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.
this guy would make an argument that if something is Green, it's not really green, the light has misinterpreted it somehow... Wow, way to make up your own definitions.
No it is the right that has made it up. I have also research the translation of the bible from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek to English. This story is very accurate.
That's what the bible allows, anyone to interpret anything any way.
Bob reserch Revelation, Colossians, those are very definitive
That's just like arguing that there's a big invisible man in the sky who rules over us.
I did the authorship of Revelation and Colossians still has not been verified. Neither Revelation or Colossians is part of the Gospel or Christs new covenant so neither are applicable.
Sorry, you've completed perverted the bible. And you're trying to rationalize sinful-lustful behaviour. You've been deceived. But perhaps the Lord has hardened your heart.
The bible wasn't written in English. The store us very accurate.
Maybe the Lord has hardened your heart, because you're the one showing little compassion here?
You cannot simultaneously discriminate against others and follow Christ Golden Rule.
Bob you love that erson, but you don't have to agree with what he is doing and call it descrimination. A man can do what he wants in the world. It's their choice, but there are natural and spiritual consequences for that choice. And there are guidelines.
Ewww!! sjs believes that god 'hardens' the hearts of people trying to serve him!! Yuck!! What a disgusting god!!
the bible has been "perverted" throughout mankind
Do you realize that the verse you reference(Exodus 9:12) is probably the most sinister verse in all of scripture?
It shows God as being able to manipulate our will. Goodbye free will and hello supreme celestial dictatorship. How does that not scare you Christians out of your beliefs.
The bible has been perverted throughout time to suit whatever ruler happened to be in power. The King James version was commissioned to guarantee that it conformed to the beliefs of the Church of England. So much for the inspired word of god.
i feel sorry for anyone who feels that lust is a bad thing
It's always special to see someone, who's religious, that doesn't spout hatred towards others. Well done.
Pride is not laughable and niether is Hate. Both of those characteristic are attributed to that name. Fact anot fction, read the bible and find out for yourself.
The bible is not fact. It's a collection of made up stories. I've read the bible. It's fiction.
Whenever I travel, I always take the Gideon's bible from the hotel home with me. I haven't had to buy toilet paper in years!!
nice 10 yo joke
What about Leviticus 20:13? Why didn't he break down this verse?
Talking about anything from the old testament is the equivalent of spitting on Christ as he was dragged to the crucification. The OT which only ever applied to Jews died on the cross with Christ at which time his new covenant became law for Jew and Gentile alike..
It doesn't support his lie.
He probably didn't use the verse in Leviticus because then where would you stop?? At killing disobedient children?? Owning slaves?? Beating your slaves until they're almost dead.. Selling your daughter into slavery??
You see, once you tell people they have to follow commandments in Leviticus, it gets pretty silly from there on..
It doesn't support his lie
Of course. Any biblical interpretation that doesn't align with yours is a lie. By the way, from which of the hundreds of available bible versions are we to take "the truth"? Even if they say very different things?
Don't like Leviticus? What about 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? He doesn't break down these verses either.
So now you're just going to ignore all the problems with Leviticus because it didn't do what you wanted it to do?!?!? What a typical, stupid christian.
Just saying that if you're going to make an argument, you need to address all the verses related to your argument. Not just pick and choose. Am I not right to say this?
Secondly, you need to take each verse within the context of the time and place which it was written, not just to immediately apply it to modern day America. The same applies for Leviticus. Those are just my thoughts.
Need to consider that much of the OT law was written for the people of that time, again needs to be taken within context. Yes, the death and resurrection of Christ erased the need for much of the OT law, but that fact that the same sin is mentioned again in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (New Testament) is an indication that God considers it to be a sin. Hence my reason for going from Leviticus to 1 Corinthians. I would appreciate a logical rebuttal and not one filled with name-calling. Just because we don't agree doesn't mean we have to be uncivilised.
Its called picking and choosing what ever suits the agenda. Thank God we believe in whole word of God not just the good parts but also the parts tha calls us to be accountable and those that bring judgement on us.
"Don't like Leviticus? What about 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? He doesn't break down these verses either."
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The original Greek was for male prostitution, it has NOTHING to do with what me know about gays today. Plus if you really look at the word fornicate it's about having sex outside of marriage. So when a Christian gay couple gets married before your god, they do not sin.
Believe in a book does not require any faith at all. Blind fatih is not faith, it is simply a decision. To love thy neighbor as thy self requires faith. To let he who is without sin cast the first stone requires faith. To give unto Ceasar that which belongs to Ceasar and give unto God that which belongs to God, requires faith.
