We were proud to have our pastor, Pauline Ong, featured as part of Pink Dot 2016’s video campaign ‘My Hero’. You can watch the video below:
We’ve recently released the book “Whatever Commandment There May Be” by Davian Aw to address in greater depth some questions people may have about faith and sexuality. This book elaborates on the FAQ below and additionally debunks several myths and misconceptions about LGBTQ people.
You can sample the first 20% of the book for free at the first link below, and purchase it in paperback or eBook format.
eBook, multiple formats, with free preview (Smashwords) – US$4.99
eBook, Kindle only, no preview (Amazon) – US$4.99
Paperback (direct collection from Free Community Church) – SGD$15
Paperback (Amazon) – US$9.49 excluding shipping from the US
Q1) What does LGBTQ stand for?
LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (or questioning). For the sake of brevity and ease of understanding, we will sometimes use “gay” as a blanket term for the purpose of this FAQ. We thank you for your understanding.
Q2) What is an LGBTQ Christian?
An LGBTQ Christian is someone who loves God and regards Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and also happens to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.
Q3) Is FCC a church only for gay people? Can I attend the church if I’m straight?
FCC is an inclusive church. This means we believe God loves and accepts everyone regardless of race, socio-economic background, gender identity or sexual orientation. We have straight Christians in our midst too – people who believe that God is a God who includes rather than excludes. So we welcome everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Q4) Does someone choose to be gay?
Just like how a straight person doesn’t make a conscious choice to be straight, a gay person doesn’t choose to be gay. There are a number of biological, environmental, and sociological determinants as it relates to our sexual orientation (refer to Q5 below for more information on this) and it is reductionistic to think of it as simply a choice that one makes, especially since this ‘choice’ can bring with it certain societal and familial difficulties.
The only choice many LGBTQ people have made however, is to be true to themselves – to live out their lives as honest, authentic and whole human beings.
Q5) Is a person’s sexual orientation determined by biology or environment? In other words, is it nature or nurture?
As far as the scientific evidence has borne out, a person’s sexual orientation is determined by a combination of several factors. Some have raised the notion that, based on a number of studies involving identical and fraternal twins, homosexuality has been shown to have no genetic links whatsoever. However, these twin studies often involve a lack of scientific rigour and mistake correlation for causation – a common error as it relates to sociological research of this nature. To determine objectively if there are indeed genetic and biological links involved in homosexuality, it is important to look not just at correlated factors, but at objective measures such as biological markers. An example of this is a recent study which examined the blood and saliva samples of 409 independent pairs of homosexual brothers and found a definite pattern in two areas of the human genome – chromosome X and chromosome 8, which adds to the increasing evidence base that sexual orientation is significantly determined by genetics.
Q6) Does the Bible condemn LGBTQ persons?
No. Nowhere in the Bible is a person condemned for their gender identity or sexual orientation, which was an unknown concept at that time. The Bible does not discuss same-sex attractions or how to live as a Christian if you have such feelings. These are subjects where we must seek God’s heart through prayer and the guidance that we do have in Scripture.
Q7) Doesn’t the Bible condemn gay sex?
There are only a handful of passages in the Bible which mention same-gender sexual interactions. While it’s true that most of these interactions are portrayed negatively, it’s also important to understand the historical contexts of these passages and the translation of the original Hebrew or Greek words.
The acts being condemned in these instances referred to specific sexual acts of a same-sex nature that involved exploitative, abusive or idolatrous behaviour. This was often lost in translation, as different Hebrew and Greek words (referencing male shrine prostitution, male-on-male rape, sex trafficking of boys, pagan sex rituals, non-specific sexual perversion and idolatrous sexual orgies, among others) were translated generically as ‘homosexuality’ in various translations. The Bible condemns lust and immorality of any sort (whether heterosexual or homosexual).
Same-sex attraction and loving, committed relationships were virtually unheard of in ancient times, and bear little resemblance to what was being talked about in those verses.
Q8) Didn’t God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?
Yes! But why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? If we let the Bible speak for itself, we will have a more accurate answer. There are 47 references to Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, and not one of them mentions homosexuality. The most direct reference to Sodom is in Ezekiel 16:49-50:
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.” (NIV)
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 is a story of attempted gang rape. When two angels came to warn Lot about the city’s destruction, the men of Sodom decided to put these strangers in their place by gang-raping them. This does not mean that Sodom was a “homosexual city,” of course. Gang rape was well-known in Bible times as a way to humiliate and emasculate their enemies by treating them ‘like women’. The same tactic was used by wicked people in the city of Gibeah hoping to drive away a stranger. (See Judges 19.)
