Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, a UCC pastor and author of the book Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, has written an article for the Huffington Post that suggests that it is pointless to argue about what the Bible has to say about homosexuality, one way or the other. I have felt this way for a long time myself, and not just about what the Bible says on homosexuality, but about any attempt at drawing an authoritative answer from the Bible as if it were a Holy Answer Book. I think that such efforts really miss the point of what the Bible is or should be about.
For one thing, she points out (correctly) that the Bible was written in a particular time and place in history and correspondingly reflects an often mistaken pre-scientific cosmological worldview:
The most important reason, however, that gays and lesbians should never, ever argue about scripture is because the Bible has nothing much to say about homosexuality. We have to remember that this is an ancient book. It was written at a time when people believed the world was flat and that the earth was in the middle of a three-tiered world with heaven above and hell below. It was written at a time when people believed that the whole of human reproduction was held in the sperm of a man and a woman was merely an incubator. Speaking of women, this was a time when they were seen as chattel -- property to be passed along from father to husband, from husband to brother and so on. It was written at a time when slavery was seen as God-ordained and animal sacrifice was the way to cleanse sins.
In short, we cannot extract modern ideas from an ancient book. The writers of the Bible no more understood homosexuality than they understood that a spherical Earth orbited the sun. At most, we have a commentary on same-sex sexual behavior involving lust and abuse, but nothing -- pro or con -- about the modern concept of sexual orientation. We don't take the Bible's word for it that the earth is flat and women only incubate babies and contribute nothing else to the process. Why on earth would we take it as an authority on sexual orientation?
What I particularly like about what she wrote is how she views the Bible:
If the Bible charts a particular cultural and theological stream of human attempts at understanding God, then sometimes in the details it is going to be just plain wrong . But the value is to be found in the questions and the journeys that the Bible documents, not the answers that it allegedly provides.
The Bible remains a holy book because it maps humanity's journey with God, and not the other way around. Because it maps our journey with God, it maps our evolving understanding of how the Holy works in this world. Humanity has moved from seeing God as a harsh judge and lawmaker to a seeing God as full of grace, mercy and love.
We don't learn about God by pulling out tiny details of the book and proclaiming them as true for all time. Instead, the Bible puts us in touch with God when we recognize its overarching message, which can be summarized by 1 John 4:7-8: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love."