Homosexuality and Christianity: The Theology of Hypocrisy

Homosexuality and Christianity: The Theology of Hypocrisy

Author: Drew Stedman
Published: December 12, 2009 at 9:28am UTC
Most modern Christians allow women to speak in church. Some of them even go out to Red Lobster for Sunday dinner! Isn't it about time we got back to Biblical principles... like punishing this abomination by death?
In my earlier post, Homosexuality and Christianity: Unnatural?, I responded to the following statement:

"I am not 100% convinced (*that people are born gay*) (there are few things that I am 100% convinced of and I think most people are that way if they will admit it)"

I want to return to this idea of skepticism. It is human nature to be skeptical of that which we do not understand. We tend to be skeptical of anything that challenges our preconceived understanding of the world around us. This isn't all bad. Perhaps many have been saved from needless mental breakdowns and existential crises by following traditional wisdom.

In fundamentalist religions however, believers frequently become skeptics of everything that challenges their worldview. "If it can't be proven 100% then I do not accept it." This a very convenient stand to take. It really gets one out of learning... well pretty much anything. As I said before, nothing can be proven 100% (unless we enter the realm of mathematics). And since 100% proof seems to be what is required to change a fundamentalist's mind on this issue (although I'm not sure that would be enough), I won't even bother to try to prove anything. Instead, I'm going to take a cue from Jesus and turn the tables on this one.

Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin because it is in the Bible (or whatever holy book you claim to live by)? If so, are you willing to apply the same level of skepticism to the traditions and doctrines of your religion? To your holy book?

In challenging the belief that homosexuality is a sin I am frequently met with statements similar to this:

"I can come to no other conclusion from reading scripture other than that homosexuality is sinful and that sinfulness cannot be diminished. Both the OT and NT condemn it in the strongest language."

I have to agree that on the surface the Bible does seem to condemn homosexuality. But is this really the only conclusion we are left with?

Of the sixty-six books of the Bible (over 31,000 verses written over 1,200 years), there are, at most, nine references to homosexual behavior. One of the most quoted verses is Leviticus 18:22:

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."

Followed by the less quoted Leviticus 20:13:

"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Now that is harsh. But what Bible quoters won't tell you up front is what else was considered an abomination. For instance, lets look at Leviticus 11:9-12:

"And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you."

There's a whole lot of abomination going on there. So why isn't there a political crusade to ban Red Lobster? Last I checked that place was pretty full on early Sunday afternoons. And where did these harsh laws come from? Why does God appear to be so displeased with the notion of a shrimp cocktail?

Leviticus was written near the end of the sixth century BCE while the Ancient Hebrews were in exile in Babylon. It was written by Jewish religious leaders and at its crux is The Holiness Code. In the book, Sins of Scripture, John Shelby Spong discusses this:

"The priestly writers were surely aware of a variety of sexual practices among their captors and decided to define themselves in terms of a strict moral code that reflected their sixth-century BCE sense of values based upon their knowledge and the popular prejudices of their day"

It is interesting to point out that female/female sex is not mention in the holiness code. Perhaps they were unaware of this practice? This seriously challenges the notion that authors of the Holiness Code had any concept of sexual orientation as we do today. They certainly had no concept of two members of the same sex, in a committed relationship. So what are they reacting to exactly? I think there is a clue in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I will assume this story is familiar, but just in case, it is found in Genesis 19.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a myth which was used by the ancient Hebrews for two purposes: 1. To illustrate and reinforce the concept of hospitality. In the mosaic law the Hebrews were required to invite a fellow Hebrew into their home if they had no shelter and treat them with kindness and respect. This story is an illustration of that principle. 2. It also served the purpose of condemning the barbaric practice of surrounding tribes to rape outsiders in order to ?show them who?s boss?. Rape was often used in these days to signify tribal superiority and humiliate outsiders and was commonly used after winning a battle. So this story does NOT have to do with ?homosexuality? as we are discussing it now. The ancient Hebrews had no more of a concept of sexual orientation than they did that the Earth revolved around the sun or that there was not a giant ocean in the sky (the firmament).

The same can be said of the passages in the New Testament. In Romans 1 where Paul seemingly condemns homosexuality it is important to note that context is everything. At this time it was common place for mentors to have sexual relationships with their understudies. Paul may have been trying to separate the Church from this practice. Again, it is important to understand that Paul did not have any concept of sexual orientation or a committed homosexual relationship. He was responding to what anyone today would also condemn as either pedophilia or rape.

That pretty much covers everything the Bible has to say about homosexuality. The authors of the Bible certainly did not have the same understanding of human sexuality that we do today. They frequently condemned practices that today are commonplace and accepted by Christians everywhere such as women speaking in church or wearing head coverings. In addition, there are several things that the Bible does not condemn, such as polygamy or slavery, that are repugnant to almost all Christians.

So is homosexuality a sin?

If you are a Christian who follows the teachings of your church, and your church condemns homosexuality, I would like to ask a few questions:

Does your church allow women to speak?

Does your church require women to wear head coverings?

Does your church condemn slavery?

Does your church condemn polygamy?

And finally, after church lets out on Sunday morning, is it considered acceptable for you to enjoy a nice shrimp cocktail over lunch?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may want to consider why you are so willing to uphold such a double standard. You say it is the "Word of God" yet it seems that it becomes pretty flexible in areas that inconvenience you or are irrelevant in a modern society. May I challenge you to apply the same skepticism to the traditions of the church that you do to everything outside it. We don't live in the bronze age. Isn't it time we let go of bronze age morality?

Ending The Theology of Hypocrisy starts with you.

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