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.
who cares, why force someone to follow a different belief as long as they are happy, let them be happy and to hell with the bible
Amen! You just said a mouthful. And you are right.
OK one more question...
This is a biggie and has really not ever been answered properly....
Why do people believe that the Bible is the actual 'Word of God'?
I mean really. Someone please answer this one. And don't say it's because it says so in the Bible!
We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. And out of it we get an aggregation which we consider a boon. Its name is public opinion. It is held in reverence. Some think it the voice of God.
Because it makes the Bible easier to blindly follow. It's comforting for people to have all of life's unknown's completely ironed out. Belief in a Bible written by fallible, flawed human beings whose observations can be contested doesn't do that. Belief in a Bible written by God does.
People are never going to agree on this subject. It is futile that people post here trying to convince the other side or argue their point. That is what makes all of this pointless and stupid. If people had God's love and concern in their hearts, there would not be judgment of others and hatred of people... and people would put there arm around their neighbor and work to understand them and help them in life. I gave up on all of you. No one is going to change me from knowing what I know in my heart.
This was a very good article. It's interesting how people use their religion to justify their actions toward others, yet they don't fully understand what their religion teaches. I respect all beliefs and their followers. I just wish they wouldn't impose their beliefs onto others. We really do need a separation of church and state. Religion to some degree has guided our laws, but there is a huge difference between killing and stealing and telling peopke how to live their lives.
The powers of darkness are alive and well on planet earth.
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."
As MoHoney asks on page 38:
OK had!!! to share this post on same subject from another website!!!! We shouldn't take things out of context to suit our own agendas. The Bible "clearly" states many things. Help me out on the following:
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine says that applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrafice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
4. I have a neighbor who insist on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 31:14 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police do it?
5. Lev. 21:20 says that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
6. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?
7. I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
8. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary to go through all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev 24: 10-16)? Couldnt we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev 20:14)?
Just asking. My personal favorites are:
"“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
John 15:12 ESV
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
Ephesians 4:32 ESV
But who needs those anymore, right?
you're killing me over here.
I would love to reinterpret the whole bible like you just did. Would make for a whole lot of laughs for a few hours at least.
It was priceless. Thanks.
Turn the light on in your own little house before you choose to condemn others to darkness.
Really, momoya. Your assertion is disingenuous at best. Quoting the Old Testament as the basis of your questions is not that clever either. Any layperson knows there is a New Testament that supercedes the Old Testament. Since you have a hard time understanding the bible in general, consisting quoting it out of context, maybe you should concentrate on one idea at a time and study it thoroughly to show yourself worthy to teach someone else about Scripture. I have yet to see you make one valid assertion about the bible.
Jesus himself defined marriage in Matthew 19:4-6.
Gays are in and the Bible is out.
I read the passage and Jesus does not mention the word marriage anywhere in it. Please provide the passage where he does.
That was referring to divorce big guy.
Sacmar – I accidentally hit 'report abuse' on your comment. I apologize sincerely, I thought it was a 'reply' to your comment (anyone know how to undo that??) ... to answer your question read the text further because in v.7 they asked Him, "Why then did Moses...give a certificate of divorce...?" His answer responds to that question concerning divorce thereby telling them and us reading the Bible He is referring to marriage.
you quoted a verse from the bible about DIVORCE?????????
And seems to have specifically excluded gays. Matthew 19:10-12. Usage of eunuch to include gays continues to this day. (Google "Mumbai eunuchs" for an example), This may be why so many followers of Jesus cannot use His words to support
Lurking beneath anti-gay forays, you inevitably find religion and, above all, the Bible.
Is how the writer wants to direct public views. What is never spoken is Science. Think about this...
Smokers, drinkers, workers all need mental help to break away from these bad habits, ask any psychiatrist. But if you want to cut your private off to be something your not, well that is completely normal.
If you want to penetrate another person in their ears eyes, nose, or cornhole, theres nothing wrong with that. Just ask any psychiatrist.
"[T]hose shameful acts against nature, such as were committed in Sodom, ought everywhere and always to be detested and punished. If all nations were to do such things, they would be held guilty of the same crime by the law of God, which has not made men so that they should use one another in this way" (Confessions 3:8:15 [A.D. 400]).
