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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.

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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.

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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 (8,832 Responses)
  1. street462

    In this country a persons individual civil rights gaurantee equality... that trumps any religious opinion... or voting block.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • JOHN

      Equality? Does one man + one woman = one man + one man? No... We are not talking about equals to begins with. We are talking about two different components. What you want the world to do is deny that the components are not equal to begin with. Therefore, we have to lie to ourselves to make you feel comfortable with your sin. Equal in value as people, but the relationship is not equal when compared to God's moral values. you have two different things going. One right and one wrong.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  2. BP

    Who cares what a book written by a bunch of old men in the desert says about anything? People have always found what they wanted to in it to justify all kinds of cruelty.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Ray

      Just like CNN twisting this for a political purpose....timing is everything!
      God doesn't hate gay people, God hates the Sin..............
      goes to show how easily we all get caught up in it.........and how easily we are blinded by it!!! ;o(

      May 15, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  3. A Serpent's Thought

    People of sodomy, the fruits within, are said to be unable to be "normal" and in such abnormalness, sodomites tend to do what is their abnormal desires in abnormally viewed by others Tv eyeing controversialisms! Too much abnormalities can cause the societal constructs' normality rates to become lowered or raised depending upon one's figurative choices and/or flexible stance! Being normal in a societal construct of many abnormalisms will ever have abnormality ratios in conjugating performances outside the normal barriers' ever-changing-perceivements! Hate sodomy and try to love the sodomites but in a brotherly/sisterly way! Remember well how the very young want to mimick those who their lives are touched/impressed by!

    May 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Observer

      Heteros are sodomites too but it's more fun to IGNOR that.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ Observer

      Pointed being is? Oh,,,, can't forget all the gays and lesbians and bi's now can we?

      May 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  4. lol

    I can barely think of the words to describe this crock of dung written here

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Joe Gila

      I agree !!! This guy is a real kook, but then again CNN NEVER has any REAL coverage of religion without their SPIN !!!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • momoya

      I know right, the bible is soooo disgusting.. I'd say it's more like a barrel of rotten se.me.n, though

      May 15, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Satan

      Like you have am alternate, intelligent answer. NOT. LOLOLOL

      May 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  5. luker6401

    This author clearly has never read the bible.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Drew

      hahhahahahaha. He used specific passages from the bible, you idi0t!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Ray

      He served as Associate Pastor of SS. Simon and Jude Church in Scott Township (Pittsburgh) for four years. On weekends throughout 23 subsequent years, Helminiak ministered in local parishes in Baltimore, Boston, San Antonio, and Austin and, having come out as gay in 1976, also served in those areas and nationally as chaplain to DignityUSA, the LGBT Catholic support network.
      In 1995, Helminiak submitted to the Vatican a formal resignation from active ministry, to which, as of 2012, the Vatican has not responded.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Satan

      He explains quotes from your Bible, head off the sand, please.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  6. TyronePalmer

    Genesis 1:26-28

    "Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Observer

      So God is gay at times?

      May 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  7. cnnpgdc

    Ok, so... My response is not from a political perspective (I'm still undecided on how [US] government fits into this, if at all)...

    But just for the sake of keeping people honest when quoting scripture:

    The snippet extracted from Romans Chapter 1 (which is very short, and shown in its entirety below) was carefully trimmed of context by the author of this article. This is particularly strange after the he talks so much about context and how important it is. Yes, it is important... so, obviously you should show it...

    Romans Chapter 1:

    The Gospel Exalted
    ---------–

    Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

    to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

    Unbelief and Its Consequences
    ---------–

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

    Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

    //// QUOTE ////////////////////////////////////////
    For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
    //// END QUOTE ////////////////////////////////////

    And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

    It takes a major stretch and in this case a major omission of context to get the desired meaning out of the scriptures that this author is trying to get.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • manbearpig

      The phrase "keeping people honest when quoting scripture" is an oxymoron. Also, TLDR...

      May 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • lol

      You are exactly right, but the author, or CNN will never admit their error. They will allows this BS to be printed, and printed, over and over, again until at some point, the Bible will actually have the words omitted in future prints.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  8. John Andrew

    Time to find a real, honest scholar folks!

