Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is Being Gay A Sin? Part Two - Levitical Law

Is Being Gay A Sin?
We are still in Part Two of my blog series, "Is Being Gay A Sin?" There are so many controversies surrounding so many of the issues in Leviticus and other scriptures in the Bible. As a Christian, it is our duty to prayerfully study and understand what God was trying to communicate to His people, not only in ancient times, but througout ALL time.

Please read:

They will help you in reading this work in context and in the flow it was intended.

Part Two - Levitical Laws
Because these two verses in Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) have been used more than any other Bible texts to condemn and reject gay people, the following material is given to help you think objectively about traditional abusive use of the Bible regarding gay folks.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Both of these verses prohibit a physical impossibility, a man lying with a male as if with a woman. The priestly writers, writing down in about 530 BCE oral tradition dating from perhaps a thousand years earlier, make no mention of love between men or women of the same gender, much less fellatio, cunnilingus, or other ways of exchanging pleasure.

Remember, now, these verses date from at least 2,500 years ago, and the original oral tradition may be up to a thousand years older. There were only a few million human beings on the face of the planet; life was “nasty, brutish, and short.” People took seriously God's command to be fruitful and multiply. Indeed, if Jesus had been a bachelor, no one would have listened to a word he had to say, commandment-breaker that he would have been seen as.
  • Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as those who lie with a female; it is an abomination."
  • Leviticus 20:13: "If a man lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and they shall surely be put to death.
Some historical, cultural, and language context: 
Both of these verses refer not to homosexuals but to heterosexuals who took part in the Baal fertility rituals in order to guarantee good crops and healthy flocks. No hint at sexual orientation or homosexuality is even implied.  The word abomination in Leviticus was used for anything that was considered to be religiously unclean or associated with idolatry and idol worship. Go translate the Hebrew. Go read some political and historical contextual books. Sadly, so many people will NOT do that. Even when it’s pointed out here. The Jewish temple was close to the Temple of Diana, which did have an altar for Baal. Male prostitutes would have sex with men (straight men) on the altar so that Baal would bless their crops. God was basically saying that you shouldn’t buy whores in church so that your crops would grow - and I fully support that.

There are two Hebrew words which are often associated with homosexual passages and which are often mistranslated in English versions of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament):
  • "qadesh" means a male prostitute who engaged in ritual sex in a Pagan temple. This was a common profession both in ancient Israel and in the surrounding countries. The word is often mistranslated simply as "sodomite" or "homosexual." (e.g. the King James Version of the Bible, Deuteronomy 23:17). The companion word quedeshaw means female temple prostitute. It is frequently mistranslated simply as "whore" or "prostitute." A qadesh and quedeshaw were not simply prostitutes. They had a specific role to play in the temple. They represented a God and Goddess, and engaged in sexual intercourse in that capacity with members of the temple.
  • "to'ebah" means a condemned, foreign, Pagan, religious, cult practice, but often simply translated as "abomination." Eating food which contains both meat and dairy products is "to'ebah" A Jew having a meal with an Egyptian was "to'ebah." A Jew wearing a polyester-cotton garment, or having a tattoo is "to'ebah" today.

Are Bible translators truly free of bias?
The ultimate answer is no. Translators and those working under duress for Kings and Queens have never been free to translate the Bible as their understanding of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek dictated. One famous example was the translation of the King James Version of the Bible. The translators were pressured into attacking "witches" where:
  • The original Hebrew text in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) discussed women who used spoken curses to hurt or kill others.
  • The original Greek text in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) discussed people who murdered others through the use of poison.
In modern times, the pressures are from economic considerations, not by royal commands. Take Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, for example. A word-by-word analysis of these two verses showed that the passages do not prohibit all same-sex behavior; they do not even prohibit all male same-sex activities. They merely control where male-male intercourse is allowed. It cannot be performed in a woman's bed, because that location is sacrosanct. Only the woman, and under certain circumstances a man, may occupy it. Otherwise, a serious defilement would result.

The New International Version (NIV) currently translates Leviticus 18:22 as: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." The New Living Translation (NLT) widens the translation to also include lesbians: "Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin.

Imagine what would happen to Bible sales if the actual interpretation was used. Translators might render this verse as: "Two men must not engage in sexual activity on a woman's bed; it is ritually unclean."

By reading various translations of the Bible, generations of Christians have been conditioned to expect this verse to condemn all homosexual behavior -- or at least all male same-sex activity. They expect that it will be morally condemned as "an abomination" or at least as a "detestable" act. But this new translation does not prohibit male to male sexual behavior; it only limits where the act can be performed. And it does not say that this conduct, if done on a woman's bed, is to be morally condemned. It only says that it is ritually unclean, like coming too close to a dead body, or eating shellfish, or getting a tattoo. The readers would assume that the translation is defective and that the translators were distorting the original meaning of the passage in order to be politically correct and not offend gays and lesbians.