Can one of you people that quote the bible against gay people explain why the passages about eating shellfish, mixing types of clothing, etc, can be ignored, when they are clearly abominations as well? Please just one person answer this rather than ignoring this when someone posts it?
There is no just reply to your question. It doesn't make sense at all. People want everyone to believe only what they believe... and they are unable to accept anything that someone does outside their own beliefs. If they need to ignore part of the Bible to make their point, they ignore it and never even talk about it. Ignore it and it goes away. hahaha! Personally, I love shellfish.
Moral law, ceremonial law, civil law. Know which is which, it's not that hard with a little effort.
I would love to see these same people explain why they pick and choose which bible passages they choose to follow because I can bet you that none of them agree with:
Marry your rapist
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay
fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her,
and he will never be allowed to divorce her.
They are all hypocrites that pick and choose who to hate and discriminate against.
The Old Testament had its own set of laws to reach Heaven and should be used for history and learning. If you read it God means what He says, if someone faltered or sinned they could be put to death instantly. There was no grace. But Jesus Christ son of God came to this earth to save people who followed Him as He follows God. The New Testament is where you will find what Jesus/God requires, to repent, be baptized for your sins and followHim. By following Him, you are agreeing He is the Master and is someone to be obeyed. All sin is equal, murder is not more of a sin than lying, etc. One sin can keep you out of Heaven which is why grace and forgiveness of the New Testament is so important. Every day you should try to do His Will, some days it is easier than others! If you have never read the Bible, start with the New Testament and use the Old Testament as reference. Think of it thisway the Old Testament was the first will and then when someone rewrites their will the new will supercedes the old one. Hope this answered your question.
Mel, look at the answer DIRECTLY above yours. That text in Deuteronomy falls under the judicial law of Israel and was for Israel ONLY from that period of time. It's not like that anymore.
No good answer, just as I thought. Law at that time? Well we can make new laws whenever we want. Perfect.
Hi, Jen. The law regarding fabrics is found in Deut. 22:11: 11 “You shall not wear a garment of different sorts, such as wool and linen mixed together." It's not referred to as an abomination, but it is a practical law given to the Israelites through Moses. You'll notice there is no related consequence to the breaking of this law; the consequence would simply have been a waste of fabric when the garment fell apart.
As for the eating of shellfish (as well as pork), this was a law which existed before the Levitical priesthood. You can see that God created some animals as "clean" and others as "unclean" going all the way back to Noah. (Genesis 7) God gave each animal/creature a purpose. For our own good, He made it clear which ones were healthy for us to eat and which ones weren't. I personally follow these health laws because I believe science has proven God right. Shellfish and swine are not healthy meats because of what they eat and how they digest their food.
There are many Levitical laws (the ones originating with Moses after the Exodus) which simply do not apply to our current culture. When Paul speaks of dying to the law, he's referring to the Levitical, sacrificial laws of the priesthood which became null with Christ's sacrifice. He shed His blood for our sins, making the physical object lesson of the blood of the bulls, goats, etc., unnecessary. However, Christ Himself kept the law of the commandments (which existed long before Moses: see Genesis 26:4-6) and told us to do as He did.
I hope that helps you understand why people like me observe some O.T. laws and not others. I don't post this to preach or to convert. I just saw Jen's question and wanted to give an honest explanation. Please don't abuse or judge me for my beliefs, as I don't abuse or judge you for yours, all you readers out there.
Thanks Lynn! Appreciate the intelligent answer.
Oh for goodness' sake. Another person trying to do contortions to interpret scripture to fit his agenda. Please show us where Jesus rejected the Jewish purity laws or said they should no longer be followed–he didn't, that started with Paul. Jesus preached that the Jewish laws were *not enough*, that the *thought as well as the deed* were what mattered. This ADDS to the sinfulness of the act, it doesn't excuse it.
Imagine e surprise these so called Christians will face when they are turned away at the gates of Heaven. When they ask Saint Peter "Why?" he will tell them "I am sorry my child, but you have twisted His word to spread a message of hatred and intolerance and that is a sin He cannot forgive."
