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.
Makes no difference, the mentally challenged bible pounders will believe what they want to believe.
same as atheists. you guys have quite a few fairytales of your own
You said, "same as atheists. you guys have quite a few fairytales of your own"
With that you say two things:
1) You agree that believers are mentally challenged.
2) Atheists believe in fairy tales.
Let me correct you on number 2. Atheism is typically a rejection of belief. Atheists, typically don't believe a claim, unless there is evidence to support it. Fairy tales don't meet that basic requirement.
in a neutral position, what I've said is correct. Theists proclaim to have truth based on faith. Atheists have unproven theories mostly accepted by scientific consensus because these theories are atheists' best shot at absolute truth. Still doesn't make them true. that's all I'm saying. so when you guys say theists believe infairytales, that's pretty much hypocrit on atheists' part, because technically atheists are on the same boat as theists.
You said, "in a neutral position, what I've said is correct."
No it's not a neutral position, and you are not correct.
You said, "Theists proclaim to have truth based on faith."
Theists have nothing other than their faith. There isn't anymore evidence for the existence of their gods than there is for the existence of the Tooth Fairy. They are equally likely to exist.
You said, "Atheists have unproven theories mostly accepted by scientific consensus because these theories are atheists' best shot at absolute truth."
There are at least two things wrong with that assertion.
First, being an atheist doesn't automatically mean that you believe anything. Being an atheist simply means that you reject the theists claims as highly unlikely in the absence of any supporting evidence. Atheism is a position of disbelief in gods.
Second, scientific theories describe nature. They explain what the evidence says about it. They don't become theories until they are supported by evidence (they are hypotheses until there is evidence). That doesn't mean that every scientific theory is the absolute truth, nor that it describes nature in every possible detail. New evidence that contradicts a theory, invalidates (part of) that theory.
You said, "Still doesn't make them true. that's all I'm saying."
Just because scientific theories are updated as new evidence becomes available, means that they are at the same level as the fairy tales of theists. There isn't a single scientist that will claim that a scientific theory is the absolute truth. But there is a sea of difference between, acknowledging not to have the absolute truth while having the support of all evidence, and claiming to have the absolute truth while having no evidence.
You said, "so when you guys say theists believe infairytales, that's pretty much hypocrit on atheists' part, because technically atheists are on the same boat as theists."
No it isn't. There is absolutely no evidence, not a single shred, not one iota, to support the theists claims. That makes them patently nonsense (or fairy tales, if you prefer). Even worse, most gods are claimed to have contradictory traits. That makes these gods, as they are described, impossible to exist.
This guy doesn't even look like he studied alot outside of this subject. I see him all over on this topic. Preachers teachon other things too.
this really sucks.......this was such a good thought process but the article is horribly written and barely manages to make its point. i'm so tired of people using the bible as a shield for their bigotry and opressive behavior. the people who trumpet the bible as a measuring stick for how moral they are usually haven't read much of it. they just assume the suit in the pulpit has read it cover to cover and knows all. why is it that common sense goes out the window when religion walks through the door. just an fyi, people used to quote the bible to legitimize slavery, women's rights to vote and even beating your wife. how'd that work out for them? get over yourself.
The less one knows, the more one believes.
the only 'abomination' Jesus metions is a man who loves his money (loose translation). Other abominations in the bible (old testament)are 'women who dress as men.' all of us women who wear pants, well we are pretty screwed. Eating seafood without scles, ie: shrimp, lobster, scallops etc, also an abomination. Working on the Sabbath, abomination. please, what store is not open on Sundays now? or any day for that matter? Christmas? Easter? All these have committed an abmomination in the eyes for the Lord. Mixing fabric. Abomination. check your shirt tags everyone, I'd like to meet the person who wears only 100% cotton and 100% wool ALL THE TIME. I am a christian. I also know that this book has been translated and interpreted so many times......If anyone acutally lived the literal translation of the bible they would be in jail. ( slave owning/child killing/sacrifice) Come on people.
Actually, it's seafood with scales (those that feed on the sea floor). But good argument, Peg.
Who cares what the bible says? It's a book of fiction!!!! Do you care what the Lord of the Rings says about the gays?
I'm not quittin' on you Mr. Frodo.
