God is fine with marriage equality

The Presbyterian Church USA has made an important decision. With a landslide vote in favor, they have changed the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples.

This decision has created a flurry of extreme responses. Churches have received threatening letters, some have left the denomination, and they have lost hundreds of thousands of members. Some are even asking whether the Presbyterian Church USA is still Christian.

In the midst of this controversy, and with this recent addition to the pro-LGBT Christian movement, it is important to examine the arguments that progressive Christians (like myself) use to defend homosexuality from all of the arguments other Christians use against it:

It Is An Abomination

The first verses that inevitably come to mind when discussing homosexuality are Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. They both say roughly the same thing:

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” – Lev 18:22

“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; their blood is upon them.” – Lev 20:13

I want to kick off our analysis of these verses by taking a look at the Hebrew word translated here as “abomination”.

The general understanding is that this word is condemning these acts as intrinsically, objectively immoral. This understanding is false. The Hebrew word, to’ebah, is most accurately understood to mean “that which goes against the accepted order”. Dr. Friedman offers several examples in his book, The Bible Now:

“…in the Bible the term is in fact relative. For example, in the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that if the Pharaoh asks them what their occupation is, they should say that they are cowherds. They must not say that they are shepherds. Why? Because, Joseph explains, all shepherds are an offensive thing (tō‘ēbāh) to the Egyptians. But shepherds are not an offensive thing to the Israelites or Moabites or many other cultures. In another passage in that story, we read that Egyptians do not eat with Israelites because that would be an offensive thing (tō‘ēbāh) to them. But Arameans and Canaanites eat with Israelites and do not find it offensive. See also the story of the exodus from Egypt, where Moses tells Pharaoh that the things that Israelites sacrifice would be an offensive thing (tō‘ēbāh) to the Egyptians. But these things are certainly not an offensive thing to the Israelites.

A former student of ours pointed out that right here in the list of laws that we are considering in Leviticus 18, naming acts that are tō‘ēbāh, are some that prohibit actions that the great patriarchs of the Bible had done. For example, Abraham marries his half sister Sarah.. (Gen 20:12) But the law in Leviticus explicitly forbids such relations with a half sister… (Lev 18:9) So what is not a tō‘ēbāh in the generation of the patriarchs has changed and become one in the generation of Moses. In a somewhat different way, the land itself can change from not being a tō‘ēbāh and can become a tō‘ēbāh as a result of the behavior of its residents on it. The prophet Jeremiah says: You defiled my land, and made my possession into an offensive thing (tō‘ēbāh). (Jer 2:7) An act or an object that is not a tō‘ēbāh can become one, depending on time and circumstances.”

The Targum Onkelos (2nd century Aramaic translation/commentary on the Torah) also interprets this word as being relative:

“And he washed [JERUSALEM. And he washed] his face from tears, and came forth, and hastened and said, Set bread. And they set for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Mizraee who ate with him by themselves; for it was not proper for the Mizraee [Egyptians] to eat bread with the Yehudaee [Jews], because the animals which the Mizraee worshipped the Yehudaee ate.”

Here the word to’ebah is understood in the ancient Aramaic rendition of the Torah to mean “not proper”. The justification for it being to’ebah is given as being a violation of their subjective religious rituals, rather than objective immorality. Violation of religious sacredness is one of the most common Biblical uses of this word.

Other examples of this word’s use in scripture include tithing the cost of a dog or prostitute (Deut 23:18), violating Old Testament dietary restrictions (Deut 14:3) and preaching other religions in a city given by God to specific tribes (so in the Old Testament it is to’ebah to preach another religion in Hebron but not in Jerusalem).

The use of this word to refer to homosexual sex stands out starkly in contrast to how other forbidden sexual encounters are described. Almost universally they are described with objectively condemning language, and the subjective term to’ebah is not used in the Torah at all to specifically refer to any of them.

It is true that the Torah prescribes the death penalty for homosexual sex. This is a problem insofar as the use of the death penalty in the Torah overall is a problem, and it deserves to be addressed more broadly in a post dedicated solely to that topic. The one point to focus on is that prescribing the death penalty in the Torah was not necessarily indicative of objective moral wrongdoing — on the contrary, it is more often used for ritual transgressions (like touching the Ark of the Covenant inappropriately).

What about lesbian sex?

Another point of interest in these verses is the fact that they explicitly condemn male homosexuality but say nothing about female homosexuality.

Many assume that the condemnation of male homosexuality in this verse applies to both men and women with the justification that, in some other places, masculine wording is used to address both genders. However, there is no reason to believe that is happening here. On the contrary, the word used for “mankind,” zakar, applies exclusively to males throughout scripture. It never means and never can mean women, unlike more general male-gendered terms for groups of humans or members of our species. In Leviticus 18:23, the verse immediately after one of the aformentioned homosexuality verses, bestiality is explicitly condemned for both men and women. If the author had felt that a blanket bans only required mentioning one half of the human race, then why did they change their mind one sentence later?

Open Bible, via Shutterstock

Open Bible, via Shutterstock

Why would the author feel it was necessary to condemn homosexuality between men but not between women? One possible answer is polygamy. In the ancient world it was not terribly uncommon for a man to have more than one wife, so it was entirely possible for two women to be within the same marriage. On the other hand, history tells us that during this era pederasty was also common, and there are several ancient generals who were known for sodomizing the enemies they conquered. Another consideration is that the Hebrews lived in a brutal world in which the bearing of many children was directly related to the ability of that society to survive, as children to grow into soldiers and farmers. These reasons could be part of why the Hebrews considered male homosexuality to be improper for their society.

The discussion of whether these justifications could possibly be sufficient to excuse the above verses is an article unto itself. But the important point is that the most plausible interpretation of these verses is that they are condemning them as subjective social or ritual wrongs, and not as objective moral wrongs.

Polygamy? But God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Eve and Rachel and Lucy

Let’s make one thing very, very clear: The statement that the Bible defines marriage solely as one man and one woman is objectively false.

There are many prominent examples of polygamy in the Bible, including Moses, Jacob and David. 2 Samuel 12 even refers to David’s polygamous marriage as a gift from God, and says that God would have given him even more wives had he wanted them.

God did create Adam and Eve, man and woman, and it is common for man and woman to be used in discussions of marriage as the standard archetype, but nowhere in the Bible is it endorsed as the only form of marriage.

Sodom and Gomorrah

This story is so often colloquially understood to be about homosexuality that it is the origin of the word “sodomy.” However, a reexamination of the story shows that this colloquial understanding is far from accurate:

In the story, God has decided that the time has come to do something about Sodom and Gomorrah, two Cain-raisingly sinful towns. He tells Abraham of his plan and Abraham, whose brother, Lot, lives in Sodom, pleads with God for mercy. God walks away after committing that if there are even ten righteous people in the city then God would not destroy it, and the following chapter begins with two angels showing up to investigate.

