COLUMBIA — Improper Biblical interpretation and the use of “outmoded, culturally decided arguments” are among the causes of a Christian view of homosexuality as immoral, Jack Rogers argued Wednesday night at a lecture at MU.
Rogers, professor emeritus of theology at San Francisco Theological Seminary and former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), stopped in Columbia as part of a Midwest tour promoting his book “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church.” The debate over the Christian response to homosexuality has extended to multiple areas of religious and civic life, sparking political debate and threatening to implode the fellowship of several denominations.
Rogers contends that a Christ-centered approach to the Bible is necessary for proper interpretation of Scripture. He referred to eight texts he said are used to claim the Bible condemns homosexuality, none of which refer to Jesus or his words.
“We should look at the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry,” Rogers said.
The texts being used to condemn homosexuality are being misinterpreted, Rogers said. It’s also a cultural myth, he said, that sexual orientation is a choice and that homosexuals can become heterosexual.
“It’s grossly inaccurate and unfair to pull these texts out of their ancient near-Eastern context and apply them to faithful Christian people who are living decent, normal, stable lives in partnership with a person of their same sex,” he said.
According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, 27 states, including Missouri, have enacted constitutional amendments to “preserve traditional marriage” between a man and woman. According to a July 2006 Pew Forum survey, 56 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage, For those with a high level of religious commitment, 78 percent oppose gay marriage.
Rogers sees this as problematic and pointed to his own 50-year marriage, sharing that 1 John 4:19, “We love because God first loved us,” is inscribed inside his and his wife’s wedding rings.
“For us, that’s an ideal toward which we strive every day of our lives,” he said. “But I see no reason why that can’t be the same ideal for two men who love each other or two women who love each other because it’s an ideal of commitment.”
Rogers said he hasn’t always held the same views. But his feelings began to change in 1993, as he and others studied the Bible intensively as part of a task force at his church studying the issue of homosexuality.
“When I had to study the texts, I discovered a richer, much more complex reality than the one that I had unfortunately uncritically accepted,” Rogers said.
Ultimately, Rogers’ message was one of acceptance.
“If we would accept other people as children of God, as Jesus did, then they might be open to hear what we think is a life-transforming message,” Rogers said.