Last time we looked at the Sodom and Gomorrah story. Let’s move on to the book of Leviticus.
You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman; it is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22).
Sounds pretty damning, but the word “abomination” also describes eating forbidden food (Deut. 14:3), sacrificing blemished animals (Deut. 17:1), performing divination and similar magic (Deut. 18:12), and women wearing men’s clothing (Deut. 22:5). Clearly, these are ritual abominations.
Mary Douglas makes sense out of the confusing purity laws in Leviticus, where things are clean or unclean seemingly arbitrarily. She argues that clean things are proper members of their category. A proper fish has fins and scales, so that makes it an abomination to eat improper sea animals like clams and shrimp. A proper land animal—one that is part of civilized society—is cloven hoofed and cud chewing like a cow or goat. To be clean, any animal or wild game must share these characteristics—hence no rabbits (not cloven hoofed) or pigs (not cud chewers). “Unclean” means “imperfect members of its class.”
A sacrifice must be a perfect animal, hence no blemishes. A priest must be a perfect man, hence he can’t be blind or lame. Don’t mix seeds in a field; don’t mix textiles in a garment.
Homosexuality fits easily into this taxonomy—proper sex is man with woman, so man/man or man/animal sex is explicitly forbidden. But it’s ritually forbidden, not forbidden because of any innate harm.
Here’s another popular bludgeon:
If a man has sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman, the two of them have committed an abomination. They must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves (Lev. 20:13).
First, note that this again is nothing more than ritual abomination.
Second, note the punishment. Don’t point to the Bible to identify the crime but then ignore its penalty. Do modern Christians truly think that the appropriate response to male homosexuality is death?
Third, note what else this chapter demands: unclean animals can’t be eaten (20:25), exile for a couple that has sex during the woman’s period (:18), death to spiritual mediums (:27), death for adultery (:10), and death for anyone who curses his father or mother (:9). It comes as a package of out-of-date tribal customs—with what justification can one select the anti-homosexual verse and ignore the rest?
If Jesus was the once-and-for-all sacrifice that did away with the need for the Old Testament ritual laws (Heb. 7:11–12 and 8:6–13), then get rid of them all.
God said, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7). Verses like this would saddle Christians with all the Old Testament customs, from the sacrifices to the crazy stuff like genocide that they’d like to distance themselves from, and they’ll say that they apply to Jews only. Fair enough—then stop cherry picking Old Testament passages if the Old Testament doesn’t apply to you.
This selective reading reminds me of Rev. O’Neal Dozier, in the news because he’s a Rick Santorum backer, saying that homosexuality is the “paramount of sins” and that it is “something so nasty and disgusting that it makes God want to vomit.” My first impulse to this energetic condemnation is to wonder if Haggard’s Law applies, but more to the point, why is homosexuality at the top of the list? Why should it be any worse than any other “abomination” such as eating shrimp, telling a fortune, or a woman wearing pants? (Unless, of course, Rev. Dozier is simply using the Bible as a sock puppet to have it speak his opinions.)
Apologists like Dozier who say that the Bible is clear in its rejection of homosexuality won’t say the same thing about the Bible’s support for genocide, slavery, and polygamy. They’ll say, “Okay, slow down and let me tell you why the surface reading isn’t correct.” The predicament for today’s Christian is the clash between modern morality and the warlike culture of the early Jews.
A common response to God’s embarrassing actions in the Old Testament is to say that he is mysterious and inscrutable to our simple human minds. But then these same Christians will contradict themselves and say with certainty that God is against homosexuality, abortion, and taxes.
We at least are largely in agreement on where the problems lie, but apologists who pick and choose which commandments must be taken literally are beating the copper of the Bible against the anvil of their faith. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the Bible speak for itself? Why is the atheist the one interpreting the Bible literally?
Or if the Bible is simply the sock puppet used to give an argument credibility, I’d appreciate Christians dropping the middleman, admitting that their beliefs come from their innate moral sense, and defending them.
Morality is doing what is right regardless of what we are told.
Religious dogma is doing what we are told regardless of what is right.
Photo credit: Wikimedia
- The first post in this series is here: Homosexuality v. Christianity
- Mary Douglas, “The Abominations of Leviticus.”
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Good points. Evangelicalism has a conflicted, selective hermeneutic that is impossible to follow to all of it’s logical ends. Thanks for sharing.
