What’s So Gay About The Bible (Final Thoughts)

What’s So Gay About The Bible (Final Thoughts)
It’s been quite a journey for me, looking at these scriptures and studying them more in depth than I have before. This will be my last blog on the topic of what the Bible does and doesn’t say about Homosexuality. I close by looking at Jude 6-7, Romans 1: 26-27, and then will wrap up with some closing thoughts.

Jude 6-7 (NRSV)
6 And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgement of the great day. 7 Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

The church in its earliest days participated in celebrations called love feasts. Jude seems to be concerned with sexual immorality taking place during these times. In verse 4 the writer speaks of ungodly intruders who have stolen in among the believers perverting the grace of God into licentiousness, denying the church’s only Lord and Master Jesus.

Although there is much debate about this, I believe that the sexual immorality described is homo as well as hetero-sexual. The only reason for some to think otherwise is because of the reference to God’s wrath being poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah where there certainly was unnatural sexual immorality. As I referred to in part one of this study, the sin of Sodom was the desire to sexually humiliate and gang rape the angels sent by God. Ezekiel 16:49 tells us that Sodom’s sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.
Now rape, no matter the gender, is always sexual perversion of the highest order. Sex as a weapon always is. Rape was a sign of power and domination and in ancient cultures was seen as a special right of a victorious army to seal its victory over enemies. It was a widely held belief that any man who was sexually penetrated lost his manhood. The sin of Sodom is not only that it did not welcome the outcast, homeless, needy and downtrodden; it also raped away their humanity which is what the mob of men was trying to do in the Genesis 19 story.

In Jude 7 The phrase that the NRSV translates as “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust” reads this way in the greek: ekporneusasai (committing ultra-prostitution) kai (and) apelqousai (coming-away) opisw (after) sarkos (flesh) eteras (different) = Committing ultra prostitution coming away after different flesh.
The sexual immorality is so rampant that Jude describes it as ultra-prostitution with different flesh. Jude is indeed concerned that the love feasts celebrating the gospel of Jesus do not turn into uncontrolled drunken orgies. There is always that danger I suppose when communities that imbibe alcohol and the early church certainly did imbibe. While there is no mandate in scripture against drinking alcohol, there certainly is a mandate about drinking to the point of drunkenness. We in the church are not to allow ourselves to be mastered by anyone but Christ. There is no place in the life of a religious community for drunkenness, promiscuity, orgies, or taking advantage of the weakness of others. To do so makes us not followers of Christ, but followers of the world.
Let’s not miss the point of these Jude passages. Jude urges his Christian readers to contend for the true Christian Faith that was being twisted by certain false teachers of idolatry around them. All sexual immorality, hetero or homo, is unacceptable to God, no exceptions. Idolatry is a sure fire way of heading down the road to perversion.

Romans 1: 26-27
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

After a description of the Gentile’s acceptance of idolatry, rejecting Israel’s God and turning to foreign ones, Paul wrote the above passages. In my opinion, these passages are used more than any other in the bible as proof that God is displeased with homosexual acts and it’s the only time anywhere in scripture that women are included.

The fact is that debates over this issue will continue for years to come. Some theologians will say that the unnatural intercourse spoken of in these passages with women refer to females taking a dominant position in heterosexual intercourse, which might have been considered unnatural in a patriarchal society. Others will say that these verses are addressing homosexual relationships ofany kind.

No matter what your position I don’t think we can dispute that these passages are describing sexual acts between people of the same-sex, woman as well as men, in a context of unbridled lust, idolatry, and promiscuity. These are non-monogamous, unholy unions between people who have made no commitment to each other. These are descriptions of where false worship will take us.

Have you noticed yet how suppressing and rejecting the knowledge of God naturally turns into the worship of false gods? Have you noticed yet how closely false worship is associated with sexual immorality? Then doesn’t it stand to reason that growing in intimacy with the one true and living God is the BEST preventative measure and cure for addiction to sexual immorality? Couldn’t we say that false worship leads to false intimacy? Aren’t these passages written by Paul, like most scriptures, encouraging us to return to the “highway of holiness”? Aren’t Christians called to experience a freedom that they never even thought was possible in light of the immoral sexuality that has so permeated our culture?

