There is a part of me that feels strange writing this, that thinks it doesn’t really seem necessary. After all, there’s been a vast swing in public opinion on the matter of same-sex marriage in my lifetime – to the point that the most recent polling shows that 60% of Americans now support marriage equality. The Supreme Court seems likely to rule this very month that bans on marriage equality violate the equal protection clause and are, in fact, unconstitutional. Even Pope Francis has made overtures to the LGBTQ community. Given those advances, it could certainly be argued that this is unnecessary.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen the past 40 years via Roe v Wade, an affirmative SCOTUS ruling does not necessarily end debate, let alone legislation, on a given subject. And no matter what the laws or the courts say, there will likely be staunch opponents of equality for quite some time, who cast themselves as righteous warriors and yearn for martyrdom.
So settle in, and let us tear apart any possible biblical justification for bigotry, one lovely bit of scripture at a time.
For non-believers, it’s important to understand the motivations and arguments being made by a sizable portion of the country. Which means that it’s important to be familiar with a few concepts. From Genesis throughout there are examples of people and nations who followed God and were shown favor – Jews are God’s Chosen People because Abram (later, Abraham) had faith that he and his wife, Sarah, would conceive a son in their golden years (meanwhile, he laid with -and conceived with– his slave, his sister-in-law, his sister-in-law’s slave…), and was then willing to kill his miraculous son as a sacrifice to God. Juxtaposed with those who did not follow God, and inevitably met the consequences. To the point that God once thought humans so ill-mannered that the entire planet was flooded, wiping out all but a single family (incest, traditional throwback to Cain and Eve?). In practice, this means that a nation’s laws and societal norms must reflect biblical law, not the law of man, nor the societal norms of the day. It’s not a mere matter of disdain for homosexuality per se, it’s a matter of survival for both the church and the nation, en masse.
Fortunately, it’s common practice to gloss over undesirable aspects of scripture. Numerous cases of smiting (often genocide) of non-believers, including babies, pets, and livestock – in the Old Testament are widely ignored. Capital punishment for minor sins is explained away. Explicit endorsement of slavery is brushed under the proverbial rug.
Remember, the scriptures were explicitly used to defend interracial marriage bans just 50 years ago. In Genesis 9, Noah got drunk and passed out naked in his tent. Noah’s son, Ham, saw him unclothed, and informed his other two brothers outside the tent, who then covered Noah without looking by walking backward. Noah awoke to find himself covered with a garment, and realized what had happened. So Noah cursed Ham’s son, Canaan (odd choice), to a lifetime of servitude to his bretheren. In millennia past, this was used as justification for genocide against the Canaanites. In recent times, the Curse of Ham (Canaan) was used to explain the relatively dark skin of African Americans as a curse, and proof of inferiority. (Ham’s son, Cush’s descendants are thought to have migrated to Ethiopia.) Hopefully, we’ve moved past this sort of thinking, and it shows that we can see beyond the Good Book when deemed appropriate.
Think of it this way – my New King James Version bible is a much easier read than my copy of Romeo & Juliet from 9th grade. Why does it matter that I need an instructor to read 400 year-old words in my native tongue, but I can pick up and easily read my bible? Because in contrast to Shakespeare, the texts of the Christian bible were written roughly 3500-1700 years ago in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic & Greek. It is important to understand that what we are reading is an interpretation of an interpretation of an interpretation (and so on) of a distillation of hand-picked passages, with millennia for evolution of language and humanity.
Remember – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share the same (Abrahamic) God. Judaism has the Torah. Christians added roughly forty Old Testament books to the Torah, along with the New Testament. Finally, Islam added the Koran to complete the trilogy. Specific to Christianity, is the belief that the only way to salvation (heaven) is through Jesus, who is God’s manifestation in human form. He is the way, the truth, and the light. Christ Jesus is the namesake of Christianity.
The best way to biblically support equality is to go on offense. Jesus never said a thing about gay people, but certainly did talk an awful lot about love and mercy and acceptance, especially for those shunned by society. There are literally dozens of passages to choose from (the gospels are packaged in quadrumvirate, after all). Perry hate with Jesus’ words of love, combat judgement with His mercy. (Read to the end, and your prize will be myriad wonderfully liberal Jesus quotes.)
