Christianity and sexual orientation

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Christian denominations have a variety of beliefs about sexual orientation, including beliefs about same-sex sexual practices and asexuality. Denominations differ in the way they treat lesbian, bisexual, and gay people; variously, such people may be barred from membership, accepted as laity, or ordained as clergy, depending on the denomination. As asexuality is relatively new to public discourse, few Christian denominations discuss it.[1][2] Asexuality may be considered the lack of a sexual orientation, or one of the four variations thereof, alongside heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.[3][4][5]

Asexuality[edit]

As asexuality is relatively new to public discourse, few Christian denominations discuss it and the Bible does not clearly state a view on it.[1][2] However, some Christians have recently made statements on the subject. In the Christian magazine Vision, David Nantais, S.J. and Scott Opperman, S.J. wrote in 2002, "Question: What do you call a person who is asexual? Answer: Not a person. Asexual people do not exist. Sexuality is a gift from God and thus a fundamental part of our human identity. Those who repress their sexuality are not living as God created them to be: fully alive and well. As such, they're most likely unhappy people with which to live.” [2][6]

Asexuality may be considered the lack of a sexual orientation, or one of the four variations thereof, alongside heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.[3][4][5]

Bisexuality[edit]

Same-sex sexual relationships have traditionally been considered a sin within Christianity. However, some contemporary Christian denominations do not agree with this and ordain openly bisexual people, perform same-sex marriages, and accept openly bisexual parishioners (for example, the United Church of Christ and the Metropolitan Community Church.)

In 1972 a Quaker group, the Committee of Friends on Bisexuality, issued the “Ithaca Statement on Bisexuality” supporting bisexuals.[7] The Statement, which may have been "the first public declaration of the bisexual movement" and "was certainly the first statement on bisexuality issued by an American religious assembly," appeared in the Quaker Friends Journal and The Advocate in 1972.[8][9][10] Today Quakers have varying opinions on LGBT people and rights, with some Quaker groups more accepting than others.[11]

For further reading about bisexual Christians, see: Swinging on the Garden Gate: A Spiritual Memoir, by Elizabeth J. Andrew, Skinner House Books, 2000.[12] Also see: "A Word We Cannot Yet Speak - A Word We Must Now Speak: Bisexuality and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)", "Jesus, Bread, Wine and Roses: A Bisexual Feminist at the Catholic Worker", and "The Holy Leper and the Bisexual Christian", in Blessed Bi Spirit: Bisexual People of Faith, Continuum, 2000.[13] The book Bisexuality: Making the Invisible Visible in Faith Communities, the first book of its kind (published in 2014), addresses Christianity as well as other faiths. [14] It is by Marie Alford-Harkey and Debra W. Haffner. [15]

Homosexuality[edit]

Lesbianism[edit]

Lesbians face different social and cultural preconception than gay men, making their experience in Christianity sometimes dissimilar to that of gay men, although lesbianism has also traditionally been considered a sin within Christianity. However, some contemporary Christian denominations do not agree with this and ordain openly lesbian women, perform same-sex marriages, and accept openly lesbian parishioners (for example, the United Church of Christ and the Metropolitan Community Church.)

In 1986 the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (EEWC), then known as the Evangelical Women's Caucus International, passed a resolution stating: "Whereas homosexual people are children of God, and because of the biblical mandate of Jesus Christ that we are all created equal in God's sight, and in recognition of the presence of the lesbian minority in EWCI, EWCI takes a firm stand in favor of civil rights protection for homosexual persons." [16]

A survey of self-identified lesbian women found a "dissonance" between their religious and sexual identities. This dissonance correlated with being an evangelical Christian before coming out.[17]

Male homosexuality[edit]

Christianity has traditionally regarded homosexuality, in the sense of human sexual behavior, to be an immoral practice (or vice) and sinful, and most major Christian denominations (containing the majority of Christians worldwide) continue to hold this view, including the Roman Catholic Church,[18] conservative synods of the Lutheran Church (e.g., Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod[19][20][21]), the Eastern Orthodox churches,[22] most Evangelical Protestant churches, the Southern Baptist Convention, the LDS Church, the Brethren in Christ,[23] and the Christian & Missionary Alliance.