We are sexual beings but that isn’t all that we are. We are people who have been made in the image of an indescribable God. Scripture shows us a God whose eyes are so often filled with disappointed love, righteous anger, and healing mercy for his children. My opinion means very little on these matters, what does matter completely is God’s opinion.

I have met so many believers whose relationship with Jesus has made all the difference in their lives. They are people of grace, love, forgiveness, mercy, and joy. The overwhelming majority of them are straight people. A couple of them are not. Truthfully, I don’t know very many homosexuals personally. If I know more than a handful of them then they have not made their orientation known to me. Not all of the homosexuals I know want to follow Jesus. The ones who are actively pursuing a relationship with Christ agree with me and with scripture that we must all be changed in order to follow Jesus. None of us get to stay the way we are. All of us need to be saved and all of us need to be surrendered wholly over to Jesus Christ.

My honest belief is that if we will give our all to Jesus Christ that he will make our sins clear to us. I believe with all my heart that He will convict us of sin and our relationship with Him becomes dependent on our willingness to change at His leading. I believe that my salvation is in His hands along with everyone else in all creation. I believe He is a jealous God who will not tolerate the worship of idols and for many people their sexuality has become an idol. He is a loving God that desires for us all to live in His presence but He is also a God who will not be a part of sin.

I realize that there may be a lot of frustration that I am not making my views clearer on the matter of homosexuality. I realize that I may even be putting my reputation and career on the line by even having conversations like these. All I can say is that I feel a burden to minister to those who we are leaving out, or maybe they are leaving themselves out, I don’t know. These aren’t exhaustive studies and I’m not sure I know much more now than when I started. I am the judge of no one but I serve a God who is the judge of all. If nothing else, I hope you have heard my heart for worship in these few blogs. I long to see all people worship Jesus together, surrendered completely to him, so sold to the point that that they are carried along by His Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

If you are a gay person that indulges in sexual immorality then it will keep you from a vital relationship with God. If you are a straight person and you indulge in sexual immorality then that too will keep you from a vital relationship with God. Our sexuality is not our identity in Christ. Christ gives us a new identity. The only way to true salvation is by letting everything else go and surrendering to Christ. God calls some to celibacy, He calls others to marriage. He calls some of us to mission fields while he calls others to stay home and carry on the work.
To the people who say they have never met a gay gay person (meaning a happy gay person), let me just say that I’ve not met many happy pastors either. The pastoral work is difficult. Pastors are wounded by inconsiderate people all the time. Most people don’t see the heavy burden’s pastors carry quietly on their shoulders. Most people don’t see the things that pastors have to keep inside because they can’t fully be themselves around their parishioners. Pastors get criticized all the time. Pastors often have to walk the road alone because no one else understands. Pastors for the most part don’t have their own pastor and it takes its toll after a while because they feel like they have to be strong and keep up a front. In reality many pastors are very lonely inside. What I just said about pastor’s I can easily say about many homosexuals as well. That is we why have to stop yelling at them and start reaching out to them.

Ephesians 3:20-21
New International Version (NIV)
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

6 months of Wedded Bliss

Monday marks 6th months that I have been married to my wonderful wife Jennifer. My life has changed so much for the better in every area. I can’t imagine a better wife and friend. My heart is yours and yours alone. It is so great to not only be in love with you, but I truly know you love me back and that means the world to me. Happy anniversary honey, you mean more to me than life. I thank God for His love, grace, goodness and salvation giving me more than I deserve. Here’s the song I wrote for Jenn. MORE

Lyrics to “More” By Rick Lee James

Viewing lyrics for More by Rick Lee James.

Verse 1
I’ll not forget the day you walked into my life.
I knew my heart was yours as it hit the speed of light.
Your grace and beauty shown out brighter thatn that Sunday morning sky.

And trying to find the words to show you how I feel is like trying to find a way to drive a car with just one wheel.
How do you describe a love like you have never known before.

Chorus:
More than joy
More than wonderful
More than grace
You are more to me.
More than beauty
More than words can describe
You mean more to me,
More to me than life.

