Three cheers for America! And bravo for the Maryville City Police Department! Blount County just hosted its first-ever gay Pride event with no acts of violence and only a handful of grumpy protesters. More than 700 citizens showed up to affirm that LGBTQ folk are a welcome part of our community and that no person should ever feel threatened or unsafe here because of sexual orientation or identity.

However, the pushback from some segments of the community as expressed in recent letters to the editor suggests an underlying assumption that should be reexamined. That assumption is that people choose their sexual orientation in the same manner that they choose whether to lie, steal or commit adultery.

Common sense — and the best science — suggest otherwise.

The point was brought home to me by my lesbian aunt whose only “lifestyle” was to live monogamously with her same-sex partner for nearly a half-century, which, incidentally, is the same lifestyle my wife and I have chosen.

“Who in their right mind would choose to do this?” she asked me incredulously more than 30 years ago. “To be ostracized by family and friends because of who you love? Don’t you believe for a minute that people choose this.”

Hard to argue with that. But what about the Bible? Doesn’t it call homosexuality a sin?

The Hebrew scriptures (our “Old Testament”) call a lot of things sin that Christians no longer consider sinful. Eating bacon, crab cakes or shrimp; mowing the grass on Saturday; shaving your beard and handling a pigskin on Friday nights, to name just a few. Did you know that the Old Testament also mandates the death penalty for adultery?

But what about the New Testament? Doesn’t the Apostle Paul criticize homosexuals?

He does. But remember the great apostle was a man of his time. He did not enjoy the benefits of modern science. He did not know about genetics. Or hormones. He also wasn’t perfect and said so in his letter to the Philippians. We know that firsthand from his letter to the Colossians when he admonished slave holders not to free their slaves as we wish he had done but instead to be “good masters.” I’m sure Confederate slaveholders got a lot of mileage out of that, but I doubt any of us living here today would try to defend Paul’s statement.

If you want to know what Christians should think about something, one must go to the words of Christ himself, for he alone is our final authority. Try as you may, you will not find one word from Jesus about homosexuality. There are teachings about money, lust, revenge, divorce, prayer, fasting and dozens of other subjects, but not one word about homosexuality. Strange, don’t you think, if it were such a threat to the moral order? On the other hand, Jesus spoke a lot about the danger of judging others and the sin of self-righteousness.

Perhaps most famously, Jesus commanded us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. So I ask, would you want to be threatened or discriminated against? Would you want to lose your job, housing or insurance because of something over which you had no control? Suppose your gay or lesbian child was considering suicide in the face of widespread harassment and condemnation as so many LGBTQ children do. Wouldn’t you want him or her to know they were loved and accepted in their own hometown?

Sometimes theology can be complicated and answers hard to come by. Not this time.

Buzz Thomas is a retired Baptist minister, attorney and longtime Blount County resident.

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