I am presenting this letter from “Christian” Mark Yaconelli as it was requested by “Christian” author Anne Lamott for her church’s Sunday School class! As presented on Sister Anne’s Facebook page. This speaks for itself. This is what many people in the Church are thinking, and how they reason regarding the Bible. We need to teach them better. This is the very definition of “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
A Letter to Annie’s Sunday School Class on The Bible and Homosexuality
Hey Annie’s Sunday School Class. Good morning. I’m Annie’s friend Mark Yaconelli. Glad you are here. Hope you make Annie bring you donuts and hot cocoa. Did you know many years ago I taught the Sunday School class at St. Andrew’s and brought donuts and hot cocoa as a bribe for Annie’s son Sam and some other kids? They were always much nicer when I gave them sugar and chocolate.
So Annie asked if I’d write you about the Bible. I worked at a seminary for 10 years. I have two graduate degrees in Christian Spirituality. I’ve worked in churches for many years. I’ve been a youth worker most of my life and I’m going to tell you the honest truth about the Bible.
Okay, here’s what all my study has taught me:
The Bible is a weird collection of songs, stories, poems, letters, prayers, rules, dreams, mystical experiences, dietary rules and detailed instructions for building a giant boat.
The Bible is not a book of science, the Bible is not a book of facts.
None of the authors of the Bible ever intended that their writing would help readers grow in their understanding of human biology or science. The people who wrote the Bible are trying to express this overwhelming, freeing, terrifying, exhilarating experience that we have nicknamed “God.” That’s what the Bible is for–to help us encounter God.
The writers of the Bible are pointing out of a window and they want us to look for ourselves and feel for ourselves that there is a welcoming Presence of Love that names us and claims us and frees us to live the lives we’ve always wanted to live.
Jesus said the teachings of the Bible are only useful if they help us love God (the Creator, The Maker, The Compassionate Presence), love other people, and love ourselves. Jesus says this is the Rule of Love—loving others as we love ourselves. This is the most important message of the Bible.
So Jesus teaches that God is only known through Love and every experience of Love is an experience of God. That means when two people love each other, God is there. It doesn’t matter if they are two men, a woman and a man, or two women, if it is real love (mutual care and respect and delight), God is there and it is blessed. Every act of love brings God into the world. When a parent loves her child, when friends love each other, when a stranger offers kindness to a hurting person, when people commit to loving one another (Gay or Straight)—God is there and it is blessed. And here’s the reverse of that:
Anything that leaves you more fearful, more isolated, more disconnected from other people, more full of judgement or self-hatred is not of God, it does not follow the Rule of Love–and you should stop doing it.
Now you may ask, “Hang on. If the Bible says loving others is the highest rule, what about homosexuality? Doesn’t the Bible say homosexuality is wrong?”
Remember, God did not write the Bible. Jesus did not write the Bible (by the way Jesus was silent about homosexuality). People wrote the Bible and people get things wrong all the time. And although the people who wrote the Bible loved God, they also were not scientists nor biologists and they also weren’t God. So they sometimes wrote things that were ignorant or limited or plain wrong. For example they wrote stuff like…
Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19)
Don’t cut your hair nor shave. (Leviticus 19:27)
Any person who curses his mother or father, must be killed. (Leviticus 20:9)
People who have flat noses, or are blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God (Leviticus 21:17-18)
Anyone who curses or blasphemes God, should be stoned to death by the community. (Leviticus 24:14-16)
Don’t let cattle graze with other kinds of cattle (Leviticus 19:19)
Don’t eat shellfish. (Leviticus 11:10)
Christians don’t believe nor follows these writings. We know shrimp tacos can be delicious and healthy. We know it’s alright to cut your hair. Different cows can graze in a field, no problem. Christians do not follow these rules from the Bible because we know better now. God gave us a brain and intelligence and the capacity to learn and we have learned and now know that many of those ancient rules are just plain ignorant or wrong.
I say all of this because some of the most hurtful writings in the Bible are about homosexuality. There are a few places in the Bible that refer to sexual relationships between two men or between two woman as prohibited or sinful. Sometimes these rules or condemnations were actually about prostitution or abuse, but there are cases where some writings in the Bible condemn homosexuality as sinful. This is sad and unfortunate and has caused a lot of people pain and suffering. What we now know is that just as the Bible was incorrect about wearing mixed fabrics, the writings in the Bible about homosexuality are simply ignorant (people didn’t know what they were saying) and entirely wrong.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people are people, created in the image of God, it is their birthright to be honored, respected, and celebrated just like everyone else. The Bible was never meant to be a book about gender or sexual ethics. The people who wrote those things did not know what we now know.
How can we say these teachings are wrong?
One big reason is because of Jesus. Jesus is our primary spiritual teacher and the one who shows us what God is like. Jesus is the one who says: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Jesus is the one the Bible holds up as a window into God. Jesus is the one who teaches us and shows us and helps us feel and know that it is not loving to dominate nor discriminate against other people. To exclude or reject or restrict people because of who they love and how they love goes directly against the Bible and the teachings of Jesus.
Paul (one of the writer’s in the New Testament) says, whenever the Spirit of God is near, you will feel more patient, more generous, more kind, more self-disciplined, more joyful, hopeful, and loving (Galatians 5). So tell me, if you condemn a woman because she loves another woman does that make you feel more generous, kind, and joyful?
In the Gospel of Luke (12:57) Jesus says, “Why don’t you judge for yourself what is right?” Does it feel right, given what we now know about sexuality and human relationships, that LGBT people should be condemned or treated differently than we treat other people? Does that feel loving?
The Bible itself must be judged according to Jesus’ Rule of Love. When we do that, we find that the teachings of the Bible that discriminate against homosexuals are plain wrong. The Bible was never meant to be a book about sexuality and it shouldn’t be treated that way. The Bible is trying to help you go out into the world and meet God for yourself so that you might be more alive, more yourself, more open and connected to other people.
“God is love,” Christians remind one another. This means that Christians experience love as something alive and living and personal and true. This Love that is God and God that is Love is the creating and healing power within life. This Love that is God is kind and patient and humble and free–never trying to control nor manipulate. Every human being has experienced and knows this capital “L” Love that Christians call God.
Christians believe that to receive and share this reality of Love, this God within who live and move and have our being, is the meaning and purpose of life. Why would we stop anyone from experiencing and expressing love? Or to put it another way, why would we stop gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transgendered–anyone from experiencing, celebrating, and expressing God?