Homosexuality and the Christian Congregation
- Jehovah's Witnesses and Homosexuality
- Why God Has Allowed Misconceptions
Jehovah's Witnesses and Homosexuality
In this follow-up piece to my life story, we will be diving deeper in into the relationship between the Christian congregation and the gay community, as well as Jehovah’s thoughts on the topic. In order to clarify exactly what we are referring to when we say the “Christian congregation,” we are not talking about the churches of Christendom. There are plenty of horror stories about congregations that claim to be Christian that spew hatred and vitriol, the most infamous example, of course, being the Westboro Baptist Church. Those churches are not Christian, and they do not follow Christ. What we are referring to when we say “Christian congregation” is Christ’s true congregation, which, up until recently, has been the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It is common knowledge that the horrific and hate-filled actions of the churches of Christendom have resulted in the deaths of LGBT people, either through physical abuse that went too far and resulted in homicide, or verbal and psychological abuse that resulted in suicide for many people in the LGBT community. Jehovah's Witnesses, however, separate themselves from all of that. When I was going meetings at the Kingdom Hall, I remember a copy of the Watchtower that actually stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not homophobic, reasoning that this is true because they follow the command at 1 Peter 2:17 to “honor men of all sorts.” (g 12/10)
While it may be true that Jehovah’s Witnesses treat don’t verbally abuse homosexuals, whether or not they are engaging in sex with someone of the same sex, the fact is that they do try to convince homosexuals to discontinue any same-sex relationships or the pursuit of same-sex relationship in order to join them and be baptized.
While the clergy and members of Christendom often insist that homosexuality is a choice, more and more science is coming out suggesting otherwise. In the last article outlining my story, we introduced the concept of epigenetics, and the role it plays in the development of transsexuality.
Just to recap, epigenetics is how the environment can change a person’s genetics. I’m not going to go into much more detail about that here other than to say that hormone levels in the womb have a profound effect on the genetic makeup of a child. They do not affect what genes a fetus has, but they do affect which genes are active. Back in the late 80s and in the 90s, scientists knew that existence of certain genes allow the potential for certain traits to be exhibited in a child, and that the environment can then use that to mold what traits are actually exhibited. The development of the field of epigenetics in the last 10 years refined that understanding and science is now showing that epigenetics plays a part, not only in a person’s gender identity, but also on what gender they are attracted to. The science isn’t developed enough to know exactly how hormone levels in the womb can affect sexual orientation, but there are clues that have lead scientists to believe that it could well have something to do with the formation and structure of the brain. While this may seem “obvious” to most people, from a scientific point of view, the evidence is not yet conclusive.
Of course, there are also still scientists who promote the notion that sexual orientation is psychological and not biological. It has been my own experience that sexual orientation can be influenced to a degree by a person’s environment outside the womb (“nurture”), but is mostly decided by our genetics and epigenetics. The Bible does comment one way or another on how much biology or psychology influences sexual orientation, and what I’ve just said is limited to my own experience the experiences of those within my own social sphere. However, one thing I can say for certain is, whatever the cause, it’s not a choice. Of course, there are exceptions; there are people who deviate from what they’ve come to view thus far as their own sexual orientation in the name of “exploration,” or “fun.” Most likely these people always had some degree of bisexuality and never recognized it until the deciding moment.
Unlike members of Christendom, however, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not insist that homosexuality is a choice, and their publications avoid mention of whether it is or it isn’t. Instead, Jehovah’s Witnesses address their views on homosexuality, even if it isn’t a choice, comparing it to a hereditary disposition for alcoholism. One edition of Awake! suggests that just as an alcoholic should resist their tendency to abuse alcohol, be it genetic or environmental, likewise a gay person should resist their homosexual tendencies. (g 1/12 p 28, 29)
While it is true that the term “phobia” is most commonly linked to a fear of something, a phobia can also simply be an aversion to something. In that respect, since Jehovah’s Witnesses have an aversion to allowing those who are in or actively seeking a same-sex marriage to join them, they are, indeed, homophobic. In fact, because they believe that God would reject anyone at Armageddon who is in a same-sex marriage, they also paint Jehovah as homophobic. However, God is not homophobic, nor is he trans-phobic. The new perspectives I introduced in the narrative of my own story illustrates that fact.
We will soon be discussing why Jehovah has allowed misconceptions about gays to continue within the Christian congregation. But before that, there needs to be more said on what the Bible has to say concerning homosexuality. I know I discussed this topic in the last paper, but there are more details that need to be covered that went a bit outside the scope of the last paper. In addition to that, there are still a few, more subtle, issues that need to be addressed concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view on homosexuality.
