As a teacher and eternal student of history, it’s fascinating to experience events that will define our society in the future. We are witnessing such a time right now. It has to do with the future of LGBTQ+ Americans.
Two in three Americans – approximately 67% – support marriages between same-sex couples, according to 2020 Gallup polling. A 2020 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey revealed broad support for the inclusion of protections against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Seven of ten respondents – representing a broad cross-section of political, geographic, age, and ideological differences – supported LGBTQ+ equality. Both polls document increasing acceptance compared to prior years.
The Supreme Court decisions exemplify the changing trend. In Lawrence v. Texas, the court ruled in 2003 that a Texas state law criminalizing sexual contact between consenting adults of the same sex was unconstitutional and invalidated similar laws in a dozen other states. In 2015, the court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional under the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. A 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County ruled the 29 states that permitted employment discrimination based upon gender identity or sexual orientation were in violation of Title VII.
From the Oval Office, President Obama signed legislation in 2015 repealing the U. S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which ended the ban on LGBTQ+ persons in the military until then President Trump signed an order to exclude transgender military service. President Biden reversed his predecessor’s ban on transgender troops serving in the military within days of his inauguration. Pope Francis and President Obama reversed their previous viewpoints by publicly endorsing same-sex civil unions.
While the courts and most Americans support LGBTQ+ equality, the Evangelical Christian majority continue to ignore “Love Thy Neighbor” scriptures. Some assert the Christian perspectives on LBGTQ+ rights are universally negative. That is false.
Jesus’ parables offer examples to follow as well as criticism against narrow applications of sacred texts by religious leaders. How should we understand the claim that “The Bible says that Homosexuality is a Sin”?
The reality is that there is no textual evidence for an ancient equivalent of modern LGBTQ+ relationships. The word “homosexual” first appeared in the 1946 RSV Bible when a translation team headed by Luther Allan Weigle, Dean of the Yale Divinity School, selected “homosexual” to replace the original Greek words “arksenokoital” and “malakoi,” which described older men who molested young boys. Some Biblical translations used “sexual pervert” or “male prostitute” between the Greek and more modern texts replaced them with the term “homosexual.”
In the New Testament, Jesus said nothing regarding same-sex relationships or intimacy. Instead, he lovingly responded to society’s marginalized. In the Hebrew Bible, Leviticus condemns unnatural relationships, eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabric clothing, and getting a tattoo. All have been re-understood by Christians and Jews in the modern era. The Bible has much more to say about heterosexual relationships and intimacy, as well as how human beings might engage faithfully in marriage, divorce, fidelity, and child-rearing.
The thin Biblical arguments which support LGBTQ+ discrimination is alarming when we consider how much harm has been done in the name of Evangelical guidance. The Human Rights Campaign reported at least 44 LGBTQ+ persons were killed by violent means in 2020 – the most ever reported. “At least” is relevant because too often these have been unreported or misreported.
Just as alarming, in the seven years that the Human Rights Campaign has tracked anti-transgender violence, there have been annual increases in the number of fatal violence victims.
People of faith are entitled to the freedom to believe, pray, preach, and teach as they believe. But we must also protect the religious freedom of a diverse nation so that all people of faith (and those with none) can marry who they love, shop where they want, work without fear of discrimination, and have equal status under the law.
So, my question to Evangelical Christians, how can there be a more faithful position than this?
Dr. Don Clardy
Dr. Don Clardy is a tenured professor with 40+ years in higher education.
Rev. Clay Cook is a retired pastor with degrees in education and divinity along with 40+ years in the ministry. The two are colleagues who have been members of the same Presbyterian church for more than 25 years.