To my gay bothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. I’ve received numerous communiques demanding an apology for a previous column I penned. And I agree. But if any apology is due, it should be to be made to the gay community.
I am sorry if I inadvertently made you the object of my discourse rather than the subject. I never intended to speak for you or about you, but rather to highlight what I continue to see as a moral travesty–the use of sacred text to justify cultural bigotry.
The purpose of said article was that gays and lesbians are fired because of their sexual orientation, and specifically how the firing of trained Arab translators places this nation’s security at risk. This injustice is undergirded in the name of God, as have past oppressions.
Use of the Bible to justify crusades, genocide, slavery and sexism is historical fact. My fear is that we are repeating history.
Hurt feelings of public religious political figures, including myself, are not the issue. What is important, my gay bothers and sisters, is that God loves you, God cherishes you and God suffers in your sufferings.
You should know that Christ dwells in you, and you should not reject the good news of the salvation and liberation because of how those claiming to be Christ’s disciples interpret his words.
You should know that you are created in the image of God, created for dignity because you have worth. And because all that God creates is good, you should never settle for being “tolerated.” Like all humans, you should be accepted into the fabric of society.
It is one thing for some to disagree with your lifestyle; it is another for them to use their power and prestige to impose their views, and in doing so, deny you humanness. And we who are heterosexuals should know that your orientation, like ours, is but a part of who you are, not the total means of defining your identity.
You are more than gay. You are parents, siblings, children, teachers, scientists, ministers, politicians, military personal protecting our freedoms and world leaders.
At first glance it appears that Jesus makes no reference to homosexuality. But several of my gay brothers and sisters point to Matthew 19:12: “There are eunuchs who are born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who are made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the reign of Heaven.”
Those who are made eunuchs, like Nehemiah the cupbearer, refer to those who were castrated in order to be the king’s servant. This ensured their ability to serve the monarch without dishonoring the king’s possessions, specifically his queen or harem.
Eunuchs for the sake of God’s reign are those who chose celibacy as a religious calling.
But how do we interpret eunuch from birth? Some gay scholars believe that this verse refers to them as modern-day sexual outcasts or transgendered persons. The eunuchs from birth represent men who have not been with women because of their orientation from birth.
Eunuchs were considered spiritual outcasts, unable to participate in the cultic practices of the faith community: “He shall not enter the assembly of Yahweh if his male member is wounded, crushed or cut (Deut. 23:1).”
By referring to himself as a eunuch, Jesus seeks solidarity with the sexually oppressed of his times, while fulfilling the promise stated in Isaiah 56:3-5: “Do not let the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dried up tree,’ for thus says Yahweh to the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and chooses things with which I am pleased, and take hold of my covenant. I will even give them in my house and in my walls a name better than sons and daughters, I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off.”
Jesus’ inclusion of the sexual outcast served as a model of welcoming and affirming everyone into the early Christian church. Love for all people, including the outcasts, becomes the acceptable norm established by Jesus.
Love is an action word, not an abstract concept based on unexpressed feelings. The real test of love is that it be unconditional, not for the devious purpose of changing people (which in effect transforms people into objects), but rather love for the sake of the person as she or he is.
When the disciple Philip (Acts 8:26-40) encounters an Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza, who is reading the prophet Isaiah, Philip is quick to share the affirming message of the gospel and to welcome the sexual outcast into the fellowship of believers.
But what if I’m wrong? What if homosexuality is a sin? Then, when I stand before the throne of the Almighty, I can stand with confidence. For I rather have erred on the side of grace and mercy than on the side of judgment and condemnation.
Miguel De La Torre, a Cuban American, is professor of theologies of liberation at Hope College in Holland, Mich. He is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a former Baptist pastor in Kentucky. His column also appears in the Holland Sentinel.
Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.