Christian denominations have a variety of beliefs about sexual orientation, including beliefs about same-sex sexual practices and asexuality. Denominations differ in the way they treat lesbian, bisexual, and gay people; variously, such people may be barred from membership, accepted as laity, or ordained as clergy, depending on the denomination. As asexuality is relatively new to public discourse, few Christian denominations discuss it.[1][2] Asexuality may be considered the lack of a sexual orientation, or one of the four variations thereof, alongside heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.[3][4][5]

Beliefs and mythology

Main articles: Christianity and homosexuality and Christianity and transgender people

Further information: History of Christianity and homosexuality

The history of Christianity and homosexuality has been much debated.[6] The Hebrew Bible and its traditional interpretations in Judaism and Christianity have historically affirmed and endorsed a patriarchal and heteronormative approach towards human sexuality,[7][8] favouring exclusively penetrative vaginal intercourse between men and women within the boundaries of marriage over all other forms of human sexual activity,[7][8] including autoeroticism, masturbation, oral sex, non-penetrative and non-heterosexual sexual intercourse (all of which have been labeled as "sodomy" at various times),[9] believing and teaching that such behaviors are forbidden because they're considered sinful,[7][8] and further compared to or derived from the behavior of the alleged residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.[7][10][11][12][13] However, the status of LGBT people in early Christianity is debated.[6][14][15][16][17]

Biblical

Main article: The Bible and homosexuality

The destruction of Sodom as illustrated by Sebastian Münster (1564)
The destruction of Sodom as illustrated by Sebastian Münster (1564)

Following the lead of Yale scholar John Boswell, it has been argued that a number of early Christians (such as Saints Sergius and Bacchus) entered into homosexual relationships,[18] and that certain Biblical figures had homosexual relationships, despite Biblical injunctions against sexual relationships between members of the same sex. Examples cited are Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, Daniel and the court official Ashpenaz, and, most famously, David and King Saul's son Jonathan.[19]

The story of David and Jonathan has been described as "biblical Judeo-Christianity's most influential justification of homoerotic love".[20] The relationship between David and Jonathan is mainly covered in the Old Testament First Book of Samuel, as part of the story of David's ascent to power. The mainstream view found in modern biblical exegesis argues that the relationship between the two is merely a close platonic friendship.[21][22] However, a few have interpreted the love between David and Jonathan as romantic or sexual.[23][24][25][26] Although David was married (to many women), he articulates a distinction between his relationship with Jonathan and the bonds he shares with women.

Another biblical hero, Noah, best known for his building an ark to save animals and worthy people from a divinely caused flood, later became a wine-maker. One day he drank too much wine, and fell asleep naked in his tent. When his son Ham entered the tent, he saw his father naked, and his son, Canaan was cursed with banishment and possibly slavery. In Jewish tradition, it is also suggested that Ham had anal sex with Noah or castrated him.[27]

Saints

Saint Sebastian, considered by some to be the world's first LGBT icon
Saint Sebastian, considered by some to be the world's first LGBT icon

While highly controversial, attempts have been made to hold up certain Christian saints as positive examples of homosexuality in Church history:

Eunuchs

The extent and even the existence of religious castration among Christians, with members of the early church castrating themselves for religious purposes,[35] is subject to debate.[36] The early theologian Origen found scriptural justification for the practice in Matthew 19:12,.[37] where Jesus says, "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." (NRSV)

In describing Jesus as a spado and Paul of Tarsus as a castratus in his book De Monogamia, Tertullian, a 2nd-century Church Father, used Latin words that denoted eunuchs[38] to refer to virginity and continence.[39][40]

The significance of the selection of the Ethiopian eunuch as being the first gentile convert has been discussed as representative of inclusion of a sexual minority in the context of the time.[41]

Specific sexual orientations

Homosexuality

Main article: Christianity and homosexuality

Studies in the US show more LGBT individuals identify as Protestant than Catholic.[42][43][44]

The worldwide Anglican Communion reassures people with same sex attraction they are loved by God and are welcomed as full members of the Body of Christ. The Church leadership has a variety of views in regard to homosexual expression and ordination. Some expressions of sexuality are considered sinful including "promiscuity, prostitution, incest, pornography, paedophilia, predatory sexual behaviour, and sadomasochism (all of which may be heterosexual and homosexual)". The Church is concerned with pressures on young people to engage sexually and encourages abstinence.[45]

Male homosexuality

Christianity has traditionally regarded male homosexual behavior to be an immoral practice, or sinful, and most major Christian denominations (containing the majority of Christians worldwide) continue to hold this view. These include the Roman Catholic Church,[46] the Eastern Orthodox churches,[47] the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints, the Brethren in Christ,[48] and the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Some denominations have subgroups that also hold this belief, including some conservative synods of the Lutheran Church (e.g., Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod[49][50][51]), some Evangelical Protestant churches, and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Recently, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church of Great Britain,[52] and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,[53] have determined that same-sex relationships are not inherently sinful. As of 2018, the United Methodist Church is debating this issue, and will be voting in June 2019 on a plan that will allow conferences to decide whether or not to ordain LGBT clergy and conduct same-sex marriages.[54]

