Welcome to my “Think” page! Aside from the writing found on my Blog page, this is where you will find additional things to peruse and think about. If you have any questions or concerns about what you find here, please feel free to express them and I’ll try to answer as best I can. Let’s broaden our horizons together!
Before delving in, please remember that the point of this page is to think critically. The topics I write about are very controversial and often spark vitriolic reactions. Those reactions are not welcome, as they do nothing but halt opportunities for discussion.
Christian majority: With the majority of the North American population still identifying as Christian, and the majority of Christians standing in opposition to homosexuality, the term “Christian majority” refers to the large group that opposes homosexuality based on Christian beliefs. The Christian majority is the largest, most active, and most vocal anti-LGBTQ group in the Western world.
You may notice that the word “Christian” is always capitalized here. I have no intent to offend, hurt, or otherwise impugn a person’s entire belief system. We are discussing the Christian majority opposition to the LGBTQ community, not Christianity in general; so proper respect will be given.
In the Bible
If you have heard the common arguments against homosexuality, as most of us have, you will know one thing: no matter what the argument, the Christian majority view of homosexuality is based primarily upon Biblical scripture. Debates over scriptural interpretation have raged since before any of us can remember, and they continue to create controversy the world over. Such discussions have their place outside the confines of this page, but if we are to examine and confront the Christian majority view of homosexuality, we must first identify and understand what it is based upon. Therefore, a discussion on the Biblical references to homosexual behaviour must be had before all else.
In total, members of the Christian majority will use one or all of only 11 Biblical passages to voice their opposition to homosexual behaviour. Perhaps the most perplexing thing for me is that once historical, cultural, and other contextual factors are considered, none of these passages directly condemn homosexuality. As a matter of fact, the only way that homosexuality came to be seen as a sin in the Christian world was through literal interpretation. Literal interpretations have a tendency to ignore historical and cultural understandings and depend upon an assumption that what was relevant 2 000 years ago is still relevant, at face value, today. This leaves only misinformed understandings and rigid thoughts. Treating the Bible in this way requires a person to ignore everything we have learned about the world in the last 2 000 years, and as we will see in the following discussion, there is much more to Biblical scripture than a straight ‘factual’ reading. It should be noted that these 11 passages are found in only 9 of the 66 books in the Bible (many more books if you are Roman Catholic). Interestingly, only 5 of the following passages are found in the Old Testament.
As a note before we begin, allow me to say this. A simple reading of Biblical text reveals the cultural landscape of the times and places of the Old and New Testament. In addition to that, there are countless other writings of the same period that give us insight into the cultural norms, practices, and ideas of the times. The cultural and historical influences I point to when analyzing these scriptural references are not made up or theorized, they are factual.
Genesis 19:5 – They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
This passage is part of the story of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. As portrayed in the book of Genesis, these neighbouring cities were famous for the hedonistic lifestyles lived by their inhabitants. The thing that is most often talked about is an apparent penchant for homosexual activity that was present in both cities; particularly male-male sex. This story is commonly pointed to as a condemnation of homosexuality by Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals, and this verse provides them with the direct reference. A good look at the whole story, however, will reveal that although homosexual activity was common in the two cities, so was rape. Lot’s visitors were said to be angels sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the wickedness of their citizens. The men demanding that Lot send out his male visitors are described as “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old …” This is obviously a crowd far outnumbering the two men they are requesting be released to them. What is being asked is not the opportunity to have sex, but rather the opportunity to commit rape.
Rape, a form of extreme violence, is an act against the 8th and 10th commandments. The 8th commandment is “you shall not steal.” The 10th commandment is “you shall not covet.” When one is raped, their personal dignity, innocence, confidence, their very life – is taken from them. The rapist is a thief who takes from his/her victim everything that allows that person to effectively function in day to day life. A large number of rape victims are in some ways shadows of the people they were before the crime was committed. Likewise, rape is a form of coveting. The rapist covets so much that he/she is compelled to take what they want by force. What is actually being coveted may be the individual, the physical beauty and/or figure, the act of sex, the feeling of control over another human being, or any variety of other things. Acts of thievery and coveting always go hand-in-hand. If nothing is coveted, nothing need be stolen in the first place.