Verse 2
It’s the way you say my name
and how you cheer me up.
It’s the way you wear your hair and hold your coffee cup.
It’s the way your eyes meet mine and how you know exactly what I need.
It’s the way you calm my soul
the way you fill my life
It’s kisses on the front porch when I’m trying to say goodnight.
I don’t know how to say it but that don’t mean I don’t know what it is.

Chorus:
More than joy
More than wonderful
More than grace
You are more to me.
More than beauty
More than words can describe
You mean more to me,
More to me than life.

What’s So Gay About The Bible Part 3 (New Testament)

As I move into part three of what the Bible says about homosexuality, I should say that there are a few passages that are often translated erroneously in the Old Testament that the King James Version adds the word Sodomite to such as Deuteronomy 23:17 and 1 Kings 14:24. In those verses, the word Sodomite actually never appears in the Hebrew so I think the word Sodomite was added to emphasize just how wicked temple prostitution is seen to be in God’s eyes. If you want to know more about the ways of the people of Sodom and didn’t read part one of this blog series then you might want to go back and read it. Suffice to say, God is not at all pleased when we humiliate, torture, rape, or live in irrational fear of our fellow-man.

Since I am not able to find any more places in the Old Testament that deal with homosexuality I’ve decided to move on to the New Testament. Let me make something clear as I move into this next section. I’m doing my best not to put my personal opinion into these studies. I’ve tried my best to study these passages without an agenda in mind, I just want to see what God’s word says on the matter. But, I am guilty of being very homophobic in the past and have in fact mocked homosexuals in the name of my faith. No matter what we may personally believe about homosexuality, I know that ridicule and hate are never God’s ways in the world. It’s with a repentant heart that wants to understand and love like Jesus does that I write these blogs.

Speaking of Jesus, let’s see what he says on this matter. He will set us straight (no pun intended) on this issue. Jesus had such strong feelings about homosexuality that he talks about it in the book of…, um, … wait a minute, let me find it…, he preaches about it in the book of…, um…, I mean he mentions it in the book of, …um, …? Oh, I guess he never mentions it. Well.. that’s frustrating. It must be in one of the lost books of the Bible where Jesus says to vote republican (lol).

As you can see, in my small attempt at humor above, Jesus doesn’t talk about Homosexuality. He doesn’t condone it. He doesn’t condemn it. He just doesn’t address it. I’m sure it existed in Jesus’ time but the fact is that in scripture he silent on the matter.

Thankfully, we do have other passages written by followers of Christ. The Bible wasn’t delivered from a Fed Ex truck one day written by a bunch of nobody’s. It took centuries of deliberation on the part of the church, praying and considering what books should go into the Bible and what books would show us the heart of Jesus. The Bible was written by flawed people who were overcome by grace and I believe in it’s authority for our lives. With this in mind, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1.

1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 (NRSV)
9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Timothy 1: 9-11 (NRSV)
9This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10fornicators, sodomites, slave-traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

These passages are very similar with nearly interchangeable lists of people who were (and are) not considered righteous. Trust me, you don’t want to be on one of these lists. People on this list by their state of being are keeping themselves removed from the reality of the Kingdom of God, both in the present and in the eternal. These are sobering words. The Kingdom of God is literally where the presence of God dwells, where He reigns supremely. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is already present and is all around us, yet it will also be manifest at the end of all time, when creation is remade and evil is cast out for all eternity. To not inherit the Kingdom of God is to not inherit the good life God intends in the present and in the future He will provide. It is our choice. His salvation was given to all on the cross 2000 years ago, but our part in that is ongoing. We choose to embrace or reject his saving arms in the way we choose to live and by the God or gods we choose to follow. These list Paul provides are to be taken seriously and should make us all pause lest we be judging ourselves away from Him.

In both passages the Sodomites (greek=arsenokoitai) have made the list of people not inheriting the Kingdom, along with people who have pre-marital and extra-marital sex, murderers, and various others. Arsenokoitai is the Greek word that is translated as homosexual or sodomite in English, even though there is not Greek equivalent to it. In the New Testament the word arsenokoitai is only used in these two passages. It appears Paul may have invented the word out of two other Greek words to express his point: arrhen which means male and koite which is the cohabitation of a couch or bed.

