the issue of homosexuality in general and in particular how it relates to the reality expressed in the church is one i have thought long and hard about, as my father is now leading an openly gay lifestyle. being raised in a politically correct environment, it has been a challenge for me to come to terms with how the church sees the issue without involving to a high degree personal resentments toward my dad or a horror at how the church describes or alludes to the ultimate fate of individuals actively defending such a lifestyle. What i have come to understand is this:
1. although some language about the possible reform of homosexuals in the church often openly expressed by evangelicals may seem trite, such a healing is and should be absolutely possible, given a right orientation and commitment by the person.
2. The american society loves to polarize and simplify: you are either gay or straight, with a minority being bisexual but not really finding s substantial place in the debate. The fundamental problem with this approach is that it simplifies the issue by portraying it in its most base terms; i.e. with sex as the determining factor. The church certainly recognizes and condones close loving relationships between men as do many other cultures. In addition this type of relationship is evident in scripture, indeed woven throughout it as a given, most notably the relationship between David and Jonathan in the OT a "love that surpasses that of a woman". But nowhere are these relationships sexual in nature. So what may be required and what is already recognized by the church is a broader understanding of what love between men can and should be, as opposed to the narrow channels of relationship we experience in the U.S. (interesting how my dad used to use this same language to defend homosexuality against what he saw then as an oppressive culture)
3. Homosexuals certainly do exist in the church, and probably very many in the monastic community. Having this sexual orientation is not the problem; actively living it out and defending it as part of your identity is. The church rejects the very popular modern idea that sexuality is an inherent and important part of our identity. As christians, we are called to step out of this natural condition and orient ourselves differently. There is a creativity (not only physical) that comes out of the union of man and woman that is impossible for the same sex union, a creativity that fundamentally expresses the relationship between Christ and His Church, and thus is considered holy in light of this.
Although I said in my original post I wouldn't press my beliefs on the matter, I see that it is something which affects you personally through your father, so I will offer my two cents.
The Bible contains many profound spiritual truths, but the actual words of the Bible's many books were not, in my opinion, dictated to its authors by God. The spiritual truths were inspired
by God, most certainly, but the way they are expressed throughout the Bible's various books is the product of human minds. The Bible contains many things I consider to be products of the culture and attitudes of the times in which those books were written.
Many people interpret the destruction of Sodom as being due to homosexuality. I don't see any indication to this in the story. The men of Sodom wanted to rape the men/angels who were with Lot. Being a homosexual rapist is not the same as being a homosexual. Being a rapist is a sin, regardless of who you rape, whether it is men, women or children. If there was a whole town of rapists I'd probably want to blow it up, too.
Regarding the prohibition of homosexuality in Leviticus, it absolutely makes sense that the Jews would have rejected homosexuality. The Laws recorded in Leviticus apparently were written during the time when the Jews, a nation struggling to survive in the desert having just escaped a long period of slavery, were intent on preserving their nation/'race' and strengthening themselves as a people. A non-procreative lifestyle such as homosexuality would be a threat to a nation which, at that time, desperately sought to regain its power and survive. The Jews knew they would have to fight for the Holy Land, and they knew they would be met with great hostility in time to come, so logically they would have wanted as much procreation as possible. The Jewish laws, in my opinion, are in many instances a reflection of culture and historical context, not just spirituality. For this reason homosexuality was forbidden by Jewish Law, and therefore Jewish converts to Christianity would have retained this attitude.
Jesus himself said nothing about homosexuality, but from his behaviour, I have no doubt that if he was presented with a loving homosexual couple who cherished each other and their shared love, Jesus would not at all condemn them. The man who epitomised unconditional love would never say 'sorry, you two need to stop loving each other.'
Furthermore, in Greece in ancient times married men often practiced homosexual relations with young boys or other men, despite being married. The idea we have in our modern society of 'you can be gay, straight or bi' didn't exist back then - often men who were married and had kids (and certianly loved their wives, and were definately 'family men') additionally had homosexual relations to increase the enjoyment they got from their sex-lives and as an accepted social custom. It was acceptable to have a wife AND a boy-lover. The ancient Greeks were a sexually liberal people, and that sexual promiscuity would no doubt have involved married men having sex with other males, or casual sex in general (both homo and heterosexual). When Paul condemned homosexuality in the various epistles, he was coming from the perspective of a Jew (as I discussed above) and responding to practices such as this.
I therefore believe that sex outside of love is the sin, not sex outside of heterosexuality. A gay, sexually active couple who love each other and share a strong relationship are no different in the quality and sanctity of their love than a man and woman who feel the same way. When you truly love someone you love everything about them, not just their organs which bring you physical pleasure. Love is love, love is pure, love is sacred, love is what led God to create us. When love is real
it doesn't matter if it is between a man and a woman, or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman - it is still the greatest and most beautiful of all human emotions manifest in the greatest of all human relationships.
On the other hand, having sex simply to satisfy carnal desires amongst people who are simply indulging in lust is sinful. This includes both homo and heterosexual acts of polygyny (that is, having multiple sexual partners at once), prostitution, casual sex, orgies, etc.
Of course, my rationale goes out the window if you consider sex outside of marriage to be the sin (rather than 'sex outside of love') but I don't. And niether do most Christians.