Through my long associations with various churches of different denominations, I have heard many things regarding homosexuality. Most of it was negative and the rest was, at best, indifferent. For many years I held to that indifferent attitude. I have come to know many people in the gay community of the past several years. I find that the subject does touch me and an indifferent attitude is no longer acceptable. As a Christian I am not supposed to judge, but the rightness or wrongness about a thing determines how I am to deal with it. I just never understood how loving someone, despite what the sex was, could be sin.
St. Augustine said that if the Bible seems to conflict with what we know through sound reasoning then we must reinterpret the Bible. Sin has always been an act of choice. I know that homosexuality is not a chosen lifestyle. So how can it be a sin? With much prayer, I examined the various passages in the Bible linked to homosexuality and asked God to reveal the truth, no matter what it was, to me.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah seems to have had a great impact on how the churches view homosexuality. Because of that story, we have the terms “sodomy” and “sodomite” in our vocabulary. The key word to the story is “know.” The original Hebrew word used is yada. It is used more than 900 times in the Bible. For most of the time it means “gain knowledge of.” It means “sexual intercourse” in less than 10. The text of Genesis suggests that the intended meaning of the word is the first meaning — to gain knowledge of.
Sodom was a walled city. Just a few years earlier (Gen. ch. 13) it was invaded by foreign armies. Lot had been captured. His uncle Abraham rescued him and his family and liberated the cities of the plain. To the people of the region, strangers represented a possible threat. They were met with justifiable suspicion. Two strangers arrive at the city gates at sunset where they are met by Lot who invites them home. Cities such as Sodom probably had laws regulating the movement of foreigners within the city walls. The citizens of Sodom didn’t know who these people were. For all they knew, these two guests could have been there to do the city some harm. Of course the people of Sodom wanted to know them.
Lot’s reaction to this was interesting. He offered to turn over to the crowd his two virgin daughters in place of the angels. The anti-gay sentiment is that since they refused the offer, they were only interested in men and the whole affair was homosexually motivated. Would a “righteous” man turn his two daughters over to a mob to be raped? Even to protect two immensely powerful beings who could take care of things without Lot’s help?
What was Lot doing then? To answer this question, we must look at the role that women played in Lot’s time. They were the property of the men. In the 29th chapter of Genesis we find that Jacob had to work for his father-in-law, Laban, for fourteen years before he could marry his two daughters. Similarly, Lot’s daughters were valuable assets to him. Virginity was important when it came time to set a price that their future husbands had to pay for them. They were literally “money in the bank.” Lot told the crowd to do “what was right.” Possibly, Lot was offering his daughters as hostages to guarantee his guests’ behavior. To put it in modern terms: he was posting bail. By 20th century standards, this act would not get him a “Father of the Year” award, but in his day such behavior could have been correct. The crowd turned the offer down, probably out of fear of the threat two strangers represented. They were, also, wicked people. Their wanting to know who the two angels were, probably involved such interview techniques as hot pokers. Lot’s offer would also have denied them an evening of fun and torture. Of course they were upset. Sodom’s only real legacies are the words: “sodomite” and “sodomy.”
What was the real reason that the cities were destroyed? In Ezekiel 16:48-50 the prophet describes the sins of Sodom as idolatry, inhospitality, pride and lack of care for widows orphans and the poor. Homosexuality was not mentioned, directly or by inference.
Leviticus 18:22 says that “man shall not lie with a man as with a woman.” Such actions are considered an abomination. The idea “abomination” usually refers to unacceptable temple practices. A pig is merely “unclean,” offering it as a sacrifice is an “abomination.” Deuteronomy 23:17 carries a similar idea. In 2 Kings chapter 23, King Josiah causes sweeping religious reform. He evicts all of the priests of pagan deities and he burns down the “houses of the sodomites” (KJV). Other translations refer to these sodomites as temple prostitutes. These were men who engaged in homosexual acts as part of pagan religious ceremonies. In I Kings chapters 14 and 15 King Asa deals with the same problem. He just escorts them to the border. Kings Josiah and Asa were enforcing the Levitical law, and showing, in the process, God’s intent behind the law.
