Guest Post: Danny Golde on Homosexuality

Danny, blog readers. Blog readers, Danny. Danny has been a good friend since college, was in my wedding, and now lives far far away and we get to see him very rarely. In the course of writing another post I called him up and asked him if I could link to this thing that he wrote on Facebook last April, and he said that was just fine. When the link didn’t work, I was trying to figure out how to make the content available, and so that’s how I ended up with my very first Guest Poster. Geez, it’s like a *real* blog or something. So without further ado….

Tomorrow in Alaska, Proposition 5 will be voted upon. This is the proposition seeking to add “sexual orientation” to the list of things you cannot discriminate against for employment/housing. It adds to the list already containing race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, physical disability, and mental disability.

Homosexuality, a Special Sin

There are a lot of Christians who are against this because they believe the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a special sin. They think that if this law passes and they are forced to not discriminate based on sexual orientation that they are enabling a sinner to continue to sin. They want to be able to say that a company can fire someone or a landlord can evict someone if they find out they are gay if that is against their religious beliefs. I call homosexuality special because they would never fight to have it made into law that they could do the same to divorced/remarried people, to the proud, to the lustful, to heterosexuals who are sexually immoral in practice, etc. I would ask them who believe this, “Is it enabling sin to befriend a gay person?” Of course the answer is no. We who call ourselves call ourselves Christians know that everyone sins and all are sinners. With this mindset, I could fire/evict anyone because I believe they are sinful, and claim that it is my religious right- and that is just wrong. Nor is continuing the relationship after finding out about a sin the same as enabling the sin to continue.

Jesus did not say, “This is the greatest commandment: don’t be gay. All the law and prophets hang on this.” What Jesus really said was that the greatest commandment was to love God and love your neighbors, and that all the Law and Prophets hang on this commandment. What that means is that the Law and Prophets should be read through the lenses of “Love God and Love Others”. If you read something that is out of sync with that commandment, you are interpreting it wrong. Now if you think that homosexuality is such that you must stop being one before you can be accepted, then you have made that penultimate to The Commandment. You read the Law and Prophets through the lenses of “Don’t be gay.” Again, I must ask, “What makes homosexuality so special?” I know. There are Bible verses that talk about it. We’ll get there in a bit.

My Beliefs

Before we get into the meat of this thing, I am going to do my best to lay out a few things that I believe. I believe there are many facets to homosexuality that most Christians do not ever take the time to learn about. To make it the easiest to understand, think of every possible heterosexual relationship that can exist. There is faithful marriage and unfaithful marriage (cheating, lusting, pornography addictions, divorce); there are boyfriend/ girlfriend relationships where sex happens before marriage; there are boyfriend/ girlfriend relationships that wait to have sex until marriage; there is rape; and there is singleness. Now, realize that all of these facets exist to gay people as well as straight! Yes, there are gay couples who are faithful to each other, stay together for a lifetime, raise wonderful loving children, are there for each other through those awful times in life when they know they could not make it on their own, and every other good thing that comes from any other good family home. So can homosexuality be a sin? Of course- just like heterosexuality!

I also believe that Christians are too quick to damn gays to hell and quote all the Bible verses but never take the time to learn what the verses actually say (no biggie, it’s just eternal damnation, right?). I believe Christians forget that the Pharisees are mentioned, not to remind us to watch out for “those people”, but because we can become them as Christians. Remember that Jesus told the ultra-religious that tax collectors and prostitutes would see the Kingdom before them. He told them that because they were so proud and confident in their own understanding of God and the Scriptures and unwilling to change their hearts that they missed the whole Spirit of the Law and God standing right in front of them. Christians don’t like to quote those verses and don’t like to be compared to Pharisees. Christians can apparently believe that Jesus died for their sins, while they were still sinners, and that even after they become Christians they are still sinners only now Christ’s death was for their sin so that God can welcome them- unless your sin is being gay. Then Christ’s death does not cover your sin before or after you become a Christian- in fact you pretty much can’t become a Christian and be gay- let alone be allowed to work or live in an apartment. You can become a Christian, though, and be just about any other type of sinner, including a murderer, adulterer, idolater (Jesus says if you hate, its like murder; if you lust, its like adultery; if you put anything above God, it is idolatry).

