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.
Disappointing. The scholarship here is not good, and leaves out far too much. Not even a gloss of other substantive arguments. This is too important an issue to approach haphazardly, too important a conversation to be conducted in such an incomplete, misleading way. You're not helping anyone, on either side. CNN, I don't know that Prof Helminiak can do better, but you certainly can. Please.
Enlighten us with your own scholarly work, please.
These topics are funny coming from cnn....they exist to make atheist fight against christians and vise versa. If you believe its wrong, nothing will change ur mind and if u believe its ok, no one is gonna write that magical statement to change ur mind. CNN writing articles on religon is like 1940 Germany writing articles on JewishRights.
That is probably the most insightful thing posted.
Brilliant, and right on the money.
I agree these online arguments are often redundant. However most of these posts also include redundant comments like yours also, pointing out how redundant they are. Don't like it? Perhaps don't read it or criticize. It isn't moving the redundancy forward.
Department of Redundancy Department
Bravo. Well said.
While I'm far from a supporter of religous zealouts (of any religion), you sir forgot the following "verses"
Leviticus 18:22: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind it is abomination."
Leviticus 20:13: "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
Also read Romans 1:24-32
I guess you forgot the parts of the Bible that teach forgiveness...
Leviticus 27:34 "These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai."
We're all not children of Israel, nor from mount Sinai, so Leviticus doesn't apply to everyone in the world.
Leviticus 20:13: "If a man also lie(not speaking the truth) with mankind, as he lieth(not speaking the truth) with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
Pseudo article by a pseudo scholar, pseudo priest. Look at his pic...he looks drunk. Which you actually ought to be to believe this crap!
Yours is not even a pseudo scholarly response.
Gee I guess I should believe your confirmation bias over his credentials. Considering you use the concrete science of judging peoples work based on internet pictures.
Today's ad hominem argument presented by....
Every time someone throws out the "Well, the Bible says not to eat shell fish too!!! Do you eat shrimp?" argument I have to resist the urge to do a face palm. It just exposes how truly ignorant they are and only serves as a means to make them look all the more stupid. People do not even stop to think why the Bible forbids the eating of shell fish. The Israelites saw themselves as a special nation called out by God Himself. As such, they separated themselves from the other nations. This included their dietary habits. As a separate and special called out nation, they would not eat the foods that the other nations ate for they were separate from them and called out. It has nothing to do with the Bibles stance on issues of morality. Moral of the story, learn to read before you make yourself look stupid.
How do you know that hom0s3xuality isnt the same thing? It is in the same part of the Bible.
Keep in mind that for 3,000 plus years everyone knew what the correct translation was for hom-o$exuality and no one questioned why say Sodom was called Sodom. It has only been in the last 200 years that a wave of scholars that claim to know more than the people of the day and time began to toss about all sorts of twisted translations to suit their personal needs.
There are several references in the Old Testament so I do not know which ones you are referring to. Bottom line you (J.W) were either called out by God or you were not. If you are a child of God you belong in the Kingdom and nothing can keep you from where you belong. You are already a separate people / person and that which is eaten by the godless can be tasted by you or eaten but, if you are called out then you will see it as inconsistent with where you truly belong. You will be drawn to Christ and that which is Holy. You will be called to separate yourself from sinful behavior.
"Keep in mind that for 3,000 plus years everyone knew what the correct translation was for hom-o$exuality "
Where do you get this crap from a Christian website? LOL!
But as far as the original translation of the texts, the original language does not include the word hom0s3xual, and in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah it never says God is angry because anyone was gay. So it could be that what we have heard was what was twisted and it needs corrected.
Sorry, but the Hebrew Scripture was treasured and passed along very carefully. Let there be no doubt they knew what their parents told them 3,000 years ago. They did not have Google that is filled with whatever lie anybody wants. They burned and stoned anyone that would have called their sacrad laws something they were not. Look no further than the cross of Christ and you see what they did anyone that would object to their laws.
Do not get pulled into this godless talk where people are just making suff up right and left. A hom-o$exual sodomized and Priests were called to be Holy. The people of God were all called to Holy because all the Hebrew tribes followed the same laws, traditions and cerimonies. No kid would have failed not to have been instructed in what the exact laws were. If the Hebrews did anything that is well known it was there recordkeeping. Every i was dotted.
Think again they called the town Sodom and why was that?
Just to be clear on the topic Lots daughters were offered to the men and were rejected because they wanted relations with the man visitor. This is real dark stuff the purpose of which was to paint a clear picture of perversion. The place was named Sodom so that those who are called out will never have doubt as to what was meant. The place was called Sodom so that believers could identify the spirit of the antichrist that attempts to confuse the Believer. Remember our God is not the God of confusion.
What is "called out"? That's a really cryptic turn of the English language. What does it have to do with anything now? Why would self-righteous people dream that their self- ordained special standing in the universal order should affect anyone but themselves? You are staring into mud puddles and coming up with more mud. "Called out". Try "coming out", Rev. Joe, and you'll know what it means to have strength of character.
