To all good people of faith,
I have felt a need to offer a quick resource for folks who want to know how to understand the messages in our culture that suggest that the Bible speaks out against Same-Gender Marriage. The Bible actually says nothing about Same-Gender Marriage. My response is compiled from many sources, including the latest in leading Bible Scholarship, with my own sharing and commentary all presented in my own words. This is proof that the ‘simple answer’ is seldom the correct one:
There are ONLY 6 PASSAGES in all the bible that MAY refer to homosexuality:
- Passage 1: GENESIS 2:21-25 The Creation Story
- Passage 2: GENESIS 19:1-14 The Story of Sodom
- Passage 3: LEVITICUS 18:22 AND 20:13
- Passage 4: ROMANS 1:26-27
- Passages 5 & 6: CORINTHIANS 6:9 and TIMOTHY 1:10
There are millions of gay and lesbian persons who have accepted their sexual orientation as a gift from God and live productive and deeply spiritual lives. The evidence from science and from the personal experience of gay and lesbian Christians demands that we at least consider whether the passages cited to condemn
homosexual behavior should be reconsidered, just as other Bible verses that speak of certain sexual practices and other behaviors are no longer understood as God’s law for us in this day.
Passage 1: GENESIS 2:21-25 The Creation Story
For Christians, Jews and Muslims, this creation story is primarily about God, a story written to show the power of God who created the world and everything in it. It teaches us that ultimately God is our Creator, that God shaped us, and that on viewing the creation, God said, “It is good.” LGBT people were part of that creation – whether they were Born gay or Choose to be so. God declared LGBT people good here as well as everyone else. This passage says nothing about homosexuality, it only speaks to a wandering, desert people of the need to have many children to maintain their population; only 2 out of 5 children made it to age 30 in their time.
So what does the creation story say about homosexuality? Nothing!
Because the text says it is “natural” that a man and a woman come together to create a new life, some people think this means gay or lesbian couples are “unnatural.”. They read this ‘mis’-interpretation into the text, even though the text is silent about all kinds of relationships that don’t lead to having children, such as:
- couples who are unable to have children
- couples who are too old to have children
- couples who choose not to have children
- couples who should not have children
From Loren L. Jones, Mennonite – “I’m so tired of reading signs carried by protesters that say: “It’s about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” In fact, the creation story is as important to Adam and Steve as it is Adam and Eve. Gays and non-gays alike need to know and celebrate the truth at the center of this story.”
Passage 2: GENESIS 19:1-14 The Story of Sodom
This is a story about rape, violence, and inhospitality – not about sex.
Rape is not sex – it is violence. This story is not about sex of any kind. Rape is violence. This story shows the cultural value of hospitality, and implies it is unholy to be inhospitable. It says nothing about loving, consensual same-sex relationships. The people of Sodom are punished for trying to rape the messengers of God.
Passage 3: LEVITICUS 18:22 AND 20:13
Loving, committed relationships are not in view here.
The author is addressing the sin of having sex for its own sake (i.e., using another person, or animal, to meet one’s own selfish sexual needs). Philo the Jew, who lived at the time of Christ, says these verses refer to an injunction against ‘shrine prostitution.’ The context also makes clear that these are purity regulations designed to keep holy Israel separate from unholy Canaan – their nearest neighbors.
In light of Jesus’ rejection of purity codes and their effect of dividing the Human family, the Christian church no longer takes these purity codes literally. Anyone who would claim that Leviticus 18:22 is clear and should regulate Christian ethical practice today needs to explain how or on what basis other regulations in the Purity Code (Lev. 17-26) should not regulate Christian ethical practice today (cf. Lev. 20:9-16 “death for adultery”, 27 – ‘stoning to death mediums and wizards’; 24 – ‘death for blasphemy’). It is
not legitimate to willy-nilly pick and choose which verses one wants to take seriously and which verses one does not.
This part of the Bible, known as the “Purity Code,” has laws demanding other things we never choose to obey. These codes are meant for a desert nomadic people living 3000 years ago – they are not applicable to a modern pluralistic society such as today’s USA or even modern Israel! Repeatedly, Jesus and Paul say in the Bible that these laws are not applicable to their time 2000 years ago! Additionally, these codes contain ‘laws’ no one would claim we must follow today, such as:
- Exodus 21:7 – includes a support of slavery
- There are passages against eating shrimp, pigs and crabs, and against wearing a garment made with two different materials. Check the label on your shirt!
- Exodus 35:2 – working on the sabbath
- When people ask you to vote against gay marriage, ask them why they don’t legislate all the Purity Code? This is cherry-picking through the Bible – and that is not a holy practice.
Jesus and Paul both said the Purity Codes in Leviticus do not pertain to Christian believers!
Nevertheless, there are still people who cite LEVITICUS 18:22 AND 20:13 from this ancient text to say that the Bible seems to condemn homosexuality for all. That is a mistake. Leviticus speaks to the ways that specific community – Ancient Israel – is supposed to act. These laws do not refer to any person’s innate sexual desire. These codes are intended – according to the best Jewish, Muslim and Christian scholarship – to set these people in the desert apart from others in their time – 3000 years ago.