The question isn’t, “Why is the atheist the one interpreting the Bible literally?”
The question is, “Why is the atheist ignoring the New Testaments interaction with the Old Testament?”
Also, I wonder why would Bob even be concerned with this topic? From a strict evolutionary stand point you shouldn’t encourage homosexuality. In fact, it goes against your worldview just as much as it goes against mine. Just saying.
That post is coming up. You’ll have to tell me what you think of that one.
I’m not encouraging homosexuality; I’m simply acknowledging that it exists and that homosexuals are not at fault for that.
Evolution doesn’t have a stand point.
Since many atheists are secular humanists, their worldview is to reduce harm. Two consenting adult homosexuals are not harming anyone.
The question now is: “How do homosexuals harm God or Christians?”
Explain to me why are God and Christians are so concerned about this topic?
You said: “Evolution doesn’t have a stand point.”
Me: You may claim that it doesn’t but it does need to fit within your worldview. If it cannot then you shouldn’t hold it.
You: “Since many atheists are secular humanists, their worldview is to reduce harm.”
Me: What is your basis for wanting to reduce harm? Do you hold others accountable to your moral standard, their moral standard, or some kind of transcendent moral standard?
You: “Two consenting adult homosexuals are not harming anyone.”
Me: They are harming themselves. Two homosexuals, especially males, who engage in homosexual practices have a considerably shorter life expectancy than the rest of the population.
September 27, 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that “nearly 1 out of 5 MSM [men who have sex with men] studied was infected with HIV,” -http://topnews.co.uk/213743-hiv-infection-gays-increasing-alarming-rate
You: Explain to me why are God and Christians are so concerned about this topic?
Me: I am not “so concerned” about this topic. However, it is a big issue in our society. Why do Christians concern themselves with this? Because God is concerned about it. Why is God concerned about this? Because it is homosexuality is not in accordance to God’s purpose of creation.
I certainly don’t need to have a supernatural basis. Read up on secular humanism before you bother with the standard religious objections: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=declaration
I don’t think it should be a big issue in our society. I don’t see why it would be a big issue if it wasn’t for religious people making it a big issue. So why don’t Christians mind their own sins, and live and let live?
So you don’t have a basis? I understand you want to “reduce harm” but the question is how do you justify that? Also, how can you hold anyone else accountable if that is not a universal justification?
Also, I noticed you didn’t even reference the fact that 1 out of 5 homosexual males have HIV/AIDs. Are you saying that isn’t a large problem? I would consider it a large problem. Also, I think you might be confusing a couple of issues. Christians are not advocating to outlaw homosexuality. Christians do not want “gay-marriage”. Those are two different topics all together.
So being human isn’t universal enough for you?
What do you do with theists, like terrorists, who justify their immoral actions with a supernatural god?
Did you know 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex?
Studies have NOT found that abstinence-only programs cut pregnancy rates, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or even the age when sexual activity begins.
And at one time, Christians didn’t want interacial marriage either.
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You said: “So being human isn’t universal enough for you?”
Me: Being human designates morality because we are made in the image of God. But from your worldview each human or society has the right to come up with their own moral standard. You have not and cannot, within your worldview, give a justification for your moral standard. When the moral standard between each individual isn’t the same then there is no moral standard at all.
You: “What do you do with theists, like terrorists, who justify their immoral actions with a supernatural god?”
Me: The Christian God attested to by Scripture is the only God. So, when terrorists blow themselves and other up for the sake of their god they are not doing so in accordance to the prescriptive will of God found in Scripture. The real question is: Upon what basis can you condemn their actions since you have no universal moral foundation? According to your worldview we are just atoms banging into each other. Why is it morally wrong to blow up other atoms?
You: “Did you know 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex?”
Me: Yep…and I am one of them.
You: “Studies have NOT found that abstinence-only programs cut pregnancy rates, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or even the age when sexual activity begins.”
Me: The moral/sinful depravity of man is not something that can be kept in check only with abstinence classes but that does not mean the message isn’t true. You can’t get an STD through sexual transmission if you don’t have sex.
You: “And at one time, Christians didn’t want interacial marriage either.”