Nothing has changed with God and those who wish to fulfill their calling do set themselves apart from the world. Immorality is nothing new in the world and it is a choice to set yourself apart from the crowd. Those who do it because God calls them to do it will receive great blessing.
Yes, you are correct we are called to set ourselves apart not force you to do things Gods way. God does gives you choice so should Christians. Christians are called to keep their brothers in line and confront them when they sin. We are also called to set an example that would make others see the love of God. We fail just like every one else.
And the fact that you would feel comfortable being my policeman, keeping me in line for God, is just the kind of society America does not want to embrace. A police state of fortune-telling know-it-alls, who spy constantly in order to fulfill their self-appointed destiny is ugly beyond compare. But you, who have eyes to see and ears to hear, will not get the point.
Man you said it better than I could dream of. Christians are not made to keep the worldly in-line, but the Godly.
The opine of a Believer is not intended for the non-believer. Godly men and women have opinions, but check them against the will of God as a litmus test.
When one does not have a litmus test outside of oneself, then you are never in the wrong (unless you say so).
We are to not to police those outside the community of God as they do not believe. We are to help and serve those that reject the love of God. The best help we can give is to let them know about the saving grace and mercy of a loving God. We are not judge others as that serves little purpose and often reveals our own broken selves.
"Every person has their own truth..."
Really? So, their is no "real truth" out there, only billions of truths. Which makes all of those truths, lies.
Their is one set of truths. And while they may rub people wrong, because they don't want to live by those, it is there for the taking.
You may THINK as you wish, but where is it stated that you must IMPOSE your thoughts and beliefs as law upon others. Leave your religious zealotry out of our democratic system. The U.S. is not a country run by religious law in the way Iran is.
Let's be real. What can anyone in a clear conscience call natural about a man sticking himself in another person's anus?
Why do you think it's abnormal for someone else? Just because you don't desire it?
I don't chocolate milk. It's unnatural and no one should like it. No one should be allowed to think it's good or normal.
Why do you think it's abnormal for someone else? Just because you don't desire it?
I don't like chocolate milk. It's unnatural and no one should like it. No one should be allowed to think it's good or normal.
Chocolate milk and sodomy are not in the same class of decisions, Pipe-Crack.
Men do this thing with women also and their wives... in the rear.
Why do you care what two consenting adults do in private? Lots of male/female married couples engage in that act too. Does your god require you to peep into the windows of male/female couples to make sure they aren't doing it in that way?
Just because it's not something you want to do doesn't make it wrong.
Adam and Eve says:
"Chocolate milk and sodomy are not in the same class of decisions, Pipe-Crack."
The point is, just because you say that particular act is unnatural or wrong doesn't make it unnatural or wrong. Men and women enjoy that act together too.
I see your point, but disagree respectively. Two consenting adults commiting a "normal crime" on my daughter in private is not ok with me. The "Private" piece is of the world and its' views, no the Godly.
Those in my sphere of influence would have no problem telling me what they did in private. They would not need to, but the act and things they do (should they be brought out in the open) would not appall anyone. In fact, it would probably inpire most people.
Anyway... I do not condemn people, nor does God. HE condemns acts of sin, of which I have done plenty in my time. God loves people, not sin. The question is; who defines sin; the billions of people with a variety of opinions, or the One?
Sodomy isn't a gay thing, A and E. God, why did you make your followers so ignorant?
Did you forget that straight couples have anal s3x? Just because you only like vanilla does not make chocolate wrong, idiot.
"Respectively"?? What a friggin' dolt.
Comedy gold. This bozo thinks that it wouldn't be "appalled" by what others do in the bedroom and that their behavior might be "inspiring".
Either you're a virgin or you're simply stupid. You have no idea what people do in their private lives. None. Just because you don't get any doesn't mean others are in the same sorry boat.
I'm male and i stick my P*n*s up my wife's anus
@Adam and Eve. Oh please. For the eleven millionth time, a child can't provide informed consent.
I said two consenting adults, period, end of sentence. You added "and my daughter", and then proceeded to lecture me. Stop putting words into my mouth and then telling me I'm wrong.
And "respectively"? You're really an idiot.
Simple fact – Humans would not exist without man and woman relationship.
Thank your mom and dad for seeing it that way.
Did you think this proved something when it farted into your little brain?
Gays have never made up more than a small percentage of the human race, idiot.
Missing the point, Piper. It is ok to have a choice, God gives us the same.
The point is, you would not have that choice if you did not have a mom and a dad.
Gays have children and do procreate. LOL!
You are an idiot, A and E. There are thousands and thousands of gays who have fathered and given birth to children. They're not sterile, you dolt.
God, why did you make your followers so dumb?
Piper, I had no idea men could conceive with other men. Should that be on the talk shows?
LOL...call me an idiot. I can be stupid, but this idea of yours is silly.
You're far past stupid, dear. Take a class in basic biology and get back to me. Right after you complete English 101 and learn the difference between "respectfully" and "respectively".
You are making all Christians look bad by being so uneducated.
Please Tom, teach us how a man with sperm and another with sperm and no uterus can make a child!
Give me a second to grab some popcorn, this is going to be good....
P.S. Don't bore me with invetro or other means. That still requires a woman and a man.
