Homosexuality and the Aspiring Priests of Israel
Y'all Aspiring Rabbis?
Maybe you've seen this photo before: a man tattooed his arm with a quote from Leviticus that forbids homosexuality, unaware of the fact that the same book forbids tattoos.
This is a perfect illustration of how religious fundamentalists treat the Bible - as a convenient justification for their prejudices, picking and choosing which commandments to call the Divine Word of God, and which to consider an outdated Jewish law.
You can't have your pie and eat it too. If you choose to justify your homophobia with passages from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 ("Thou shalt not lie with a man, as with a woman: it is abomination." and "If a man lie with a man, 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."), don't stop there - obey the rest of the religious tribal law! For example, you are forbidden from:
- Eating fat (3:17)
- Touching an unclean animal (5:2)
- Carelessly making an oath (5:4)
- Tearing your clothes
- Eating an animal which doesn’t both chew cud and has a divided hoof (11:4-7)
- Eating – or touching the carcass of – any seafood without fins or scales (11:10-12)
- Having sex with a woman during her period (18:19)
- Seeking revenge or bearing a grudge (19:18)
- Mixing fabrics in clothing (19:19)
- Trimming your beard (19:27)
- Marking your skin with tattoos (19:28)
- Not standing in the presence of the elderly (19:32)
- Marrying a prostitute, divorcee or widow (21:7,13)
- Doing any kind of work on Saturday (23:3)
- Selling land permanently (25:23)
Sounds good? If you think that the Bible is an explicit Word of God, then please be obliged to follow everything it contains, not just the parts that appeal to you.
And to a larger point, the Book of Leviticus was written for an ancient Israeli tribe of priests at the time of Exodus. Here is how Baruch A. Levine from MyJewishLearning.com explains its purpose:
"Leviticus is known formally as Torat Kohanim, "instructions for the priests" (Mishnah Megillot 1:5). This title defines Leviticus as a prescription for the proper worship of the God of Israel."
Y'all aspiring Rabbis?
The Sodom and Gomorrah Story
In other words, the historical and cultural context of these passages is crucial for understanding the message.
Take another biblical "clobber passage" that gets quoted often for being "anti-gay" - the Sodom and Gomorrah story. God sends two (male) angels to find good people in these sinful cities. When angels arrive, Mr. Nice Guy Lot welcomes them into his house. This is where things get weird: the citizens demand that Lot gives up his guests so that they can do sexual things to them. Moments later the cities are destroyed, and the convenient conclusion is formed: God hates fags.
Isn't it more likely that God condemns gang rape rather than "homosexuality"? Besides, in ancient world, rape wasn't based on sexual preference; it was a form of punishment, humiliation and a display of dominance. Mass rape after a military defeat was a common occurrence, and applied equally to men and women.
Not only that, as stated in Ezekial 16:49, God disapproved of the greed and the wickedness of the Sodomites, not their sexual orientation:
"Now, this was the sin of your sister, Sodom. She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned, they did not help the poor and needy."
"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?" -- Pope Francis
"We don't actually believe gay people are sick or stunted or criminal. We don't believe God is an angry old man out to get us. Let's stop behaving as though we did." -- Revd Alan Wison, Bishop of Buckingham
What Liberal Christians Think About Homosexuality
Even liberal Christians often hesitate to clearly state that homosexuality is not a sin, and that same-sex couples should have the same rights as the straight ones.
For example, in his book the author John Shore points out that only several out of the Bible’s 31,173 verses mention homosexuality, which should be an indication of its moral irrelevance. And even when it is mentioned, it's all about the context: "UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question"
"The Bible is not a rulebook for being Christian. We would be foolish to fail to understand that not everything in the Bible is a commandment, and that Christians cannot take a small section of the Bible out of its larger context, and still hope to gain a clear understanding of that section."
So, it's just not that important and it's not a commandment.
But it's more than that. All things considered, God doesn't care who you sleep with, unless you're a Levite priest, or you're trying to rape an angel. But the Bible does mention justice, love and compassion quite a bit. When it's not talking about war and incest, anyway.
And no, gay people are not trying to purposely infect you with AIDS, as the popular televangelist Pat Robertson recently claimed on his show with 1 million daily viewers.
“You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there they want to get people so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger,” Robertson said.
Wow. And they say the Muslims are crazy.