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A while ago I had a conversation online with an American Baptist Pastor concerning same-sex relationships and equality from a Christian perspective. He was in no doubt that the Bible utterly condemned homosexuals and all same-sex intimacy. We were discussing the Genesis account of the destruction of Sodom, him from the point of view that Sodom’s destruction was for the ‘evil’ of homosexuality, which proved God’s hatred of all things gay; me from the perspective of Sodom being xenophobic in the extreme, prompting every man in the city (not solely those who might actually be homosexual) to humiliate and violate strangers to the extent of repugnant exploitation and attempted gang rape.

Needless to say, the Pastor would not budge an inch from his position, even when I told him the same Genesis story was found in Ovid’s Metamorphosis in the wonderful story of Baucis and Philemon, where the disguised Zeus and Hermes were refused hospitality at ever door in a city except by an old, poor couple who welcomed them with all they had; so the gods saved the elderly couple but destroyed the city for its total lack of hospitality. Then there was Jesus himself who, in the context of sending out his disciples to preach and heal, spoke of seeking hospitality and told them that wherever they were not welcomed it would be worse for that place, at the time of Judgement, than for Sodom and Gomorrah (Mt.10:15). In my mind, a fairly straight forward comment placing the Sodom crisis firmly in the context of hospitality issues.
As our conversation continued, I mentioned the simple truth that in the English language, the word ‘homosexual’ (literally ‘same sex’ from the Greek homo and Latin sexual) did not enter into being until around 1870, from the studies of Karl Westphal; and in Old Testament Hebrew there was in fact no word for homosexual. In a flash, the Pastor exploded, “Of course there’s a Hebrew word - it’s Sodomite!”

The more I consider the levels of human understanding and the entrenched positions of determined ignorance some Christians choose to occupy, the more I wonder how on earth we can have rational, gracious conversations with those who nail themselves to a mast of irrationality and gracelessness. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (14:20) says very simply, “My brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” We have God-created minds, the ability to think and evaluate, the skills to consider practically and spiritually - and the Scripture’s encouragement to use these facets maturely.  So why do so many of our brethren refuse to apply what God has given them?

I can fully appreciate that Christians young in the faith may misunderstand some things, occasionally get the wrong end of the stick, or at times take metaphors in the Bible far too literally, but spiritual leaders, Pastors, Vicars, Priests . . . surely they are without excuse, particularly when we have a mountain of more than a 1,000 years of theological scholarship to turn to when we are faced with dilemmas or challenges, or simply want to understand something more deeply.

When we consider LGBTI equality, same-sex marriage, transgender issues etc. as Christians, we have a choice in regard to our faith and our commitment to our churches. We can remain ignorant and opinionated, cherry-picking Scripture verses to ‘prove’ and support our position, while ignoring all other perspectives; or we can prayerfully apply ourselves to our understanding of Scripture, supported by theological insights from scholars, and listen carefully to the viewpoints of others, in order to find a well informed and mature position.

Millions of people love football and call it ‘the beautiful game,’ it is their weekend world and means everything to them to support their team. Personally, I find football irritating and a waste of time, and I get annoyed when a favourite TV program is cancelled to make way for a special match. That’s just my opinion – it doesn’t mean I suddenly have to find Bible verses to support my view, or to declare football to be ‘evil,’ and I certainly wouldn't consider that I have a God-given right to grab a placard sporting some or other hateful message and go to picket the nearest football ground.  Yet that is precisely how some Christians react concerning LGBTI people and are determined that everyone else think and act the way they do.

That is not love. That is not grace. That is not hospitality. And it certainly isn’t an expression of loving God fully with heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving neighbour as self, as Christ commands us to do. We must find a way to pray for the Church and our brothers and sisters where love and grace are forgotten in favour of personal opinion and knee-jerk reaction against what they fail to understand, and where rational thought is lost in a sea of negative feelings and mythical presumptions.

We need to side with Paul and remind our sisters and brothers, as graciously as we can, to stop thinking like children and basically grow up!