Ghandi was a man of great faith. If you belive that Jesus would not welcome him into Heaven because he did not live his life in Jesus' name, you are completley lacking of faith.
The most important phrase in this entire article is "liberty and justice for all". Which phrase in the Pledge of Alligience is more important to you, "under God" or "liberty and justice for all"? If you believe that it is "under God", you have no faith at all. You are simply a coward hiding behind a book.
Flawed from the very beginning. How can someone who butchers the intent of "church and state" so badly be considered reputable on any thought past the first sentence? Separation of Church and State was and IS designed to keep the STATE out of the CHURCH, or in other words not to interfere in religious beliefs. It was never, is not now, and should never be the other way around. To try and make it mean that the church not interfere in State or govt. affairs is just plain ignorance and an attempt at justifying the lifestyle of the few against the majority.
Which by the way, is all this entire article attempts to do. Sorry... You just can't explain it away by your own personal translation. Oh yeah... Scripture also teaches us that there will come a time when good is considered evil and evil good. We can now thank Daniel Helminiak and our hopefully soon to be one term President for fulfilling that prophecy.
What makes you think that the only purpose of the separation of church and state was to keep the state out of the church? Any reading of history proves you wrong.
As the founders of our country knew, anytime religion gets in bed with the government someone somewhere is going to be oppressed. They specifically stated that the government would not interfere with religion and that religion had no place within the government.
Where exactly do you get any of your arguements? I believe the complete opposite is true, Seperation of church and state is designed to keep religious arguments out of politics.
You have it backwards. The founding fathers meant separation of church and state to keep religion out of government, not the other way around.
So because it's YOUR church you believe they have the right to influence the government, but the other way around is unacceptable? Hypocrisy much? Wouldn't the same apply to Catholic churches? What about Muslims, Buddists, Hindus, Taoists, Jews, or any other faith for that matter? Shouldn't they also have influences in our Government? Oh no of course not, that would just be wrong. They're not Christians so the same privelages shouldn't apply to them right?. You know, people like you are the reason this country is falling off a cliff. If I recall correctly, didn't the first English colonists flee to America so they could live a life free from a Church/Government system? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that had something to do with it. You however seem to think a system of Government that panders to one group of people while openly ignoring or harming others is not only acceptable, but also a good thing. How about we build you a time machine and send you back to 16th Century Europe? With your way of thinking, I'm sure you would fit right in...
with all due respect, the author is well educated..but even in the most rudimentary of readings of the bible he has displayed an appalling ignorance...
Huh.. And what about the many christians here who say that his interpretation and exegesis is rock solid?? Oh well, I guess your god wants us to be in constant confusion over what his word says and what his will is.. Too bad he such a jerk to allow universal confusion about himself across the globe.
None of us, or none of the Christians live life the way it used to be 2000 years ago. Things change, get with it. People used to crucify people in days when Bible was written. We don't do that anymore. Women didn't dress the way women do now. Do you thing a wife nd mother wil be allowed to wear short skirt and strapless blouse in those days? raise your hand if you are a Christian woman dresses like Mother Mary. Why is okay to for you to do what you want but it is wrong someone else to do what they want. As long as it is not hurting anyone, why is it being gay wrong. And why are Christians the ones concerned about this so much. There are older religions than Christianity in this world and they accept. It's time Christians did the same. Jesus was about love but you Christians make his memory about sin, hate and discrimination.
Leviticus 20:13: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be put upon them.
God is love, however God also curses those that do not follow his laws. It's shown in many passages in the bible that when the people of God did not abide by his word, they were chastised. God is love, and is not the author of confusion. God never changes.... God does not deal with opinion, he is all spirit.... If we want to understand what he wants from us, we must go to him in prayer and read his word without interpretation, but revelation through the holy spirit.
Wrong the OT which includes Leviticus died on the Cross with Christ.
God hates shellfish.
If that is the case, then you must take everything else in Leviticus on a word for word basis:
Lev 19:19 "'Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. "'Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material." – So all farms are an abomination.
Lev 19:27 'Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.' – We must all be hairy or else we're an abomination.
Lev 1:9 "He is to wash the inner parts and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD." – I think it smells. I must be an abomination.
etc etc etc. If you want to hold every word in the bible to be true or the absolute rule, then we're living in a messed up world in which I want no part of. If you take only parts you want to hear and ignore the rest, like above, you're a hypocrite.
This should be a clear-cut issue for a country that supposedly believes in equal rights. Religion poisons everything.
