Research has demonstrated that bisexuality is an enduring and distinct sexual orientation (e.g. Firestein 2007) and not a ‘phase’ a person is going through or a ‘halfway house’ for those not ready to ‘come out’ as gay or lesbian. Unfortunately, there are still many myths and discriminatory beliefs about bisexuality which result in many bisexual people remaining in the closet and being invisible.
The reality is that bisexual people exist in all cultures, age groups, racial and ethnic groups, religious affiliations and gender identities. They are also often discriminated against by lesbian and gay people as well as by heterosexual people.
At MCC North London we strive to respect and affirm the dignity and sacred worth of all persons and therefore commit to challenge harmful myths and stereotypes and seek to bring healing and wholeness to bisexual persons who have been marginalised by both faith and lesbian/gay communities.
Bisexuality reminds us of the diversity, beauty, and wonder of creation. Moving beyond the binary of gay/lesbian and straight invites people into the mystery and complexity of human sexuality. Attempting to categorise people, while a natural human instinct, limits our thinking about humanity and about the Divine.
Sexual morality is often seen by theologians, denominations and faith groups as only possible in a monogamous, heterosexual, and committed relationship. All other forms of sexual expression and/or orientation are considered to be contrary to God’s plan for humanity. However, whilst the Bible does not use the word ‘bisexual’ or understand sexuality in the same way as we do today, there are several stories that show people with an emotional/sexual attraction to both men and women. Furthermore, these individuals are clearly blessed by God and the expression of their sexuality does not bring upon them God’s wrath and damnation; indeed they are key figures in Scripture.
The overarching message of the Bible is of God’s love for all of humanity. That extravagant love, recorded in both the Old and the New Testaments, is a message of hope to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Furthermore, the call for justice for the poor and oppressed is one of the most prominent biblical themes. This is highlighted by Amos’s plea to ‘let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream,’ (Amos 5:24) and Micah’s question, ‘What does God require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8)
The Old Testament
There are two stories in particular that should be highlighted. Both have been used extensively to support same-sex relationships, yet the characters in the stories have emotional/sexual relations with people of both the same and other gender and therefore should truly be classified as bisexual.
David & Jonathan
David first met Jonathan after killing a Philistine giant for Jonathan’s father King Saul. 1 Samuel recounts that at their first meeting, ‘the souls of Jonathan and David became intertwined, and Jonathan loved David with all his heart’ (1 Samuel 18:1). Jonathan proceeds to give to David all his prize possessions and Saul refuses to allow David to return home, much in the same way as a woman would give a dowry and the man would leave home to be with his wife. Later on in the same book we read, ‘Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul’ (1 Samuel 18:3) and ‘Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him: for he loved him as he loved his own life’ (1 Samuel 20:17). When Jonathan dies David cries, ‘I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.’ (2 Samuel 1:26)
Whilst David is described as being in a covenanted relationship with Jonathan, he is also reported to have had at least seven wives (1 Chronicles 3:1-9) and numerous concubines (2 Samuel 5:13). In the story of Bathsheba, who became David’s seventh wife, we are left in no doubt that David was attracted to women: ‘It happened late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to fetch her, and she came to him, and he lay with her’ (2 Samuel 11:2-4).
David was punished by God for sexual immorality but this was not on account of his bisexuality, rather that he had sexual relations with another man’s wife and plotted to have him killed so he could marry Bathsheba when she became pregnant with his child.
Ruth & Naomi
The story recounted in the biblical book of Ruth tells of two women, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, who had meaningful and intimate relationships with other and same-sex partners. Naomi and Ruth are both married to men at the beginning of the story but when their husbands die, Naomi resolves to return to her homeland and encourages Ruth to return to hers. However, Ruth refuses to go back home and the feelings that she expresses parallel those between a man and wife. Ruth 1:14b says, ‘Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.’ ‘Clung to’ is the same Hebrew word (dabaq) used to describe a marriage relationship in Genesis 2:24. Although there is no indication in the text that the women were erotically involved, it is very clear that they are involved in a primary emotional relationship. In fact, the passage in Ruth 1:16b-17 is regularly used in marriage ceremonies: ‘Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried. May God do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’
Ruth eventually marries a man named Boaz who is a relative of Naomi’s and gives birth to a son, Obed, who she then gives to Naomi to rear (Ruth 4:16). The women of the neighbourhood are said to have rejoiced that ‘A son has been born to Naomi’ (Ruth 4:17).
Obed and Ruth are named in the Gospel of Matthew’s extended genealogy of Jesus, where Ruth is one of only five women mentioned!
The New Testament
Biblical scholars have pointed out that the Jesus of the Gospels nowhere makes any explicit statement about homosexuality or bisexuality, nor even the homosexual practices that might have been commonly recognised in his day. In fact, what we today call bisexuality was far more the expected pattern of behaviour, particularly in Ancient Greek and Roman cultures, where warriors and civilians frequently took a male lover prior to settling down with a wife.
The gospel accounts of Jesus’ life show us that he promotes alternative family structures (Mark 3:31-35, Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 14:26) and embraces sexual minorities (Matthew 19:10-12).
They also indicate that sex, gender, and norms about sexuality mattered little to him as he healed women deemed ‘sexually impure’ (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48), allowed a prostitute to anoint his feet (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:37-50, John 12:1-8) and defended a woman who committed adultery (John 8:2-11). He also had important emotional connections with both men and women: Mary of Bethany, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, and the ‘beloved disciple’, for example.
In the book of Galatians, Paul records a vision of the world to come in which the many binary categories assigned to humanity in his day no longer exist: ‘There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28).
This is an especially powerful passage as it erases binary thinking which often seeks to restrict attractions, behaviours, and emotions toward one of two sexes. As Rev. Chris Glaser has written, ‘If there is no longer male and female in Christ Jesus, it does not matter to God which gender we love, which gender we are.’
Paul also affirms that nothing, most especially not a person’s identity, can come between a person and God’s love (Romans 8:38-39).
Written by Rev. Shanon Ferguson