1 Timothy 1:8-11
If you recall from the last article when we were discussing homosexuality, I talked about the Greek word αρσενοκοιται (arsenokoitai), which as you’ll recall, is found at 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 and appears to be a word that Paul just made up based on the wording of Leviticus 20:13. You’ll also note that I mentioned briefly that this word is mentioned only one other time in the Bible. That’s at 1 Timothy 1:10.
While I was writing the last article, despite several attempts to address this particular verse, I never got around to it. That’s because the discussion of the verse along with the surrounding verses, is a bit more subtle than the scope of the last article would have allowed for. At the time I was unaware that a follow up to my story was going to be in the works, I didn’t think it was necessary. However, I now realize that this is important, even more important than prophecy, because now is the time that Jehovah wants people to really get to know him and form a connection with him on level that would have been impossible before our time.
For our discussion, I am going to quote 1 Timothy 1:8-11 here, and then we’ll begin to pick it apart:
(8) Now we know that the Law is fine if one applies it properly, (9) recognizing that law is made, not for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, ungodly and sinners, disloyal and profane, murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, manslayers, (10) sexually immoral people, men who practice homosexuality, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and everything else that is in opposition to the wholesome teaching (11) according to the glorious good news of the happy God, with which I was entrusted
You’ll recall in the conclusion of the last paper that I discussed how the law was designed for imperfect people as stated in verse 9. However, verse 8 says that the law is fine only if it is applied properly. This means that it is not applied hypocritically as was the tendency of the Pharisees, and more recently the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is not the only place where Paul mentions hypocritical application of the law. At Romans 2:25-29 Paul writes:
Circumcision is, in fact, of benefit only if you practice the law; but if you are a transgressor of law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. If, therefore, an uncircumcised person keeps the righteous requirements of the Law, his uncircumcision will be counted as circumcision, will it not? And the physically uncircumcised person will, by carrying out the Law, judge you who are a transgressor of law, despite having its written code and circumcision. For he is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision something on the outside, on the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit and not by a written code. That person’s praise comes from God, not from people.
You’ll recognize that the last portion of that was the concluding scripture in the last article. So what is Paul saying here? He states, “He is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit and not by written code.” In other words, if a person is practicing the written law only and not applying it with the spirit of the intention behind it, their application of law is hypocritical, they are following commandments rather than the real law that is to be written on one’s heart. And by their hypocritical application of the law, they become transgressors of the law, so that their adherence to written code via circumcision is of no benefit to them.
With that being said, we must search for the spirit and intention behind the words of the Bible. It is with that spirit in mind that we take a closer look this word “arsenokoitai.”
Based on our analysis of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Romans 1:26, 27 in the last article, it is noteworthy that the only time where the Bible really deals with homosexuality is in relation to gross sexual misconduct that would be wrong even for straight sexual encounters. Also, the notion of homosexuality as a sexual orientation was unknown to the ancient world. Instead, what the apostles and other disciples of Christ witnessed as homosexual behavior were things such as male temple prostitution. The idea that two men or two women could be in a monogamous relationship with the same emotional connection present in straight marriages was a completely foreign notion to the ancient world. So foreign, in fact, that the 1st century Bible writers would have had no concept of it.
With that in mind, we must come to the unmistakable conclusion that when Paul refers to homosexual conduct, he is not referring to a committed monogamous relationship. Indeed, it would have been impossible for him to refer to such a thing because the concept did not exist. Instead, he was referring to the same thing that other parts of the scripture are referring to when touching on this topic – gross sexual misconduct between people of the same sex, such as was the case in Sodom and Gomorrah, or the male temple prostitutes that were prominent throughout the ancient world.
Because of this, we can conclude that the Bible is silent on the issue of monogamous same-sex marriages. As mentioned in the previous article, however, this does not mean we can’t make any conclusions about the topic. For example, Jesus himself said “Have you not read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh?’” (Matthew 19:4, 5) Based on the way that Jehovah designed human anatomy, it is clear that his original intention was for a man and a woman to be together. However, Jehovah knows that imperfection has gotten in the way of many things, and he also recognizes that “It is not good for the man to continue to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) So in the spirit of love, Jehovah is making an allowance.
However, if that’s the case, then why have Jehovah’s Witnesses banned people in same-sex marriages from becoming baptized? Before we answer that, we need to address a few more things about the mentality of Jehovah’s Witnesses concerning homosexuality.
