The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Homosexuality and the Bible, and More Lipscomb Troubles

In Lipscomb another city official is in trouble. This time it's the fire chief, but the Jefferson County Sherrif's Deputy who was quoted in the Birmingham News said he did not know what the warrant was for. Seems like that would be easy enough for the guy to find out, if he was being interviewed, but that is not the story. The story is a city with a complete lack of leadership, in every major department. The mayor, the "police commissioner," the fire chief. I hear that the sheriff's department has been itching to get in there and clean things up.

Driving through Lipscomb on Avenue K you see a couple of new signs erected. I don't often give free pubicity to attorneys, but here is the sign. You can read about the blasting and damage in the first few issues of the Western Tribune in May.

How about a sign that says:

Incompetence Damage

If you are damaged from lack of leadership in this area, please call...

Homosexuality and the Bible

Well here goes. I already know that certain individuals will say I am “spinning” the Bible verses to suit me, but no, what I have done is research. Some of you have heard this before, so sorry for the repeat.

I will start with the story of Sodom. The sin of Sodom was not homosexuality; it was their behavior and callous indifference toward the weak and vulnerable. Read Ezekiel 16: 49-50 (Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.), and all the other verses in the Bible that discuss Sodom and you will see that not one of them mentions homosexuality. In Ezekiel the abominable things are listed, and they are pride, attitude and refusal to help the needy. Sure, irresponsible sex is one of the elements of the story, but I hardly think God would have approved what the men of Sodom were doing if the angels had been female, so it is not just a homosexual thing. This story does not condemn homosexuality as an orientation, nor does it condemn or even speak of committed loving same sex relationships.

To follow up on Sodom, read Jude 7 ( Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire). Many assume that “going after strange flesh” must mean homosexuality, because it seems unnatural to them. But in that time, according to Genesis 6, “Sons of God” (angels) took the daughters of humans as wives. Most people think this is what sealed Sodom’s fate. Jude was talking about "heterosexual sex" between human women and male angels (pretending to be humans), or strange flesh, not sex between two men.

Everyone has heard the verses in Leviticus that are used to condemn homosexuals, but let me put them in context. Leviticus 18:22 (Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination) and 20:13 (If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them) should be understood after considering what was going on at the time. Three different times we are told that these and other rules in those chapters are meant to prevent the Israelites from doing what the Egyptians and Canaanites did, in this case, homosexual temple prostitution. Many sexual practices, along with other things, are mentioned in these chapters, and these are practices that were going on in the other cultures as parts of fertility rituals and a desire for immortality (semen was thought to be the essence of life, and depositing semen into the body of one of the priests was believed to gain the favor of the goddess of love and fertility, Ishtar or Astarte, to guarantee immortality.) This is not a condemnation of homosexuality in general, or of loving same sex relationships, this is a condemnation of practicing temple prostitution to seek the favor of a false god.

Even more commonly used as a condemnation of homosexuality are Paul’s writings in Romans 1:21-28 (because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up into vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not covenant.). Briefly, Paul is addressing people who refuse to acknowledge and glorify God (v. 21), who began worshiping idols (v. 23), and were more interested in earthly pursuits than spiritual pursuits (v. 25), and gave up their natural, or innate, passion for the opposite sex in an unbounded search for pleasure (v. 26-27) and lived lives of covetousness, malice, envy, strife, slander, disrespect for parents, pride and hatred of God (v. 29-31). The model of homosexuality that Paul addresses is associated with idol worship or temple prostitution and people who in their search for earthly pleasure broke away from their natural sexual orientation and participated in promiscuous sex with anyone available. He does not address people whose natural orientation is homosexuality, or their willingness to enter into committed relationships.

The last two verses that are often used against gays are 1Corinthians 6:9-10 (Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.), and 1 Timothy 1:10 (for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine). The Greek word in 1 Corinthians used to refer to homosexuals is malakoi, and is translated “effeminate” in the King James Version. Some theologians think this word, taken in the context of the time it was written, meant soft, like a woman, or traits like vanity and self indulgence, traits unacceptable to men at the time. Others carry it further, thinking the term refers to male prostitutes. Another Greek word used here and in Timothy is arsenokoitai, a combination of two words meaning “bed” and “male.” In other writings of the time that discuss homosexual sex, or one of the partners in gay sex, this word was never used, and other words were used. Paul would not have needed to resort to this ambiguous compound word, which other writers used to describe instances when one male used his superior power or position to take sexual advantage over another. Newer versions of the Bible seem to suggest that to commit the sin referred to in 1 Corinthians one must use homosexuality in an aggressive or offensive way (NIV - “homosexual offender” and NRSV - “sodomite” and as we have seen, the men of Sodom were the ultimate example of sexual aggression and oppression.).

These verses have been mistranslated, misinterpreted, misapplied, and mistakenly singled out as proof that God does not approve of loving and committed same sex relationships, where in fact, none of those verses address the subject, rather they address particular sexual acts committed by certain people who have turned away from God, or who are seeking favor from other gods.

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1 comment:

Trey said...

I sent this link to a theologian friend of mine, who wishes to remain nameless. he had this resonse:

"It's hard for me to respond in kind to this kind of argument, because I no longer feel the need to justify or explain away the biblical writings. I understand that these are formative writings for many people, and what they believe about them is important to them, but for me it is simply a case of ancient writers trying to deal with the culture around them. Whether or not they believed homosexuality to be "sinful" is a moot point, because they were simply reflecting the culture of the day, and hopefully as society has progressed we now understand things differently - hopefully better, more enlightened, but definitely differently. The "eureka" moments in the biblical writings were those rare times when they stepped outside the common way of thinking and said something new and radical, like when Paul (or somebody) said that " in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free." Now that was worth saying and a totally new thought! When the 21st century church tries to cling to 1st century societal norms it is closing it's eyes to reality - like when 68% of Republicans say they don't believe in evolution. That's like saying I don't believe the earth revolves around the sun, because Genesis says otherwise."