Clinical & Mental Health Counseling Intern
Much of the same reasoning used for exploring the Book of Leviticus can also be used to help us understand Paul's declaration in Romans 1. A prominent Southern Baptists Ethicist has noted, "The scholarship on Romans 1 is enormous and complicated. No one is really sure what Paul is doing." In the context of idolatry Paul lists 22 sins which run wild in the Roman Court; one of those has to do with something about "unnatural sex." While some translations of the bible translate this as "homosexuality" there really isn't any consensus whether the phrase is talking about cultic sexual practices, temple prostitution, unnatural sex between men and women, adults and children or people of the same-sex. Ironically, whichever way you interpret this verse it should be noted that modern research has conclusively shown that not only is being gay not a choice, but that it's natural, and occurs in many species of creation.
The final two New Testament versus are found in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1. We address these two passages together because they both use a specific Greek word that has historically been translated as "homosexual." However in reality the Greek word arsenokoitēs could mean any number of things from "customer of male prostitute" to "pedophile." Clearly in either case these are condemnable acts and far different from the loving same-sex relationships we observe in the modern era. A second problematic Greek word, malakos, is also often mistranslated. In reality the word malakos means nothing more than "soft" The word soft should not be mis-characterized as describing gay men; it could be referring to men living lives of extreme extravagance, or men who were generally just cowardly. It's clear in any case that stereotypes of sexuality have shaped how people traditionally have interpreted the bible.
Regardless of how we interpret these versus we are called upon to "Love our Neighbor" and to "Love God." These two were defined by Christ himself as the "Great Commandments" and should therefore take precedence in how we react to things that are new to us. Above all else, the issues surrounding LGBT people are a reminder and opportunity for us to follow the example of Christ in loving others, and in sharing his saving grace. Disagreements over the Church's support of same-sex relationships has cost us many members over the years, but we're proud of our commitment to blessing the lives of all God's Children.
St. Mary's and the Episcopal Church are committed to providing a safe place for all of God's Children, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Our beliefs regarding LGBT rights are informed by three essential principles: Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.
Perhaps the most obvious obstacle for many Christians to affirming same-sex marriage is the Bible. More specifically, it is a very narrow interpretation of the bible that has dominated the discussion of gay issues for decades. The argument rests primarily on five "Gay Bashing" verses found mostly in the old testament.
The first is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah found in Genesis 19. However, if you read closely you'll find that this story does not condemn loving same-sex relationships, it condemns the attempted gang rape of three visiting angels. In fact, the sins of Sodom were later described by the Prophet Ezekiel, not as issues surrounding homosexuality, but rather as "Pride, gluttony, laziness, and failure to help the poor and the needy." (Ezekiel 16:49) It's ironic that one of the very scriptures meant to show the importance of hospitality has been used for centuries to marginalize those who are sometimes in the greatest need for our care.
The second and perhaps most famous set of verses are found in Leviticus 18 and 20. There are several important things to understand about these verses. First, we should recognize that the condemnation of "men laying with other men" is found within the context of "The Holiness Code" which was instruction given by commandment only to the priests of Aaron and may not have applied to the broader population. Of course, this is the most simplistic argument that could be made against this verse. Perhaps the stronger argument to be made here is understanding the role of patriarchy in ancient Jewish society.
One of the things we often forget today is that the ancient view of women was one of submission and ownership. Women were not free, they were in many ways not even considered human. Meanwhile men were viewed as dominant, never submissive, always in control. How could the religious leaders of the time possibly tolerate a relationship in which both partners were equal? It simply wasn't culturally acceptable.
Further, sexual relations in ancient Israel were meant to be solely procreative. Sex was not to be enjoyed simply for pleasure, even between a husband and wife. We can see then, again, how same-sex relationships disrupted the established cultural order of the day. Understanding this, we can more clearly see why Leviticus says what it does.
However, even if the scholarship on these Old Testament versus was faulty; we must remember that the law found in Leviticus was "Fulfilled by Christ." In the words of Paul, "We are delivered from the Law" (Romans 7:6) of the Old Testament. This leaves us with just three scriptures found in the New Testament; all of them written by Paul, one man, one point of view.