To the Editor:
Franklin Graham, an evangelical preacher, proclaimed recently, “Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized.”
Sadly, Graham is ignorant. This is not an insult. Many of us are ignorant about a variety of subjects. But Graham is a Christian leader. He has no business spouting his beliefs regarding homosexuality as ‘gospel’ unless he is open to hearing the views of other Christian leaders. His absolutist declaration that homosexuality is sin indicates he has a closed mind.
This closing of the mind is often seen among ministers who believe they have all the answers. In truth, they have ideologies based on fear. As Glenn Hinson, my former Professor of Church History, stated, “Scratch a fundamentalist. Find an atheist.”
The reason is clear. The faith of fundamentalists is based on a claim the Bible is “inerrant.” If there are any contradictions in scripture, their faith is shattered.
There are indeed many contradictions. One website documents 101. Many of these details are inconsequential – such as how old King Ahaziah was when he ascended to office (2 Kings says 22; 2 Chronicles states 42).
Of greatest significance: Instead of viewing scripture as inspired by God, many preachers choose to believe that every word of the Bible is historically accurate. This is nonsense. Scripture has many non-historical narratives filled with poetry, sagas and illustrative stories, including Jesus’ parables. These genres engage the imagination. They require reflection.
Taking literally that Jonah was actually swallowed by a huge fish and was vomited on land three days later defies both scientific explanation and common sense. This is a story, not history. And believing the sun actually “stood still” as Joshua waged war against the Amorites violates the laws of physics. This scripture is poetic, not a recitation of history or the reporting of a scientific observation.
Similarly, the creation story is a myth—not a literal account recorded at the dawn of human history. Adam was a representative man in this story. Indeed, the Hebrew word for Adam means “man.”
So condemning all gay people by citing a verse of scripture affirming marriage between a man and a woman in Genesis 2:24 is spurious. Absence of the mention of gay marriage, unknown when the scripture was written, cannot be used to castigate all people whose orientation is gay.
Likewise, many scholars agree the Apostle Paul reviled the common practices in Greek culture of sexual slavery as well as pedophilia, the molestation of young boys, rather than issuing a blanket condemnation of all gays.
Literal interpretations of scripture, devoid of their biblical and social context, are the basis for preachers perpetuating fear and loathing of gay people. However, as scholar John Boswell documented in his 1980 book, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Christianity, throughout Christian history – including the early church – gays were often affirmed and welcomed.
Indeed, a close examination of the few biblical texts used to condemn gays leads a majority of scholars, including many conservative scholars, to reject prejudice against gay people. For those interested, I have posted three articles examining the biblical ‘clobber texts’ often used against gay people on my noncommercial website, www.quoflections.org.
Franklin Graham needs to study scripture in context. He needs to hear and seriously consider the informed views of other Christian leaders. And given his prejudice toward gays, Graham needs to take his own advice: He needs to repent of his sin.
Reverend Harry Rix