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.
I love all of the conservatives stating that they're not even going to read the article because it's just CNN twisting scripture. Do they mean twisting scripture like Christians did to justify slavery? Or twisting scripture like they did to deny women equal rights? I'm sure Jesus would approve of their closed minds and bigotry. After all, wasn't bigotry what Jesus always preached? Oh, it was love and tolerance and not judging others? Imagine that.
Don't have to twist any scripture just read 1 timothy 2:8-15
Then why do CNN and Daniel neglect to mention that is gay....Sorry but making a point here that they are treating him as some type of neutral expert.
Semenarian, go read 1 Samual 15:33. If you sleep well at night thinking that's cool, well, that may be something you want to talk to a shrink about, Rorschach.
Jude 1:7 makes it pretty clear about men and men and women and women
I gave you the New Testament so you could qoute the Old... real genius.
if you can't deal with the Old Testament, then you're the one whose intelligence deserves to be questioned. It's the foundation of your belief system, you loving, caring, godly little boy!
no.. the foundation is Christ. the Old testament is mostly 65% historical, people qouting from are usually taking historical information and portraying it as God's intention. When they are the actions of Men.. some are qoutes to a people who lived a life of idolatry..and rebellion which is what the sin described in this artical actually is. Love the people hate the sin.
And yet Paul claimed the foundation of Christ was Adam in the OLD TESTAMENT. You're a fool (and not for Christ) if u believe you can callously disregard the Old Testament. Or do you admit that God did not order the deaths, mutilations, genocide and discrimination that the Old Testament QUOTES God as commanding? Time to reevaluate your "faith" for what it's worth Seminarian. You lack the courage of your convictions, any way your slice it.
I did not say to leave the old testament out... I said to take it in context...and showed how...now you have to deal with the information...there is either a hell or there is not... I will sleep much better knowing where I will go...sleep tight. it is your choice, not my judgement.
By the way that adam reference you qouted from Paul is actually describing Christ as the second Adam... my 7 yr old knows that...I hope your trolling and confusion you try to cause illicits you some pleasure.
Seminarian- WHERE did you show how to interpret it? WHERE did you show the context. Rather than argue logically, you appeal to fear. Jesus talked about people like you- looking good on the outside, but on the inside, empty. You're a whitewashed tomb, pal. Time to quit attacking people with threats of hell and actually reason with people, to give "to every man an answer" according to a New Testament author. You argued NOTHING and offered NO explanation for how your faith squares with the atrocities attributed to God in the OT, other than the baseless comment that I should take it "in context." Study textual criticism you boob. You don't know the first thing of what it means to take it in context, and your continued attacking posts just reveal your ignorance and hypocrisy.
and yet Paul acknowledged the "first Adam's" literal existence as well. Read 1 Cor 15:45.
You don't make sense at all, but you're obviously trying to square your faith in Christ with what you legitimately recognize to be the problems with the OT. Good luck, pal. Paul couldn't do it. Doubt you can either.
If I were you, I'd ask your 7 year old to explain to you how your loving God can order parents to kill their disobedient children. Deuteronomy 21: 18-21.
I will let others read what you just said...it is obvious you know nothing, and do a better job of looking foolish than I could ever have tried to do....The point is you took historical information that is anything from Samuel, Kings, Chron and many other portions you are qouting events not intention. God's intention has always been to save humanity, Man's intention has always been to rebel, this article just affirms that... I will leave you to your pondering and wait for a more formatable canidate to debate with, sleep well while you can..there is AC up here.
oh i say that with all Love. Love the person hate the sin....don't be a stumbling block...God loves you...
Seminarian- you fool, I quoted the Pentateuch- the BOOKS OF MOSES, for crying out loud. Not once did I "quote" or refer to anything from Kings, Chon, Samuel (well maybe Samuel, once). Explain that!! and people WILL read this, and see you for the fraud you are. Good luck in your air conditioned private hell.
Yeah, your love's pretty evident in your sarcasm, condemnation and personal attacks. Newsflash: just because you SAY you are loving does not make it so. Your comments have shown that you are anything but, and that you do not respond well to criticism. If the meek inherit the earth, you've just been cut out of the will, Buster Brown!
Criticism is a literary tool to show the errors of a person who would not reflect on their own....same as sarcasm..I really want you to have a relationship with God..but it is your choice. I do not want you to go to Sheol. but that again is your lack of response...God loves you....but a perfect God cannot be around sin...therefore no one who practices the acts of this article will go to heaven because they have rebelled and put their own desire above God which is idol worship.
Seminarian, I would prefer that you don't go to Sheol, Hell, Tartarus, or the Lake of Fire as well, although I have some legit doubts about YOUR salvation. I would totally respect you if you were just to admit that you take the entire Bible literally, even the messy parts. But since you don't, and insist on picking and choosing what you believe in out of that dangerous book, then I and many others, have nothing but contempt for your views and character as expressed on this board. I'm looking forward to heaven, and I hope to see you there as well. Good luck in the afterlife- you're gonna need it. But better yet, good luck living an honest healthy life.
