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.
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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.
The writer of this was a Catholic priest. He might tell you God is ok with priests molesting little boys too.
The internet is the church for the Atheists. This is the only place they can find to have any kind of voice, where they can join together.
Queue the satanic worshipers, as you go against their beliefs as well.
I pray for all of you. For God is not a God of confusion but a God of peace. 1Corinthians 14:33
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I agree with you eddi
I read the article in its entirety and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I believe in my gut that the feelings that I have for other men are morally, ethically, and spiritually wrong. I only speak for myself and can do so here because no one knows me. I wish these feelings would leave. It's difficult to live under a cloak of confusion and feel like a phony because the person you show the world is NOT who you feel happiest being. I was raised in a faith based home with loving parents and siblings. I know of no other person in my family who has the thoughts I have. I want a wife, children, etc. If someone is reading this and they know the Lord for themself please pray for people you don't understnad. Not ridicule them.
I admire your courage and wisdom in confronting the challenge you face, wrestling with sin and knowing what is right and trying to do good. I would recommend reading the Bible and grounding yourself in its, guidance, purpose and the joy it can bring you when you begin to live by its precepts. Find a healthy, well balanced church that is welcoming and accepting of a person like yourself who wants to start on the path to salvation and leave the world of lusting, sinful, desires behind. The fact that you want a wife and family should help to give you the strength to leave the excess baggage of desire for men behind.
God made woman to be your complementary partner. She has the capacity to bear children that you will both create, love and raise in a Christian home. With God on your side, nothing on earth can prevent your salvation and deliverance. Please know Christopher that we will add you to our prayer list and hope to hear good things about the progress you are making as you start your journey with Christ.
Blessings to you Christopher,
I am sorry that your upbringing has lead you to be conflicted about yourself. Just know this: There is nothing wrong with how you feel. There is plenty of scientific research that proves that your desires are natural for you. Whether or not you act on them is your choice, but you will probably never find complete joy living a life that you were not "wired" for.
I hope you can find a place to talk to other men who have experienced what you have (you might try the internet), and I hope you find peace and joy in your life. You deserve peace and joy in your life. Best of luck to you.
First I admire the willingness to fight rather than give in that is not easy with any sin. Let me say ask God to give you the desires of your heart meaning let Him put the desires in you for the things He wants you to have. I know that when we cry out to God that He is able to change the desires of our heart which is the problem with most people they can only help you deal with the situation God can and will take the very desire out of your heart so you no longer crave the wrong things. I have seen it time and time again with alcohol and drugs and a lot of other sins or I like to say hindrances in our lives. Instead of allowing condemnation allow it to drive you to God in prayer even only if that is a prayer of help. Every time you feel this way stop ask God to remove it and don't stop till you get relief. Ask God what is the cause if there is anything that has allowed these type of feelings like abuse or being made to feel small or even down to someone else in you family history that you may need to ask the Lord for forgiveness and renounce the things that may be holding you back. God I know will deliver you from these feelings you are not alone and God does not condemn you but you need to pull on Him like the woman with the issue of blood. She shouldn't have been in town because of her illness and yet she knew that if she could only touch the hem of His garment that she would be healed. She had to go into town withstand ridicule and derision and fear get close enough to Jesus and touch not even Him but the hem of His garment and she was healed. The enemy is very cunning by heaping coals of emotion on our heads we get diverted and down and give up the fight to claim our healing. I have had battles in my life that were personal and the Lord had brought me through each and everyone of them in victory. The only way that it will not happen is if we decide to hold on to something in our lives that the Lord says to give up and we cannot do it. But we can even ask Him for help in this and sometimes He will give us a understanding of how this thing is a hindrance and how its holding us back and then by our own will we give it up. Its not lack of power of God but more times than not the will to give up what we need to. Because sometimes the things we need to give up are the very things we enjoy but once we give them up and stand back we realize how stupid it was to hold on to them. If you haven't done it I would suggest reading your Bible from the first page to the last more than once. Skim through it at first then go back and read it again the spiritual principle is that you are washed clean with the word. It has a effect of being life changing when you start to read it and go through it. One last thing when the Lord asks you to forgive someone do it and give it back to Him, why,, because we cannot hold unforgiveness and have a happy life and the Lord will be given the ability to deal with it rather than you. When we don't forgive someone we hold that persons sin over them and to us and the Lord will not take it from us but when we turn all things over to Him in our lives then He makes us whole spirit soul and body. All this may happen in a instant or it may take a bit of time dont give up and keep pressing into the Lord for help. Remember the unrighteous judge that even though he didn't want to do anything for the lady he was worried that she would keep bothering him so he gave her her request. I will pray for you and I am proud that you took this step to reach out congratulations and I anticipate how the Lord will help you. The last thing we are promised good gifts and the Father will give us the gift of the Holy Spirit if we desire Him and ask so ask. He is the helpler when Jesus said it is good that I go because the Father will send the helper it was the Holy Spirit that He was talking about.