Levitical Laws that have fallen by the wayside
Remember also that these are not the only two verses in Leviticus. If you're going to claim that homosexuals are sinners based on these two verses, you must also:
  • keep kosher (ch. 11) — as part of keeping kosher, you may eat no fat and no blood (3:16-17, 7:22, 17:10-16), meaning no potato chips, no French fries, no rare steak, etc.; you may not eat lobsters, clams, oysters, octopus, shrimp, or crawfish (11:12), no tuna casserole (mixes “meat” and milk), and no ostrich (11:16) or crocodile meat (11:30).
  • You may not wear cotton-polyester blends or any other kind of blend of fabrics (19:19).
  • You shall not “defer to the great,” making any National Leader’s pandering to the wealthy explicitly sinful (19:15).
  • You must observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the festival of Booths (23:23-43).
  • If an insect or lizard crawls across your cook pot, you must break your cook pot into pieces and throw it away. (11:30) When this rule was written, cook pots were molded out of clay by the lady of the house. Today most cook pots are stainless steel or aluminum — but if you're going to insist on 18:22 and 20:13, you must also insist on 11:30.
  • You may not cross-breed animals (19:19). There's nothing in the Bible against cloning, however.
  • You must stone all “wizards” to death; ditto for all astrologers and all mediums (19:26-27, 19:31, 20:6, and 20:27).
  • You may not have a tattoo (19:28).
  • You must put all persons that have pre-marital sex to death for the sin of sex outside of wedlock (20:10-16). Also most other citizens of the U.S. over the age of about 16 — there's no statute of limitations in the Bible.
  • A God-fearing man may not marry a divorcĂ©e or a rape victim (21:7). (Most of the rules in Leviticus pertain only to men, since women are considered subhuman by many of the authors the Bible.)
  • If the daughter of a priest becomes a prostitute, she must be burned to death (21:9). How compassionate the priestly authors of Leviticus were!
  • You will be exiled if you see a close relative naked, even accidentally (20:17-22).
  • No priest may have acne or any other kind of blemish or physical imperfection (including poor eyesight – how many preachers today wear glasses?)(21:16-23).
  • Anyone who blasphemes — Marilyn Manson for example — must be stoned to death (24:13-23).
  • When a prisoner is executed in a capital punishment case, the executioner must also be put to death. Ditto for whoever puts the executioner to death. And so on, ad infinitum. (24:17, 21)
  • It's perfectly all right with “the gods” (elohim) if you want to own slaves, but they may not be of the same nationality as yourself. Leviticus recommends that the U.S. obtain its slaves from Mexico, Russia, Cuba, and Greenland. (25:44-46; not Canada, because Canada is a dominion rather than a nation.)
If you do not follow these rules, and many others, as scrupulously as you insist on applying these two verses of Leviticus, you are a hypocrite, and may safely be ignored.