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Joe Gila

      AMEN ! But don't hold your breath.....there are still so many "experts" out there they can find to support their nonsense.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  9. manbearpig

    For everyone arguing with what the author said – let's just assume you're right. Let's just assume that an entire chapter of the bible is devoted to how much jesus hates gays. Even if that were the case, there is still no reason for your religious hatred to be legally mandated in a free country like the USA. Now STFU.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • PriorityMail

      Amen. Thread should be over with that comment, manbearpig. I couldn't care less about who the neighbor rolls in the hay with as long as they keep their yard clean, keep the noise down, pay their taxes and be productive members of society.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • 311mortimer

      Oh puh lease the word hatred again gay semantics like anti bullying bs, if we speak out against polygamy we are just haters who are forcing religious beliefs on others?

      May 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Ray

      Just like CNN twisting this for a political purpose....timing is everything!
      God doesn't hate gay people, God hates the Sin..............
      goes to show how easily we all get caught up in it.........and how easily we are blinded by it!!! ;o(

      May 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  10. Ray

    He served as Associate Pastor of SS. Simon and Jude Church in Scott Township (Pittsburgh) for four years. On weekends throughout 23 subsequent years, Helminiak ministered in local parishes in Baltimore, Boston, San Antonio, and Austin and, having come out as gay in 1976, also served in those areas and nationally as chaplain to DignityUSA, the LGBT Catholic support network.

    In 1995, Helminiak submitted to the Vatican a formal resignation from active ministry, to which, as of 2012, the Vatican has not responded.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • 311mortimer

      Lgbt catholic support network? About as legit as a catholic support group for insider traders. If his Catholicism is not the guerilla variety he would be directing gays to COURAGE, the catholic support group that helps Catholics who happen to be burdened with these disordered desires live chaste lives.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Ray

      Just like CNN twisting this for a political purpose....timing is everything!
      God doesn't hate gay people, God hates the Sin..
      goes to show how easily we all get caught up in it, and how easily we are blinded by it!!! ;o(

      May 15, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  11. aurelius

    booh

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  12. Marisol

    God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam, and not Eve and Eve. The Bible is God's word, and it's the truth. That is the bottom line. God bless you.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • manbearpig

      and then eve banged her sons...

      May 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • bob572176

      We are all children of God we are all born in his likeness no matter who we are gay or not. God says love thy neighbor as yourself. I believe that gays are here to test and see who the real christians are, those that don't accept them will not be considered christians in God"s eyes.Give it some thought God was tested many times by the devil and you so called christians are being tested by God.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Oyaboshoti

      If we were born in his likeness, then god is one handsome dude....and ripped...and is banging constantly. Here, here to that!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  13. George Antics

    With over 50 books not allowed in the bible how can any person believe what is written in those that survived the cut. This is censorship at its finest

    May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Ray

      List of artifacts significant to the Bible
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      May 15, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  14. trl

    follow your true gut feeling ... and be honest with your soul .

    May 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Harry

      No. Please don't follow your gut or any other body part except your brain. Use it, weigh the evidence, pick away your bias, and decide. Thank you.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  15. gdouglaso

    I suppose that if you work hard enough and twist logic enough you can certainly convince yourself of what you want to believe. I get the impression that the author is a little more contorted than a person who just finished a 5 hour marathon of Twister.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • JOHN

      Sad... what they must do to convince themselves. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness... Isa. 5:20 The Bible speaks for itself... sad when philosophers speak for it.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Harry

      True it seems. The author could have better spent the page asking why we stick so fiercely to this small aspect of the Bible and ignore the whole host of abominations that most of us commit daily. The US is condemned according to Christian teaching yet we focus our efforts on this small and less sinful issue?

      May 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  16. Visara

    Who cares what the Bible says? It's a book of fiction.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • daniel

      to many including me it is not a book of fiction it is a book of faith

      May 15, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Ray

      List of artifacts significant to the Bible
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      just a few things...check it out!