Christopher don't listen to the prejudice bigots. Heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. 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."
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@ Douglas ... you DO relaize that the "apostle" John is NOT, I repeat, NOT the same "John" who wrote the book of Revelations. Not a single author in your "new' testament ever walked with, spoke with, knew, or hung around your dead jesus zombie guy. The earliest writings for your testament were not written until at least 30 years AFTER jesus died, that is, IF he ever existed in the first place. 30 years is a LONG time, and back then, 30 years was into the 2nd generation after that guys death. A lot of things happen in 2 generations y'know.
Where did you ever get that info. It flies in the face of MOST scholars of the Bible, because most of the gospel was written in the life time of people that saw Jesus, but you could be fater, smarter than all those guys.
The Apostle John is the author of the Book of Revelation. He wrote it when he was about 92 years old, while a prisoner of Rome on the remote desert penal colony of Patmos, an island in the Aegean Sea.
Patmos was a quarry mine for the Roman Empire, and was home to many political and religious prisoners or slaves. John, the beloved apostle of Jesus, was being held as a prisoner of Rome on this island for his incessant preaching about Jesus. Rome believed that banishing the old man John to the remote and forsaken island of Patmos, that his voice would be quieted. John was aged in years, and close to the end of his life, probably sent to Patmos in the year 95 by the Roman emperor Domitian, who was reportedly angry at the fact that John was not killed when he was dipped in boiling oil. Since John was a contemporary of Jesus, John would have been by that time, well over 90 years old – making him very likely the only apostle to survive to such an old age. The rest of Jesus apostles and disciples were martyred decades earlier. It was as if God supernaturally preserved John to bare record of The Revelation!
Jesus was crucified on roughly 30 AD although some accounts say anywhere between 26 to 36 AD so why don't you get your stories straight before you try to undermine the bibles accounts and peoples faith.Like the calendar didn't start when Jesus died and as for Revelation ii is accepted that John did write it but there are s couple not many that have tried to prove otherwise. Below is a listing of when the books of the Bible were written.Matthew, a tax collector also known as Levi and one of the twelve disciples, wrote the first gospel in the New Testament of Matthew. John Mark, who was a friend of the disciple Peter, wrote the Book of Mark. And Luke, who was Paul’s doctor, wrote the book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
can we report this author to CNN for abuse? WOW...
A journalist using research to defend the rights of others.... hope he burns in eternal hell fire. Jesus, save this world from your followers!
I'm thankful the Bride of Christ knows better than this garbage he wrote in this article.
Celib@cy is now trending with GLBTQ couples.
There is no condemnation in GLBTQ celib@cy and it is consistent with Biblicakl instruction.
Where there is a will, there is a way.
Douglas thanks so much for your input I do enjoy your posts I would bet you have a interesting testamony
And I bet he, like Bob, has not a single bit of proof for any testimonies he might have.
Are you a 3rd grade dropout or something?
The rules that you see in the bible do not apply to people that are not believers in those same rules.
"Celib@cy is now trending with GLBTQ couples."
The scriptures actually say nothing about homosexuality as a psychosexual orientation. Our understandings of sexual orientation are distinctly modern ones that were not present in the minds of Scripture writers. A few passages of Scripture (seven at the most) object to certain types of same-sex expressions or acts. The particular acts in question, however, are sexual expressions which are exploitative, oppressive, commercialized, or offensive to ancient purity rituals. There is no Scriptural guidance for same-sex relationships which are loving and mutually respecting. Guidelines for these relationships should come from the same general Scriptural norms that apply to heterosexual relationships.
