Friday, June 01, 2007

Examining the Texts Homophobic Christians Are Fond of Quoting

Leviticus 18.22, Leviticus 20.13, Romans 1.26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 are probably the most often quoted passages used against LBGT people. The story of Sodom & Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and 1st Timothy 1.10 are also often used. Earlier today someone from Texas emailed me asking me to refute the homophobic ways these texts are often used. Below is my response:

Deconstructing (and possibly redeeming) these passages is a purely academic exercise for me. I do not do it out of a need to be validated by the bible. The bible, as much as I love it and as central as it has always been to my life, is all the same in my opinion a collection of human documents. I do not give the bible final authority over my life nor do I believe it to be divinely authored. Still, the bible is part of my consciousness, part of my spiritual DNA, and studying it/wrestling with it/deconstructing and reconstructing it have all enriched my life significantly and it remains for me sacred literature if not "divine" literature.

The humans who wrote the bible were often wrong about history, science, and even ethics, and yet, in all their frailty and faults they bravely and honestly tried to find meaning in life and they sought to understand their relationship to the Source of life, often called "God." It is their courageous and honest searching that empowers and encourages my own search. I don't read the bible because it is infallible; I read it because the people who wrote it were asking important questions and many of those same questions are my questions, so it remains an important and relevant text for my life.

Now, for the passages in question (more briefly than they deserve, but its the best I can do at the moment):

1. Genesis 19 - The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a strang text to use as an argument on any moral issue. Lot (the "hero" of the story) is willing to sacrifice his daughters to a rape gang. From the moment we see that, the story loses any moral authority we may have assumed it had. By the end of the story, our "hero" again behaves in reprehensible ways by commiting insest with both of his daughters. A story of attempted rape followed by incest where the "protagonist" is willing to be an accomplice in his own daughters' rape and later commits incest with them is hardly a story that can be credibly used to condemn same-gender love or attraction!

Of course, mutual attraction or consensual mating rituals are no where in the story, so again, to use a story of such horrific violence to condemn the consensual, adult relationships that occur between persons of the same-gender is at best ridiculous and at worst nefarious. Finally, the story ends at the conclusion of the chapter by telling us that the Moabites and the Amonnites are the descendants of the incestious unions between Lot and his daughters...and THAT I believe is the point of the story. The story isn't meant to condemn same-gender love, but is rather a bizarre sort of fairy tale insulting the writer's perceived enemies, the Ammonites and Moabites. The writer accuses them of being entire races born from incest. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah shows what strang series of events could lead a father to be isolated in a cave with his daughters and why they would initiate sex with him so they could procreate. The attempted rape of angels, the willingness for Lot to sacrifice his daughters, the unfortunate death of Mrs. Lot all lead to where/when/why Lot and his daughters had their unholy unions. A myth to be sure, but a myth meant to make the insult that "our" enemies are innately damaged and flawed because they are the products of incest seem plausible.

2. Leviticus - these passages are just annoying. They come from a legal code of an ancient (and now defunct) theocracy. They are in a book that doesn't allow women in the house of worship for weeks after giving birth, that forbids tattoos, that condemns the wearing of mixed fabrics, that forbids the eating of shellfish and pork, and so on. I've never met a single person who takes any of Leviticus as a divine mandate for their lives...except when it comes to the two isolated passages that can be used to justify homophobia.

3. Romans 1...actually a fascinating passage. In in St. Paul says that people who worship "idols" have earned a strange curse from God...God will confuse their nature and they will behave sexually in ways that they otherwise wouldn't. For Paul, homosexuality isn't the sin, its the punishment for the sin (of idolatry)!

Of course, I disagree with Paul, but what is funny (and tragic) is that a passage that clearly condemns idolatry is used to make an idol of heterosexuality. Secondly, if it is bad to have one's nature changed, as Paul suggests, then wouldn't it be bad for someone who is as a matter of ontology "gay" to then "change" his/her nature and become heterosexual (as if it were even possible)?

Still, Romans 1 condemns idolatry and says that some who commit that sin have been cursed with being turned gay (they were presumably straight before that). It's an odd passage that paints a strange picture of God, and one that does not have any contemporary understanding of human sexuality!

The other two Pauline passages I mentioned (one Pauline and one deutero-Pauline, no credible scholar believes any longer that Paul wrote the letters to Timothy) seem to be condemning temple prostitution.

The bottom line is that mutual attraction, consensual relationships, or commited partnerships are never condemned in the bible (they aren't even mentioned), and if they were condemned, we've a learned a thing or two in the last few thousand years and we would be free to disagree (Joshua makes the sun stand still, but we don't believe the sun travels? The book of Revelation mentions specifically the 4 corners of the earth, and yet a round earth has no corners. The two creation myths that open the bible contradict each other on almost every wonders WHICH creation story the "creationists" believe to be literal. Paul sends the run away slave Onesimus back to his oppressor, act which surely horrifies modern readers.. I for one don't believe that a 90 year old Sarah had a baby, and I don't know of a single fundamentalist who believes Leviticus' dietary prohibitions apply to them).

Finally, I just don't believe the bible is a good enough excuse to hate anyone. We disagree with other parts, why not disagree with the (only) 6 passages that seem to be homophobic. And, on closer inspection, even those passages don't address honest, mutal attraction or sexual orientaiton as we understand it today.

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