What the Lord of the Rings doesn't say on the subject is all the more disconcerting!
The bible was written by ORDINARY men and there is not one WORD that ever came from any god.
How about the ten commandments they were handed to Moses...
What proof do you have, other than "That's what the Bible says". That wouldn't hold up in a court of law.
Nancy, I command you to build a time machine, go back to that period, and bring us physical proof and put it on youtube. until then you can stfu with your assumptions.
A catholic priest writes this...I am sure he uses the above excuses to feel good about his own actions.
Well said, with enough thought a person can rationalize anything...
Why is it OK for you to vote for laws that reflect your atheist beliefs, but a Christian is not allowed to vote for laws that reflect her Christian beliefs?
Non-believers do not deny others civil rights.
Actually no one should be allowed to vote on the rights given to a minority. If slavery went to a vote, it would still be legal.
It has nothing to do with laws that reflect our "beliefs". There is no atheist dogma except that we don't believe in God. It's called equal rights. We are voting for equal rights, not for discrimination. If you can't see the difference, you have failed as a human.
N8263 – Civil rigths are what the law defines them to be. And I vote that two folks of the same s-ex being married is not a civil right.
Now answer the question.
Just like Cain, their hatred gears them to try and take away God's true believers.
Cain took God's seed Abel out into the field (world) and slew him. He took him away from God. Cain was then given a "mark".
Jesus tells us this and provides a clue – "those who try to shut heaven to others".
What law has ever been proposed that reflects atheist beliefs? There is none. Voting to take the ten commandments off law buildings is secular (which this nation is) and shows equal rights to everyone. An atheist law would be to put "there is no god" on the wall instead. There has never been an atheistic law, but there have been many Christian laws, which is not only unconst.itutional but also bigoted and unfair to everyone else.
An atheist is not the one spouting crap from a book with no more factual information than Clifford the big red dog. Maybe you should leave religion out of matters of the state and just practice what you believe in your church. The problem with the religious is they feel some need to push their crap on the rest of us. I have yet to meet one atheist who has made it their ambition to do what you religious attempt.
The United States is NOT a Christian country – it is a secular country with supposed separation of church and state. Just because a majority of citizens are of a certain religion does not make it the mandated religion...unless you want to become a country like Afghanistan where you are required to be a certain religion. The majority of people in America are white – does that mean we should be against non-white rights?
Funny. With all of the people on this forum accusing conservative Christians of holding only their interpretation of the Bible as accurate, they seem to have forgotten that the author of this article is doing the exact same thing with his own interpretation.
I do think he is wrong in what he thinks the Bible says. I also believe that the Bible is wrong so... there is that.
This just proves the point that everyone interprets the Bible differently so God clearly doesn't know how to write a book (that is apparently so important that it means your life) that can be understood and is straight-forward.
Jacques – Jesus CLEARLY states only some are meant to understand. Why? Those with hardened hearts will NOT be allowed to understand. One must change their hearts FIRST.
He's not really giving an interpretation. He is debunking an interpretation that doesn't hold up, given what the Bible actually says. For example, just because Paul believed something is an abomination doesn't make it a sin. I think okra is an abomination, but I'm not saying it's a sin to eat it!!
Not exactly. The issue in terms of marriage equality is in the civil sphere. No one is saying that any Christian church [or synagogue or mosque] would be required to participate in a same-gender marriage. We're talking about CIVIL marriages. And not all Christians feel the same: I am an orthodox Christian believer and I am fully supportive of marriage equality. The religious right fundamentalists are attempting to force their narrow doctrines on others.
The author is stating current interpretations of the bible are based on translations that are wrong. Ever heard the phrase "lost in translation?" He is basically says that modern views and claims on what the bible says are invalid b/c they are based on bible translations that do not accurately represent what was meant by the original writing.
Yes – Jesus CLEARLY states – in your translated, edited, version of "the word".
@Truth My heart is pretty soft according to the Mohs scale. Yet, the bible still comes across as semi-coherent ramblings of several bronze/iron age nomads, probably tripping off bread mold and who knows what else from their unclean habits, which was subsequently adulterated by those in power as they saw fit to suit their needs for last few thousand years. garbage in=garbage out
I thought all you right wingers were for small gov't? Gay marriage doesn't have any affect on your life. Besides, it's more tax revenue. They'll be whacked w/ the same marriage penalty as the rest of us when you combine the two incomes
You've got to understand something. It's utter hypocrisy for me to believe one thing in my heart, and then vote the direct opposite in my head. The issue is essentially "define marriage". By that, I have NO CHOICE but to vote that marriage is between 1 man and 1 woman. To do anything else would be a lack of integrity.
