home
RSS
My Take: What the Bible really says about homosexuality
The author argues that the meaning of the Bible's passages on homosexuality have been lost in translation.
May 15th, 2012
05:39 PM ET

My Take: What the Bible really says about homosexuality

Editor's note: Daniel A. Helminiak, who was ordained a priest in Rome, is a theologian, psychotherapist and author of “What the Bible Really Says about homosexuality" and books on contemporary spirituality. He is a professor of psychology at the University of West Georgia.

By Daniel A. Helminiak, Special to CNN

President Barack Obama’s support of same-sex marriage, like blood in the water, has conservative sharks circling for a kill. In a nation that touts separation of religion and government, religious-based arguments command this battle. Lurking beneath anti-gay forays, you inevitably find religion and, above all, the Bible.

We now face religious jingoism, the imposition of personal beliefs on the whole pluralistic society. Worse still, these beliefs are irrational, just a fiction of blind conviction. Nowhere does the Bible actually oppose homosexuality.

In the past 60 years, we have learned more about sex, by far, than in preceding millennia. Is it likely that an ancient people, who thought the male was the basic biological model and the world flat, understood homosexuality as we do today? Could they have even addressed the questions about homosexuality that we grapple with today? Of course not.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Hard evidence supports this commonsensical expectation. Taken on its own terms, read in the original languages, placed back into its historical context, the Bible is ho-hum on homosexuality, unless – as with heterosexuality – injustice and abuse are involved.

That, in fact, was the case among the Sodomites (Genesis 19), whose experience is frequently cited by modern anti-gay critics. The Sodomites wanted to rape the visitors whom Lot, the one just man in the city, welcomed in hospitality for the night.

The Bible itself is lucid on the sin of Sodom: pride, lack of concern for the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:48-49); hatred of strangers and cruelty to guests (Wisdom 19:13); arrogance (Sirach/Ecclesiaticus 16:8); evildoing, injustice, oppression of the widow and orphan (Isaiah 1:17); adultery (in those days, the use of another man’s property), and lying (Jeremiah 23:12).

But nowhere are same-sex acts named as the sin of Sodom. That intended gang rape only expressed the greater sin, condemned in the Bible from cover to cover: hatred, injustice, cruelty, lack of concern for others. Hence, Jesus says “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19; Mark 12:31); and “By this will they know you are my disciples” (John 13:35).

How inverted these values have become! In the name of Jesus, evangelicals and Catholic bishops make sex the Christian litmus test and are willing to sacrifice the social safety net in return.

The longest biblical passage on male-male sex is Romans 1:26-27: "Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another."

The Greek term para physin has been translated unnatural; it should read atypical or unusual. In the technical sense, yes, the Stoic philosophers did use para physin to mean unnatural, but this term also had a widespread popular meaning. It is this latter meaning that informs Paul's writing. It carries no ethical condemnation.

Compare the passage on male-male sex to Romans 11:24. There, Paul applies the term para physin to God. God grafted the Gentiles into the Jewish people, a wild branch into a cultivated vine. Not your standard practice! An unusual thing to do — atypical, nothing more. The anti-gay "unnatural" hullabaloo rests on a mistranslation.

Besides, Paul used two other words to describe male-male sex: dishonorable (1:24, 26) and unseemly (1:27). But for Paul, neither carried ethical weight. In 2 Corinthians 6:8 and 11:21, Paul says that even he was held in dishonor — for preaching Christ. Clearly, these words merely indicate social disrepute, not truly unethical behavior.

In this passage Paul is referring to the ancient Jewish Law: Leviticus 18:22, the “abomination” of a man’s lying with another man. Paul sees male-male sex as an impurity, a taboo, uncleanness — in other words, “abomination.” Introducing this discussion in 1:24, he says so outright: "God gave them up … to impurity."

But Jesus taught lucidly that Jewish requirements for purity — varied cultural traditions — do not matter before God. What matters is purity of heart.

“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles,” reads Matthew 15. “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Or again, Jesus taught, “Everyone who looks at a women with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Jesus rejected the purity requirements of the Jewish Law.

In calling it unclean, Paul was not condemning male-male sex. He had terms to express condemnation. Before and after his section on sex, he used truly condemnatory terms: godless, evil, wicked or unjust, not to be done. But he never used ethical terms around that issue of sex.

As for marriage, again, the Bible is more liberal than we hear today. The Jewish patriarchs had many wives and concubines. David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Daniel and the palace master were probably lovers.

