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.
This is the exact problem with so-called Theologians. They keep trying to add science and reason to the bible. Most have NO ANOINTING thus they don't understand the plain truth that is right before there eyes, just as Jesus said. Shame on you CNN for posting this crap. Why haven't you started a blog about all of these phony politicians claiming to be so faithful yet they want to strip government assistance programs from the poor. That's in the bible too.... I am starting to see you as no better than FOX news.
Not sure what you are upset about. The article was not written by CNN. The theologian who did write the article did a good job, in my opinion.
YOU have got to be kidding, right? How dare they try to add REASON into the bible. Clearly there isn't any! If only you could annoint them (Ancient Greek for "Brainwash"), then they'd see your truth!
Because clearly, adding reason to the Bible is absolutely impossible...
Hello PatSJ, AHHH....CNN decided to post the article..really? You going to defend CNN b/c they didn't write it??? OK>...
Science? And you are using a computer to post this message and watch FOX news? All technologies derived from Computer/Broadcasting Science. Can we say hypocrite?
@ HohnnyAnon... Oh, you COULD add it... but then you'd have to subtract nearly all the original stuff.
Helminiak's credentials surpass yours. Of that, I am certain.
You can't attack his argument, so you attack his person like a child who doesn't know what an ad hominem is. Grow up.
It's a shame too many Christians, like Faithful, seem to put the words of the bible before faith in God. Anyone can tack the words "this is God's commandment" or these are "God's words" onto any peace of writing... doesn't make it true. Think for yourself, don't take the words of many different people whose writings have been aggregated into a single book as the truth.
I could not have said it better myself.
I have said the same thing often, but rarely as well. Keep it up.
But consider 2 Peter 1:21 "For the prophesy came not in old time by the will of men but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost"
What if two transgendered people are in love are they in the wrong?
Maybe not according to themselves, but they'll never make it through the Pearly Gates when their day comes.
You do NOT abuse your body. Our body is a gift given to us to take care of, not to mangle or distort.
2/3 of Americans are obese, suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol... I guess they will never make it through the pearly gates becuase they have truly defiled their bodies... which is Gods temple.
@Rachel... Thanks so much for your insight into the inane.
As long as they are sharing their bodies with one another out of love, and it is consensual, it would not be a problem. Helminiak explains this quite well.
Rachel, do you have pierced ears for earnings? Because if you do.....straight to the fires... Hope you don't have a tattoo. or shave your legs & armpits. Because God made that hair. and If you get a bad appendix, bad luck for you, baby... I'm sure you can't g to God without an appendix...
Rachel, do you have pierced ears for earnings? Because if you do.....straight to the fires... Hope you don't have a tattoo. or shave your legs & armpits. Because God made that hair. and If you get a bad appendix, bad luck for you, baby... I'm sure you can't go to God without an appendix...
Keep the freaking bible out of the politics and away from the government! Bring in the Holy Koran, the only book is nothing but truth!
That's a pretty laughable argument.
Wouldn't a "good Egyptian" spell it Quran?
i am a 17 year old who thinks that the Koran is a lie how does it speak the truth the Bilbe is more truth then any other book so the real quesion is what does your book teach you the Bilble the truth says that Gays are not right they are wrong
I love it. "My book written a long time ago and attributed to an all-seeing, all knowing man in the sky is better than your book written a long time ago and attributed to an all-seeing, all knowing man in the sky!" And I know I'm going to get a bunch of hate for hating on religion, but I don't care. Religious people amuse me.
@tom .... Whoa, slow down just a bit dude. I'll be happy to lend you some punctuation if you'd like.
I believe this guy is joking. really. He is forcing the text to say something it does not. period. His hermeneutic and deep language skills are worthy of a sf channel. He is inventing terms and putting himself not like a serious and objective scholar. He is interpreting the emotions of the author trying to make him say something he never intended. If the Apostol Paul would be alive today he would had say. Hey dear fellow. Read according what's there. Dont put word on my mouth. PITY
@ NESTOR "He is forcing the text to say something it does not. period." Then "He is interpreting the emotions of the author trying to make him say something he never intended." then you finished with this gem "If the Apostol Paul would be alive today he would had say. Hey dear fellow. Read according what's there. Dont put word on my mouth." Are you f'n kidding me. You were trying to be funny, right?
You're just mad that you can't use the Bible to bash gays anymore. Grow up.
Helminiak's credentials are impeccable. He knows the history, and the topic, far more than you ever will. Get over it.
Kinda like when King James had a new bible written when the old one didn't fit his needs.
