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Flip the scripture 

In a lecture this week at Dalhousie, United Church minister Martha Martin sets out to reconcile homosexuality and Christianity. Brent Sedo reports.

It couldn’t be any more clear. Homosexuality—male homosexuality, at least—is an abomination. It says so in Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament, chapter 20, verse 13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” Both of them, it continues, should be put to death.

And there’s more. Adulterers should also be put to death. Children who curse their parents? Death. Mediums and wizards? Death. Don’t get a tattoo or trim your sideburns. Don’t harvest your crops to the very edge of the field, and every seven years, don’t plant any crops at all. Never wear a garment made of two different types of cloth.

It’s been quite some time since we’ve stoned to death a disobedient child or someone who sleeps with another man’s wife. More than 2,000 years later, virtually none of the old biblical laws are taken literally in Western society. Except, that is, when it comes to homosexual rights, and fundamentalist Christians who proclaim homosexuality a sin because the Bible says so.

It is the problem of using the Bible to justify discrimination against homosexuals that United Church minister and Dalhouise University chaplain Martha Martin will confront Wednesday evening at Dalhousie. Presented by DalOUT—the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Society of Dal—Martin’s presentation will be the third in a series called “Perspectives: exploring diversity in the homosexual community.”

“The Bible is still the foundation of the Christian faith, the stories and images are very powerful, but it is full of contradictions,” says Martin. “We should look at it in light of our own experience and not as the literal word of God. Picking one verse out of the Bible does a huge disservice to the depth of the stories.”

As Martin explains it, it seems odd for followers of Christ to rely on ancient Hebrew scriptures to frame their anti-homosexual argument. In terms of following the bible, for Christians the New Testament would seem more apt. Such as Romans 7:6: “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.”

“Jesus came to call people to account for not living faithfully in the here and now,” Martin says. “He was constantly challenging his followers to be more open. He didn’t teach in absolutes, but in parables that left it up to people to come to their own understanding. He was only living by one law, that of unconditional love.”

Martin simply believes a god who created so much diversity in people wouldn’t then want that diversity repressed, and she sees sexuality as a gift from God to be celebrated. When it comes to same-sex marriage, people need to look at the bigger context.

“Any of us who are married know there is so much more to marriage beyond a sexual relationship,” says Martin. “It’s about building a life together. And it’s heartbreaking to think there are so many people who are being denied that.”

Martin is also hoping to dispel the stereotype that all Christians are anti-gay. DalOUT President Christina Hunt says that outside of Halifax’s Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian branch that specifically reaches out to LGBTQ worshippers, the accepted wisdom in the LGBTQ community is that they are not welcome. In terms of the campus community, Martin’s lecture will be a rare opportunity for dialogue.

“It’s hard to get people from outside of the gay community to come to events like these,” says Hunt. “But we thought Martha’s talk would be interesting to people in different religious communities.”

Hunt says that in her two years with DalOUT, she’s personally had little-to-no contact with university religious groups.

“I honestly don’t hear much from religious groups on campus, but even if they don’t target gay people in a negative way, most religions condemn homosexuality,” she says. “Martha is great, because it’s not very often you hear a minister being so positive about the gay community. A lot of gay people are interested in being religious, but feel like they can’t because of how churches treat them.”

Dalhousie Chaplain Martha Martin will be giving her presentation on Wednesday, March 22, at 7 pm in Room 303 of the Dal Student Union.

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