The claim in question today is "Homosexuality is morally wrong, because God says so." I disagree. I believe that a person's sexual orientation has nothing to do with morality. Just as it would be silly to condemn a person to eternal damnation and hell-fire for preferring the use of their left hand over their right (being left-handed), I think it is equally silly to condemn someone for preferring a person of the same sex over one of the opposite sex.
Let's look at what part of the Bible supports this claim. A few sample translations from various publications include:
New International Version, first published in 1978: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."
King James Version, first published in 1982: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination."
New English Translation, first published in 2005: "You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman; it is a detestable act."
In this essay, I will explain my research findings, including key terms, statistics and historical reviews, to defend my opinion that calling homosexuality morally wrong is, in and of itself, morally wrong.
William Tyndale is commonly called the father of the English Bible. He completed the translation of the New Testament in 1526. In doing so, Tyndale introduced new words into the English language, such as: Jehovah, Passover, atonement and scapegoat.
The Roman Catholic Church was not pleased. Tyndale's translation used words like 'overseer' instead of 'bishop,' 'elder' instead of 'priest,' 'congregation' instead of 'church' and 'love' instead of 'charity'. Tyndale also argued that the Greek New Testament, which we know as simply 'New Testament' or 'the gospel', did not support traditional Roman Catholic readings.
Let's look at the definitions of these controversial words:
An 'overseer' is a person who keeps watch over and directs the work of others whereas a 'bishop' is a senior member of the Christian clergy who wields spiritual and administrative authority, even considered in some churches to be successors of the twelve Apostles of Christ.
An 'elder' is an older, influential member of a family, tribe, or community whereas a 'priest' is a member of the second grade of clergy ranking below a bishop but above a deacon and having authority to administer the sacraments.
A 'congregation' is an assemblage of people, animals or things collected together whereas a 'church' is a body of people who attend or belong to a place for public worship.
'Love' is a strong positive emotion of regard and affection whereas 'charity' is something given to help the needy.
As one can see, while the terms have things in common, they do not mean the same thing. The wording in traditional Roman Catholic readings tends towards the clergy's divine right to rule others, to mandate attendance to their sermons and towards giving monetary gifts for the support of the church. In other words, it suited their needs. Does this mean everything in the bible is continuously being altered? Not necessarily. Translators of the Revised Standard Version noted that the King James Version kept phrases and expressions which had stood the test of public usage.
However, for the sake of argument let's suppose that all the various Leviticus 18:22 passages really do mean the same thing and that the message it wants to get across is that homosexuality is an 'abomination.' Leviticus 20:13 goes on to say that it is punishable by death, the same punishment given to murderers. Christians say this implies that homosexuality is at least equal to the sin of murder and that all homosexuals should be regarded by every society to be just as much criminals as are murderers. To those who agree with this, I pose the question: should every written law in the bible be enforced? Some would say yes, that man doesn't have the authority or power to define the nature of crime. That authority is rightfully reserved only by God and therefore it is God who can best define what is evil for man. Let's take that idea and see where it goes. What does God say about other things?
"I do not let women teach. I do not let them have authority over men. They must be quiet." -1 Timothy 2: 12 (New International Reader's Version)
To those who agree with this, you might think the United States Constitution to be in direct opposition to the foundational and righteous principles of God. As Robert T. Lee, the founder of the Society For the Practical Establishment and Perpetuation of the Ten Commandments says on his website: "The constitution, particularly the first amendment, in essence states that male citizens have the so-called "right" and "freedom" to think, speak and act in ways opposite to their God-given and thus rightful role as males; and female have the so-called "right" and "freedom" to think, speak and act in ways opposite to their God-given and thus rightful role as females. In no way does the constitution encourage faithfulness to your rightful gender, but strongly discourages it by virtue of its most poisonous concepts of "rights" and "freedoms."
"As for your male and female slaves whom you may have--you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. 'Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession." -Leviticus 25:44-45. (New American Standard Bible)
To those who agree with this, you are no doubt aware that slavery is currently illegal in all fifty of the United States of America. It has been declared that human beings do not constitute as property, regardless of the color of their skin. I pose the question: why was this allowed to happen if the scriptures clearly state that you're entitled?
"Withhold not from a youth chastisement, When thou smitest him with a rod he dieth not. Thou with a rod smitest him, And his soul from Sheol thou deliverest." - Proverbs 23:13-14 (Young's Literal Translation)
To those who agree with this, did you know that the Federal legislation that provides the minimum standards that the States must incorporate in their statutory definitions of child abuse and neglect, defines physical child abuse as "any nonaccidental physical injury to the child"? Did you know that in approximately 36 States, the American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, the definition of abuse also includes acts or circumstances that threaten the child with harm or create a substantial risk of harm to the child's health or welfare? I pose the question: what kind of moralistic society, which truly valued their children, would willingly choose to preserve a child's earthly body if it meant putting at risk their eternal soul?
