Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

July 16, 2012

UNDERSTANDING EACH OTHER: Interpretation of scriptures can determine views of homosexuality

About this series: Throughout the past several years there have been many opinions shared about homosexuality within the community. This two-day series attempts to shed some light on where those opinions come from. — Editor

GOSHEN — It seems logical that Christians using the same holy text would come to the same conclusions on social, cultural and religious issues.

However, in practice that proves to be the exception, rather than the rule — especially when such contentious topics as homosexuality come to the table.

Some professors from local religious colleges and universities said these ideological differences stem, at least in part, from differences in the people practicing the faith.

The difference in opinions on homosexuality in Christian sects may come from differences in Scriptural focus, according to Goshen College Professor Keith Graber Miller.

“Part of what’s going on is we’re reading texts through different lenses,” Graber Miller said. “(For example,) Mennonites look most to the New Testament, focusing specifically just on the life and teachings of Jesus... The canon in the canon is the Sermon on the Mount. Lutherans may look more on Paul’s writings and Romans.”

Graber Miller teaches several courses in the Bible, Religion and Philosophy department at Goshen College, including co-teaching a course called “Human Sexuality,” as well as teaching a course called “Sexuality and Religion.” He said the topic of homosexuality, as well as other controversial topics, has come up in his classroom several times. Graber Miller is also an ordained pastor in the Mennonite faith, but he does not currently work in that role.

Graber Miller said he has seen changes in the polarization within Christian sects, coinciding with convergence in thought between members of different sects at the polarizing ends. This theory comes from scholar Robert Wuthnow and his work, “The Restructuring of American Religion.”

In other words, people at the far left and far right of polarizing issues within a sect are seeing more in common with members of other sects, religions and churches than they see with members of their own church or congregation.

“This is the phenomenon happening now,” Graber Miller said. “It’s breaking down what it means to be a member of a congregation.”

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