I'd recommend you stop while you're ahead. You're not winning any converts on this board, and you are continuing to avoid questions and make yourself look bad. Go witness to some unsuspecting stranger on a bus, you might have more luck. Seriously, you don't need to defend yourself if your faith is truly that strong. Nor do you need to stand up for God, if he is.
Seminarian- oh yeah, and the "confusion [I] try to cause" according to your own words, is not confusion at all, but merely to cause people like you to understand that they are WRONG. Nothing confusing about it. You are the only one confused here, unable to reconcile the barbaric horrors of the Old Testament with the proclamations of love and forgiveness in the New, even though the authors of the NT had no problem accepting both.
Just convert to Mormon and you can go to planet Bob in your magic underwear with me. I hear that's where God and Jesus retired to when mankind couldn't even follow a few simple rules, such as love one another and don't judge.
The Old Testament slaver was not slavery as we now know it (Africans forced into servitude, or something of the like). Slaves back then were willing to be slaves. A more appropriate term would be indentured servanthood.
WOW!!! You certainly need to take a look at the Christian manuscript sources instead of those from Alexandra that do not represent the inspired and preserved Word of God.
It seems that only gays and mormons receive any attention from C*N*N any longer. Kind of tired of reading about both groups that I am desensitized to anything they could write now.
I feel the same way about Christians.
Being gay is made a political issue inviting political judgements from people who take their religion serious and they are called names n punished for it. Obama can't even say what he thinks on the matter cos of votes! I don't see where it will end!
You're right Nii...it probably won't end, at least not until the election is over and even then it'll be something else.
80 years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, many folks still take the bible too literally.
Repent!!! or something worse may happen to you!
Repent for what and what will happen if one doesn't?
Shouldn't christians be crying about how atheists shouldn't be able to get married either? or anyone who worships a different god for that matter? Or people who cheat on their loved ones? Peoples problems with gay people has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with those closed minded people being afraid of something that is different then they are and something they don't approve of.
What year is it? 2012! People still believe in the bible?
I guess the "last days" Paul thought he was living in represent about 1/3 of earth's history, if we trust the "history" in the bible.
IMAGINE THAT~!! Did you ever wonder just what makes it so enduring?
I think if it were "just a book" there is no way it would still be holding so much power on people..
NO other book ever has..
Can so many be so wrong?
I don't think so...
Science can not , has not and never will offer answers to everything.. And though they try.. They can't..
There is something bigger than us at work here..
AS much as many people try to argue otherwise.
Shakespeare's stuck around for a while...as has Homer, Ovid, the Enuma Elish. Just because people don't believe in them and DO believe in your book does NOT mean it is true. Illogical fallacy. Try taking a semester of community college, ya might learn something.
@Mary: Could so many be so wrong for so long, you ask? Ancient Egyptians held their faith in Horus, Ra and a whole whack of other Gods for well over 2000 years. You ask could so many be so wrong? The answer is... yes.
When they have endured thousands of years.. And as many people read and protect the book..You might have a argument fo sorts.. But the bible has been protected and read by too many for too long to even consider comparing any other book to it.
The earth was once flat too.
Mary- try the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, and the teachings of Confucius. People revere and protect these books just as much, if not more than the Bible, and some of them have been around much longer. By your logic, you should trust these books with your salvation as well, but somehow, I don't think that's the case with you. ILLOGICAL.
It is not the only religious book ever written.. Yet it endures..
No other book, or religion has endured as long as the the one that proclaims one God.. One creator..
King James is not the original writing..
And YET the bible said it was round a few thousand years before they set sail to prove it was NOT flat..~!!!
For thousands of years, people thought the world was flat. We're they ALL wrong? For hundreds of years, we thought taking out someone's blood helped cure illness. For a long time, malaria was thought to be caused by bad air. Just because a belief is widely held, and for a long time, proves absolutely nothing.
I never referred once to the KJV, Mary. Funny, those were your words, or as Christ said to Pilate: "You said it." I was referring specifically to whichever book of the Bible was written first. Some books from the eastern religions/philosophies predate it, and are followed devoutly by BILLIONS of people today. Just saying.
I forgot to mention the Macerena. Man, that was mass delusion incarnate.
You're just simply wrong.. The old testament is the oldest religious writings. It has been translated a few times..The King james being the one in widest use today..
The bible is a history book.. Full of many stories and examples and many ways to stay healthy .. its people like you that take it out of context and ridicule the information it holds.. That in many ways stops others from being interested in researching it for themselves..