It is mainly passages from the Old Testament that promote slavery, sexism, child-abuse, polygamy, genocide, and other vices now that were considered virtues in their day. One argument is that when Jesus died on the cross the believer's sins were covered by blood that granted forgiveness and began a new covenant that made the laws of the old obsolete, as can be interpreted by reading Hebrews 8: 8-13. However, in the book of Matthew, chapter 5 after Christ's resurrection, in verses 17-18 Jesus says,
"Don't assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished." (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Now, we could still suppose I am misinterpreting that verse. Jesus supposedly died two thousand years ago. Why is it that less than two hundred ago, in 1865 when Congress passed the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery, were people were still quoting those same scriptures to justify keeping their black slaves? One could say that those people were misguided, that the Bible was written for a different time, when it was culturally acceptable to do those things; that the Old Testament is not used by Christians for laws we must live by, that it is basically just a history book. In that case, my argument that there are no moral grounds for condemning homosexuality still stands since the book in which it is prohibited, Leviticus, is from the Old Testament.
Some people continue to justify their hatred of homosexuals by saying that it falls under the written-in-stone, time-encompassing Ten Commandments, right there alongside "Thou shalt not commit adultery" because a man that cheats on his wife could, in theory, leave her for another man. One might wonder if the logic behind this is that if there were no homosexuals to lure one's spouse away, few marriages would ever dissolve. If so, that logic doesn't stand up to the facts of reality. According to the Americans for Divorce Reform, the United States is number seven worldwide with divorce rates at an average 45.8% due to all sorts of reasons, many of which that have nothing to do with adultery.
A study done by the Creighton University Center for Marriage and Family suggests that money, time and sex pose the three biggest obstacles to satisfaction in the lives of newly married couples, with the number one reason being money: the breadwinner doesn't make enough, the breadwinner's philosophy of "What's Mine Is Mine And What's Yours Is Mine", one or the other brought debt into the marriage, one of them has an expensive addition, such as gambling, and so on.
Other reasons for the breakdown of marriage are poor communication, change in priorities, over-commitment and physical exhaustion, getting married too young, problems with in-laws, differences in culture, failed expectations of your spouse, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, alcohol and substance abuse or other addictions.
Infidelity can logically be attributed as being a secondary reaction to any one of the other myriad of marital problems, or combination of them. The spouse becomes unhappy with their current partner and thus goes out to seek happiness elsewhere. Mind you, I am not condoning infidelity, I'm just saying I can see where it comes from.
One could argue that regardless of the other reasons, infidelity is still a big contributor to divorce rates and that anything that could be done to lessen its occurrence would be a good thing. However, this only attacks a 'symptom' of a negative life-style, and not the main issue.
Let's take the analogy of an overweight person. This person knows greasy food is bad for them, that they should exercise regularly, that they should only eat when they are hungry, not when they're merely bored or upset. The 'symptoms' of eating whatever you want anyway would be that the person might become obese, contract diabetes, develop joint problems, infertility, experience mental stress and so on. To attack the 'symptom' of being overweight, the person could start exercising, counting their calories, go on a diet, or get liposuction. The fat goes away and the person becomes 'normal' again. However, if afterwards the person continues to perpetuate their old lifestyle of overeating and lethargy their current health will not last and the 'symptoms' will inevitably return.
As it applies to infidelity, if the spouse in question continues to perpetuate their old lifestyle that caused the failure in their previous marriage, any future relationships they have will likely end the same way. The specific gender of the person the spouse has an affair with should be the least of their concerns.
Christians will often complain that people who criticize their faith make their arguments by taking the scriptures out of context. In the case against homosexuality, I accuse these people of the same crime.
As I demonstrated earlier, the wording of scripture translations are always changing. Each translation reflects the world-view, beliefs and mind set of its translators. Their personal biases distort their work. Did you ever wonder what the original text actually said? The National Gay Pentecostal Alliance (NGPA) has analyzed the verse in great detail to produce a word-for-word translation of the original Hebrew. In English, with minimal punctuation added, they rendered it as: "And with a male thou shalt not lie down in beds of a woman; it is an abomination." That is, rather than forbidding homosexuality, it simply restricts where it can happen. This may seem like a strange prohibition to us today, but it was quite consistent with other laws in Leviticus which involve improper mixing of things that should be kept separate. Much of Leviticus deals with the "Levitical Holiness Code," a code of conduct that was part of a covenant that required the children of Israel to not participate in the religious rituals of the Canaanites once they entered the promised land. They were not to eat with, intermarry, worship with or in a manner similar to the Canaanites. They were to remain "holy" or set apart. In obeying this covenant, they would prove themselves to be God's chosen people. This same code also prohibits the eating of certain foods, wearing certain types of clothes, and also discriminates against people with disabilities as it relates to worship and the priesthood.