Now you can look at 25 different commentaries and get 25 different answers as to the meaning of this word Paul used. Some scholars believe it denotes pedophilia while others say it simply means two males who lie together sexually. But, one thing that all commentators seem to be in agreement about is that it is an action word. Paul has just said that straight people who sleep together outside of marriage (fornicators) will not inherit the Kingdom and now he is saying that men (or possibly men who sleep with young boys) outside of marriage are also left out. This list is composed of action words. A thief is a person who actually steals something. A liar is a person who doesn’t tell the truth. An action has to take place in order for the sin to be enacted.

Now Jesus seems to contradict Paul on this just a bit when he talks about the motives of the heart. Jesus says if you lust after a woman you’ve committed adultery with her in your heart so there is something to our being in control of our thought life. But, Paul seems to be talking about something different here, the actual act of committing sin, not just thinking it. Maybe sin does begin in the heart, but it isn’t fully birthed until it is acted upon. To me it seems that there is great encouragement in these writings of Paul. I think he is telling us that having feelings and desires don’t make you sinful, but there are healthy ways to act which we are made for, and there are unhealthy ways which distort what we were made to be.

Now this is where it gets difficult. I can remember as a young man struggling with what at times seemed to be uncontrollable lust. I remember begging God in my private prayer times to make the desire go away. Why would a Christian have to struggle so (thanks teenage hormones). Not always, but at times it seemed like too much to bear. Sometimes I was successful in overcoming temptation, and other times I was not. The guilt and shame I felt in moments of defeat far outweighed the thrill having the forbidden fruit. So why are we this way? Why do we have desires for things that we are not allowed to have? Why do my homosexual brothers and sisters have these desires that many of them simply do not want to have? It doesn’t make their desire any less real just because they may or may not want it? I honestly don’t know where these desires come from. If they are from God then it seems a cruel thing for Him to say “I made you this way but you cannot be the way I made you.” If these impulses come from somewhere other than God then why can’t they be overcome through prayer and accountability? For many, like Henri J. M. Nouwen who chose to embrace his savior over his desires, there is victory over temptation. What I cannot answer is why for so many people of faith, their desire does not go away.

I don’t want to spout easy, pithy answers. To do so would be to minimize the struggle many people are going through. I know there is a lot of debate over whether or not the Old Testament passages that I addressed in parts one and two deal with homosexuality. I tend to think that they are addressing rape and idol worship more than homosexuality but the New testament seems much more clear on the matter in my view. And we could say that these New Testament passages are only dealing with pedophilia because that is one way to translate arsenokoitai, but it is also translated to mean same-sex acts as well. (Please note that I am not equating consensual sex with pedophilia). As much as we may like to, faithful Biblical criticism will not let us make the Bible say what we would like it to say. To me it seems these passages clearly are addressing male homosexual acts. Females aren’t mentioned but they rarely were so I don’t think we should try and say Paul made an exhaustive list.

What I can say is this, all things from God are for our good, even the painful things. Our sexual urges as human beings are strong, but they are not God. Sex is not God although I do believe our society has made it a god. Chris Tomlin’s song Our God comes to my mind at this point. He sings: “Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God You are higher than any other. Our God is healer, awesome in power, our God.” Temptation is calling our name and waiting at the door for us, but our God is greater. You might be a struggling with any of the issues that Paul talks about in these verses, but my only reply to you is our God is greater. Maybe your sin is heterosexual sex outside of marriage and you can’t seem to stop, well it’s time to live in the reality the our God is greater. Maybe you are a kleptomaniac, well good news, our God is greater. I believe we can overcome by God’s help through accountability and prayer.

It’s not easy but neither is the road to the cross which we all must follow. Mother Teresa is one of the most godly examples I can think of from our time. Yet, this godly woman struggled to the point of despair over what she called God’s absence in her life. In many of her letters published posthumously (Come Be My Light, 2007), she describes her experiences of profound spiritual darkness that haunted her for fifty years. (that’s right, 50 years). She admitted that she didn’t practice what she preached, lamenting the stark contrast between her exterior and her interior places: “The smile is a big cloak which covers a multitude of pains. . . . my cheerfulness is a cloak by which I cover the emptiness and misery. . . . I deceive people with this weapon.”

