We can concur that in regards to human behavior, human sexuality has never been strictly heterosexual. People are not made to be homosexual, they just are. It is more than apparent that people are born with very diverse sexual and gender identities. Cultural ideals initiated our sexual norms, but these norms do not include what is truly “natural” nor do they include what God has created.
John Boswell’s book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century challenged the misconceptions of intolerance towards the gay community. Published in 1980, Boswell’s extensive work surveys the behaviors and attitudes towards homosexuality and how those attitudes from the fourteenth century have carried across time into the modern era (Boswell 7).
According to Boswell, homosexuality was prevalent among Roman society insomuch that Edward Gibbon remarked, “of the first fifteen emperors Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was entirely correct”, meaning heterosexual” (Boswell 61). Boswell cites that homosexuality was so profound within Roman culture that early Christian writers commented on its presence. Minucius Felix comments that it was the “Roman religion”. In addition, Boswell states that the majority of Christian comments in regards to homosexuality spoke to its legality and approval (Boswell 67).
Considering Boswell’s historical analysis, it is likely that early Christian belief did not include homophobia. Christianity was established within the Greco-Roman era when homosexuality was still considered socially acceptable (Boswell 91). In fact, according to Boswell the term homosexual was not even a word until the late nineteenth century (Boswell 92).
What has been commonly used to support the condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible is the account of Sodom in Genesis 19. Supporters of this theory infer that God destroyed Sodom because the men of the city wanted to engage in homosexual activity with the angels. However, according to Jesus, Boswell suggests it was not homosexuality that was the offense but rather inhospitality. Jesus declares, “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say to unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Matthew. 10:14-15) (Boswell 94).
In addition, Christianity formed within a society that was influenced largely by Platonic and Aristotelian concepts of “ideal nature”. They combined the traditions of Old Testament scholarship with the authority of classical learning and established solid doctrines that dictated Christian behavior. Therefore, in the third century Clement of Alexandria deemed, “to have sex for any other purpose other than to produce children is to violate nature” (Boswell 146).
In essence the establishment of what is “natural” was created by popular consent and the influence of a singular interpretation of scripture which manifested into an ethical norm. The deconstruction of such ideological claims in regards to human sexuality is the very essence of our call as Christians to liberate the oppressed LGBTQ community. To love thy neighbor as thy self, and set the captives free.