Its not religion that poisons everything Madarax its the wicked heart of man that does it. It is desperately wicked, who can understand it. But God makes us an offer we can't refuse if we understand it. He says though you sins are like scarlet I will wash them white as snow. He will give you a heart of flesh for a heart of stone that you currently have, what could be better than that ?!!! All you have to do is believe and accept his ultimate sacrifice on the cross
What about 1 Corinthian 6:9-10? Why didn't he address these verses?
Exactly. I guess that wouldn't be helpful for his argument.
Let's face it; God was a conservative and had his only son nailed to a cross for being a PC bleeding heart liberal.
If that makes you feel better yes James PDX God gave his only Son so that His death on the cross and His shedding of His blood might make you get right with God. Actually the Son is the one who said I would do it I would pay the price of thier Sin with my sacrifice the only pure and unblemished one sacrifice acceptable to God. Conservative Liberal all pointless as he died for all kinds of people including all those in between.
This entire article, along with many of the comments are absolutely asinine.
Satan your call sighn on this blog is just like this guy writing. Just drawing attention. I know you don't want to see the bible as true, but that name is as hateful as the 'N' word on this discussion. Because Satan is hate and pride in the eyes of all in civilization
Satan is a make believe creature, just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But believing in Satan gives you a good out for your own failings, you have someone to blame it on.
Satan is not real, just as god is not real. Figments of mans imagination. For you to compare the word Satan to the racist "N" word is idiotic and laughable.
@ Bet: in the words of Charles Baudelaire (or more famously with Kaiser Sose):
"Satan's greatest trick was convincing the world he doesn't exist."
Satan is God's creation. He chose to let Satan among us, even setting him lose on the naive Adam and Eve. I would never let my kids play unsupervised with snakes, or will evil deities. But that's just me.
@ James PDX: so you're children are robots without the freedom to rebel of their own free volition?
I guess they're not teens yet...
LOL, Russ thinks that if you don't let your toddlers play with loaded hand guns and fragmentary grenades you're taking away their "free will." LOLOLOLOLOOLOL!!!
@ momoya: good to see you, too, momoya. thanks for the purposeful misinterpretation.
1) we're talking about Satan here. Was he a rational agent with a free will or a robot?
2) the analogy fails in being "little kids." As best we can tell from the biblical account, Adam & Eve were made as mature adults. Again, rational, free agents – not automatons. And between the two: which is better?
Russ, you're always going to sound stupid as all fvck as long as you keep trying to defend a dumb book like the bible..
1. If your god is omniscient then nobody has free-will.. Since your god knows how everything happens, it can't happen another way, and there's no free will.
2. Adam and Eve were a few days old.. Don't be stupid.. Why did god even put the tree there?? That'd be like giving a loaded gun to a toddler.. Why did god even make the world able to be corrupted by sin?? Stupid god.
Watch the video I posted, Russ.
@ momoya: in the words of one songwriter:
if someone wrote a play just to glorify what's stronger than hate,
would he not arrange the stage to look as if the hero came too late?
So you can't rebut my arguments, then? What a fool you are.
@ momoya: name-calling does not further the discussion.
1) being omniscient definitely includes KNOWING HOW to create rational, free agents – even if there is an infinite, qualitative difference between those finite agents and yourself.
2) the Bible does not give us a timeline in the Garden of Eden. If anything, Adam & Eve have had time to get used to certain "habits" God had with them (Gen.3:8). You're reading your timeline onto it.
Which part of they were innocent and didn't know right from wrong didn't you get James PDX they were not little children but grown adults fully capable of making choices right or wrong. Thanfully God was not stupid like you he fully knew what he was doing lol
@ momoya: for some reason, your video wasn't working here. had to go to youtube to watch it.
among several, major mischaracterizations, I think these two points most need clarification:
1) we ruined our free will at the fall. now we live in bondage to sin (Rom.3:10-12, 23). and we did this to ourselves. and – more importantly – God DID intervene in the life, death & resurrection of Jesus.
If there ever was a time for God the Father to stop suffering, wouldn't it be with the only innocent human to ever walk the planet, his own Son? And yet he doesn't – for our sake. No group (atheist or theist alike) has an easy answer for suffering, but only Christianity among the major religions of the world teaches that God takes our suffering upon himself & suffers both with us & ultimately FOR us (Rom.8:32).
2) the strongest Christian point mistaken in this video is this: "can that child become unmurdered?" the answer – shockingly – is YES. that's what the resurrection is about.
“Is everything sad going to come untrue?”
—Sam Gamgee to Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings (chapter 4, Book Six)
“[Some mortals] say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”
—C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, chapter 9.