The Bible’s Song of Songs is a paean to romantic love with no mention of children or a married couple. Jesus never mentioned same-sex behaviors, although he did heal the “servant” — pais, a Greek term for male lover — of the Roman Centurion.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

Paul discouraged marriage because he believed the world would soon end. Still, he encouraged people with sexual needs to marry, and he never linked sex and procreation.

Were God-given reason to prevail, rather than knee-jerk religion, we would not be having a heated debate over gay marriage. “Liberty and justice for all,” marvel at the diversity of creation, welcome for one another: these, alas, are true biblical values.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Daniel A. Helminiak.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Gay marriage • Opinion

soundoff (8,831 Responses)
  1. dscon

    Contraception and but, plu Gg ing, are at the top of the news now?
    REALLY? I mean REALLY?
    This subject will not provide a roof over ANYONE'S head.
    But idiots believe it will deflect responsibility!

    May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • .

      Good point. We can all ignore the 20 percent unemployment.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  2. Joseph Smith

    Mormons think that blacks and gays are cursed...go Mitt!

    May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  3. pdou

    Niece piece of Biblical revisionism CNN. Somethings are black and white and the liberals and their media conduits (CNN, MSNBC, New York Times), just hate that...

    May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • No Dice

      It may surprise you to learn that a great many people do not buy religion and regard it as an intrusion into their civil liberties. CNN, for all its faults, does provide a varied amount of differing opinion. Your intolerance shows like a slip on a prom dress.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  4. Mark Devenney

    Of course we shoud support President Obama. The republicians are facist and only for the rich people and religious fanatics.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • pdou

      Nice contribution to civil discourse...baseless ad hominem attacks. Time to fix the aluminum on your helmut or go back to your Occupy tent and smoke your bong...Mellow Dude.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  5. Scriptures

    Leviticus 20:13
    For a man to lie with a man as with a woman is an abomination in the eyes of God.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • momoya

      Cool.. So using the same book I can own slaves and sell my daughter into slavery.. Thanks.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      momoya: however you can't wear anything made of two materials and forget about ever enjoying shellfish again

      May 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • NOWITALLMAKESSENSETOME

      @ momoya. Well there just really is no reasoning with a fool is there? Not saying no names....thanks for your comments momoya!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  6. Milroy Peter

    In the beGinning god mad man and women not man and man or women and women call what u want this is a SIN and christ will punish the wicked for this kinds of this he is coming king of kings and lord of lord to this earth very soon the end is coming soon, Satan has pervert the world with sinful lust and other things because he wants Destroy human kind those who do not believe in god does not matter believe it or not christ will come and when he does u won't be able see him anyways the wicked will die on the spot of his glory only the righteous will see him the earth will be made new and god will crush Satan and god will wipe way sin the wicked will not exist no more earth will be made new we will live with Christ forever in his new kingdom. believe this or not will it make no difference nobody will stop Christ from his mission all will confess Jesus is lord. only Christ true follower who keep all his commandments will be with him.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • sarah

      No one can argue the point that God created mad men. :(

      May 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @millroy: You just made your god sound like a self-righteous dictator...so please tell us again why we should believe in him.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • olddud

      and you my shall burn in the deapt of hell for not following the comandments of the old and new testiment. he did not marry them by the state but created a pair of everything and said populate the earth. therefore you black, red, yellow ,blue, white and all in between are sisters, brothers and cousins. therefore the state has deturmine that to be incest

      May 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  7. CBizz

    Wait, are we talking about the same Church that needed until 1992 to admit that Galileo was right and what they did to him was wrong? Definitely not possible that they might be behind the times on this one as well

    May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Texadillo

      yes...and we are talking about same theologian who neglected to mention he is gay in his article.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • No Dice

      Haven't you heard? The Earth is flat.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  8. Andyoo

    Bible said thou shall not be gay. :)

    May 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Sam Mandel

      Bible also said God spoke out of an Ass. See Numbers 22.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  9. Kerry

    Keep the bible out of politics, regardless of what it says. Our forefathers fought for that right. Let us uphold it.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • No Dice

      Here, here!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • NOWITALLMAKESSENSETOME

      @ Sam Mandel. Boy that took some real cojones' for you to actually "SPEAK" the words, "and God also spoke out of an ass!! hahaha

      May 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  10. ronbry

    After reading the numerous pro-gay articles and praise of Obama, there seems to be no question which opinion the editors of CNN have about this issue.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  11. Eric

