Sunday, November 7, 2010

Religion

I'm sure the title already has a few of you on edge, but allow me to reassure you. I have no intention of discriminating against anyone for their personal or religious beliefs. That being said, allow me to pose a question: What do the major religions really say about homosexuality? That is, if they say anything at all. Of course, we'll start with the first major one: Christianity.


Many Christians (not all but many) are very avid in believing that homosexuality is a sin. In fact, Reverend Phelps' major talking point is how God made AIDS to kill fags. Lovely, right? Well, I'd like to take a minute to briefly look into what the Bible says. I'll begin with the most infamous passage, Leviticus 18:22 "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination" (KJV). The Living Bible translates as, "Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin". And the New Living Translation is, "Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin." For our purposes, we're only going to pay attention to the King James Version because the latter two are a crock of crap. They are biased toward the 20th and 21st century views on homosexuality by the conservative Christian movement. KJV is a little more accurate. So that word, the word that gets everyone in a blazing fury, "abomination", what does that really mean? According to the modern definition in Merriam-Webster, abomination means something that is loathed and disgusted. Did I mention this is the modern definition? But as I'm sure many of you know, this book was not written in modern times by any of the authors who speak with our cultural context in mind. No, this passage was written so long ago that the dialect it was written in isn't even really spoken anymore. So what does abomination mean in this passage? It means "ceremoniously unclean." Basically, don't have gay sex before a Jewish ceremony unless you had been cleansed. So, why would it be "unclean"? Think about the time they're living in. The Jewish nation of Israel was so small, all forms of sexual activity that didn't lead to procreation were deemed irresponsible. Masturbation, ejaculating outside the woman's body and anal sex were among other things they said were wrong. At this time, the world believed that everything that had to do with bearing children relied heavily on mens' semen. Around this era, they used to kill women if they didn't bear sons because it was thought to be their fault. Now, modern science shows us that the genetic make-up of the sperm determines gender and that for every ejaculation, there are millions of sperm. If the Jews of the Bible knew this information, I don't doubt that their laws and practices would have varied some. It is also interesting to note that the two sexes are separated in the passage. When I comment to people on this passage and say it doesn't condemn lesbianism, they often retort "that's because when the Bible says mankind, it's a universal term." While in most cases, they'd be correct, this passage clearly differentiates between male and female and it seems males are the only ones not to engage in homosexuality. NEXT!


Oh wait, I almost forgot. The same word "abomination" which translates as "ceremoniously unclean" is also used in passages saying that eating shellfish, wearing clothes of mixed fabric, eating pork and many other things. Yet, many Christians like to claim that those laws don't apply to us because they're the dietary laws. What about it saying that if you disobey your parents, you should be put to death or if a woman (note, a woman) is not a virgin on her wedding day, she should also be put to death. Those are "moral" laws that we no longer follow. Anyway, NEXT!


Ok, here's a story that gets a lot of attention, Sodom and Gomorrah. Basically, Abraham saw the corruption of these two cities, and begged God to save a few (his family). God sends angels to Lot and his family. The citizens of the city stand outside Lot's home and demand to send the angels (or "strangers") so that we may "know" them. The passage literally says "know" but in biblical terms, that means have sex with. So being the "righteous" person Lot is, he offers his daughters instead (what a guy!) but the citizens reject that idea because they want to humiliate the strangers. I'm having trouble even knowing where to begin because there are so many things wrong with this story. Ok, so the citizens wanting to gang rape Lot's visitors, not ok. No gay person looks at this passage and thinks, "Yeah! That's totally a Friday night for me!". We, as a community DO NOT condone rape. That passage is talking about how the wickedness of the people destroyed them. Obviously any culture that wants to rape the new guys are a little off their rockers. Another thing, sodomy (anal sex) was coined because of the perceived meaning of this story. Now, many of the people that read the Bible automatically think the the city Sodom has something to do with anal sex. In fact Sodom or "S'dom" in Hebrew means, "burnt" and Gomorrah or "Amorah" in Hebrew means "a ruined heap". The fact that these two cities have names that predetermine their destruction should show any educated person that this is not an historical occurrence but rather a parable to teach about wickedness. No mayor would want to give his city the name of "Burnt" or "Ruined Heap", right? Alright, Now for Le Numero Trois!


So we've covered all the references in the Old Testament. That's right, all of them! Pretty sad huh? There were only really two and yet this topic seems to be such a huge conversation starter. Now to the New Testament where we find that Paul has some seemingly strong opinions about homosexuality. Again, I have to encourage you to not think about these passages in our culutural context. This is a different time with different people and different beliefs. It makes it an entirely different ball game! Ok, first passage is Romans 1:26-27 "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence [sic] of their error which was meet." At first glance, seems pretty daunting. The fact is, at the time and place Paul was living, a common pagan ritual was to have huge orgies where everyone had sex with everyone. Men with women, women with women, men with men and even animals were sometimes included. When he says what is "natural" it isn't a hard leap to think he's talking about the men in these orgies who were straight but for the purposes of the ritual were having sex with other men. They were leaving their natural use for the woman. Doesn't mean all men are that way. Many theologians believe he's talking about the fact that people who don't feel that they are naturally homosexual but engage in those activities regardless. Also, an orgy? Really? They want to compare the life-long commitments of same-sex partners in the 21st century to people getting drunk, high and having an orgy? Most of us "fags" don't condone that either. Moving on.