Addressing the More Subtle Points of Jehovah's Witnesses and Homosexuality
When I was meeting with an elder at the Kingdom Hall one time, I brought up the question of homosexuality, and how they justified prohibiting gay people from being in a relationship, insisting that homosexuality is not a choice. He told me that asking a homosexual to fight their urge to be with a partner is no different than asking a straight person to fight their urge to sleep with someone outside marriage. Of course, that’s not really the case. Jehovah’s Witnesses are completely blind to the fact that those are two totally different scenarios. In terms of resisting the urge to have sex outside of marriage one is simply asking a person to control their sexual desires. We’ve already gone into detail in the last paper about why that is necessary. To ask a gay person not to pursue or continue in (same-sex) marriage is different however. That’s the same as asking a person to reject love.
I’ve been told by some Jehovah’s Witnesses that gay people in the past were often encouraged to take on spouses of the opposite gender. Of course, that’s hardly mentioned anymore today, however, that’s even more disgusting than two unmarried people sleeping together! Such a relationship is not loving. The level of romantic attachment in such a relationship would not meet Jehovah’s standard of a marriage, and such an arrangement would be unfair to both people.
I never understood the mentality behind denying a person from being able to enter into a loving partnership with a mate simply because of physical gender. If “God is love,” after all (1 John 4:8), then how could he deny love? One Witness compared a same-sex marriage to what happened before the Flood when demons took on human wives. However, that wasn’t really a loving situation. The Bible states that “the sons of the true God began to notice that the daughters of men were beautiful. So they began taking as wives all whom they chose.” (Genesis 6:2). So not only was the motivation for taking on wives selfish (because they were beautiful), but the women likely didn’t even have a choice, because the demons “began taking as wives all whom they chose.”
The fact is, it is not a loving thing to deny a person seeking love to enter into marriage. As stated many times already, Jehovah is making an allowance now because he recognizes that “it is not good for the man to continue to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) So, if that’s the case, then why has God allowed the misinterpretation of Bible to continue within the congregation to keep gay people out? That, finally, is the topic of the next section.
Why God Has Allowed Misconceptions
The topic of homosexuality is not the only area in which Jehovah has allowed misconceptions to roam free among his congregation. Of course, as readers of ours and King’s are well aware, the major misconception among Jehovah’s Witnesses at present is that the presence of Christ has already commenced. What was the purpose of that misconception? Just like the apostles of the 1st century, Jehovah has blinded the eyes of Jehovah’s Witnesses for 2 reasons. The first is, just as in the 1st century, they have preconceived ideas about what the Kingdom is going to be like. The second, more important reason is to expose the haughtiness of the Watchtower Society.
However, despite the misconceptions and evil that continued on among the congregation, the congregation itself has served as a protection for people against negative influences. There are people within the congregation even today that benefit from the Society’s protection against outside influences. One of those influences which the society protects their flock from is sexual perpetrators rampant among society in general. As just discussed, when the Bible writers were speaking of homosexuality in the Bible, they had no concept of a committed same-sex relationship in the sense that we think of it.
Just to recap again, the concept of sexual orientation was foreign to people of 1st century, and the Bible writers were addressing things like male temple prostitutes and those who just want to sleep around to fulfill selfish desires. Since there was no concept of same-sex marriage in the 1st century, there could have been no government-sanctioned arrangement at that point for same-sex marriages. This is a stark contrast to the changing landscape of government-sanctioned same-sex marriage today. And while it is true that we are being prepared for a time free of human rulership, that was not the circumstance back then and in order for a marriage to be valid, the legal customs of the time needed to be followed.
Just as those passages protected people in the 1st century from certain types of promiscuity (namely of the same-sex variety), they also protected the modern congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses from the same thing. Did barring gay people from the congregation completely protect the congregation from sexual perpetrators? Of course not; in fact, the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses has of late been under the microscope for protecting sexual predators. Are gay people the only source of sex crimes? Of course not. Was it right to bar gay people from the congregation simply for seeking love? No. Keep in mind that Jehovah did not command this, he only allowed it to go on for the simple reason that it did provide a limited protection from a certain subset of sex crimes. Were there honest-hearted gay people who have been stumbled because of the congregation’s policies? Probably, and the Society will have to answer for that as much as anything else within the congregation that has caused stumbling.
The conclusion to be reached from all of this is that what Jehovah’s people think they know about homosexuality is wrong, and now is the time to begin clearing up those misconceptions. This is simply one step that Jehovah is taking to clear out the skeletons from the congregation’s closet. All the evil that has been perpetrated by the Society will be brought to light and people will have to make a choice. Are you going to stick with the organization and allow that to be your golden calf? Or are you going to follow Jehovah and accept the new light that is being provided. The choice is up to you.