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 what the bible says. Gays are screwed up in the head, that should be the issue. I don't hate gays , do what you want to do but why do you have to get married. Just @#$% each other and shut up!!
equal protection under the law, mikey
mike do us a favor and don't reproduce. You are not ready to handle the truth let alone the responsibility.
Why? Aren't you "equally protected"? On what law? Are straightmen allowed to marry another staightmen or straightwomen to another straight women if they choose to?
Are we allowed to marry our grandparents if we mutually agree and will not harm other people?
No, you guys don't need equal rights and protection but special treatment like of the special children.
@BOUNDARIES: You made no sense. If straight men are marrying straight men, then it might potentially be safe to as.sume they are not STRAIGHT!!! As for the grandparent thing...what a moronic thing to question.
"No, you guys don't need equal rights and protection but special treatment like of the special children."
Everyone need equal rights and protection. 14th amendment.
I am a straight middle aged man in long term loving relationship with a woman i am going to spend the remainder of my life with.
I am tired of the self-proclaimed pious creeps denying others their civil rights.
Insert your bigotry far up your rectum
also, boundaries, if you want to marry granny and she wants to marry you, you both have issues.
the writer is a blind man leading blind people, mis-interpreting God's words to support vain and evil act of being gay. in the biginning God created male and female not male and male or female and female only. Everything God created were for a purpose, the purpose of creating male and female is very clear. God will judge all of you that wants to destroy the works of God-remember; it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God!
It's all pick-and-choose hypocrisy. Many Christians ignor the Golden Rule and chose verses that promote hatred of gays.
Samson: First, you have no authority to speak for god. Secondly, your empty proxy threats are laughable. Now, slave, get back on your knees
"vain and evil act of being gay"
interesting how you equated an act with a characteristic.
it would be as ludicrous as "you support the vain and evil act of having blue eyes"
That's all well and good if you could demonstrate, in any way, that your supposed God had anything at all to do with creating anything whatsoever. First you assume...without any reasonable evidence...that your God even exists...and then you go further by claiming that he created everything based on stories told thousands of years ago by ignorant primitive men.
Sorry...but that kind of logic just doesn't wash.
"vain and evil act of being gay"
Did you come up with that on your own or did you use the buybull to do your thinking? You have no idea as to what you speak of. Nobody who is gay is doing anythign wrong...in case you missed the studies that post-date your buybull, being gay is something purely natural-it is the way a person is born. You Are A Bigot!
"It's a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God"
Given that you did make that statement...tell us why any of us would want to spend time with a thing like that. You can't know what would happen any more than a 3 year old child could tell us what her imaginary friend would do, after all they are one in the same.
God does NOT exist
He doesn't look blind to me.
Do you even know why you hate gay people? What did they do to you? Jesus said love thy neighbor...that includes gay people. If what they do is wrong, God will deal with that, your job is to treat them equally. I'm not sure how religious rules would affect law in America...especially since everyone is so opposed to Sharia law being used. You can't have it both ways people.
NonSeq: A quick comment before sleep. Yes, those questions concern alot of people. I found this helpful: "Same-s.e.x marriage was outlawed on December 16, 342 AD by the Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans". Theodosian Code 9.7.3 (per Wiki History of Same S.e.x. Unions). One of many changes that "marriage" has gone thru. Your other questions are complex and I share the concern. But it seems to me that questions of what MIGHT happen in the future aren't a valid basis to deny civil rights that are clearly due now. Goodnight.
Wow...I guess it's hard to express yourself here. My post didn't make it. I guess the Bible is bigoted to some. hmmmm
You are banned.
Yes, the moderator censors people who try to quote the Bible.
Sheesh... can't you even read down the page a bit to see the possible reasons for your post not appearing before popping off?
There is no sin that the human mind can not justify.
There is nothing that the human mind cannot justify; and sin is relative.
I rest my case
Provehito in altum.
Nor is there any god that the human mind cannot imagine
Mr. Helminiak is playing fast and loose with the original Greek text. If I were to list his mistakes, there would not be enough room. He addresses his arguments to those untrained or unfamiliar with the original languages; or those who will not take the time or do the work to check out his arguments. All I can say is look at what he says the text is saying, find a good apparatus like the Nestle-Aland instead of the Textus Receptus, and do the work. The BlueLetterBible is a perfect place to look online. You will find out how much Mr. Helminiak is imprecise, incorrect, and misleading. The problem is, of course, who will take the time and put out the effort to do this?