So why wasn’t God more specific in the first place? Perhaps the intent behind the law was so obvious at the time that further explanation was unnecessary. The people of Israel had, also, been without God’s guidance for a long time. Perhaps they were not mature enough spiritually to deal with situations where an act is wrong in one case and not in another. Another possible answer to this is that God could not expect the Israelites to tolerate homosexuality back then. Even today, homosexually is not widely tolerated. Such understanding was beyond them. The issue of slavery is another good example of this. Throughout the Bible, the Israelites and early Christians owned slaves. The Apostle Paul even returned a runaway slave to his owner. Paul did not say that such an institution was evil or that, as a good Christian, Philemon should give Onesimus his freedom. Such an idea would have been unthinkable. We weren’t ready for it. The Bible says that God doesn’t change. We have to. That is what growth is. Society’s tolerance of homosexuality has improved over the last few decades. Maybe God was waiting for us to reach that level of tolerance before allowing a man like Rev. Troy Perry to found the first Christian church that ministers to gays and lesbians.
Do the Levitical laws apply to Christians? If so, then why do we eat pork? A common theme throughout Paul’s epistles is the idea that we are no longer under the law. That law leads only to death, whereas we are under grace that leads to eternal life. When two people make a contract, they agree to do specific things. That contract is in effect until all of the conditions are met. Then it is no longer in effect. Jesus’ death on the cross met the conditions of the old covenant. Jesus came to offer us a new one. This new one only has one basic requirement: Love. Love God. Love your neighbor.
The New Testament does cover the topic of homosexuality in a two, maybe three, places. In Romans, Paul describes people that have turned away from God. He lists several dire results of this. Homosexuality is among them. Scripture is inspired by God. The words, however, are those of Paul. God did not dictate the Bible to its writers like someone would dictate a letter to a secretary. Otherwise, the writing style throughout the Bible would be the same. It is not. The message that Paul was putting across is that rejecting God leads to degeneracy. The degeneracies expressed in Romans might just reflect Paul’s own biases. He lists his notions of degeneracy. If I were writing it, for example, I might have used “child molesting” “pornography” and “drunk driving” instead.
I Corinthians, and I Timothy, lists homosexuals along with some others that will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The NIV translation expands the term to “homosexual offender,” the RSV to “homosexual pervert.” Are there homosexual perverts? Yes there are, but not all homosexuals are perverts. Just like not all heterosexuals are child molesters just because most child molesters are heterosexual. The Bible covers what is right and wrong in a relationship. Those rules of love, trust, fidelity and monogamy apply to gays as well as straights. I will admit that there are many gays out there who are unfamiliar with these concepts (include responsibility in those rules). The same can be said about straights.
One of the more ludicrous arguments is the one that if God had meant for there to be gay people the He would have created “Adam and Steve”. Are Adam and Eve meant to be role models? Our role model is supposed to be Jesus. Adam and Eve were just the people who first sinned. The only reason this argument gets mentioned is to put across this thought: Why didn’t God create woman the same way he created man? Why from Adam’s flesh? God created the ideal mate for Adam based on who he (Adam) was. One could conjecture that our ideal mates are also based on who we are, gay or straight.
Many Bible students talk about what was actually said by the various writers of the Bible. There has been so many different translations in many different languages that the original words are not important. I think that what is important is what God says to us through whatever words we happen to be looking at. I don’t understand Ancient Greek. How can I hope to understand the Bible based on my understanding of a language that I don’t understand. The Bible tells us that the only true understanding is supposed to come from the Holy Spirit.
Skeptics, as well as believers, claim that anything can be proven with the Bible. I agree. My interpretation of Scripture, I think, is just as valid as the one that says that homosexuality is a sin. Both are valid, which is Truth? Obviously, they can’t both be.
Various religious organizations have been working very hard to get laws passed to curtail the passing of other laws guaranteeing equal rights for gays and lesbians. One such group, on a recent talk show, justified their position on the grounds that homosexuality was morally wrong. They said that gays shouldn’t be discriminated against and can have any job that they were qualified for. They rescinded that generosity when the subject of teachers came up. Isn’t that what discrimination is? They said that they were afraid that a gay teacher might “recruit” one of their children. All of my teachers, to the best of my knowledge, have been straight. Well, one might have been gay. I don’t think that one gay teacher among many teachers would have that strong an impact in this area, especially when the rest of society is trying so hard to encourage heterosexuality. Being gay is simply not a choice.
Many of our young lesbigay people hear what is said from the pulpit about homosexuality. That it is a sin. They feel guilty because, no matter how hard they repent, it just doesn’t go away. I believe that my God can do anything. He can even turn a gay person straight. I, also, don’t believe that He will. It would be like solving racial unrest by making everybody the same color. What has to change is attitudes. That is not what is preached. Many gays and lesbians resolve the conflict by turning their backs on a God that they are told has already rejected them. Many choose suicide.
Discrimination, ignorance and fear (and fear’s byproducts – hatred, violence and murder), these are what anti-gay groups are justifying, directly and indirectly. All that I am trying to justify is two people loving each other. I wonder which one God stands behind?