Monday, February 20, 2006

Blood Café and Whether Homosexuality is Wrong

Project Shop Blood Brothers Cafe

Was it really more than 2 years ago that we were at the café at Project Shop Blood Brothers attempting to tuck in laksa pesto, roast beef sandwich topped with caramelised onions and caeser salad while being checked out indiscreetly by numerous tables of obviously gay men? "Gay trendy", approved Utopia Asia in its Singapore Gay Resources and Travel Tips section. Since we were neither very* gay (though we were happy with the food) nor very trendy, we discussed homosexuality.

*21 Feb: aforementioned erstwhile companions called last night protesting,"What do you mean 'not very gay'? We're not gay at all!". It's a figure of speech, guys, a figure of speech! ;-)

Ever since the present prime minister expressedly welcomed gays in the civil service and more recently, the showing of Brokeback Mountain in our movie theatres, people have felt greater freedom to discuss this topic more openly and candidly than ever before.

While Christians aren't to jump at every new perceived liberalisation in society and start witchhunts with the conservative left (or right, depending on which country you hail from), because we live to serve the true and living God, we must be aware of his view of the world that he made so as to live according to how he made us to live and do what pleases him. Current hot potatoes are also useful for introducing people to the Creator and the world he has made.

Authoritative Standard
As Christians, we take the Bible as the accurate and true word of God. And as God's word, we trust in its primacy and finality as authoritative on how God made us to live and how we should live in this world. How do we know the Bible is the word of God? There's overwhelming historical and internal evidence but its too much information to put in here. Authors like Paul Barnett, Craig Blomberg, Ben Witherington and NT Wright are a good read for this.

Biblical Prohibitions on Homosexuality
On first reading, it seems clear that the Bible condemns homosexuality (at least to those "conservative Christians" ;-)):
Genesis 19:1-8:
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, "My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way." They said, "No; we will spend the night in the town square." But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

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, that we may know them." Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof."
Judges 19:16-30:
And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites. And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveller in the open square of the city. And the old man said, "Where are you going? and where do you come from?" And he said to him, "We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the Lord, but no one has taken me into his house. We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything." And the old man said, "Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square." So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.

As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, "Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him." And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing." But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light.

And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, "Get up, let us be going." But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. And all who saw it said, "Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak."
Leviticus 18:22:
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13:
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
Romans 1:26-27:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Timothy 1:10:
the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[ doctrine,
Pro-homosexuality Arguments/Explanations of Biblical Passages
Christian advocates of homosexuality, however, have explained these passages thus:
Genesis 19:1-8 and Judges 19:16-30
The word in contention is "know", translated from the Hebrew word yada`. It has a wide variety of meanings, one of which is "to have sex with". The word "know" is used more than 100 times in the Old Testament, but only 10 times in the coital sense. Therefore, in these passages, it is more likely that "know" means "to interrogate", perhaps on the suspicion that they were spies. This was a terrible breach of the hospitality that God's people were to show (see eg. Ezekiel 16:49, Hebrews 13:2, Matthew 10:14-15, Luke 10:10-12).

Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13
These verses are part of the Holiness Code of Leviticus 17-26, which exhorts God's people to separate themselves from the practices of the surrounding nations. So in the context of their time, what was prohibited was male prostitution, which occurred outside pagan temples. It does not condemn consensual homosexual sex between equals in a monogamous loving relationship.

Romans 1:26-27
Paul was writing in the context of his time and condemning pederasty (sex with boys) and reckless, shameless male prostitution. In any case, Paul, writing within the context of a narrow-minded ancient society, knew nothing of the modern distinction between those who have a homosexual disposition and those who, though heterosexually inclined, indulge in homosexual behaviour (hence "against [their heterosexual] nature"). Hence, homosexual acts by people who are by nature homosexual are not within the scope of these verses.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10
The English phrase "men who practise homosexuality" is in the Greek actually arsenokoites. There is no known occurrence of this word prior to 1 Corinthians. The translators could be mistaken because while arseno = male and koite = coitus or intercourse, the compound word does not necessarily denote the sum of its parts (ie. the compound word "understand" does not mean under stand). In the historical context, this is a condemnation again of adult pederasts and male prostitutes, not equal companions.

Revisting the Passages
Are the pro-homosexual advocates right then? Should we get with the times and stop living in the Victorian era?

Perhaps revisiting the passages would be helpful:
Genesis 19:1-8 and Judges 19:16-30
While it is true that yada` has a wide variety of meanings and is used in the sexual sense only 10 times in the Old Testament, 6 of those times are in Genesis itself and one, within the same passage where Lot offers his virgin daughters, who "have not known any man". So it is far more likely that the men of Sodom wanted to have sex with, rather than interrogate Lot's guest.

Also, the offer of the women in place of the guests in both passages add to the sexual connotation.

Jude 1:7 likewise comments that the judgement came on Sodom and Gomorrah because of they "indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire".

Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13
There is nothing to imply that what is condemned here is forced or equal, or any indication of prostitution as in Deuteronony 22:22-29 and 23:17-18. The passages simply condemn a male who has sex with another male. This is immediately followed by a prohibition on bestality (sex with animals). It is the form of activity that is disallowed, not a question of consent or motivation or even existing relationship.

