[Pictured: Myself and LGBTQ ally blessing LGBTQ folks who were participating in the 2007 Equality Ride which aimed to end homophobia on Christian Campuses. Couresty of Soulforce]
HOMOSEXUALITY IS NOT A SIN
Christian fundamentalists are convinced that homosexuality is a sin, loosely supported by eight passages of the bible. Though in order to understand these verses and why they are not accurate or applicable to condemnation of homosexuality we must understand a few ideas:
- The bible can be used to support many things, if taken out of context, especially, devaluing of women (i.e., 1 Corinthians 14:34-36), slavery, and apartheid.
- Society is an evolving entity; words are lost in translation, power shifts between peoples (and tends to stay in the hands of males) and ideas lose applicability, e.g., the Levitical Holiness Codes were once necessary until Jesus denounced the necessity of washing hands before eating (Matthew 15:18-20). Translations change with the prejudices of the current culture.
- Literalists will find themselves in a heap of contradiction; the bible is less literal than it appears to be. Instead, it is full of metaphors and similes to paint a picture of a life that God expects us to live. Jesus denounces the meticulousness of the culture over and over and emphasizes love for God and your neighbors as the highest governance (Matthew 22:36-40).
- Gender roles were much different in biblical times than what they are today; therefore to subject a man to stereotypically female acts was disgraceful, e.g.,. men being a receiver in penetration. Biblical society regarded females as property of males: check out the story of Lot and the lady at the well. As society evolves for the better, gender roles evolve as well.
- Christianity is an individual process. You must have an individual relationship with God and no one can presume to know whom God accepts and whom God doesn’t. God made us all different and therefore anticipates much variation amongst us. If he hadn’t made us different with different expectations, free will wouldn’t mean a thing. God insists that we expand our capacity to love each other in our own unique demonstration.
Once you can understand these ideas, you can begin to look at scripture closer and what it means for the LGBTQ community.
The following passages are sometimes used to allude to the condemnation of homosexuality, but I will quickly address the true purpose and law of each passage.
The 8 verses in a snap:
Genesis 19:1-29- The result of Sodom and Gomorrah is actually addressing inhospitable acts, and rape.
Judges 19:1-30- This passage is addressing rape.
Leviticus 18:1-30- These are holiness codes specific for the Jews. They needed cleanliness and isolation to rebuild, therefore God gave these to abide so that they may be fruitful and healthy; which included not mixing and maintaining the male-gender superiority.
Leviticus 20:1-27- These are holiness codes specific for the Jews. They needed cleanliness and isolation to rebuild, therefore God gave these to abide so that may be fruitful and healthy; which included not mixing and maintaining the male-gender superiority.
1 Corinthians 6:9-17- This passage use two, originally Greek words, that do not mean practicing homosexuals, to condemn practicing homosexuals. This passage refers to male prostitutes (aresenokoitai) and the soft or weak in nature or morals (malakoi). Below is the in-depth derivative of the words arsenokoites and malakos.
1 Timothy 1:3-13- This passage use two, originally Greek words, that do not mean practicing homosexuals, to condemn practicing homosexuals. This passage refers to male prostitutes (aresenokoitai) and the soft or weak in nature or morals (malakoi).
Below is the in-depth derivative of the words arsenokoites and malakos.
Jude 5-7- Refers to unnatural lust between men and angels, who aren’t even humans—homosexuality is between men and men, women and women, not humans and other creatures of God.
Romans 1- The issue here is idolatry. The Corinthian Gentiles exchanged their views of God with images of God’s creatures (Romans 1:21-24). And God is saying that, for this, he will let them self destruct.
* Translations of the Bible began with Greek or Hebrew to Latin then to Greek and Hebrew and now into English. There is no known word for practicing homosexuals in any of the former three languages.
Toevah- Is the original Hebrew used for “abomination” and is more closely translated to taboo or dirtiness not sin or injustice. In fact, if the Hebrew writers wanted to correlate homosexuality as a sin, they would have used the Hebrew term “zimah” which is used elsewhere in the bible to describe sin—unlinked to homosexuality.
Malakos- Often mistranslated as homosexual; in original Greek it translates as “soft”, “loose”, “wanton”, or “weak”, which is used as a connotation of effeminacy in one part of the bible and to describe cloth in another part (Matthew 11:8). In the distant patriarchal society, it was disgraceful for men to be effeminate. Up until the 20th century, Roman Catholicism understood Malakos as referring to a masturbator—it seems that words are like water.
Arsenokoites- Often mistranslated as homosexual, in original Greek, this is a term to describe sexual exploitation, particularly between males: prostitution.
Eunuchs- A direct Greek translation of this word means a castrated male who acts as a chamber maid for women. In Matthew 19:11-13, Jesus introduces three different categories of Eunuchs and even states, that for these people, marriage is not necessary. Eunuchs refer to castrated males, homosexuals, and people who renounce marriage in order to serve God.
Para physin- In the bible, the term “unnatural” is often used to justify the condemnation of homosexuality, but para physin is most closely translated to meaning unusual. And in a culture where men and women comprise the majority, surely same-sex couples will seem unusual, but not wrong. God acted in an “unnatural” way, and surely he is nothing but goodness (Romans 11:24).
Ideas to consider:
The case against ex-gays:
Definitely, God can help a gay man live well as a heterosexual if he chooses. Jesus helped the blind and mute man talk again in Matthew 12:22. Is being blind and mute sinful? Surely not, though if you want a more convenient life you may ask for sight and speech. Just as some gay people recognize the cultural inconvenience of being gay—God often bestows peace on them.
What is natural?
- Higher acting mammals that are below the conscious level of free will often display signs of same-sex relationships.
- A rich man’s entrance into heaven- This is an example of how not understanding the cultural context and being too literal can throw you off-base in interpreting God’s word. In Matthew 19:21-23, Jesus tells his followers that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. As a literalist, this may seem daunting, actually impossible. Though, when you take a step back and understand the cultural context you realize that “the eye of the needle” is a gateway that allows passage through the massive walls of Jerusalem—that still exists today! For security, The Eye of the Needle was the only entrance at night and was so small that a rich man would have to unload his camel and slowly and onerously lead his camel through the small passage—a very difficult task indeed.
This is just a brief synopsis hoping to address the larger arguments. More evidence can be found in personal study as well as in further readings:
What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D.
Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, John Shelby Spong
Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality, Jack Rogers
How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart
Ex-Gays? There Are None!, Rev. Sylvia Pennington
Important Note: all of these authors are biblical scholars who thought twice about the condemnation of homosexuality and none of them are, in fact, gay themselves—how amazing!
In love and solidarity,