Peter was gay for Jesus and was jealous of Mary Magdalene being Jesus' wife, along came crazy Paul who was also gay and struck up a relationship with Peter hence why the two of them conspired and referred to Mary Magdalene in such a derogatory fashion in the bible. Why was Mary Magdalene Jesus' wife you ask? In Ancient Roman times only family members were allowed to visit those that were crucified. With the help of Pontius Pilate, they were able to fake Jesus' death by drugging Jesus, having the spear pierce a sack of wine hidden on Jesus' body filled with watered down lamb's blood, and declared him dead. They put him in the tomb and Jesus' family members including his brothers sneaked Jesus away under cover of night. Jesus and his wife then left the country in secret to live out the rest of their lives.
You have to be joking???? Thank God for His Mercy and Patience and the Blood of Jesus that prevented fire coming down from Heaven to consume you....Do you realize with what fear, awe and respect and honor the Israelites had for God; before The Sacrifice of Jesus. The Blood atoned for our sins and God sees all humanity through the Blood Sacrifice of Jesus. Now if we mess us it is because we have invited the devil in...
Wow.... I want a time machine! I would love to go back in time the way you did and learn all of that!
@Red-that's actually a much more believable theory.
It's difficult to hide a sack of wine on a naked man. He was almost beaten to death before he was crucified. Belive whatever you want but it won't change the truth. The truth will stand forever.
@Bunine... Thank you for stopping short of telling us what "the truth" really IS. For a moment there, I was afraid you were going to tell us that you actually KNOW what the truth is and claim that so many of us don't.
Your wealth of ignorance is overwhelming. Be quiet before you make more of a fool of yourself.
Somewhere it say that everyone will give an account for every careless word said. Don't care if you believe or not, but if it is true...man I would not want to be in your shoes that day!
I like your version better than what's in the Bible. It's funny, dramatic, and yet it still makes a lot of sense.
Any god that enjoys the smell of burning flesh is not a god worth worshiping. In fact, epistemologically speaking, it says far more about the worshiper than it ever does about god. If you think that sins of all mankind were somehow excused and blotted out simply because some sinless person got murdered, you really should ask yourself why you would believe such a thing in the first place. Surely you have a more progressed understanding of ethics and morality than they did 2000 to 3000 years ago. Or do you?
Epinoia, That is something I have often wondered about. Why would God, creator of everything, need blood sacrifice? Why would he deliberately want to keep his children ignorant and subservient and suffering at the mercy of cruel and power-hungry church elite? That is not thy God I know... That punishes people for loving or creating or questioning...
Your comment shows you know nothing about the Bible. When Jesus' body was placed in the tomb there were two Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. This was done because the Pharisees wanted to be sure that Jesus' body was not removed in three days as Jesus said he would rise in three days. And for the comment on the hidden sack of watered down lambs blood being hidden on Jesus, where would you hide this on a nearly naked man, and why would the Romans who crucified Jesus go along with a plan to fake Jesus' death and convince millions of people that he was the Son of God?
Love the story. More exciting and believable than rising from the dead, eh?
wow, so many varied opinons. all i know love your Godwith all you got. take care of and love your neighbor. why is the world such a world of extremes on all sides.
Peter was not gay and Jesus was not married. Read your bible.
Also to everyone who says they do not believe in the bible please be quiet unless you have a degree in argcealogy because the people wh o do have proved the bible is tue and what it says.
Jesus is gay
Peter and Paul were gay. Jesus was a successful carpenter with a wife born from nobility.
No, Jesus is dead.
Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do.
Your a fool and make foolish statements.
What you wrote (and the rest of you who responded) says more about you than anything....and is beyond pathetic...it is just sad. Be careful not to overload the two brain cells you guys have all together.
Jesus was the Original Liberal
Jesus, had he existed, was Irish. He ran around with twelve drinking buddies and his mother thought he was god.
Do NOT blasphemy the name of JESUS! There is no forgiveness...u will burn in Hell u devil! I REBUKE in the name of JESUS!
It is no secret when one uses their brain, to know that sleeping with the same gender is a sin of God. And it is also true that these type of people will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Stop making excuses for the sick. The dysfunction of being gay is indeed a sin when we, as human beings, should be smart enough to know better.
well now Rachel, you must also the teachings of judgement? or do you?
So gays can't enter into the kingdom of heaven (if it even exists), that's between them and god, not you nor anybody else. Until that time, they should be given the same rights as anybody else.
Rachel, if you are going to the "Kingdom of Heaven" please let me know, I prefer going to hell!
My cousin is autistic and needs around the clock care. Does that make him sick, and if so, can he enter the kingdom of heaven?
Really Rachel. At what point in your life did you make the much thought out decision to be straight? Tell me too where the benefits of being gay are that one would make this "choice" to have their families turn their backs on them, to be physically harmed or verbally abused to the point of taking their own life. What's the upshot of being gay Rachel?