Some Christians have come to believe that gay sex is not an inherently sinful practice. Denominations holding this position include the United Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ, the Moravian Church, the Metropolitan Community Church, and the Friends General Conference. Also in Europe the Lutheran Church of Sweden, the Lutheran Church of Denmark, the Lutheran Church in Norway, the Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Protestant Church of the Netherlands, the German Lutheran and United Churches in Evangelical Church in Germany and the reformed churches in Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches believe that gay sex is not an inherently sinful practice. The Metropolitan Community Church has been founded specifically to serve the Christian LGBT community.

The Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, Methodist Church of Great Britain,[24] and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, also after actively debate believe that gay sex is not an inherently sinful practice. The worldwide Anglican Communion has experienced ongoing debate and controversy over homosexuality both before and after the Episcopal Church ordained the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003.

Transgenderism[edit]

Being transgender is not a sexual orientation, but transgenderism has been included here for the sake of its effect upon sexuality/perceived sexuality. Abrahamic religions have creation stories in which God creates people, "male and female".[25][26] The Torah contains prohibitions about men wearing women's clothing, and women wearing men's clothing.[27] Men with damaged testicles or cut off genitals are not to be admitted to religious assemblies.[28]

The New Testament is more ambiguous about gender-variant identities than the Old Testament is. Eunuchs (Greek eunochos, similar to Hebrew saris) are indicated as acceptable candidates for evangelism and baptism, as demonstrated in a story about the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch.[29] At one point, while answering questions about marriage and divorce, Jesus says that "there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."[30] There has been discussion about the significance of the selection of the Ethiopian eunuch as being the first gentile conversion to Christianity: the inclusion of a eunuch, representing a sexual minority, similar to some included under today's category of transgender, in the context of the time.[31]

Modern Christian denominations vary in their views, but some are accepting. Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion whose roots are in liberal Christianity, and it was the first denomination to accept openly transgender people as full members with eligibility to become clergy, and the first to open an Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns.[32][33] In 1988 the first openly transgender person was ordained by the Unitarian Universalist Association.[34] In 2002 Rev. Sean Dennison became the first openly transgender person in the Unitarian Universalist ministry called to serve a congregation; he was called to South Valley UU Society, Salt Lake City, UT.[34] The United Church of Christ General Synod called for full inclusion of transgender persons in 2003.[35] In 2005 Sarah Jones became the first openly transgender person ordained by the Church of England as a priest.[36][37][38] In 2008, the United Methodist Church Judicial Council ruled that transgender pastor Drew Phoenix could keep his position.[39] At the UMC General Conference the same year, several petitions that would have forbidden transgender clergy and added anti-transgender language to the Book of Discipline were rejected.[40] In 2012 the Episcopal Church in the United States approved a change to their nondiscrimination canons to include gender identity and expression.[41] In 2013 Shannon Kearns became the first openly transgender person ordained by the North American Old Catholic Church.[42] He was ordained in Minneapolis.[42] In 2014 Megan Rohrer became the first openly transgender leader of a Lutheran congregation (specifically, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church of San Francisco.) [43]

In contrast, a 2000 document from the Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concludes that the sex-change procedures do not change a person’s gender in the eyes of the Church. “The key point,” said the reported document “is that the transsexual surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was a male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female.” The document also concludes that a “sex-change” operation could be morally acceptable in certain extreme cases, but that in any case transgendered people cannot validly marry.[44] Pope Benedict XVI has denounced gender theory, warning that it blurs the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.[45] He warned against the manipulation that takes place in national and international forums when the term "gender" is altered. "What is often expressed and understood by the term 'gender,' is definitively resolved in the self-emancipation of the human being from creation and the Creator," he warned. "Man wants to create himself, and to decide always and exclusively on his own about what concerns him." The Pontiff said this is man living "against truth, against the creating Spirit."[46]

In 2006 Albert Mohler, then president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said "Only God has the right to determine gender", adding, "any attempt to alter that creation is an act of rebellion against God." [47] [48] He also stated, "Christians are obligated to find our definitions … in the Bible. What the activists want to call 'sex-reassignment surgery' must be seen as a form of bodily mutilation rather than gender correction. The chromosomes will continue to tell the story...Gender is not under our control after all. When a nation's moral rebellion comes down to this level of confusion, we are already in big trouble. A society that can't distinguish between men and women is not likely to find moral clarity in any other area of life." [49] In 2014, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution at its annual meeting stating that "God's design was the creation of two distinct and complementary sexes, male and female" and that "gender identity is determined by biological sex, not by one's self-perception.” [50] Furthermore, the resolution opposes hormone therapy, transition related care, and anything else that would “alter one’s bodily identity," as well as opposing government efforts to “validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy." [51]Instead, the resolution asks transgender people to "trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel."[52]