Q9) Didn’t God say clearly in Leviticus that a man shall not lie with another man?
There is strong evidence that these verses in Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 are referring to the practice of shrine (or cult) prostitution. Such a view has appeared as far back as the writings of Philo in AD35.
Robert Gagnon, a prominent anti-gay theologian, also considers Leviticus 18:22 an example of cult prostitution:
“I do not doubt that the circles out of which Lev 18:22 was produced had in view homosexual cult prostitution, at least partly. Homosexual cult prostitution appears to have been the primary form in which homosexual intercourse was practiced in Israel.”
– Robert Gagnon, The Bible And Homosexual Practice (2001)
Leviticus 18:22 appears directly after a verse forbidding child sacrifices to the pagan god Molech. It would be strange for the passage to hop from the subject of incest to child sacrifice to homosexuality. However, given that incestuous sex was also common in such worship (particularly of Molech’s consort, the fertility goddess Asherah, as well as the Egyptian cult of Osiris), the whole section then reads as a condemnation of practices associated with ancient pagan worship: incest, child sacrifice, and homosexual sex.
These are corroborated by historical accounts of idol worship that likewise describe such acts. In the Bible itself, further strengthening this interpretation is the Hebrew word translated as ‘abomination’ (KJV) in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13: toebah, which Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon defines as:
“Especially used of things which are made impure and illicit by the decrees of religion; specially used of things belonging to the worship of idols; and of idols themselves.”
The ancient Jews were prohibited from the practices of other religions. The most common form of homosexuality they observed would have been one associated with pagan sex rituals, so it was only natural it would be forbidden.
Q10) Who was Paul referring to in Romans 1:26-27?
Romans 1:18-32 depicts a clear progression of events:
- People rebel against God and turn to idol worship
- “For this reason”, God gives them up into “shameful lusts” – their women exchange natural sexual intercourse for unnatural, and their men also abandon “natural relations with women” and lust after men
- God then “gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, Godhaters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.” (NIV)
A few points to note here:
- This is a seriously messed up group of people
- The cause of their descent into homosexual activity is explicitly stated as their rebellion against God
- Those men had previously pursued sexual relations with women.
We might never be absolutely certain who Paul was referring to. Some commentaries believe he was referencing ritual prostitution such as that condemned in the Old Testament, describing men who in the heat of idolatrous fervour went against their nature and pursued sex that was perverse and unnatural to them. Others point out similarities to the extravagant, often cruel sexual excesses of the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero, and suggest that Paul could have been invoking them as examples of the kind of sexual behaviour he was condemning.
What we can be certain about is who Paul was not referring to: gay Christians in romantic relationships who have always remained faithful to God, and who do not usually take part in depraved sex orgies in worship of graven images.
While Paul calls those sexual acts ‘unnatural’, he was assuming – as everyone did back then – that everybody was straight and found homosexual sex to be an unnatural thing done only in the throes of depraved and frenzied lust. He would not have been able to conceive otherwise.
Q11) What about 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10?
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (malakoi), nor homosexuals (arsenokoitai), nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
– Corinthians 6:9-10 (NASB; parentheses mine)
Traditional interpretations claim that the terms malakoi and arsenokoitai refer to the “passive and active participants in homosexual acts” (NIV footnotes). But here’s what we know about the word arsenokoitai (plural of arsenokoites):
- Its exact definition is uncertain due to its extreme rarity. Historians and linguists believe it is likely a form of exploitative sex, mostly but not exclusively of a homosexual nature.
- It has appeared in heterosexual contexts. Around 575 AD, Patriarch John the Faster used it in reference to an act which some men did to their wives. About 200 years before that, the Sibylline Oracles included the sentence: “The arsenokoitai from abduct our children” – children, not boys or men.
- It is a feminine word in Greek, hence the ‘ai’ ending vs. the masculine ‘oi’, suggesting it either originated as reference to or was commonly associated with women, not men.
- It frequently appears in themed lists of vices alongside or amidst economic sins (often between economic and sexual sins, as in 1 Cor 6:9-10, suggesting elements of both).