It is a book that must be read.. Not just a scripture here or there.. NOt just for the rules it holds .. but for all it holds..
And that is your choice.. No one is going to force you..
But don't ridicule those that DO know more than just a few stories or some scriptures here and there.
Pick up the book and read it.. You might find it one of the best reads you have ever taken time on.
It certainly will all come together.. when you read ALL of it.
Sorry Mary, YOU are the one who's just simply wrong. I have a Masters degree in Theology from a major Evangelical university and know more about the Bible than you will in 10 lifetimes. Grow some humility. HISTORY shows that there are older religious texts, and even if their weren't, your assertion that the Bible is the oldest proves nothing towards its validity. Time to go back to school, Mary. There's a big, scary world out there!
Mary- don't confuse ridicule with challenge. While your beliefs ARE ridiculous, if they can't stand up to an honest challenge, they can't stand up to anything, and you should really question WHY you believe them. I've done nothing but challenge your beliefs, albeit in a sarcastic manner. But ridicule? Not at all. Stand up for what you believe in, or go home. But don't sling ad hominem attacks and character attacks without cause.
Respectfully, Mary, that's exactly the point. No one should be forced to believe anything. And if civil liberties are ever threatened by a group of religious people claiming divine revelation, forbidding for instance two men to marry each other, they need to be told to keep their faith out of the system.
@ Mary – Mary, you would be surpised at how enduring something becomes when it is forced upon people at the point of a sword. When the options you are given are "believe or I'll torture you to death", then most people interested in survival would probably choose not to be tortured to death.
Very few Christians seem to want to discuss the violent history of Christianity. It was spread like a malignant virus through the world be people interested in controlling other people. The Romans swept away the entire religious cultures of the Greeks, the they adopted Roman versions of their pantheon of Gods. They did the exact same with Judaism – they first killed, tottured and oppressed the Jews who were the major religious, cultural and political force of the pre-Christian era, and then created Christianity and proceeded to use it as the point of their spear for their conquest through The Middle East and into Europe, suffering heavy losses in their attempts to Christianize Muslims and the some of the tribal cultures of Eastern Europe.
The problem with many for whom the Bible is the end-all, be-all of everything is that you miss large chunks of historical context.
I would like to join reading the Bible in 90 days. This will help me teach my chrilden also and learn scripture I do not know.Karen Reply:April 18th, 2011 at 10:32 amBetter late than never! I'm starting today so I will be behind, I have done this the past few years, and I miss it when I don't do it. I'm so excited to find the schedule here, it took a lot of searching. So here I go Lord speak to me!
Thank goodness this guy had the decency to voluntarily eave the priesthood when he realized he was gay. Trust CNN to find the egghead "theologian" who legitimizes their raison d'etre – bombarding the reader with articles like these until the repugnant becomes unremarkable. Shame on CNN, as usual.
CNN you are disgusting pushing this agenda.
I am trying to get rid of you for a home page.
You should read Corinthians that says if you teach
a child this stuff you may as well put a millstone around
your neck and drown yourself because you will not get
into the kingdom of heaven. You keep makin' it up, CNN>
They are commandments not suggestions.
Ah, so you can refute his article, can you? You're a better expert of the original langauge of the Bible and the colloquialisms of Biblical times? I bet you can't even read Shakespeare without someone to translate for you, and he wrote in English.
they are commandments to you and not to others.
uh, okay, read it twice – I must have missed the parts where he says he's gay (?) and "left the priesthood" (?). From his bio I see he has sent the Vatican an offer (in 1995) to resign from active ministry but the Vatican has not replied – so as far as they're concerned, he's still on the payroll, so to speak. But go ahead and believe what you want in your alternate universe.
"read Corinthians that says if you teach a child this stuff you may as well put a millstone around your neck and drown yourself because you will not get into the kingdom of heaven."
And you somehow think this is moral? Are you even capable of forming a thought on your own?
He is Gay ?
I came up with exactly the same scleduhe. Last yr I did the 90 day challenge twice so this year I want to do it 3 X. We're traveling in April and I thought I'd need August for homeschool planning and December for Christmas preparation. I'm so excited, I already started.Celee Reply:January 3rd, 2011 at 2:34 pmGreat minds I think we would be terrific friends!
Everybody is just so sure they are in the right, when in reality probably everyone is wrong. There is no solid proof anyone has ever met God or come back from the dead to tell us if there's anything beyond this life. Christians go on faith that Christ did, but again, no solid proof. Yet they are okay with beating people up for not having the same faith, as do other religions feel it's okay to condemn non-believers. Kind of sick, really. Counter intuitive.
That is why some clever people seeking more control over others rewrote Christianity and incorporated "faith" as an integral component.
We are all bound by rules put forth in the bible And we all have wished some of them were not there.. ~!!
And we had to make a choice..
In the bible is the message.. All people of faith try to do is offer the messenger.