Finally, I believe that Christians take advantage of the religious clause in the Constitution to make other minority groups less free. What I mean is this: I agree that marriage is an institution of the Church. I believe that if a church wants to reserve the right to only marry those they deem qualified, that is fine. But when Christians gave the power of marriage to the state (government), they lost some say in the matter. When I say they gave the power of marriage to the state, I mean that in order to be “legally” married nowadays, you must get a license from the state- if you were to be married in the Church, in God’s eyes, but not obtain a marriage license, it would not be “legal”. This license, in turn, gives you privileges that singles or homosexual couples do not have- in fact there are just over 1,000 statutes for which privilege is based specifically on marital status. In the Church, it is fine for them to say they believe marriage is only between a man and a woman. But when you involve the state, those religious beliefs should no longer apply as the state has no religion and requires that the laws apply to all individuals equally. With the state involved, “marriage” is simply a non-religious contract between two people who agree on the terms (not to sleep with another, sharing of property and money, shared custody of children, etc.). The Church has seemingly no problem with those with different religions or no religion to be married or to have all the same rights.  They have no problem for the sexually immoral heterosexuals who are married to share the same rights and privileges. There is no reason that any two consenting adults should not be able to enter into any contract they choose and have all the same protections and opportunities under the law as every other individual. Homosexuals pay taxes, so in a way, they subsidize those breaks that married heterosexual people receive! Fair? I think not.

The reason I say that Christians take advantage of the system is this: the First Amendment says that the state cannot make an official religion or impede the free practice of religion. What is religion? Well, to me it is Christianity. But not to everyone, and the founders knew that or they would have made Christianity the official religion of the United States. They knew that some people’s religion would be “no religion” and that there were differences even among the same religion, Christianity for example, that they did not want any group to have to power to tell another what they must believe. The word religion in the Constitution cannot mean anything other than something along the lines of “ones beliefs about life, where we came from, how one is to live, and what is to come.” It is obvious to see why they did not specify, as there are many different ideas about this, and all of them were to be protected as long as they did not impede on another individual’s rights (your religion could not make it OK to murder, steal, or enslave, etc.). This was set up so that the majority could never impede on the rights of the minority simply because they had the majority. If this were a true democracy, it would simply take 51% of people to make a law that makes being gay, or anything else, punishable by death and we would elect a dictator, not a president, every four years. The protection of religious freedom under the Constitution is not above equality under the law for all individuals. Equality under the law for every individual is above anything that any group thinks if this is to be called a “free country.” It’s funny- we know that religious freedom is not “ultimate”. We know that a religion could not be used to kill a person, steal their property, or enslave them! We know that there are boundaries to religious freedom, but some Christians have such a sense of entitlement that they can’t even see this truth. These Christians that are more worried about their rights than humility and true religion- they are more Patriotic or American than Christian. A Christian knows he does not need ANY legal rights, that the law is not his Savior. All of my rights come from Christ and he is the only law I need. I don’t need to force my beliefs on anyone. I can live my life and even raise my family in the most pagan, unchristian community in the universe because I know that my life’s identity and that of my family are not tied to how safe I make if for them to grow up or the laws that I pass in my democratic republic- my entire identity is bound up in Christ and what I believe his life, death, and resurrection mean for me.  A light in a dark place has some use.  But a light where everyone is forced to be in the light, looks just like everyone else.

Along with my belief about a Christian’s responsibility to loose the chains of injustice of the marginalized without the prerequisite that they be without sin, I also believe that Scripture is not as cut and dry as many Christians would like to believe on the topic of homosexuality. Here is what I have learned from studying the Scriptures:

The Bible and Some History

There are six main places that people point to when trying to justify their ignorance about homosexuality (by calling it love).

Genesis 1-2, the Creation Account

Genesis 19-1-9, the Sodom Account

Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, the Holiness Code

Romans 1:24-27, a letter of Paul

1 Corinthians 6:9, a letter of Paul

1 Timothy 1:10, a letter of Paul

Before we get to the text, I want to make a few notes. First, the word “homosexual” comes from the Greek word, homo, meaning “the same” and the Latin, sexualis, meaning sex. The term homosexual is of modern origin, used for the first time only about one hundred years ago. There is no biblical Greek or Hebrew word that is the equivalent to homosexual. The 1946 Revised Standard Version (RSV) was the first translation to use the word homosexual. I will argue that the word translated “homosexual” in the Bible is a poor translation of what the original writers meant.