What happens next is often misunderstood. Unlike the Leviticus verses, the word used for “men” here is a word which often refers to people in general. Like with other languages, Hebrew uses the masculine gender for words which refer to people in groups. In Genesis 17:23, for example, it says that Abraham took “every male from among his men,” a sentence that only makes sense because the group identifier that translates to “men” also includes females.

With that in mind, two angel “people” show up and all of the people of the city come out and try to rape the angels.

It is not certain that the angels were both men, and it is very unlikely that the townspeople were all men. Had ten of the people of the city abstained, God presumably would have spared the city, as he promised Abraham. But there were not ten righteous people, and all of the people of the city — young and old, male and female — were punished for this act.

Now, when I hear a story about rapists who may or may not have been homosexual getting punished I generally assume the punishment is connected to them being rapists, not to them maybe being homosexuals.

To be fair, Lot did offer his two virgin daughters for the town to take instead of the angels, but they turned him down. Lot’s offer brings to mind a parallel story in Judges 19. In the story, a Levite takes in a guest, another Israelite. The people of the city come around and make a similar demand and a similar offer is made — the head of the house offers his daughter and the visitor offers his concubine. The female concubine is accepted and raped to death, but the daughter is not touched.

A truly horrific story, but here, while the virgin daughter of the head of the household was turned down, the female concubine was not. No male servants were requested in her place. This seems to imply that their motivation centered around something other than the victim’s sex. Perhaps they wanted to have sex with something foreign, or perhaps the story’s sparing of the virgin is an allegory for the virtue of chastity, but either way there isn’t much justification left for the claim that these stories center around homosexuality. Both stories highlight the depravity of the people, and in both cases the rapists end up dying. In Sodom by the wrath of God, and in Judges 20 when the Israelites as a whole gather to decimate the people who raped the concubine.

Finally, the Bible actually describes the reason Sodom was judged, and it is not homosexuals who should be concerned but the modern Republican party.

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” — Ezekiel 16:49

So as far as the wrath of God is concerned, it’s Paul Ryan who needs to repent and reform, not Dan Savage.

Jude also touches on the topic, albeit tangentially. Jude talks about them pursuing unnatural desire and “strange flesh,” but he isn’t referring to homosexuality. Jude quotes and appears to give credence to the Book of Enoch, a text in which humans have sex with angels and it causes all kinds of problems. It is likely that this, rather than homosexuality, is what Jude was so fearful of happening in Sodom.

Be Fruitful And Multiply

This statement, found in Genesis 1:28, has traditionally been interpreted as a command because of the imperative language. But this verse is not a command; it is a blessing. God gives a similar blessing to animals earlier in the chapter.

In Genesis 35, Jacob is given almost the same blessing with almost the same wording. But in Genesis 47, after God has given him many children through what appears to have been a game of “musical wombs” between his wives and their handmaidens, he tells his child that this was something God caused to happen, as a blessing. Deuteronomy 1:10 makes a similar statement affirming the role of this statement as a blessing, not a command.

The important thing to take away from the story of Adam and Eve is not this blessing but the reason God created Eve in the first place — it is not good for man to be alone. God allowed man to search the entirety of Creation for a suitable partner to ease his loneliness, and created Eve as someone who was suitable for Adam. Demanding that homosexuals be alone instead of with suitable, loving partners stands in sharp contrast with the spirit of the passage used to justify such a demand.

The Role Of Old Testament Law

Even if my arguments prior to now weren’t sufficient, the fact that it is Old Testament Law means we can mostly throw it out by default. In Christianity, the Old Testament Law is understood to apply solely to pre-crucifixion Jews. The entire book of Galatians is about this topic, as is Acts 15. There is some debate to be had here, but it is generally understood in Christianity that we are not bound by Old Testament Law. That is why we have a green light to eat pork and shellfish, among other things.

Perhaps more importantly (in terms of understanding the Old Testament Law and whether homosexuality was intended to be written as an objective evil) the Jews themselves do not consider their Law to bind all humans. Instead, they believe gentiles are bound only by the Noahide Law. A full description can be found in Sanhedrin 56, part of the Talmud. The list is:

“Our Rabbis taught: seven precepts were the sons of Noah commanded: social laws;  to refrain from blasphemy, idolatry; adultery; bloodshed; robbery; and eating flesh cut from a living animal”

Homosexuality is not explicitly listed. “Adultery” has often been interpreted to mean sexual immorality in general, or any kind of violation of a marital contract. But, unlike incest, bestiality, adultery and just about everything else you could name, homosexuality is not called sexual immorality in the Bible in Hebrew. It is called something which offends the accepted social order. Forcing it into that category requires one to bring something into Old Testament Law which is not already there. You do not have to do this for any other form of sexual immorality.

There is no reason to believe that Old Testament condemnations of homosexuality apply in the New Testament era. But the battle is not over — there are still some verses in the New Testament that deserve our attention.

The Meaning Of Arsenokoitēs

This is perhaps the greatest mystery in this whole discussion. There is a word, Arsenokoites, which appears in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. While it has traditionally been translated a variety of ways, we don’t actually know what it means. Given the etymology, it probably refers to some kind of homosexuality, but it probably does not refer to homosexuality in general. If it did then 1 Corinthians 6:9 would be redundant, because just prior to this word it uses another Greek word which commonly refers to male homosexual prostitutes. Since nothing else in this verse is repeated, and homosexuality in general is not a common topic in the Bible, it seems unlikely that the verse would say “and male gay prostitutes, and homosexuals in general.” It is more likely that it refers to some other particular type of homosexual behavior. Given the era it seems inconceivable that it could be talking about loving homosexual marriages, so these verses can probably be dismissed from discussions pertaining to marriage equality.

But we cannot know for sure, which is why a lot of modern translations use something vague and confusing like “abusers of themselves with mankind.”

Romans 1 — The Last Battle

The final passages used to condemn homosexuality come in Romans 1: 26-27:

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

The modern mind reads these verses and makes a lot of assumptions. But what does this text actually say?

It says the women exchange natural relations for unnatural ones, then describes men having sex with men. But it doesn’t actually describe the unnatural relations women were having — the common assumption is that it is describing female homosexuality, and if it does it is the only text in the Bible that does so. As it turns out, the Church Fathers tended to interpret this as referring to extramarital affairs. Anastasios and Augustine both explicitly reject that it refers to lesbian sex, and the earliest person on record using this to condemn lesbianism was John Chrysostom in the 5th century AD.

Therefore, there are no clear, explicit references to lesbianism anywhere in the Bible.

But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that these verses include both male and female homosexuals.

