Step Out of Your Bubble
The following post was written by Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations at The Marin Foundation.
It is no secret that we as humans have a propensity to gravitate towards other individuals and ways of thinking that are familiar and reinforce the world as we already understand it. This makes sense since decreased diversity in worldviews can serve to lessen the potential for interpersonal and ideological conflicts. It can also provide comfort since our understanding is then at a lessened risk of being deconstructed and increase our sense of intellectual competency if surrounding voices operating out of similar foundational convictions only offer minor critiques.
Surrounding ourselves with that which is familiar and similar is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself though. Shared understanding and experiences allow groups of people to construct the belief systems, behaviors, and culture from which they derive meaning. This may include things like theologies about God and beliefs about sexuality. Though we can work together in positive ways and find commonalities, it is difficult and near impossible to construct complex ideas and theologies pertaining to a specific worldview with others that do not adhere to the foundational aspects of the said worldview. If we do not wish for our fundamental perceptions of reality to be altered by every philosophy and idea we come across, it is also a good idea to first find a sense of intellectual grounding in what we believe and learn to think critically before we set off to investigate the plurality of beliefs and ideas around us.
Once we have gained the tools to think critically though, the reasons for not learning about and engaging other beliefs and ideas seem to come down to apathy, arrogance, fear, or simply a lack of time. For those that have a vested interest in the conversation about the intersection of sexuality/gender identity and Christianity, we need to stretch ourselves beyond the confines of the familiar and what makes us comfortable in relation to our beliefs. I often find that many have talking points about their interpretation of the bible related to sexuality, while they have not invested much in understanding the beliefs of those whom they disagree on the matter. Or individuals may invest, but the intention is to learn more to be able to better refute those that they disagree with. I am often guilty of what I have mentioned since it pads my ego and reinforces what I already believe when I read resources and speak with individuals that I already agree with to an extent. It can be humbling to admit the ways in which my thinking has been informed more by the culture and values that I grew up with and my resulting bias rather than personal investment and study.
Along these lines, my intention for writing this post is simply to encourage individuals to step into unfamiliar territory and engage with others and resources that they disagree with. If you have a more traditional interpretation of scripture, I would encourage you to take the time to check out the video below that was passed onto me by Matthew Vines. Matthew is a 21 year-old man whose understanding of scripture on the topic surpasses many well beyond his age that possess a more progressive interpretation and it is well worth the time to listen to.
To get started, I would also encourage individuals to check out The New Testament and Homosexuality by Robin Scroggs. For those that are progressive on the matter, Welcoming But Not Affirming by Stanley Grenz is worth checking out. If you would like any resources beyond those, we have listed a few on our website here for individuals to get started.
But in reading, I hope and pray that LGBT individuals would not be made into an abstraction or theological issue to you if you are not a part of the community. Examination of scripture on the topic must be combined with long term relationships with those that are a part of the LGBT community. Failing to do so develops a faceless theology, which is inherently flawed and incomplete in its detachment from reality. Espousing beliefs without such relationships is destructive, even if pure intentions and developed intellectual understanding are present. It is simply impossible to love those whom you do not personally and intimately know. Instead, you rather love your idea about who you think they are as opposed to who they are in reality. This difference in loving an idea about who someone may be as opposed to loving them in their material reality is bound to manifest itself in some capacity in the way beliefs about the ‘topic’ are expressed. I pray that you would seek to love others whom you disagree as you love yourself while you move into developing your understanding about what you believe the bible communicates about sexuality.
I had a really great conversation with someone last week. She’s like a second mom to me, i really look up to her, and she’s a really strong Christian. This conversation was a lot more refreshing than some of my previous ones with others. She has more conservative views than i do when it comes to homosexuality and the bible (this seems to be the case with most people i know) but we still were able to talk without all of the frustration that typically comes up in talks surrounding this topic. It was great. She listened to me and she didn’t just automatically disregard whatever I said, like others have done in the past. She listened when I shared some stories of Christians with same-sex attractions that I know or have heard of and the variety of their experiences. I told her about Side A and Side B views and she said she had never heard of that before. I listened when she shared some stories about her sister that is a lesbian and how her family has treated her over the years. We talked about some of the stereotypes surrounding the lgbt community. I hope that I can have many more conversations like these with people. Listening, understanding, and relating to people despite differences goes a long way.
the start of my research
I recently started reading Slaves, Women, & Homosexuals. by William J. Webb. It’s a hermeneutics and cultural analysis by William J. Webb. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t know what hermeneutics meant until I heard of this book title and looked it up. It will probably be the most intense thing that I have read that isn’t for school (I’m kind of new to all of this theology stuff) but I’m really excited to see what the author says. And I didn’t just randomly pick this book out, it was given to me by a leader of my campus ministries. Anyways, I’m looking forward to continue reading and to finish this book because I think it will be very insightful and fair to both sides.
After I finish this book, I will probably read Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers. I got this book in November but I haven’t had the chance to read it yet. I already know that this book will be completely focused on the progressive side of things. Even though it will biased, I think it will still be great to possibly see some solid theology behind the progressive view.
I’m thinking that i’ll most likely need to read some books other than these two and I’m trying to find another book that fairly represents the conservative view.
Have any of you read these books? Do you know of any other good books that I should read as I do my research?
I don’t have all the answers.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do ask a lot of questions. Right now a big question that I ask is “What does the Bible really say about homosexuality?” Plus, I ask a lot more questions that come from that one question (and a lot of other questions that have nothing to do with that question, but that’s not the point right now). Some people say that homosexuality is a sin and some people say that it’s not. And everyone seems pretty certain about what they think. At this point, I’m really not convinced either way. I don’t know what to think. Of course as Christian, I believe that the bible is the truthful and authoritative word of God (every single part of it), but I do see that people can read the same passages and verses and get very different things from it. I feel like i’ve heard almost every conservative or traditional interpretation out there and since I went to a conference on reconciliation in November I’ve heard a lot of progressive interpretations, though not as many (It seems like the conservative view is more well-known or gets more attention).
Right now I feel called to do some more research on homosexuality and I’m currently in the process of researching all sides of the subject. I will be doing a ton of reading and praying over the next few months. I’ll be looking at a lot of resources such as books, articles, sermons, videos, and films. I really want to see what God has to say. I’m willing to go wherever God leads me on this matter. I go into this open to whatever God wants to show me, ready to listen, and ready to learn from God.
I don’t know what will happen after I do all this research. There’s a possibility that I won’t come to a conclusion about what I believe or maybe I will make a decision and then find out that I was wrong. Maybe God will show me that it doesn’t matter what I think about homosexuality and that He just wants me to be more focused on loving people. I don’t know what will happen, but I do know that God is in control and that no matter what I decide, I will continue to show love and support to the lgbt community.
What do you think? Have any suggestions for resources that I should look at? Have you done your own research on homosexuality?