Bible verses that even fundamentalists don't take literally...
Here are some verses which come directly from the Bible that even fundamentalists do not take literally for today, proving that they selectively pick and choose verses out of context which justify their pre-existing prejudice against gay and lesbian people. Take a look for yourself.
  • "Women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says." (1 Corinthians 14:34) This verse says that women can't speak in church. Period. It is completely ignored today. Applying this verse to the modern day church would be ancient, absurd and nonsensical. When it comes to the verses about homosexuality, however, fundamentalists suddenly insist that they must be interpreted literally, word for word! When it comes to this verse, however, they admit the facts. They acknowledge that it was only meant for that day. The truth is that the Apostle Paul wrote this verse because, during his time, women and men sat on opposite sides of the church aisle. Women would yell questions across the aisle to their husbands, causing a disruption of the service. It would be all too easy for a fundamentalist who disliked women to use this verse to exclude women from participating in the service, just as fundamentalists who dislike gay people currently misuse those seemingly anti-gay scriptures to exclude people who are gay. Realizing that a particular scripture was only relevant for its time (and should not be applied literally to our modern day) is an interpretational option that is conveniently ignored when it comes to the verses which discuss homosexuality.
  • "Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering." (1 Corinthians 11:13-15) Upon visiting any fundamentalist church, you will discover that more than a few women have short haircuts. This verse, however, indicates that women should have long hair, as their "head must be covered." It has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it? Arab fundamentalists require women to put a veil over their heads and punish them if they do not. The fact of the matter is that the length of your hair has nothing to do with your spiritual condition.
  • "If any man takes a wife, and goes in on her, and detests her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, 'I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin..." (Deuteronomy 22:13,14) "But if ... evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones..."(Deuteronomy 22:20, 21) If a man discovers that a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night, all the men in town can murder her by flinging stones at her young female body as she screams in pain. Is this the word of God? Hardly. The command to stone to death a young girl who is not proven to be a virgin on her wedding night is simply an ugly man-made rule of murder that found its way into the Biblical text. WHY are fundamentalists so afraid to admit the obvious, that such verses like the one listed above are simply not the Word of God? How mature is one's faith if one cannot even admit that a verse which commands that young girls be stoned to death isn't the Word of God? Here are the facts . . . The belief in Biblical times was that if a woman was indeed a virgin; she would bleed on her wedding night because her first sexual intercourse would result in the breaking of the hymen, the thin tissue that covers the vagina. This blood was considered the "evidence" of her virginity that the scripture speaks of. Medical science has since discovered that the hymen is often already broken in many young girls because of their participation in athletic sports and things like horseback riding. Quite tragically, this indicates that many girls who actually were virgins on their wedding night were nonetheless stoned to death because they were ignorant of this scientific fact. Little did many young girls in Biblical times know that their wedding nights would end in their own murder.
  • "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched." (Mark 9:43) While fundamentalists insist (due to their pre-existing bigotry) that all seemingly anti-gay scriptures be taken literally, without exception, they admit that the above verse was not meant to be taken literally even though the words above were spoken by Jesus Himself. This proves that fundamentalists are willing to say that certain scriptures weren't meant to be believed literally, even those which contain the allegedly actual words of Jesus Christ! NOTE: The reason I write and italicize “allegedly” is because the Mark is not considered to be an actual eye-witness by secular theology scholars. The Book of Mark is widely believed by scholars to have been written 65-70 CE.
  • "One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the congregation of the Lord." (Deuteronomy 23:2) If you were born to an unwed mother, the Bible says that you shouldn't be allowed in church. Do "Bible-believing" fundamentalists follow this rule? Nope. They acknowledge that this verse was meant for a different time. Yes, even fundamentalists acknowledge that certain scriptures were only meant to be applied to the particular time and place in which they were written. When it comes to those scripture verses which seem to speak against homosexuality, however, they suddenly and indignantly demand that every word be followed to the letter and applied to our modern day! The idea of refusing membership in the church to a child born to an unwed mother is seen as being unreasonable today, even though the scripture instructs it. The idea of quoting scripture to abuse people who are gay and lesbian is just as unreasonable and antiquated.
  • "Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ."(Ephesians 6:5) "Slaves, obey your human masters in everything; don't work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord." (Colossians 3:22) "Slaves are to be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back.”(Titus 2:9) "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” (1 Peter 2:18) Slaves should obey their masters? Hardly. Slavery was one of the most offensive institutions to ever befall humanity. Sadly, the scriptures condoned it, and, as you can see from the above verses, demanded that slaves obey their masters...even cruel ones. Are those verses the "Word of God?" Of course not. They are merely reflective of cultural biases which found their way into the Biblical text.
  • "So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down for about a full day." (Joshua 10:13 NIV) The great astronomer Galileo was jailed by religious authorities when he asserted that the Earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around, as the above verse suggests. If the Bible were the "inerrant, literal Word of God," as people like Jerry Falwell claim, surely God would have known that it was the Earth, and not the sun which had stopped. In February of 1616, religious authorities asked a commission of theologians, known as the Qualifiers, about Galileo's claim that the Sun is at the center of the planets' motions and does not move, and that the Earth is not at the center and does move. On February 24, 1616, the Qualifiers delivered their unanimous report: the idea that the Sun is stationary is "foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts many places the sense of Holy Scripture..."
When it comes to the scriptural verses which seem to be against homosexuality, fundamentalists boldly declare their belief in the "infallible, inerrant Word of God", demanding that every single word be taken literally, without exception. But when it comes to the awkward verses listed above, they become much less sure of themselves. So much less sure, in fact, that they don't follow what their own Bible says.

"Jesus said to him, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

The use of Leviticus to condemn and reject homosexuals is obviously a hypocritical selective use of the Bible against the gays.  Nobody today tries to keep the laws in Leviticus. Look at Leviticus 11:1-12, where all unclean animals are forbidden as food, including rabbits, pigs, and shellfish, such as oysters, shrimp, lobsters, crabs, clams, and others that are called an "abomination."  Leviticus 20:25 demands that "you are to make a distinction between the clean and unclean animal and between the unclean and clean bird; and you shall not make yourself an abomination by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean."  You can eat some insects like locusts (grasshoppers), but not others.

Leviticus 12:1-8 declares that a woman is unclean for 33 days after giving birth to a boy and for 66 days after giving birth to a girl and goes on to demand that certain animals must be offered as a burnt offering and a sin offering for cleansing. (Why is it that the girl child causes a longer ritual unclean time – do even the Jews today go into seclusion and burn offerings anymore? It was originally their law…) Nobody today who claims to be a Christian tries to keep these laws, and few people even know about them! Why do you think that most people don't know about them?