This passage is clearly not about a group of monogamous, married homosexual couples. It is about people who exchanged their marital relationships for homosexual extramarital affairs. Condemnation of people who commit a variety of sins, among them adultery with homosexuals, is not the same as a condemnation of homosexuality itself.

Finally, and perhaps more importantly the passage is itself a setup for Romans 2. The condemnations against “dishonorable passions” are levied for the sake of getting the crowd hearing the letter riled up, while Romans 2 admonishes them for judging their fellow humans.

True vs False Teachings

So the Bible doesn’t really say anything about homosexuality one way or the other. This makes sense, as the concept of sexual orientation did not exist when the Bible was written, which would have made it tough to condemn.

Fortunately, Jesus prepared us for circumstances like this. In Matthew 7 he provided a litmus test to distinguish true teachings from false ones:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Does condemnation of homosexuality breed good fruit or bad fruit? What about support?

Support for our gay brothers and sisters bears good fruit. Humans, rather than walking through life alone and without a suitable partner, are instead able to take pleasure in one of God’s first gifts to mankind, the love of another human being. These couples provide more loving households which can take the many orphans off of society’s hands and provide them with a household every bit as healthy and happy as heterosexuals do, and considerably happier than they would likely be in an orphanage.

What does the condemnation of homosexuality breed?

All kinds of nasty things, including but certainly not limited to:

  • Across the globe, Biblically-justified anti-gay legislation can be directly and indirectly traced to the deaths of countless LGBT persons every year.
  • 20.8% of American hate crimes reported in 2013 were grounded in sexual orientation.
  • The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that between 30 and 40% of American LGBT youth, depending on age and gender, have attempted suicide, a figure astronomically higher than the national average.

These people, many of whom are children, are suffering and dying because of people trying to force them to be something they aren’t. And in the case of LGBT youth, this burden is often increased with scorn and bigotry and ex-gay “therapy” that is both ineffective and abusive.

There is no scientific evidence that a person can change their sexual orientation, and the American Psychiatric Association warns that such  “therapy” is harmful and dangerous. Even leaders of the most prominent ex-gay organizations have come out and apologized, saying that it is wrong, and doesn’t work, before quitting.

What the Church has done to homosexuals is evil. There is no Biblical justification for it, and it does not fit within the Christian moral framework. It is time for us to stop taking such dangerous, demonstrably false positions and accept the Bible for what it is, rather than allowing the previous generations and their misunderstandings to guide our thoughts on the matter.

In doing so, we should all support the Presbyterian Church USA for the step forward they have taken against evil.


Max Mills is a 26 year old Texan with a degree in Computer Science. Although he writes about a variety of things, his main focuses are education and political accountability. You can follow him on Twitter at @MaxFMills

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  • tommy5677

    An utterly boring and unending article, convoluted and equally as confusing as anything in the bible. We should be totally rejecting this nonsense and strive to make the Bible and religion irrelevant.

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  • Max Mills

    Thats a good point against my religion that deserves attention, but this article was about how we should view homosexuality in the modern era. I was not defending the OT Law in this article, just arguing that it is not objectively immoral and telling modern Christians that we should support it.

    Whether a law that hasnt applied in 2000 years was just or not doesnt really help or hurt my argument here

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  • teddy21

    Reminds me of salsa

  • GayEGO

    Leviticus is a demon and from the dark ages.

  • TruthNotReligion

    Sounds good. Yet another position heard from on this issue, yet another position claiming that “it” correctly states what the Bible says. Alrighty, then, that certainly is fair.

    Since the righties get to retranslate and reinterpret Biblical folk tales, it’s fair that lefties do, too. And EVERYBODY gets to quote Jesus in support of whatever position is being promoted. Each side accuses any opponents of being “false prophets” . . . LOL

    The problem: . . . the Bible is . . . all a bunch of folk tales.

    AND: there IS no set of “original manuscripts” around to check what was *written originally*. The first set of complete gospels doesn’t show up until the 4th century A.D. … (shhhhh ! don’t tell !)

    But the fact remains: FAIR IS FAIR, so this article does make a great contribution to the debate re: what the Bible “really” means.

    Oh … the “Presbyterian Church USA” is but one of TEN church denominations IN the USA which uses the term “Presbyterian” in their titles. So . . . apparently Presbyterians even can’t figure out WHO is a “real Presbyterian” … and there are tens of thousands of “Christian” denominations, each of which pretends that (1) “it” is the *true* one and (2) “it” is the one “most like how the *original* Christinas were/believed/priacticed” . . . LOL . . .

  • Indigo

    That’s an astute observation. Even today, we see barbaric orders coming from that monster deity, acted out in our political life, both local and international.

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  • Indigo

    I suspect the Brothers Grimm compiled their tales from multiple sources and their sources revised the story lines to suit the audience. Some like it mild, some like spooky, and other want blood. Huh! That reminds of modern day television stories.

  • 2karmanot

    Bible Bingo is such a fun game!

  • 2karmanot

    Well done!

  • 2karmanot

    And what could be scarier than Easter: torture and holy zombie day.

  • Bill_Perdue

    ‘Sacred texts’ like the qur’an, the bible or the mahabharata are not with ignorance, superstition and are open to being used by the right.

    Historical science is the sane alternative.

  • Think about what’s been done to the stories from myth, thanks to Thomas Bowdler and Edith Hamilton.

  • The Pagan gods weren’t quite so interested in micromanaging the world, and, since they most likely originated as personifications of phenomena people didn’t really understand, it’s no wonder they were apparently arbitrary.

    Although they had more sense than to claim to be the one and only. (And in that regard, as I recall, one of the Hebrew names for God was Elohim, which is plural. Leads to some interesting speculation on the origins of Hebrew monotheism.)

  • Two points: the Old Testament morality espoused by so many modern “Christians” is nothing more than following a set of rules for fear of punishment. At best, that’s a rudimentary concept of morality of the sort a child might understand — although children very often exhibit more in the way of empathy and compassion — the bases of any real morality — than their elders.

    And this whole “Judaeo-Christian tradition” based on pairs of polar opposites has led to a world view that has seriously impaired our ability to recognize the universe as it is — it’s not an “either/or” kind of place, and at this point, there don’t appear to be any absolutes.

  • It’s a given that you can find something in the sacred writings, teachings, and/or doctrines of any religion to justify doing what you wanted to do anyway. If Max Mills’ article kicks the props out from under some of the “Christians” out there by showing that it doesn’t justify them, so much the better.

  • cleos_mom

    And in one of those creation stories, the Creator simply created people “male and female”. No mention of female as “helpmeet.”

    A few months back I mentioned that in a religious blog and discovered that a lot of “believers” don’t even know it exists; one of them accused me of making it up. And it’s right there in the first chapter of the Bible; they never even got beyond the first page.

