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 powers of darkness are alive and well on planet earth.
embrace the darkness
Of course it is. Satan isn't the Prince of the Power of the Air for nothing. That said, he's gonna get his bottom kicked hard into the Lake of Fire eventually. The only light which exists right this very moment in the 'world' is the light which Christ provides.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
This is ridiculous! Leviticus 20:13 reads “if a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” How in the world can you translate that any other way?
Maybe if you put the original text in your post your argument would have merit, his entire point was that these passages were translated either improperly, or with bias.
People familiar with only modern English translations of ancient books and who do not know the alternative translations of many ambiguous terms need to bear in mind that they do not know THE MEANING of what was said in one century and written down some centuries later. So if you don't really know for sure what was said or written, why not keep your dumb, bigoted and poorly informed ideas in side the double wide with you.
@jim in washington. I'll tell you what jim in washington; the phrase, "going to hell with gasoline draws on" means the same today as it did in the year "01!"
Nowitall–are you kidding? Did you really say that? ROFL!!! You actually wrote: I'll tell you what jim in washington; the phrase, "going to hell with gasoline draws on" means the same today as it did in the year "01!"
I'm laughing so hard I'm near to dying here. Your only consolation is that apparently you are so ill-educated you won't get why that's so funny...
@Nana...I know you were trying really hard to sound as offensive as, almost humanly possible...but, don't laugh so hard that you die..because when you do, you're gonna have on draws made out of the same inflammatory liquids as your buddy there:D
Thanks Jim. Original manuscripts, direct translation, and a thorough understanding of history are the only way to understand what it meant. Even then we make mistakes with it. For instance we all know the classic King James version of "God created the Heavens and the Earth", which is a mistranslaton. The word "created" is actually "planned". Makes a lot more since to me, given evolution.
"'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." Leviticus 20:13 (NIV)
You will notice that this theologian does not mention this bible verse. You do not need a theologian to interpret the bible for you all you need is the Bible and God. Jesus' death on the cross enabled us to go directly to Him. So many theologians twist the word of the Lord for self gain because it makes non-beleivers feel better about themselves.
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." Matthew 7:15 (NIV)
Also, religion explains why we exist and how to live our lives. All we must do is accept Him and we may live for eternity as evident through John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Man is imperfect, and man wrote the bible. Therefore, isn't the bible imperfect? I believe the bible was man writing the events of the time as best they could interpret it. Religion has been used too often in the past to control people and justify evil doing. The bible is an excellent tool, but I truly can't believe that God intended us to just take everything at face value with no interpretation of our own.
@ Jake. Hosea 4:6. My people perish for lack of knowledge. God inspired the men whom wrote the Bible Jake! Shhuuuuuuuush...here a little known secret....quite...GOD WORKS THROUGH PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There is error in your interpretation. That being that you're using a verse from Leviticus, which you seldom see quoted nowadays as all of those passages were disregarded with Christ. Leviticus is the tale of the preists attempting to gain God's favor by creating numberous and unreasonable laws. In modern day America, the compatible phrase is "you cannot legislate morality". We don't stone people or marry our brother's widow either.
Leviticus also says you must take your disobedient and headstong son to the city gates and stone him to death..That you should take your wayward daughter and do the same. You cannot pick and choose from the Bible.
Who cares what the Bible says at all.. its all bull... all religions are nothing but a bunch of bull !!!
if your idea of jesus is a whie man like most americans than you shouldnt even bother speaking on the matter considering he would have been of israeli decent we will never agree if we cant even get his nationality right i didnt know jesus was american hahahaha
He is if you're Mormon!