The condemnation found in Genesis 19:5, then, is a condemnation of rape, not of homosexual activity. The fact that the violent contact being demanded was male-male is not relevant to the message, and does not remove or negate the fact that it was rape. Quoting this verse and story as an example of a Biblical condemnation of homosexuality is a gross misuse of scripture and its intent.
Leviticus 18:22-23 – Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Leviticus 20:13 – If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
These two verses, giving crime and then punishment, must of course be discussed together. It is not at all unclear that these verses are talking about homosexual activity, but in what context? The fact that the Bible was written over 2 000 years ago has to factor into any and all considerations of meaning; regardless of the subject. Any suggestion to the contrary would have to assume that the culture one is living in today is exactly the same as the culture in which the passage was written; subject to the same rules, reasonings, and behavioural norms. This is simply not the case.
Anyone familiar with the stories of the Old Testament knows that the culture described is one where men had the upper hand. In these writings we find that men were the aggressors, the publicly seen figures, the ones with whom God spoke the most. They ruled nations, headed their families, and were in control and responsible for the happenings within their social groups. The society of the Old Testament, and the New Testament for that matter, was male dominated. In this society, a man was nothing if not powerful and dominant.
The physical properties of a sexual act require two things – dominance and submission. As has just been discussed, the cultural norm in Biblical days was for men to have the dominant role and women, by default, the submissive. The wording “to lie with a man as one lies with a woman” demonstrates that the same applied to sexual activity. For two men to have sex, there has to come a point where one becomes submissive to the other. In the society in question, this was simply unacceptable. The penalty of death is rather liberally applied in the Old Testament, but one may surmise here that the death penalty for male submission was due to a fear that such submission would potentially threaten the very fabric of society – similar to a current fear that homosexuality may do the same. Either way, historical context allows one to reasonably assert that male submission is the issue here, not homosexuality itself.
Times have changed a great deal since the Bible was written, and we now see male submission everywhere. Every time a man abandons his wishes and relents to the will of his wife – goes where she wants to go, does what she wants to do – in order to make her happy, we see male submission. We see it with heterosexual couples, we see it with homosexual couples. It is not simply a matter of sex, but of power and control. If we are to allow male submission in todays world, where men and women are equal, we have to allow it all – plain and simple.
Deuteronomy 23:17 – No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute.
A “shrine prostitute” was a person who engaged in the Canaanite practice of ritual prostitution for the purposes of their religion of fertility. The Israelites were warned against this by Moses. There should be no need for a detailed discussion on this one. This verse gives no reference to homosexual activity, but it does very specifically condemn the act of prostitution. Shrine prostitutes, who were predominantly male, are also mentioned in the books of 1 Kings, Job, and Joel. These verses will not be discussed further because they too are condemnations of prostitution. As with any historical text, what is written is relevant specifically to the time and place in which it occurred. The fact that the other three mentions refer only to males and not females is due to the fact that the vast majority of shrine prostitutes were male. Keeping that fact in mind, there is still no indication here of a condemnation of homosexuality.
Many will argue against this. They will argue that the majority of shrine prostitutes having been male is very important, and perhaps key to the point. The argument is that male prostitution is synonymous with homosexual activity, and so the verses condemning shrine prostitutes are, by extension, condemnations of homosexuality. The people who use this argument are clearly obsessed with male-male sex, as one would have to be in order to blatantly ignore the purpose of these men. As already stated, shrine prostitutes were an integral part of the Canaanite Fertility religion. It is unlikely that rituals related to fertility would require same-sex intercourse. Without the intent to reproduce, fertility is unnecessary; so why would any reasonable person assume that shrine prostitutes would be sleeping primarily with other men? Even if there was male-male sex going on in the rituals, the scriptural condemnation is still prostitution. I will also add that the Canaanite religion, as one that did not adhere to the God of the Bible, would have been seen as a violation of the 1st and 2nd Commandments (1. “You shall have no other gods before me.” 2. “You shall not make for yourself an idol…”).
