• Sorry, but we are all biased.

    January 23, 2012

    Remember, please, no comments, pro or con, on my Facebook page. You may email me through the “Contact” page of this website, but I cannot guarantee a response.

    For years, I didn’t bother reading the pro-gay biblical perspectives that exist because, until quite recently, many of them were written by scholars who were themselves gay. I wrote them off as biased: “Well, of course they would come to that conclusion! Of course they’d find support for their lifestyle in the Bible. They’re gay!” I guess I considered myself more objective since I was also gay but of the opinion the Bible was clear in its condemnation of all homosexual behavior. And somehow it didn’t occur to me that a heterosexual biblical scholar might be equally as biased as one that was gay. Having now read many positions on both sides of the gay debate, I’ve come to believe we’re all pretty terribly biased.

    I’m gay, so I stand to benefit from a theology that allows for gay relationships. No matter how objective I might try to be—and I certainly do try—in my study of the Bible, I cannot remove this obvious bias. On the other hand, I grew up during a time in our country when the culture was decidedly less accepting of gays. Moreover, I grew up in the south and went to public school in one of the most conservative states in America where I heard all manner of slurs against “queers.” I cannot erase how that informed my view of myself and others who happen to be gay. And of course, all of my church experiences around the time I became a Christian at age 15 were in communities entirely and quite vocally opposed to homosexuality. So when I go to the Scriptures, as hard as I may work to read and understand them clearly, to see them through the fog of my past influences, I have to accept that I go to them with a certain degree of (a) learned self-hatred for being gay, and (b) hope that gay might after all be okay.

    It is no easier for the straight man or woman, though I suspect he or she often doesn’t really believe this. I think many heterosexual people would say they have less of a bias problem when approaching the Bible about this topic because they do not stand to gain or lose from whatever the Bible says about homosexuality. But the fact is, anyone over the age of 30 who grew up in the US, particularly in the south, grew up hearing and having reinforced the idea that gay is bad. No man wanted to be called queer. That was dirty. Sick. Disgusting. Weird. Maybe criminal. “Homos” were often akin to child molesters. Hard as one might try, a heterosexual person cannot erase this deeply ingrained predisposition to view gay people (or at least what one imagines they do in bed) in a negative light.

    Neither can you, if you are straight, remove the incredible gap of understanding between your experience as a heterosexual person and my experience as a gay man. You who have never felt romantic or sexual longings for the same sex can no more fully understand why or how I could than I can understand how or why you feel what you do for the opposite sex. I can imagine that what straight men feel for women is similar to what I feel for men, but neither of us can truly understand why each other doesn’t share the same object of attraction. That creates a huge bias for straight people who find themselves in the most extreme of majorities. If current estimates are correct, only three to six percent of the US population is gay. How could a straight person who (a) shares the same sexual thoughts and feelings as possibly 97 percent of the country, (b) has never shared the same sexual thoughts and feelings as the remaining minority of people, (c) came of age during a time when gay was definitely not ok, (d) probably went to an anti-gay-relationships church for at least some of his or her childhood, and (e) took in countless gay slurs before age 18—how could that person not be biased to view the Scriptures in the traditional light in which they’ve been taught? Of course such a person is biased!

    As we go the Scriptures, remember: we’re all biased by any number of influences, some of which we may not even be aware of. The best we can do is try to limit the effect our biases have on us as we wrestle with what the Bible actually says. But we cannot remove our biases entirely. None of us can. Not even my friend who so boldly proclaimed in her email to me, “God is very clear in His Word … It is clear that [homosexuality is] an abomination to God. This is so in both the Old and New Testaments. Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 is only one of many examples of God’s view on homosexuality.”

    My friend, no doubt due in large part to her many predisposing influences, seems unaware that very few scholars today believe the Sodom story has anything to do with God’s judgment on homosexuality. Even most conservatives have dismissed my friend’s view. But she is either unaware of this or incapable of seeing beyond all the teaching she’s heard over the years. So it is to this story that we turn next.

    Posted in: The Gay Posts

Comments are closed.