What this guy wrote is a Lie from the very pits of Hell, people read the word of God for yourselves....bible says "therefore a Man shall leave his father and mother and, cleave to his WIFE and they two shall become one"
Leviticus 18:22, the “abomination” of a man’s lying with another man.
anything abominable; anything greatly disliked or abhorred.
intense aversion or loathing; detestation: He regarded lying with abomination.
a vile, shameful, or detestable action, condition, habit, etc.: Spitting in public is an abomination.
I don't think anyone's unclear on the meaning of abomination. It is the idea of modeling our society on the "wisdom" of barely literate wandering desert sheepherders that is in doubt.
Tony, the bible also says that it is also an abomination to eat shellfish. Why aren't you picketing Red Lobster?
That's old testament ding dong, before Jesus. He has risen, and we follow the new testament.
^...nice try but you should actually read the new testament and not listen to other pro gay supports about the shellfish comment that comes from the old testament..oh if some people would actually just read the new testament.
Nice article. Comments, not so nice.
Quiz – who was the disciple Jesus loved?
He loves them all, but you are referring to Peter.
The Apostle John. John went on to write the Book of Revelation.
Do you not know a whole city was destroyed for this reason. Did you not read plain english how in Romans God gave them over to a reprobate mind. Have you not read in Leviticus how Gods judgement came down on these people for men with men and men with animals. Can you not read.
"did you not read in plain English"? Well considering the Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek – no, I did not.
Can you not comprehend that there is no evidence to support the existence of your god? Can you not comprehend that there is no evidence that your bible is anything more than a collection of ancient Middle Eastern mythology?
A whole city was not destroyed because of this. Two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the way God's messengers were treated. And, a few chapters later (gen 19:30-34), Lot's daughters seduce him. But, you folks tend to forget that bit, don't you.
Come on, CNN! You have to stretch with gumby-wide arms, all the way from Rome to University of West Georgia (!?) to find any sort of "man of the cloth" with theological ideas this misleading. Has anyone at CNN read the Bible...ever? Really! This does not pass as credible journalism.
I totally agree with you. Grossly misleading.
And it takes a cosmic gumby stretch of the mind to accept what you accept.
LOL at all of you idiots who are attacking this guy. Most of you haven't even read the Bible in its translated form. Do you realize that some things don't translate well? Do you realize that you would need to fully appreciate the intricacies of the languages used by the original authors to understand their meaning?
Most importantly, do you realize that you're basing your life on a fairy tale which, like all fairy tales, was written by man?
The ant-intellectual, inbred logic on display here is, sadly, typical of today's "good", god-fearing rednick a-habs like y'all. Lemmings...
I'll let youexplain that to God on 'judgement day': good luck!
That's it? That's the best you can do? "You'll be sorry when you're dead!" ????
That's about an empty a threat as I've ever heard.
tallulah13...spending an eternity in Hell is hardly an empty threat.
" tallulah13...spending an eternity in Hell is hardly an empty threat. "
I don't think threatening @tallulah with an 'ad baculum' type of fallacious argument is going to work, nor... does your argument prove anything.
@ I see Sheep
The anti-common sense, self gratification logic you display here is, sadly, typical of today's "no it all", find a way to justify my unnatural choices liberal.
Religion and science go together very well. Any religion may be a fairy tale, but they basically all have the same core belief of a "superior being" that created all that we know. So until you and can find a way to explain how the very first particals came to be for the "big bang" to happen you must at minimum acknowledge that there is good probability for God to exist regardless of which books, stories or name you use to describe him.
I also don't see a reason to knock living by a set of "morals, ethics, or rules" that in general are good for all of us in general and that you most likely live by to some extent as well.
Not knowing how the universe or particles came into being does not mean a good probability that some god exists. It simply means we don't know. To believe some god did it is delusional thinking symptomatic of mental illness.
If that's your thinking, I say that since we can't explain how the universe precisely came into being with every detail....my theory is that a giant Spongebob Squarepants came along and out of his butt popped the universe. Disprove that.
