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 am so sick of gays thinking that everyone is out to get them. Geez, as soon as anyone says something even slightly negative about gays, they get tarred and feathered by the liberal media. I think it's time we get away from all this political correctness and stand for what is right.
Agreed.. Let's stand together for the rights of gays so they aren't second-class citizens any longer.. Thanks for the encouragement to do what's right!!
The bible is nothing but an outdated history book.
I'd like to hear you say that when you're standing in front of our Lord Jesus on judgement day.
Not to question your stunning intelligence but isn't that statement redundant?
Don't think it is right but I know you can not change them. I accept the fact they are the way they are, BUT that does not mean I want to be like them. Seems these days you say you accept them and they think you are like them.
You aren't obliged to be like them – just be the best yourself you can be. Be who you are, love God, and love your neighbor even if he seems strange to you. That's all that is required.
poo-poo on the wee-wee is not a good thing.
So baby, did you find that out the HARD way?
Love is a good thing. To commit to a loving relationship that is monogamous and devoted to mutual aid, through good and bad, for the rest of your life, is a good thing. Bodily cleanness is nothing without charity of heart.
America is done she is circling the drain .....I pray to God to save us
may god be with you david
The only "word" directly from God was the ten commandments. The rest of the Bible is just hearsay...
But do you know that god gave 2 sets of 10 commandments and they are significantly different from each other
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
And that was the King Daniel version of the bible and it is wrong.
What was old King David thinking? He should have consulted your ancestors ...
I don't have any strong feelings either way on the gay marriage issue. But what's blowing my mind is how people on both sides of the fence are looking to the Bible for insight on the subject. "Hey, we need some wisdom here...let's consult the book that contains a story of a talking donkey".
"hey, lets consult that book with the story with the talking donkey"
absolutely PRICELESS observation. thanks for the laugh tonight!
Yhellooooooooo hypocrates hiding behind their religious books.
The christians are no different then their Muslim brothers. They seek to eliminate freedom and liberty, and they will gladly pass judgment on anyone. As Ghandi observed, "your christians are nothing like your Christ.".
Christians are hateful bigots who are against life, liberty and justice for all. Thomas Jefferson stood in internal opposition to the Church.
While I understand where you're coming from, I don't agree with the fact that you resort to stereotype to get your point across. Not all Christians are the same!
Leviticus 20:13 states "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; there blood will be on their own heads. " Seems pretty clear to me... Read the book - it's all in there. God love you.
The same book says that I can own slaves and sell my children into slavery.. You sure you want to stay with your answer?
First of all, do you understand the cultural context around which the Old Testament was written and translated?
Secondly, Christ died for our sins. We don't follow the Old Testament. Do you wear polyester clothing? Leviticus condemns that, as well.
The same book commands women to sit on a hill of ashes each month when she has her period. How many of the righteous women in your family do that?
I poo poo on your religion.. and every religion
Ummm. Leviticus also says it's an abomination to eat shellfish. Had any shrimp buffets lately?
Leviticus also says that shellfish is an abomination, and that you're not supposed to wear clothes made of two different fabrics, and that you're not supposed to plant your fields with two different kinds of seeds. Basically, Leviticus is absurd and you don't get to pick and choose. It's all or nothing, pal. So either start living your life by the whole thing, or stop quoting the nonsensical gibberish that it is.
Well it also says I can't wear a cotton shirt if it is mixed with something else which sucks cause I am a huge old school polyester cotton blend man. It also says I can't eat shellfish which sucks cause popcorn shrimp rocks. It also says I can't trim my beard which sucks cause I think it gets itchy after a bit. These examples are also there plain and simple.
So, are we to actually follow everything Leviticus says? Scary stuff.
Can we all agree that while the bible has lots of wisdom in it, it also has lot of questionable things on a whole range of topics?
Mick – has Hawking proved that (that something can come from nothing) or has he created a theoretical argument for why it could? Have we ever created "something from nothing" – in order to scietifically study the practice?
