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.
I like this guy very much. It is refreshing to hear from a theologian about organized religion in stead of some religious extremist that wants to rule the world.
Sometimes I think the Bible is the worse thing that ever came along. If there were no bible, there wouldn't be any of this B.S.!
The bible was edited by pope Gregory in the 13th century to turn it into a tool that corrupt men could use to control the masses. So the original bible is much different then the modern bible and is not filled with discrimination, hate, and misinterpretation like the modern bible. So I must disagree with you because it was man that corrupted the bible and we will always have corrupt people, Bible or not.
Wow! Flat out rejecting God's word... all of it too. Not only God's word, but His son Jesus. It's going to be a sad day indeed for you the day your eternity starts because you will finally see the Truth. And because you reject Him, He will reject you. I feel sorry for you.
I'm not going to argue with non-believers and i don't preach better than thou views on sin. Each to their own and no one is perfect. Your born into this world alone and you will pass on alone. I do believe in a higher being and life after death , so therefor I am master of my life. I'll take care of my life and my life's actions here on earth and be judged for my actions when my time on earth is done. Let others follow down their own paths and see where we will end up. I tend to lean toward a NON-gay relationship simply because it's not in life's cycle. If we were meant to be gay and all were, natural Human life would end.
F*(& GET OVER IT ALREADY @mark
He and his sheep book are fake and we don't care
I do not consider myself religious. I AM a child of God and I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. I believe He was born of a virgin,died on the cross for my sins and arose again and that one day my faith will become sight. But I will not argue that. Each person will answer for self. If you ponder these things I offer this: If I live my life believing and I die to find it wasn't true.... I have lost nothing. If when I die I find it all to be true...... I have gained everything. The Lord does not have to prove Himself to us...but He does...time and time again. Love the sinner not the sin. Who among us does not sin in some form daily? But the Lord is a forgiving God. His mercy knows no end. May God Bless each of you.... no matter where you may be in your life.
born of a virgin, sent his son to die on the cross, rose from the dead, will have everlasting life...
You believe some pretty unbelievable things there. Too bad there's absolutely no reason to believe any of it is real.
And appealing to Pascal's Wager is weak..
Actually, you are at a loss because youve wasted your life believing and basing your day to day choices off of that! Just saying.
"I do not consider myself religious"...
Being an Atheist, if there is nothing after death I'm not disappointed. If there is something after death I'm not disappointed. (PS: There's nothing after death).
I do not consider myself religious...............
Then you spout every reason why you are.
The guy who wrote this article is twisting the scripture. You will be judge for changing gods words
The bible is man's word, not some imaginary puppet master in the sky.
Except God never wrote a bloody word. You keep thinking whatever you want...that fact doesn't change.
"The guy who wrote this article is twisting the scripture."
Actually it's the Christian community that is doing that so they can feel justified in their prejudice and hatred towards this group. Nowhere in your bible does your god condemn the saved loving respectful relationship of a gay couple as we know and understand it today.
I saw no twist. I read words that have definitions easily proccured in a dictionary. Explain what was twisted, please. Otherwise your comment isn't worth the pixels it requires to be shown.
Leave this guy alone. He is reading from the American Leftist Bible.
wow, JT.....good job bringing politics into this
In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:27, 28 NIV)
Quoting from a made up book of fairy tales...what's your point?
we all love to read crappy scripture
it is so fun
and it makes my chocolate starfish squirt
for all this scripture posting
we dont get enough around these parts
please blow me
Bet, the Bible says a fool hath said in his heart there is no God.
ya know right
like how many times do we have to be subjected to this boring crap
Is this guy defrocked or what? Read 1 Corintians 6:9. Time to go back to school sir.
From which version? Different parts of scripture say different things, depending on which version of "man's word – about God" you reference.
I have been to school. Twelve years of catholic school was enough to convince me that religion is meant to control people and that the bible is nothing more than a collection of fables. I was slapped by a nun for vomiting when I was six. That was one of the more minor abuses I witnessed.
Yes, however, you forgot about I Corinthians 6:11 – "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." Which suggests to me that Christ considered these "sins" to be forgivable.
Thanks for that post, I had forgotten all about that reference.
Once again, being gay is unnatural. For all of you people claiming "expert opinion," I have solid proof that it is wrong. Medically speaking and keeping the Bible out of it:
been doing the research on your own there, engineer boy?
unnatural or not, why do you even care what others do in their bedrooms? If you think it is a choice then you are a closeted queen yourself.
I say it's unnatural to be an ignorant, judgmental fool.
As always your bigotry and hate show through. You only use sites that agree with your delusions and given that you already hate anyone who does not agree with your point of view, your opinion is not trusted as being rational.
A more reliable source would be here (remove the dots in the word se.xual): http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/se.xual-orientation.aspx
"More reliable" because it suits your delusion. As always. You just did what you accused me of. Way to prove a point.
This is your proof? You really are an idiot.
"Once again, being gay is unnatural"
" Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience." The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured.”
Keep showing us your prejudice and bigotry is not based on real facts.
Your name tells me all i need to know.
If we believe in the separation of church and state, can't we keep this guy's political views out of the church? The first amendment was meant to protect the church from political influences. He can believe what he wants about marriage, but he clearly doesn't understand biblical texts or Christian heritage, and there's no reason for him to be attacking our religious beliefs
Feel free to attend the church of your choice.
He's not a politician. Make sense. Seriously, my friend. A weak argument indeed.
Oh yeah, Christian views are always 'under attack' when society starts realizing how ridiculous they are. Look up 'scriptural support for segregation' or 'scriptural support for slavery' or 'scriptural support for denying women's rights' – scripture has been used to justify every horrible 'moral' practice in this country's history – and those who supported those views felt 'attacked for their beliefs' just like you do.