ANd for me, it shouldn't even be a vote. If two people love each other to get married, its none of our business.
@Brandon – you just defined the argument perfectly – marriage is a religious term that is being used in governmental law.......you shouldn't have to vote against your faith because the law shouldn't include your religious terms.
Johnathan Edwards is my homeboy. :)
Do you mean JOHN Edwards, that North Carolina paragon of [straight] marital integrity? And the straights think we're going to destroy 'traditional' marriage.......
I love all the people who quote the bible like it means anything to the rest of us. Even Star Wars fans and Scientologists don't take it that far
"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"
-Spider-Man (Amazing fantasy #17)
The words of the Bible "WILL" mean something to you one day! It is by His grace that we are not already Judged and Condemed!
In Australia more than 70,000 people (0.37%) declared themselves members of the Jedi order in the 2001 census.
In the 2001 census, 21,000 Canadians put down their religion as Jedi Knight.
The 2011 census preliminarily recorded 15,070 people answering the voluntary question on religion as belonging to the Jedi religion, described by the Czech Statistics Office as "the moral values of the Jedi knights. The highest number of Jedis [sic]were recorded to live in Prague.
Over 53,000 people listed themselves as Jedi in New Zealand's 2001 census. Moreover:Christian: 58.9%
No religion: 29.6%
Object to answering: 6.9%
In England and Wales 390,127 people (almost 0.8%) stated their religion as Jedi on their 2001 Census forms, surpassing Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism, and making it the fourth largest reported religion in the countries.
"Do or do not, there is no try." – JM Yoda
The first part of that 'Golden Rule Scripture' all are pointing out Matt 22:37 says to love the Lord God first with evrything you have. So you can't love Sin more that God. You can still love the Gay person, just hate the sin. I can't niether can anyone condem a person ever. Just correct in love their wrong and pray for them.
Thank you! Somebody gets it!
Jesus never said being gay was a sin. Jesus didn't list any sins. He said to love everybody. He dined with prost-itutes and sinners, never denouncing them, degrading them, or wishing they wouldn't have equal rights. The whole "gay is a sin" thing comes from an old Jewish law that came right before the law not to have two different fabrics in your clothes. Also, shellfish is an abomination apparently, so you better not eat shrimp or lobster. Then you have Paul, who was a lawyer. He was just as bad as the Pharisees.
I'm surprised that you failed to mention the second half of the commandment, which Jesus said is equal unto the first: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Remember, too, that we are commanded by Christ to focus on our own walk, and be perfect. And, until we are perfect, we are not to tell others how to live their lives. "Have a readiness to avenge all disobedience when YOUR obedience is fulfilled." (which will never happen). And let's not forget "first remove the LOG that is in your own eye, before trying to remove the splinter from your brother's eye" (this is so you can see CLEARLY). It is not rocket science dear Christian brothers and sisters. We need to stop telling others how to live their lives. We should instead be an example for them, and let THAT be our testimony. Words are useless, and actions born of anger, hatred and bigotry only turn people from God, instead of to Him.
I will ignore your facts and go on thinking as I already do, because that's what I've been told!
Spoken like a true Christian.
This is a very inspiring article. Oh, that we might all be as loving as Jesus wanted us to be!
I predict that someday soon the Sarah Palin family trailer will become as big a vacation destination as Graceland. It will be called Sarahland. Teabaggers, birthers and evangelicals from the four corners of the bible belt will make the pilgrimage, gladly paying $25, $35, or more for the chance to tour Sarah Palin's trailer and to go out back and see the actual outhouse where she took her morning dump
I predict that someday, men will stand before God without excuse and hear depart from me you who lived as if there were no law at all... I never knew you..
It is immoral to impose your religious superstition on others.
You do not believe in religion because you honestly think it is true, you believe in it because you fear mortality or are seeking meaning in your life. It does not take a genius to figure out all religion is man made, so for humanity's sake, please stop lying to yourself.
