Monday, December 08, 2008

The Bible on Homosexuality

On my most recent Today's Christian Woman blog post, someone asked for a list of Bible verses that discuss homosexuality. I'm posting them here on H-n-T:

Old Testament
Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19
(The people of these cities were involved in all kinds of sexual immorality, including rape, and sex with animals and children. This passage specifically mentions homosexuality.):

4Before Lot and his guests could go to bed, every man in Sodom, young and old, came and stood outside his house 5and started shouting, "Where are your visitors? Send them out, so we can have sex with them!"

Note that when God called for the destruction of cities in the Old Testament, it was because a city had become so reprehensible that God wouldn't put up with their sinfulness any longer. In records outside of the Bible, it has been shown that the Canaanites were highly promiscuous, would have sex with temple prostitutes as part of idol worship, would have sex with animals, and would rape and sacrifice children in the worship of idols. That's why God promised to give Canaan to the Israelites.

In the Law (Torah), Leviticus 18:22:
22It is disgusting for a man to have sex with another man.

Leviticus 20:13:
13It's disgusting for men to have sex with one another, and those who do will be put to death, just as they deserve.

New Testament
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:
9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Notice that other types of sexual immorality--and specifically adultery--are included in this list along with homosexuality.

Romans 1
(In this chapter, Paul is outlining how man has turned away from God since creation):

24So God let these people go their own way. They did what they wanted to do, and their filthy thoughts made them do shameful things with their bodies. 25They gave up the truth about God for a lie, and they worshiped God's creation instead of God, who will be praised forever. Amen. 26God let them follow their own evil desires. Women no longer wanted to have sex in a natural way, and they did things with each other that were not natural. 27Men behaved in the same way. They stopped wanting to have sex with women and had strong desires for sex with other men. They did shameful things with each other, and what has happened to them is punishment for their foolish deeds.

1 Timothy 1:
8We know that the Law is good, if it is used in the right way. 9We also understand that it wasn't given to control people who please God, but to control lawbreakers, criminals, godless people, and sinners. It is for wicked and evil people, and for murderers, who would even kill their own parents. 10The Law was written for people who are sexual perverts or who live as homosexuals or are kidnappers or liars or won't tell the truth in court. It is for anything else that opposes the correct teaching 11of the good news that the glorious and wonderful God has given me.

In Paul's letter to Timothy, he includes a list of people who do things in opposition to the Mosaic Law (Torah). This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather, is a summary of some ways in which the Law is broken.

Big point here is homosexuality (as well as pre-marital and extra-marital sex--and, of course, bestiality, rape, and sex with minors) is in opposition to God's model for sex.

While Jesus never directly discusses homosexuality, he does offer an example of the Genesis creation account in discussing divorce:

Matthew 19:
4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?

One post to this blog (from David) said, "At the same time, we ignore Matthew 19, where JESUS says one of the reasons men don't marry (women) is because God made them that way."

What Jesus says refers to eunuchs, men who are born with defects that make them unable to have sex:

11Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

David, if you are implying that Jesus is defending homosexuality here, that is a false characterization of this passage.

Always a good reminder: We need to be careful when we apply Scripture to our lives today to first consider the historical and cultural context in which it was given. And we need to not bend the meaning of words. This passage is about men who can't have sex: 1) due to birth defects, or 2) due to accidental or purposeful castration. It also discusses that some men won't marry (and will abstain from sex) because they have dedicated themselves to the work of ministry.

As a side note, the point Jesus is making in the Matthew 19 passage is that husbands and wives should stay married. Jewish law had been interpreted such that men could divorce their wives for any reason. I think this verse could be applied as a strong statement against no-fault divorce today.


david said...

Hi Holly,

Thanks for that extra insight on Matt 19.

I wasn't trying to imply any particular stance by Jesus. I think i was just exemplifying the ease of picking an isolated verse to support a cultural preference.

Leviticus describes it as 'disgusting', and says those involved are to be put to death. But i don't think you (or anyone else here) is suggesting capital punishment as the sentence. Meanwhile, leviticus also sentences to death anyone who curses their parents (how many of us would have made it through our teenage years?) and prevents men from trimming their beards.

How do we decide with an ancient verses, which parts are still culturally relevant, and which were related to a different time and place? Sometimes it seems arbitrary. (Did someone say 'concubines'? :)

Meanwhile the Corinthians passage lists the greedy in the same list as the homosexuals. And Jesus, who came to bring "good news to the poor" has an entire speech (Matt 25:31-46) about helping the hungry, thirsty, naked and sick. So, we in the Western world buy our ipods, plasma tvs and SUVs , while 1 billion people don't have clean drinking water. Where is the Christian campaign against that?

It's there - but it's very much on the back burner. In a recent CT poll, i see 20% of people say gay marriage is the most important issue facing the church. Another 50% say it is one of the most important.

While the biblical record on homosexuality can be neatly summed up in a nice little blog post, the gospels are dripping in references to monetary greed. So why does homosexuality get ramped up the agenda? (at least by CT readers)

My guess is because it's easy. I'm not gay. Never have been. Never will be. So I could go full steam ahead on that issue without any fear of implications.

