All of our readings have been important in this LGP program. Some have been easier than others and some have been more helpful than others. I will re-read some of these texts, and I will sell others. However, this week’s readings have a unique place all their own. Even as I am writing this early-morning post in Starbucks (where I do much of my studying), I am cognizant of this, “Is anyone watching what I am reading? What will they think about me? Will they think I am gay?” I know this might sound crazy; after all, this is the 21st century and I am an adult. But such as it is, this is how I felt this week. Although I did not carry our texts in a brown bag, yet I found myself making sure they were upside down on my table. I guess you could call this my “brown bag reading week.”
The Christian college where I work has been attempting to have “Bridge Building Conversations” for the past couple of years. In fact, we had Andrew Marin on our campus to help us with all of this. I have participated in the “Bridge Building” conversations. I met Andrew Marin. I have a copy of his book, but I never read it – until this week. Why not? There are many reasons.
I came to Christ in a Conservative Baptist church. Eventually, I felt the call to ministry and served as a pastor and counselor in various churches for sixteen years. All of these churches were theologically conservative, very conservative. We talked a lot about heaven and hell, about the Bible, and about sin and salvation. The questions about gays were no brainers; in a nutshell, gay people would all burn in hell.
I then found myself in the world of education: first teaching 74 Egyptian fifth graders, then in a school teaching ESL with various international students, then in a computer training institute, then is a business college, then in a couple of community colleges, and finally at the Christian liberal arts college where I have been for the past ten years. I have taught English, computer applications, writing, cultural studies, specific humanities courses, and religion. And the one constant through all of these teaching experiences has been people, lots and lots of very unique people. I have loved students now for 25 years – all my students. Most of my students have been “straight” but many have been gay – some openly, many silently.
The first openly gay student I encountered was in the late 1990’s. She was Hawaiian. She and her partner were in my “Strategies of Success” class at a business college where I taught for seven years. Coming out of a conservative, evangelical background, I had nothing but negative to think about gay people. But I knew that I couldn’t operate in that paradigm. One day after class, I sat down with my Hawaiian student. “Tell me your story.” I will never forget that afternoon. What a story she told. A story of early awareness that she was not like many of the other kids. She also told of being made fun of by some and of being unconditionally being loved by others, especially by her grandparents. These same grandparents still sent her money regularly with loving notes and small gifts. Loving uniqueness – what a thought! My student didn’t have a father, so I told her that I would be her father, a role that I had for several years. I have since lost track of this student. I often wonder how she is doing.
I have had many other gay students through the years. I always tried to operate the same way. I honor you and your story. I love you as you are. But how do I look at LGBT issues theologically? What does the Bible have to say about these matters? I am making a confession in this post: I never took the time to really think it through completely. I have always run from this topic. I only knew what I had been taught. It is not an easy admission, but it is true. How have I looked at the Scriptures that deal with “homosexuality”? What does the Bible have to say on these matters?
In Chapter 9 of Adrian Thatcher’s Text God, Sex, and Gender, the author looks at both Old Testament and New Testament texts that deal with issues of “Same-Sex Love.” The OT texts in view are Genesis 19:1-11, Leviticus 18:22, and Leviticus 20:13. The primary NT texts are Romans 1:18-2:3, I Cor. 6:9-10, and I Tim. 1:9-10. So what do these texts say in context? It depends on what context one is looking for. Thatcher offers non-traditional interpretations of these texts that were thought provoking for me. For example, might the Sodom story of Genesis have more to do with the sin of same-sex gang rape than with homosexual intimacy? And, according to Thatcher, there are several reasons for doubting the traditional reading of the Romans 1 text. One of his arguments is that this passage is referring to idolatry more than to “unnatural sex.” He makes some good points. Although I do not completely agree with Thatcher’s arguments, there are certainly many things to consider here that I will now take the time to think through carefully.
Andrew Marin’s book is more of a popular read than Thatcher’s, which is more scholarly. Love is an Orientation is book that should probably be read by all American Christians. Marin tackles the topic of how Christians should relate to the LGBT community. I was pleasantly surprised how balanced this text is. It gives the reader a lot to consider, offers lots of options, gives dignity to all human beings, and honors God and the Scriptures. I was encouraged by Marin’s openness to grow and learn and also by his transparency and vulnerability. The book does not have all the answers, but it asks lots of hard questions and attempts to deal with these questions in a balanced fashion. Not everyone will agree with Marin. In fact, many won’t give the book any consideration. But for me it was helpful, readable, and gave me a lot to consider in how I deal with this important cultural reality. I am very grateful for this assignment.
By the way, I made a decision to now take the book out of the brown bag. Who knows, it just might prompt some good conversations at Starbucks and on campus.
 Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex and Gender: An Introduction (West Sussex, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2011) 157-174.
 Andrew Marin, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009)