I’ve never done a guest blog piece before, but when my own mother asks to do one, how can I say no? Enjoy!
Susan E. Lindsey
The Supreme Court’s recent decision about same-sex marriage brought forth a rainbow of celebration, but also dark clouds of anger and lightning bolts of hate.
Many—but not all—of those condemning the ruling identified themselves as Christian and cited various biblical passages to support their positions. Some—but not all—of those celebrating the decision made anti-Christian remarks.
I consider myself a Christian, and I don’t like the term being used as an all-encompassing label for rigid or ultra-conservative people who love to point the finger of sin and condemnation at others. Most Christians I know do not behave this way. The word Christian means a follower of Christ, and Jesus Christ did not call us to condemn or hate one another.
I support the decision of the court and think it’s long overdue. However, I also want to respect the beliefs of others and consider what they have to say, so let’s examine some of the scriptures most often cited by opponents to same-sex marriage.
I have to preface this by pointing out that marriage is both a civil/legal construct and a religious construct, which complicates the matter. I am a great believer in the separation of church and state. That is not an anti-Christian statement. I’m all for Christians practicing their faith. I am not in favor, however, of practitioners of any faith (Christian, Muslim, Judaism, Buddhism, or anything else) dictating the laws of this land.
I also realize that many people have come to their conclusions about homosexuality from a position of emotion, not logic, so trying to use logic to discuss this may be futile. All of that being said, let’s look at those scriptures. (Citations are from the Revised Standard Version.) First, the Old Testament.
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.
— Genesis 2:24
This scriptures provides a model for marriage, but it does not say that it is the only model for marriage, nor does it in fact use the word “marriage.” A similar New Testament passage (Matthew 10:6-8) likewise does not restrict marriage to this model.
In this passage from Genesis, Lot offers shelter in his home to two travelers identified as angels.
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; 5 and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
— Genesis 19:4-8
The passage is used as an argument against homosexuality, but it is really about attempted homosexual rape and Lot’s willingness to allow his virgin daughters to be raped instead of his guests. A similar story is told in the book of Judges, where a man provides overnight accommodations for a traveler.
22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, base fellows, beset the house round about, beating on the door; and they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren, do not act so wickedly; seeing that this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do with them what seems good to you; but against this man do not do so vile a thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them; and they knew her, and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light.
27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her upon the ass; and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and laying hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.
— Judges 19:22-29
In this gruesome tale, the host protects his guest by throwing the guest’s concubine into the street (after first also offering up his virgin daughter). The concubine is gang-raped all night. When she crawls back to the house, she’s thrown over a donkey for the trip home, where she is murdered. Again, not a tale about same-sex relationships, but a horrific tale of rape, a culture of blaming the victim, and the disposability of women. Why would anyone want to use follow the advice of the writers of these stories?
In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, the Levitical priests lay down the law and specifically address sex in chapter 18. Verses 12-17 of the chapter deal with prohibitions against incest. Verse 18 prohibits a man from marrying his wife’s sister. Verses 19-23 prohibit sex during a woman’s period, adultery with neighbors, child sacrifice, gay sex, and bestiality.
19 You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. 20 And you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife, and defile yourself with her. 21 You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any beast and defile yourself with it, neither shall any woman give herself to a beast to lie with it: it is perversion.
Apparently, the priests considered these to be comparable levels of bad stuff. However, I have a difficult time believing that sex during a woman’s period or gay sex compare in any way to child sacrifice or bestiality. And this passage is from a book that also discusses the rules of animal sacrifices, outlaws the eating of pork or rabbit, requires male circumcision, and forbids getting tattoos or trimming beards. Can we agree that some of it might be outdated?
Once in a while, people will cite passages from the book of I Kings. Chapter 14 tells about a ruler establishing male prostitution cults in Judah; chapter 15 tells about a subsequent ruler who puts an end to the practice. Neither of these passages deal with loving same-sex relationships, but rather with male prostitution in a cult setting. It brings up the question: were female prostitutes in a cult setting OK? Or was prostitution of either sex in a non-cult setting somehow acceptable?
These Old Testament passages were written long before Jesus was born. Let’s look at the New Testament.
21 for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened . . .
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
32 Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.
—Romans 1:21 and 26, 27, 32
These are Paul’s words in a letter to the Romans. Paul is speaking of people who knew about God, but did not honor him. In this passage, Paul rants against those who believe and live differently than he does. He labels same-sex relations as dishonorable, unnatural, and shameless, but seems to be condemning them more for not honoring God. He then advocates for their murder and the murder of those who approve of such practices. Not exactly a shining example of Christian love. In another letter, Paul writes to the Corinthians:
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
—1 Corinthians 6:9-10
It is easy to define thieves and robbers, adulterers and drunkards. The other definitions are broader: who defines what is immoral, what is idolatry, and what is sexual perversion? It was once considered immoral for women to show their ankles. In many cultures, any kind of sex besides heterosexual / missionary position / with your spouse is considered perversion. In this same letter, Paul writes about marriage, advocating celibacy for those who can live that way (as Paul did), but marriage for those who cannot:
1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 . . . 6 I say this by way of concession, not of command. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
—1 Corinthians 7:1-3 and 6-9
This is another passage sometimes cited as a definition for marriage. But Paul isn’t celebrating marriage as a union of one man and one woman. He is saying it would be best if we all could be celibate, but if we can’t, then we should marry. Paul may very well have been asexual, without desire for sex with anyone. He chose, instead, to devote his life to his faith. But if everyone were celibate, the human race would end. If, as Christians, we believe that God created us, then he also gave us sexual desire. We hear again from Paul when he writes to Timothy:
8 Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 immoral persons, sodomites, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,
—1 Timothy 1:8-10
Dictionaries define sodomy in various ways: as homosexual acts, as oral sex, as anal sex, as bestiality, as sex that is not intended for procreation. Many heterosexuals engage in sex that is not for procreation, and have oral sex or anal sex. So sodomites does not refer exclusively to same-sex relations. And Paul is equating vastly different “sins”—is telling fib equal to killing your mother?
I don’t believe that the Bible forbids same-sex marriages or condemns homosexuality. It certainly isn’t listed in the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20), and there is no record that Jesus said anything one way or another about same-sex relationships.
We have learned much about human sexuality in the centuries since Paul was alive. There is a range of sexual behavior and identities that are clearly biological: these include heterosexuality, homosexuality, asexuality, transgender, and intersexuality.
As a Christian, I follow Christ—not Paul and not the writers of the Old Testament. We are called to love one another and to avoid judging others.
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
History is filled with people who cited the Bible, Koran, or other religious writings to shore up arguments for everything from slavery to domestic abuse to wars. If you’re going to cite the Bible, understand the context and history of the passages. Apply some common sense and thought, and recognize that your own experiences and fears color your views. Don’t support a stance just because your friends or relatives support it, without doing your own thinking.
Finally, if you’re opposed to gay sex, don’t have gay sex. If you’re opposed to gay marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex.
The world if filled with enough hate: let people love who they love.