Debunking the Myth: “The Bible Says LGBT People Are Going to Hell”
December 19, 2013 by Sharon Groves, Director, Religion and Faith Program
For LGBT folks and allies the holidays are often rough. When we’re least expecting it – while watching a football game, opening presents, preparing a meal – the insults come seemingly out of nowhere. And so often, we shy away from responding because we know the retort will invoke God and the Bible. Try to engage in a real conversation from a place of confidence, integrity and even, if you’re not feeling it, from a place of compassion and love.
All week long, HRC is offering tips and strategies to help guide you through what may be a difficult holiday season, as part of our Religion & Faith blog series, “Debunking the Myth: How to Stand Your Bible Ground This Holiday.”
Today, let’s discuss how you can handle when someone says to you, “You will go straight to hell, the Bible says so,” or the kinder version, “I don’t want you to go to hell, which is why I can’t support your lifestyle.”
The threat of hell and damnation has been one of the most painful and shameful psyche scars for LGBT people. If you are told, “You are going to hell” or “your friend is going to hell” make sure you have someone else you can talk to first. This is really hard to hear.
If you’re ready to engage then perhaps first ask them to be specific. “Where in the Bible does it say that?” Since it doesn’t say any such thing, chances are that they will either point to Leviticus (see above) or Sodom and Gomorrah. If they refer to Sodom and Gomorrah (19: 1-29) [LINK to text] :
You might respond: “I know that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is often treated as a sign of God’s condemnation of gay men, but when you actually read the text it just doesn’t add up. What actually happens in the story is that Lot receives unknown visitors. The men of Sodom hear about Lot’s visitors and surround the house, bang on the door, and demand that the visitors be sent out presumably to be abused and raped. There is nothing in this scenario that resembles a loving relationship between two consenting adults. Nothing. This refers instead to rape and abuse which God rightly condemns. That is the real sin in the text. “
Follow-up: When we look at other parts of the Bible we can learn how the Biblical writers thought about this sin of Sodom and Gomorah. For instance, in Ezekiel 16:49 we learn that sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was the city’s unwillingness, due to their pride and haughtiness, to share their abundance with those who were poor and marginalized. And Amos 4:1, 11 prophesied the destruction of Israel for following Sodom’s example of “oppressing the needy and crushing the poor.” Indeed, whenever the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is mentioned, homosexuality is never listed as the cause of discussion.
Reclaiming the Bible: Suggest reading together this text and discuss who during this holiday season have been denied the gift of hospitality? Who are living in fear of rape and brutality? How should we respond in the face of such brutalization? These are the lessons of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Have you tried this strategy out? Let us know in the comments below how it worked out or if you had a different kind of Bible conversation. Though this series is intended for Christians in anticipation of the Christmas holiday, stay tuned to the HRC blog for more religious series.
And for more resources from HRC’s Religion and Faith program, visit http://www.hrc.org/issues/religion-faith.
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