Romans 1:26-27
Homosexuality was well-known in the ancient world in all its different forms and motivations. Plato's "Symposium" trumpeted homosexuality as the highest expression of true love and Spartan propaganda advocated it for increasing military prowess. Yet, although Paul was highly-educated and well-travelled, he did not distinguish between any forms of or motivations for homosexuality but condemned it without exception.

Read in the context of the whole Bible and in the context of this chapter which talks about God's creational scheme, the term "against nature" is not merely against one's heterosexual nature but against the very way God has made humans to live, in heterosexual monogamous union.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10
The word "arsenokoites" was actually taken from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. In the Septuagint, the Leviticus passages above are translated from Hebrew as:
Leviticus 18:22: meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gunaikos
Leviticus 20:13: hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos
So it is highly likely that are the verses Paul had in mind when writing these two letters and he took his meaning from Leviticus: the blanket ban on homosexual activity of any sort.

Beyond Proof Texts
So then, the verses above should be read as condemning the practice of homosexuality. This interpretation is boosted by looking beyond these proof texts to the general biblical worldview of sex.

************

I. Project Shop Blood Brothers Cafe The Bible On Homosexuality (Blood Café and Whether Homosexuality is Wrong)
II. merge lane Beyond Proof Texts, Sex, God's Sex Manual and Homosexuality
III. Pancakes - side view The Turquiose Room, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday and Arguments for Homosexuality
IV. Homosexuality, Repentance, Change and Love
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7 Comments:

At February 21, 2006 10:28 pm , Blogger John said...

Someone linked to your site from mine, so I popped on over for a visit.

I've been in this discussion countless times, though I enjoyed viewing your additional Bible verses.

The thing I always think of is this. Leviticus mentions so many other things about what not to do [things with blood, not wearing clothes made of two materials, not having a field with two types of seed etc] but those are not held to the same punishable offense.

I was raised Catholic, and I think the best ideals I took away from it are to try to love everyone and do not judge anyone. So if we were all to practice that, and homosexuality were still wrong in the end, God would take care of that, and not the people around us.

Nicely thought out post, though. I enjoyed reading your point of view.

 
At March 02, 2006 10:26 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that the bible calls for immediate execution of homosexuals. What I don't understand is how the co called christians can take this commandment so lightly.

If you are a christian you should be calling for the death penalty for homosexuality.

Simply denying homosexuals marriage or jobs of their choice or housing of their choice demans the word of god.

Think of it this way. God cleary says adultery is a sin and yet nobody suggests that adulterer shouldn't get married. Nobody says murders shouldn't get married even though they are violating the first commandment.

Enough is enough. God says to kill homosexuals not to merely prevent them from marrying or joining the military.

 
At March 02, 2006 10:36 am , Anonymous Michael said...

Given your clear preference for Biblical law, I thought I'd ask for some clarification some other bits I found interesting:

In Leviticus 15:19-24 I see that touching a woman during her menstrual cycle makes me unclean. Given the common, immoral standard of casual contact (such as handshakes) between the genders, is there a standard protocol for enquiring about this?

Leviticus 25:44 tells me that it is permissible to buy slaves from a foreign nation. Can you suggest a good price for a quality slave, and what points I should haggle over?

Related to the previous question, Exodus 21:7 tells me I can sell my daughters into slavery. How much can I reasonably ask, and what tips do you recommend for making them more attractive to buyers?

Exodus 35:2 says those who work on the Sabbath are to be put to death. Do you have any recommendations for quiet executions that won't get me in trouble with the local authorities?

Leviticus 19:27 says that I'm not supposed to cut my hair or beard. I don't have a problem with the hair bit, but I don't grow very good beards. Isn't there allowance for aesthetics?

Leviticus 11:6-8 says that touching the carcass of a dead pig makes me unclean. Should we then protest the gridiron or the American football league?

Leviticus 11:10 also tells us that seafood without fins and scales are also abomination. Should we be lobbying Congress for a Constitutional Amendment to ban shellfish?

With all of the swearing and blasphemy prevelant in our society, do we have enough stones to throw at people as required by Leviticus 24:10-16.

Leviticus 19:19 says we're not supposed to mix linens with woollens. How am I supposed to stay warm on days when it's too chilly to go without a jumper, but too light to bundle up like a polar bear?

But most importantly, what happens if someone rejects the Bible as the only authority for morality and human existence?

 
At March 03, 2006 12:22 am , Blogger David Ben-Ariel said...

I'm impressed at how well thought out and calmly presented your article comes across and heartily congratulate you on it.

Further information on this subject can be found within God and the Gays: What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.

I wrote it years ago when I saw the Church of God didn't have anything like it and that we NEEDED it.

Some might also be interested in Scarlet Letter: a Christian with AIDS

Does God Heal Today?

and last but not least:

Brokeback Mountain Blues

All the best, now and forever,
David Ben-Ariel

 
At March 07, 2006 10:13 am , Anonymous AJ said...

anonymous on 2 March and michael - if you are not trolls, your questions are easily answered.

 
At April 02, 2006 6:22 pm , Blogger bill_violin said...

Very interesting and quite challenging thoughts...thank you..a lot to chew on actually...it will take some time (if not forever) to understand..

 
At May 05, 2006 7:11 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Came from this link:
http://www.bestgodblogs.com/2006/03/

 

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