We're reading the Bible through two totally different lenses…

How would you respond to Mikah Meyer (who wrote today at the Huffington Post):

Having lived in Memphis, Tenn., for much of my adult life, I’ve come across many straight peers who say, “I love the sinner, I just hate the sin.” I believe deciding whether homosexuality is a sin or not is the biggest factor when it comes to swinging conservative Christians, those often most against gay marriage, to becoming supporters.

I say “conservative Christians” not to indicate political preference, but as an indicator of biblical understanding. As a self-professing “biblical non-literalist” (someone who believes the Word of God should be interpreted within context and historical practices when appropriate), I have found it impossible to have theological discussions with “biblical literalists” (those who believe the Bible is the direct, unchanged Word of God). I won’t go deeper into this argument other than to say that I have a soft spot in my heart for biblical literalists because 1) if you’re reading an English version of the Bible you’re already reading a translation made by man, and 2) you are literally reading a language nuanced 2,000 years ago. If the game of baseball does not exist 1,000 years from now, all historical documents referencing “being out in left field” are going to mean something completely different.

The statement I tell my biblical literalist friends is, “We can’t use Scripture to prove our points, because we are reading the same book through completely different lenses.” That’s the problem with non-gays laying judgment on homosexuality: they are viewing it through completely different lenses — heterosexual ones.

It is so frustrating to hear any straight person purport that they understand what the Bible says about being gay better than any actual gay person — especially gay Christians who have often spent large chunks of their lives praying for God to make them straight. That would be like a white person saying they understand what it’s like being black better than an African-American. In discussions about homosexuality with many of my conservative Christian friends, they often tell me that I chose to be gay. Yep, no matter how many times or in what ways I describe to them that I did not choose to be gay in the same way they did not choose to be black, left-handed or ADHD, they still insist that I chose to be gay.

Assuming you know what is going on in my head, heart and gut is a huge slap in the face to someone who has spent 26 years — my entire life — reconciling my sexuality and my faith. As someone who has been influenced by a number of faith traditions (growing up the pastor’s son at America’s largest Lutheran campus ministry, living among Baptists for four years in Memphis, and having worked for two Methodist, two Presbyterian, two Episcopal and one Catholic church) I believe that a faith in Christ is one discovered through study of the Scriptures, along with a prayerful, “personal relationship with Christ” (the quoted section being learned largely from the Baptist/Evangelical tradition). I also believe that one’s life experience is crucial. As someone who has first-hand experience with being gay, I can attest that I did not choose it, and from that background, along with a scriptural and prayerful relationship with Christ, I have come to the understanding that being gay is not a sin. It is not a sin to be black, or left-handed, or schizophrenic (traits you don’t choose), and being gay (something you don’t choose) is no different.

While many of my Christian peers disagree with me, I am OK with that, because I would never try to tell them that their own lives of studying Scripture and a prayerful relationship with Christ are wrong. When someone tells me that I don’t recognize rightfully that being gay is a sin, what they are essentially saying to me (and others who believe the same) is, “Your scriptural study and prayerful relationship with Christ are not valid.” It is a very hurtful and offensive thing to have your entire faith life attacked and called false.

// read more here…

Your response?


  • Spica November 13, 2012 Reply

    He has a point when he explains how the way we read Bible today might be clouded by our different culture, different language, etc. But that’s the whole point of hermeneutics, trying to understand the exact meaning of the original author by learning about his culture and the culture of his first intended readers, etc. The “biblical literalists” acknowledge this gap between us and the prophets of the Old Testament or the apostles (and least the serious ones, and those who don’t should learn more about that), but that implies extra work to try and determine the right meaning of the texts and how to apply it to us today. He acknowledges the gap… and concludes that the texts have no value and can’t be applied…

  • Erich Abraham November 14, 2012 Reply

    60 years ago when the Hey Day of Literary Criticism was around us, the question was when will we decide that Jesus was human and not GOD? Hence, literal interpretation found its purpose. This author has lost the meaning of THE REFORMATION. Luther stood against Roman lenses – like his!!

  • BK November 14, 2012 Reply

    I agree that most conservative Christians refuse to even truly think about the concept of being gay and being a Christian. That is their error and sin for not obeying Jesus’ command to love one another. That being said, your argument that being black and gay are the same doesn’t hold water, Scripturally speaking. It never says in the Bible that it is a sin to be black, or left-handed, or ADHD. It does say that it’s a sin to live a homosexual lifestyle/participate in homosexual acts.