This was to establish their identity – to proclaim:
“We are the people that do this – and not that.”These rules are not meant to be for all people at all times – only for Ancient Israelites.
But most importantly –
The Bible is a book about God – not a book about human sexuality.
The Bible is the story of God’s love for the world and the people of the world. It tells the history of God’s love at work rescuing, renewing, and empowering humankind. It was never intended to be a book about human sexuality.
In fact, the Bible accepts sexual practices that we condemn and condemns
sexual practices that we accept. Lots of them! Here are a few examples.
- DEUTERONOMY 22:13-21 If it is discovered that a bride is not a virgin, the Bible demands that she be executed by stoning immediately.
- DEUTERONOMY 22:22 If a married person has sex with someone else’s husband or wife, the Bible commands that both adulterers be stoned to death.
- MARK 10:1-12 Divorce is strictly forbidden in both Testaments, as is remarriage of anyone who has been divorced.
- LEVITICUS 18:19 The Bible forbids a married couple from having sexual intercourse during a woman’s period. If they disobey, both shall be executed.
- MARK 12:18-27 If a man dies childless, his widow is ordered by biblical law to have intercourse with each of his brothers in turn until she bears her deceased husband a male heir.
- DEUTERONOMY 25:11-12 If a man gets into a fight with another man and his wife seeks to rescue her husband by grabbing the enemy’s genitals, her hand shall be cut off and no pity shall be shown her.
Most people do not agree with the above teachings from the Bible about sex. Neither Should You!!
The list goes on: The Bible says clearly that sex with a prostitute is acceptable for the husband but not for the wife. Polygamy (more than one wife) is acceptable, as is a king’s having many concubines. (Solomon, the “wisest” king of all, had 1,000.) Slavery and sex with slaves, marriage of girls aged 11-13, and treatment of women as property are all accepted practices in the Scriptures. On the other hand, there are strict prohibitions against interracial marriage, birth control, discussing or even naming a
sexual organ, and seeing one’s parents nude. No sane politcian would ever demand that we legislate all of Leviticus! Nothing is more dangerous than bad theology.
Over the centuries the Spirit of Life has taught us that many Bible verses should not be understood as God’s law for all time periods. Most Bible verses are specific to the culture and time they were written, and are no longer viewed as appropriate, wise, or just. The only reason to demand that we legislate in accordance with these texts is to exalt one religious system over another and establish a limited biblical perspective as the law that governs all, in violation of intelligent biblical scholarship & the constitution.
Often, the Spirit of Life uses science to teach us why those ancient words
no longer apply to our modern times.
In 1973 the American Psychological Association declared that,
‘Homosexuality is not a disorder, and, therefore, there is no need for a cure.’
During the last three decades, for example, organizations representing 1.5 million U.S. health professionals (doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and educators) have stated definitively that homosexual orientation is as natural as heterosexual orientation, that sexual orientation is determined by a combination of yet unknown pre- and post-natal influences, and that it is “dangerous and inappropriate” to tell a
homosexual that he or she could or should attempt to change his or her sexual orientation. Science and reason are two of God’s greatest gifts; we are required to use and consider them in our discernment of truth, the Bible and our living faithfully
Passage 4: ROMANS 1:26-27
Again, this speaks to ‘shrine prostitution’ and promiscuity; it has nothing to do with loving, committed same-gender relationsips. For our discussion, this is the most controversial biblical passage of them all. In Romans 1:26-27 the apostle Paul describes non-Jewish women who exchange “natural use for unnatural” and non-Jewish men who “leave the natural use of women, working shame with each other.” This verse appears to be direct: Paul sees women having sex with women and men having sex with men, and he condemns that practice. But let’s go back 2,000 years
and try to understand why.
Paul is writing this letter to Rome after his missionary tour of the Mediterranean. On his journey Paul had seen great temples built to honor Aphrodite, Diana, and other fertility gods and goddesses of sex and passion, instead of the ‘one true God’ the apostle Paul honors. Apparently, these priests and priestesses engaged in some odd sexual behaviors — including castrating themselves, carrying on drunken sexual orgies, and even having sex with young temple prostitutes (male and female) — all to honor the gods of sex and pleasure. This passage from Romans asks us to honor our bodies – not to use them merely for pleasure, but to abstain from treating one another as a means to an end. This is meant to urge us to control ourselves, to not just give in to every impulse.
In the same section, Paul tells people Not to Marry! This is because Paul and the early Christians believed that Jesus was coming back any day in their time – 2000 years ago – and Jesus’ imminent return meant they should ‘make themselves more holy’ by not having sex of any kind – with the same or the opposite sex! When pressed on the question, Paul says, “if you cannot wait (until Jesus’ return), it is better to marry than to burn in desire” (and perhaps act like the pagan priests and priestesses). Paul was
someone who hated his body – he believed the body was an obstacle to holiness. Not all Jews or Christians believe this – the Jews especially celebrate the body as a holy gift. Tradition has elevated the self-hatred of one man – Paul – as the example we are all asked to follow. This is a mistake and needs to be ignored and resisted. The body is holy; committed, partner love – within the bonds of affection and mutual relationship – can include a vibrant and holy sex life. Will misguided Christians also ask to legislate all this passage, and outlaw marriage of any kind? I think not.