And we all know how people view the guy that brings some one the wrong message~!!
If you are gay.. Then you are not going to like what God says about being gay..~!
Yeah, but, the Bible isn't too crazy about a whole bunch of people. Women come to mind. Are we going to legislate against them too?
If men treated their wives the way God tells them to treat their wives.. A woman at home raising children and being taken care of is really a sweet deal..
Unfortunately many men take those scriptures to mean they may walk all over a woman.. And that is not what God told me to do ..AT ALL...
typo..Sorry I have a bad keyboard.
"told them to do"....
Smokey- that's why Mary's voting for Romney. She's all for legislating against women.
Thank you Mary for your expert analysis of the bible. I'm glad that you're following it to the T, you know, the whole part of "Judge not, lest ye be judged," Matthew 7:1.
But it's always easier to forget parts that are inconvenient and yet somehow still think of ourselves as pious and mighty.
I guess if you're miserable in your own life, it's easier to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator.
You'd think we'd have moved past this in the generations since we've been around. Evidently not, as proven by Mary.
@mary: First off, you are a bigot. Second, being gay is natural...so your god delusion fails where science wins.
Are you able to think for yourself or is that 2000 year old book the only way you can?
Yes, I especially love the part in the Bible that orders that if a wife comes to the aid of her husband while he's being assaulted, and she accidentally grabs the assailant's testicles, you must take her to the priest and have her hand cut off. I could go on and on and on, but what's the point? You're clearly only reading the parts of the Bible you like. Really reading it will turn you into a skeptic in a flash.
*** We are all bound by rules put forth in the bible ...........
No we are not.
You are, and you want the rest of us to,
and that is forcing your beliefs on others.
"who was ordained a priest in Rome" What a strange introduction! Does it mean he is Catholic? Zoroastrian who happened to live in Italy? Is he still a priest? Was he, maybe, excommunicated? I couldn't possibly imagine why...
Check his website....he's gay and neither he or CNN mention it.
Texadillo, you're right handed. Neither you nor CNN mentions it.
Thanks CNN for labeling this an opinion. Mr Helminiak seems to skirt around what the Bible plainly says and can be understood by anyone who can read it, looking instead for a loop hole. He then asserts with no supporting information that David and Jonathan . . . were probably lovers! Wow! That certainly would then mean that HS is okay, because the Bible quotes God as saying that David was "a man after my own heart." Next thing, someone will conclude that God himself is HS. Jesus asked, "When the Son of man returns, will he find faith on the earth?"
Okay, I keep on going back and forth with this commitment but pttery sure all my excuses are coming from the enemy (or selfishness). Think I'll give it a go. Any suggestions on how you fit this into your day?? Thanks for the encouragement! Reply:April 1st, 2011 at 7:23 amWe've tried several different tactics for fitting it in and they've all worked. The most important thing to remember is that you will have to give up something that you normally do in order to fit this in. Deciding what it is you will give up can be useful to help you prioritize. Last time through I got up a little earlier than usual and finished my reading first thing in the morning. This time with a nursing baby, I've found that it works better for me to read several times throughout the day and finish up in the evening.Mark reads half of the NEXT days reading in the evening and then finishes it up the next morning.Some of the kids spend an hour reading in the morning and finish up during rest time and others do the whole reading during rest time and into some of their free time.Sunday is my catch up day. If I fall behind, I know that I will catch up sometime on Sunday.I do think that knowing what you will give up and having a plan makes it easier to fit it all in.
Beloved saints of Godgreetings in the picreous Name of Jesus. I would like to thank you and encourage you to keep up the good work. Which will you be rewarded of in the day of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.May God bless you and strenghten you by His Spirit. Amen and Amen.
If you want to live in a theocracy please move to Iran. Freedom of Religion must include Freedom from Religion!
this is a classic example of people twisting works of scripture and sculpting words and taking them out of context to fit their own use. i am fully aware of how frequently this happens, and i am fully aware that many christians do it to support their own agendas as well, but this just seems to me like a stretch.
Yes Richard, just like Christians do.
Why bother with this silly article? As it was in the days of Noah /Sodom, these are the last days....so dont cast pearls before........America as a nation will no longer be because the people shouted fo Saul......God's Word will prevail very shortly. Christians rise up, your redemption is near. So dont waste your time contending with fools.
Does it say in the bible gays should be married.... thought not.
But gay marriage supporters don't quote the Bible.
Does it say in the bible, Gays should not be married ?
Didnt think so.
I DO NOT BELIEVE IN YOUR BIBLE! Separation of church and state. Be an idiot bigot in your own church, just stay out of my government. Britney Spears can get married, but two gay professionals can't? Ridiculous
Blasphemous,heretical is all I can say about this article and it's author
if he is not a follower of your brand of religion he is not hereretical.