John 1:12-13 (ESV)
12. But to those who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. 13. Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
The "him" and "his" in this verse is Jesus. I'll let this verse speak for itself.
The bible is hogwash myth.. Let the verse "speak for itself."
@ Brandon Brown
Mathew 7 :21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Religion is a sociopathic mental disease. It's victims are driven to infect others, including YOUR CHILDREN thought grammar-school textbooks. Parents, pay attention to your kids' textbooks, as they continue to try to get at your children and force their religion down our kids' throats.
As usual, CNN is trying to peddle off a guy with a clear agenda as being open minded and an intellectual. Helminiak is an ADMITTED GAY EX-PRIEST and is a member of DignityUSA, a GAY organization whose stated goals are to undermine the Catholic Church and promote gays in the priesthood. What a surprise.... the guy is now "discovering" that HIS interpretation of the Bible is that it "endorses" his actions and behaviors. Shocker.
What next CNN? Allowing a holocaust denier to claim his views are legitimate, just because he says so?
Any priest who says what you want to hear is fair-minded, but any priest who says what you aren't comfortable with has an agenda.
So do you get upset when a pastor writes an article for CNN?? Do you accuse them of bias because they're biased towards what they are talking about?? You realize that's what you're doing here, don't you?
There was once another group who sought to condemn gays and strip them of their rights. Do you remember who they were?
@funkymonkey, you are talking about Nazi's correct?
@spockmonster – you are correct.
so what you are trying to say is because he is gay that he has an agenda and what he spoke of was all LIES??????
You are pathetic. Sit down.
how is this style of interpretation ok when so many christians are blamed for stretching the words of the BIble, giving justifications for things that aren't there? Isn't that somethings that skeptics constantly bash us about? And so now this is ok?
@uh: his method is ok, because he
1) isn't preaching about punching gays or breaking their wrists
2) he is using the scripture in it's correct format based on the time period it was written in
3) he is expressing his opinion without forcing any of you christian freaks to read it, you did that yourself.
4) he goes through and explains the points the christians are fond of using to bash gays, but don't understand enough to use properly.
5) he is correcting evangical preachers that are merely bending the bible to suit their needs.
Every item you listed could also be stated about a pastor or leader that disagrees. You haven't answered the question; you simply justified the ignorance.
I found your article about the serious subject of equal rights for gays, in which you used an in-depth study of fairy tales to refute those would would use those fairy tales to deny gays rights, humorous and sad at the same time.
Since I am not a child of God I am therefore a child of Satan.
You are gay; Bible states you go to hell 🙂
The bible states you will go to hell for alot of reasons. "And on that day many will cry Lord, Lord, and I will hear them not. They will say'Did we not do works in your name?' and I will set 'Get out, I do not know you.'"
The conservative vocal hateful christians do not represent the majority, these are the Taliban of christianity.
dayboss: You obviously need to re-read the article.
The Bible also says if you are a hater, you go to hell. So one way or another we will end up in the same place. Relax and stop being judgemental.
1 Corinthians 11:11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
The Bible is very clear on this subject. Anyone who says otherwise is in denial.
Oh yes. The Bible as the ultimate truth. Deary me.
I'm sure you eat kosher. I'm utterly convinced that you are in favor of slavery. And you probably believe that if your wife was to defend you by grabbing another man's junk, you would then be forced to cut off the hand that she did it with.
What do all these things have in common? They come from the Bible.
Matt you are an idiot and he is why
1 Corinthians 11
On Covering the Head in Worship
2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
7 A man ought not to cover his head,[b] since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own[c] head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
it's just ANOTHER SAD example of someone cherry picking the bible.
Its about having your head covered. Really it's saying that women are not equal to men. How s.e.x.i.s.t.!
God created religion to weed out the intellectually inferior. Reject the Bible and the Word of Man and join God in heaven!
Which was written by a bunch of half wit men that was seeking a way to control the ignorant people. Gee not different than today- called pastors and parishoners.
Sounds like your talking about your half wit messiah – Obama.
i think a sizable number of people would support the christian position more if the christians weren't so ridiculously hypocritical.
if people want to make gay marriage illegal, so too should divorce and women walking around without covering up their heads.
the only people not laughing are the ones who just realized you guys aren't kidding : (