Second, there is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew for “sodomy”. A sodomite was simply a person from Sodom as a Moabite was from Moab. Any translation that uses the word “sodomy” or “sodomite” are interpretations that are not faithful translations. It was in 1508 that Wyclif translated the Bible into Middle English and turned the Greek word, arsenokoitai (I’ll define this one later), used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 to “synn of Sodom.” Nothing in the context of 1 Corinthians 6:9 makes any reference to Sodom whatsoever. If your Bible says “sodomites” in 1 Corinthians 6:9, you can thank Wyclif.

Genesis 19:1-9, The Sodom Account

This is the story where God sent two angels to warn Lot of the approaching destruction of Sodom. Lot welcomed the visitors into his home and prepared a meal for them. Men from the city, young and old, surrounded the house and shouted, “Where are those men who came to your house? We want to have sex with them!” Lot refuses and offers instead to send out his virgin daughters. He said, “Don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” From there, the angels blind the men of the city so Lot and his family could escape and the Lord burned the city, killing all the people.

Most Christians want to jump to the conclusion that the men of the city were gay and so God punished them for being so. What does the Scriptures actually say, though?  Before the angels came, the city was already set to be destroyed! We are only told that their sin is “very grievous.” So what happened in the account? The men of the city, young and old, came and demanded to have sex with the guests. What is it called when one party wants to force sex against someone who does not want it? Rape. The only sin we see in the story is that of rape. And why does Lot offer his daughters to the men? Are we to learn that heterosexual rape is not as bad as homosexual rape? I don’t think so. The answer is in Lot’s reply. “Don’t do anything to these men,for they have come under the protection of my roof.” In the Old Testament Jewish culture, it was an honorable thing to take in travelers and such as guests and to take good care of them- they were commanded to do so by God. Lot would not have been an honorable man if he gave up these strangers to the men of the city to be raped. We also know that in times of war throughout history, heterosexual men would rape men in the defeated army as a way of shaming and dominating them. That, I believe, is what the men of Sodom were after. We must not use this story to condemn all homosexual sex, just as we do not use David’s encounter with Bathsheba to condemn heterosexual sex.

1 Timothy 1:8-10, a Letter of Paul

8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine…

If we break down verses 9 and 10 (NIV) to see the similar/ related sins you have {lawbreakers and rebels}, {the ungodly and sinful}, {the unholy and irreligious}, {those who kill their fathers and mothers and murderers}, {for the sexually immoral, those practicing homosexuality, and slave traders}, {liars and perjurers}.

So when we look at the Greek word for “sexually immoral” in the above text, we can get pornoi, which is derived from the word meaning “to sell”. Examples from the lexicon are 1) a male who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire; 2) a male prostitute; 3) a male who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator. The King James Version translates this word to be “whoremonger”, the Revised Standard Version, “immoral persons”.

The word for “those practicing homosexuality” is arsenokoitai, which is two words, arseno-, meaning “male” and koitai, meaning “bed”. In Greek, the word, koitai, is used as a euphemism for one who has sex. So we could translate the full word into a “male bedder” or “one who beds with males”. The KJV translates this word to “them that defile themselves with mankind” and the RSV translates to “Sodomites.”

The word for “slave traders” is andrapodistai, and means 1) slave dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer; 2) one who unjustly reduces free males to slavery; 3) one who steals the slaves of others and sells them. The KJV translates this word as “men-stealers” and the RSV, “Kidnappers.”

So instead of Verse 10 being translated “for the sexually immoral, those practicing homosexuality, and slave traders,” a proper understanding of this passage would then be, “male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and the slave dealers who procure them.” This says nothing about what we may see today with two men or women living in a consensual, faithful, and loving relationship.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10, a Letter of Paul

(NIV) 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

The words “men who have sex with men” is actually two words in the Greek. The first is malakoi, meaning literally, “soft.” The second is arsenokoitai, which we learned is a “male bedder.” The KJV translates malakos to “effeminate” and the Jerusalem Bible, “catamites.” Catamite comes from Greek mythology, where Gamymede was the cupbearer to the gods and his Latin name was Catamus. This is the practice of men using prepubescent (soft) boys or young men as slave-prostitutes. This was not uncommon in Greco-Roman times and actually is still around in some places in the East. So, again, we see that this Scripture is talking about prostitution and possibly pederasty, not two men or women who love each other.

Romans 1:24-27, a Letter of Paul

(NIV) 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Let us go verse by verse. Verse 24, “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity…” So it begins with LUST.