She described the absence of God’s presence as emptiness, loneliness, pain, spiritual dryness, or lack of consolation. “There is so much contradiction in my soul, no faith, no love, no zeal. . . . I find no words to express the depths of the darkness. . . . My heart is so empty. . . . so full of darkness. . . . I don’t pray any longer. The work holds no joy, no attraction, no zeal. . . . I have no faith, I don’t believe.” She called herself as a “shameless hypocrite” for teaching her sisters in Christ one thing while experiencing something different.

But, Mother Teresa’s darkness isn’t unique in the Christian experience. I don’t see her as a failure, but as the truest example of faith lived out, even when it isn’t easy and doesn’t feel good. Disciples, all disciples, are bid to carry their cross. Would Christ expect anything less of us than He lived out himself? Jesus endured an unthinkable Roman execution and shamefully hung between two criminals. With his last breaths he screamed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Roman soldiers mocked, beat, spat on him, and cast lots for his clothing. Our hope is in the fact that God Himself understands every struggle, every pain, and every temptation we go through. He greets us with compassion, remembering how we are made. It may not seem like it at first glance, but this is good news my friends. Jesus allowed evil to overcome him and put him into the grave but that’s not where the story ends. He comes back and shows us that God isn’t angry, He is forgiving. God isn’t just a lover of those who serve Him, He even loves and forgives even those who killed Him.

I hope this doesn’t seem like I’m giving easy answers to complex problems. The only thing I am sure of is that if God asks us to do something or prohibits us from it then it is for our good. I posted song lyrics prior to this post that I hope will be an encouragement to those of you who are facing very real private storms in your lives. Just know that no matter what storms may be raging against you, the storm is not God and will not have the final say.

Well, I’m tired of typing and I’m sure you are tired of reading. I’d love to continue the dialogue on these passages and continue the charitable discourse that we have begun on this blog, Facebook, and Email. Please share your thoughts even if you don’t agree, that’s fine. I’m just a fellow traveler with you seeking the Psalm 1 road to wisdom. Maybe you can add new insights into my study that I have yet to see. Pray for me as I do the same for those of you who will read this. Part four next week.

Blessings,
Rick Lee James

Private Storm

Verse 1

He leans into the wind of a blowing sideways rain.

He fights so brave and strong ‘til his life is nearly drained

He’s battered on the rocks of the silence of the Lord

That echoes through the night of His own private storm

Verse 2

And it’s just another night but it’s the darkest he has known

And he can barely stand upright but the storm still rages on

And through his blurry eyes he searches for the dawn

He’s fighting for his life through his own private storm

Chorus 1:

And it’ll spin him all about.

It’ll toss him all around.

It’ll throw him in the air and it’ll slam him to the ground

It’ll make him start to ask if there ever was a God

And in this private storm will there ever be a calm? Will there be a calm?

Verse 2

Cause God’s silence is not golden when you’re hanging on a cross

And you’re fighting every storm humankind has ever fought.

And it’s true that God won’t give anymore than we can bear

But the storm is not from God and it doesn’t really care.

So the storm beat Him down and it took His life away

But three days in the ground and rising from the grave

Will carry every soul who is battered in the rains

And it tells us that the gales will not have the final say

And your own private storm, it will not win this fight

Cause your own private storm has been crucified with Christ.

Chorus 1:

And it may spin you all about.

It may toss you all around.

It might throw you in the air and it may slam you to the ground

And it may make you start to ask if there ever was a God

But in this private storm He will be the calm. He will the be a calm.

© 2010 Rick L. James
Rick James

BMI Work # 12132877

Brian McLaren

I’ve appreciated the discussion on my blog that friends and aquaintences have been having with me. I just wanted to share some insights from a pastor who is way smarter than me, Brian McClaren.

Just follow the link below or paste it to your browser.