Tell the church to stay out of the government.
The problem is that religion has already infiltrated our government. Marriage is a legal term found in law in addition to being part of religion. Since it is part of our governement it must be applied to all citizens without discrimination.
The author is a scholar who has studied the original texts and the choices (some very interesting) made in translating the text to English rather than just taking the translation at face value. Have you? Have you read your Bible in its original language and made attempts to translate and understand what the Biblical author actually meant? No? But you can say he knows nothing. The FACT is agnostics and atheists know far more about your Bible than you ever will.
"The first amendment was meant to protect the church from political influences." In this particular instance, as with so many others, I think you have that backwards. Many of our founding fathers (Jefferson in particular) were very worried about the church having too much influence over the government & political processes.
This man was an ordained priest, not a politician,
thats makes you a moron.
Who cares what a book written by liars from two thousand years ago think? In the year 4000 I hope we act like star trek was real and live our lives according to Picard or Ben Sisko.
Game of Thones, man!
And today, a reading from the book of Eddard Chapter 10.
Cnn blogs are as one sided as Fox news. And i hate fox news.
The author is a theologian and Biblical expert who was ordained a priest in Rome. What side is he on, exactly?
Ummmm, pretty sure priests have a pretty good record on the gay scorecard! You do read the news right?
What's the argument? There is no opinion necessary. The bible says what it says. You can't change the words to meet your needs/desires. No p p on p p action, no scissor sisters, no switching junk....it's simple.
Right...we can't change 'em but we can certainly ignore the ignorant trash they spout. The Bible is utter nonsense.
"simple" being the key word there
The bible says what it says until religious tyrants change it to suit their needs.
Who is changing the words to meet their desires? This author just suggest restoring them to their original meaning. Do you want to know what the authors of your Bible really said or what the translators wanted them to say? Do you worship the word of your God or the words that middle-men put in his mouth centuries after the fact?
And I suppose you still believe a woman should be subservient to her husband too? And how many other things are illogically spoken in the bible. Well it is what it says it is so I guess I can go out and get me some slaves to do my housework for me. Moron: Blind and stupid is as stupid says.
*** You can't change the words to meet your needs/desires.
Yes you can, the vatican has been doing it for hundreds of years,
If you can define your god, then you obviously don't know him. how is your wee lil brain able to imagine his limits? just be humble and walk in footsteps of Jesus. the real Jesus, not the Republican version, or the version whose dad sits on a throne above the clouds. gtfo
How convenient for CNN and the priest. They are leaving out the parts of the Bible that actually proves them wrong which is 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 upon them.
The old testament is a collage of Jewish law. The New Testament is Jesus coming through and calling BS on all of that.
@jay and both the OT and the NT are made up books, written to control people.
Why is it so many "Christians" can only seem to quote the Old Testament when they are desperately trying to justify their narrow-mindedness & bigotry? Show me where Jesus said that a gay person should be "put to death"? Nothing? Didn't think so.
Leviticus was mentioned, you are a moron.
Wow ! The left will say anything to twist God's Word to justify their lifestyle. This "priest" will be held accountable for leading many astray and those who wish to be lead astray.
So God talks to you now? Should I bow down to you too? God told me I had to love you so I love you. Do you love me too? I'm gay. And I was taught in Catechism class that God made me because God loves me. But now the Priests and religious fanatical evangelical radicals say that that is a lie. That God really hates me even though he made me. But then again I was told that God doesn't hate anyone? I am so confused with all this love and hate going around. I wish I knew what God wanted me to believe. Guess I will just go on loving everyone and maybe that will rub off on someone.
Niggers have smaller brains than real humans. Science prevails.
Not true. Science prevails over ignorance like racism and religion. Pwnd.
And your brain is way smaller than that moron.
For all the true believers of christ. Do you follow his teachings? Matthew 19:21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Until you do that do not call yourself a christian and do not condemn others!
AMEN! my friend. Tell that to the 1% religious righteous fanatics starting with Romney and see how many follow in his footsteps. NOT!!!!!
Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. In order to do that she must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities and towns both large and small, taking care to speak to only those "real Americans", dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation again but we must all follow the "Palin Path".
Please everyone... we MUST heed the "Palin Path". It is our only hope. 'She' is our only hope !
We can begin by compiling a list of friends and relatives who may not agree with Sarah Palin's vision for America.This list of names will be carefully guarded by Sarah Palin herself until such time that a 'final solution' can be arrived at.
You copy and paste the same trash every month on every story.
You (Just like sarah) need a new line.
I support gay marriage....
...as long as both chicks are hot
I love gays . . . I love Christians . . .
Please, write this on the board 50 times during recess.
DO YOU LOVE MY PENIS TOO?
I love it when it's in your mother.
Joseph, I want your penis to be happy and safe, and like any tool, please use it carefully!
Give me a break you holier than thou christians. You will find any crevice in the bible to push your crap. It's what's in your own soul that will make the difference for YOU, not someone your condeming. There's and old Cherokee story that was told by my priest at last weeks sermon. The nephew of the old man was preflxed with his emotions and was asking what to do. The old Cherokee said to his nephew that each soul carries two wolfs. One with hatered, jealsouy, envy, greed. The other with compassion, love, understanding and forgivness. The young nephew asks which wolf wins. The one you feed was his reply. Those of you who condem based on your bible quotes don't expect a parade for you when you cross over. Don't be surprised that you're told you may have to come back and do it all over again – until you get it right. And that's what I read in the bible.
Well said. Great Cherokee story.
Bahahahaha, you're a funny poster Rick!!
@ Rick C
I myself would rather feed both wolves and keep them both alive and living together! Feeding one wolf and starving the other may well lead to no more wolves!
I myself would rather feed both wolves and keep them both alive and living together!
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.