- Posted June 10, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
'Don't ask, don't tell'
The Bible – A Terrible Justification for Anti-Gay Bigotry
Let me preamble the balance of this post by saying that anti-gay zealots generally fall into two camps. In the first are those folks who feel neither the inclination nor the need to justify their bigotry. It may well be that people like this simply have no passion save for that of anger and hatred. The second - much more populous camp - is occupied by those who feel the need to justify their prejudices. In America, this is largely made up of conservative Christians.
Growing up both gay and Christian, I had a much larger stake in this contest than those in either camp. On the one hand were my friends, family and Church espousing the idea that being gay was not only a choice, but a wicked one, while on the other was my own inner reality (that I was and always had been attracted only to the same sex). Rather than resign myself to a life of self-loathing and schizophrenia, I decided to go to the source of most of this negative prejudice – the Bible itself.
What I found there was not only enlightening in itself, but also with regard to human nature and our own society – particularly those occupying the two anti-gay populations mentioned earlier. I was left with the strong belief that many, perhaps even the majority of those calling themselves ‘Christian’ actually have very little knowledge of the content of the Bible. I have alternately labeled this as ‘intellectual laziness’ and ‘fear of discovery’ (what one might also call the antonym of ‘ignorance is bliss’).
Whatever the underlying causes, I believe that the majority of Bible passages used to promote bigotry and discrimination against gay citizens do not hold up to even casual scrutiny. I certainly do not profess to be a scholar, but I will share some examples below.
“God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
The story of creation (Genesis 2-5) is often cited to make this point, but under scrutiny it does not make it well. After Cain killed his brother Abel, he was banished to a land east of Eden where he started a family and built a city (Genesis 4:16-17). But since the Bible at this point mentions no other humans besides Adam and Eve, how could Cain have created such a city if there were no other people on Earth? Are we to believe that Cain had relations with his own mother or unmentioned siblings? It can clearly be inferred that the story of Adam and Eve does not tell of all the people that God created, so how can we rule out that there were "Adam and Steve" couples around as well?
Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19).
This story is often cited to show God's dislike for homosexuality, but this is a gross homogenization of the Biblical text. It's also very hard to figure out who the good guys are in this story. Lot, the supposed hero, pimps his two daughters to the men of the town in exchange for rescuing the two angels who have come to stay with him. It's equally difficult to figure out what crime was committed that caused God's wrath to be brought on the town. If you read the Bible chronologically, then God planned to destroy the city (Genesis 18:20) well before the incident in which the men attempt to rape the angels (Genesis 19:9), suggesting that the attempted rape was not the primary cause of God's anger. Even if it were the cause, few gays and lesbians would disagree that rape should be condemned, but rape is not the same as homosexuality. And if you read Ezekiel 16:49, God never mentions homosexuality among the list of Sodom's sins. All together, it's hardly a compelling case that the story condemns homosexuality.
The Biblical passage in Leviticus fails to prove that homosexuality is wrong coming from a book that is selectively quoted and widely ignored. For a man to lie with a man was called an "abomination." It seems like a pretty serious charge until you turn the page and consider other abominations in Leviticus. Eating pork (Lev. 11:7) or seafood (Lev. 11:9), planting mingled seeds (Lev. 19:19) or wearing poly-cotton blends (Lev. 19:19) could also put you in hot water. How many ministers condemn these practices?
Paul's negative reference to homosexuality has been widely circulated and debated by biblical scholars, but Paul is hardly a standard that modern Christians would follow. It was Paul, after all, who wrote that women should "adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array" (I Timothy 2:9). That means that church ladies would have to take off their hats, their weaves, their gold earrings and their pearl necklaces before they could condemn homosexuals. And even then they could not condemn gay men because Paul does not allow women "to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."
Christian opponents of homosexuality rarely mention Jonathan's homosexual love affair with David (I Samuel 18:20, II Samuel 1), the omission of homosexuality from the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) or Jesus' omission of any criticism of homosexuality. They see the Bible as a weapon of hate instead of a tool for love. But if homosexuality were such a big concern to Christ, then surely Jesus would have mentioned it and someone would have recorded it. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus take up the issue. Instead, when asked to choose the greatest of the commandments (Matthew 22:36), he explains the greatest commandment is to love.
Where does all this leave our prejudiced Christian friends – those that feel a need to underpin their prejudices with some higher authority? I would like to think that it might give them pause. Perhaps it may provide them reason to doubt a tiny bit of their own infallibility and preconceived notions about just what the Bible actually says about homosexuality. If those foundations are seen to be cracked, the anti-gay bigotry may finally be revealed as a precarious house of cards – or perhaps a house built upon the sand, destined to be washed away.