Verse 25, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator…” Then there is FALSEHOOD and IDOLATRY.

Verse 26, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts…” Now SHAME and again, LUST.

Verse 26 continues, “…Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for on another.”

They (grown men) ABANDONED (gave up, left behind, forsook, neglected, divorced) natural relations with women. They divorced themselves from their own nature, that of heterosexuality, and were consumed with passion for one another. Women did likewise. Paul is talking aboutheterosexual individuals engaging in homosexual sex, which is contrary to their nature. Why would men do that? They were already involved in lust, believing lies about God, idolatry, dishonorable passions… In this account the words “men” and “women” are both plural, inferring that this was probably describing some sort of ritual group sex, which was not uncommon in Paul’s time, especially in Rome.

To isolate the phrase “unnatural sexual relations” to declare homosexual relations unnatural is to interject ones own prejudice and read outside the context. I read a quote from Peter Gomes inThe Good Book that read, “It is not clear that Paul distinguished, as we must, between homosexual persons and heterosexual persons who behave like homosexuals, but what is clear is that what is “unnatural” is the one behaving in the manner of the other.”

Genesis 1-2, the Creation Account

It is often stated that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. This is perfectly true. But what is the Genesis story? It is the story of Beginnings. It is meant to show us where we came from. In that same book, Gomes writes, “Then, as now, the only plausible answer is from the union of a man and a woman… The Creation story in Genesis does not pretend to be a history of anthropology or of every social relationship. It does not mention friendship, for example, and yet we do not assume that friendship is condemned or abnormal. It does not mention the single state, and yet we know singleness is not condemned, and that in certain religious circumstances it is held in very high esteem.”

St. Augustine taught a lot about marriage. He taught that it was to serve three ends: Procreative (raising children for the Kingdom of God), Unitive (couples learn faithfulness to each other and to God, becoming a witness to an order of love), and Sacramental (it is to be indissoluble). Which of these cannot be met by a homosexual marriage?

Jesus said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” But is this the only form a scriptural marriage can take? Jesus left his family not for marriage.

You may ask, “Isn’t the inherent function of sex procreation, an end which homosexual sex does not fulfill?” At an Anglican decennial conference in 1958, they wrote on the subject: “Sexual intercourse is not by any means the only language of earthly love, but it is, in its full and right use, the most revealing… It is a giving and receiving in the unity of two free spirits which in itself is good… Therefore it is utterly wrong to say that… such intercourse ought not to be engaged in except with the willing intention of children.”

And we know that the Church would not stop infertile women from marrying, nor do they stop women past the age of childbearing from marrying, both of which close the possibility of procreation, nor do most churches prohibit contraceptives. All of these examples are OK with the church even though sex will never be for procreation.

Leviticus 18:22, the Holiness Code

(NIV) 22 Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

(KJV) 22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

I want to start by sharing some of the other laws between Leviticus 17-26: How to shave your beards; not to have intercourse during menstruation; not to reap the corners of your field; not to have two different seeds in the same field; cannot wear cotton and wool blend clothing; eating anything with blood; no cutting your flesh (ear piercings) or tattoo; keep the Sabbath; not to mention all the things you are to be stoned or killed for. In of all these things, it has been decided by Christians that we do not have to do most of them anymore, but that we apparently get to pick which ones are to be followed and which are OK not to follow now. Maybe Jesus died for some of our sins, but not all of them?  I don’t think so.  These laws were part of a covenant between God and his people.  We now live under a new covenant with slightly different terms.

The Holiness Code (it is called this because the word Holy appears many times in these chapters), was written to distinguish the Hebrews, morally and ritually, from the Canaanites and other pagan peoples along with laying out how to uphold the current covenant with God. What does the New Testament say about it?

Romans 7:4- So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code… 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.

Galations 3:23- Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

We are no longer “under the law.” What did Jesus say about the law? When asked what was the greatest commandment, he replied, “Love God with all your heart… and love your neighbor. All the law and prophets hang on these two commandments.” Paul would later say (Rom 13) that, “all the commandments are summed up in one sentence, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

What about that word, “abomination”? The Greek word is bdelugma and it means “a foul or detestable thing, of idols and things pertaining to idolatry.” Why is it not possible that the context, even in the Old Testament, was not referring to practices that were known to go along with worshipping some idols?

