The civil rights organization founded by Martin Luther King, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference wants to remove the Rev. Eric P. Lee as president of its Los Angeles chapter because he supports same-sex marriage. I guess it’s OK that black people have civil rights but not those people over there with the big noses or these folks over here in the flamboyant clothes.
“It was clear to me that any time you deny one group of people the same right that other groups have,” Rev. Lee told the NYTimes, “that is a clear violation of civil rights.”
My friend Rufus disagreed. “They are the Southern CHRISTIAN Leadership Conference,” he said, “and the Bible doesn’t merely suggest that buggery is a sin. It is referred to as ‘an abomination unto God’.”
This blog will be waaaaaaaaay too long
but it is worthwhile to have both sides
of the discussion on the same page.
I contend that the ban on homosexual relations is a Victorian construct on the translations of the earliest parts of the Israelite texts and that even those texts filled mans then-contemporary needs, not Gods orders. Rufus disagrees. I further contend that the ban is pretty unChristian on the face of it. After all, Christians are supposed to turn the other cheek. So to speak.
I have trouble with the abomination unto God part, Rufus. After all, our ever-so-Christian New Testament has no reference to buggery whatsoever and only passing references to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“Try Letter to the Romans where Paul most certainly is referring to male and female homosexuality,” Rufus said.
Remember the context. All the new (non-Israelite) converts to Christianity wanted to use their their own older rituals in their new faith. In the text quoted from Romans, Paul referred specifically to the ritualized sex within the temples of Diana and Apollo. The then-modern Philistines and Greeks and Romans whom Paul knew all had used ritualized or casual sex, male with male, female with female, in religious worship, in bonding, in their armed forces, in sports.
“It is an abomination in Genesis, in Exodus, in Leviticus, and many of the other Old Testament books,” Rufus said.
Using the Bible to prove something is an abomination is easy, simply because everything and nothing in the Bible is an abomination. Depending on the version you have (I grew up on KJV) the word appears about 176 times in Leviticus alone. The text is so vague and the translations so at odds that almost anything is abominable.
“Leviticus 18 says ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination’,” he said.
Pretty much everyone including Rufus refers to that passage in Leviticus to prove their point. It’s not quite that clear; the bulk of Leviticus 18 deals with nudity, uncleanliness, and a little bit of sex. Moreover, the passage immediately before the “lie with a man” verse is “thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbor’s wife, to defile thyself with her.” I wonder, since the Lord was so specific about carnal relations with thy neighbor’s wife, why He was so vague about “lying with a man.”
I do think Leviticus 18 is the definitive basis for the Islamic hijab.
Despite what most folks think, there is no explicit mention of buggery in Ezekiel’s summation, either. Ezekial catalogues a double handful of sexual “abominations” including dishonoring your fathers’ bed, lying with women during their period, committing a detestable offense with your neighbor’s wife, defiling your daughter or daughter-in-law, violating your sister, and taking usury and excessive interest. No listing of buggery there.
Proverbs refers to abominations, but it is the seven abominations that fill the heart of the malicious man and is in context with how to treat the fool, the sluggard, and the madman.
Isaiah refers to abominations, but it is the blood sacrifices of idolatry.
“The Sodomites were definitely fudge-packers,” Rufus said. “Genesis 19 makes clear that the men from every part of the city want to have sex with the men (actually angels) who came to Lot’s house, and that THIS is indeed a ‘grievous sin.’ Sodom and Gomorrah were nuked for those grievous sins.
“Clear as a bell, Dick.”
If it’s so clear, if that bell sounds so pure, then how is it that so many different churches and so many different historians have so many different interpretations of the texts?
In that oft-quoted story of Lot, the NIV tells the story as “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them” but the KJV says it this way: “Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.” To know can have the sexual connotation, but it can also mean “to water board” which works just as well in the context of the story.
Y’all do realize that I used “water boarding” in the Congressional sense, meaning “to interrogate by torture,” right?
