"For while some are incapable of marriage because they were born so, or made so by men, there are others who have themselves renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let those accept it who can."
What does this Bible passage mean? To some it would suggest that God is clearly acknowledging homosexuals and even going one step further and encouraging their acceptance. To others it clearly refers to those who are born unable to produce children. Unfortunately, Jesus does not have Twitter, so we can't ask him exactly what he meant in his statement. I'm being flippant, of course, but only for the purpose of highlighting the huge difference in society from the time of Jesus to the time we live in now. I've always been fascinated by faith and how millions of people around the world live their lives based on the teachings of one man who lived over 2,000 years ago. From my history and religious studies lessons at school, I do believe that there was a man called Jesus and that he did travel around speaking to the masses, trying to encourage them to lead decent lives. Was he the son of God? I don't know. Does anyone know? I'd argue that they don't. I understand that many many people "believe" that Jesus was the son of God, but that is different from "knowing" something. Well, that's where faith comes in.
To a nonreligious person faith could be seen as illogical. It suggests a blind will to dismiss common sense, logic and reason. To those who have faith this suggestion would be rather insulting. To them, people with faith are simply enlightened, unlike those without it. The Bible itself says that faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11).
In Christianity faith is not concerned with obedience to a given set of rules; it is about learning God's teachings and understanding what those teachings mean to the individual. Clearly the Bible plays a huge role in this process, which is why I opened this essay with a Bible passage. It's a rather important passage in my opinion, as it may offer insight into Jesus' teachings on homosexuality (depending on your interpretation of it). More than 2,000 years have passed since Jesus was born, and society and culture have changed beyond comprehension since then. Clearly, some fundamental aspects of society haven't changed, but the world in which we live now is very different from the world that surrounded Jesus.
I'm not going to quote the numerous passages from the Bible that are often used to back up arguments that suggest hypocrisy in religion -- you know, the one about not having sex with your wife if she is on her period, or the one that says that adulterers should be put to death. Those passages are there, though, and sometimes they are written so clearly and explicitly that it seems impossible to interpret them in any other way. So why don't those who insist that the Bible teaches against homosexuality also insist that these other teachings be upheld in our modern world? Well, society would not allow it. Our attitudes have changed. There was a time when women were drowned for being accused of practicing witchcraft. How ludicrous would it be for us to suggest that we bring back that practice? Completely ludicrous.
I know that there will be those who are reading this now who feel that as a non-Christian, I simply do not understand what I'm talking about, because I do not understand God. Well, I don't really care what these people think, to be honest. I respect everyone's right to believe in what they want, but as soon as those beliefs (and that's all they are, beliefs) start to affect my life and the lives of millions of other LGBT people around the world, that's when I adopt the "I don't really care" stance. I'm a polite person, I'm a caring person, and I believe that I live my life in a good way, always looking out for others and trying to make the right choices. I was born gay (there's no debate here, so let's not even entertain any other ideas), and I choose to act on my feelings of same-sex attraction, something that others may see as a sin.
The thing is that I know that I live my life trying to do the best I can for myself and those in my life. If God exists in a form that enables him to judge, punish or reward, then I'm pretty confident that I'll be OK, thank you. I think that life is not about what you believe or preach or challenge but what you do. Those who use religion to mask sexism or homophobia have missed the point. If God exists in the form I mentioned, then don't you think that he may be setting us challenges every day to test our own morals, standards and ability to show love to one another? I do. Maybe some of those passages in the Bible are examples of that, curveballs to test our ability to think on our own and make decisions based on what we feel, not what we are told. He gave us the ability to question, so maybe we should should use it more than we do.
I always knew that this essay wouldn't be specific, tidy or particularly focused, because of the nature of its subject. What I wanted to do was to simply lay out my stall and try to explain how I see my place in this world, a world where millions of people worship different gods and have different beliefs, a world where millions of people have died and suffered in the name of religion, arguably doing what they felt God was asking them to do. It's not about being right, and it's not about being wrong. Life is about doing what you think is right for you and those whom you love. It's not about pleasing any gods that may or may not exist in various guises; it's about learning and growing and challenging your own ideals to ensure that you live a life that you would be happy with when it's all over.
I don't need a book to tell me how to do that, but I understand that others do. I think some of the stories in the Bible are amazing and teach us so much about how we should treat our fellow human beings but surely life isn't about doing what we're told. That would be far too easy. It's about doing what we feel is right, and there's a difference.
Jesus was born in a stable. When I visited the Vatican a few years ago, I was astonished at the riches that were seemingly being hoarded and also displayed to the visitors. I'm sure the pope loves to look at all the shiny things, but is that really what Jesus taught people is important? I'm no expert, but based on what I was taught in school, I actually think Jesus would be pretty disgusted at the obsession with material wealth that the Catholic Church seem to have. But what do I know?
I just hope that as human beings, we all continue to question what we're taught and look inside ourselves for the answers rather than simply doing what other people tell us to. If you're really and truly against marriage equality, then maybe spend a bit of time thinking about what your views on divorce are. If you believe that being gay is just fundamentally wrong, then maybe you should question why you think it is. Is it because you think that's what you should believe, or is it because the idea of two men kissing and sleeping together makes you feel a bit sick? Be honest. I have straight mates who have no issue with me being gay, but we don't talk about the physical aspect, because it's not something they feel comfortable doing. Does this bother me? Not at all. I don't particularly want to hear about their heterosexual exploits! But I appreciate their honesty. The fact that we have different ideas of what is "normal" in our sex lives doesn't mean that we can't be friends.
It would be impossible to live your life as the Bible suggests in every way possible in 2013. If it's necessary to adapt, pick and choose aspects of the Bible to fit life in 2013, then all I hope is that people don't let their closed-minded attitudes dictate which parts of scripture they choose to ignore and which they choose to follow.