Judges 19:22-23 – While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.” The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this disgraceful thing.”
Just like the story of Lot, this passage is about rape; not homosexual activity. What happens next is the disturbing part. In the story of Sodom, Lot steps outside and offers his virgin daughters to the aggressive mob. Lot is then pulled back into the house by his angelic guests who strike the mob blind before his daughters can come to harm. In this story in Judges, both a virgin daughter and a concubine are offered. The concubine (belonging to the guest) is sent out, at which point the mob of men proceed to rape and abuse her all night. In the morning, the poor girl collapses on the front step of the house, unconscious. Her master puts her on his donkey, takes her home, cuts her up into twelve pieces, and sends the pieces to all of the tribes of Israel as a wake-up call to begin living moral lives!
The fact that this disgusting, immoral, murderous act is considered okay, while homosexual activity is not, says a lot about the fundamentalists and evangelicals who consider the Bible to be a literal book. It suggests that these people may lack a moral compass. It says that they possess a terrifying personal conviction that condones immoral behaviour as long as it is portrayed positively in scripture; and indeed the treatment of this concubine goes un-punished. It says that they will follow God’s commands unquestioningly; no matter how vile.
It should be noted here that in the case of Lot, the two angels saved he and his family before destroying the city because Lot was chosen by God as the only righteous man in Sodom. ???? What kind of righteous man offers his own daughters to be raped by an aggressive mob? As for this passage in the book of Judges, the story of which it is a part is extremely problematic when considering moral behaviour. The fact that the dismembered parts of a woman, who had been sacrificed to an aggressive crowd of rapists, were sent as a wake-up call about morality, raises questions. Nobody who uses this passage to make a point about a positive morality can claim any kind of moral credibility.
Romans 1:26-27 – … God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
We have now entered the realm of the New Testament. This passage is an excerpt from one of Paul’s diatribes against mankind. Speaking in the exact tone that we now hear from Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, Paul embarks on an aggressive self-righteous rant against the sins of humanity. Within this rant are three words of particular interest – “lust,” “natural,” and “perversion.”
“Lust” is a matter of the mind, not of action; and people are inflamed with it every day. It doesn’t matter if a person is gay or not, lust is a part of everyday life for beings that are social and sexual by nature. The Bible also says that thinking of something is just as bad as doing it, but I think we can all agree to consider that a bit of nonsense. If this were true, there is no question that everybody would burn in hell.
The words “natural” and “perversion,” in relation to homosexual activity, are not clearly defined by any other Biblical author; and therefore must be taken as defined by Paul’s bias and personal opinion. The only possible verses that could be looked at to solidify Paul’s definitions here would be those in Leviticus – and the above discussion on those verses has already negated that possibility.
If, after all of that, one is still to assume that Paul made these statements with the authority of God, I believe that he/she must relinquish his/her identity as a Christian. Christians are supposed to live by the words and teachings of Jesus Christ, not of mere men. There are plenty of warnings about false prophets, yet Christians everywhere still choose to put their undying faith in a man full of hypocrisy and anger. The above verse is found in the first chapter of Romans, and as stated is part of a diatribe against the sins of humanity. The second chapter begins by saying “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” My point exactly! This man, claiming to speak with the authority of God, spares no energy in condemning the sins of humanity. Ignoring the principles of love, compassion, brotherhood, and acceptance that Jesus taught, Paul displays anger, resentment, bitterness, and contempt. You may choose to listen to Paul and take his teachings as literal truths, but first keep in mind that the principles behind them are contrary to the principles taught by Jesus. As a further note, do not forget that among the found texts allegedly written by characters in the Bible, not all of them made it in. Only those writings that were consistent with what the Church wanted to teach – doctrine – made it into the Bible.
