In a very un-Christian manner, I’ve been trolling the blogosphere, arguing with those who see homosexuality as incompatible with Christianity, posting versions of the questions below. Hat tips: Toby Johnson (for the questions) Rowland Croucher (paraphrased), and “Elaine”– all from whom I have borrowed heavily.
Jesus said nothing, not one word, about homosexuals. For those of you who insist that this does not matter, that the Bible is somehow clear elsewhere about the evilness of homosexuality, here are some questions (courtesy of Toby).
Why didn’t Jesus say that He was abolishing all the rules in the Old Testament EXCEPT the rule against homosexual intercourse?
Why didn’t He distinguish between His forgiving the woman brought to him in adultery ( ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone’ ) and His wanting to continue to hold homosexuality against people?
Why didn’t He say anything about how homosexual marriage would defile the sanctity of the relationship of man and woman?
Why didn’t He say anything?
Did He just keep forgetting to mention it?
As Elaine put it,
If homosexuality truly is a sin worthy of eternal damnation, as some believe it is, then why didn’t Jesus discuss it? He certainly preached at length concerning every other sin listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Timothy 1:9-10. Why would He leave this one out?
Of course, there are apparent criticisms of homosexuality in the Bible.
Genesis 19 describes the destruction of Sodom, which has been attributed to the homosexuality of its citizens; the men may have wanted to rape the (male) angels. Actually, the text at this point is ambiguous; the original Hebrew word sometimes referred to sexual activity although it usually meant “to know” in a literal sense. But a careful reading of Genesis and Ezekiel reveals that inhospitality, pride, idol worship, and lack of consideration for the poor were their prime sins. If homosexuality was involved, it was obviously not consensual sexual activity; it was rape. So we can safely conclude that Sodom was destroyed because of the sins of its citizens which included their habit of raping visitors. Judges 19 seems to be a duplicate of the Genesis story.
Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 appears to condemn male homosexual behavior, but in fact only refers to temple prostitution. Even if it did refer to lesbian and gay relationships, it would not be applicable to Christians today, any more than are the other 613 laws which make up the Jewish Holiness Code. It is less than genuine for a Christian teleminister or theologian to imply that these verses are still valid for the beliefs and conduct of Christians, while stating that the remaining laws of the Holiness Code are not applicable.
Deuteronomy 23:17, I Kings 14:24 and 15:12 are mistranslated in some versions of the Bible as referring to homosexual behavior. “Temple prostitute” would be an accurate translation.
We conclude that the Hebrew Scriptures condemn homosexual rape and temple prostitution, but do not disapprove of gay and lesbian relationships. One can be confident that centuries of fire and brimstone sermons on homosexuality based on verses from the Old Testament are misinterpretations of the Bible.
Here is a nice discussion of the Levitical laws, only slightly edited.
The Hebrew testament forbids homosexuality for purity reasons, male-male sex makes one unclean because it breaks a religious taboo–it associates one with the Canaanites. The Hebrew scriptures also list other purity requirements, like washing at prescribed times or not eating certain foods. For example, circumcision made a person a Jew, but no one thought that God rejected the uncircumcised. The purity requirements of the Jewish law were part of being a Jew, they were not necesarily part of being a good person, just and righteous before God. Jesus was clear that being a good person and keeping the requirements of the Jewish law were not the same things, one of the reasons that he was killed was that he challenged the real importance of the law.
“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles… what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles, for out of the heart comes evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander; these are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.” (Matthew 15:10, 18-20)
The only purity that mattered to Jesus was purity of heart. Jesus objected to eternal religious show fasting so others can see, praying in front of everybody, putting a lot of money into the collection so others will notice. “People honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Mark 7:6)
Jesus is not impressed with externals, He looks into the heart. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; they only thing that counts is faith working through love.” (Galations 5:6)
The Christian scriptures insist that cleanness and uncleanness does not matter, only whether you are doing good or evil matters. Jesus and the Christian testament reject the only biblical basis for condemning homosexual sex. The Christian scriptures do not show that something about homosexuality is in itself wrong, that it is harmful, unkind, destructive, unloving, dishonest, unjust, etc. We should expect homosexual activity to be condemned only when they do include these other wrongs: when abusive, exploitative, hurtful, wanton or lewd, just as heterosexual acts would be forbidden for these same reasons. Thus, as can be seen after evaluating the verses, it is immoral behavior that is condemned, not homosexual behavior in itself.
Perhaps not surprisingly, those who blog about homosexuality and the Bible seem to know very little about the latter, and think too much about the former.
Joe Dallas, for example, is the author of “four books on homosexuality,” apparently a keen interest of his. He writes:
Religious argument #1: “Jesus Said Nothing About Homosexuality.”
