The topic of homosexuality is explosive to say the least and for the most part, I've not written anything specifically on it in my blog. One of the big reasons is because the subject is so wide, so involved and emotions run high whenever someone's life is attacked using the weapon of religion, that it's difficult at best to bring up the subject in little snippets of information or insoundbites.
However, there are a couple of things that happened in the news recently, showing that the issue of the church and homosexuality, now at a slow simmer, will likely heat up to a constant and furious boil very soon.
The two things are: Monday night's CNN/YouTube Democratic debate and the hate crimes bill now floating around in Congress. These two elements contain, in a nutshell, the converging conflicts of church and state and church verses state, over the issue of homosexuality. It proves that it will no longer be confined to "inside baseball" debates within the mainline Christian denominations. (It's discussed in the Catholic Church, but the hierarchy of Catholicism makes it a moot point as far as church doctrine is concerned.)
In the debate on Monday night, a question was asked by Rev. Reggie Longcrier of Hickory, N.C.: "Is it OK to cite religion as a reason to deny gay rights?"
The answer from John Edwards and Barack Obama came back in political speech, carefully crafted not to offend people who are either for or against gay rights.
John Edwards: "I think Rev. Longcrier asks a very important question ... whether it's right for any of our faith beliefs to be imposed on the American people. I do not believe that is right."
Barack Obama: "We've got to make sure that everybody is equal under the law. The civil unions I propose would be equivalent in terms of making sure all rights that are conferred by the state are equal for same sex couples (and) heterosexual couples."
In other words, both Edwards' and Obama's answer to the question was "no." And that works in theory, but in reality it has great and mounting obstacles.
As I've listened to politicians dance around the homosexuality and religion issue, it seems none of them actually know what the Bible says about it, or if they do, they avoid discussing it. After all, the theologians have their own major disputes over the issue; for example, in the Episcopal Church, it is the cause of an ongoing schism. Which brings up point No. 2: the hate crimes bill.
Ironically, opposition to the bill is coming from a minority group long associated with proponents of civil rights. A group of black conservative leaders are lobbying against the bill now in the Senate. Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), was recently in Washington, D.C. urging senators to vote against the hate crimes bill (SB 1105). The bill would provide federal assistance for the prosecution of any crime that is "motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim." What they object to is the late addition of "sexual orientation" to the list.
Peterson and others claim the bill could one day force Christian pastors to perform same sex "marriages” and if they refuse, they could be criminalized. He and others also believe that the pulpit could be silenced if pastors preach against homosexuality which they view as a sin … and even still that the Bible would be classified as "hate speech," regarding its references to homosexuality.
Sound silly? Well maybe, maybe not.
In Canada, there is a similar hate crimes bill now in effect. A Canadian pastor is facing a hearing before the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship commission over a letter he wrote to a newspaper condemning homosexuality. Some believe the minister's letter was the motivation behind the beating of a 17-year-old homosexual two weeks after the letter was published. The minister's counsel claims his client's free speech is being violated and that the hate crimes bill is a bad law because it criminalizes speech but does nothing to prevent violent crime. (Of course the argument would be that the hate speech motivates the violence and stopping the speech would prevent the crime.)
Even within the U.S. there are signs that Rev. Peterson may have a legitimate point. In New Jersey, two lesbians have filed a civil rights complaint against a Methodist-run campground that refused to host a same sex union ceremony. The seaside retreat of the Ocean Grove Campground was founded by Methodists in 1869. Trustees denied the women's request, citing official church policy, which does not recognize same sex unions.
What we have here is an example of John Edwards' position that no one should impose their religious views on Americans, and Barack Obama's position, that civil unions are clearly a policy that will have major showdowns when church doctrine conflicts with civil rights laws.
The government in effect is putting itself in the judgment seat, a seat that people of faith have reserved for God.
But let's get back to the central theme of the blog, which is "Does the Bible say homosexuality is a sin?" Now, please be aware that people of faith reading the same Bible have come away with different interpretations of the verses on homosexuality. I have read the Bible completely nearly twice. From the many verses referring to homosexuality, it is quite clear from what I can see that the Bible does speak against homosexuality as one of the many sins of the flesh that humans fall into.
So the question that plagues me is if that's true, what happens with all of the scientific evidence and anecdotal testimonies of people who say that they have not chosen to be gay or lesbian, that they were born that way — that God made them that way?
For a scientific answer I turn to someone that is highly respected in the field, Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health. The organization is a co-decipherer of the human DNA sequence. We sat down for an on-camera interview a few weeks ago to talk about his best selling book, The Language of God . Dr. Collins is a Christian who believes rational thinking and religion do belong together.
We discussed a variety of topics involving science and faith, including the issue of homosexuality. Because the topic is highly incindiary and politically loaded, Dr. Collins said, "Here's what the data says:"
"... people tend to oversimplify this very complicated subject. If you look at identical twins and if one of those identical twins is exclusively gay, a male homosexual what's the chance that the other twin will also be exclusively homosexual? It's about 20 percent. It's an interesting number.
The overall incidents of homosexuality is about two percent. So certainly there's been substantial increase for that homosexual, that individual to become so as being a twin of another individual of the same orientation. But it's not 100 percent.
If it was purely genetic, you'd expect to see 100 percent accordance and you don't, you see much less than that. So that says there are other factors. DNA is involved but others factors are also very important. We don't know what those other factors are. We don't know whether they're biological, whether they're environmental exposures, whether they are childhood experiences... we don't know whether they're reversible or not.
And certainly anyone who tries to take those statistics and tries to draw a conclusion about whether homosexuality is something that can be reveresed is something that really [is] pushing the data beyond what it tells you. The facts are simply, yes heredity's involved but it's not the whole story.. it's about all you can say.
And I would warn anyone who would take the Bible and use it to subjugate, demean or terrorize another person for whatever reason, that that is also "pushing the data beyond what it tells you."
Jesus said that all the Ten Commandments could be summed up in just two, that is to love God with all your heart, soul and body, and the other is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus spoke in plain words of truth and compassion, the twin tools of real change. One of the problems with every hot button social, political issue is conservatives and liberals take their positions and neither will budge. Liberals preach "compassion" and understanding, while conservatives tout a standard of moral "truths." One appears to be loving and giving; the other seems cold and dictatorial. But neither position affects real change and only makes the other side dig deeper into their positions. And each has a tendency to assume the moral high-ground.
But truth and compassion need each other, like water needs rain, the sun needs the sky, and people need love and understanding. They are twin tools of a loving God.
Now that leads me to one of the greatest philosophical questions around ... what is truth and whose truth should we live by? Well, that's another subject for another blog.
Lauren Green serves as a religion correspondent for the FOX News Channel. Prior to this, Green served as a news anchor for “Fox and Friends,” where she provided daily news updates and covered arts for the network. You can read her complete bio here.
Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996. Her new book is "Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog."