Despite books, articles and media interviews with LGBTQ-friendly clergy addressing the handful of biblical references to homosexuality, there is still a great deal of misinformation about what the Bible actually says regarding same-gender relationships. It has occurred to me that I’ve written about the topic in a piecemeal fashion in this column and never offered something more comprehensive. I hope that this two-part series, “A Survivor’s Guide to Biblical Basics,” will offer a solid starting point to engage in respectful dialogue with homophobic Christians.
The Bible includes references to “activities,” not loving, monogamous same-gender relationships. Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, nor is homosexuality listed as a sin in the Ten Commandments. In fact, “homosexuality” is a nineteenth century word. It doesn’t appear in the Bible. [pullquote]Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, nor is homosexuality listed as a sin in the Ten Commandments. In fact, “homosexuality” is a nineteenth century word. It doesn’t appear in the Bible.[/pullquote]
The Bible is not the literal word of God. Many rightly believe that the Bible is holy, sacred, and divinely inspired, but not the actual word because its literal application would make it silly or cruel in some cases. It’s a complicated book because translation issues arise as does understanding social norms of the day that cannot be used or easily transferred to a modern society.
Even if the Bible (only for discussion purposes) did condemn same-sex relations, it doesn’t, for example, condemn slavery. Apostle Paul said that a slave must be obedient to his master. Does this mean slavery is acceptable and homosexuality is not? The civilized world considers slavery barbaric and immoral. King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Today, this practice is outlawed in most of the world. The Bible was successfully used for two thousand years to support the divine right of kings, but no more.
The references to men with men are often taken out of context. The most cited instances regarding what is perceived as homosexual behavior are from about seven passages. This month, I focus on Genesis.
In Genesis 19:1-5 (http://tiny.cc/azp83w), God didn’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality, as is often interpreted by Christian conservatives. As noted and widely viewed by historians, sociologists and theologians, God destroyed the cities because they were not hospitable to two angels. Jesus seems to underscore this in Matthew 10:14-15 (http://tiny.cc/w0p83w), and Luke 10:7-16 (http://tiny.cc/62p83w) .
A man named Lot invited two strangers into his home and provided a meal. He also sought to protect them. A group of men surrounded Lot’s house with the intent to rape the angels. They also threatened Lot if he didn’t cooperate. He refused. Needless to say, the Creator wasn’t pleased. Wives, children, grandparents, and probably slaves all died in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God determined there were no righteous persons in Sodom and Gomorrah worth saving. Clearly, this passage isn’t about sex or healthy relationships between two people of the same gender. A rape was threatened, though never occurred.
There also are references throughout the Bible that God destroyed the cities because the residents worshiped other gods, such as in Deuteronomy 29:18-23; murdered, oppressed the weak, failed to defend orphans, and didn’t care for widows (Isaiah 1:9-17 – http://tiny.cc/y5p83w); were liars and adulterers (Jeremiah 23:14 – http://tiny.cc/o7p83w); were cruel and neglected children (Lamentations 4:4-9); and were proud, haughty, gluttonous, living in prosperous ease, and ignoring the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
Next month, we’ll look at the other references: Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Romans, Corinthians, Timothy, and Jude. In doing so, you’ll see how often an error, when repeated often enough, seems like the unchanging truth. However, it is nothing more than misinterpretation and misunderstanding that has long needed correction.
* Paul, an author, attorney and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY, does spiritual health and wellness counseling for LGBTQ persons of faith. Reach him through www.CorporateChaplaincy.biz.