  • cleos_mom

    The god of the Old Testament isn’t much different from the “pagan” gods of other groups; not surprising since it’s likely that the then-referenced Hebrews became monotheistic over a number of generations. The standard Sunday School assumption is that Abraham worshiped one god from jump street.

    In the Book of Job in particular, Yahweh behaves much more like one of the Greco-Roman gods than the “God” as present day Jews and Christians think of. He uses the lives of a man and his family as the objects of a vanity inspired wager and then, when Job demands a reason, evades the question via adolescent strutting and boasting.

    And, of course, it’s that ‘where were you when I created the world, ya little shit’ verse that clergy so often wax orgiastic over.

  • cleos_mom

    There’s always the reality that historically most clergy were not much better educated about ancient cultures and nuances of ancient languages than their congregations were; and that hasn’t improved much.

    The selective aspect of moral concern is what makes me so cynical about all this ritual distraughtitude in the last 6 weeks of the year concerning “Christmas being commercialized.” You can get applause and a hefty number of “likes” for it but for the other 46 Saturdays and Sundays in the year how many sermons, lessons and homilies are about worship of status and material goods vs. gays and abortion? Not many.

    On December 26th, pointedly public concern about materialism gets put on that special shelf or closet corner where the unused wrapping paper and higher-quality gift boxes are stored, to be retrieved next November. Ritual concern about the worms infesting modern society’s heart satisfied for the year.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The bible is a compendium of howling ignorance, superstition and generally very backward ethics overlaid with justifications for ethnic and other forms of violence by brutal royalist regimes.

    In other words, it’s worthless except as a research tool for historians who have to wade through it’s tribal and then state propaganda and it’s generally ignorant ethics while conducting historical research. Except for that narrow utility it has no value.

    It becomes important in current political life when it’s used by bigots, racists and misogynists to justify their attempts to use homophobia, woman hating and racism as a divide and rule strategy.

  • Strepsi

    I appreciate your sincerity, and the time and research that went into this article. I also think that it is important that the NALTs (The “we’re Not All Like That” Christians like yourself DO speak up. More than changing the minds of hardline Christians, it also shows the fake dichotomy we’ve been fed that it’s “People of Faith VERSUS LGBTQ People”. There are a plurality of people of faith on the right side of this issue.

    Whenever I get some Christianist relative talking about “People of faith” I remind them that there are gay couples who are Christian, who are married, who have had their marriage BLESSED BY GOD by acleric (United, Unitarian, Episcopalian, etc.) Are these not People of Faith? This is usually met with a sputtering “They’re not REAL Christians, they don;t count”, which is pretty much why the Constitution was amended in the first place!

  • Back in my old SCA days, I used to go to events as a robed story-teller, armed with a fairly good memorization of all kinds of old tales, including Grimm’s.

    Sometimes parents would leave their kids with me while they wandered off for undercooked turkey legs or leather mugs full of watery ale. Once alone as an apparently unvetted involuntary baby-sitter, I’d ask the kids if they wanted to hear the normal version of the stories or the scaaaaaaaary version.

    They always went for the latter. Afterwards, more often than not the kids told me they had a blast.

    I suppose nowadays if I did that sort of thing, I’d be arrested. Even though I did hold back on the really scary stuff if there were really young ones present.

  • “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; their blood is upon them.” – Lev 20:13. The Hebrew word, to’ebah, is most accurately understood to mean “that which goes against the accepted order,” and not the word abomination, according to the article. The accepted order, however, according to the passage in Leviticus — and therefore claimed as a command from god — remains that of heterosexual relations only, and death is still prescribed to any behavior considered against to’ebah. So what difference is there in the command to kill homosexuals just because the word is given a somewhat different definition? None. It is still a barbaric order from a monster deity.

  • mirth

    Ok, Mike. You win.
    :/

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Umbrage? You call that taking umbrage? You and your significant other must be super, super civil. That’s a disagreement with your opinion and pointing out that you ignored the word “claim” in order to change the meaning of Max’s comment.

    As I use to tell my husband, “I quit my mind reading act a long time ago.” How was I to know you were speaking of posts? If we want to get rid of such posts as this, shouldn’t we also consider the appropriateness of this post http://americablog.com/2015/02/atheists-confront-chapel-hill-shooting.html ? I really don’t see either one as being inappropriate. I am apparently a little more flexible than you. I also hope that this paragraph isn’t as snarky as your last paragraph. I also hope I haven’t made any sweeping statements about “non-religionists”.

  • mirth

    You say disagreement is fine, yet take umbrage at my disagreement with a post writer who declares his personal religious belief and then in comments asserts a percentage figure to authenticate the importance of his post position, a figure that is and was easily discounted. I also gave my opinion of not liking Americablog posts (unlike in the comments where personal opinion is the norm) deviating from being secular into one of personal religious expression.

    So, Mike, I really do not get your mad-on; however, in my experience, such is common among religionists whenever their beliefs are questioned or whenever anyone asserts that this is not a religious country all constitution-like.

  • Lish Lash

    The God of the Old Testament is alternately compassionate and cruel, a textbook psychopathic abuser. But since the Bible proclaims God as “good” (and all who oppose him as “evil”), his worshippers must maintain a moral cognitive dissonance that the rest of us perceive as hypocrisy. Aggressively zealous believers use Biblical accounts of God’s brutality as role models to justify their own cruel agendas, propagandizing their personal bigotry as “God’s will”.

    The antidote to this madness is to reject the sanctimonious belief in “good” versus “evil” as Judeo-Christian indoctrination. The true moral choice is between compassion versus cruelty, a difficult lesson that cultures around the world are a long way from learning.

  • I think we overprotect children from reality (that they already know more about that we acknowledge) in what they are allowed to read. My German tutor had us read stories about Max and Moritz that I thought were shocking and she thought they were hilarious. Sort of like the more violent cartoons that were common in my childhood but that have mostly disappeared since. Instead we have sanitized/Disneyfied versions that often miss the point of the original (i.e. The Little Mermaid). Oh well, I prefer Hans Christian Anderson anyway. ;-)

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Actually, I got what you said. What I must not have got is what you got from Max’s writing. I must have given more attention to the word “claims” in Max’s comment.

  • mirth

    You missed the point of why I copied additional statistics about US citizens and religion. To Max, 76% of Christian identity means 76% “have devoted itself to the teachings of the Bible” and that simply isn’t borne out by the facts of the overall decline in religious activity such as church going and the steadily increasing numbers of citizens who claim no religious affiliation.

    All of which has nothing to do with changing any writer’s personal religious beliefs and much more to do with questioning the premise of their writing and the overall appropriateness of interjecting those beliefs on a secular blog.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Yes, I am familiar with the originals. Most of them are rather startling, but there are a few that can be handled by older children. Let’s face it, many can probably handle it better than I can. However, the relative few that can be handled by the older children can give them a great opportunity to compare and contrast material.

