Reverent Responses

You Can't Change What the Bible Says!
Candace Chellew Responds

[Posted on February 5, 2001]


Thank you for your letter. I agree with you that the Bible is a guidebook on how we are to live. Let's start with Jesus' words, shall we?

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get."
Matthew 7:1-2

Great words to live by. But, it gets better:

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut the kingdom of heaven against others; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in."
Matthew 23:13-14

I think that says a lot about whether any of us can decide who will receive the kingdom of God. I don't stand in your way before the gates of heaven, Lynn. Why do you persist in standing in my way? Please hear Jesus' words in this matter.

But, wait, the Bible has more direction for us.

"What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
Micah 6:8

Where is the justice, kindness and humbleness in your words, Lynn? You've already decided my fate. How is that following the Bible?

Oh, and one more for you.

"And [Jesus] said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands depend all the law and prophets."
Matthew 22:37-40

On those two commands depend all the law and the prophets, Lynn! If you're truly busy loving God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself you'll find very little time in your schedule to go about condemning me and other GLBT people. I find that learning to love my neighbor as myself is very time consuming. I also find that when I truly love my neighbor as myself I don't feel the need to condemn them, but instead I feel the need to lift them up. I only pray for your happiness and joy in God, Lynn. I do not write to condemn you for your narrow views on the Bible.

I certainly could say the same thing to you that you have said to me: "If you read the Bible with preconceived ideas or hopes then you will get what you want out of it." You are reading the Bible with the preconceived idea that it condemns homosexuality. Therefore you believe that it does. I approach the scripture with no such idea. I have searched the text and I have discovered no condemnation of homosexuality within the scripture. Certainly there are some acts condemned. All the homosexual acts that are condemned however have to do with prostitution, idolatry and abuse of another person. Certainly these acts are to be condemned whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. There is no condemnation of loving, committed acts of homosexuality within the Bible. If you would take the time to put your preconceived idea of what the Bible says about homosexuality aside and do some research you may come to the same conclusion. But, I understand it's very hard to put those notions aside since you have probably been taught them from childhood. I only ask that you step into my shoes for a moment and stop trying to read your own prejudices into the Bible. The text doesn't say what you think it says.

You also say that you could show someone the Bible passages you believe condemns homosexuality and they, "would without reserve say that the Bible says the homosexuality is wrong." Certainly they would, and for a variety of reasons. First, your own bias would influence them. I'm sure your words to them would be, "See, these are the passages that condemn homosexuality. Don't you agree?" They probably would, especially if they have no real working knowledge of the Bible.

You say that "[c]hanging what the Bible says can only hurt you." The book we have today has gone through many changes! The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek originally and none of the original manuscripts of the Bible have survived. Instead, what we have today are copies of copies. The oldest surviving manuscript of a portion of the Old Testament so far discovered dates from the third century B.C. The earliest extant New Testament manuscript is a fragment from the Gospel of John that dates from the early second century A. D. We have no idea what the original manuscripts of the Bible said! There is an entire section of biblical study dedicated to tracking down textual variations from copy to copy. The variations from sentence to sentence in many of the Bible books are vast! Many scholars admit that we may never know if we have any of the original words or the original message that the Bible writers meant to transmit to us. The Bible is not error free by any stretch of the imagination.

Couple that bit of truth with the fact that every translation of the Bible into English has been done with a set, usually political, agenda. King James had his agenda ... so did the interpreters of every other version. The reason you read "homosexual" in a passage today has very little to do with what the Bible writers intended, and everything to do with what the interpreters intended. In fact, the word "homosexual" was not even coined until the 1800s. How then could the Bible writers use such a word? In short, they didn't. Nowhere in the copies of the copies of the original manuscripts will you find the word "homosexual." It's simply not there. Why? Because the word didn't exist. The interpreters put it in there, Lynn, not the Bible writers!

So, your uneducated Bible reader will certainly say the passages condemn homosexuality ... and that's the danger of showing biblically uneducated people a passage that YOU have already decided condemns homosexuality. Of course they're going to agree because they don't have the knowledge needed to disagree! Read any of the reputable biblical scholars out there and you'll find that most of them agree that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality as we know it today.

You also use the tired, cliched phrase "homosexual lifestyle." I'm really very interested in why heterosexuals continue to use this phrase that connotes there is one "lifestyle" that all gay and lesbian people lead. Where do you get this idea that our lives are defined solely by our sexual orientation? Is yours? My "lifestyle" is not driven by my sexuality ... it's mainly driven by my income! Believe me, I wish I could afford a different lifestyle! My sexual orientation is just a part of me, like being heterosexual is a part of you ... it doesn't DEFINE me. You choose to define me that way, but I assure you, my sexual orientation isn't how I define myself. I'm a Christian, a southerner, a journalist, a writer, a book lover, an animal lover, a Xena fan, a theology student, a preacher's kid, a momma's girl ... all these things define me. Yes, I'm a lesbian too, but that's not the first thing out of my mouth! And, as someone who knows a lot of gay and lesbian people, I can tell you that I am the norm and not the exception. I'm not trying to berate you. I'm just trying to help you understand that there is no one "homosexual lifestyle" that we all live just because we're gay. There is no "heterosexual lifestyle" either. Please don't define me by my sexual orientation ... it's an unfair and narrow definition of who I am.

Thank you, also, for inviting me submit to God, but I already have. My life is in God's hands and I seek God's will on a daily, if not hourly basis. It's interesting that God has not asked me to change my sexuality, even though as a teenager I begged to be made a heterosexual. Instead, God has given me a purpose and a mission to help those who are hurting because they believe God does not love them as GLBT people. As for bitterness ... I can assure you that is gone as well. It is certainly hard to receive letters from people like you because it underscores just how much education needs to be done to change the hearts and minds of people who have been so misled by bigoted preachers and churches over the years. I turn my frustration and my bitterness over to God constantly and, yes, I have found healing there ... and also a strength I've never known before.

You, and others like you, will continue to condemn me and tell me that I must change, and I will continue to tell you that I have changed ... immensely. God has transformed my heart and my life. God has shown me great blessings and love ... just as I am.


Candace Chellew