    (I’m about to ask a real question, not a rhetorical one) How to you reconcile verses and passages in the Bible that deal directly and specifically with the issue of homosexuality?

    • Chuck November 14, 2012 Reply

      For the unbeliever, the issue of whether they identify as a homosexual or practice homosexuality is irrelevant. Sinners will sin (John 3:16-21). What (Whom) they need to hear about is Jesus (John 8:1-11).

      For those who claim to be followers of Christ, however, I believe it’s not the temptation or inclination to practice homosexuality (or anything else) that is the sin but rather the yielding to temptation into it becoming behavior that marks our lives (Galatians 5:19-21).

      There’s my two cents.

  • MikeB November 14, 2012 Reply

    darn. lost my comment in hitting post. here is my reattempt.

    That we read the Bible through different lenses is certainly no new news. Dealing with cultural nuances and idiomatic use of language are some of the issues we all face when wrestling with interpreting a text.

    Let’s assume that homosexual attractions are not a choice but a genetic predisposition. This does not mean that acting on the desire is any less of a sin. I may be prone to anger and impatience. But that does not make an angry outburst any less wrong. Nor does my desire to serve me or be served make it any less sinful when I act on these rather than serve others.

    We are all tempted and tried in different ways. Pointing to James epistle I would agree that the desire itself is not the sin. Acting out on it is the sin. Calling something good when God says its wrong is only making it worse. If one is going to argue that homosexual actions are not sinful then I (like BK) would like to see how certain passages are handled.

    That said, I feel for those who feel attacked by the church and tried to address that here: http://deadheroesdontsave.com/2011/12/02/haters/

  • Steve Long November 14, 2012 Reply

    I have worked with criminals for the last 34 years and have seen generational criminality. Crime can be a lifestyle that is difficult and almost impossible to break. Kids that were raised surrounded by criminality do not see it with the same lenses that you and I might see it in. To us it is shocking and fearful. To them it is ‘status quo’. We can make anything intellectually right if we have come to the social or emotional conclusion that it is right.

    Following Jesus isn’t easy because I must desire to think heavens thoughts and they do not always align with my social or emotional perceptions. Even if the Bible was left out of the equation there are some physical design elements that would suggest that the Creator had specific usage in mind when he made a male and female body types. This is a lens that I might use when I am looking at various passages on this subject in God’s word.

  • Steve Miller November 14, 2012 Reply

    We are to view our culture through the lens of the Bible, not the Bible’s teachings through the lens of our culture. Marriage will always mean a man and a woman. God’s plan for sex will always mean marital sexual relations.

    No matter where the culture is at or where it is going it is good to know the moral law does not change.

    We can’t change the moral ethical Bible standard, but we can find new attractive ways to share the Gospel of grace and the hope for acceptance and new life apart from our ability to keep or our tendency to break God’s rules.

  • marksimpson1953 November 19, 2012 Reply

    Two lenses? I guess that is one way of putting it? Some read the Bible, like John Hus did and Wycliffe and Tyndale and Luther and Wesley, and Spurgeon, and Graham, through a thousand years of time, and saw the same: faith in Christ for salvation. Then there is the other “lens”, the one where I am convinced that I want to be or do something and I am going to try to read the Bible to find a way that I can keep being or doing that. How is it that people have read their Bibles for 1,800 years (it was completed around 200 ad) and always can find salvation for eternity through God’s grace in Christ, but still can’t figure out what sexual practices they can or cannot engage in? The Bible is so clear about both, but then we have that “lens” problem: what it is that WE really want, no matter what God says.

  • davepatchin December 20, 2012 Reply

    So many responses…couple blips.
    It is not sin to “be gay” anymore than it is sinful (or righteous) to be straight. It is not your sexuality that is sinful (or righteous), it is how you use it that can be perverse or godly. Both gay and straight people sin in this way.

    Quote: It is so frustrating to hear any straight person purport that they understand what the Bible says about being gay better than any actual gay person”
    – Nonsense. I cannot understand what the Bible says about females if I am not female?
    Understanding the bible comes from good, thorough, disciplined exegesis. If he wanted to say straights cannot know how it FEELS to be gay anymore than whites know how it FEELS to be black, fine. Experience is unique, interpretation is not.

    Finally, If we agree that we see the scripture differently and all interpretations are valid, then we render communication impossible. The meaning of a text is the meaning the author intended it to have. If not, then I could interpret the writer to have said torturing babies for fun is moral. Of course, he never used those words, but that was “my understanding” of the post. And we evidently just have “different lenses” on that.

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