- The word is not originally Greek, but composed from two Latin root words. This is strange, because Paul was writing in and fluent in Greek, which had many words for various kinds of homosexuality. The most common was paideraste – used not only to refer to pederasty, but also more generally to homosexual sex and romance. Paul would likely have known these words and many others. Yet he chose not to use them, meaning that words which blatantly described men having sex with men did not accurately describe what he was talking about.
Then we have the word ‘malakoi’.
The Bauer Greek-English Lexicon defines malakoi as “men and boys who allow themselves to be misused homosexually”.
In ancient Greece, pederasty was a common practice regulated by the government and viewed as educational – men ‘teaching’ male youth about sex via practical demonstration. These relationships were often characterised by mutual exploitation. The man gained easy sexual gratification (without needing to first woo a woman), and the youth gained favours in return for allowing himself to be sexually misused in that way. A modern equivalent would be people who agree to sex to get a promotion. The sex is technically consensual, but it’s based on exploitation and abuse. Living in Greece, Paul would have been surrounded by such relationships and was likely repulsed by them.
Several scholars suggest these were the arsenokoitai and malakoi that Paul was referring to. This theory is strengthened by how malakoi is translated as “male prostitutes” in the NLT, ISV and the older NIV editions. (In an interesting deviation, the Aramaic Bible in Plain English translates it as “sexual molesters”).
Q12) Can one’s sexual orientation be changed?
Many gay people have tried to become straight at some point in their lives. Some gay Christians have spent years praying for God to make them straight and a lot of us have combined prayer with Christian therapy, support groups, psychological treatments, or other methods of seeking change. Some have even undergone controversial therapies like electroshock treatment, hoping it would help them become straight.
Still, the vast majority, even those who have been through “ex-gay therapy”, remain attracted to their own sex. Some ex-gays marry a member of the opposite sex, and use this as “proof” that they have changed. However, many other gay people who married a member of the opposite sex and even raised a family in an attempt to change their inner feelings still remain, on the inside, attracted to their own sex. They’re still gay.
Q13) Maybe one can’t change their sexual orientation but surely you can change your “lifestyle” right?
One’s sexual orientation does not dictate a person’s lifestyle, morals or values. Many LGBTQ Christians choose to be in a monogamous, committed and loving relationship because that is what they believe is the best option for them. Some choose to be abstinent as they wait for the right person while others choose to be celibate. As Christians, we make our decisions and choices with the help of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. So just as we wouldn’t apply the notion of a “straight lifestyle” on heterosexual persons, the concept of a “gay lifestyle” is similarly untenable.
Q14) Why don’t all LGBTQ Christians just choose to be celibate?
Many well-meaning Christians prescribe celibacy for LGBTQ Christians. They say it’s no different from other sins. Just don’t act on it. But, as Christian blogger John Shore says, the big difference between homosexuality and all other activities generally classified as sinful is this: “There is no sin that, by virtue of my having committed it, renders me incapable of loving or being loved. No one tells the chronic drinker, adulterer, gambler, or any other kind of sinner that having committed their sin—that being the way they are—means they must stop experiencing love. Yet living without love is exactly what some Christians insist upon for gay people.”
To quote John Shore:
“What you mean is that you want them to condemn themselves to a life absolutely devoid of the kind of the romantic, long-term, emotionally and physically intimate love that all people, Christians included, understand not only as their birthright, but as just about the greatest part of being human. Be alone, you’re demanding. Live alone. Don’t hold anyone’s hand. Don’t snuggle on your couch with anyone. Don’t cuddle up with anyone at night before you fall asleep. Don’t have anyone at your table to chat with over coffee in the morning… Live your whole life without knowing that joy, that sharing, that fulfillment. Be alone. Live alone. Die alone. The “sinful temptation” that Christians are forever urging LGBT people to resist is love. Now isn’t that funny, given that love is the one thing that Jesus was most clear about wanting his followers to extend to others?”
You can read more here: “How is being gay like gluing wings on a pig?”
Q15) What is the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation?
Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of self as being a man, woman, both or neither. Sexual orientation refers to which gender (or genders) someone is sexually and romantically attracted to.
Gender identity is who you are. Sexual orientation is who you love.
To find out more, you can watch this video by Pastor Danny Cortez for a very in-depth analysis of Romans 1 in particular:
What does the bible say about homosexuality?
What does the bible not say about homosexuality?