Updated: Aug 13, 2021
Edited by T. Lai
As an African American Christian, I and others have been the object of the misuse of scriptures. Scriptures have been misinterpreted to give affirmation to slavery and to support the notion of race as the divine order of the universe. Scriptures have been manipulated to imply that there is a curse that is upon black people.
Recently, a fellow minister of mine was prodded to use the Bible to deny the faith and humanity of LGBTQIA+ Christians. My friend’s answer: “I will not let you use this book to hurt people.” Sadly, far too many Christians see the support or appreciation of the LGBTQIA+ community as a choice to deny the Bible, ignore the Bible or correct the Bible. Why?
(1) Some people imply that Bible is silent or antithetical to the issues of LGBTQIA+ community.
One of the first scriptures that people choose to misuse is in Genesis; it is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). What is often implied? The implication is that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because God was so appalled that its citizens demanded that they be given men (angels) with which to have. From that, the term “Sodomites” has been used to represent LGBTQIA+ people.
That is what is often implied. Is it true? No. In Ezekiel 16:49, there is an explanation of why the city was destroyed; it was due to the lack of care for the poor and needy. “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Surprised? If we go back and look at Genesis 19:9, this is what the Sodomites did: “They also said [about Lot], “This one came in as a foreigner, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them!” So they pressed hard against Lot and moved forward to break the door.” Lot was in need and was not helped; instead, he, his guests, and his family were abused.
The Bible is not silent. It can be found in the use of the word eunuch in the Bible; in Biblical times, the word eunuch encompassed many more meanings than in our contemporary vocabulary. In Matt. 9:12, Jesus acknowledged gender variance and did not condemn it. “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Born that way, made that way by others, choose to live that way– that is variance. The Bible is not silent; church communities are choosing silence to the detriment of others.
(2) Some selectively use the Bible for their own interest.
Look at Leviticus 18:32. This text is in a long string of prohibitions in which there is mention of homosexuality. Barring the translation issues that call this choice of wording into question, it is the height of hypocrisy and selective scripture reading to demand that we govern ourselves to this single example of prohibition and not the others mentioned in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Eat shellfish (Lev. 11:9-12)? Mistreat immigrants (Lev. 19:33)? Cannot prove the bride is a virgin (Deut 22)? Picking and choosing which of the standards to follow are like only occasionally following stop lights despite heavy traffic.
(3) Some use scripture to deny the full humanity and participation of LGBTQIA+ people in the church community.
The scriptures often used for this are Romans 1:26-27, 1 Cor 6:9, and 1 Tim 1:9-11. As they are translated now they contain condemnation of homosexuals. One of the most disturbing and illustrative of why the use of these texts is so problematic is the simple fact that the word “homosexual” was not used in any Bible translation until 1946. Additionally, the very idea of gayness or homosexuality did not exist at the time of the writing; the people the original text refers to are people who are abusive in their pursuit of sexual encounters.
Besides denying the humanity of homosexuals, the Bible has been misused to deny the full participation and humanity of Transgender persons. Recall the eunuchs, those with gender variance. However, Isaiah 56:4-5 says, “For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.” That is more than acknowledgment; that is inclusion and invitation.
There are immediate and long-term consequences to silence, misuse, and manipulating Scripture for ulterior motives. This is especially harmful to young people exploring their identity and/or people of faith who are attempting to decide how to authentically live into their identities as a person of faith and be who they are. As long as people attempt to use the Bible as a blunt instrument to bludgeon any group of people and justify mistreatment, we must remember our calling, to help, not hurt.
* To read more about the 1946 translation of the text to the word homosexual, check out this attached article from a Southern Baptist who went looking for homosexuality in the Bible: https://baptistnews.com/article/my-quest-to-find-the-word-homosexual-in-the-bible/
Bishop Carlton Pearson
Rev. Brandan Robertson