Traveling Inward to Come Out: Part 5

Political Discussion, religion

So let’s take a hard look at the context of the Old Testament commonly used to justify an anti-gay perspective using the model discussed yesterday.

  1. Interpretation being based on author’s intention (historical, grammatically, culturally and literally), not the reader’s.
  2. Interpretation of individual verses should be done within the context of the whole.
  3. Using the whole of the bible to help interpret itself. This means interpreting difficult or ambiguous verses with clear ones. If one believes in the law of non-contradiction, it is important to remember that as soon as an interpretation of the bible reveals a contradiction, it is not the bible that is inaccurate or contradictory, it is the interpretation or the logic that got one there…
  4. Being cognizant of distinctions between the Old and New Covenant.

 

First Passage

Verse Link to parallel translations Link to original translations
Genesis 19:5-7 (Sodom and Gomorrah)

and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” 6But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, 7and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly.

link link

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is often used as the definitive proof of God’s wrath toward homosexuals because all of the men (and boys) from the city of Sodom came rushing upon Lot’s door with the intention of gang-raping the visitors (angels) that Lot was hosting for the night. The same-sex act spoken out against here is a communal raping of foreigners with the purpose of humiliating and establishing dominance. Lot’s condemnation, and God’s wrath was not towards a group of homosexual men, but rather a whole community resorting to sexual violence as a way to shame their visitors. Nothing within the context of the story of Sodom as outlined in Genesis relates any bit to homosexuality as an identity; instead, it condemns the violent and inhospitable intent of humiliation via communal rape.

In fact, later on in the old testament, Ezekiel describes the situation in the following terms:

 “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.” Ezekiel 16:49 (parallel translations link)

Now the context of Ezekiel is interesting. The book was written by a priest in exile and the book continuously addresses God’s punishment as a means to an end (as opposed to punishment for punishment’s sake). Ezekiel constantly reiterates that God’s ultimate goal was to bring his people out of a pattern of sin and rebellion, and into a state of repentance and humility (In fact, this is an overarching theme of much of the Old Testament…) Here, the message of Ezekiel 16:49 makes it clear that Sodom’s wrong-doing was not an issue of same sex attraction or action, but rather, a villainous over-indulgence and complacency to help people in need. Connecting Genesis 19 and Ezekiel 16 leads one to understand that God’s wrath was not incurred upon Sodom because Sodom was a village of gay men, but because, as a village/communal people, they were proud, over-indulgent, inhospitable, callous, and crass.

So what about the other two verses in the laws of Leviticus?

Verse Link to parallel translations Link to original translations
Leviticus 18:22

‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.

link link
Verse Link to parallel translations Link to original translations
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.

link link

Leviticus can be seen as the continuation of the book of Exodus and outlines the contract of the covenant God gave to His people. To be sure, much of the laws provided in Exodus were given because His people requested/needed rules of religiosity to live by. On top of this, Exodus 19 mentions that Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; these guidelines literally being the way to distinguish and set apart God’s people from the pagan practices of the people they encountered while roaming the desert (many of the religious practices of these societies were hyper-sexualized). Leviticus further outlines the practicality of these religious practices as a way to clarify God’s expectation for his people especially after the golden calf debacle in Exodus 32.

Christianity today bases its understanding of these laws as a  way for God to safeguard his people from religious and moral corruption until He could fulfill His promise through Christ. Because the fulfillment of this promise came through Jesus Christ, all forms of Christ-centered Christianity overwhelmingly agree that the Levitical codes of the Old Covenant do not apply to those that enter into God’s grace through the new Covenant of Christ which is salvation through faith. This is why modern Christians don’t worry about eating pork or seafood… because Christ made what was unclean, clean.

Still, for the sake of thoroughness, let’s examine the context of Leviticus 18 and 20 a little bit further as a way to understand why passages like Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 were included in the Old Covenant.

Leviticus 18:3 states,

3You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.”

At the beginning of this chapter, the purpose behind what is outlined in chapter 18 is clear: Follow these rules, not the customs or practices of the Egyptians or the Canaanites.  So when Leviticus outlines what are the unlawful sexual relations mentioned (Including Leviticus 18:22) it can be assumed that these were practices commonly associated with the culture or worship of the surrounding peoples; and so they are mentioned as a way to distinguish the customs of God’s people from others.

The same applies to Leviticus 20. The religious practice of Sacrificing to Molek, seeking the consort of mediums, spiritualists or the pleasure of prostitutes (as well as Leviticus 20:13) are likewise pointed out and outlawed as a way to emphasize that God expected his people to be of one mind and one heart, focused at all times on the worship of Him, and not other gods.

So when these verses are cited as undeniable proof that God views homosexual acts as deplorable, such conclusion is illogical. And as I’ve already mentioned, if one views these verses as the direct condemnation of homosexuals (people, not acts) such leap is unsupported because the concept of homosexuality as an identity group would be outside the comprehension of the author during this historical period… If anything, the sentiment of both of these chapters can be summed up as God finding a double heart (serving two masters) deplorable. These scriptures emphasize practices of worship more than they emphasize the singular action they outlaw…

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the New Testament/ New Covenant scriptures.

 

Side note: If one wants to justify other people through the old covenant, one must first justify themselves through it. In which case the link below outlines all of the practices and sacrifices one most follow if one is going to use Leviticus as a way to reject LGBT people.

http://hill-kleerup.org/blog/2012/06/13/76-things-banned-in-leviticus-and-their-penalties.html

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