Plaid – with corduroy??! Are you mad??!
Atheism- the belief that there was nothing & nothing happened to nothing & then nothing magically exploded for no reason creating everything & then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason which then turned into dinosaurs.
Christianity – the belief that a god sprang out of nothingness, except he didn't, he just magically existed before everything, because he created everything even before he existed, except no the existed before that. SO what about the time before that? The christian answer is to just stop thinking about it, because thinking makes your brain hurt and tends to prove the bible is a bunch of hog wash,
Atheists don't believe any of that, and you've been correct before on this issue, you liar.. We don't believe in magic, that's you guys.. A big magic sky daddy casting spells into the dirt.. That's your stupidity..
On the off chance that you're not trolling, the school system responsible for teaching you science should be ashamed of itself. Not one single word you just said bears even a casual resemblance to scientific reality.
It's Funny SB because that is exactly what Atheists believe, I know Atheism sounds dumb when you put it in it's simplest terms.
And now I know you're just trolling, because no one could actually be so thoroughly ignorant of even basic science.
There is absolutely nothing in Physics that says that something can't come from nothing. Quite the contrary...at the risk of oversimplifying, Nothing is very unstable compared to Something. Read Hawkings if you want to learn more. Or, just listen to the poster above who doesn't believe in magic, but believes a super-powered wizard waved a magic wand and poofed everything into existence.
Actually, when you press the atheist to the ends of most of their theories, they DO end up along those lines. Ultimately something had to come from nothing – and you're willing to accept that – without any real way to explain it -except various hogwash explanations like multiverses, etc. Most people here making snide remarks here have NO IDEA what the basis is for what they believe...they just blindly believe. And yet, so many of you find it absolutely incomprehensible that it could even be conceivable that there could be an intelligent creator. The "blind faith side" is equally on both sides of this argument...
You people are a bunch of fools. Wisdom will always be above intelligence
Mick – has Hawking proved that (that something can come from nothing) or has he created a theoretical argument for why it could? Have we ever created "something from nothing" – in order to scietifically study the practice? I'm not saying it hasn't happened...but I sure don't recall hearing about it?
Any chance you could just relax and accept that we do not need to understand the origin of the Universe? It's fun to look and wonder, and sometimes we get a glimpse of science that reduces us to being awestruck (quantum physics, astrophysics, etc). But why would you walk the face of this planet pretending that you actually "know" "conversations" that took place "at the very beginning"? Doesn't that make you feel the least bit silly? Relax and enjoy life, and stop yearning for the dead end times that you predict so mightily. One might suspect that, as a Christian, you don't really like being alive in the first place.
This article is full of lies halftruths and cherry picking. A mishmash of ignoring long and many verses from torah to epistles. , ignoring fornication condemned repeatedly even going so far as to say no fornicator could enter into heaven. Psycho conspiracy theories about david and any male friends. This man has clearly never read a bible.
Indeed, let's look at what the bible says
Uh, yeah....an ordained priest who has never read a bible. And you know more than he does. Got it.
Honey, I love you, gay or straight, man or woman!! You have enlightened me and given me joy today. Thank you. Love that video.
Not to mention, even the scripture he DID site, such as the Romans 1: 26-27 is (had to be intentionally) ignoring what was said in the earlier part of Romans 1. Taking the rest of that chapter to form context, the author here is clearing distorting the facts to make his case.
People of sodomy, the fruits within, are said to be unable to be "normal" and in such abnormalness, sodomites tend to do what is their abnormal desires in abnormally viewed by others Tv eyeing controversialisms! Too much abnormalities can cause the societal constructs' normality rates to become lowered or raised depending upon one's figurative choices and/or flexible stance! Being normal in a societal construct of many abnormalisms will ever have abormality ratios in conjugating performances outside the normal barriers' ever-changing-perceivements! Hate sodomy and try to love the sodomites but in a brotherly/sisterly way! Remember well how the very young want to mimick those who their lives are touched/impressed by!