Me: Umm…I guess it depends on how you define Christians but notice what you did there. We call that a red herring. You are arguing against my point with something that is not relevant to my actual point. From a Biblical perspective, interracial marriage is not sinful because it involves one man and one woman. Gay-marriage doesn’t so while the topic of “marriage” may be similar the categories are different.
My last reply isn’t being posted…
Even though you won’t admit it, each society and individual comes up with their own god.
And many wars have been fought with both sides claiming to follow the Christian God of Scripture. Al these people claimed to be following the Christian God of Scripture, but their versions didn’t match, and they can’t all be right. When the moral standard isn’t the same then there is no moral standard at all.
You can keep on using arguments like this if you wish, but it is a strawman.
My worldview is that these atoms are arranged into sophisticated organisms that can think and feel.
Because blowing up these other atoms destroys other human beings.
And homosexuals having HIV/AIDS doesn’t mean that homosexuality is morally wrong.
Heterosexuals get the same STD’s that homosexuals do.
The fact that many Christians believe in abstinence, but then don’t follow it, shows that Christian heterosexuals are no more moral than homosexuals.
It’s not a red herring. Those that argued against inter-racial marriage also claimed it was Biblical. They justified their argument the SAME WAY that you are justifying yours.
Here’s a sermon by Bob Jones Sr, I hope you will read all of it and see that he uses many of the same phrases that are being used today:
Hopefully you can see that even if someone such as Bob Jones Sr. thought that the Bible forbid inter-racial marriage, it still wouldn’t be a good enough reason to enact laws against it. As you probably already know, just as many Christians at one time were against inter-racial marriages as there are Christians against homosexual marriages now. IMO, there really is no difference between passing the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924” to prevent inter-racial marriages, and passing the “Defense of Marriage Act” to prevent homosexual marriages.
The Bible definitely forbids sex outside of marriage, but I don’t hear many Christians wishing laws to be passed to punish it.
I think the main point here is that Christians in America would never think of enacting laws to enforce these other ideals of their faith.
If Christians want to ban homosexuals from their churches, that’s their business, but Christians have no business trying to enact laws that persecute homosexuals outside the church.
And here’s the biblical critique of interracial marriage by the judge who found the Lovings guilty: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
On the topic of homosexuality, that was part of a package of ritual abominations that Jesus’s sacrifice (presumably) dismissed. If you insist that the Bible demands that you be against homosexuality, you must taken on the burden of all the other ritual demands as well.
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You wrote: “IMO, there really is no difference between passing the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924″ to prevent inter-racial marriages, and passing the “Defense of Marriage Act” to prevent homosexual marriages.”
Me: There is no difference? Really? There is a huge difference allow me to give you an example. An interracial heterosexual couple is still a man and a woman. That does not violate God’s moral law. Yes, people have advocated against it but that does not mean it is against moral law. It only means it is against their moral standard. However, homosexuals directly go against God’s moral law. That is the difference.
You: “The Bible definitely forbids sex outside of marriage, but I don’t hear many Christians wishing laws to be passed to punish it.”
Me: Yep it certainly does forbid it. The difference is that is something that can occur in someone’s home. Marriage is public and civil thus can be regulated by the government.
You: “I think the main point here is that Christians in America would never think of enacting laws to enforce these other ideals of their faith.”
Me: That is simply untrue. Christians vote for what they believe in. Abortion and gay-marriage are both things Christians care about and they vote according to their belief. When it comes to sex outside of marriage it would be impossible to enforce such a law.
You: “If Christians want to ban homosexuals from their churches, that’s their business, but Christians have no business trying to enact laws that persecute homosexuals outside the church.”
Me: Christians have every right to enact laws that reflect what they believe. This is America and it seems that you may be suffering from an extreme form of Liberalism. Your comments come across as if you are willing to allow people to hold their opinions, vote, and enact laws unless they are contrary to yours. That is just sad. Also, how are Christians persecuting homosexuals? I didn’t know that standing against a fundamental redefinition of marriage was akin to persecution.
Slavery doesn’t violate God’s moral law either. Should we start allowing slavery again?
And pre-marital sex also goes directly against God’s moral law.
And why should the government enforce a religious prohibition?
How was it enforced in the Bible? If you want to keep Biblical laws, why not also keep the Biblical punishments too?
Why should you claim a right for yourself that you do not freely extend to others? Your opinions, votes, and laws are designed to deprive other people the rights that you now have… that is the very definition of persecution.