A Pastor Response To Homosexuality

http://www.outofur.com/archives/2006/01/brian_mclaren_o.html

Blessings,
Rick Lee James

What’s So Gay about the Bible (part 2)

Welcome back to part two of my series studying what the Bible says about Homosexuality. I’m continuing with my study of the scriptures most used in the Bible to condemn or condone Homosexuality because I want to find out what scripture is saying about this issue. I’m not interested in parrot-like hearsay that I’ve become accustomed to hearing from people in the church. I welcome your comments for a charitable discourse together as we do our best to be faithful to our Lord and the people we serve.

Scripture Section #2: Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

Since these scriptures go hand in hand I wanted to deal with them together. These passages are usually used as indisputable proof that the Bible and God condemn homosexuality as sin. Below I am quoting them from the New American Standard Version of the Holy Bible.

Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Again, we want to look at these passages from the scripture writer’s perspective. Scholars will tell you that the ancient culture which the Bible was written in had no concept of homosexuality as a defined lifestyle in the way it has been defined today. These passages are addressed specifically to males since the Old Testament doesn’t address same-sex acts between females. Before Lesbians everywhere start to cheer because they aren’t mentioned, I’m not entirely sure that gay men aren’t mentioned here either.

It seems that women, who were seen as little more than property, may have very well been in bounds of being used in this type of sexual behavior, unless it was their time of the month (Lev. 18:19). If they were menstruating then it would be the same “abomination” as it was to have intercourse a male. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon on that, nor have I seen it on a picket sign.

The words that the NASB translated in 18:22 as abomination and in 20:13 as detestable are the same Hebrew word; תֹּועֵבָ֖ה (tō·w·‘ê·ḇāh). Most versions of the Bible translate it to the word Abomination. So what is an abomination?

This is what Strong’s concordance says about the word תֹּועֵבָ֖ה: “something disgusting (morally), i.e. (as noun) an abhorrence; especially idolatry or (concretely) an idol — abominable (custom, thing), abomination.”

It’s interesting to me that the word has to do with worship, specifically idols and idolatry. Proverbs 16:5 uses the word abomination to describe arrogant people. The word is also used in scripture to condemn lying, unjust business practices, and pride.

These verses in Leviticus I’m highlighting, including the verses before and after them, have to do with Israel’s holiness code. This code was to distinguish the people of Israel from the other surrounding nations that practiced idolatry. If Israel did not take a stand and do things differently then they would be seen as just another nation of idol worshipers, not the followers of the One true God.

These laws were given for specific purposes in a specific time. Some rules such as the 10 commandments will never expire. Certain other laws related to the criminal justice system of that time. There were specific penalties for murder, rape, and adultery which would seem cruel and unusual to many of us today. For example, Deuteronomy 25:11 tells us that if a woman tries to rescue her husband during a fight with another man and in the process attacks his genital area, then her hand must be cut off (maybe that’s not such a bad one, right guys…I’m kidding).

There were also instructions about the treatment of slaves, divorce and remarriage, paying fair wages, not lending with interest, and harvesting your fields. I doubt God followers today still harvest their fields in the same manner as the Old Testament instructs them to. Most believers would say that owning a slave is immoral, or at least I hope they would. Imagine the picket signs that could come out of this: “God hates farmers”, “God hates loan officers”, or better yet “God hates slave owners (but just the bad ones, regular slave owners are fine)”. These are all abominations in scripture, but unfortunately owning a slave isn’t. (It is abominable to me though).

Likewise, some laws were established to keep temple worship ceremonially pure so that the people of Israel would clearly be seen as different from the nations around them. These rules were complex and were filled with rich symbolism that had to do with being set apart or holy. There were rules about clean and unclean foods, how to shave, tattoos, women’s menstruation after childbirth, and a man’s emission of semen. When was the last time those things came up in our Sunday morning worship times? Let’s be clear, back then, people who paid their employees poorly, farmed with different kinds of seeds, or wore two kinds of threads were all considered abominations. If you plowed with an ox and a donkey yoked together you were an abomination. If you had sex with your wife while she was on her period you and she both were abominations.

