that have been used to reject modern, committed gay relationships: Gen 19:1-29; Judg 19:1-30; Lev 18:22; Lev 20:13; Jude 5-7; Rom 1:18-27; 1Cor 6:9-17; 1Tim 1:10
Themes that have been used to reject modern, committed gay relationships: Marriage is a theme that your see from the first chapters of the Bible to the last. Because the marriage theme consistently occurs between a bride and a groom, the absence of gay marriage in Scripture is often taken as proof that it is forbidden.
Questions we've been asking: Do these passages refer to orientation or behavior? What sort behavior was going on? Was it in the context of marriage or even a committed relationship? Is it more likely that the behavior was consensual or non-consensual? Is it likely that the behavior took place between people of equal societal status or appropriate age? What was the original author/reader's primary paradigm surrounding sexual roles? Was sexual orientation a well-developed concept at the time? What are the words being used in Hebrew/Greek and how are they used in other areas of the Bible and/or other writings of antiquity? Is an absence of gay relationships in the Bible proof that God rejects them? How do my upbringing, traditional Christian teachings, and my general sense of discomfort with the idea of gay sex influence my approach to this issue? Is it possible that if those things were stripped away I would be able to read these passages with different eyes?
God and the Gay Christian
Book by Matthew Vines http://a.co/hyVdFrl
If you are wanting to take a deep dive into Scripture, I cannot recommend this book enough. Read this as a follow up to Justin Lee's "Torn". Vines calls us to a more faithful and rigorous study of the Bible's contribution to today's issue on LGBTQ believers in the Church.
Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective
Book by Martti Nissinen - http://a.co/6kYgDB9
A more academic look at homoerotic practices and sexual paradigms in the ancient world. The author doesn't tend to present firm conclusions on what you should believe but he does dispel some false assumptions. Mostly this is great for setting up the historical background of ancient Mesopotamian, Greek and Roman sexual culture as well as first-century Jewish and Hellenistic-Jewish customs as you study for yourself.
The Bible's Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical's Change of Heart
Book by Mark Achtemeier - http://a.co/93tcpwz
Here is a guy who campaigned successfully in the 90s as a Presbyterian (USA) to have the church formally forbid gays and lesbians from becoming clergy. Over the next 14 years he had a change of heart and mind as he met with LGBTQ friends and continued to study the scriptures.
Quick Online Reads
Article by Justin Lee http://geekyjustin.com/great-debate/
This is a great long-form article. Read it in less than an hour. Of course, being that it's an article, it's not exactly exhaustive. There is also a well-written counterpoint article from a gay believer who believes he is called to celibacy.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_Judaism (The first few sections cover history and Talmudic interpretations, however I think the Bible itself is the best resource for figuring out early Mesopotamian sexual customs. For instance, look into Old Testament occurrences of male cult prostitution in a lexicon or here.)
About Peter's Vision in Acts 10-11:
In the video we referred to Peter's vision, his experience with a group of Gentile believers, and his subsequent theological reformation in which his understanding of who was welcome in the kingdom of God just as they are was broadened. These events take place in Chapters 10. In chapter 11 Peter reports to the Church in Jerusalem what he saw. The church was stunned - 'When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'" In the following years, this becomes a heated issue in the early church culminating in the decision by the church leaders in Jerusalem (in Acts 15) to officially declare that the Gentiles were welcome in the Church just as they were - without having to convert to Judaism and become circumcised first.
This story inspired us to be open to reconsider assumptions we'd been raised with concerning what God had to say about LGBTQ people. If Peter, who walked with Jesus, could have been so blind in his interpretation of Scripture regarding Gentiles, was it possible that we also could be similarly blinded regarding LGBTQ people in our time? Is it possible that God is saying "What God has made clean, do not call common"? (Acts 10:15)
On the experiences of LGBTQ people:
Questions we've been asking: What is the definition of homosexual? Does it have to do with behavior or orientation? If someone says they're gay - what are the implications of that statement? (Are they always referring to lifestyle / behavioral choices, or just their attractions / orientation?) If the answer is just "orientation", can a person be gay and Christian (even with traditional interpretations on the gay issue)? If orientations / attractions are not inherently sinful - how might closeted gay teens in our churches be impacted by our insistence that gays are "living a lifestyle of sin"? What sort of life would you have if you couldn't have your partner (or, if single, the freedom and hope to one day find and choose a partner)? Have ex-gay ministries achieved any meaningful success in changing orientation? Are their gay families out there bearing good fruit and not showing the bad fruit/consequences of sin?
Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate
Book by Justin Lee - http://a.co/4AigFwm
This book is the most important read of all these resources. Justin Lee grew up as a Jesus-loving kid in a conservative Christian household with parents who loved him dearly. This is the story of how he navigated his faith and his orientation through his teens, through a baptist Bible college and beyond. We were so struck by this man's story, his commitment Jesus and to the Church, and by the grace he exhibits towards people from a wide variety of viewpoints.
Blue Babies Pink
Blog + Podcast by Brett Trapp - http://www.bluebabiespink.com/
A deep dive inside the headspace of a conservative Evangelical who grew up totally in love with Jesus and totally appalled by his own attractions. A man who had never once been on a date at 30 years old because of his convictions. A man willing to bear some of the most personal struggles imaginable in order to help those of us straight folk who have never struggled with the sorts of things young gay people struggle with. He answers every uncomfortable question you wish you could ask a gay person, and even more you haven't yet thought to ask.
UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question
Book by John Shore - http://a.co/97O2HAu
This book is a compilation of 16 essays by the author and 30 letters written to the author from gay people who grew up in church. I am recommending this book solely on the merit of the 30 letters. They are raw, honest, varied, and utterly important for heterosexual Christians to read - so we can really begin to understand what it's like for LGBTQ people in our communities and churches. Author John Shore's essays strike me as highly biased, confrontational, and in my opinion probably unhelpful to most of you reading this. The letters, however, are worth their weight in gold.
Exodus International Shuts Down, Leader Apologizes
Article by Christianity Today, Letter by Alan Chambers - http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2013...
In 2013, the largest and most well-known "ex-gay" ministry in the USA shut it's doors and issued an apology. At the heart of the issue was the fact that for decades they knowingly misled gay Christians into believing that they could be "healed" of their orientation. The myth that sexual orientation can be changed is unfortunately still pervasive in the evangelical community, even though the very institutions that promoted it are shutting down after years of failed attempts at heterosexual marriages, leadership scandals, and scores of disillusioned gay Christians leaving the church and even losing their lives to despair when they are let down by a God who refuses to "heal" them.
Dear Bethel: Open Letter From An LGBT Graduate Of Your Ministry School
Open letter by Bre Hanan - http://www.thepeacefulwarriors.net/?p=243
For the Bible Tells Me So
A powerful documentary that follows several leaders in the LGBTQ community and their Christian families.
"Through My Eyes": True stories of young gay Christians
The filmmaker in me cringes at the amateur quality of this film, but we were enthralled by the testimonies of these young gay people who have somehow managed in various ways to come to terms with their orientation, with their churches, and their faith.