Bible doesn't back discrimination against gays

March 14, 2004

Dear Editor:

The debate about constitutional amendments concerning same-sex unions really should not come down to competing ways of the interpreting the Bible, but some of the claims in recent letters about various passages in the Bible make it hard to resist another response.

1. The story about Sodom in Genesis 18 targets the sin of raping strangers, not consensual, committed sex of any kind. Elsewhere in the Bible (Isaiah 1:10-17; Jeremiah 23:14; and Ezekiel 16:49), the sin of Sodom is variously described as luxury, complacency, opulence, neglect of the poor and needy, failure to champion the oppressed, the widow, and the orphan, having hands full of blood, walking in lies, committing adultery, and strengthening the hands of evildoers - not homosexual activity.

2. Leviticus 18 and 20 are chapters concerned with maximizing population growth and also with setting Israel apart from her Canaanite neighbors, who included homosexual behavior as part of their fertility religion. Idol worship therefore was the context, and it remains so in Romans 1, which Paul wrote from Corinth, where homosexual and heterosexual activity was part of the practice of religious cults (7,000 male and female prostitutes staffed one temple to Aphrodite). Homosexual acts connected with idol worship are included in an extensive list of sins manifesting idolatry in Romans 1.


3. In I Corinthians 6:9-10, exploitive sex with boys, slaves, or prostitutes (commonly overlapping categories) seems to be the focus of Paul's condemnation; and the sexual abuse of slaves seems to be the immediate context for I Timothy 1: 9-10. None of these passages deals with the matter of sexual orientation or with the possibility of committed life partnerships between people of the same sex. These writers of the Bible don't seem to have either of these issues on their radar screens.

4. One of the letters to the editor cites Peter's vision on the rooftop in Acts 10:9-16 as showing that ceremonial laws against eating pork or shellfish, for example, in Leviticus no longer apply, but that laws against homosexual acts and murder in Leviticus still do. In the story, Peter comes to see that the categories of clean and unclean animals (read as Jews and Gentiles) no longer apply. If people (whether Jews or Gentiles) have the Spirit of God, they should be baptized and included in the Jesus movement if they so desire. Today, people who want the church to be accepting of people with a same-sex orientation (who have received God's Spirit and want to be part of the church) see this very passage as a reason for inclusion. What is their reason? The Book of Acts presents the early church as following Jesus in rejecting categories that render one group of people unclean or inferior by virtue of some quality or condition. Samaritans, Gentiles, women, eunuchs, slaves, and people of varied nationalities were to receive full inclusion.

Although race was not explicitly addressed in the Books of Acts, the church came to see that barriers of race should not be used to separate and exclude. In this same spirit, one can argue that people who happen not to be heterosexual in their sexual orientation should not be discriminated against for that reason. The point is not that all sexual behavior is condoned.

These observations will probably be convincing to no one who is not already convinced, but they seemed warranted by some of these claims in previous letters.

Eric Mount


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