I’m not going to name any names but I’ve read writings by Christian authors that called homosexuals an abomination while encouraging husbands and wives to have intercourse during the wife’s menstrual cycle (I lied, Tim LaHaye is one of them, but if you read the Left Behind books you will see that he knows very little about what the Bible really says).

So, here’s my big question: Why are some things still considered abominations but others are not?

The word Abomination is a temple word. It simply denotes that something isn’t pure enough to be acceptable in the house of worship. This whole debate all comes down to our worship. What will we worship? What will be allowed to be a god in our lives? What will we submit to? For what will we lay down our lives? What makes us an abomination? to say it a different way, what makes us unfit to come to worship? How could things like having two different kinds of cows grazing in the same field make you unfit for worship? Why is man on man intercourse the only one people remember and quote?

Maybe if we look at the context we might see things a little more clearly. The writer of Leviticus was well aware of the worship of Baal, Ashtoreth, and Molech. These were known as fertility cults and part of the worship ceremonies involved same-sex activity. The context of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 might not be addressing homosexuality as we know it today. Instead, the context of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 could be the spiritual prostitution that accompanied worship of the fertility gods.

I’m not sure I have any answers after reading this passage. Most people of faith realize that the purity laws given to the people of ancient Israel served a purpose for a particular time and place. In light of the New Testament and Jesus’ teachings we see that many of those laws are no longer applicable to our present day. We have to be very careful about taking one or two scriptures out of context and turning them into absolute laws for all times and places. If we do this for one thing then we better be willing to do it for all of them. If you are going to blindly follow everything in scripture, just be prepared to stone your rebellious children to death when they disobey you. That is after all what Deuteronomy 21: 18-21 instructs us to do. Anything less than that would be an abomination.

In my view, the focus of these scriptures is not homosexuality, but worship. What is this passage trying to say about worship? Do all the people who wear two kinds of threads need to be banned from the fellowship of believers? Are farmers to be condemned? Should loan officers be cast out where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth? I guess so if we are going to condemn homosexuals based on these two passages. I’m not saying I’ve arrived at a conclusion yet about what the Bible is saying on the topic homosexuality, I just don’t think we can make any kind of judgement based on these scriptures that I’ve dealt with in parts one and two. What we can do is begin thinking about worship and how our worship is pleasing or displeasing to our Lord. How do we submit to Him and love Him more? How do we stop serving self so that we can serve Him? How do we find the courage to throw out the welcome mat to other creations of God who we don’t understand?

Holy Spirit breathe your breathe into our conversations. Let us seek Your heart on these maters together that we would not use Your name in vain by putting words in Your mouth.

What’s So Gay About the Bible? (Part 1)

I am a church person and I know lots of church people. I love church people but I also can’t stand many things about church people. Many of us subscribe to the ‘God said it, I believe it, that’s good enough for me mindset’ when it comes to reading scripture. Because of this many of us become lazy and simply take a cursory reading of scripture as the gospel truth. Instead of searching for what the Bible means we simply accept what it says. With thousands of years and multiple translations, a rapid, hasty, and superficial reading of scripture just won’t do. To give away some of my theological bias at the start I want to say that I believe the Bible is divinely inspired, written down by the hands of men. But, while I believe God is perfect, I also believe mankind is flawed. With this in mind, “for the Bible tells me so,” is simply not a good enough answer if you haven’t really done the hard work of reading scripture for what it means.

This is the first in a series of articles on the topic that has been heavy on my heart for some time. While leprosy is not a huge problem in the united states we have nevertheless created a modern society of lepers when it comes to the church: homosexuals. For the Bible tells me so is just not a good enough answer when it comes to ministering and being faithful to the gospel with people whose sexuality may not be the same as our own. I believe God loves everyone including, well, everyone. I’m not saying I have all the answers, I just want to take a look at scripture to really see what it is saying. Many of the passages we use to support our viewpoints on homosexuality are not even addressing the topic. I’m writing for the purpose of going on a journey together with a charitable discourse (see Dan Boone’s book), discussing how we may faithfully minister to all people. I don’t want us to put words in the mouth of God and I also don’t want to ignore the His real message to us by changing the Word. I invite you to join me on this journey and I welcome your prayers, thoughts and comments along the way. We don’t have to come to the same conclusions but we must love each other and keep the dialogue open. I just want to follow Jesus faithfully without being exclusionary. I plan on going through scriptures that church people usually use to defend/detract our views on the issue of homosexuality starting with this one.

