I’ve been thinking about that pediatrician who refused to care for the infant daughter of a lesbian couple, because there’s something a bit odd about it. The Old Testament prescribes the death penalty for two men having sex together, but is almost pointedly silent about two women. The apostle Paul says some rather nasty things about gays in general, including lesbians, but does not recommend any particular actions be taken against them. In fact, Paul is the one that explicitly commands Christians not to judge or condemn those outside the church at all.
Jesus, likewise, was famous for consorting with tax collectors and prostitutes and other “notorious sinners.” And there are many other examples we could find of the Bible recording, condoning, and even praising “saints” who have normal, everyday dealings with “sinners.” So where does this “divine mandate” come from that requires believers to withdraw and shield themselves from any kind of contact with homosexual couples?
I think it comes from fear.
Here’s the thing. Dr. Roi is a Christian. Her church and her Scriptures have declared to her in no uncertain terms just how wicked and evil homosexuals are. Paul, for example, goes all right-wing talk radio on gays in Romans 1, which is frequently used by Christians as their guide to homosexuals.
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Interestingly, Paul treats homosexuality, not as a choice, but as a curse imposed by God on people to punish them for not being creationists. And to be fair, he does not limit the tirade in the second paragraph only to gays. But he starts there, and he makes it clear that he is declaring gays (et al) to be evil enemies of God, oozing malice and wickedness out of every pore, and deserving of death.
This is the Bible. This is the official teaching of the Christian church for thousands of years. This is what Christians have insisted is the inspired, infallible Word of God Himself.
What if it’s wrong?
What if you started meeting gay people, and it turned out that they didn’t deserve to die? What if they were good, loving parents in a honest, committed, mutually supportive relationship? What if they were less greedy, gossipy, deceitful, malicious, and so on, than a lot of other people you know, including some of your fellow Christians? What if, in short, real homosexuals turn out to be absolutely nothing like the cartoonish, 2-dimensional slander the Bible uses against them?
That’s what makes lesbian moms so scary that Christians don’t dare come in to work the day the lesbians have an appointment. It’s not that Teh Gay might rub off on them somehow. It’s not that they’re afraid God’s notoriously indiscriminate wrath might suddenly blow away everybody within a 3 block radius of the happy family. The most terrifying thing about lesbian moms is that they’re nowhere near as bad as the Bible hysterically accuses them of being. And if the Bible is lying to you about gays, what else might it be lying to you about?
Jesus chastized the Pharisees for reminding him that the Law of Moses permitted divorce, even though they were only agreeing with what was written in the Old Testament. Most Christians overlook the most important point about this passage: he was saying that the Old Testament, the “inspired, infallible Word of God,” was wrong in what it teaches about the permissibility of divorce. Worse still, he expected them to think about the morality of divorce, and to reject what the Bible teaches about it in the Old Testament, on moral grounds.
It’s a slippery slope. Once you start thinking, once you realize that the Bible’s moral teachings cannot be trusted and must be measured against a higher standard (per the example of no less than Jesus himself!), then you lose that whole black-and-white, us=good/you=bad formula for dividing the world up into neat little categories. You become responsible and accountable for the harm you do to others, even when you claim to be doing it in God’s name (or worse, under God’s guidance). You can’t just blindly make assertions on the strength of a Bible quote or two, and just assume it’s necessarily true. You can be genuinely guilty for the harm you do to people who are different from you. And your “Blood of Jesus” card won’t necessarily let you off the hook for free.
For the believer, this is highly scary stuff. The structure of Biblical morality is archaic, bigoted, and above all fragile, and believers are dimly aware of the damage it could suffer when it encounters the real world. Just two happily married lesbians raising a happy, healthy daughter, could be all it takes to send “The Word of God” crashing in shattered shards into the dumpster of worthless superstitions.
Small wonder, then, that believers today would turn their backs on the example of Jesus and the “sinners,” and on Paul’s clear command not to judge non-Christians. The New Testament is a bunch of pleasant stories, but faith is a fragile thing. If you want to keep it alive, you need to shield it from the real world, where gays are very different from what the Bible wants you to believe.