Posted by: minnow | April 3, 2013

The Monster in the Murky Water

PLEASE READ FIRST: If you follow the links I provide in this post and decide to comment, PLEASE be civil in how you say what you say.  Refrain from vulgar language and name calling even if that is your natural form of hyperbole.  To put it bluntly–I want to be the snarkiest person with whom any of my links need to deal. 😉

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WARNING:  I’m going to talk about sex so if that topic bothers you, you probably want to find a different post to read.

I lifted the following quote from this blog:

I do not believe it is right, morally, for a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman, or to be romantically involved in anyway for that matter. The Bible, in both Testaments, is clear, homosexual relationships are an abomination in the eyes of Yahweh, the God and Father of Jesus Christ. Therefore, they are also an abomination in Jesus’ eyes. In other words, homosexuality is wickedness.

In light of my last post, I was drawn to what the writer claims is clear in both Testaments and have decided the time has come for me to weigh-in, again.  Only this time specifically about the topic of same sex relationships and what “the Bible clearly says”.   I wish I could say I came to care about this aspect of equal rights simply because caring is the right thing to do but the truth is, for me, the issue is personal.

According to Bible scholars only a few passages in scripture mention homoerotic behavior. None are cut and dry.  The first passage, found in Genesis, is a story, specifically the story of Sodom.  The second are part of the purity codes found in Leviticus which have a lot to say about human sexual behavior in general and include a couple verses which focus on homoerotic activity.  Finally, there are three references in the New Testament, two from Paul’s letters–I Corinthians and I Timothy–which appear to be part of what are known as “vice lists” and a third located in the first chapter of Romans.

Before we delve into what these specific verses say we probably need to address the fallacy of the concept of one man and one woman in a committed, voluntary, monogamous relationship as “Biblical marriage”.  According to Thomas Kevin Higgs in Hospitality to Strangers, in

the ancient Mediterranean world from which the Bible came the purpose of marriage was the production of a legitimate heir…intimacy, and certainly sexual faithfulness, at least for men, were neither values nor concerns.  In the Old Testament… whether we look at patriarchs like Jacob or religious leaders like Moses or kings like David, we have ample evidence for a common pattern of multiple wives.

and that was Biblical marriage in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament Paul urges Christians not to marry at all.  In addition, the accepted practice of the day for marriage certainly did not have young people making marriage matches for themselves the way we in the West think of marriage today.  Therefore in three distinct ways modern marriage does not resemble “Biblical marriage”.  So now let us now turn to the verses I mentioned earlier.

Most scholars believe the visitors in the story of Sodom in Genesis chapter 19 are angels which puts a unique slant on what actually transpires in the story.  Rather than wanting  sex with other men the gang of men gathered outside Lot’s house sought to have sex with angels.  In ancient times having sexual relations with supernatural beings was akin to taking their spiritual powers, thus it was an abomination to God.  As a side note, Lot’s solution to the problem–to offer his virgin daughters to appease the mob–can hardly be seen by the present day Church as a “morally acceptable” alternative.

Understanding the purity codes, of which the Leviticus verses are  a part, requires acknowledging that the ancient Hebrew people were patriarchal.  To put it bluntly, women were considered less valuable than men, treated like property, and had almost no personal freedom.  Additionally, violence was a part of every day life.   And the Hebrews often found themselves living among other people groups who were equally violent and patriarchal.  The purity codes, then, served the duel purpose of protecting the Hebrew people, especially those who could not protect themselves, and of setting them apart from other groups so that God’s love for His creation could be revealed.  Knowing this about the culture offers an alternative reading of the Leviticus 18:22 prohibition (and its repetition in Leviticus 20:13), “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman” which could suggest that treating an equal (another man) like a subordinate (a woman) was the offense.

Even if one rejects the above interpretation of  the Leviticus verses it must be pointed out that multiple chapters in Leviticus outline behavior scripture calls detestable, an abomination, forbidden, and worthy of death.  Yet the modern day Church picked these two verses to champion.  We gladly ignore the forbidden wearing of cloth woven from two types of material and the outlawed marking of our bodies with tatoos.  We consider no longer applicable the decree to not cut the hair on the side of our heads, the directive to not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight, and the declaration to not eat meat with blood still in it.  Yet each of these injunctions are found in Leviticus as well.  To say our outrage with homoerotic behavior is disingenuous is putting it mildly at best.

Like the Leviticus verses the two “vice list” verses are essentially copies of one another.  The problem with these verses is that they rely on a Greek word that is not found anywhere else, not in scripture and not in other sources from the ancient world prior to their appearance in Paul’s writing.  The one clue we can get from Paul’s writing itself is in the order in which the word appears, within the group of “economic sins”.  Thus I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10 most probably denounce the exchange of money for sex, in this case possibly homoerotic sex.

The final passage that makes any reference to homoerotic behavior is found in Romans 1:26-27.  As plainly as this verse is read in most translations and as bluntly as it is interpreted by many traditional Church leaders today one would be tempted to say it’s a slam dunk.  But, they would be wrong.  Early church discussions regarding these verses suggest that verse 26 has nothing to do with women having sexual relations with other women at all but rather its focus is the positions these women use during sexual relations with men so as to avoid pregnancy.  And while verse 27 seems more explicit, most Bible scholars agree the main issue in both these verses is the the casual, promiscuous nature of the behavior rather than the type of behavior.

So that’s it–the murky water from which some modern day Church leaders build their prohibition of marriage equality and their damnation of homosexuality.  With so much about which the Bible is more clear and more vocal available to champion I am embarrassed and angry that the so-called mouth pieces of God have chosen to rattle their sabers against equality and justice.  To my friends, acquaintances, family members, and strangers in the GLBTQ community I apologize.

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Here‘s an excellent post by Jessica Gerson, also on the topic.

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Responses

  1. […] of the Church claim to speak for my God while I politely hold my tongue.  As I discussed in my last post, condemnation of monogamous same-sex relationships is. not. supported. in the Bible any more […]


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