Scripture #1 Genesis 19

In this passage we find the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This passage is often cited as evidence of God’s condemnation of homosexuals. In this story Abraham’s nephew Lot moved to the city of Sodom. In 2 Peter Chapter 2 we are told that Lot was a godly, yet greatly distressed man. His new home was filled with evil people who did evil things. One day God and two angels appeared in the form of three men to announce that Abraham’s wife was going to have a son and later also to announced a plan to destroy Sodom for its wickedness.

So how wicked was Sodom? What were its major sins? In Ezekiel 16 we are told that Sodom’s sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. (Sounds like present day America doesn’t it).

Abraham is concerned about his nephew Lot’s family and begins negotiating with God for the city of Sodom, appealing to God’s fairness and justice. To sum up the negotiations between Abraham and God, God agreed to spare the city if just 10 righteous people could be found living there. The two angels, who appeared as men, then went into Sodom to look for ten righteous people.

After the men (angels) arrived in Sodom, Lot welcomed them into his home where he treated them with great hospitality and prepared a grand meal for them. After the feast there was a great commotion outside as a mob made up of every man in the city surrounded the house demanding that the two men be brought out to them so that they may “know” them. How we interpret the word know will have a huge bearing on how we translate the rest of this passage. Needless to say, this wasn’t a get to know you potluck to welcome them into the city.

The word “know” is a translation of a Hebrew word that occurs more than 1000 times in the Old Testament. While we usually assume it means sexual intercourse, it’s only referenced as such 11 times. There is much theological debate if that’s what it’s referring to here. If we take a non-sexual interpretation of the story then it could mean that the men of Sodom were suspicious of the strangers and might want to make sure they weren’t spies threatening their homeland security (again, sounds like America today). It might just mean that they were suspicious of Lot because he was a newcomer and had brought strangers into his home without clearing it with city authorities. They might have been trying to open an investigation into these illegal aliens who were coming in to Sodom to take their jobs and insurance. They might have just wanted to get to know them like INS agents want to get to know illegal immigrants.

However, If we choose to translate the word “know” sexually a couple of other meanings emerge. Lot offers his two daughters to the mob of men, suggesting that they may have been using “know” in a sexual context. While this certainly shows a lack of respect for women it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with homosexuality. If every male in the city was acting on an erotic desire that they had for other men then why couldn’t they act it out with each other? Why did every male in the city have a burning need to sleep with these two specific strangers if there was a whole mob of willing men? There seems to be something deeper than a sexual craving here.

My belief is that these men certainly were willing to use sex as a weapon against the two angels (by the way, Angel is a translation of a word that means messenger from God). In ancient society gang rape was used as the ultimate form of humiliation. The rape of a defeated enemy was the right of a victorious soldier in some societies and was an indication of total defeat. The belief was that if a male was sexually penetrated, even by force, that he lost his manhood and was no longer looked at as a warrior (Abu Ghraib in 2004 comes to mind as a modern example of this kind of humiliation).

Most experts will tell you that in prison rape cases the victims are heterosexuals who are forced into a passive sexual role. The assailants are almost always heterosexual as well. These acts of violence are about power, control, and humiliation in most cases. Rape is always an act of power and violence and is rarely, if ever, a sexual expression. It seems that this Genesis passage is more a passage about how God feels about the way we treat aliens and strangers than anything else. Hospitality is the rule in the Kingdom of God.

With all this information in mind, what are the implications of Genesis 19 on the topic of homosexuality? Is homosexuality even addressed in Genesis 19? What does this passage say about how we treat we treat foreigners. Is the saying at the Statue of Liberty an image of the Kingdom of God on earth? “

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Next week I plan discuss another frequently cited Biblical passage on this topic. Until then, why don’t we have a charitable, generous, and loving discourse. I welcome your prayerful thoughts as we journey together.