It is the generally accepted dogma of many of the denominations of the Christian religion that homosexuality is a sin, contrary to the law of God, or at least, unnatural and to be despised. The foundations of this argument lie in interpretation of the scriptures: Creation, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus 18:22 and 24, Romans 1:18-32 and so on. Some, however, have begun to question the traditional anti homosexual ethic. The issue is so controversial it threatens to split denominations in a way which has not occurred since the issue of slavery. A critical examination of biblical scripture should help clarify the Bible's stance on homosexuality.
The 'traditional' anti homosexuality argument stems from what is seen as repeated condemnation of sodomy and emasculation of men. According to this view:
Genesis 1 cites that God made man AND woman, therefore humans are designed for male-female interaction ("Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve").
Genesis 19 sees the Lord's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for the "ungodly, lawless, unnatural and extreme immorality" (2 Peter 2:6, 8 and Jude 7) of their sexual sins.
Leviticus sees outright condemnation of homosexuality - Leviticus 18:22, 24 describe it as "detestable" and "defiling"; in 20:13 it is a detestable action that deserves the death penalty.
Deuteronomy 23:17 forbids the presence of a "Male or female prostitute" in Israel.
- Deuteronomy 22:5 is seen as a condemnation of transvestitism as it forbids women to wear men's clothes and vice versa.
1 Kings 14 again describes the "actions of male shrine prostitutes" as "detestable"
- Romans 1:26 condemns homosexual behaviour as against the will of God.
- In 1 Corinthians 9-11 Paul again condemns homosexuals claiming that they will not "inherit the kingdom of God".
In this way, the bible can be interpreted to say that homosexuality is unnatural, against God, and requires severe judgement. Society's acceptance of homosexuality and rejection of homophobes is the fulfillment of Isaiah
's prophecy that "Good will be paraded as evil, and evil as good". The AIDS
epidemic is often cited as divine punishment of homosexuals, and the idea of homosexuality not being a 'choice' made by the individual is rejected: Paul's judgement in Romans 1
is accepted - that homosexuality is rooted in rebellion against God. Placing control over our desires is an acceptable requirement, as the commands against homosexuality are from God, therefore cannot be disputed.
Unfortunately, many of the traditional anti homosexuality arguments are not contextualised when they are employed. Consider, for example, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: this is clearly the wrath of God against the inhabitants' sin. What is often overlooked is what exactly this sin actually is. It is not for homosexual practises that these cities were annihilated, but for the homosexual rape, which was the emasculation of men. (00100 says "God was planning to destroy the cities before he sent the two angels to the town, which led to the crowd wanting to rape them. Genesis 18, verses 17, 20-32 show that God was going to destroy the cities for unmentioned sins, but Abraham pleads with God to go down and see if there are any righteous people in the cities, and if so, to spare the whole town. In response to Abraham's pleas, God sends the two angels to investigate the cities, which leads to the whole gang-rape thing. So God doesnt destroy the cities solely for the homosexuality, although that may have been part of it). It is also unclear in many of the mentions of "male shrine prostitutes" such as that in Deuteronomy 23:17 as to whether it is prostitution or homosexuality that is being condemned. This mention particularly appears to condemn prostitution:
"No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the LORD your God to pay any vow, because the LORD your God detests them both"
In the New Testament, Paul condemns homosexual behaviour of those who "give up natural for unnatural behaviour". Although quite clearly a reference to homosexual behaviour in Romans 1, this again does not appear to be the total of the issue in question: much of what Paul describes as "sexual immorality" is lust - something which God has forbidden through the ages. The sexually transmitted diseases which Paul sees as the "due penalty" for precedings are not justifiably that because they did not affect everyone involved: were it divine punishment surely all wrongdoers would be affected?
There are some mentions of homosexuality however which are undisputable: those in Leviticus leave little room for the imagination - it would be hard to interpret "Do not lie with a man as you would with a woman" as anything but what it says! This can be contextualised in the history of the Israelites however: semen was considered the force of life creation, so any 'waste' of it would to a small nation struggling to populate a land be detestable. Such an interpretation however does not change the LORD's decree that homosexuality is wrong.
The question to be posed now then, is that of whether these rulings on homosexuality are still applicable in the modern world. Naturally, this depends on the orthodoxy of the individual's interpretation of the bible. It is important to consider, however, a number of decrees and traditions from the bible which are no longer accepted as universally valid - for example the issues of nudity, menstrual sex, mixing different types of cloth in clothing, polygamy, and uncleanliness after sexual intercourse. It can be argued that the bible is a text for all time, and cannot be interpreted in any other way than is written. This however appears to forget that Jesus himself reformed laws and instated the most important of them all: the rule of love - to love God, and to love one another. Issues can also be approached in the light of Jesus when he said "Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?" (Luke 12:57).
Holy Bible, NIV
Holy Bible, KJV