Week One: "Our Families"
Wekk Two: "Gay and Christian"
Week Three: "The Science of Sexuality"
What the Bible Says About Sexuality
One of the class members arrived early, armed with a grocery bag filled with blue clasp folders. Apparently she had read the Blue Book, a resource I displayed every week on the class information table. The Blue Book is a report that explains “What We Wish We Had Known” from a church task force that studied the science and Christian view of homosexuality. She was so excited about its welcoming message that she made ten copies for her study group. Then she made twenty more copies and gave them to her friends. And then she made thirty more copies and passed them out to class members as they arrived. I have to agree that it answers many basic questions that most people have as they approach the issue for the first time. It is wonderful to see someone newly afire with enthusiasm.
Our presenter was a seminary professor of Old Testament studies. She went through the standard passages that are the core argument for calling homosexuality a sin and presented arguments for each side. (I hesitate to call this a two-sided argument, for that is too simple for such a complex issue. But this is not a hermeneutics lesson.) I had heard pretty much everything she presented but one thing was new to me: she said that there is a school of thought that says Old Testament law is utopian literature, that it is something to reach for but impossible to attain. That is something to think about.
Attendance remained high but not what I expected for this most difficult topic of the series: 76 came, still three times higher than normal attendance. The audience was rapt as always, but the speaker used every minute available. Still, no one would leave as class time came to an end and hands were raised. After a discussion on grace came the question I expected: “Doesn’t homosexuality destroy the family?” I could see four heads nod with agreement.
The professor explained that this was an empirical question; that is, we can examine this with evidence before us today. This is not answered in the Bible. She mentioned a social services study of families who adopted children. Children adopted by same-sex couples were compared in a years-long study to children adopted by hetero couples. The study concluded that those children who were adopted by same-sex parents were “more successful” than those adopted by hetero parents. She could not name the study or what “successful” meant in the terms of the study, and mumbling was heard from the audience. She calmly asserted that each of us is obliged to find the facts and not just take someone’s word.
I was sorry that the real discussion was only beginning as the class was ending. Clusters of people continued to converse at length after class ended. One of the dissenting men talked for a long time with Abe, who was able to tell about his own journey of discovery. I am grateful he was there. The man complained at how one-sided the series was, and Abe said it was that way on purpose. The man was taken aback. Abe continued, “We’ve had four weeks—four hours—of this point of view. Balance that against 170 years of the other point of view.” They continued in a calm discussion, agreeing to disagree on a couple of key points.
Some people were uncomfortable with the potential for conflict, but how can we grow without it? If we are complacent, we have no reason to change. If we’re arguing, it means we are talking. That is the goal for now. We have to let the dust settle before we move forward, but we are talking.