SUM: I recognize you will scoff at both of the above answers, but I'm guessing (unlike the author of the video) you already knew them as a former minister. Why not start by acknowledging them instead of mischaracterizing the biblical position?
First of all the Bible is the word of God as it was writen by the hand of man through the instructions of the Holy Spirit. The author like a lot of people use passages from the Bible to make an erroneous point to prove their views. The Bible is quite clear on this subject. I also find it interesting how non believers are quick to attack or make crude comments to those who believe. The Bible also teaches us to love the person but not the sin (ie: if you are gay I respect you and your civil rights but know your sin will keep you out of Heaven).
As Hitler, a Catholic, would attest sin does not keep you out of heaven.
I love you and want the best for you, James, but I hate the absurd religious delusions you bring to the world. Better?
The bible is a collection of fairy tales written by men, and changed over time to suit men's desires.
Wow! You know who will and who will not go to heaven! What an amazing power you have! How did you acquire this power? Was it through your loving, non-judgmental adherance to the teachings of Christ? Remember, not all who say "Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom..." I'd be careful if I were you... Just sayin'
What you think is what you are.
Jbbiz said: Wow! You know who will and who will not go to heaven! What an amazing power you have! How did you acquire this power? Was it through your loving, non-judgmental adherance to the teachings of Christ? Remember, not all who say "Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom..." I'd be careful if I were you... Just sayin'>>
He was not stating his own personal opinion but what God says about who will and will not enter Heaven. Jesus, God and severals prophets and apostles acually had an opinion on this I know its hard for you to believe it AJ but its true...
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.
@ n8263: yes, "lying to yourself is probably the worst possible way to try to find meaning." And yet there you are, a finite ent.ity making infinite claims about what is & is not knowable. Do you see that you're doing the very thing you're so appalled by?
@Russ, I am making rational conclusions. Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy? Technically you can not "know" whether she exists or not. It is obvious organized religion is man made if you look at it objectively.
Have to agree with Russ.
You're saying that it is NOT true and that it is "man made" does not change the truth... That it is not and you are wrong. See. Same argument, different side.
@ n8263: no, it is not a rational conclusion to notice that you are finite, did not create yourself, yet you exist as does all this broad universe beyond our best instrumentation – and then assume that you know everything & there is no possibility that there is something bigger than you.
That's very different than whether someone brings money for teeth your kid lost when you're the one delivering the goods.
On the contrary, I believe in the basic precepts of Christianity because I think they are true. That is, I have examined the facts of the life of Jesus and concluded that He was who He claimed to be.
Russ, not knowing the answer to certain questions means that you don't know the answer to certain questions; your ignorance in a particular area of knowledge has nothing to do with the existence of god.. Not knowing whether there is or is not a being "greater than humans" has nothing to do with the existence of god–it has to do with the possible existence of something greater than humans.. Atheists don't assume that they know everything in the universe, we just see no good reason to believe in a particular god since nobody can prove the existence of that god.. You don't have to be this stupid, you know.
No you haven't, John.. You just find it more comfortable to stick with the myth you were brainwashed with than to critically examine it.. Just like the muslim and hindu, you lazily recline into the religion with which you were indoctrinated..
@ momoya: i'm not being stupid. follow your own logic.
you say: you don't know the answer to certain questions – certain BIG questions. so you allow for something "greater than humans." BUT you insist there's "no good reason" to believe in the existence of that something – especially in the form of God.
you're so humble as to say "there's a lot we don't know."
but so certain that what you do know excludes the possibility of a transcendent being – much less one that might choose to communicate on his/her/its own terms – including ways you find as weird or different than what you'd expect.
so which is it? are you humbled by what you don't know or certain you know enough to dictate the Infinite?
The Christian right is the ultimate hypocrisy machine. Let's hide behind the bible and choose our own interpretation as the correct interpretation. Then everyone who doesn't interpret the bible in the same manner is our enemy. No one should confuse religious precepts and revealed truths as fact.
Two tacos please.
Just faith. we are not, I am not imposing anything on anyone and I hope none of the brothers and sister are either. Not like that idiot whos on trail for killing people in Serbia. Now that is branding the enemy.
The Liberal left is the ultimate hypocrisy machine. Let's hide behind the scientists and choose our own theories as the correct theory. Then everyone who doesn't interpret the theory in the same manner is our enemy. No one should confuse scientific precepts and revealed truths as fact.
see how easy it is. -_-
You said, "No one should confuse religious precepts and revealed truths as fact."
If you are looking for truth, the bible is the wrong place to start.
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