Beliefs and mythology[edit]

Biblical[edit]

The destruction of Sodom as illustrated by Sebastian Münster (1564)

Following the lead of Yale scholar John Boswell, it has been argued that a number of early Christians (such as Saints Sergius and Bacchus) entered into homosexual relationships,[53] and that certain Biblical figures had homosexual relationships, despite Biblical injunctions against sexual relationships between members of the same sex. Examples cited are Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, Daniel and the court official Ashpenaz, and, most famously, David and King Saul's son Jonathan.[54]

The story of David and Jonathan has been described as "biblical Judeo-Christianity's most influential justification of homoerotic love".[55] The relationship between David and Jonathan is mainly covered in the Old Testament First Book of Samuel, as part of the story of David's ascent to power. The mainstream view found in modern biblical exegesis argues that the relationship between the two is merely a close platonic friendship.[56][57] However, a few have interpreted the love between David and Jonathan as romantic or sexual.[58][59][60][61] Although David was married (to many women), he articulates a distinction between his relationship with Jonathan and the bonds he shares with women.

The story of Ruth and Naomi is also occasionally interpreted as one of romantic love and/or lesbian sexuality.[62]

Another biblical hero, Noah, best known for his building an ark to save animals and worthy people from a divinely caused flood, later became a wine-maker. One day he drank too much wine, and fell asleep naked in his tent. When his son Ham entered the tent, he saw his father naked, and was cursed with banishment and possibly slavery and becoming black-skinned. In Jewish tradition, it is also suggested that Ham had anal sex with Noah or castrated him.[63]

Anti-gay denominations interpret Romans 1 24-32[64] as condemning homosexuality.

Saints[edit]

Saint Sebastian, considered by some to be the world's first LGBT icon.

While highly controversial, attempts have been made to hold up certain Christian saints as positive examples of homosexuality in Church history:

  • Saints Sergius and Bacchus: Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led some modern commentators to believe they were lovers. The most popular evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, in the Greek language, describes them as "erastai", or lovers.[65] Historian John Boswell considered their relationship to be an example of an early Christian same-sex union, reflecting his contested view of tolerant early Christians attitudes toward homosexuality.[65] The official stance of the Eastern Orthodox Church is that the ancient Eastern tradition of adelphopoiia, which was done to form a "brotherhood" in the name of God, and is traditionally associated with these two saints, had no sexual implications.
  • Saint Sebastian has been called the world's first gay icon.[69] The combination of his strong, shirtless physique, the symbolism of the arrows penetrating his body, and the look on his face of rapturous pain have intrigued artists both gay and straight for centuries, and began the first explicitly gay cult in the 19th century.[69] Richard A. Kaye wrote, "contemporary gay men have seen in Sebastian at once a stunning advertisement for homosexual desire (indeed, a homoerotic ideal), and a prototypical portrait of tortured closet case."[70][71]

Eunuchs[edit]

The extent and even the existence of religious castration among Christians, with members of the early church castrating themselves for religious purposes,[72] is subject to debate.[73] The early theologian Origen found scriptural justification for the practice in Matthew 19:12,.[74] where Jesus says, "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." (NRSV)

In describing Jesus as a spado and Paul of Tarsus as a castratus in his book De Monogamia, Tertullian, a 2nd-century Church Father, used Latin words that denoted eunuchs[75] to refer to virginity and continence.[76][77]

The significance of the selection of the Ethiopian eunuch as being the first gentile convert has been discussed as representative of inclusion of a sexual minority in the context of the time.[31]

Gnostic beliefs[edit]