Read Leviticus 23 to see the detailed regulations concerning "complete rest" on the Sabbath day and demands of animal sacrifices to be carried out according to exact instructions.  Leviticus 18:19 forbids a husband from having sex with his wife during her menstrual period.  Leviticus 19:19 forbids mixed breeding of various kinds of cattle, sowing various kinds of seeds in your field or wearing "a garment made from two kinds of material mixed together."  Leviticus 19:27 demands that "you shall not round off the side-growth of your heads, nor harm the edges of your beard." The next verse forbids "tattoo marks on yourself."  Most people do not even know that these laws are in the Bible and are demanded equally with all the others.

Why don't fundamentalists organize protests and picket seafood restaurants, oyster bars, church barbecue suppers, all grocery stores, barber shops, tattoo parlors, and stores that sell suits and dresses made of mixed wool, cotton, polyester, and other materials?  All of these products and services are "abominations" in Leviticus.  When have you heard a preacher condemn the demonic abomination of garments that are made of mixed fabrics? 

The warning is given in Leviticus 26:14-16 that "If you do not obey me and do not carry out all of these commandments, if instead, you reject my statutes, and if your soul abhors my ordinances so as not to carry out all my commandments ...I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that shall waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you shall sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies shall eat it up."  The list of punishments and terrors that will come from not keeping all of the commandments continues through many verses.

Read what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-5 about hypocrites who judge others. "Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves... Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? ...You hypocrite!"

If you have been led to misuse Leviticus and other parts of the Bible in order to condemn and hate and reject people, you are on the wrong path.  Jesus quoted only one passage from Leviticus: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (19:18). Jesus used Leviticus to teach love. Many false teachers use Leviticus and other writings to condemn, humiliate and destroy.  I know which approach seems truly Christian to me.  Jesus never condemned homosexuals or even mentioned anything in the negative that could be taken as a reference to sexual orientation. Jesus took up for gays, according to some beliefs.

Any charge against Gays and Lesbians based on the life and teachings of Jesus has to be dismissed for a lack of evidence!

The use of Leviticus to judge and condemn anyone today is ludicrous and absurd in the light of the total content of the book.  To call the content of the Book of Leviticus the "word of God" and try to enforce any part of it today is without support in the teachings of Jesus and in the letters of Paul.

Jesus in Mark 7:18-23 chided his disciples for their lack of spiritual understanding.  Jesus and his disciples had been condemned by the religious leaders because they did not wash and eat according to the Law.  Jesus said, "Are you too so uncomprehending?  Don't you see that whatever goes into your mouth from the outside cannot defile you; because it does not go into your heart, but into your stomach, and is eliminated? (Thus Jesus declared all foods clean.").  And Jesus added, "That which proceeds from within you, out of your heart, defiles you.  Evil thoughts, abusive sex acts, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting, wickedness, deceit, not  caring, envy, slander, arrogance and foolishness: all of these evil things proceed from within and defile you."

Paul also rejected the absolute commands of Leviticus in Colossians 2:8-23, where he said, "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (Which all refer to things destined to perish with the using) in accordance with human commandments and teachings? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against human indulgence." (2:20-23).  Paul declared in 2:14 that Jesus has "canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us which was hostile to us; and Jesus has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

Many people have answered the argument that most of the "abominations" in Leviticus referred to food by saying that the people back then knew that pork was unhealthy, and that is why pigs were declared to be unclean.  If you follow that logic, you would declare anything that is unhealthy to be an "abomination."  We know that cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, fatty food and many other things are unhealthy; so why are they not also called "abominations" and condemned by the rabid Bible literalists with protests and pickets against cigarette companies, all liquor stores and bars, all fast food outlets, and any store that sells anything that is unhealthy?  The reason is simple - the use of Leviticus to condemn and reject anyone is impossible to justify in the light of the facts. In fact, let me take it just one step further for you - the use of Leviticus to ostracize, condemn and ultimately attempt to reject homosexuals is a SIN. It’s not Biblical. It’s not part of what God actually says and it makes literal legalistic bible based religion look ridiculous.

To me personally, the gospel of Jesus Christ always has been good news for everyone.  Personal evangelism has been my basic emphasis in the ministry since I was a child. My momma raised me to walk the walk and talk the talk. It was something that became basic second nature. It was my impetus for attending seminary and playing in Christian music groups. In the times I chose to speak for churches like my parents’ church or when I would travel and sing in churches, it was to spread the love and message of Jesus. Just for the purpose of being very, VERY clear: during all of this time - I have been gay. I have realized that I was gay since I was about 8 years old. And for those that think this is the point that you will put this down and go read something else, let me just close it out with this:

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