What the Bible Really Says

A new YouTube video deals with the Bible and what it really says about us. Matthew Vines, a fully fledged gay Christian man, speaks on the theological debate regarding the Bible and the role of gay Christians in the church. Delivered at College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas on March 8, 2012.
To watch it go here.
But if the 65 minute video is too long, LGBT History Month co-chair Tony Fenwick has written the main points below. According to Tony, “This provides a helpful insight when it comes to meeting the divide between those that use religion to bring peace and understanding into all of our lives and those who use it to justify their own bigotry”.
Here it is:
Old Testament
 
Adam and Eve
God said man will be lonely and he set about making him a partner. The partner was a woman, but God said that every man needs a partner. He recognised the need for a partner first. So a man as a partner for a gay man and a woman as a partner for a lesbian need not be problematic.
 
Sodom and Gomorrah
God destroyed Sodom because the men who surrounded the house wanted to gang rape the angels. Whilst this would have necessarily been same sex rape, it was rape and not consensual sex. Male rape is and has always been a practised form of humiliation – particularly in wartime – and the Bible most likely condemns this. (Incidentally Lot tries to pacify the men by offering them his virgin daughters instead.)
Ezekiel and God lay the blame for Sodom’s downfall on his meanness, greed and lack of charity for the poor. Of 20 references to the Sodom and Gomorrah, only one – Jude – refers to sexual perversion and immorality.
 
Leviticus
Yes, he did describe man lying with man as an abomination and said both should surely be put to death. But it was part of the 613 rules – the ‘old law’ – that told the Israelites how to conduct themselves. These rules were rejected by Christians in the New Testament. Paul in Galatians describes the old law as a “yoke of slavery” and rejects rules about kosher food and circumcision. Christians now reject Leviticus’ rules on shell-fish, clothes and having sexual relations with a menstruating woman, although they stick with the Ten Commandments and the rules on adultery, incest and bestiality. These rules however are repeated in the other books of the Old Testament. Same sex relations, like the rules on shellfish and menstruating women etc. are only mentioned by Leviticus.
A further reading of the passage suggests that an ‘abomination’ was something foreign rather than something diabolical in the Old Testament. Reference is made to the Egyptians and the Israelites not being able to share food or hospitality as it would be an abomination to them.
Death as a punishment? It was also laid down that the man who copulates with the menstruating woman be exiled (that they both be actually) and that a child who disobeys its parents or someone who uses the Lord’s name in vain be stoned. So death was deemed to be an appropriate punishment for just about any wrongdoer.
Death was also to be dealt out to anyone who asked for interest on a loan. That’s certainly been ruled out of today’s western society.
 
New Testament
 
Paul’s Letter to the Romans 1:26-27. Paul says the human race is full of unrighteousness and turns from God to idolatry. In turn God turns from the humans and they engage in unnatural same sex lust; both men and women, for which they will receive “due penalty”. The word ‘unnatural’ leads some theologians to the conclusion that homosexuality is a perversion. This is certainly the longest and most specific reference to same sex relations that has been found in any of the scriptures.
However, central to this argument is Paul’s assertion that these worshippers of idols knew God and rejected Him; they are not unaware of Him. Likewise the people who practise same sex ‘unnatural relations’ are not predisposed to homosexuality; rather they are heterosexuals who have chosen to follow a different path.
People who are homosexual on the other hand are born as such and – if the argument is followed logically – for them to stray from the same-sex path would be unnatural.
This is not mere logic chopping. Same sex relations in the ancient world were not associated with a sexual ‘orientation’; they were seen as the result of an excess of lust or a form of sexual gluttony carried out by people who would otherwise be heterosexual. Seen in this way the passage is about same sex lust and promiscuity and not about same sexual orientation. To see it as a condemnation of any same sex relationship would be the same as reading a condemnation of heterosexual ‘dogging’ or ‘swing parties’ as a condemnation of any kind of heterosexual relationship.
Later Paul refers to it being unnatural and a disgrace for man to have long hair, while long hair is considered a woman’s glory. The issue here is one of translation. In Greek, nature can mean custom. It is undoubtedly natural for a man’s hair to grow long; hair grows throughout one’s life. Thus what is natural and unnatural may refer to custom rather than inherent nature. Sexual relations were seen not as a question of ‘orientation’ (a new term) but in terms of actives roles and passive roles. Men were expected to take the active role in sexual union and women the passive. To do otherwise would be ‘unnatural’ or uncustomary.
 
Corinthians 6:9-10
The ‘effeminate’ and those who ‘abuse themselves with mankind’ cannot enter the Kingdom of God, according to the King James Bible. In a 1946 version of the Bible this is translated into ‘homosexuals’. In a later version it is watered down to mean ‘practising homosexuals’. But the Old Testament was in Hebrew and the New Testament was in Greek. Neither language had a word for homosexual.
We also have to challenge the cultural context of the translated term ‘effeminate’. There is no evidence of a link with sexual behaviour and sexual orientation was – as we have established – inexistent as a concept. Those who ‘abuse themselves with mankind’ is a translation of the Greek ‘Arsenokoites’ a compound noun made up of ‘man’ and ‘bed’. It is used elsewhere in the New Testament with reference to economic exploitation. Thus the ‘effeminate’ and those who ‘abuse themselves with mankind’ could mean the weak and the corrupt as easily as homosexual men. And make no mistake: to the patriarchal ancient Greeks effeminacy was associated with weakness. Effeminate is a translation of the Greek ‘Malokos’, meaning ‘soft’
 
Timothy 1:9-10
People who ‘defile themselves with mankind’ and ‘whoremongers’ and ‘menstealers’ are extrapolated from the term ‘arsenokoites’ in this passage, among the lawless and disobedient. But these terms can be inferred as relating to economic exploitation with a sexual element. There is no necessary link with sexual orientation.
 
So the only outright condemnation of same sex (male) sexual relationships comes from Leviticus, whose commands, among others, are rejected in the New Testament. Other references to homosexuality are nothing of the sort. Rather they are references to lewd, licentious and particularly exploitative behaviours that were existent in the time the Bible was written. But there is plenty in the Bible that advises against pre-judgment. There is plenty that advises against casting people out. There is plenty that says we should not be left alone. And people who choose to read it and interpret it as saying that to be gay is sinful and to form a loving same sex relationship and a family is wrong; they need to read it again.