"David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Daniel and the palace master were PROBABLY lovers". Probably? How ridiculous. Ruth was married to Naomi's son and when he died, she cared for her mother in law. It is no scriptural to suggest otherwise. The article's author completely discredited himself
religion is the opium of the masses
Rachel, do you mean to love men? Is it under your control? No, because you are wired that way. It is the same way with gays. And what you just posted is a far worse sin than anything gays do. You are hating on people and THAT is a sin.
Yes, because we all relate "being smart" to believing in a magical fairy guy in the clouds watching over every thing that everyone does anywhere all the time but doesn't have the power to actually speak to them as a collective...
Rachel, if you had a child that was gay, you might put that hatred aside; just ask DIck Cheney; it can change your perspective.
yep, according to your sick mind Rachel ~ you re so screwed up that you will never understand anything but your idiotic believes. What a miserable life to live – i feel sorry for you
Ah, but might they not still enter the Kingdom of Santa Claus?
So very sad to read such statements (but not unusual). I am a gay man and NEVER intended this for my life. But it is because it was meant to be. Things all happen because they were meant to be – right or wrong. What is the most sad is all the people you know who are gay – but you will never know because of your thoughts. They will never tell you and more than likely have done more research on the topic than you. Very sad to live in the world where you feel people are doomed for this or that. I only hope in the end God enlightens you to your interpretation. So you can go "oh... I thought that passage meant something different"... and he can say "well over thousands of years... you never thought my words would be translated into words I would never say?" I am sure he will let you into heaven and you see some friends 'you never were were gay..until now'. As with all, you will learn, I took the time to – hope you do too.
Sorry – as soon as "God" enters the conversation, the brain shuts off.
Imagine. How dumb. You will sound in a few years. Like the people who protested mixing black and white students.
Rachel, you THINK it's a sin. You BELIEVE it's a sin. That doesn't make it a sin.
So it's a sin to be sick? Your god is more evil than I thought,,,
@ Rachel You are correct but there is much more to that. Have you lied? I have. That means we will not enter the kindgom of heaven either. BUT God gives us the undeserved opportunity for sinlessness through faith in Christ. ANYONE can have salvation and enter the kingdom but NOONE deserves it. It is a gift freely given by God. (Romans 3:21-31)
So if I get cancer, I'm condemned to hell? I really don't like your god at all.
So which is it, Rachel? Are they sick or are they sinners? If you are so "Christian" you wouldn't say that anyone could be both, would you?
Rachel, I'm not gay, but your butt is tempting me, Must have a.nal s&x with you..
has anyone that is writing this crap ever die, and go to the promose land or see Jesus or his dad the ONE
its a book of STORIES and not much in the way of hard fact to support that the bible is real. so believe what you want to believe. how come so many catholic priests touch kids, or people covet thy neighbors wife, or lie etc....look people are people and are going to do as they choose. organized religion seems to do a fair amount of harm to people, families etc...fables, far fetched ideas that if you buy into it–you have the choice to do that. in everything i know, ive seen many friends and family die. PEOPLE DO NOT COME BACK TO LIFE, not 1 person or a 100...get with reality, common sense and logic
Look... i'm not a practicing Christian or anything but you are soooo wrong about the Bible. There are so many facts that have been proven not only by other writings but also archaeological finds that the bible has mentioned that have been proven to be true. You're at least that smart aren't you?
Kellsey, they also found the Oracles at Delphi and temples dedicated to Zeus. Does that make them true, too? . . . No one doubts that Jesus was a real person, but whether he walked on water is a matter of faith. If you believe it, fine. If you think it was written 300 years after his death, that may be true without meaning he wasn't a real person.
The battle of Nineveh... The battle of Jericho.... The writings of Josephus... It doesn't take but a few minutes to research all of this... go do it for yourself.
I totally agree with you Henry. There are facts in the Bible that no one can disprove. You can not deny that Jesus existed. The only thing that most need to figure out for themselves or not is whether He was the Son of God.
@Kellsey The actual archaeological finds that have been made have been of places in the bible. No one has dug up a biblical miracle in the sand that would prove the actual b.s. that the bible is about...
slow down, you cannot you facts that have been proven and the bible in the same sentence
dooodaladoooo, if you were really applying logic, then you would BELIEVE in God. It is ILLOGICAL and counter intuitive to not believe in God even if you will never know in he exists or not. You see, there are two outcomes that the "God's existence" argument has. Either Hell (lose) or Heaven (win). Right? All atheist, follow me here too... If you believe in God's existence and he does exist, then you "win." Right? If he does not exist you neither win or lose. Right? Now, if you don't believe in God's existence and he does exist then you "lose." If he does not exist then you'll have the same outcome as the believer. So logic (using your words) should tell you that it is VERY LOGICAL to believe in God because it is the only scenario where you can actually win.