    You can say your lust of another man/woman is not sin, I can say my gambling/drinking/lusting in not sin.
    It does not make it right in the eyes of God and makes us miss the point.
    "All have fallen short" ...
    Love to you all...
    Peace and thanks to my Lord Jesus Christ

    May 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  12. deftony99

    Think what you want but it's that simple, i rather be a tard than gay, but understand this i don't hate gay people, I'm just saying is not normal, wake up and stop using drugs, in the animal kingdom do male dogs hump other male dogs? duh seriously we have genitals to procreate, if there was a world full of gay men we wouldn't exist cause we wouldn't be able to pro-create, is that simple, if you don't understand this, either you are dumb or conveniently dumb.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • riseagainstme23

      My female dog humps my other female dog!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Biker

      In the animal kingdom males dogs hump other male dogs, dominance sure. In the animal kingdom Bonobos (the one that look like Chimps) have "gay" relations within there community. Female spotted hyena, female squirrel monkey, lemur, juvenile fossa and binturong to name a few all have a Pseudo-penis (fake penis). What do you know about the animal kingdom and what's "natural"

      May 15, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
      • deftony99

        Biker are they able to reproduce? therefore recreate?...umm i thought so, i'll give you some time so you can google that too.

        May 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • No Dice

      Try "Procreate". "recreate" sounds like someone is in the act of having fun.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • squish

      Actually you better pray very hard that the world is full of gays. World population is now at 6.8 billion. It is projected to reach 9 to 10 billion in 50 years. You really think that there is enough resource in this world to support over 10 billion people. Do you really want to see one child policy being forced upon your descendants ? On the other hand if you believe god is coming to Earth to hand out tuna sandwiches then by all means go forth and multiply.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  13. Jesus

    As you can read word for word from the examples he gave in your Bible that he is quoting the Bible exactly....you humans are the ones that pervert the word of God to make it your own. THOU SHALT HAVE NO IDOL BEFORE ME....this includes yourselves!

    May 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  14. Pugz1024

    This man's argument lost any structure or support as soon as he quoted Romans 1:26-27. He chose to omit the beginning of verse 26 and the end of verse 27 which clearly make the case that these "unnatural" acts were sinful. The complete text of the verses (in the NRSV) are as follows:

    "For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error."

    It clearly refers to these passions as being degrading and suggests that the persons committing these acts received penalty for their error. I really don't see how you can miss that or interpret it in any other way. I kept reading the article to see if anything he had to say might hold water, but the rest of it leaked like a sieve.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  15. Matt Elkins

    Please allow the opposite viewpoint to be published on your website. Fair is fair.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • sarah

      They did but it didn't get as many views. Controversy is advertising gold.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  16. .

    Why is this argument always about faith? What about normal people who are just repulsed by the image of some guy traipsing down the street in a shocking pink tutu while twirling a baton? Or some guy dressed up like Adolph Eichman and his boyfriend? And the act they perform on each other is not only perverse in nature, it's biologically filthy - and dangerous.

    The early 19th century psychiatrists were right. It's a mental disorder.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      19th century? really? You do realize that this is the 21st century and psychiatrists opinions and studies have been update...right?

      May 15, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • No Dice

      What if we all dressed in pink tutus and twirled batons, or dressed like Eichmann. Would it seem strange and unnatural to you then? If so, you'd be the odd one out and likely reviled in your jeans and tee-shirt.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  17. Enoch

    It's not natural! Take religion out of the picture. Gather all gay men and isolate them on an island. What happens in the next 100 years? They all die off, unable to reproduce.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • .

      Correctamundo.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • jade

      I admire your theory, but if you take all the men and women they will reproduce like crazy. Consume all the resources (as resources are finite mind you) and ultimately die off as well. What to do now?

      May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Same thing would happen if you put straight men on the island.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • .

      Hey Jade!

      You're an indescribable idiot.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Enoch

      @Humanist11 @Jade do you not see my point?

      May 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • deftony99

      Jade and humanist you miss the point, and you know it.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @Enoch: How about we just gather up all the people still using the buybull as their only means of thinking and put them on an island instead? You'd get the same result...eventually you'd all die off

      May 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Saboth

      So what's your point? All humans are born with genetic differences and problems. Gather up all the people that are quadriplegics and toss them on an island. Same thing happens. Gather up mentally challenged people that need others to take care of them and see what happens. So we should take everyone that isn't like everyone else and simply send them to an island to die off? Ensure only the best and most physically fit of humanity endures while culling the chaff? Seems like I remember a guy....not long ago that thought that...think he was from Germany....