Unfortunately, there will be those who cling to the old way despite the teachings of Christ, Jesus. Some will continue to aggressively ignore their savior and creator. They will obfuscate by claiming to hate the sin, not the sinner. While this is a biblically reasonable argument in a vacuum, it’s not a very kind one, and nothing has ever happened within a vacuum. So let us discuss whether or not homosexuality or homosexual acts should be considered sin, and the fungibility of interpretation as well.
There are 30,000+ verses in the Christian bible. While many contain affirmative references to male/female relations, there are only six passages generally used to identify homosexual acts as sin (three in the Old Testament, and three attributed to Saint Paul). So it’s not that difficult to imagine that they could be glossed over or reinterpreted in the same manner as other undesirable passages before, concerning slavery and genocide (and the like). I’ll take them on in biblical order.
In Genesis, the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah were “exceedingly wicked and sinful,” so God intended to murder all inhabitants of both cities. But since Lot had recently moved to Sodom with his family, God had the decency to come to Abraham (Lot’s uncle) first. Talks were held and Abraham negotiated (!) down from fifty to ten, the number of righteous men in Sodom it would take in order for God to call off the smiting. When a pair of angels were sent to investigate on behalf of God (omnipresent?), Lot found them at the gate, brought them to his home, and arranged a feast in their honor. The men of the city went to Lot’s home in order to know the angels carnally. Lot offered his virgin daughters instead (as one does) which only angered the men. The angels blinded, and went all action-hero, on the mob of perspective gang-rapists, and Lot escaped town the next morning with his family. Minus his wife (Edith? – sans clear identification), whom God turned into a pillar of salt for glancing backward whilst the smiting was at hand. Wine and incest ensued (sensing a pattern), but I digress…
The lesson, again, is follow God’s law – or fall. The implication that some choose to take is that homosexual activity was the impetus for God’s wrath. This is a very strange view. Foremost, gang-rape of angels and consensual monogamous relationships are a world apart. Second, the attempted gang-rape wasn’t motivated by sexual attraction. Conquering armies would sometimes rape the defeated, it was a means of humiliation and exerting dominance. This is not to say that there were no gay men in Sodom, homosexuality is found throughout species. More specifically, there are 20 biblical references to the sins of Sodom, and but a single one mentions sexual behavior of any sort (Jude 7). Rather;
Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. – Ezekiel 16:49
(F)or they went and served other gods and worshipped them... – Deut. 29:26
The tale of Sodom & Gomorrah is one of slovenliness, mistreatment of strangers & the impoverished, and false idol-worship. Interpreting the parable of Sodom & Gomorrah as one opposed to consensual same-sex relationships is a choice, and not a very reasoned one.
Leviticus is more direct.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. – Leviticus 18:22
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. – 20:13
First, realize that “abomination” is derived from the Hebrew term to’ebah. To’ebah is the same term used to describe eating three-day old leftovers (Lev. 19:7), eating pork (11:7), eating shrimp (11:10), and eating lobster & crab (11:12). Not exactly cardinal sins.
So why are these sins ascribed with the same degree of import? Because they are not sins at all, they are/were societal norms. Genesis 43:32 notes that Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews because it is an abomination in the eyes of Egyptians to do so. But neither the food nor the Hebrews were an abomination – it was simply a societal taboo for Egyptians to break bread with Hebrews. Similarly, Exodus 8:26 describes Moses telling the Pharoah that a sacrifice to God within sight of Egyptians would be an abomination to those Egyptians in the eyes of Hebrews. Same as before, the abomination is the societal taboo, not the thing or act itself.
Other sins punishable by death in Leviticus? Adultery (20:10), cursing at your parents (20:9), using the Lord’s name in vain (24:16), and drinking wine in church (10:9). Menstrual period sex? Another abomination, and both will be cut off from your people (20:18). Also, new mothers are not allowed in church for either 33 or 66 days after giving birth, depending on the sex of the child, and must sacrifice a lamb upon return (12:4-6), unless she’s too poor, then doves will suffice. No sitting (or even touching a place) where a woman on her menstrual cycle had sat prior (15:23), no laws hurtful to immigrants (24:22), no harvesting every seventh year (25:4), and all debts are to be forgiven every 50th year (25:10,14).