Deluding yourself in religion does not change reality. Lying to yourself is probably the worst possible way to try to find meaning.
I love you too...
Yep. Those are the reasons I'm not an atheist.
You should try listening to your own declarations.
Who are you to tell anyone what they believe or why they believe it? Talk about imposing your own views on someone. A view that is pretty ignorant and narrow, I might add. Maybe you should try opening your own mind. Consider for a moment that others may have something to offer, even though they are different from you. It's a little thing called tolerance, and maturity, stuff we sorely lack it in this country. Intolerance is intolerance. Just because you are a bigot against Christians, and that is the hip new way to be, doesn't make your bigotry OK. And it will hardly make the world a better place. So, knock it off.
@rsquared, Atheism is a relgion like abstinance is a sex position.
Everyone believes in something.. I believe in God.. If not God, then existence for those that do not, boils down to nothing but a combination of chemical reactions that makes man's existence meaningless and void. These chemical reactions do nothing to explain mans ability to invision something or someone greater than themselves, or the existence of logic, or compassion or morality. In essence, some men chose to believe what they know cannot be true, because they refuse to acknowledge the existence of One that demands a turning from sin..
How pompous of you to shout about the imposition of religion as immoral. Do you know the defiinition of morality? Do you acknowledge its precepts and advantages to the society as a whole? Do you understand the source of religious morality?
Here's the short course..... Morality is not about YOU, kiddo. It's about the family. It's about society. It's about the nation. It's about God and how He expects people to act with one another.
How typical of the atheist/gay crowd, all they consider is me, me, me and how everything in life is supposed to accomodate ME.
that's a morality lesson as I holler from the choir loft....
@Kking, how am I imposing my beliefs on anyone?
@Solus5, you are making my point. You "believe" it not because you think it is true but because you think life would be meaningless without it.
@rjp, you obviously do not understand the source of your own religious "morality."
My support for equal civil rights for those with other orientations has nothing to do with me (hetero). It has everything to do with a sense of fairness and morality and my desire for the benefits of modern society to be available to anyone who participates in and contributes to that society.
Please provide a rational reason why same-se-x couples in lifelong committed relationships should not be afforded the same rights and protections as hetero couples in the same lifelong committed relationships. Religion has nothing to do with civil law (or rationality for that matter). Please leave your religion out of the argument.
I will pray for peace in all of your hearts. Anything other than peace is not the way of the Lord. We are all sinners, and we must pray for our salvation. Those without sin cast the first stone. I pray for love for all of you and that the Holy Spirit enter your hearts and guide your judgement. Amen, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia
We are all sinners, but you are to overcome it – not to continue. People are now being given this "we are all sinners" mantra and made to think it's OK to keep sinning. That is NOT what Jesus taught.
But, the point is, Jesus probably didn't think that being gay was a sin. Nobody is arguing that gays aren't as human as the rest of us, capable of harming others.
Truth you cannot overcome sin within your flesh. The Flesh will always be opposite to the Will of God. That is just how it is. Think about it, on your best days, you still have to work, eat, deal with others, see and hear things. Well in living life you are forced to deal with these things. Paul said that through grace we are saved from the comdenation of the law, but if does not mean that we should forsake the law. The only way to be away from sin is to die. When you eat, what happens if you overeat?Then you have sinned. What happens if you get cut off in traffic and curse another driver, well you have also sinned. But through death you don't have to deal with any of these things.
This is a bunch of Hogwash. Male on Male is not Holy, God said Be ye Holy for I am Holy. If you think it's wrong, it's wrong! Why hide for all these years, because they know it was wrong.
Well god never said that ( god doesn't exist for starters) and the bible was not written by "god". It was written 2000 years ago by racist misogynistic tribal men. So how any thing from the bible applies in 2012 is retarded, or at least the people who believe in it are.
If I think you are wrong, does that mean you are wrong?
it's a book of non sense written by ancient goat herders
Facts and science prove what's right. Can't say that for religion or the bible.
Maybe they hid for so many years because people wanted to kill them for being different? Duh!
No, because SOCIETY said it was wrong. Therefore if they didn't hide, they would be subjected to THE WRATH of SOCIETY! Nice try 1word, better luck next time.
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.