Thank mom and dad too for creating gay children!
"Please Tom, teach us how a man with sperm and another with sperm and no uterus can make a child!"
Go ask an infertile couple they'll tell you how they procreated. LMAO!
Wait...so an infertile couple has a man/man or woman/woman make a baby for them?
Hetero couples are also the ones having all these gay children.
Leviticus 18:22 – "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." – the bible verse. im not saying if it does say if its wrong or not, im throwing in a verse.
The reason why God said this cannot be is simply because when a man lies with a woman, it is to make a baby. A man cannot lie with a man the same way he lies with a woman because 2 men cannot make a baby! It is not saying it is wrong, it is saying that 2 men cannot procreate.
Lev. is part of the holiness code and Christians don't follow it anymore. Next....
Hey Obvious Guy,
Do you not know the meaning of the word detestable? From a dictionary:
deserving to be detested; abominable; hateful.
Let me finish that verse with the meaning of detestable...Leviticus 18:22 – "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is ABOMINABLE." Still think that verse isn't saying that it's wrong? The bible has an answer for this generation. Near the end of time, the bible warns of an apostate church. One that will conform to the will of man and not God. We can try to manipulate and contort the truth of the bible all we want but the will of God will never change. Don't be fooled.
When you pick a verse out, you are pretty clearly making a statement. Fine if you want to make the statement; not so cool for you to try to pretend you aren't the one making a statement by picking one verse over another to bring up.
It is ironic to me that everyone who authors a bit like this has to include "The Bible is not/does not etc..". The attention getting phrases that proclaim they know the Bible. Then, they include verses that back up their point, while neglecting the whole of the Bible.
This little bit was written for personal gain. A very non-christian thing to do, but very much a worldly thing to do.
Respectfully I disagree. Cherry picking is in fact (and has always been) a very Christian thing. Perhaps what you meant was it is not a very Christian ideal thing. That ideal being your own version of course
Go find your own name, troll.
AND THIS I SAY, LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BEGUILE YOU WITH ENTICING WORDS. BEWARE LEST ANY MAN SPOIL YOU THROUGH PHILOSOPHY AND VAIN DECEIT, AFTER THE TRADITION OF MEN, AFTER THE RUDIMENTS OF THE WORLD, AND NOT AFTER CHRIST
IF I WAS A CRIMINAL, I WOULD WRITE A BIBLE BOOK AND SIT BACK AND COLLECT THE MONEY. IT IS SUCH AN EASY LIFE
I find it ironic that people can pick and choose the book or verse(s) out of the Bible that best help to argue their case when the whole Bible was put together by other people picking and choosing which books to include.
Christians think Sharia Law is immoral but impose their own Sharia Law in America. No matter what version, it's immoral to impose your religious superstition and deny others civil rights.
Hey Professor Dingleberry:
It seems as though your copy of the Bible is missing the book of Deuteronomy. Check it out and then get back to us, huh?
P.S. You may also want to ditch the books of "Wisdom" and "Sirach", and just stick to the Word of God, and seek Him for wisdom instead looking to yourself for it.
Otherwise, don't expect for true Christians to bother with your drivel past the first few paragraphs. You're a dead giveaway.
Deuteronomy also says to kill disobedient children and women who aren't virgins. You forgot about those two.
You christians only want to enforce the verses that apply to someone else.
Yet another practicing theologian who has no clue about Biblical Christianity. Sadly, there is no way to revoke the license of such a one as this who preaches false doctrines. Real believers will not be fooled or swayed.
Tell us more about your scholarly work.
Christians should care what the Bible says regarding homosexuality about as much as they care about what it says regarding stoning disobedient children to death.
You actually got it. No one could endure the law. That's why Jesus paid the price in full for every sin to all who believe and call on him. The wages of sin is death and satan brought that on all mankind. The price and punishment now forever paid because He paid the price of sin.
You can spin the Bible any way you want, but the fact is the commandment was given even before to Noah as a covenant at the time of the flood. In return, God gave Noah a symbol that he wouldn't destroy the earth by water again. That symbol: the rainbow. Google the Seven Noahide Laws.
Gays have hijacked that symbol (the rainbow) and flaunted the covenant God made with men.
To water didn’t refract light before your God committed genocide?
NIce post. Why can't you think up your OWN moniker to make it instead of stealing mine?
The rainbow is a physical phenomenon that occurs when sunlight refracts agains water droplets. "God" didn't create it, it just happens when physical conditions are met. It"s happened long before your god committed genocide.
Also, Noah's daughters got him liquored up and slept with him. Guess your god doesn't mind incest.
how about this I don't read the book much at all. But if I recall what I understand is that god didn't write the book he was a great guy he deligated to humans to write. Do you think that maybe that is where all the differance came into play?
Yes, god is all powerful, but he has terrible administrative skills. He needed men to communicate his list of rules for him.
Baloney. The bible means exactly what it says!
And no one can say exactly what the bible says.
what do you mean what it means ?
Christians are good at that.
That is what they are best at doing ,picking what they want to say is right . After 2012 years when is the ONE coming back to fix all this mess us humans are so confused.