Do you recognize the sound of a brainwash?
God is so upset with this wicked and perverse generation and he will soon rain helllfire and damnation upon this abomination of a human race. Come to Jesus and be saved!
can you blame him?
" helllfire and damnation upon this abomination of a human race" So invited your pious ass to the party if all the rest of us are headed to h&d?
God told you this directly? Weird because he told me he was cool with it.
You and yours still don't get it. Judging is for God, not you. How you skip over this basic precept is sinful and you will be held accountable unless you repent.
Our generation isn't the source of what is wrong in this world. It is people like you that is why our world has hateful people that can't open their minds up for once in their life
It is amazing that for over 2,000 years the religious have been spouting this same BS, and even more amazing that there are so many stupid people around to believe it. Umm, wasn't god supposed to be taking you all up to have last May? You all sold your houses and quit your jobs and stuff, right?
I poo poo in your jesus head..
I am trying to find where 'forgiveness' fits in with all this. If Jebus is to come back and kill off all but the 144k, or God is to rain hellfire.... forgiveness not be a requirement. For all who follow 'Jesus is Lord' have you not admitted that you cannot understand what your god is up to?
"Forgive us our sin as/like/in the same way as we forgive those who sin against us." If your Jebus knew what he was talking about you all are screwed... and by a man... or is your god not a male?
You talk about the apocalypse like it's about to happen any second. where's your proof? and no the bible doesnt stand up to the scientific method sorry.
"rain helllfire and damnation..." Can't be any worse than Jersey traffic.
What a great lesson in why Jesus left his Spirit to work in the Church and gave us an authority to shepard over, and feed his lambs and sheep. Without the authroity of the Catholic Church, we would have to take thiis guys opinion as just as valid as any other dissenter. These silly men twist scripture to fit their own philosophies –
What is it called when Catholics do the twisting?
And, for some reason I feel the need to come up with a punchline.
I eat Lamb.. hummm lamb shops....
Doesn't EVERYBODY? And that, my dear is the root of the problem. Religion is a self serving pastime that puts the believer first and everyone else second. That's why it is one of the most successful pastimes on earth. It feeds frightened people just the right amount of fear and pleasure.
This article has no chance of swaying "true believers". And the rest of us don't really care what the "good" book says about the matter. I prefer to note that religious literature, especially the Bible, is the ONLY argument against tolerance, acceptance, and full legal equality, and that the First Amendment should be all the reason we need to tell the haters to go take a hike. Of course that's just my opinion. Anyone out there know of a reason to discriminate against gays, other than that God says to?
There is no reason to discriminate against gays.
Except that it is freaking disgusting...nasty...unnatural…it doesn’t produce offspring so obviously we didn’t evolve that way or we weren’t created that way whichever you believe. There is at least some hope since they can’t reproduce naturally and if when socialistic medicine finally takes hold in a few years only a few gay friends will be able to afford invitro, if they find a host or they are lesbians. By the way if you actually go and read those places the article discussed, from an objective perspective, he sounds like a plumber discussing a surgery. That aside…it just isn’t natural or useful…and it is gross…
No, Frank it is gross to you because you are straight. It is wonderful for gay people, and we are asking you to back off, for the first time in thousands of years. Your opinion of this highly personal attraction is of value to no one but yourself. It is no loss to anyone that you find man as your God created him ugly.
Hey Hey Hey.Lets not fight,but frolick toegther
History will one day judge those who now condemn and seek to strip their fellow man of his rights the same way history now judges another group who not so long ago chose to strip their fellow man of his rights and his life. Does anyone remember who that group was? They too condemned gays.
Very true! And future generations are going to look down on those who are today condemning gays...it's sad that people can't allow others to be themselves even when it doesn't effect them directly. Glad to see that we're finally moving in the right direction.