Homosexuality And Religion
Homosexuality And Religion
By Andrew M Potts
What the Bible really says about homosexuality.
We often hear from churches that homosexuality is a sin, but what is the biblical basis for this and how relevant is it to Christians living in 21st Century Australia?
The passages in the Bible that relate to homosexuality can be separated into those of the Old Testament and the New. The main texts cited as condemning homosexuality in the Old Testament are found in the books of Leviticus and Genesis.
Leviticus is a list of the laws and prohibitions held by the ancient Hebrews at a time when they still performed animal sacrifices to the God of Israel at the great temple of Jerusalem.
Most of its commandments are no longer followed by Jews, let alone by Christians, and many of the practices it condones are now held to be deeply immoral or nonsensical by both religions.
Leviticus 18:22 says, “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
It also says that it is an abomination to eat shellfish, shrimp and a range of other animals considered to be “unclean” in ancient times.
Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man lies with another man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.”
The book of Leviticus also says that people who have sex outside of marriage, who speak ill of their parents, who curse or blaspheme, who work on the Sabbath, and who get tattoos or trim their hair or beards in certain ways should also be put to death.
Leviticus allows polygamy and the owning of slaves - even selling your own children into slavery.
If the commandments against homosexuality still hold true, why don't all these others hold true also?
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis has been one of the hardest stories for Jews and Christians to interpret throughout history and it was not until hundreds of years after the story was written that it was finally decided on as a condemnation of homosexuality.
In this story God decides to destroy the two non-Jewish cities because “their sins are very grave” but sends angels to see if there are any decent men in the city first.
The angels come to the city where they meet Lot who warns them to keep off the street because of the wicked people in the city and they go to his house.
The people of Sodom find out about the strangers and come to Lot’s house where they demand "to know” the strangers.
Lot defends the angels and offers his two virgin daughters to the mob for them to
“do as they please” if they will leave the angels alone, but they reject the offer and break down the door at which point the angels strike them blind.
Lot is then told to flee the city with his family and Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed.
There are a few problems with arguing that this story condemns homosexuality. Firstly, the phrase "to know” in the original Hebrew is sometimes used in the original texts to mean “have sex with” - but most of the time it is not.
Even if it is translated as “have sex with” the crowd intended to rape the angels, so the story can be more easily be interpreted as a condemnation of sexual violence rather than homosexuality.
Thirdly, in Genesis, after Lot’s family have escaped Sodom, his daughters get Lot drunk and have sex with him with the intention of getting pregnant so that they can preserve their family line.
After destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their immorality, God does nothing to punish Lot’s daughters for committing incest and their behaviour goes without comment in the Bible. So can Christians really argue that this story has any relevance today?
The term sodomy, derived from this story, was originally used to describe any kind of sex, heterosexual or homosexual, not intended to produce offspring, right up to the start of the 20th Century. It's only because society has moved on when it comes to issues such as masturbation or oral sex that the term is now used to describe homosexual acts only.
In the Ne