@ Tom. JESUS IS SPIRIT sir! WE WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH! DO NOT MINIMIZE HIS DIETY BY HAVING 17TH CENTURY ARGUMENTS ABOUT WHAT COLOR HE WAS. HE IS ALL NATIONALITIES! Oh, and before we start a racial war here as a result of my personal comment (I'm sure the media would love that). I am a black man. Why do you think CNN posted this hot little ad? Are we so naive that we still haven't figured out that the powers that be are determined to keep us devided at all cost? Blacks against whites, gays against anti-gays...etc...us having this heated discussion on a topic that's not gonna change a thing is all by design. The media plays us like puppets. And we fall for it "hook-line-and-sinker every time. Myself included! In fact, satan is so subtle, I just realized what is going on mid-way through my response. Let the day come when we all mysteriously agree on 2 or 3 articles 2 days in a row. And sit back and watch how desperate they get.
Romans 1:27 'In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion'.
Did they say what they did with the other men? No. Are we filling in the details with our own opinions? Yes.
Oh now liberals are listening to the Bible. Classic.
well jesus was a liberal. a socialist. sure wasnt no republican capatalist.
The belief that an invisible cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you eat his flesh, drink his blood, and telepathically tell him you accept him as your Master, so that he will remove an evil force from your soul which was put their because a woman made from a rib was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
And it gets even more stupid from there.
I would rather have Jesus as my Mesiah than NObama.
Jesus is a fairy tale, dearie.. Obama is real.
I don't mind your personal beliefs, and I don't mind your translation of mine (after all if you thought mine were perfectly reasonable you'd probably be using slightly different diction 😛 ). I do however mind that you would attack a group of people who are in the middle of trying to understand something of thier own faith that is correct and happens to coincide with what is true. If this were an anti-gay or hate mongering speech feel free. I argue more with fellow Christians than any other group. However, please don't use your wit or humor to malign innocent people who aren't bother you and keep off your sardonic soapbox when this is obviously a positive message for the good of you and everyone else. If someone comes into a gathering and attacks you and your beliefs, I would expect you to do the same as I am now. It's unreasonable to intentionally close the minds of people when someone has a chance at helping them find reason and understanding.
All the best,
It's human sacrifice religion made symbolic. You take a non-reproducing member of your tribe–generally male–imbue him with all the sins of the tribe, then kill him so he can go pay them off to your god, then you eat of his flesh and drink of his blood (literally) so you can take into yourself that which made him holy. Ew. Really.
Perhaps, if your own "people" didn't attempt to malign and judge non-believers and shove their neurotic slime down their throats (you aren't innocent by the way, you're far from it, and neither are your fellow Christians. Oh, yes, I saw what you did there.) they just might not feel such hostility. Quit being a hypocrite.
I have no problem with you attacking Christians who step out of line. Feel free. Going into an conversation about a specific aspect of Christianity and attacking them is an entirely different thing completely. You however, are filling in your own opinions about me in an attempt to sink your teeth in, which doesn't bother me in the slightest.
@patty pat. Invisible jewish zomby? Haha..somebody's been watching too much late night cable ha:D What a peace of work..hahaha
ONLY a liar atheist, or simply morons (the majority) scream flat out that the Bible states the World is flat!
atheists....and their delusion of the inexistence of God....I call you, what the Bible call you...FOOL
the bible is a book of lies meant to keep people like you in line.
I'll save you a seat, Marcio.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
Your interpretation, your doctrine, and your character are competely out of line. I don't know where you learned about Christianity or Athiesm, but you're wrong on both counts. Comments like that are the reason that people hate us, despise us, lack basic respect for us, and justifiably so. Do us all a favor and keep those hateful thoughts to yourself until you've atleast gained some understanding in your own supposed faith.
Best of luck,
'You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination'.
I'll need another translation to really understand that. I refuse to learn ancient hebrew on a quest to understand if I can sleep with men.
I'm a gay man who belives that we should protect the santify of marriage! Outlaw divorce and allow gays to marry!
When nearly 50% of all marriages end in divorce, who is REALLY responsible for defiling marriage, don't we?
meant to say: we know how is responsible for defiling marriage, don't we?
I meant to say: "we know who...."
"we know who...."
WHO (not how!)
