ORLANDO – It remains one of the most controversial and contentious issues facing organized religion today: what the Bible really says about homosexuality.
Leviticus, which form part of the Bible’s Holiness code, have what some Christians view as a blanket prohibition on homosexual acts, including Leviticus 18, which states “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
Those lines have not been enough, however, to discourage some people in the gay community from following a spiritual path – with or without the acceptance of a church of their faith.
Tom Edge lives in Orlando, works as a fitness instructor, and also runs his own promotional firm, Cutting Edge Events, which is organizing a gay block party on Saturday, Oct. 8 following the annual Orlando Pride parade.
Edge said he’s well aware of the Biblical verse about homosexuality.
“I was born and raised Southern Baptist,” he said, though he added that today he is “recovering.”
What that means, he said, is that he remains a very spiritual person – if not necessarily a religious one. A lot of other gay people, he said, feel the same way – attracted to faith and how it can enrich their lives, but repelled by the politics they find at southern churches.
“A lot of gay people are spiritual, but they don’t consider themselves religious because of the activities of the Religious Right,” Edge said, a reference to social conservatives who tend to support prayer in school and oppose abortion and gay rights.
This remains a political as well as religious issues. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., recently became the first presidential candidate to sign a pledge, “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family,” by the evangelical Christian group The Family Leader. It includes the view that homosexuality is a choice, not a natural sexual orientation as heterosexuality is.
Edge said the problem he has with Christian conservatives who cite Leviticus is that Jesus never condemned homosexuality. In fact, he added, Jesus was quick to embrace outsiders.
“Jesus never said being gay was wrong,” Edge said.
Don Lemon, the CNN news anchor, was in Kissimmee on Friday, promoting his memoirs, Transparent, at the Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion. The annual Labor Day weekend celebration, hosted by syndicated radio talk show host Tom Joyner, was held this year at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center.
In his book, Lemon talks about being gay and how for years he kept that aspect of his life to himself, thinking it was nobody else’s business. Lemon said he ultimately concluded that shielding his homosexuality almost amounted to hiding something out of shame, so he decided to write about it in his book.
During his appearance at the Tom Joyner Family Reunion, he also talked about how he was raised in a Catholic school in Louisiana and still considers faith to be an important part of his life. But he no longer believes God condemns homosexuality. Lemon also pointed out that Jesus embraced those on the margins of society – lepers, prostitutes – rather than regular church goers. Lemon said he, too, has known what it feels like to be left out.
“I’ve always felt like an outsider,” Lemon said.
He also came to believe he should be honest about himself, and accept and embrace it – including being a gay man – as part of God’s plan for his life.
“You just have to leap out on faith,” Lemon said. “I was just being honest. I didn’t want to live a down low life.”
Instead, he concluded that “God put me here for a reason. I decided to be who God made me to be.”
Edge said he takes a similar view. He said religious conservatives make a mistake when they believe the Bible should only be viewed as an instruction to criticize or condemn others who act and think differently. The true meaning of faith, he said, is to learn to love yourself, and others, without standing on the sidelines, being judgmental.
“At the heart of the Bible is love,” Edge said. “Love yourself for who you are, and love others.”
Gregory Patrick of Orlando is the author of the book “Foe,” about how the political views of conservative Christians drove him away from the church. He, too, questions whether Leviticus truly condemns homosexuality.
“From what I know, the book Leviticus is written for priests, not the comman man,” Patrick said. “Each of those books is written for different people in different situations. All of those books in the Old Testament have their own reasoning.”
The lines about a man lying with another man, he said, are misunderstood by Evangelical Christians. Patrick said the line was intended to indicate that man needs a woman to procreate, and nothing more.
“They’re taking it out of context,” he said. “A man cannot lie with a man as with a woman because it’s physically impossible to procreate. It’s one verse out of one book. Otherwise, incest would be fine. Abraham slept with all three of his daughters and it was never frowned upon. The Bible never says what an abomination that was. You can’t take it out of context.”
Conservative Christians, he added, shouldn’t cherry pick what they want — and don’t want — to follow among the Bible’s rules.
“There’s an awful lot in there about not eating certain foods,” he said. “Christians don’t follow that.”
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