The Metropolitan Community Church has been founded specifically to serve the Christian LGBT community. Its founder, Troy Perry, was the first minister to conduct a same-sex marriage in public, as well as filing the first lawsuit for legal recognition of same-sex marriages in the United States.[55]

Lesbianism

Lesbians face different social and cultural preconceptions than gay men. Their experience in Christianity is sometimes dissimilar to that of gay men, although lesbianism has also traditionally been considered a sin within the religion.[56]

In 1982, lesbian members of DignityUSA founded the Conference for Catholic Lesbians out of concern that DignityUSA was too oriented toward males.[57]

In 1986 the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (EEWC), then known as the Evangelical Women's Caucus International, passed a resolution stating: "Whereas homosexual people are children of God, and because of the biblical mandate of Jesus Christ that we are all created equal in God's sight, and in recognition of the presence of the lesbian minority in EWCI, EWCI takes a firm stand in favor of civil rights protection for homosexual persons."[58]

A survey of self-identified lesbian women found a "dissonance" between their religious and sexual identities. This dissonance correlated with being an evangelical Christian before coming out.[56]

Bisexuality

Very few churches have released statements about bisexuality, and research into the bisexual Christian community has been affected by the fact that bisexual Christians are often considered the same as lesbian and gay Christians.[59] However, in 1972, a Quaker group, the Committee of Friends on Bisexuality, issued the “Ithaca Statement on Bisexuality” supporting bisexuals.[60] The Statement, which may have been "the first public declaration of the bisexual movement" and "was certainly the first statement on bisexuality issued by an American religious assembly," appeared in the Quaker Friends Journal and The Advocate in 1972.[61][62][63] Today Quakers have varying opinions on LGBT people and rights, with some Quaker groups more accepting than others.[64]

Asexuality

Asexuality may be considered the lack of a sexual orientation, or one of the four variations thereof, alongside heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.[3][4][5]

As asexuality is relatively new to public discourse, few Christian denominations discuss it and the Bible does not clearly state a view on it.[1][2] However, some Christian publications have recently made statements on the subject. In the Christian magazine Vision, David Nantais, S.J. and Scott Opperman, S.J. wrote in 2002, "Question: What do you call a person who is asexual? Answer: Not a person. Asexual people are gods. Sexuality is a gift from God and thus a fundamental part of our human identity. Those who repress their sexuality are not living as God created them to be: fully alive and well. As such, they're most likely unhappy people with which to live.”[2][65] But in contrast, Lisa Petriello wrote the article “Why We Christians Should Accept Asexuals”, which was published in 2020 in Katy Christian Magazine.[66] In this article, she points out that there is nothing in the bible condemning asexuality, also mentioning that both Jesus and Saint Paul were asexual.

See also

References

Specific
  1. ^ a b Smith, SE (21 August 2012). "Asexuality always existed, you just didn't notice it". The Guardian. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Ace Week". Ace Week.
  3. ^ a b Bogaert, Anthony F. (2004). "Asexuality: prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample". Journal of Sex Research. 41 (3): 279–87. doi:10.1080/00224490409552235. PMID 15497056. S2CID 41057104.
  4. ^ a b Melby, Todd (November 2005). "Asexuality gets more attention, but is it a sexual orientation?". Contemporary Sexuality. 39 (11): 1, 4–5. ISSN 1094-5725. Archived from the original on 6 November 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2011The journal currently does not have a website ((cite journal)): External link in |postscript= (help)CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  5. ^ a b Marshall Cavendish, ed. (2010). "Asexuality". Sex and Society. Vol. 2. Marshall Cavendish. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-7614-7906-2. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b Frontain, Raymond-Jean (2003). "Introduction". In Frontain, Raymond-Jean (ed.). Reclaiming the Sacred: The Bible in Gay and Lesbian Culture (2nd ed.). New York and London: Harrington Park Press. pp. 1–24. ISBN 9781560233558. LCCN 2002068889.
  7. ^ a b c d Mbuwayesango, Dora R. (2016) [2015]. "Part III: The Bible and Bodies – Sex and Sexuality in Biblical Narrative". In Fewell, Danna N. (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Narrative. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 456–465. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199967728.013.39. ISBN 9780199967728. LCCN 2015033360. S2CID 146505567.
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  13. ^ Modisane, Cameron (November 15, 2014). "The Story of Sodom and Gomorrah was NOT About Homosexuality". News24. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
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  40. ^ Accordingly, Tertullian's text, "ipso domino spadonibus aperiente regna caelorum ut et ipso spadone, quem spectans et apostolus, propterea et ipse castratus, continentiam mavult" (De monogamia, 3) has been translated as "seeing that the Lord Himself opens 'the kingdoms of the heavens' to 'eunuchs', as being Himself, withal, a virgin; to whom looking, the apostle also--himself too for this reason abstinent--gives the preference to continence" (Roberts-Donaldson translation).
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