The Sodomites came to their abomination by four actions: pride, excess of diet (gluttony), idleness, and contempt of the poor. Recalling the complete history of the time, the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah came from the unpaid wages of labor.
“Where did you get that stuff?” Rufus asked. “There is no actual corroboration like papyrus translations but you think it sounds reasonable, right?”
Good heavens. There is nothing behind my position other than the source material everyone has: the Bible and history.
“So you’re saying that if that logic applied then, different circumstances mean it doesn’t apply now.”
No again. I’ve burned 1,500 words to say that there is nothing specifically Godlike about proscribing pork. Or, for that matter, porking thy neighbor’s brother.
We are talking here about the time of ethnogenesis. The Israelites had come together from the 12 tribes, had become Egyptian slaves and hard-laborers, and had fled their captors during the reign of Rameses II. Scholars believe the Book of Genesis itself reached its final form around 500 BCE, or some six or seven hundred years after Rameses II died. A lot of history had passed by thenNebuchanezzar sacked Jerusalem and exiled those Jews to Babylon around 600 BCE, a century before our Genesis appeared. Finding themselves slaves and hard-laborers again, the Israelites needed ways to differentiate themselves first from their Semitic neighbors and captors, then from the Philistines, then from the Romans. There is evidence that many of the Israelites had gone native to fit in with the cultures of the peoples who had power over them. There was polytheism. There were dietary abominations. There was kinky sex. It was especially important to proscribe the activities that everyone around the Israelites engaged in.
Leviticus handles the unlawful sexual relations rules and each of them (along with most other bad stuff) was punishable by death (except for doing a slave girlthat was a freebie): Dont do as they do in Egypt. Dont do as they do in Canaan. Dont have relations with a close relative. Dont have relations with your mother. Dont have relations with your fathers wife. Dont have relations with your daughter or your granddaughter. Or your sister. Or your auntie. Or your daughter-in-law. Or a woman during the uncleanness of her period. Or your neighbors wife. Or a critter. Or even your brothers wife. Dont have threesomes.
The rules are pretty extensive: Don’t eat pig. Don’t mix meat and milk. Don’t eat blood but do eat your sacrifices after you’ve cooked them. Don’t mix the fibers in your fabric.
Can you honestly tell me that every rule and every punishment in the Bible as we read it today is to be taken literally? I have seen you eat bacon in my own house, Rufus.
And, for what it’s worth, after the fire Lot’s daughters got Lot drunk and each became pregnant by him.
There is a lot more in the Old Testament about not terrifying your sheep than about lying with other men. In fact, “sodomie” in modern German refers specifically to sex with sheep (and other non-human critters), not to anal or oral sex.
Back to my original contention. Let us not forget that Moses was one of the great Generals. He kept the Israelites at the mountain for 40 years, that their population would rise enough to field a large enough army to defeat the Canaanites. The ban on homosexual acts–along with the ban on the eating of pork which killed people–is based on the Israelite need to increase its tribal army size and was decreed at a time when male homosexuality was not uncommon.
Do consider these final thoughts:
Rufus is in his comfortable in my beliefs as I am in mine.
“I have faith in the Word,” Rufus said.
No argument there. While I believe the actual, historical occurence was in the land of Lot is different than the story in the Bible (I hold out some hope for either volcanic activity or that the visiting Angels had fuel-air explosives), my real point here is that we have a vague, historical text written and rewritten and translated and retranslated over the centuries.
Whatever the Book says today may be gospel but it ain’t fact. There is the Word but there is no confirmable data.
We are arguing about faith which means Rufus is right. As am I. We know that Rufus said, “I believe that God gave us this rule and that brooks no disobedience.”
Heres my own bottom line. Jesus disagreed with his Father on a number of issues. I believe He would tell us that discriminating against people for their skin color, their creed, their national origin, their sexual preference, or the size of their ears is simply unChristian.