  • The_Fixer

    I found this to be an interesting read, from an historical perspective. Although I don’t believe in a god, it is very interesting to know of the history of the bible and the peoples who wrote it and lived it.

    Does this analysis make a difference in how people who do believe think about gay people? Likely no, or at least not much.

    That’s because, even in this day and age, religion is mostly a family tradition. It’s people saying, when asked to justify their beliefs, “That’s the way I’ve always heard it because that’s the church I and my family goes to.” It’s how religion has been perpetuated – get ’em young before they can develop critical thinking skills, baptize ’em and then apply copious amounts of pressure to keep them in the fold.

    Luckily, we seem to be drifting away from that to a certain degree. However, I doubt that we’ll see a second Enlightenment during my lifetime. This has been impressed upon the people of the world like on of L. Ron Hubbard’s engrams. Old habits – and old bullshit – die hard.

  • Don Chandler

    76% of US citizens might have some christian aspect. But 100% of US citizens are secular. I would say you are right to examine the bible because some of it’s adherents exert unreasonable pressure on non-believers, contrary to our secularism. And to know thy enemy is a very old meme.

    I’ve never read the bible but I enjoy snippets here and there. It really doesn’t make sense to me. A friend translates old books for theologians and he says they have an agenda and thus the truth is ignored in meanings, much as you have demonstrated in your article. It’s impossible for us to understand the original meanings of words because we really live out of that context. Classicists often caution on absolutism in their studies. Like, for instance, there are only three sources for who was Socrates. That only paints three perspectives of a man we worship in modern society. We might not like Socrates if we had to deal with all his failings ;) But he sure is worth consideration.

  • Denver Catboy

    Jesus seemed to have a really big problem with people who said one thing and did another. I seem to remember lots of discussion on that fact. Ironically, he didn’t have problems with homosexuality, and didn’t think that adultery warranted the punishment many people were ready to give. I find it ironic that both of these lessons are forgotten by today’s ‘Christians’, as are his teachings about being kind to others. Delicious irony….

  • Max Mills

    There are a lot of comments under this thread, so I am responding to you but it is my response to most of the things here.

    My main point was that what the Bible says matters becauase we live in a society which esteems it so highly (or claim to). However, your point (which is reiterated in different ways throughout this thread) is good – only a small minority of people who call themselves Christians actually study the Bible.

    If what the Bible said mattered we wouldnt be having this debate about homosexuality at all (as my article demonstrates). What actually matters is what people believe the Bible says, and the impact of people believing the Bible necessarily condemns homosexuality is being felt by homosexuals throughout the country.

    So I think that the article is a good one to have written, because it could adjust people’s view of what the Bible says to be not only more correct but more… you know, ethical. Which is important.

  • When was cherry-picking not a core practice of Christianity?

  • The people I know (here in the Bible Belt) most likely to freak out over what the Bible says about some social issue are the ones that never go to church and that break all kinds of Bible rules themselves. They whore around all they want but being gay is an ABOMINATION. People influenced by the religious right who don’t actually go to church have a huge impact on elections in much of the country.

  • Exactly. the difference between the various Christian traditions boils down to how each group decided to cherry pick the canon. When was the last time you heard a minister condemn banks for charging excessive interest (usury) in spite of multiple passages in both the old and new testaments that condemn that specifically? We ignore what we don’t like and use what we do, and all Christians do that (ESPECIALLY the ones that claim they don’t).

  • Ever read the original versions? It’s not stuff you would have children read in modern American schools.

  • FLL

    Some people might understand that they are being dishonest when they answer “Catholic, Presbyterian,” etc. in response to a poll question. Others might not even think of it as dishonesty because they understand the question to be “What is your family’s traditional religious background?” If you understand the question that way, then even atheists might answer with a specific Christian denomination. Those are two major reasons why the polling number of 76% may be unusable.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Max said 76% of Americans identify as Christian. That doesn’t mean that 76% of Americans are church going, Bible thumpers. All it means is that 76% will say they are Christian should you ask about religious affiliation. They don’t have to have a Bible in their home or even know much about it, they just believe they are Christian. Nothing that you wrote negates what Max wrote.

    As a longtime reader and contributor, I sometimes get very tired of being clobbered for my religious beliefs. I have never proselytized, but as soon as I say I am Christian, I can almost count on being proselytized by an Atheist or Agnostic. I can see the importance of discussing this issue. It exists despite the fact that you prefer that it didn’t exist.

    This blog has always discussed many issues that affect LGBT folk. The MCC exists because many LGBT folk identify as Christian. Many other denominations have a large percentage of LGBT members. Unfortunately, many of those denominations are not a good place for those members, but many others are welcoming to LGBT folk. My late husband and I were married in an ELCA church in 2006 (at that point, the bishop turned a blind eye to this), but at that time Minnesota still had a DOMA. The pastor conducting the ceremony was an out gay man. Couldn’t this blog be just as welcoming as our church? You don’t have to change your beliefs, just allow others to have their own beliefs.

  • mirth

    Very well said, Naja, here and just above.

  • That’s the problem with polling on religion. People usually give the answer they think the pollster wants to hear, not an honest one. And polling questions don’t really leave room for much nuance; most people’s religious beliefs aren’t simply “yes or no”. Many Americans will claim to identify as Christian, but never set foot in a church for any reason other than a wedding or a funeral. Many will claim to believe in God, but could barely manage to quote the Lord’s Prayer.

    All in all, it doesn’t really matter. The Constitution is exceptionally clear. “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” So which do you suppose most Americans consider more important, Biblical commandments or the Constitution?

  • Slight correction: We live in a society where bits and pieces of what the Bible says matters, and those bits and pieces change randomly depending on who you ask, with the prevailing political wind. The vast majority of the Bible is completely ignored. So many like to cling to particular phrases which serve only to reinforce their own preconceived prejudices, and claim that is moral, while ignoring huge swaths of the rest of the writings. Only two of the 600-odd commandments laid down in the Old Testament are actually laws: Don’t kill and don’t steal. Because the vast majority of them are simply incompatible with the real world.

    That being said, 76% of the country might identify as Christian, but only a small fraction of those actually attend church, and an even smaller fraction actually “devote themselves to the teachings of the BIble”. Just happens that that small fraction are very loud, and the majority often don’t seem to care enough to speak out. Polling on religion is essentially useless, because people generally just give the response they feel obligated to give, not necessarily an honest one.

  • mirth

    “According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of people say they go to church every week, but statistics show that fewer than 20 percent actually attend. More than 4,000 churches close their doors every year. Between 2010 and 2012, half of all churches in the U.S. did not add any new members. Each year 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity.