Gnostic Christianity synthesized core Christian beliefs with other mythologies. This includes a belief in an androgynous God, who has a male aspect (sometimes represented as Adam), and a female aspect, associated with Greek or Egyptian goddesses such as Isis or Demeter. Gnostics also believe in lesser gods subservient to the omnipotent Christian god. Some of these gods are transgender or androgynous, including Naassenes. Gnostic beliefs also include the use of magic, such as homoerotic or lesbian love spells, that invoke gods such as Adonai or Abraxas.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Specific
  1. ^ a b Smith, SE (21 August 2012). "Asexuality always existed, you just didn't notice it". The Guardian. Retrieved March 11, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c http://asexualawarenessweek.com/docs/PRIDE-Asexuality-and-Christianity.pdf
  3. ^ a b Bogaert, Anthony F. (2004). "Asexuality: prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample". Journal of Sex Research 41 (3): 279–87. doi:10.1080/00224490409552235. PMID 15497056. 
  4. ^ a b Melby, Todd (November 2005). "Asexuality gets more attention, but is it a sexual orientation?". Contemporary Sexuality 39 (11): 1, 4–5. ISSN 1094-5725. Retrieved 20 November 2011  The journal currently does not have a website 
  5. ^ a b Marshall Cavendish, ed. (2010). "Asexuality". Sex and Society 2. Marshall Cavendish. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-7614-7906-2. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  6. ^ http://www.vocationnetwork.org/articles/show/49
  7. ^ http://bimedia.org/1984/june-1972-the-ithaca-statement/
  8. ^ Donaldson, Stephen (1995). "The Bisexual Movement's Beginnings in the 70s: A Personal Retrospective". In Tucker, Naomi. Bisexual Politics: Theories, Queries, & Visions. New York: Harrington Park Press. pp. 31–45. ISBN 1-56023-869-0. 
  9. ^ Highleyman, Liz (2003-07-11). "PAST Out: What is the history of the bisexual movement?". LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth 13 (8). Archived from the original on 2008-05-31. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  10. ^ Martin, Robert (1972-08-02). "Quakers 'come out' at conference". The Advocate (91): 8. 
  11. ^ http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/stances-of-faiths-on-lgbt-issues-religious-society-of-friends-quakers
  12. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Swinging-Garden-Gate-Spiritual-Memoir/dp/1558964096/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365696572&sr=1-1&keywords=swinging+on+the+garden+gate
  13. ^ http://www.booktopia.com.au/blessed-bi-spirit-debra-r-kolodny/prod9780826412317.html;jsessionid=BF8EDFAD990239F3B82A4059A2D22E45
  14. ^ http://www.advocate.com/bisexuality/2014/06/21/organization-helping-bisexuals-be-happily-embraced-god
  15. ^ http://www.advocate.com/bisexuality/2014/06/21/organization-helping-bisexuals-be-happily-embraced-god
  16. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=EoJrHDirVQUC&pg=PA471&lpg=PA471&dq=%22whereas+homosexual+people+are+children+of+god%22&source=bl&ots=zW5ZeaAyiJ&sig=YvLXGt_t71EurjQE-XvZItlG0is&hl=en&sa=X&ei=aVlhUt27OIWt4AOW_oGACg&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22whereas%20homosexual%20people%20are%20children%20of%20god%22&f=false
  17. ^ Wilcox (2003), p. 155
  18. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2357 and Criteria for the Discernment of Vocation for Persons with Homosexual Tendencies
  19. ^ Homosexual Policy, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
  20. ^ What is the Missouri Synod's response to homosexuality?
  21. ^ Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective
  22. ^ On Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life: Homosexuality, official statement of the Orthodox Church in America
  23. ^ http://www.bic-church.org/about/issues/english/homosexuality.pdf
  24. ^ Daniel Blake (2005-05-04). "Methodist Conference to Reaffirm Church Tolerance for Homosexuality". Christianity Today. 
  25. ^ Genesis 1:27
  26. ^ Quran 75:39
  27. ^ Deuteronomy 22:5
  28. ^ Deuteronomy 23:1
  29. ^ Acts 8:27-39
  30. ^ Matthew 19:12
  31. ^ a b Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Revised and Expanded Edition; by Jack Rogers
  32. ^ Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns
  33. ^ "THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST ASSOCIATION AND HOMOSEXUALITY". 
  34. ^ a b "Unitarian Universalist LGBTQ History & Facts". Unitarian Universalist Association. Unitarian Universalist Association. 21 August 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  35. ^ "ONA: It's About Transgender Inclusion, Too!". 
  36. ^ Wenjuan, Angelina (28 February 2011). "Church of England’s first transsexual priest: God cares about me". JUS News. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  37. ^ "TREC Speaker - Rev Sarah Jones". Trans Resource and Empowerment Centre Limited. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  38. ^ "Bishop defends transsexual curate". BBC News. 24 September 2005. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  39. ^ "Methodists Vote to Keep Transgender Pastor". 