Why do Christians care? Redefining marriage won’t prevent Christians from getting married. Depriving people a right to something that doesn’t affect you is selfish, and is persecution.
You: “Slavery doesn’t violate God’s moral law either. Should we start allowing slavery again?”
Me: Red Herring Alert. Slavery in Biblical times was not like modern slavery in America/Europe. I wish Atheists who should know better would stop using such outlandish arguments.
You: “And pre-marital sex also goes directly against God’s moral law.”
Me: Sure does but what people do privately cannot be policed. The gay-marriage debate isn’t about private matters of right and wrong. It is about the governments public support for it. Two major categories that seem to have been missed.
You: “And why should the government enforce a religious prohibition?”
Me: The government supports what is best for the government. Heterosexual marriage bestows benefits on society that same-sex marriage cannot. Heterosexuals can procreate thus providing new citizens for a nation. This benefits a society. Heterosexuals who raise their children bestow benefits on society by nurturing participating members of society. Homosexuals cannot procreate and there have been studies that show that homosexuals raise kids that are well-adjusted but they often struggle with gender identity. That is the issue when it comes to marriage.
You: “How was it enforced in the Bible? If you want to keep Biblical laws, why not also keep the Biblical punishments too?”
Me: Well often Atheists do not take the time to figure out what Christians believe. You sound thoughtful so I would hope that you would understand the differences between the two covenants. Of course, I understand that many do not so I will give a brief answer. In the OT we see a nation that was created for a purpose. They were to be a nation that would make a way for Jesus. When Jesus came morals did not change but the way those moral laws were enforced changed. For Israel they were restricted to what they could eat. That is not a moral law. That is ceremonial law. That was for Israel. The NT discusses how those OT laws were fulfilled in Jesus. The law of God was not about eating the right food it was about loving God and your neighbor as yourself. That is what we are held accountable to God will exact judgement in his time. In human societies we make laws that reflect a foundational moral standard.
You: “Why should you claim a right for yourself that you do not freely extend to others? Your opinions, votes, and laws are designed to deprive other people the rights that you now have… that is the very definition of persecution.”
Me: So, I need to extend the right to marry to anyone who wants to marry anyone else? Really? You don’t even believe that. The fact is it isn’t persecution to deny homosexuals to marry. You need to give a case that homosexual marriage has a moral and logical foundation. Just because some people want the right to marry doesn’t mean there is a foundation for it. So, should we allow pedophiles to marry? What about the father that wants to marry his adult daughter or son? Should I allow these people the right to marry the people they love? If you deny them then you are persecuting them according to your definition…pretty silly.
You: “Why do Christians care? Redefining marriage won’t prevent Christians from getting married. Depriving people a right to something that doesn’t affect you is selfish, and is persecution.”
Me: Christians care because God cares. Christians care because they have a foundation for morality and that foundation speaks clearly about this. Homosexuality is sin and gay-marriage is an oxymoron. In history there is no such thing as gay-marriage. Marriage is between a man and woman. If you can provide a reason for redefining marriage then you have ground to stand on. If you cannot then how is what I am saying persecution? Also, do you fight this fervently for Christians around the world who are killed for being Christians? They are losing their lives so I would think you would care about that.
How is it any different? Christians should know better than to make such an outlandish defense.
Leviticus 25:44-46 Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life,…
Do you see that slaves from foreign countries became property for life? Explain to me the difference.
So does immigration.
Can you provide a link to any of these studies?
Book, chapter, and verse please. YOU might make a distinction between moral and ceremonial laws, but the Bible doesn’t.
What??? Try to stay on topic here. I’m talking about two consenting adults getting married, nothing else.
Red Herring Alert. Do you know of a father that wants to marry his adult child?
And who are killing these Christians exactly? It’s almost always followers of another denomination or religion.
A difference in opinion about religion is NEVER a good enough reason to kill. Likewise, religion is never a good enough reason to die for either.
Please explain to me why an all-powerful God would ever need someone to kill or die for Him?
Ouch! Speaking of outlandish arguments, you’ve definitely uncovered one. I don’t see much difference between slavery for life in America and slavery for life in Israel. More to the point: are you saying that you would be happy with biblical slavery reintroduced in society today? If not, then stop defending it.
Is there harm? Then prohibit it. If not, then who cares?
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