      May 15, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  17. Dan Jones

    Error comes when we go to the Bible wanting to support some belief we like and want to justify. People who do this have come up with Scriptures that to their perverted minds support all sorts things like slavery, polygamy, forcing children into relationships with adults, and stealing. The Bible is very explicit that the gay lifestyle is about as Godly as adultery and fornication.

    May 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  18. Greg

    I love this list of things that God's punishment of Sodom was about. It reads like a mantra of conservative values: 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 (Rush Limbaugh's 4 marriages), and lying (Jeremiah 23:12).

    May 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  19. Oyaboshoti

    I'm speaking in tongues on this matter: kida bishota de la basoya...God told me you're all idiots for wasting your time reading the bible. oya boshoti ho ho li naka...God just told me you all should pray for me to win the lottery..please....please god wants you to help me....oogalotta....see how ridiculous this all is? Uh ohhhh im burning and shaking....burning for blasphemy...oh no it hurts so bad!! What a joke all this crap is...please respond with all criticism as harshly as you can...I enjoy laughing at all of you who talk to the air and ask for things and thank people that aren't real...

    May 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • momoya

      Oh yeeessssa!!! Shebolah-simba-teahma!! Oh Oh yesa!! The Lord-a has-a just-a told me-a that all you Christians are sooooooo stupid for believing in the babble!! Repent, repent, and turn to Islam!!

      May 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  20. Larry

    I can't wait until all these gay people are face to face with God and he can thrust them down to where they belong!

    May 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Al

      When did you choose to be straight?

      May 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • DragonSlayer Lights Your Fire

      and with them ALL THE SINNERS who promote hate. We are all going to that same place. See yah there idiot.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Sardukar

      Larry but he loves them...he is all good and forgiving...

      May 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • grahamer rhodes

      Moron

      May 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Larry

      Just like everyone else, I was born straight. That's the way God ordained it. Any other way is an affront to nature and an abomination.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Observer

      Worry more about all the HYPOCRITES who ignor the command not to pass judgement.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • momoya

      You're a disgusting individual, Larry.. I hope that when you die some creep fvcks the azz on your corpse.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Rick

      Huh. That doesn't sound like a very Christian point of view. Did you think Jesus liked the idea of God's children going to Hell? Why do you seem to take glee in it? In all honesty, I think you should be worried about your own afterlife; leave everyone else be.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Martin

      Missed the point of that article didn't you there buddy

      May 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Oyaboshoti

      I was face to face with god larry...and he said..."Larry that posted on CNN is an idiot" theres no "down there" or "where they belong" - so go ahead and talk to the air and ask the air and the ceiling to pray for me.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • DiedrichKyrian

      Larry,

      If I ever face God, Id tell him to his face that he's wrong. If this is our "God" and our "Father," then he desperately needs to have a visit from Social Services.

      I also find it funny you're a Christian. Most "Christians' I see are really Satanists in disguise. (If confused, truly check out the motivations of Lavean Satanists.)

      May 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • DukeaJuke

      While I don't necessarily agree with the gay lifestyle either, Jesus has already rejected you and you wlll be spending eternity in hell. I know this because he told me so while I was praying for our sole after I read your post. I'm so Sorry...

      May 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Oyaboshoti

      Please, please don't pray for the bottom of my foot. My sole is already awesome enough.

      May 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Harry

      Larry it's Harry, you lie like a rug when you write these words:

      "Just like everyone else, I was born straight. That's the way God ordained it. Any other way is an affront to nature and an abomination."

      Pull the log out of your own eye Larry, you sad curmudgeon. Jesus will delight in showing us your condemnation if he were gonna be there somewhere in the peaceful nothingness with his tiresome eternity. I could believe if it didn't mean ETERNITY! Think about how stupid that sounds.

      May 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Ray

      List of artifacts significant to the Bible
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      check it out!! ;o)

      May 15, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Ray

      Just like CNN twisting this for a political purpose....timing is everything!
      God doesn't hate gay people, God hates the Sin..............
      goes to show how easily we all get caught up in it, including us Christians........and how easily we are blinded by it!!! ;o(

      May 15, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
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