First statement: There is no denying the disgusting aspects of homosexual sex.
Okay. Why don’t you ask a gay person if they deny it? If they do, then your statement is untrue…unless you were trying to say that people who agree with me cannot deny how disgusting it is. That’s the only way your statement could make any sense, but then it’s sort of stating the obvious.
In fact, why don’t you ask a gay person what they think of heterosexual sex. Chances are, they’ll find the idea of engaging in it almost as gross as you consider same-sex activity. Maybe not quite since you seem to have really extreme revulsion for it, but as a thought exercise you might consider getting into the mind of someone who is attracted to the same gender the exact same way you are attracted to the opposite gender, and who thinks heterosexual sex is as gross as you think homosexual sex is.
Here’s the reason this person thinks it can’t be denied: There is no possible way to read the Bible honestly and come to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin. It is impossible.
But of course you disagree with the people who say the exact same thing about mixed-race marriage, or women having the right to vote.
A friend of mine responded: I know people who have read it extensively, translated the original language, read the context, and then come up with something different than you did. So clearly it is possible.
What is the comeback? It’s wonderfully inane: I don’t believe you because that is impossible.
Let’s quickly prove that it is possible to read the Bible honestly and come to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin. First, behold the comprehensive list of possible negative references to “homosexuality” in the Bible.
- Genesis 19:4-5 – …The men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please.”
- Leviticus 18:22 – You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
- Leviticus 20:13 – If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death.
- Romans 1:24-27 – Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…for this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men…
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
- 1 Timothy 1:8-10 – Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…
Only six references? Yes, only six negative references to what seems to be homosexuality in the entire Bible. We’re talking about barely 300 words out of 770,000+. There are many, many times more references to the sin of neglecting the poor, and yet a lot of conservative Christians (not all, so please don’t think I’m stereotyping) are so keen on banning gay marriage, while opposing legal action to help the poor. Shows you where their priorities are—apparently we should only have the freedom to do what they want us to do.
To begin with the honest reading of the Bible, the first thing we can conclude is that not a single one of these verses speaks against same-sex relationships, marriage, or inherently being gay. The only thing that you can honestly argue is prohibited by the Bible here is same-gender sexual intercourse.
So there should be no objection to a same-sex couple, or same-sex marriage. You could possibly object to the couple having sex, in the same way you would object to an unmarried heterosexual couple having sex. You could object to same-sex lust in the same way you object to opposite-sex lust (and I do, personally.)
But if same-sex relationships and marriage are fine, is there anything in these verses that would condemn the sexual acts if they’re done in the same context as lawful heterosexual sex (i.e. within marriage)?
In Genesis, we see the entire male population of Sodom threatening to gang-rape a couple humanoid angels. That’s the generally accepted interpretation of the phrase that we may know them.
What I find odd is that the “hero” of the story, Lot—the man who God sent the angels to save because he supposedly isn’t evil like the rest of the city—says “don’t act so wickedly”…and then offers his daughters to be raped instead.
Turns out offering your daughters to be raped is less wicked than threatening to gang-rape a couple men. This is a good example of how women were seen as property back then.
The story goes on and Sodom is destroyed for being wicked, while Lot is saved, and not destroyed. If the destruction of Sodom means homosexuality in any form is bad, then the non-destruction of Lot means pimping out your daughters should be fine.
Of course, we know from Ezekiel 16:49-50 that the sin of Sodom was that they had “pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me.”
What modern nation is arrogant, has excessive food and widespread obesity, a lot more wealth than most of the world, and a major problem with helping homeless and poor people? Yeah, America is a lot like Sodom, and it’s not because of gay people.
Of course we can dismiss this story outright as condemnation of all gay sex for the same reason we can dismiss the story of Amnon and Tamar as a condemnation of all heterosexual sex. (For those readers who may not know the story, Amnon was Tamar’s brother—probably half-brother because his father, King David, had a lot of wives. Amnon fell in love with Tamar, raped her, and then threw her out.)
What about Leviticus? I admit these verses are fuzzier, although there’s a simple reason to ignore them as condemnations on all gay sex. Just a couple verses earlier, a similar condemnation is given for having sex with a woman during her period. Most Christians these days consider that just one more antiquated rule for health reasons…much like the laws against eating unclean animals.
The unclean animals present another strong piece of evidence for these verses being invalid for condemning homosexual sex. Often people will argue that since it’s called an abomination, that means it’s really bad, and God has never revoked any laws against things called abominations.
The word in Hebrew is toebah, and it is found in Deuteronomy 14:3…where it refers to unclean animals.
Of course, there are other reasons to believe these verses are likely not referring to consensual sex. Many other people have explained the matter of ritual prostitution, and how men in ancient times often used sexuality as power. Consider that the Leviticus passages specify lying with a man as with a woman. There must be a reason for adding that phrase. Perhaps since women were seen as property, to be dominated, this is a prohibition against men using sex to control other men. Also, the two words used for men in those verses are not the same. One is generally used of a man in power (such as the patriarch of a clan), and the other is mostly used for boys and young men.
Which leads nicely into a discussion of the New Testament passages, since it was a common practice in that time (mainly in Roman and Greek culture) to buy young male slaves for sexual purposes.
Let’s leave Romans 1 for last and look at the other two passages from Paul. In these cases, men who practice homosexuality is actually a single word in the original language. Paul may have coined it himself, since we have zero known uses of the word in any writings from before him. It combines the Greek words for man and bed, from the Greek translation of the Leviticus verses mentioned above, giving a literal meaning of “man-bedders”.
Of course, the literal meaning of a compound word is very often not its actual meaning. Since Paul provides no context to help define the word, we must look outside of the Bible. Again, this is an area of study that many other people have done, and here is a very detailed examination of the word itself considering most of the other 73 known uses of it.
To sum up the extensive research and writings of many other people…the word most likely refers to a male sexually exploiting another male, either economically (buying a male sex slave or a prostitute), or forcibly (rape). Several uses of the word in writings of the early church obviously use it to refer to pagan ritual sex, orgies, and other contexts where heterosexual sex would be considered just as bad. It has throughout history been translated as the equivalent of “pedophiles” and “pimps” and other things that have nothing to do with consensual gay relationships. I don’t think it was translated as “homosexuality” until relatively recently.
This leaves us with only the passage in Romans 1 as a possible condemnation of consensual same-sex activity. And it’s easy to dismiss because it actually says that “men did shameful things with men”, not that men having sex with men is always shameful.
It’s quite simple to understand if you replace one of the men with a woman. Suppose it said “men did shameful things with women.” Would that mean that all heterosexual sex is wrong?
Of course not.
We can therefore conclude that it is entirely possible to conduct an honest reading of the Bible and believe that homosexuality is not a sin—neither being gay nor having consensual gay sex within the same context as lawful heterosexual sex (for most Christians, that means within marriage).
If I missed anything in the Bible that might be taken as a negative view of any sort of homosexuality, please let me know and I will research it and add it to this article. My next post will cover the passages that might be interpreted as being in favor of gay relationships and marriage as we see them today.