“Some people think same sex marriage is wrong,” said my one of the student in Peace and Justice class at GFEF a couple of years ago. This person spoke confidently and passionately as someone who cares for all kinds of social justice issues. I was shocked, not simply because I disagree with the students claim but also because no one opposed or supported the student’s statement, including the professor, which made me wonder if all my classmates agreed with the statement. Honestly, I did not expect to hear such bold conviction from a seminary student. I thought everyone believed in the authority of Scripture the same way we do in Ethiopia. From this incident on I began to realize the diversity among American Christians in the ways they interpret key biblical verses that condemn homosexual practice.
A professor of Theology and Philosophy, and an Anglican Christian, Adrian Thatcher, in his book, God, Sex, and Gender, states, “The churches have long taught, and millions of Christians continues to think, that the Bible condemns homosexual practice. Only recently has a revisionary interpretation of biblical teaching “come out,” and into the churches, where it is causing consternation.” The author’s assertion is thought provoking and a typical example of a growing critical examination of the institution of marriage. Throughout his book, Thatcher skillfully justifies his belief and support of same-sex marriage from historical and theological sources. He takes time to define words and interpret some key biblical verses in ways that support his claim. According to him, the Bible does not condemn homosexual practice. And he argues, “The insistence that the Bible condemns homosexuality will always require examination of the texts on which this claim is based.” However, he also recognizes the unfortunate consequence of examination of the texts that condemn homosexuality. “Those Christians, who condemned, together with those who, under certain conditions approve, homosexual acts, can be seen to agree that the study of particular biblical passages is the key to the whole task. It would seem there is agreement around the proposition that the Bible is the churches’ sexual guidebook: the obvious and vehement disagreement among Christians is about the rules to be found there, and how to apply them. We shall need to keep in mind continually that the “guidebook” view of the Bible is not the only one.” Thus, the author suggests the diligent study of the Scripture and I agree. However, when reading Thatcher’s interpretations of key Bible verses that clearly condemn same-sex relationship, he seems to deliberately ignore the truth simply to affirm his theory.
I have to admit that I do not understand homosexuality in the way Thatcher understands it. I come from a faith community where the topic of homosexuality is never mentioned. As far as I know, homosexuality is not a topic of controversy yet, not only in Christian churches but also in the broader Ethiopian community. Ethiopia, like Sudan, Uganda, and many other African countries believes homosexuality is not only unnatural but a criminal act. In Ethiopia, the punishment is imprisonment for no less than one year or in certain cases it may go up to fifteen years or more.
In this culturally unwelcoming and legally criminalizing social environment, homosexual people do not dare to come out publicly. As a follower of Christ, I do not believe in abhorrence and criminalizing a person for his or her sexual orientation. I believe in love and open discussion. I do not think we can get rid of homosexuality by segregation or prison, but by finding ways to engage in dialog and build relationships. Whether we validate homosexuality or not, loving others as children of the loving God is our Christian call. But I am not very optimistic that open discussion on this matter will happen in my community any time soon.
 Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction (Chichester, West Sussex England: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011),157.