Response: The argument is misleading and illogical for four reasons:
… At no point did Matthew, Mark, Luke or John say their books should be elevated above the Torah or, for that matter, any writings yet to come.
By “elevated above the Torah” he must mean Leviticus, no? But Joe, this is going to come as a surprise to lots of Christians–they have to follow Leviticus? Or just the one passage that you like? (Stand4Jesus also advocates following just one of the six hundred Levitical laws.) Weren’t these laws replaced by the New Covenant? Or do Christians have to keep kosher-–no shellfish? No bacon cheeseburgers? No mixed fabrics? If we have sex with menstruating women, we should be executed?
[Also], this argument is inaccurate in that it presumes to know all of what Jesus said. The gospels do not profess to be a complete account of Jesus’ life or teachings. Whole sections of His early years are omitted; much of what He did and said remains unknown.
The secret Christian gospels do condemn homosexuality, apparently. But if they are secret, how do we know what they say? Joe can’t appeal to the Bible to justify his condemnation of homosexuality, so he says some as-yet-undiscovered Scriptures prove his point. Let us know when they surface, Joe.
Today we often hear that Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, never said a word about same-sex relations. Endlessly repeated, this view has become the conventional wisdom.
Similarly to Joe Dallas, Dyneslines immediately appeals to apocryphal gospels to support his condemnation of homosexuality.
[T]hose who make it assume that the four canonical Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–are all that we have. In fact, scholars have unearthed the texts of some sixteen other Gospels.
When you have to cite gospels that are not in the Bible, to support your Biblical argument, you are in trouble.
Linda Harvey (who is “president of Columbus, Ohio-based Mission: America, an organization dedicated to restoring traditional values and exposing the homosexual agenda in the schools”), also hopes for further revelation–since she can’t use the Bible, as it is written, to support her argument.
“Many teachings and deeds of Christ are not included in the Gospel accounts, as John writes in John 21:25.”
Like Joe Dallas, Linda is apparently privy to the undisclosed accounts of Jesus condemning homosexuality.
To take slightly different example, there is an entire website (Gay Christian Movement Watch) that seeks to “monitor, analyze and publish (MAP) the activities, leaders and public theological positions of the gay Christian movement.” (“MAP”?)
The kind Pastor who runs the site responded to my (rather rude) post thusly:
“Steve has not taken time to read or study, because Jesus said much more about homosexuality than you think.” He rather quickly backed off this line of argument, however, I imagine because it has no Scriptural basis, and turned to analogy.
“We have discussed before how that is not even a logical defense to use. The silence of Jesus defense if applied to pedophilia would be laughed to scorn.”
The guy who runs “Truth and Reason” responded similarly:
“What about Jesus not saying anything about homosexuality? Does his lack of discussion of a certain issue give a green light to sin?
Jesus doesn’t say anything about rape, incest, bestiality, pedophilia, or tripping blind people, and yet these practices are condemned today.
Joe Dallas makes the same point:
The idea, of course, is that if Jesus did not specifically forbid a behavior, then the behavior must not have been important to Him… Or, put another way, are we really to believe that Jesus did not care about wife beating or incest, just because He said nothing about them [?]
Spot the difference?
Christians do not argue that tripping people–or raping them, or having sex with your children, God forbid–is allowed by Scripture. Of course not. Those are all hurtful acts, which no one could defend Scripturally. Further, and more obviously, the examples given above are non-consensual, and therefore quite different from two people of the same gender loving each other in private.
What is disputed is the contention that homosexuality is clearly labeled a sin in the New Testament. There is little or no persuasive support for such a position.
Several nearly identical responses to my post above have appeared elsewhere. This from Independent Conservative is typical.
Jesus made it clear that homosexual relationships are sin.
Matthew 19:4-6 (New American Standard Bible)
4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,
5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?
6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Jesus made it clear that only one man to one woman was acceptable for anyone claiming to be a Christian.
You’ve got some serious errors in your view of scripture.
The passage IC offers above (Matt: 19) refers to divorce, not homosexuality. The Pharisees have asked Jesus,
3 “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife…?”
Jesus answers in the passage IC cites. Then He says
8 “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
This exchange illustrates an important point. It indicates the complete ignorance the anti-homosexual Christians have about Jesus’ teachings: he condemned divorce (which they ignore–Ronald Reagan is their hero, but imagine if he had been queer?), and He did not even mention homosexuality (a fact of which they are completely ignorant).
Independent Conservative thinks homosexuality is a sin. Okay. So does the Nation of Islam.
But he and his comrades are clearly unable to show anything from the NT that might agree with them on this point.