The entire bible is fast and loose, like your mom.
The worst part is not even how he takes things out of context or pretends to know how to translate, it's that he takes Jesus' teaching that we need to live a higher law (not governed by lists of rules) and manipulates that to mean that we don't have to live any law. Regardless of beliefs, this is embarrassing logic.
@non – unless you knew Jesus, you're of no authority to know his mind. And in any case, it just doesn't matter. The legal definition of something has no bearing on the religious definition.
Just for the record, this author butchers and dices each reference he cites. If you really want to know for yourselves....look at each of his references i.e) Romans 1:26-28, and take 5 minutes to read the chapter.
Never seen a christian who does less than butcher and dice this book to their own profit. Move along.
My religion teacher in college taught the same interpretation of the bible as this man explained. Being gay is not an issue with God or Christ, only with crazy, hateful, bigoted Christians. Please tell your conservative ad Christian leaders that hate is not an American nor a Christian value.
Thank you, sir.
Remember that God hates sin.
Well said, thanks.
JW: And you obviously feel that this edited, translated iron age hearsay is the word of . It would be funny if it weren't so sad
God is holy. Of course He hates evil. But He loves people. Just wants them to quit sinning.
JW: God is a creation of man.
Anyone who would consider an INNATE CHARACTERISTIC a "sin" has a very f'ed up sense of morality
Yes, being gay has never been an issue but the act thereof. Leviticus 20:13.
@myklds: So they can be gay as long as they do not act on it? That's simply bigoted!
mykids: so, if it is an innate characteristic, god made them that way. if god made them that way, does god want them to go through life without physical intimacy?
If Kim Kardashian can get married, so can anyone else... This is a secular civil right issue, where religion need not be in any way whatsoever part of the law governing all Americans. What part of, "All people are EQUAL" can't anyone comprehend? To me it makes sense that a black American president would endorse equality. He would have gone down in history as a hypocrite if he didn't. If your religious texts tell you to break the secular law ruling the land you live in. – then, that religion shall be exterminated with a plague or gas.
I suppose Atheists do know a lot about the Bible but Hatheists give them a bad name!!!
"the first 5 chapters"
I'm sorry but cud u buy a Bible n read so that u become a sound Atheist! They are pretty nice guys too!
Nii: People don't have to even buy it. The Mormons are happy to give a copy along with a copy of The Book of Mormon. It's not just Atheists that take it out of context, everyone has their own idea according to how they interpret it personally.
The author admits that gay acts (and adultery) are listed as "an abomination," but makes a wild leap in logic claiming that because Jesus said that mere acts of piety are not the same as a pure heart that this somehow means that we can disregard all rules of purity?! Jesus was saying that even looking on a woman with lust was impure, not just the act of adultery itself, but this author somehow interprets that to mean that we can do whatever we want. Jesus wanted a higher law, not a free-for-all. Doesn't take much brains to get a degree these days apparently.
You are aware that the book , Leviticus, that you are using to condemn ho.mose.xuality also promotes selling your daughter as a se,x slave, right? That's the book that you want to use as your moral compass? You have no problem with daughter se.x slaves in this country, is that what you are saying?
What verses are you using to interpret that?
Oops. My mistake. It's in the book of Exodus. So you are free to continue hating gays as long as you agree to ignore the other 65 books.
If you saw my other comment below, I actually like gay people, but am just hesitant about changing the definition of marriage. Christ said love your neighbor, so I do, and I don't judge, and I don't want to judge, that is for God alone. The other books in the Bible also taught me that. I still don't know what you are even referencing or what conclusion you are trying to make though.
I am married (civil ceremony) and straight, raised Episcopalian. For the past several days I have been reading messages on various blogs on different websites that have sprung up on this debate. Most can be dismissed for combinations of nonsense, name calling, preaching, raving, and – leading them all – saying that those whom you (based on God's word, supposedly) say should be killed. A pox on both your houses for such. But amid all were some interesting points and comments that merited some thinking, reading and research – on both sides. It was interesting and informative to do that reading - which I will continue. Many here know more than I – but even more exhibit an incredible inflexibility in the face of some valid concerns expressed by others. If it comes to a vote, I will vote for gay marriage. The issue of various religions with different beliefs, the age / time of the books of King James (the only one I know, so far), translation issues, society changes since they were written all are valid issues to me. Also, denial of what are clearly civil rights to a minority based on such religious criteria isn't acceptable. Its called Equal Protection. The writings of the country's Founding Fathers carried weight for me. And finally – Render unto Caesar. I would very much like to see a discussion – not a debate – between experts from both sides. So shake hands and come out fighting – but try to keep the gloves on. Your comments will go much farther.