Since women were thought to be unclean during certain times of month, they had beds of their own. Only her husband was permitted there, and then only for the purpose of having sex with her. Any other use of her bed would be a defilement. An argument against this interpretation is that it would not go well with the next verse that discusses a man or a woman engaging in bestiality. However, in defense of the NGPA translation, there is already a break in topic between verses 21 and 22 which prohibits children being sacrificed to Molech. So a second break between verses 22 and 23 would not be unreasonable.
The seriousness of this crime in Hebrew eyes was made worse by the belief that 'to lie with a man as with a woman' violated the dignity of the male gender. Women were considered property but men were the direct image of God. To treat a man the way a woman was treated was to reduce him to property and thus, to violate the image of God.
It is now the 21st century and we have let go of many of the old ways of thinking that are no longer practical in our society. I do not see how condemning homosexuality is practical today. Is it because homosexual couples can't produce offspring? What about couples where the partners are sterile, barren or simply too old? Should their love be condemned? Then why do we have adoption, surrogacy, test-tube babies, and foster children? Since those dark ages, infant mortality rates have gotten lower and people are living longer due to modern technology. At a current global population of about 6 billion people and counting, the human race is hardly in danger of dying out.
Is it because the AIDs epidemic was originally found in homosexual men? What does that matter? What if it had originally been found in blond women or short men or Muslim children or people that were left-handed? Obviously this unfortunate coincidence is just an excuse for those wanting to justify their homophobia. If every homosexual in the world turned straight overnight, would the AIDs virus cease to exist? No, because AIDs isn't caused by homosexuality, it isn't transmitted by casual contact with homosexuals, it isn't cured by sexual intercourse with a virgin, and it won't stop spreading until people are educated about it, learn to practice safe-sex and stop sharing contaminated needles.
So, if homosexuality is not an 'abomination', what is it? Homosexuality is an inborn preference, not a conscious choice to like something the person knows will turn them into hated members of society; it is a personal truth, not a mental illness that needs to be cured. This needs to be taught in our schools along with the rest of the anti-bias curriculum, to inspire tolerance and help prevent the injustices and unfairness that affect the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Transsexual, Asexual, Pansexual community and to lessen the influence of negative beliefs and attitudes about homosexuality. Otherwise we will continue to hear about tragedies like the man who was denied workers' compensation benefits following the death of his same-sex partner, the man denied CPR when the police officer found out he was gay, the life partners denied access to one another at the deathbed, and the gay teenager struggling with social hostility and isolation that turns to suicide as a solution to their pain.
Today laws against homosexuality still exist around the world, with the punishments being anywhere from a fine and 3 years incarceration in Algeria to being put to death in places like Saudi Arabia. There currently exist groups here in the U.S. like the Christian Coalition, the Promise Keepers, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and others that are dedicated to the promotion of anti-homosexual legislation, to deter them from being a protected class against hate-crimes, to stop them from getting legally married, to prevent them from adopting children, to keep their families from receiving health care, and even to mandate the death penalty for those that are sexually active.
As a country founded by people seeking to escape religious persecution, for having beliefs that differed from the norm, as a country that established a democracy proclaiming that "All men are created equal" why do we try so hard to make others conform to our personal way of life and scorn those who have the courage to stand their ground?
I'm not asking that anyone encourage their children towards homosexuality, nor that they force them to be friends with homosexuals. Just as forcing a child to say a meaningless "sorry" doesn't teach them empathy, forcing preferences and friendships won't teach them open-mindedness. What I'm asking for is not so unreasonable. I'm merely asking that we give homosexuals the chance to live normal lives; that we accept them for who they are without making them feel shame, guilt, unworthiness or fear; that we address them and treat them in a civil manner and accord them their dignity. I ask that we give them back their unalienable rights guaranteed to them as human beings and under the United States Declaration of Independence, their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I quote Chief Justice Earl Warren who, in the 1967 Supreme Court case "Loving v. Virginia" involving an interracial couple, wrote "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."
In conclusion, I hope I have given you all some food for thought, that I have provoked you to question all you've ever been told to believe about homosexuality and that I have proven in this essay that there are no moral nor practical grounds to condemn homosexuality, that the biblical law is set to the standards of an out-dated code of conduct, and I hope that we learn, once again, that it is wrong to hate someone simply because they are different.