UPDATED: April 2, 2012, at 3:47 a.m.
Contrary to traditional interpretations prevalent in Christian conservative America, the Bible does not oppose same-sex relationships, Matthew R. Vines ’12 argued in a screening of his video presentation “The Bible and Homosexuality” on Saturday.
Vines originally delivered his talk at College Hill United Methodist Church in his hometown of Wichita, Kan., one month ago, and he presented his findings on the Huffington Post last week.
But Saturday’s event brought Vines’ findings back to Harvard after a two-year leave of absence to examine theological texts and develop a new interpretation on the Bible’s relationship to homosexuality.
Saturday’s film screening was organized by members of the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship, though the group itself did not co-sponsor the event.
In his presentation, Vines examined the six passages in the Bible that refer to same-sex behavior. From Leviticus—“thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination”—to Romans, Vines presented interpretations of the Bible that challenge traditional views.
For example, in addressing Leviticus, Vines pointed out that modern Christianity does not follow many of the ancient rules set forth in the Bible, even though many are tied to the word ‘abomination.’
“The most culturally distinctive aspects of the Old Law were the Israelites’ complex dietary code for keeping kosher and the practice of male circumcision, but after the Council of Jerusalem’s ruling, even those central parts of Israelite identity and culture no longer applied to Christians,” said Vines in his talk.
Another argument deals with questionable translations. Words found in older texts that translate to “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” were changed to “homosexuals” in the mid 20th century, said Vines.
Saturday’s presentation, the culmination of two years of academic study, allowed Vines to share his findings with his Harvard community.
Chelsea S. Link ’12 said she appreciated hearing a scholastic approach to the controversial topic.
“I was expecting this to be another case of people twisting the words of the Bible,” said Link. “I’m not an expert on theology, but it was much different from the arguments I usually hear. It was really rigorous and very academic. I was impressed and convinced.”
Janie M. Tankard ’12, a planner for Saturday’s screening and an inactive Crimson news editor, added that she saw the talk as filling an important gap in the debate.
“Within conservative, evangelical Christianity there isn’t really a resource like Matthew’s that comes at this issue from this framework,” she said.
Vines hopes his talk will spark a dialogue with Christians who oppose gay rights by providing people with stronger Biblical arguments.