Religion is an emotive subject and based on one's belief in the unseen - faith in The Divine Creator. Therefore, faith or religion is a personal choice, unlike one's sexuality which is a part of who you are and is not a choice. I also write from a persuasion that homosexuality is not a sin but an extension of our faith journey and our spirituality. I believe that I am accountable only to the way I express my sexuality and the actions that arise from this - as for any other form of sexual orientation. We need to understand the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. Therefore, my behaviour or the expression of my sexuality would depend on my own personal conviction, my value system and the way the Divine reveals the divinity to me, in the context of my life and my lifestyle.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered (LGBT) persons face constant discrimination and prejudice because of societal attitudes towards us, and is very often reflected in our faith-based organisations and places of worship. Sadly, divine scripture, including the Bible, is often used as a weapon to bash LGBT persons from the pulpit, in our families and in our communities. It is important to remember that such hurtful doctrines are not a reflection of The Christ - or the way God calls the church to be - these are products of fallible and imperfect human beings who guide these churches. Very often, ministers of religion support issues facing homosexuals in their personal capacity, but as a denomination or as church leader, they do not want to come out of the closet to show their support to LGBT persons. Many leaders are afraid of losing the support of congregations (specifically financial support) if they are seen as been activists for equal rights for LGBT persons.
Sadly, this goes against the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: a message of hope, salvation, love and eternal life for all people who profess Christ as their Saviour and Redeemer. Never did Christ speak out against homosexual people but what He did speak about was love for God our Creator, love for our neighbour and the inclusion of all the marginalised and exploited. Jesus went against the grain of His own traditions and broke down the barriers that divide.
The struggle of LGBT persons in a Human Rights struggle in the same vein as the struggle of people of colour, women facing gender discrimination within the church, slavery and exploitation of children through abuse and neglect; the church needs to reflect and revisit the HARD FACT that many people are still been kept away from Christs table of forgiveness based on their sexuality.
Because we live in a heterosexist society where everything is defined from a heterosexual point of view, it is a constant struggle for us just to be heard. I am not proposing that scripture that deals with the question of homosexuality should be discarded or interpreted simply to suit the ears of the homosexual but we need to ask honestly, what those scriptures say in the context of its original writings in the Greek and Hebrew readings.
In order for us to understand scripture, we need to understand the context of the writings - reading what came before and after the story/parable/chapter/ verses in question. A verse or a word cannot be understood in isolation, but must be seen as a whole in terms of the Bible's overall message of salvation and love for all.
The story of the cities Sodom & Gomorrah many believe that God destroyed these because of homosexuality. This is a misinterpretation of this scripture: The prophet Ezekiel says: "Now this is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her children were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty, committed idolatry. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen." The people were proud, arrogant and inhospitable towards visitors and strangers - this was not part of their culture. They even went as far as to attempt to rape the visitors (God's angels who were visiting Lot. And what was Lots response, he offered his own daughters to be raped. Should sex without consent now be condoned?? I find this hypocritical because in todays society, some bodies matter and others dont!). The people of the day in these cities were involved in abusive sexual practises and lost respect for each others bodies; they went against the teachings of God and that is why the cities were destroyed.
Christians today, should live out the principles and values of a follower of Christ - "And a new commandment I give to you, this that you love one another as I love you, for by this shall all know that you are my disciples." Maybe we should read the parable of who our neighbour is and define that in the context of our lives today - what would you do if a marginalised and despised person is laying in the street - what would our reaction be? In our belief as Christians, what would the response of Christ be? Love, acceptance and reaching out are all values prescribed by Christians - maybe we should re-look these principles before we cast the first stone.
I believe that churches are still prejudicing LGBT persons as long as you dont verbalise who and what you are, you are accepted. As long as you are a closeted queen, you are accepted. As long as you dont practice your sexuality, you are accepted. We will use your talents, skills, financial support and your time as long as you dont publicly claim your space as a LGBT person. Youll be accepted as long as you dont speak out against discrimination, prejudice, homophobia, homoprejudice and the hypocrisy of the Christian church. You will be accepted as long as you can conform to our value system and to hell with you being loved, blessed and created in Gods image, warts and all!
I am Christian, male, a lover in a committed same-sex relationship, a son, a brother, an uncle, a colleague, a tax paying citizen of this beautiful country I just happen to be a gay male. My sexuality is an extension of my faith journey and I am one of the fortunate people who can share myself fully with my family.
I will never be bullied into silence. I will never allow myself to be made a victim. I will never accept anyones definition of my life. I will define myself! (Harvey Fierstein).
Marlow Valentine is the former Interim Pastoral Leader of Good Hope MCC and heads the Outreach Programme of Triangle Project in Cape Town.