  40. ^ United Methodist Church (TransChristians.org)
  41. ^ Kaleem, Jaweed (9 July 2012). "Episcopal Church Takes Bold Step On Transgender Priests". Huffington Post. 
  42. ^ a b Theisen, Scott. "Transgender Priest Ordained in Minneapolis". http://www.kstc45.com. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  43. ^ http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=69518
  44. ^ Norton, John (14 Jan 2003). "Vatican says 'sex-change' operation does not change person's gender". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 19 July 2009. 
  45. ^ News.com.au
  46. ^ http://www.zenit.org/article-24652?l=english
  47. ^ http://transgriot.blogspot.com/search?q=%22albert+mohler%22
  48. ^ http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2006/10/being-true-to-themselves.html
  49. ^ http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2006/10/being-true-to-themselves.html
  50. ^ http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/southern-baptist-convention-approves-anti-transgender-resolution
  51. ^ http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/southern-baptist-convention-approves-anti-transgender-resolution
  52. ^ http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/southern-baptist-convention-approves-anti-transgender-resolution
  53. ^ Boswell, John (1996). The Marriage of Likeness. Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe. Fontana. 
  54. ^ ReligiousTolerance.org
  55. ^ Haggerty, p.380
  56. ^ DeYoung, p. 290
  57. ^ Martti Nissinen, Kirsi Stjerna, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World, p. 56
  58. ^ Boswell, John. Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe. New York: Vintage, 1994. (pp. 135-137)
  59. ^ Halperin, David M. One Hundred Years of Homosexuality. New York: Routledge, 1990. (p. 83)
  60. ^ When Heroes Love:. The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David (New York & Chichester, Columbia University Press, 2005), pp. 165-231
  61. ^ Homosexuality and Liminality in the Gilgamesh and Samuel (Amsterdam, Hakkert, 2007), pp. 28-63
  62. ^ ''Soliciting Interpretation''. Books.google.com. 2011-10-27. Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  63. ^ Conner & Sparks p. 250, "Noah"
  64. ^ "King James Version". 
  65. ^ a b Boswell, p. 154
  66. ^ Jordan, Mark D. (2000). The silence of Sodom: homosexuality in modern Catholicism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-41041-2.  on the nature of "brotherly love", p.174
  67. ^ Holy Wonderworking Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian at Rome, synaxarion, Orthodox Church in America
  68. ^ Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian in Cilicia
  69. ^ a b "Subjects of the Visual Arts: St. Sebastian". glbtq.com. 2002. Retrieved 2007-08-01. 
  70. ^ Kaye, Richard A. (1996). "Losing His Religion: Saint Sebastian as Contemporary Gay Martyr". Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures. Peter Horne and Reina Lewis, eds. (New York: Routledge) 86: 105. doi:10.4324/9780203432433_chapter_five. 
  71. ^ "Arrows of desire: How did St Sebastian become an enduring, homo-erotic icon? - Features, Art". The Independent. 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  72. ^ Caner, Daniel (1997). "The Practice and Prohibition of Self-Castration in Early Christianity". Vigiliae Christianae (Brill) 51 (4): 396–415. doi:10.1163/157007297X00291. JSTOR 1583869. 
  73. ^ Hester, David (2005). "Eunuchs and the Postgender Jesus: Matthew 19:12 and Transgressive Sexualities". Journal for the Study of the New Testament (Sage Publications) 28 (1): 13–40. doi:10.1177/0142064X05057772. 
  74. ^ Frend, W. H. C., The Rise of Christianity, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1984, p. 374, which in footnote 45 cites Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica VI.8.2
  75. ^ "Words". Archives.nd.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  76. ^ Moxnes, By Halvor (2004). Putting Jesus in his place. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-664-22310-6. "Especially in De Monogamia it seems clear that Tertullian takes spado to mean a "virgin", but by using the word spado he employed a term that was in common use to refer to castrated men" 
  77. ^ Accordingly, Tertullian's text, "ipso domino spadonibus aperiente regna caelorum ut et ipso spadone, quem spectans et apostolus, propterea et ipse castratus, continentiam mavult" (De monogamia, 3) has been translated as "seeing that the Lord Himself opens 'the kingdoms of the heavens' to 'eunuchs', as being Himself, withal, a virgin; to whom looking, the apostle also--himself too for this reason abstinent--gives the preference to continence" (Roberts-Donaldson translation).

General[edit]

  • Wilcox, Melissa M. (2003). Coming out in Christianity: religion, identity, and community. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-21619-9.