If you need a more scientific proof of my argument look up Pascal's Wager and you will see why your "logical" thinking about God's nonexistence is sooooo ILLOGICAL!
In a nutshell, ATHEISM MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE AT ALL!!!! It is the most illogical way of thinking.
With that said, I don't condone any religion and believe that those committing atrocious acts using God's name will someday have to account for those acts.
I believe that faith is truly for the individual, something so personal between me and God and that religion is for the masses.
And, as a man who believes in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I will not judge anyone for how they choose to live. That belongs to almighty God!!!
"The battle of Nineveh... The battle of Jericho.... The writings of Josephus... It doesn't take but a few minutes to research all of this... go do it for yourself."
The battle of Atlanta is a historical fact and can be proven. So that means that Scarlett O'Hara was a real person, right?
This is quite interesting… I’m waiting for the day when CNN gives their opinion of exactly where gays stand in the Quran and in the Torah… It certainly seems very easy for news sources to dissect any Christain or Catholic related book or belief.. It is against the Muslim religion to be gay so I’m anxiously awaiting that report.. Thnx
Maybe you skipped over the part about the author being an ordained priest and a theologian? He doesn't actually work for CNN, you moron.
Another lying gay fail article. Are you gays ever capable of telling the truth?
Will you ever realize the truth? We'll get our rights some day, regardless of what the bible says, pro or con. Its just a matter of time, and it eats at you like crazy, doesn't it?
@lilbuddah The government may give you everything you want, but those who consider you to be an abomination will continue to kill you whenever possible. You will be hated and hunted as long as there are christians. Eats at you like crazy, doesn't it?
@Jim – with a mentaility like yours, I'd rather be a lover than a hater!
@Jim – wow, that is very Christian of you. So you want to hunt us down and kill us? Be careful while hunting – there are many of us who will fight back and help you meet your loving god sooner than you would expect (and imagine your surprise when you see your loving god surrounded by flames and pitchforks). Jerk.
@ JIM. Come and give it your best shot!I will also:)
Yes, tell the truth like the Vatican. They are all about the truth;)
@ jim I'd love to have you try. I'd kick you so hard your nuts would pop out your eye sockets.
No we gays where taught by the best christians. Lie tell they all believe what we want them to believe. I for one has never died and came back how about you Judge of the gays
What makes the Bible anymore believable than the Koran???
Exactly. I'm sure the koran has references to actual occurrences also,proves nothing.
Well the Bible and the Koran share a lot of texts. They are both Abraham based religions remember.
This guy doesn't have a clue.
Where did you get your degree in Theology? Pastor Billy-Bob's online degree shack? Give me a break. YOU are the one who doesn't have a clue. And you can't handle being wrong.
This blog is insidious.
Only because you have been brainwashed into thinking that book you worship says something that it doesn't say. Now you can either continue hating without justification, or you can go educate yourself to make yourself AND the world a better place. The choice is yours. BTW, you don't have to learn many Greek/Hebrew words to do this. And the entire Strong's system is available to you with just a few keystrokes. So your continued ignorance can only be said to be completely VOLUNTARY.
More BS from Rome...
Wow. The profundity of your argument is amazing........NOT.
Learn how to think critically. Learn how to argue. Learn the rules of logic, and how to apply them to facts. Once you have done that, THEN, and ONLY THEN, will you have anything of value to contribute to this discussion.
One feels sorry for those who take the Bible or any other religious book very seriously.
So many Christian and so few lions. Oops..
It's a book people...a book.
A totally boring book.
A book written by men. A book written by men who wanted to control other men. God doesn't need to write books.
I could recommend many books with alot more helpful information. Anything by EKhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra.
A really long boring book.
And Gay means happy!
Who cares? We're going to take our rights no matter what your dusty, useless old book says anyway.
Oh my. How many thousands of redundant, circular arguments by people entrenched in their own viewpoints, will this blog engender?
I wonder if there will even be one person who will read this blog and change his or her mind?
Yes, if they are under 40 years of age. This info is also helpful to those of us who aren't that up on the bible but hear it used to excuse every kind of behavior, or used to accuse for every kind of behavior.
MY thoughts exactly. I'll be watching this one.
It certainly opened my eyes to a viewpoint I have not heard before but I never did take seriously the "Leviticus" arguments anyway.
This statement stands out to me: "But Jesus taught lucidly that Jewish requirements for purity — varied cultural traditions — do not matter before God. What matters is purity of heart."