The Levitical code is largely ceremonial and hygiene-related, with sizable portions specifically meant for priests. More importantly, this was the old law which Jesus fulfilled, and which Christians believe no longer applies to them, given the new covenant. If you are using Leviticus to justify bigotry against gays, but you shave and eat bacon – you are a hypocrite using scripture to justify your bigoted personal politics. Again, this is a choice, and not a very benevolent one.
The New Testament is more relevant to Christians.
While Jesus never mentioned gay people (though he did heal the Roman centurion’s special slave boy), Saint Paul had an awful lot to say about sexual activity in general. This is why it is important to stress the fact that Jesus is the savior, the namesake, and Paul was a mere mortal with all of the flaws that being human entails, including his time as a Pharisee (yeah, I said it).
Paul’s letters comprise the majority of the New Testament, and must be taken in context. The church was trying to find its legs, with a lot of uncertainty about what it meant to be Christian. Especially, how to display commitment in day-to-day life, by either proactively doing things like praying, or by restricting of behavior as sacrifice.
The Old Testament makes clear that the descendants of Abraham (Jews) were God‘s chosen people, and He would reward them individually and as a people so long as they followed the law of the prophets. Paul had to assure Christians that they could attain/retain those rewards given Jews, while eschewing the behavioral expectations of Judaism, and instead following the teachings of Jesus (alongside gentiles, no less).
But if not:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness… – 1:18
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made… so that they are without excuse – 1:20
(B)ecause, although they know God, they did not glorify Him as God…their foolish hearts were darkened. – 1:21
Professing to be wise, they because fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. – 1:22,23
Paul is saying that it is our nature to know God, that we were born that way and created that way. But if we don’t actively glorify him, our natural state would be compromised.
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lust of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie… – 1:24,25
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise men, leaving the natural use of the women, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. – 1:26,27
In other words, knowing God is as natural as physical attraction, and not knowing God is as unnatural as suddenly switching sexual orientation midstream. Or less charitably, as unnatural as same-sex relations.
This would be a good point to discuss Paul and his understanding of what is natural, or perhaps the questionability of interpretation.
Men obviously have naturally long hair – it naturally grows and grows, while we cut it to a preferable length , often based upon societal norms. Same as women. So the word biblically interpreted by men as nature (phusis), plainly does not reflect what we generally take nature to mean in 21st Century English. Nature seems to equate to a societal norm or tradition, which are not natural at all but contrived by man (same as before, in Leviticus).
I am a heterosexual cisgender male. For me to exchange what is natural would mean being with another man. If I had been born a gay man, it would be in my nature to be with another man, and exchanging what was natural would be forcing myself into being with a woman (as some do, with great fanfare). Since homosexuality occurs throughout generally all species observable in nature, we know that it must be completely natural. And since (most) animals aren’t sentient beings, they are not capable of offending a sky god, not capable of sin.
While Saint Paul is certainly not complimentary of same-sex couples in Romans, the verses in question are specific to the subject of faith far more than sexual behavior. Let alone the issues of translation and Paul’s understanding of what is natural. Using Romans as a tool to condemn the LGBTQ community is a choice, and not very Christlike.
Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth describes far more dynamic circumstances than those found in Romans. Following salutations, Paul writes that he had heard that a number of factions had formed within the church. He insinuates that this had stemmed from the question of in-whose name baptisms would be performed. Paul reminds the church that the power and the glory are unto Jesus, and their own rewards would be in heaven. He also reminds Christians that they are building on the foundation of the church, the church is the body of Christ, and the bodies of Christians are temples unto Him. The actions of Christians are reflective of the church, and what is done to your body is also done unto Jesus. Unfortunately, a known sexual deviant was a member of the church in Corinth.
Greeks & Jews alike were questioning the church surrounding the logic of Jesus’ resurrection & the want of a sign as proof of Jesus’ divinity. Paul replied that worldly knowledge/judgment/authority are irrelevant to the church, since God is the ultimate judge.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, church in-fighting resulted in Paul being compelled to testify in secular court. Paul was understandably perturbed. He had to each defend/unify/grow the church. He would unify them by portraying the church as under attack, and satiate the thirst for sacrifice of perspective converts from Judaism by instituting new sexual ordinances (soon to come), which Jesus somehow forgot to mention.
Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanus. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not the wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:12-18
For Jews request a sign, and Greek seek after wisdom; – 1 Corinthians1:22
(T)hat your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 2:5
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 2:14
But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 2:15
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. – 3:9
If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. – 3:14
Do you know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. – 3:16,17
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 4:1
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4:3
For I think that god has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! Even to the present hour we both hunger and thirst and we are poorly clothed, and berate, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure it; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. 4:9-13
Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 1 Cor. 4:16
What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod or in love and a spirit of gentleness? 4:21
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles – that a man has his father’s wife! – 5:1
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 5:6
For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves that wicked person.” 5:12,13
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? – 6:1
I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6:5
But brother goes to law against brother and that before unbelievers! – 6:6
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, not adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, not thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners (sic) will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9,10
First of all, this is not a commandment, but list of ne’er-do-wells withing a rant concerning the growing pains of the church, which should’ve been expected.
More importantly, this is the New King James Version bible. In the (original) King James Version, it says nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind… In the 21st Century King James Version, it switches back to nor the effeminate, nor abusers of…
Odd that it reverts to the former version, where the statement against the LGBTQ community is more certainly more implicit than the explicit condemnation found in the 20th century adaptation. This both points to the fungibility of scripture given the day, and highlights the issues with translating ancient texts, time and again, as if a high-stakes game of telephone.
My NKJV says homosexuals & sodomites, but the Hebrew words were malakoi & arsenokoites. Malakos was a common term which meant anything from soft or delicate to weak, passive, or flexible. Arsenokoitai was a term Paul seemingly invented, and used just twice. Many believe that it may be in reference to abusers of young male temple prostitutes, which were common. Or possibly to men who acted against the societal norm of being sexual initiators, who succumbed to sexually aggressive women.
We are left to infer. Though again, Paul is certainly not being complimentary. But picking two questionably translated words out of a long rant about inner-church legal and ceremonial spats, in order to justify unequal treatment of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters is a choice, and not a very merciful one.
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. – 1 Timothy 8-11
Once again, a questionably-translated term amongst a list of ne’er-do-wells. And as before, the new translation reverts to a less explicit statement. In the KJV, sodomites was translated as them that defile themselves with mankind, and the KJ21 says those who defile…
Feel free to use this as justification for condemnation of the LGBTQ community, just don’t pretend it has anything to do with Jesus.
I feel compelled to note, this letter is also far more interesting than Romans. The verse following ends in, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. This piqued my interest, and google learned me that the pair mentioned were members of the church who were opposed to Paul. They thought the church would be an easier sell if they had forgone the whole second-coming, Armageddon thing. Interesting that founding leaders of the church (at least five), who lived in the time of Paul (and Jesus, it would stand to reason), apparently didn’t think it a particularly tenable tenet of the faith. But I digress…
Speaking of Jesus, and as promised;
Jesus said to him, You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all you soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets. -Matthew 22:37-39
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to law down one’s life for his friends. – John 15:12,13
…(H)e who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first. – John 8:7
Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will also be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. – Matthew 7:1-3
But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. -Matthew 6:15
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. -Matthew 7:12
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye.’ when you yourself do not see the plank that it is your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye. – Luke 6:41
But Jesus said to them, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. – Matthew 23:23-25
And He said, Woe to you also, you lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. – Luke 11:46
But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. – Matthew 12:7
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28
They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat. – Matthew 14:16
…(F)or I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was in prison and you came to me. – Matthew 25:35,36
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My bretheren, you did it to Me.’ – Matthew 25:40
‘…(F)or I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no rink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ – Matthew 25:42,43
Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ – Matthew 25:45
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? – Matthew 6:26
…Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God. – Luke 6:20
But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation. – Luke 6:24
Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3-10
And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 19:24
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? – Matthew 5:46
Then He also said to him who invited Him, When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just. – Luke 14:12-14
So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ’Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in there the poor, and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ – Luke 14:21
And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgiven, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:34
…(F)or everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. – Luke 12; 48
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. – Matthew 7:15
Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are fill of hypocrisy and lawlessness. – Matthew 23:28
’These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ – Matthew 15:8,9