The rest of Bible is clear that sexuality is a gift from God.
Our Creator celebrates our passion. But the Bible is also clear that when passion gets control of our lives, we’re in deep trouble. However, there is no such thing as open, healthy, committed, loving same-gender relationships portrayed in the Bible – so how could those relationships have been declared forbidden? Answer: They never were declared so…
“The message in Romans is that when we live only for pleasure, when we forget that we are God’s children and that God has great dreams for our lives, we may end up serving the false gods of sex and passion, just as they did in Paul’s time.
In our obsession with pleasure, we may even walk away from the God who created us — and in the process we may cause God to abandon all the great dreams God has for our lives. Did these priests and priestesses get into these behaviors because they were lesbian or gay? I don’t think so. Did God abandon them because they were practicing homosexuals? No. Read the text again.”From Loren L. Jones from the Mennonite Church
And if one still doesn’t get it, remind him or her that the firewall of separation between Church and state is the most important aspect of American Liberty. Never should one interpretation of religious doctrine be enshrined in the law that governs all.
Passages 5 & 6: CORINTHIANS 6:9 and TIMOTHY 1:10
THE MYSTERY OF “MALOKOIS” AND “ARSENOKOITAI”
These are very confusing passages that echo each other; they have little or nothing to say to us. They are cultural expressions written for First Century people ranging from Corinth to Israel, for the laity and clergy of a specific cult that has no existence in the Modern World. These passages also rely on questionable translations from the text. They speak more about prostitution and using people as objects of desire instead of treating them as ends in themselves – again, warning about sex outside of meaningful relationship.
The two Greek words translated “male prostitutes” and “sodomites” in v. 9 of the NRSV are malakoi and arsenokoitai. Malakoi means “effeminate,” “weak,” or “soft” and is a slang word used for “call-boys” whom older men took to bed (cheating on their wives on the ‘down low”). Arsenokoitai, as used in 1 Tim. 1:10, means adultery – sex outside of
relationship or wedlock. The context here in 1 Cor. is one of heterosexual immorality; homosexuality as such is not the topic at hand. Paul simply mentions the sort of abusive, exploitative homosexuality that goes on between young “call-boys” and their customers as one example of the sort of immorality Christians in Corinth should avoid. Again, this speaks against sexual promiscuity, not homosexuality per se. Treating
people and the body with care and reverence is the theme, not a specific injunction against a particular class of human beings (LGBT).
Sadly the current religious climate among too many Christians is that these texts are substantive and clear. They are not, but they continue to be used against LGBT liberty for two main reasons. The main reason they continue to be used to terrorize LGBT people is because they have become part of a political stronghold. The first political victory the modern Religious Right had in this country was denying rights to LGBT people in the 1970’s – a movement started in the South, begun by the same people who were still mad that they had lost the fight against Black Liberation a decade earlier. They turned their intolerance and hatred toward America’s LGBT citizens. The Religious Right is loath to give up this issue today because, as one GOP operative from Maryland told me, “our anti-gay stance brings out the vote for our party. It will remain in our platform so long as it enhances our turnout.” This kind of shameful pandering to fear and bad theology for the sake of votes and power is the very thing our country was founded to resist.
The other main reason these passages are still seen as definitive by many is because part of the right-wing attack on science and secularism has included the willing ignorance to reasoned critique of The Bible (as well as other forms of knowing). Many otherwise highly intelligent folks who call themselves “Fundamentalist Christians” willingly take off their thinking caps when they walk into their churches. Since theology and biblical criticism is not taught in public schools, many Americans are not equipped to analyze sacred scripture. Polls also show that today fewer people believe in Evolution than did 50 years ago; other superstitions also are more believed
today than 50 years ago. Too many have surrendered reason in many areas of public life.
Americans have been deliberately (and in some cases willingly) dumbed down by a pernicious Political and Religious alliance that seeks to dominate by inspiring ignorance, fear, hatred and intolerance. That alliance is the true Evil in our culture and my ministry is dedicated to resisting that reactionary thinking.
Many good people of faith have been led astray by their ‘leaders’ focusing their sights on denying LGBT liberty while ignoring core Christian teachings of fairness and love – to protect the poor, widow and orphan, to resist capital punishment, to love your enemy, etc. Please enlighten people in your church, family workplace and polling place that the Bible in NO WAY condemns loving, committed same-gender relationships. We must continue to fight this religious tyranny until LGBT rights are honored and protected in all the land. Please share this document with all who may benefit from it. I hope you find this helpful in the fight for liberty and dignity for our LGBT citizens. Know your Bible; use it to defend liberty and reason.
In faith and liberty,
Rev Scott Sammler-Michael