    But according to a new book titled Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, hard numbers don’t tell the whole story. Hundreds of interviews and extensive hands-on research from a variety of sources reveal four basic reasons people don’t want to go to church anymore: they don’t want to be lectured, and they view the church as judgmental, hypocritical, and irrelevant.”

    http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/170739-statistics-don-t-tell-the-whole-story-when-it-comes-to-church-attendance.html

    Regarding your 76% figure, it’s a good bet that 76% of US citizens don’t even own a bible and if they do it’s likely gathering dust on a shelf.

    Likewise, the numbers of those claiming no religious affiliation continue to increase, particularly in the 18-29 age group, three years ago that number at 32%.

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/10/09/pew-20-of-americans-are-now-atheist-agnostic-or-unaffiliated-with-a-religion/

    Them’s the facts, brother.

    So no, it is not important to examine this issue wherein you declare your religious affiliation and then cobble bible verses together attempting to prove a point, and as a longtime reader and contributor I am very sorry indeed to see Americablog go down this road.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Religion is the enemy and humankind’s greatest tragedy.

    Tax them until they can’t get up. Then do back taxes.

    Prosecute cult crimes from child abuse to murder. “The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique has told the BBC he believes some European-made condoms are infected with HIV deliberately. Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio claimed some anti-retroviral drugs were also infected “in order to finish quickly the African people”. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7014335.stm

    Persecute the cults by criminalizing their interference in civil matters like marriage, divorce, adoption, education and civil medical question and confiscate their wealth to compensate their victims.

  • Max Mills

    76% of American adults identify as Christian, it is basically impossible to be elected President without claiming Christianity, and you don’t think discussions of Christian beliefs are important :P ?

    Its extremely important. Christian culture dominates America. If other Christians see what I have written here and it changes their perspective it could lead to real change.

    We live in a society where, for better or for worse, what the Bible says matters. It matters because 76% of the American population claims to have devoted itself to the teachings of the Bible. I don’t think that one could justify blowing it off, no matter what they believe.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    As a retired elementary school teacher, I respectfully request that you leave your hands off Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

  • mirth

  • TampaZeke

    That was awesome! Can we discect Grimm’s Faerie Tales next?

  • Rob Callaghan

    .. Apparently 1) I misinterpreted the Indigo post, and/or 2) everyone misunderstood what i was saying.

    i was saying essentially everything people said in response to it….. >.>

    “…. so you have a completely unbiased, self regulated understanding of the bible that you developed by personally reading and interpreting.”
    >>Was directed at the fact most religious folks have never even opened a bible aside from in church when asked to follow along. As well as the fact that most religious folks are “of that religion” primarily by upbringing. thus almost all of there beliefs and understanding of said religion are just projections of there parents, not actually independent thought and interpretation.

    “and you do not listen to word of any other fellow christian, included members of church, or even the Vatican city?”
    >> Was directed at the fact that any church going christian is most defiantly open to “people who pretend to speak for “god”…. I mean that’s literally all church is :P sit on a shitty wooden bench and listen to someone tell you what god said. just as anyone that supports the Vatican.

    Just thought i would clear that all up :P

  • mirth

    Verily I say unto thee, when oh when will it stop being “important to examine the arguments…” of progressive or regressive xians or any other flavors of any religion followers?

    Because it isn’t.

  • Hanuman would love it. As would Coyote.

    Up until someone told them the Christianists meant for the Bible to be taken seriously, that is.

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  • nicho

    Slightly off topic: Right off the bat, God creates Eve from Adam’s rib, which would be the first instance of human cloning — so apparently, God is OK with that.

    The main problem with today’s religious hucksters is that they work from English translations of the bible. All translations are watered down from the Greek. Koine Greek is a hyper-complex language compared to English. When I was doing graduate work in theology and scripture, we would have to do a literal translation from the Greek and then a “readable” English translation. The English version was always about two-thirds the length of the literal translation — because you had to gloss over a lot of really convoluted language. People just wouldn’t read it.

    Consequently, English translations are interpretations. A good example is a word often mistranslated as “homosexual.” Paul uses “malathe.” In Koine Greek, malathe means soft — like cloth is soft. It is the only time it is used in the NT. Even on secular literature of the time it is rarely used. One instance is to refer to a man who divorced his wife — and then took her back. So, it probably meant morally weak or wishy washy. The Greek ideal would be to be steadfast, and anyone who wavered would be seen as weak — or soft.

    In King James, the word is translated “effeminate.” Again, at that time, women were seen to be flighty and irresolute. So someone who was wishy washy would be considered effeminate.

    When it came time to create the Revised Standard edition, it was the same time that homosexuality as a discrete sexual orientation — at that time “lifestyle” — was being recognized. That gave rise to those translators turning the word to “homosexual.” There is absolutely no evidence that this is what Paul intended, because in his time, homosexuality was just not a “thing.” He wouldn’t have talked about, just as he wouldn’t have talked about cell phones.

    There is no word for homosexual in Koine Greek. So Paul couldn’t have used it.

  • Here’s something to ponder: The Holy Spirit did not ask Mary to consent to being knocked up. The angel merely informed her after the fact that it had been done to her.

    Nowadays, we’d call that rape, even if spiritually imposed. Or, if one counters she did consent, then we’re talking a willful act of adultery.

    Then there’s the whole cult of the Virgin Birth which, if you think about it, makes no sense whatsoever from a marital standpoint. What man would never bed his own wife, especially in that culture?

    Unless of course, Joseph was gay or totally asexual, both of which were against his own religion’s rules… ;-)

  • UncleBucky

    The Bible is only proof that some guys wrote some things down, edited and edited it, translated and translated it and then said it was the Word of God.

    Write/print = engraved paper = Graven Image = BLASPHEMY!

    Thenk yew!

  • Yep. LOL I knew you’d get that one. And yes, that’s all we can do — the best we can, with as much love, empathy, and compassion as we can muster. That’s why in my time here on this planet, I’ve come around to valuing the right messages, wherever they come from.

    We both know as soon as someone says, “God says to hate those people” or “God wants you to give me money” or “Your truth is wrong, my truth is the only one and you’d better believe it or else” — a thoughtful, good-hearted person will know those are ‘bad fruit’ messages.

    I was baptized in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Brought up Roman Catholic. Eventually I made a study of Christianity in many different forms and also looked into many other faiths, mainly out of curiosity and a bit of rebellion because so many conservative and fundamentalist religions have as one of their first rules, “Don’t examine any other religions.” (It is truly amazing how incredible fragility is a key defining feature of so many fundamentalist hyper-orthodox belief systems. Plus if God really is all-powerful and all-knowing, surely He doesn’t need His followers to do all His smiting, right?)