The point to take away from this discussion is two-fold. First, Paul’s thoughts on homosexuality are not at all valid because the author negates his own credibility. Second, Paul’s undertones of anger, bitterness, resentment, and contempt work in opposition to the loving and compassionate worldview taught by Jesus; who said nothing of homosexual activity. Which authority are you going to choose? You just can’t have both.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Before discussing this passage, I must admit to a bias. I am skeptical as to whether the words “homosexual offenders” were translated from the original Greek, or if they were added in later to better suit a certain agenda. In any event, there they are. Like the majority of the New Testament, these words were also written by Paul, and in addition to our previous discussion concerning Paul’s credibility and moral authority, there is another interesting little twist here in 1 Corinthians. This excerpt from Chapter 6 is titled “Sexual Immorality.” Chapter 7 is titled “Marriage.” In Chapter 7, Paul uses the words “not I, but The Lord.” He does this twice more, in verses 10 and 12, and is relaying his interpretations of statements made by Jesus. He never uses these words when speaking of homosexuality, indicating that his thoughts on homosexuality are his own; and not of a divine nature.
As stated in the discussion on the passage in Romans, Paul believed that he was generally writing with the authority of God, and many people today believe that he was as well. In 1 Corinthians 7:25, he states in regard to virgins, “… I have no command from The Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by The Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” He proceeds to express his displeasure with marriage, and asserts that people should only marry if absolutely necessary, but devote their entire being to God if not.
“… as one who by The Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” There is no statement of authority or commission here, only an assumption of trustworthiness by virtue of being a believer in a merciful God. Paul, like few people still do, warns against marriage and stresses the importance of full devotion. He fails to recognize the fact that if sexual activity is condemned outside of marriage, and if marriage doesn’t occur because everybody is fully devoted to God, then there will very quickly be nobody left. Once again, credibility simply cannot be given to this man. His reasoning was unsound for the culture in which it was written, and it is unsound today.
Before going any further, I will address an issue that is certain to be brought up. I have just asserted that Paul’s argument against marriage would see the end of people producing offspring and therefore the end of humanity as a whole. At first glance, this seems similar to the argument made by members of the Christian majority who claim that if everybody were homosexual, humanity would eventually cease to exist. There is one major difference, however, that validates my argument and invalidates theirs. Paul was advocating for everybody to live in full devotion as the best possible life, whereas nobody is advocating for everybody to become homosexual. With the LGBTQ community accounting for less than 10% of the population, we are in no danger of seeing a decrease in reproduction due to homosexuality.
1 Corinthians 7:1-3 – Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is no such immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.
The argument here is that this passage condemns homosexuality via exclusion. In speaking only of marriage between one man and one woman, Paul is presumed to be saying that any other form of marriage is unacceptable. Notice how this passage begins – “Now for the matters you wrote about.” Paul was responding to direct questions asked of him by the Corinthians. If no question about homosexuality was asked, no answer about homosexuality would be given. Forgive me for being frank here, but using this passage to bolster an anti-gay argument is just plain stupid.
It should be noted that there is another translation in which the second verse begins with “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, …” At least a few people, who I regrettably cannot identify thanks to the available anonymity of social networking, claim that the word fornication refers to all forms of sexual deviance; a category in which they include homosexual activity. Thankfully, as should be obvious by now, they are operating on their own assumptions and do not have a scriptural basis for this claim.
There are three more verses that are used not often, but on occasion by the anti-gay Christian majority. Since the Christian majority view is that homosexuality is not a naturally occurring orientation but rather a sexually perverted and deviant practice, these first two passages have, at times, been referred to as condemnations of it. The third will be discussed in a brief moment.
1 Timothy 1:10 – … for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.
Revelation 17:5 – This title was written on her forehead
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH
No mention of homosexuality in either of these. Plenty about perverts, liars, prostitutes, and abominations, though. Anybody who makes the claim that homosexuality is immoral because it says so in 1 Timothy and Revelation has to be among the most ridiculous and backward thinking proponents of the anti-gay side. The verse in 1 Timothy has been re-read and interpreted by those who foolishly see homosexual as a synonym for pervert. The book of Revelation is well-known in the Christian world as an abstract and complex book that is not clear about anything at all. Not even open to literal interpretation, let’s just leave these two passages as irrelevant in the Christian majority’s arsenal against the LGBTQ community.
