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Homosexuality In The Bible

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Today, many people throughout the United States have been taught by their family and/or religion to be open-minded, and accepting, with the capacity for empathy and understanding. With that background, some never have any difficulty accepting homosexuals for who they are- human beings born with a different sexual orientation than most. The difficulty has been in understanding the view of those who use the Bible to condemn homosexuals. Some uninformed personalities can be found rattling off Bible verses calling homosexuality an abomination and calling for the death of all homosexuals. Thus these verses often confuse many who hold the opposite opinion regarding homosexuals. The Catholic Church now supports the notion that homosexuality is an inborn trait, just as heterosexuality is. Thus hearing people use the Bible to condemn homosexuals doesn't make sense, because the loving God that many believe in, would not create people a certain way and then condemn them for being that way.

In the literature found on the subject, there seem to be six main bible passages that are utilized by many to condemn homosexuality. The first of these is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:26-19:29. This passage is probably the most famous instance in scripture where homosexuality seems to be condemned. In fact, it was in this story that the word "sodomy" was coined. The story begins with two angels arriving in Sodom and being invited into Lot's home as guests for the night: "But, before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we may know them.'" Then, Lot went out to speak to the men and offer them his virgin daughters to do with as they pleased, but the men carried on. The angels then struck the mob blind and warned Lot to leave the city with his entire family because it was to be destroyed for its wickedness. Taken literally, those against homosexuals exert that this story means that the men of Sodom wanted to have sexual intercourse with the strangers and that God annihilated the city for that reason.

However, this passage is not as clear-cut. For one, the men's request to "know" the strangers does not necessarily mean that they wanted to rape them. There is no really clear understanding of their intent. The verb "vadha" ("to know" in Hebrew) is mentioned 943 times in the Old Testament. But, only 10 times does it refer to sexual intercourse, and then it is referring to heterosexual relations between husband and wife ("Homosexuality in the Bible: Interpretation" 2).

It is very possible that the intent of the crowd was to rape the angels. However, this can be explained by looking at the context of the times. According to a major study of homosexuality in the Greek world, anthropological data indicates that human societies at this time subjected strangers, newcomers, and trespassers to anal intercourse as a way of reminding them of their subordinate status (Witt 3). The attempted rape is not necessarily of sexual deviance, but of an arrogant and violent society. The only homosexual practice that this passage could condemn is the practice of male rape as a means of humiliating others (Vasey 125). But is this a condemnation of homosexuality in general? Probably not, because rape is a far cry from the act of consensual sex, whether it is homosexual or heterosexual.

Continued study of the Bible also points out that Sodom is referred to throughout the Old Testament as a place of wickedness, but nowhere does it state that homosexuality was the wickedness in question. Among the sins attributed to Sodom are pride, for in Ezekiel 16:49-50 the following is proclaimed, "This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it." The only terms in this passage that could pertain to homosexuality are "abominable things." But, according to Hebrew dictionaries, the Hebrew word interpreted to mean "abominable things" is usually associated with idol worship (Witt 2). Also, in Matthew 10:14-15, Jesus even says that Sodom was destroyed because it was a place that was lacking in hospitality to strangers (Gomes 152). This view seems clearly supported by the Bible passage.

The debate about homosexuality in the Bible continues with Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which has become the central battle cry for the anti-gay movement among Christians. Leviticus 18:22 reads, "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination." Leviticus 20:13 proclaims, "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them." Literally, these statements seem to be very definitive in saying that homosexuality is a capital crime punishable by death. But, again it is helpful to look at them in context. These verses are part of the "Holiness Code," a comprehensive series of ethical and ritual laws found in Leviticus, that was designed to provide a standard of moral behavior to distinguish the Jews from the Canaanites that they live among (Witt 4). The code was necessary in order to build the nation of Israel and avoid being absorbed by the people around them. Therefore, the rules in Leviticus were designed in a very particular setting for a specific purpose. They are fundamental laws for the formation of a frontier community in which a cultural identity was forming and procreation would be the key to survival (Gomes 154).

The reason that homosexual activities were a threat to cultural identity in that time goes back to "abomination." Once again, the Hebrew word for it has a strong connotation of referring to idol worship. Since the Canaanite culture included fertility rites that were actually various types of sexual intercourse in the temples, any identification with those rites was considered displeasing to God. An abomination is this context is something that the Canaanites do, but that in and of itself is not necessarily evil or an abomination of the Commandments (Gomes 154). Thus, homosexuality is an abomination in Leviticus not because it was inherently evil, but because the Canaanites did it and their pagan practices were to be avoided.

Another interesting aspect to consider is the other rules set forth in the Holiness Code. Other prohibitions in Leviticus forbid husbands from having sex with their wives during menstruation, cattle inbreeding, wearing garments made of two different kinds of material, tattoos, round

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