      May 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • deftony99

      Saboth stop fighting it it's a lost cause, you lost, drop it now.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • No Dice

      Somebody's god would undoubtedly make more.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • sarah

      Did you ever stop to consider that too many children can be an issue too? They've already done studies that overcrowding in rat populations leads to more gay behavior. Science is interesting! Yay!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • No Dice

      I've heard prison is the same way. Never been there, they tell me it's nice.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  18. Consultofactus

    Here's what Jesus is saying to defrocked Father Helminiak and said to others like him "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

    May 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • No Dice

      You don't know what Jesus said to anybody recently. It's people, not Jesus, that condemn and justify silliness like you just spouted.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  19. No Dice

    Read Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion". He makes two comments that resonate. First, he refers to the far-right religious nuts so prevalent in this country today as "American Taliban". Secondly, he notes that so many people who spout the Bible really don't know what's in it. Certainly, few agree what is contained therein. Reading just a few of the more vitriolic comments in this string simply reinforces my commitment to rejection of religious dogma.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Milo Falon

      You're in good company, Jesus also rejected religious dogma.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • No Dice

      Too bad his message was hopelessly corrupted for the purpose of controlling and fleecing the masses.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Milo Falon

      Actually His message is still so simple that children can grasp it. It is unfortunate that people continue to misuse it for their own purpose, but that's part of the gift of free will. Gotta take the good with the bad.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • norcal

      Precisely why I like use my bible as a door stop...using it any other way doesn't allow the fresh air in.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Milo Falon

      norcal Hey if it saves you some money on a door stopper, good for you.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • No Dice

      Free will implies that rejection is possible but the holy men don't like that very much, especially the goofs that would like to burn infidels and other undesirables were they given a free rein.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Milo Falon

      That's what I mean by taking the good with the bad. It's as if forced obedience is the same as voluntary obedience.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • No Dice

      Milo – Had to think about that one a minute. Not sure what you meant by one being equated to the other. By whom? People are always willing to fight and dominate in the name of religion. Will there come a time when those of us who refuse to be subjugated have to take up arms to defend ourselves? The bad far outweighs the good when religion is allowed to run loose without limits. History, including most of the Old Testament, is rife with smiting those that didn't agree.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Milo Falon

      Dice, IMO you are being a little too hard on religion. Throughout history more wars have been fought for resources or other reasons not pertaining to religion. Sometimes those have been wrapped up in some religion or another to make it more palatable to the masses, but very few wars have been about religion. I think the whole religion causes wars has become somewhat of a straw-man argument. If you think about the history America I can't think of one war you could point to and say that is fought because of religion. As far as the OT goes you have to remember that was a span of thousands of years and at best most of those wars were nothing more than battles in a long continuing war.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • No Dice

      Milo – Good points all. Certainly resources are biggies. But you can't deny a great deal of blood has been shed because one person thought they were more righteous than the other. My point is that religion has many good qualities but should be one of choice. I fear the devout who would impose their will on an otherwise free person – forced dogma for my own good. Islam has been guilty of it, Christianity has been guilty of it. Many religions have been guilty of it. Our American Taliban today would like to be guilty of it as well. Certainly Hitler's use of the Jews as his scapegoat was more about taking over the world but a huge number of people bought into it. I would not be so nervous if the fundamentalists were not trying so hard to worm their way into government.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Milo Falon

      Dice you won't get any argument from me on those points. Thank you for the well thought out and civil discussion.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • No Dice

      Milo – Me too. Need to sleep now. Civil is so rare but it is fun to bait the nuts. So long...

      May 15, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  20. cnn_only_supports_obama

    i see as soon obama says he supports Gays, CNN puts up a story saying he's right. CNN puts news out there that only supports obama.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • .

      Hey, hey, hey! Whatssamatta wichoo? He's the foist gay president. The preeezy of the United Steeezy.

      Sleazy.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Saboth

      There are many independent theologians that agree with this stance. You'll never hear it from a Southern Baptist Pastor or Catholic Priest though, because they are bound by their organized religions. Unless the organization says it's ok, they are forbidden from presenting this stance. And these organizations are every bit as political as they are religious.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Lily

      So true. And wait if he gets re-elected how he is going to say, bye, bye to the Supreme Court judges... wait and see America... WAKE UP!!!

      May 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • No Dice

      Another paranoid delusionary heard from.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.