Mark 10:6-9 – “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
These words are said to have been spoken by Jesus. It is being argued with increasing frequency that this passage is evidence that Jesus was not entirely silent on the subject of homosexuality. Just like the passage in 1 Corinthians 7, the argument here is based on exclusion. It is argued that because Jesus speaks only of marriage between one man and one woman he obviously stands against same-sex relationships. In addition, “let man not separate” is being argued to mean that a man shall not come between them to have a relationship with the husband. The people who argue this point make a grievous error in taking these words entirely out of context.
Like Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 7, these words were spoken in response to a question. Some Pharisees had asked Jesus “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Verses 6-9 are part of his answer, and like Paul’s answer, directly address the question. People who use this passage against the LGBTQ community fail to realize that this is not an instance in which Jesus was giving a sermon. There is no agenda or specific thing to be taught here, just a question being answered. When one states that Jesus was clearly against homosexuality and then uses this passage to “prove” it, they are taking an illogical leap; reading what isn’t there, and misunderstanding what was actually going on. When people do this, and it happens all the time, it negates intelligent discussion and obscures the line between reasonable open-minded discourse and a circular argument in which the only thing to be gained is a headache. In regard to “let man not separate,” let’s not be ridiculous. The cultural majority marriage practice was, and still is, heterosexual. This is clearly a warning against the occurrence of a dysfunctional heterosexual marriage in which a man leaves his wife and joins with another woman. It also refers to a case in which a woman leaves her husband to join with another man. Arguing otherwise is both childish, and also a desperate attempt to find something to say amidst a losing battle.
It is the misinterpretation of these passages of scripture that continue to cause so much inequality between the LGBTQ community and the rest of society. The misuse of scripture to justify anti-gay ends is a cultural cancer; and I am not alone in my view on this. One of the people that I interviewed over the past year, a young gay man, said “I have nothing against Christianity. It’s people who are sitting in the driver’s seat that piss me off.” This is a wonderful summation of the problem – people responsible for the indoctrination of the Christian masses who push their agenda by way of the misuse of Biblical scripture. This failure to properly study and analyze scripture, the failure to recognize very different cultural landscapes between today and 2 000 years ago, and the failure to understand that a literal reading of all things Biblical defies logic and reason, is extremely problematic. Unfortunately, these problems are what Christianity is. Religion is man-made, Christianity is a religion, those in the driver’s seat have defined it. This is unfortunate, but true.
The anti-LGBTQ views held by the Christian majority are based primarily on scripture. As I hope you now see, scriptural foundations for these views are nothing more than misinformed interpretations, given by people obviously under the impression that those in the Bible acted solely as agents of God; rather than as products of their cultural settings. Churches that have made anti-LGBTQ views a part of their doctrine have chosen to read and teach blindly, rather than consider all factors before coming to a consensus on meaning. The difficulty I have in my attempts to live and let live stem from the fact that people are suffering because of these views and thoughts. They are dying, being both murdered and driven to suicide. They are beaten, both physically and emotionally. They are terrified, unable to walk down the street without looking over their shoulder; knowing that the most unassuming of people could be their next attacker. Some internalize the homophobia that surrounds them and begin to believe that they are somehow less important. Eventually internalized homophobia can lead to an acceptance of inferiority and a belief that one deserves nothing better than a poor and destitute existence. Too many people who are LGBTQ live in this reality. They are forced to live it – forced by those who read without context, and then feel that they have the right to go out and spread the hatred that they call “truth.” Religion breeds extremism, extremism breeds intolerance and hate, and intolerance and hate breed pain and suffering. This drive to go out and spread the “truth” is a type of extremism, and the devastating effects it causes are simply unacceptable.