The next two passages I'm going to push together. The first being 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." The second being 1 Timothy 1:9-10, "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine." The reason I clumped these two together is because they both use the same original greek word for the bolded areas above. That greek word is arsenokoitai. This word has no translation. For all intents and purposes, Paul made it up. Unfortunately, because the culture of the time the Bible was translated, they allowed their bias in what they think Paul was talking about and their own homophobic ideals to morph the way they translated. So although that word doesn't have a definite translation, many non-homo-haters think it is referring to pederasty or boy prostitutes. Pederasty is when an older man takes a young boy as his sexual object; basically pedophilia. This is not right. Taking advantage of a child's innocence and exploiting them should be wrong by anyone's standards and I know all my gay friends think that's disgusting. Boy prostitutes or catamites were also popular at the time and that again is the exploitation of a minor. Not good.


Last and somewhat least is Jude 1:7 which states, "Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." As we discussed earlier, the true sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was the attempted gang rape of the Angels sent by God. "Going after strange flesh" doesn't even come close to conclusively stating anything about homosexuality, yet many in the conservative movement try to use this passage to reinstate their hatred and homophobia. This is the least convincing of all the scriptures but I had to point it out since it is so commonly used.


After all my reading and researching, the only passages that even seem like a reputable stake against homosexuals are the 1 Corinthians and the 1 Timothy passages. However, we did discuss those in some depth. Even if those are passages are truly saying something to condemn homosexuals, they are only TWO passages. The Bible has 66 books, 1,189 chapters with over 30,000 scriptures. If you can only find two in there that refer to homosexuals, it seems like that subject isn't the most important one. The Bible also contains 393 scriptures mentioning or referring to love. That's significantly more than homosexuals so which subject do you think is more important? Especially when you get into what Jesus talks about. You know Jesus...Christ...Christians. Yeah, Christians should probably pay more attention to what he has to say. In fact, there is some evidence to show that Jesus accepted homosexuals! Let's talk about those scriptures real quick.


First, Matthew 8:5-13 is a passage where a centurion brings his "slave" to Jesus to be healed. If you look at the original text, the centurion refers to the other man as "pais" which at the time was a colloquialism (google that word) used for same-sex couples. This would have been the perfect time for Jesus to address the gay issue...that is if he even cared.


Another passage in Matthew that is interesting is Chapter 19:12 which says, "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from [their] mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive [it], let him receive [it]" Back in the days of Jesus, eunuchs were men who were castrated for religious purposes. However, eunuch was also another colloquialism for gay men. Gay men were not castrated but were looked upon as eunuchs by society for their same-sex relationships. In this passage, it seems rather plain that Jesus is referring to men that are born gay.


I know I've brought up a lot of touchy subjects today but I'd like to remind you, I am not saying that the Bible isn't true or that being a Christian is incorrect. I am, however, saying that if you are a Christian, you should be an educated reader of the Bible. There are so many things to take into account aside from the literal words on the page. These scriptures are thousands of years old and we have to be mindful when we read these things. If you take anything away from this post, please let it be that we should all love. Love is the most important concept. What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their home is their business. And trying to prohibit a certain group from showing their true love for one another, is simply silly. You can accept and love homosexuals and still be a Christian but in order to do that, you have to put more faith in the God you serve, not the translations of his word that may have been convoluted by man. If Jesus were to come back today, I personally think he would be appalled to see how hateful some of his followers are. As I often do, I'll leave you with a quote. I'm also going to attach a clip from a fantastic documentary called "For The Bible Tells Me So". The documentary has a lot of information for Christians seeking to accept without giving up their religion. I hope you know that I love you all and I hope you take some of these words into your heart. Now for a quote from the absolutely amazing Archbishop Desmund Tutu, "We reject [homosexuals], treat them as pariahs, and push them outside our church communities, and thereby we negate the consequences of their baptism and ours. We make them doubt that they are the children of God, and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for something that is becoming increasingly clear they can do little about." I love you all.



A clip from the documentary "For The Bible Tells Me So"

4 comments:

  1. Hello Nathan,
    I just wanted to say that I find your writing beautiful, inspiring, and very educated. You are always careful to show the clearest answer to every situation and make a point to show love always. I admire you for it.
    Sincerely,
    Anna Wille, Arizona

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  2. Well thank you so much for the kind words!! I try to make it clear that love is a very needed ingredient that we sometimes take for granted. We could all use a good dose now and again. Thank you so much for reading!!

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  3. I've been looking for proof against the whole "Bible forbids homosexuality" argument. Thank you SO much!

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  4. What about that fact that in the beginning God created a man (Adam) and a women (Eve)?

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