However, if I campaign for no-fault divorce, that requires me (if married) to put in the effort to make it work. If I campaign against the greed of the corporate sector, then I have to examine my own motives when money is involved. If I campaign against world poverty, then I have to think about starving countries when I'm buying my latest electronic gizmo.

I think it is easier for us (myself included) to tell other groups how to live, that step up to the mark ourselves. But changing my own behaviour is so much harder than simply pointing my finger at the sins of others. So in the end it's more convenient to pretend there's only one thing God detests - and it's being done by someone else.

(still trying to be transformed by a renewing of the mind, from what my culture wants to (hopefully) what God wants)
ps. what does H-n-T stand for?

Holly said...

Hi David,

(I also posted this on the TCW site.)

I appreciate that you are really taking the time to think--I think Christians often don't love God with our minds enough.

I've recently finished some research with focus on the question, "What purpose does the Old Testament law have for today's church?" There's not a ton out there on this topic, and it's something of great personal interest to me. I will be posting my research here on my personal blog (H-n-T) in January.

Several posts on the TCW blog posed the question, "Why do Christians put so much effort into issues about gay marriage and abortion, when there are greater concerns, such as poverty?"

I have a different perspective on this: Christians put a ton of effort into poverty. Our emphasis is on action rather than discussion. If you take a look at charities and aid organizations, you'll find that Christians are involved in every aspect of giving. Who runs the soup kitchens and shelters? Who delivers aid to remote parts of Africa? Who cares for orphans? Who visits the prisons and helps released prisoners get back on their feet? Sadly, the answer to these questions is sometimes: No one. But, more often than we recognize, it is churches, religious non-profits, and individual Christians who are offering comfort and help to the suffering.

But we don't hear about this work because, honestly, it's so common. A food pantry run by a church isn't considered newsworthy. So we don't read this in the papers. Instead, we read about the protests and rallies, and even more sadly, bombings of abortion clinics by misguided Christians.

So what's the solution? Should churches start tooting their own horn more often about their charitable work? Should Christians stop all political involvement? I think it's just a fact of life that we know more about controversy than about the good people do (e.g. How often do we hear about celebrities being charitable, compared to the amount of news on their broken relationships and rehab stints?)

I'd interpret the CT stat about gay marriage that you offered on the TCW site differently: 80 percent of those polled think there's something more important for the church to be involved in.

I'd be among that 80 percent, which might seem ironic since I just wrote about gay marriage! Since 2002, when I started writing for Christian publications, most of my writing has been about spiritual growth and how to (or, more often, how NOT to) share your faith.

I don't know what the most important "issue" facing the church is. In my opinion, the most important pursuit for the church should be: How do we develop our relationship with God and with others? And the second most important: How do we help others who are seeking a relationship with God? How do we respond to the obstacles that are keeping others from knowing God?

At the same time, I think it is appropriate for American Christians to take a stand about political issues as God leads them. For example, I have a couple Christian friends who are extremely active environmentalists. It's just a matter of letting the Bible shape our politics, rather than using Scripture to back up already formed opinions.


Holly said...

On the name H-n-T:

It stands for "Holl and Tawn." I started the blog solely as a way to keep in touch with another Christian writer. She didn't have much time on her hands to blog, and it ended up becoming my personal blog.

Before I set up the blog, I'd checked to see if anyone was using the acronym "HNT." I didn't find anything back then. Some months later, a trend arose called "Half-Nekkid Thursday," or HNT, in which people post photos online of bare body parts (usually benign stuff like toes, elbows, and kneecaps).

I considered changing the name of my blog, but I'd put considerable effort into emailing the link to churches and pastors, and there were folks subscribed to the blog by this time. So the name stayed. It does make me happy to see it--reminds me of my dear friend (and reminds me that I need to call her and catch up).

LaTonya said...

Yes, yes you DO need to call her and catch up! :-)

Anonymous said...

Christian cunts. Nice example of the all-loving Savior, as per usual.

Holly said...

I would ask you to define what you mean by "all-loving." Is it someone who lets you do whatever you want to them, including abuse, disrespect, etc.? Is it "all loving" for someone to refrain from ever giving their actual, true thoughts to you? If that's the definition, I'd say that an "all-loving" person wasn't loving at all. Someone who can't tell me the truth when I'm hurting myself isn't much of a friend. I wouldn't call it "loving" for a mother to allow her child to touch a hot stove or play with knives.

Permissiveness is not the same as love.

NOTE TO READERS: I really don't like profanity on my blog, and I don't like anonymous posts because I feel people should be accountable for their statements. So more often than not, I delete comments like these. However, I think it is important to publicly present hostile attitudes toward Christianity, particularly ones such as this one which juxtaposes an expectation for Christianity ("all-loving") with the opposite behavior (the insult of "Christian c----"). Christians are often accused of hypocrisy by folks who exhibit hypocrisy.