Rape, hating, stealing, murder, prostitution, adultery, etc. are immoral because they are not in line with the Law of Love, which Christ lays out when questioned about the Law. Is a committed homosexual relationship in violation of this law? We could become like the Pharisees and Sadducees, trying to pick apart the law forever, but if we look closely, Christ’s life truly reveals the Spirit of the Law.

Conclusion

I, therefore, take the stance that the Bible does not fully address the topic of homosexuality to the extent that we know about today. Neither Jesus nor the prophets ever mention it; in Sodom, it is mentioned in the context of rape; in Romans it is mentioned within the context of idolatry involving lust, falsehood, shame, etc. 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy mention it in the context of prostitution and possibly pederasty. All of these accounts are about a perversion of sexuality, not simply being homosexual. They are the same perversions that can exist in a heterosexual relationship.

The main point that I want to get out is that the Bible has often been abused throughout history, being twisted and taken out of context to oppress several minorities including women, African-Americans, children, slaves, Jews… If we are going to come down so hard on others for what we think is a sin, and especially a sin that we ourselves do not struggle with, we should be much more certain before we damn an entire group of people to Hell. The question concerning marriage should not be, “What is their sexual orientation?” but, “Can this marriage meet the ends of marriage set forth by the Bible and church tradition?” As with many things throughout history, and I believe in this case too, Christians have been viewed as fanatics. In reality, it is not that they need to back it down a few notches, but actually need to step it up and become more Christian- Christ-like, if you will.

I hope that this has been eye-opening and thought-provoking to Christians and non-Christians alike. Yes, I am a passionate person when I believe in something, but do not let that stop you from continuing this conversation with me via email, in person, or however! If you can add to something that I do not know, I want to know it. I hope you can be open to the same.

“The combination of ignorance and prejudice under the guise of morality makes the religious community, and its abuse of Scripture in this regard, itself morally culpable.” (Gomes)

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4 thoughts on “Guest Post: Danny Golde on Homosexuality

  1. Well written.
    There are many laws from the Old Testament that when examined closely are not just there to annoy us or make us feel like failures when we don’t comply. The forbidding of pork: with the variable cooking practices of the ancient days, pork consumption likely would have resulted in (oh rats – I hope I spell this close enough) tricanosis. When you hear about child abuse, what percentage of the time is the abuser a step-parent or the boyfriend of the child’s mother? Children tend to be safer with their parents; this is one of practical consequences of marriage. What if one of the main reasons homosexuality is a sin is the promiscuity that is common. STDs are a serious problem with both hetero and homosexual populations when the “if-it-feels-good,-do-it” philosophy is followed.
    While I believe marriage was established to be between a man and a woman, society might be well served by recognizing a monogamous relationship of other sorts. But don’t call it marriage. A cow is not a horse, and calling it a horse won’t change it.
    As you mentioned, we are commanded to love one another. We all sin, and ALL sin is offensive to God. Your sin is no worse than mine, even if I’d like to think it is.

    • Maria, I used to think that the church should approve of civil unions and keep marriage as sacred. I am starting to wonder if maybe that is patronizing, though. I think if someone can get married on a reality show, or be married for 45 minutes (!?) then is the institution of marriage really further harmed by encouraging monogamous same sex relationships?

      • I don’t think the church should approve of civil unions, but I could see having the government allow some such arrangement if it thought it would be beneficial. (And it should be as binding as marriage per government terms, requiring a legal dissolution comparable to divorce.)

        We on many levels are destroying marriage (I am divorced and remarried – thus Biblically guilty of adultery, so I am not “holier than thou”, pointing fingers). Sham marriages, bigamy, acceptance of divorce; these all are problems. The saying “two wrongs don’t make a right” in this case is more like “many wrongs don’t make a right”. We really do need to increase our respect for the institution of marriage.

        I have a gay brother who, with his partner, has done the legal paperwork required that will permit them to have the types of rights that married couples have such as to have access in the event one is in the hospital, rather than being shut out as “not family”. My brother has become Unitarian rather than stay Christian, because being gay is more important to him than Christ’s love. Let’s just say that this troubles me, because I love him and his partner.

        Just today I ran across this article, which is not about gay marriage, but about being gay:

        http://www.equip.org/articles/answering-the-gay-christian-position/?msource=EC120803WKLY

        Our responsibility is to love one another, share truth, and pray.

        Thanks for your response.

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