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What the Bible doesn't say about gays

December 15, 2012
  • Does the Bible take a side on same-sex marriage?
Does the Bible take a side on same-sex marriage? (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

Responding to C.S. Pearce's Dec. 2 Op-Ed article, "The Christian case for gay marriage," reader Tony Hillbruner of San Gabriel wrote:

"The Bible does not discuss gay marriage, but it condemns homosexual activity. In Romans 1:27, 'men ... were inflamed with lust for one another [and] committed indecent acts with other men.' 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 condemns a variety of 'wrongdoers,' including adulterers, male prostitutes and homosexuals.

"Pearce cites Leviticus 20:13, but she focuses on its call to execute homosexuals and not on its core message: that a man who sleeps with a man has done something 'detestable.' While the punishment is foolishly excessive, this does not eliminate the biblical condemnation of homosexual behavior. And Leviticus 18:22 also condemns gay sex."

C.S. Pearce responds:

The Romans verse that Hillbruner quotes is part of a longer passage in which the Apostle Paul condemns worshiping other gods, including the practice of "unnatural" homoerotic sex as a part of idol worship.

Gay people in faithful relationships, on the other hand, are engaging in natural behavior. What is unnatural is trying to force them to engage in heterosexual relationships to be accepted at Christ's table.

In 1 Corinthians Chapter 6, the Greek word arsenokoitai is translated as "homosexuals" in some versions of the Bible. It is a very rare word, and there is strong disagreement among scholars about its translation. A strong argument can be made against translating it as simply "homosexuals," especially since the ancients did not have the same concept of homosexuality that we have today.

We know now that some people have an innate attraction to others of the same sex. However, the Greco-Roman thinking during the era of Jesus was that men were capable of sexually enjoying both men and women, and they would pursue whichever they preferred. Often this meant that powerful men forced boys (who were frequently slaves) to gratify their sexual urges. If Paul frowned upon such practices, it's perfectly understandable. So would we. There's a world of difference between exploitation and partnership.

As for Leviticus, it is part of ancient Israel's holiness code, detailed in the first five books of the Old Testament. The code also commands death for people who work on the Sabbath, stubborn and rebellious sons, adulterers and a host of other lawbreakers. It declares the following practices taboo: getting a tattoo, planting two kinds of seed in one field, wearing clothes with mixed fabrics, eating shrimp and more. Many of these "abominations" were repeated several times throughout the code, and a number required the death sentence. Selling your daughter into slavery, however, was perfectly legitimate.

Focusing on the two verses that condemn gays is a selective, literal reading of the Bible that turns it into a weapon against our gay brothers and sisters.

Again, to quote the Rev. Susan Russell: "Instead of taking the Bible literally, we should take it seriously, with deep faithfulness to the Old and New Testaments' core values of compassion, justice and peace."


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