Christian opposition to homosexuality presents a good opportunity to re-think Biblical morality per se. Generally we can approach morality in two ways. (1) we can blindly obey strict orders without question, and consider all who deviate as sinners subject to severe punishment. (2) We can follow the universal Golden Rule, which urges empathy and non-harm. We could temper that with fair justice for harm-doers.
The former approach is appropriate for dictators, soldiers in battle, and children too young to judge which behavior is harmful. The latter approach is appropriate for free, peace-loving adults. (See Kholberg's moral stages.) Many Christians would spare themselves difficult decisions by choosing blind obedience even if they are free, mature adults.
But the Bible itself contains the same two approaches to morality! Hence we still are obliged to choose and make rational decisions wisely - despite the dictates of certain church leaders and their flocks of "sheep". And in order to choose wisely, we must also know something of the culture and times in which our chosen passages were written.
So let us now use homosexuality as a test case and visit the appropriate passages.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Genesis 1:27 states humanity was made in God's image as male and female who should join together, be fruitful, and multiply. This could be interpreted to mean only males and females should join together in order to procreate, and to not procreate is unnatural. But we must remember: procreation was urged at the time of the first humans because then the world was virtually empty of people! Today the world is dangerously overpopulated. Also both Jesus and Paul themselves chose to remain celebate (along with inumerable priests, monks, and nuns, after them) And as far as the strict separation of male and female goes, Galatians 3:28 states: "There is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Then what about Genesis 19? Were not Sodom and Gammorah destroyed because of homosexuality? Most scholars are in agreement that the capital crime emphasized there was inhospitality and violence to strangers. Today we might find a worse crime in Lot's offering his two young daughters to be ravished in place of his guests. Similarly in Juges 19:23-29 a virgin daughter and concubine were offered to appease violent sodomists who raped the concubine to death. Morality there seems quite lacking when it came to women.
What then of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13? Here prohibitions are prolaimed against incest, beastiality, homosexuality, ect. under penalty of death. But Leviticus 19:17 states:"Ye shall love your neighbor as yourself."(!) Following up on this statement in Luke 10:29 Jesus gave the Smaritan as an example of the neighbor to love. Samaritans were devient to Judah's Jewish laws. Moreover, Exodus 21:24 states an eye for an eye is just punishment, implying the death penalty is appropriate only for murder.
Such exhuberent overkill is again proclaimed by Paul in Romans 1:24-32, who lists a string of offenses, including boastfulness and disobedience to parants as well as homosexuality - then claims even those approving of such behavior are deserving of death! Compare this extreme pronouncement with the Golden Rule or even the fair justice of an eye for an eye.
The Christain prohibition of homosexuality can be seen more clearly in the light of the Greco-Roman culture in which it took place. It was a culture of agressive bi-sexualty toward slaves, including young boys, who could be homosexually raped at will by free men with impunity.
And what of the Jew's attitude toward homosexuality? After all they should be the best interpreters of their own Hebrew ("Old") Testament. Their Halakah (Traditional Law) serves wisely to make the law fit new understanding. Today only Orthodox Judaism prohibits homosexual practice, but doesn't blame anyone for his or her sexual preference. Conservative and many Reform and Reconstructionist Jews endorse gay marriage and ordination. As early as 1965 the Women of Reformed Judaism riled against homosexual discrimination.
A FRESH OUTLOOK:
Methodists and other mainline Christian groups now endorse a four way interpretation of Scripture: (1) Bible study (2)Tradition (3) Reason (4) Experience. Here we can stay with the Bible and the tradition of our faith, but the interpretation must be rational and based on ever improved knowledge and experience.
Hopefully the cumulative knowledge of civilized humanity has by now shown blind obedience to draconian laws and punishments leads only to dictatorship, bigotry, injustice, violence, even bloody wars. Recall the medieval inquisitions, the endless religious wars, the mass blind obedience of Nazi Germany....and so it goes on today.
Cumulative knowledge, emperical reason, and empathy for humanity should tell us by now that harmless behavior, even if different, should be left alone regardless of preachings by self righteous bigots and hate mongers - especially if bigotry or violence is preached in the name of God. On the other hand if the act is definitely harmful, we should then deal with it justly.
Just like straight sex, gay sex becomes harmful when used for rape, child molestation, spreading disease, or using others as mere meat. In fact straight sex has even two more ways to do harm: i.e. through adultery (now becoming applicable to gays), and by creating unwanted children. Otherwise honest sex used with care and mutual respect between consenting adults should carry no more stigma than any other harmless act.
In his volume of "Church Dogmatics", Karl Barth urged viewing Scripture and tradition through the lense of "God's Freedom" whose will cannot be predicted by mere human beings. "God's grace is new every morning." For we are speaking of a living God who is vitally active today and every day.
Biblical teachings and events are not stilled photographs frozen in history. We have instead a living Bible which must be seen in the context of all its books and the entire story of humanity. In this light even your sexual orientation can be an important part of your calling....