Bob, you realize that your exact same logic holds if I assert that "So until you and can find a way to explain how the very first particals came to be for the "big bang" to happen you must at minimum acknowledge that there is good probability for a giant space salamander to exist". God is your default position for "don't know," and this kind of logic is known as a false dichotomy. Numerically it is equivalent to saying "until you can find the exact number, you must acknowledge that it is probably 192.06739475.
You guys all beat me to it! I got distracted in the middle of composing my comment.
Janey, until you can prove that there is a god, or even some sort of existence after physical death, then yes, hell is the very definition an empty threat.
Amen! couldn't have said it better myself!
@Janey33, it's pretty frightening that you are so gleefully predicting another human being will suffer in a burning hell for all of eternity just because that person disagrees with your beliefs. I do believe those are the roots of terrorism in the name of a fundamentalist ideology.
Daniel A. Helminiak is another dumb smart person who got it wrong! You can look at the male and female bodies and see God's design and purpose. Daniel you need to do more research...
god is a fairy tail. why don't you study facts and not the writings of people 2000 yrs ago that didn't even know the earth was round.
In my BASIC history class in college we learned that the thought men never knew the earth was round was a made up fable. Atheists think they are so smart, too smart for God; yet they fail to quote accurately the very Bible they criticize. You`re right, men didn`t know the earth was round 2000 years ago, they knew it was round at least 2800 years ago! Isaiah 40:22 says It is He who sits above the circle of the earth... circle could also be translated sphere as in some translations just to help those who are going to try and twist without reference that they [Isaiah the writer] meant a flat circle.
cl...the verses referring to the earth are much older than 2,000 years, with Job being the oldest. Please explain how they knew back then that the earth was round, but scientists didn't "discover" that until much later???
And yet the Catholic Pope executed Galileo for preaching that the world WAS round. Guess he didn't know the Bible either!
Got ahead of myself. It was the rotation of the Earth that Galileo was executed for. I retract my above statement.
Not at all surprising that "bama" doesn't factor the brain into the equation.
What if we started a whole new planet ourselves? Let's start over. Assuming that Daniel A. Helminiak is right and God and all those who have gone before Daniel are wrong in their interpretation of the Word of God. Daniel says that Jesus did not have anything to say but perhaps Daniel did not really read the Book of Matthew. Let's ask Adam and Daniel to populate our new planet. They will need to have children who they can teach to understand The Bible and God's true design the way they understand it. How many children can Adam and Daniel have if they are the only two gay men on the planet? Where do children come from? Daniel A. Helminiak writes that the Bible is wrong but "he" is right. How did Daniel get on this Earth? We ALL have fallen short. We all sin, but we have to understand that. We have to understand what sin truly is and if you read the entire Bible and not just the select scriptures that Daniel has chosen to interpret to meet his lifestyle, then you will understand that the Bible is true and man has tried to change that truth to fit his own sin. We are to expect this however. The truth is taught to us in Revelations that there will be false prophets. No matter who you think the author of the Bible is or who wrote what and when, The Bible is the infallible truth of God Almighty. Jesus Christ can and will save any and all with His Grace/Mercy by having died on the cross for ALL our sins if we trust in Him to save us from our own minds/selves. Read the entire Bible for yourselves. Study it, pray on it, ask God for wisdom and guidance on it. Do not take another man's word for it.
“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.” Oh no, the Republicans are in trouble!!! They have defiled the President with their hate.
Huh? The Republicans say the truth about the president. Sorry you can't see that. Do some research. I'm not even a Repblican. I'm Independent and I can see how bad Obama is.
This post is by a hate filled bigot that discriminates against the mentally handicapped
I AM A CONVERT (PROTESTANT TO CATHOLIC). I REALIZE MANY NON-CATHOLICS BELIEVE WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN TAUGHT BY THEIR PREACHERS ABOUT OUR FAITH, MOST OF WHAT IS NOT TRUE. I JUST WANT ALL TO KNOW THAT THIS "PRIEST" IS AN IDIOT AND DOESNT SPEAK FOR ANYONE BUT HIMSELF! (OR MAYBE SATAN, THE EVIL ONE!)
Satan isn't evil. God is the evil tyrant, Satan stood up to his tyranny.
stop this hate filled bigot rational libertarian from demeaning the mentally challenged
Rational Libertarian...And it is Satan who will spend eternity in Hell.