Church must renounce biblical-based homophobia

homophobia

Israel Folau’s now notorious declaration that queer people (“homosexuals”) are going to hell is not only harmful to our queer and takatāpui youth, it is also theologically incorrect.

But it is not just Australia experiencing an overtly public wave of religiously motivated homophobia.

Brian Tamaki, controversial leader of Destiny Church and co-founder of the Coalition Party, voiced unequivocal support for Folau on Twitter.

The history of homophobia within Christianity is a matter too potent, too loud, too entrenched for churches to stay silent about.

There are several verses in the Bible which are traditionally used to bolster homophobic rhetoric, but 10 minutes spent reading about the religious and historic context of these verses would leave anyone with the ability to disarm a scripturally-rooted homophobic argument.

On an even more elemental level, though, the homosexuality that Folau and Tamaki are presumably referring to is a modern concept describing an identity premised on romantic love between people of the same gender.

Homosexuality as we currently define it did not exist as a concept until the late nineteenth century.

Previous to that, within the Western world, sexual acts between two people of the same gender were viewed as a form of “sinful temptation,” but not the foundation of an identity.

Bible verses that refer to sexual behaviour between people of the same gender do not condemn homosexuality, or queerness, because homosexuality, as we now define it, did not exist in either Old Testament times or the first-century world of the New Testament.

That’s not to say that people in biblical times didn’t have loving relationships with partners of the same gender (although, we don’t have the evidence to accurately assert this), but we can say quite certainly that homosexuality as a social categorisation did not exist.

If Folau and Tamaki are going to base their homophobia on Bible verses written thousands of years ago without any recognition of the need to contextualise these.

 

I would ask them if they then refrain from eating oysters and always check to make sure a t-shirt is pure cotton and not blended with polyester before wearing it?

Sexuality has had divergent meanings projected onto it in every successive human society.

The homosexual/heterosexual divide is simply how modern, predominantly-Western, society has chosen to understand human sexuality.

In Greco-Roman society sex was related to power.

Now it’s about personal identity.

A historically consistent, monolithic understanding of sexuality simply does not exist.

Leviticus 18:22 is one of the Bible verses plucked from its original context and used to argue that condemnation of homosexuality is scripturally based.

This verse, which reads, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” is not referring to a loving relationship between two consenting adults – it is a law prohibiting sexual promiscuity.

The Levitical laws were received by Moses from God as the guidelines which the Israelites (who had fled Egypt during the Exodus) were to abide by in order to retain God’s favour.

There are 613 of these laws and they also command that the Israelites were not to eat shellfish or wear garments made from mixed fabrics.

If Folau and Tamaki are going to base their homophobia on Bible verses written thousands of years ago without any recognition of the need to contextualise these, I would ask them if they then refrain from eating oysters and always check to make sure a t-shirt is pure cotton and not blended with polyester before wearing it?

Being able to disarm a homophobic argument premised on religious belief is useful, certainly, but does not rescue young queer and takatāpui people questioning their sexuality from the harm caused by violent rhetoric spouted by public figures such as Folau and Tamaki. Continue reading

 

  • Harriet Winn is an Honours student at the University of Auckland, whose research interests include queer theology and gendered histories within Christianity. She has lots of question and Martin Luther is one of four people she would like to invite to lunch.
  • Image: Liv Actually

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