As I said in the last series, context is everything.
You’ve probably seen the same pictures I have – young evangelicals demonstrating in dark shirts, hyperventilating over homosexuality. Those shirts are emblazoned with “Homosexuality is SIN!” and under that remonstration are recorded the scriptural passages that make their case – beyond all question, I’m guessing. So, just for fun, I copied down those citations dutifully and decided to look them up. They’re reproduced below; the verses cited are in bold face. The matter preceding and following them provide some perspective.
Here we go, in Biblical order:
Genesis: 18. In Chapter 18, the Lord and two angels pay a visit to Abraham and Sarah with the old “good news – bad news” conundrum – first, the elderly couple will be in a tribal propagation way in a year; second, Sodom and Gomorrah will be flattened directly. Why? Thus saith God the Father:
The men set out from [Abraham’s] and looked down toward Sodom; Abraham was walking with them, to see them on their way. The Lord reflected: ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, now that he is to become a great and populous nation, and all the nations of the earth are to find blessing in him? Indeed, I have singled him out that he may direct his sons and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord may carry into effect for Abraham the promises he made about him.’ Then the Lord said: The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that come to me. I mean to find out.’ Gen. 18: 16-22.
Abraham proceeds to plead with the Lord to spare Sodom if He finds innocents among the sinful and bargains the mercy threshold down from 50 to 10. The text says nothing specific about the “sin so grave” as to cause Him to unsheathe his terrible, swift sword. Here’s what my annotated Bible says in the footnote:
Israelite tradition was unanimous in ascribing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the wickedness of these cities, but tradition varied in regard to the nature of this wickedness. According to the present account of the Yahwist the sin of Sodom was homosexuality (Gen. 19:4 ff.) which is therefore also known as sodomy; but according to Isaiah (Isaiah 1:9 ff.; 3:9), it was a lack of social justice; Ezekiel (Ezek. 16:46-51) described it as a disregard for the poor, whereas Jeremiah (Jer. 23:14) saw it as general immorality.
Interesting, no? You’ve got your narrator who says that Sodom went down for buggery (which is nonconsensual, whereas homosexuality by definition – just like heterosexuality – is) and three venerable, Old Testament prophets who concluded otherwise – perhaps the pre-Christian equivalent of racial and sexual discrimination, cutting taxes for the wealthy and bankrupting social programs, or maybe just lying to the governed on principle and snooping into their affairs to “keep them safe.” Chapter 19 describes what went down before the sulphurous fire and earthquakes flattened the town; Lot took in the Lord’s two angels and defended them from a mob of Sodomite men intent on raping them. “Sodomy?” Yes. “Homosexuality?” Hardly. Lot blew town and didn’t look back, his wife got the Morton’s makeover for doing otherwise, and so on.
Leviticus 18:22; 20:13. The two specific verses listed from these two chapters are:
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination. Lv. 18:22.
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives. Lv. 20:13.
As I pointed out in Sweet Jesus II, this injunction from Chapter 18 – “The Sanctity of Sex” – and the penalty phase from Chapter 20 are single entries from a laundry list of sexual practices the Lord tells Moses He wants His people to refrain from to elevate themselves above the Egyptians and the Canaanites. These include adultery, bestiality, sex with relatives by blood or marriage – and, as I also pointed out, porking during her period. Remember: if you take any of these Laws Laid on the Levites literally, no picking and choosing. You’re going to have to get just as fired up about amending the Constitution to forbid sneaking around on the old lady and dating sheep.
So much for the Old Testament. Moving on to the scribblings of Saul the Faith-stricken:
Romans 1:26-27. Once again, consider the target verse in its larger context, beginning with Verse 18. (And, in my Good Book this Chapter 1 passage is entitled “II. Humanity Without Christ” and subtitled “Punishment of Idolatry:”)
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against the irreligious and perverse spirit of men who, in this perversity of theirs, hinder the truth. In fact, whatever can be known about God is clear to them he himself made it so. Since the creation of the world, invisible realities, God’s eternal power and divinity, have become visible, recognized through the things he has made. Therefore these men are inexcusable. They certainly had knowledge of God, yet they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks; they stultified themselves through speculating to no purpose, and their senseless hearts were darkened. They claimed to be wise, but turned into fools instead; they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images representing mortal man, bird, beasts, and snakes. In consequence, God delivered them up in their lusts to unclean practices; they engaged in the mutual degradation of their bodies, these men who exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator—blessed be he forever, amen! God therefore delivered them up to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural and the men gave up natural intercourse and burned with lust for one another. Men did shameful things with men, and thus received in their own persons the penalty for their perversity. They did not see fit to acknowledge God, so God delivered them up to their own depraved sense to do what is unseemly. They are filled with every kind of wickedness: maliciousness, greed, ill will, envy, murder, bickering, deceit, craftiness. They are gossips and slanderers, they hate God, are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wrongdoing and rebellious toward their parents. One sees in them men without conscience, without loyalty, without affection, without pity. They know God’s just decree that all who deserve such things deserve death; yet they not only do them but approve them in others. Rom. 1:18-32.
Whew! Quite an indictment, comparing the idolators and their shibboleths to the sophomore class at Beverly Hills High School. Be your own judge as to what kind of priority was assigned to homosexuality—it didn’t make the litany of “wickedness.” So what exactly was he getting at? Here’s the accompanying note:
The conversion of the Gentiles through the gospel preaching constituted the divine indictment against paganism, which error had benighted and moral depravity had corrupted. It was the evil will of the pagan world that provoked the divine anger and abandonment. Contrary to nature itself which provides evidence of God’s existence, power, and divinity through creation, pagan society misread the evidence, fashioned gods of its own that could not exert any moral restraint, and freely indulged its perverse desires through every kind of wickedness.
Sound familiar? Sodom and Gomorrah ring a bell? Finally, check out Paul’s very next verse, in Chapter 2:
That is why every one of you who judges another is inexcusable. By your judgment you convict yourself, since you do the very same things. Rom. 2:1.
Next Week: The rest of the alleged New Covenant injunctions.