    One thing most good faiths have as a core teaching? Paraphrasing, but usually it’s some variant of, “Be nice to others, because it’s the right thing to do. And don’t judge, because it’s not your place to do that.”

    Some of the more advanced faiths will add a third teaching, “Find the truth for yourself, and never let someone else insist they know or are the only path to it.”

    I knew a Jesuit many years ago, Brother Benedict, and it was with him I was freed finally to ask every question my young mind could come up with. It was liberating, really, to hear him say that faith without questions, without curiosity and a desire to learn, was no faith at all. (This was contrary to my former Catholic parish priest informing my parents that because I was so precocious and impertinent, I might very well be possessed by a demon.)

    Those questions and debates with Benedict eventually led me to discard and dismiss literally everything in the Bible except “Be nice to each other” and “Don’t judge.” To his credit and compassion, my friend said he respected that and said it was a good foundation for any system of belief.

    Hence why I am what I term a ‘spiritual agnostic.’ In my five decades on this planet, in this body, I have experienced a number of things that caused me to conclude this reality we inhabit probably is not all there is. And also quite possibly we humans are not intellectually equipped to fully comprehend it all. But on the other hand, I can’t believe in a supreme all-powerful, all-knowing super-deity who nonetheless apparently wants to micromanage how humans dress, behave, and interact socially…and I certainly do not believe anybody who says “I know what God wants, with 100% certainty” is telling the truth.

    Be good; don’t judge; seek truth but never presume I have it — that’s how I try to live. I don’t always succeed, but I try.

  • nicho

    Not to mention that the supposed genealogies purporting to show Jesus’ legitimacy are really genealogies of Joseph — who wasn’t Jesus’ father. So, they tell us nothing.

  • Indigo

    I like that concept. Would would divine peers like Zeus make of their Bible, let along Krishna or Shiva or one of the Old Norse Gods? Maybe Wotan would like it?

  • Max Mills

    Lol that saying is from the Bible! :P

    I dont believe anyone knows anything about this topic for certain, really. We mostly just do the best we can with the information we have available to us.

  • Indigo

    That’s pretty nutty, friend. The Bible is nothing more than an early Iron Age redaction of some scattered desert myths. Bibleoletry, along with bibleoletors, don’t have a whole lot of credibility to trade on.

  • True enough, but you know what they say about building a house on a foundation of sand.

  • goulo

    I’m not religious, but I started reading the Bible from the beginning a few weeks ago, a couple pages each day, out of curiosity (after thinking about reading it for years, due to its cultural significance).

    Man, God is batshit crazy in the Old Testament. Anyone who quotes the Bible to justify anti-gay attitudes is a serious hypocrite unless they also support polygamy, slavery, punishing future generations for the sins of one person, destroying religious artifacts of other religions, never doing any work at all on the Sabbath, etc etc etc.

    Plus God is an awful micro-manager, droning on for a dozen pages to Moses about the exact detailed construction of the altar and the tabernacle and the priest clothes which should be made to honor him. I’d hate to work for a crazy micro-manager boss like that.

  • 2patricius2

    Thank you, Becca.

  • Well put, Patricius.

  • If taken literally, the Earth was created twice, in two different and contradictory ways, only about 6000 years ago, and all of humanity is descended in short succession from two lethally small genetic pools — the first being Adam and Eve and the second being Noah’s family.

    Then there’s the demonstrably wrong model of cosmology, which Christian followers were so absolutely certain was the only truth, they imprisoned and sometimes executed people for saying otherwise.

    I’d say it’s more than amply proven to be fallible.

  • Max Mills

    Making a case for my beliefs within the framework of my religion is not the same as claiming I know them for certain

  • 2patricius2

    Max, your arguments about the interpretations of these specific passages in Biblical books are arguments I have read before, but you have stated them quite succinctly. It is always important to try to understand the cultural context of such passages. We do tend to read old writings from our place in history.

    What I found most powerful about what you wrote are your comments about good fruit and bad fruit. The thing that antigay people focus on, is their damning interpretations about a handful of Biblical passages. When attacked, they tend to respond aggressively; and when cornered, they cry “religious freedom” and play the martyr. It is always difficult for us to see ourselves clearly and to see the clear consequences of our actions. It may well take other people to point out those things to ourselves. I think that goes for some people who lead antigay campaigns, leaving harm in their wake while ignoring the good of those they condemn and indeed making wild accusations about the people they target.

    Of course, there are politicians and antigay leaders who use their campaigns against LGBT people for money or votes or fame. But I think the majority of people who oppose equal civil rights for LGBT people are not aware, and I think that is one reason that some people who previously opposed civil rights and civil marriage equality for same sex couples have changed their minds.

    You are right. Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad. The war on LGBT people has been very destructive to countless numbers of good people. The example of couples who took care of partners who were dying of AIDS, the examples of couples who devote their lives to their partners and their children, the examples of the many LGBT people who have so often been in the forefront of movements for human liberation are just some of the examples of good fruit being borne by good and healthy trees.

  • One other thing I’d like to add, and trust me, I intend no slight but only to suggest you think on the contradiction.

    the idea that a human can know, for certain, the mind of an omniscient deity strikes me as absurd.

    Yet in your post above, Max, you go to great lengths using Biblical writings to attempt to prove that the Christian God is fine with homosexuality and marriage equality. It’s a circular tautology, a veritable Möbius strip of reasoning.

  • Ala carte Christianity, Biblically-informed or otherwise, and cherry-picking seem to be a core practice nowadays.

    Even those dietary, clothing, and personal grooming rules were never rescinded — yet most modern Christians see no problem with enjoying lobster, wearing poly-blends (without tassels or head-coverings), and cutting their hair. At the same time, they point to passages right next to those commands as justification for oppressing gay people.

  • 2karmanot

    “the mind of an omniscient deity strikes me as absurd.” Oh, the irony!

  • nicho

    Riiiight. Because Vatican City and the other religious hucksters have no bias and no axe to grind. Bwahahahahaha.

  • 2karmanot

    Well, god bless your lil’ pea pick’un heart.

  • 2karmanot

    It is both pragmatic and utilitarian to contemplate passages of the Bible starting with Leviticus in the solemnity of the two-fer.

  • nicho

    They claim the bible is the “word of God.” However, before I believe anything in it, I want to see it peer reviewed.

  • 2karmanot

    Wow! Excellent article…well done.

  • Hello Max. I’m not saying your article does not make valid points, as it does. I just take exception with your use of the generalizing word ‘Biblical.’

    I have made a long study of the Bible, going back decades. The words attributed to that alleged Jesus fellow are just about the only good thing in there. The Old Testament prescribes a long list of rules and rather disturbing lessons — which modern Christanists attempt to cherry-pick to support whatever repressive agenda they wish to impose on others. And the New Testament tells a rather nice story from several viewpoints…until this Paul fellow almost deliberately refutes nearly everything Jesus said to do.