So far the gay divorce rate is near 70%.
Texadillo, cite your source or gtfo.
The whole anti-gay thing along with another things that the church... "added" was done by the honestly corrupted church during earlier times like around the 1300's and up to around even early 1900.
Davis, you're not helping anyone's cause here. Cite your facts or kindly be quiet.
Yes God loves your soul and we as Christians do to but He want you to stop the sinning. That is what is bringing judgment upon us and our nation. READ WHAT THE HOLY BIBLE SAYS ABOUT IT, NOT WHAT SOMEONE ELSE SAYS.
2Peter 2:6-8 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed [his] righteous soul from day to day with [their] unlawful deeds;)
Ro 1:24 -32 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Le 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination:
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.; their blood shall be upon them.
Le 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
But the Bible is just a bunch of words that many someones else said...I don't know what to do now....where is the actual WORD OF GOD?
thats sounds like the republican party description
This isn't about the Bible. The Poop Chute was not made for the Peeper. PERIOD.
Correct.. The "poop shoot" was made for any one of a couple hundred species of intestinal worm that hooks into the human body and perfectly takes advantage as it destroys.. Yay for Creator Jesus!!
He forgot to look over the part where it says they are apart of a list that will not inherit the kingdom of God. Guess it didn't suit his argument.
Daniel,,still trading Truth for Lies! Still hiding too i see.Ordained ? Not now. Yet still dealing in perversions of truth. Clever ! You were never enlightened because you were never a believer. You couldnt be excepted because you wouldnt let go of the world. Pride goeth before the fall. God still is unmoving and still unchanged. Who can Stand next to GOD? Daniel ?
CNN might want to mention he is a GAY theologian.
Personally I have given up referring back to the bible when it comes to any deeds of my funk zones. Ever since I saw a penis with a foreskin, and decided to "dig a little deeper" without any books just sitting there alone on the john a little upset.
The bible is complete b u l l s h i t. It is historical fiction, other wise slavery would still be with us because it says that slavery is ok. As is stoning your daughters to death....
typical right wing lies trying to make weed out to be lethal.
So...where does it condone slavery in the Bible? Please cite.
Colossians 4:1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Ephesians 6: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, a whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
Deuterotomy 15:12 – If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed.
Any other questions?
I hate to disagree with you on this one, but the truth is slavery was the system of the day. It wasn't a matter of approval, that's what the countries/empires of the time had set up. The Bible offered the best advice for the treatment of slaves, and offering slaves advice that was best for them. For instance it was law for slaves that had escaped to be flogged or put to death, and Paul argued with a slave owner, that since a particular slave had come back of his own accord, that he should be completely pardoned (and he was), As far as the ways of Christ and the Apostles were concerned, they always spoke against those who meant to start a Revolution or overthrow of the government authority (except for one instance where freedom of thought was attacked by the government). Pastors argued for slavery because it doesn't strictly forbid it, but they lost the whole lesson, as the rest of Bible obviously forbids it. The evil of slavery in the South is that all it took was a vote to easily end it, without dismissing or overthrowing the government authoirty. In empirial Rome it was a little different. If you spoke against the government itself, you would definitely have been killed. It's one of the reasons we have the famous quote from Christ "deliver unto Caeser's what is Caeser's", because the people talking to him were attempting to entrap him and get him killed by the Romans. It also shows Christians that they are to respect the authority of the government of the state that protects the basic freedom of thought. What that tells you today is, is that most "Christians" who rabble-rouse, aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing at all. There are so many Christians that don't understand what the Bible means it's absolutely insane!
@ rev fartwell. rev, please put down the "crack pipe" and blow that poisin out before you speak next time. Thank you. And this is a grown-up conversation son. Go to your room and stay out of grown folks business. Thank you.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords. (My comment: somebody is in big trouble!)
Who? Non muslims? Remember, if you're wrong and they're right you have nothing to lose by converting.. Join Islam today.