Why Christianity calls us to more than just tolerance
June 26, 2015 will forever go down in history as the day social media got a lot more colorful. No, I’m not referring to the pride flag filter for Facebook profile pictures or the highly circulated image of the White House lit up in rainbow lights. I’m talking about the seemingly endless stream of hatred from so-called Christians across the web in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.
I feel as though I should preface this with the fact that I am a practicing Christian; however, at times like these, I feel almost embarrassed to introduce myself as one. The middle-ground Christians — the ones preaching tolerance but not quite acceptance — have remained either silent on their fellow Christians’ unsettling social media posts or have taken to angrily posting about being grouped with the hateful members of our faith. I, for one, won’t dare play victim at a time like this, and I surely will not be a bystander either.
You see, I honestly do not care much about the Christian image being tarnished, since the savior I believe in came to break the chains religion binds us in (see: anything involving the Pharisees). My woes are instead found in the fact that people may take it a step further than generalizing us all as intolerant bigots. What truly concerns me is that they may start to see Christ in the same light.
While scrolling through the reactions on social media, I was again reminded of my New Year’s resolution: Don’t act like a Christian; act like Christ. How very fitting, indeed. I stumbled across a reaction post, which used both f-words, from a Christian girl I knew back in high school. My first thought was the fact that she was on her second child out of wedlock since graduation last year — premarital sex being a sin frequently mentioned in the same passages condemning homosexuality.
My second thought was what Jesus would have to say to me for judging her judgmental behavior, which is highlighted in Matthew 7:3 (ESV): “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Similarly, this principle can be applied to her and well, everyone.
Further than the simple, loving tolerance I’ve been preaching up to this point, I’d now like to challenge the entire basis of the Christian anti-gay mindset.
Many posts circulating after the Supreme Court’s ruling insinuated that our nation would soon face a similar fate to Sodom and Gomorrah by the allowance of marriage equality. Now, that is based in the common misconception that the ancient cities were destroyed for their homosexual practices; however, it is clearly highlighted throughout the rest of the Bible that this was not the case.
Ezekiel 16:49 (NLT) clarifies why Sodom was destroyed: “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.” Surprisingly, homosexuality did not even make the cut, though that may be because the city’s main sin was its inhospitality — a huge deal at the time. This was exemplified in the homosexuality mentioned in Leviticus, which referred to the men of the town attempting to rape the male angels that the Lord had sent.
In the original Hebrew, another word, toevah, is actually used here for such an act. This term translates to a cult practice of gentiles (non-Israelites) and is used as an umbrella term over a hundred times in the Bible. Yes, gang rape — homo or heterosexual — does conjure up the unsavory image of a cult-like practice that God would not condone, at least in my mind.
Homosexuality is mentioned six or seven times, depending on what translation you go by in the Bible. In context, that puts the earth-shattering sin of homosexuality in 0.02% of the 31,173 verses of the Bible. But, I keep forgetting to mention that, thanks to Christ, we no longer live by the law (aka the Old Testament).
Throughout the New Testament, the apostle Paul frequently discusses the freedom we find in a gospel-centered faith, but I find that Galatians 3:24-25 (ESV) explains it best: “The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”
Now, some may argue that homosexuality is, in fact, mentioned in the New Testament. I’d like to first point out that the leading man of the gospel himself, Jesus, not once mentioned this sin, and then, I’d like to explain some cultural context. All three mentions of homosexuality in the gospel are in obvious reference to the Romans, which should come as no surprise to anyone who paid attention in history class.
The Oxford Classical Dictionary, which is highly acclaimed as the “best one-volume dictionary on antiquity,” defines the term homosexuality in the context of the time as “the sexual penetration of male prostitutes or slaves by conventionally masculine elite men, who might purchase slaves expressly for that purpose.” These homosexual relationships were predominantly non-consensual and involved an underage boy dominated by a much older man. Now, the argument can be made that Paul would have similarly disapproved of a heterosexual relationship of this nature as well.
In the field of journalism, we are frequently reminded to never take things out of context and to ask for further clarification if we are ever unsure on what a source means. Why, then, is this standard not applied to the Bible — a book we trust holds the key to the salvation of our souls?
Growing up, I used to blame intolerance and hate within the Christian community on ignorance that could not be helped; however, as I grow older, I watch the same people who ripped apart the “homosexual agenda” in one post defend their right to fly the confederate flag outside their home in the next. I now have no qualms calling Christians out for what it truly is: pride and laziness.
You may recognize those very same traits as the reason God gave for destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. Christians have been throwing stones from within their glass churches for so long that it would be almost shameful to stop now. Yet, I challenge them to do just that.
We may not be able to call God back for clarification on things, but we know we were called to love, first and foremost, as He first loved us. When I saw the images of tear-streaked, beaming couples receiving the verdict on Capitol Hill with a perfectly-timed rainbow in the distance, I was reminded of His covenant with Noah, which was similarly sealed by a rainbow — the very first one in fact. And, all I felt was resounding joy.