    To suggest Biblical Christianity is a monolithic system of belief puts you on the same playing field as those who a generation ago used Biblical Christian beliefs to insist on segregation and anti-miscegenation laws. The only way to win such battles, when the other side constantly makes rhetorically dishonest appeals to irrefutable omnipotent authority is not to play by their rules.

    You say ‘Biblical Christianity’ should be fine with homosexuality, they counter by insisting their God has commanded otherwise, with some of the crazier ones openly suggesting maybe gay people and LGBT supporters should be put to death. For example, that fellow in California, the one who has been trying to push for a gay genocide proposition — he specifically invokes his interpretation of Biblical rules as the reason. And he is as certain of his position as you are of yours.

    Impasse.

    In short, other ‘Biblical Christians’ will declare you to be a heretic and apostate for even suggesting homosexuality is fine with God.

  • Rob Callaghan

    but I don’t trust anyone who pretends to speak for “God.”
    …. so you have a completely unbiased, self regulated understanding of the bible that you developed by personally reading and interpreting. and you do not listen to word of any other fellow christian, included members of church, or even the Vatican city?

    Because if you do… well i got some bad news….

  • Max Mills

    Becca,

    Thank you for taking the time to leave me not one but two well thought out, eloquent responses to my article.

    I disagree with a lot of your conclusions, but I can tell that you have put a lot of thought into them and I appreciate that.

    My response to your “women are property” claim would be an article as long as this one. I will write it and upload it somewhere (probably not here) and respond to your comment with it at some point in the future.

    In the meantime, it seems as though you are rejecting the article as sufficient to defend homosexuality from the perspective of Biblical Christianity. Could you explain how it falls short?

  • Biblically-directed Christianity will never support homosexuality, only evolved Christianity can or will. (And ‘will’, as in ‘want to’, remains the open question.)

    Remember, Biblical Christianity openly advocated the practice of slavery. There is no ambiguity. There are no reforms, other than a few rule clarifications about how one should treat slaves, like the one saying you can beat your slave to within an inch of his or her life, but if the slave survives for at least 24 hours, you’re cool.

    The abuses of orthodox Christianity is what led to both attempts at reform efforts (which tended to fail) or schisms. These off-shoots are what then eventually seemed to persuade the mainline Christian sects to reconsider some of their positions, but like a train they’d take a very long time to turn.

    Just as many in the west think there’s only one form of Islam, many seem to think all the various flavors of Christianity are basically the same, informed by the exact same teachings and philosophies. They are not. Did you know that a Protestant marriage is viewed within the Roman Catholic faith as not really a marriage at all, not the ‘sacrament’ as defined within their Church? Or that many Baptists view Catholics as followers of a literal ‘anti-Christ’?

    Truly Biblically-based Christianity would mean to take the cultural practices and laws of an ignorant pre-science, pre-Enlightenment and rather war-loving people who were fine with the ownership of human beings (including every female human, without exception) and attempt to force that onto modern cultures.

  • Duncan Watson

    It figures that a Baptist tries to claim Presbyterians are not Christians. Baptists have always been heretical nuts. The Presbyterian church is to be admired for many things including their democratically run leadership and their part in the Protestant Reformation.

  • Max Mills

    The article title was a bit strong, the editors fix them to be more “grabby”. I do not speak for God, I acknowledge that I could be wrong about everything I believe, and the idea that a human can know, for certain, the mind of an omniscient deity strikes me as absurd.

    However, I do think that Biblical Christianity should support homosexuality, and I think I have made a good case for that.

  • As I remarked the other day, the key piece of information to take away from the Bible — and from all but the last few generations in Christianity, and not even all of their sects — is deems women to be property.

    Property first of their fathers, who could do whatever they liked with these young women, up to an including offering them up for rape if convenient or sold into slavery for any particular reason. All of the punishments prescribed for men who mistreat women are described as if what happened was a property crime. A woman’s virginity violently stolen through an act of rape? You just owe some money to her father.

    The last two of the Ten Commandments admonishes men not to steal or to covet (to enviously desire) the wife of another man…or his home or lands or servants or farm animals. Women could not actually own anything, therefore these commandments are obviously not in any way directed toward women.

    Even Paul of Tarsus’s many letters — these are the ones where he directly disobeyed Jesus’ directive not to judge others and spent years complaining and judging others — only obliquely refers to the sexual misbehavior of women the one time, in a very non-specific way. His actual opinion about women? We are to shut up, cover up, and do whatever our men tell us to do.

    So let’s put to rest any notion the Bible or Christianity’s earliest teachings have anything to say about female sexuality or acceptable practices thereof. The Bible was a book written by men, for men, in an intensely patriarchal culture.

    As for Romans 1, read what it actually says. If you go back to Romans 1:21, it make it clear that homosexuality is not the sin. Worshiping gods other than Yahweh was. ‘Unnatural sexual desires’ for Roman women and what could only be described as a sudden outbreak of passionate gayness among Roman men was, as describe by Paul, God’s punishment. Quite literally, God made them do it!

    But much of this is beside the point. The same Bible that appears to condemn male homosexuality (primarily because it was accepted among some cultures, including the Greeks, Romans, and quite a few other peoples) also makes it clear that polygamy is only to be denied to the priest class (because multiple wives are describes as distracting) and that slavery and genocide are perfectly fine.

    It is for these reasons, many Christian faiths have decided to set aside all of those draconian rules and punishments, recognizing them as culturally based and barbaric in practice. The problem as ever lies with certain individuals and particularly conservative and/or reactionary Christian sects presuming to speak for all of Christianity. For example, we have the constant conflation of anti-LGBT positions with ‘Christian faith.’ It’s not Christianity, but a particular interpretation of it.

    Unfortunately, we then run into the core problem with too many of humanity’s religions: A claim to irrefutable truth, backed entirely by appeals to irrefutable but impossible-to-prove authority. At least with the Quakers and Zen Buddhists, they teach that one person’s truth isn’t necessarily someone else’s and should not be forced upon anyone.

    The reactionary Christianists however have no particular problem with this. Their truth is, by their definition, the only truth, and they believe they have every right to force it on everyone. Until we’re able to shift the debate off their field, constantly playing by their Calvinball rules, the fight for civil rights for everyone — not just the hyper-orthodox followers of a particular bronze-age originating faith with roots in conquest, slavery, and deity-commanded genocide — will continue to be defensive.

    Basically, every time someone says, “God commands it” — the response should be, “You can’t prove that.”

  • Indigo

    That’s all well and good but I don’t trust anyone who pretends to speak for “God.”

  • Butch1

    Well done, Max!

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