Thanks for the reasonable, well-presented conclusions. I too can see both sides, although maybe for now I fall to the other side. I agree that politics has become ridiculously infiltrated with religion when it was never meant to be... we seem to embrace the same culture of third-world dictatorships that our country should be run by zealots of our religious faith rather than people with great principles and ideas for this country. On the other hand, if we change the definition of marriage, then where do the changes end, i.e., what other minority beliefs will be excluded, or what other belief systems will we need to allow? Perhaps we've already screwed up marriage so much that it doesn't even matter anymore though.
What does it matter what the Christian bible says about marriage? This isn't a Christian country. Many different religions have marriage, and some still allow polygamy. State marriages should be separate from church marriages. Gays could get married by the state if their church doesn't permit it. If they want their church to start permitting it, then that is a different battle to fight later, one church at a time.
Just check ur post for all 3 letter combinations that may be considered profane and divide them with a redundant character.
e.g. ti.t in Consti.tution
This article proves that most gays like I know them wud prefer the Church to your company and I wonder why its that way? I wudn't use the Bible to justify Hatheism to remain in the Church, wud u?
The IQ of the whole internet drops everytime you post.
WastedFact you are ridiculous. Its obvious that the Christian wingnuts are the ones forcing their views on others. You let gays marry and leave them alone, it has nothing to do with your life if you are not gay. Conversely,, the zealots want to dictate what people do in their private lives base upon their religion.
I find it funny that hatheists masquerading as "gay rights activists" seem to think xtians hate gays! Then y do some of them find it safer in US than in Eastern Europe and china which are predominantly atheist or in Africa which is predominantly Animist?
What as asinine comment.
Firstly, in what planet is eastern Europe predominantly Athiest? Poland it probably the most catholic state outside the vatican. The only state which atheism holds any sway at all 9and is still a minority) is the czech republic.
China is a brutal totalitarian dictatorship. You think THAT might have anything to do with it?
Right. Nii, you don't hate them. You just want them to have lesser rights.
@sam: Nii does not believe that lesbians are in the same category as men when it comes to this topic because there is no penetration. It proves how little he knows of the definition of the word gay. He, himself, has his facebook 'interested in' as being both men and women but yet says he is not bi and that he only does it because he likes them as people. Once more that just shows his lack of comprehension skills in the real world. We must remember that this man's main source of education comes from the seminary, not a real college. I suspect that real college was much too difficult for him, so he took the easy-lazy way out and decided to give up thinking for himself all together.
Truth: I don't think that lesbians are in the same category as men. Especially if they are young and hot (the lesbians, that is)
Moses wrote the first 5 chapters of the bible, and he has God refer to himself as "We" in genesis. I think there is good in the bible, but I think moses was completely schizophrenic. There may have been truth in what he said, but when you read verses like:
Deuteronomy 11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.
You can see he was pretty nuts. How many of you chop off your wives' hands? Exactly. Lay off gay people.
that's correct, he used the name Elohim, which is the first mention of the Trinity.
Why is CNN not letting my comments post? Do they edit out all logic and only post insanity?
Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
cu-nt.....as in Scu-nthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
p-orn… as in p-ornography
pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.
Jesus was saying that even looking on a woman with lust was impure, not just the act of adultery itself, but this author somehow interprets that to mean that we can do whatever we want?! Jesus wanted a higher law, not a free-for-all. Apparently it doesn't take much to get a degree these days.
We don't like you, that's all.
As stupid as your name-calling is, u believe calling someone gay who is not but is a revered ancestor of the greatest teacher of ETHICAL monotheism is like giving him applause! *smh* NONSENSE!!! Then why call me a Neanderthal when there is nothing wrong with being one. U need help!!!
What the hell are you even talking about? Are you using an online translator? Try a better one.
Neanderthals didn't make the cut in evolution, fucknut. There was a reason. Dwell on it.