Homosexuals and the Christian Church
So what was the sin of Sodom? Homosexuality, as implied by our use of "sodomy" as a synonym for anal intercourse or any other sexual relations between two men?
Or was the sin of Sodom being self-centered, cruel and inhospitable, and not specifically related to sexual practices at all?
The story in Genesis describes all the men and boys in Sodom gathering together to attack and humiliate the strangers among them. Heterosexual rape has been used throughout history as an attack, a humiliation of enemies in war or "uppity women" in peace. Homosexual rape has also been practiced by men who are heterosexual by preference, as a way to shame the one attacked. This shaming works even in cultures that do not regard consenting heterosexual or homosexual relations as shameful; rape is a violation and a humiliation, no matter who practices it on whom.
Jeremiah also condemns the Sodomites for adultery. Whatever the modern view of adultery, which may depend on what the definition of "is" is, in the traditional Jewish culture adultery was sexual intercourse, by a person who was married, with a person of the opposite sex to whom they were not married, in betrayal of vows to one's spouse, one's community, and one's God -- breaking the web that bound the society together. Adultery is often a sin of greed and self-centeredness, compatible with the character of the Sodomites as drawn in the Old Testament -- but it does not necessarily indicate homosexuality.
Or is self-centeredness, rape, cruelty, adultery, promiscuity an inevitable counterpart to homosexuality?
As recently as ten years ago, I believed that. I believed that Christianity called me to love homosexuals as people, but to reject their sins, which included homosexuality. I also believed that homosexuals had psychological and character flaws, and were more inclined to promiscuity and cruelty than heterosexuals.
When I became homeless, I began living and working with a number of homosexuals. It seems to me that a third of homeless youth are homeless -- usually cast out of home when they "came out."
Reality is heartless on stereotypes.
I do believe that temperance and chastity are among the fruits of the spirit. I experienced, myself, giving up promiscuity and adultery after my own Christian rebirth. However, I know gays, lesbians, transvestites and bisexuals who are not promiscuous or adulterous. Many are of other faiths than Christian; some are passionately Christian. This is my own anecdotal evidence, but it is borne out by all statistical evidence I have ever read.
Most child molestation is committed by heterosexuals. Most rapes are committed by heterosexuals. Most crimes of any other kind are committed by heterosexuals. There is no evidence whatsoever that homosexuals are any less moral, as a class, than heterosexuals. In 1993, a 518-page report on a study by the Rand Corporation of gays in the military stated that in the military, as in the civilian population, sexual abuse is primarily a heterosexual problem. With rare exceptions, homosexual soldiers do not seduce, harass, or sexually abuse their fellow soldiers.
My homosexual brothers and sisters are no more unusual to me, now, than men who respond to tall red-heads more than to short brunettes, or women who respond to thin, muscular, dark men more than to big blonde ones.
Why any of us is attracted to one person rather than another -- not only to mate with, but to cuddle affectionately with, share hopes and dreams with, work on common goals with -- is a mystery. Why some of us love to live among flat wheat fields and some of us can't bear to be out of sight of the mountains is a mystery. Why some of us enjoy engineering bridges and some enjoy teaching very young children is a mystery.
If one believes that the Universe and all that is in it, including ourselves, is designed by God, then these innate preferences are part of the design. After all, it would be hard for the human race to occupy the earth if we all preferred to live in the Ohio Valley, wouldn't it?
If one believes that God laid down initial conditions and let the Universe evolve in accordance with those basic principles, then these preferences can be explained by the natural tendency of life to seek to fill every niche. And homosexuality itself, which is found in all species, may be a natural response to overpopulation.
If one believes that we are all, human spirits and God, creating the Universe together, then it is as inappropriate for any of us to limit the diversity of another as it would be for one artist to leave his own canvas and begin painting over another's.
Whichever particular worldview we hold, there are basic touchstones in the Bible for any Christian:
"For what has the Lord required of thee, but to do justice, love mercy,
and walk humbly with thy God?"
Humility toward God requires us to leave judgment to God, and to acknowledge that our expectations of that judgment may well be wrong. Mercy requires that we serve all of our brothers and sisters equally, whether they live as we do or not. Justice does not require that we force all other people to submit to what we regard as the law of God, because that is not humility. Justice, as laid down by all the prophets of the Old Testament, is to lay our own egos aside and serve the welfare of our fellow human beings, balancing each one's opinions of what is just against each other prayerfully.
Or does the Bible require us to cast out homosexuals? Leviticus and other Old Testament passages order that men having sexual relations with other men be put to death. There is an historical reason for homosexuality being anathema among early Jews, just as "boiling a kid in its mother's milk" was -- both were practices of the idolatrous religions around them.
Leviticus also decrees death for many other acts that we do not put people to death for today. Leviticus also decrees obedience to rituals that Paul, in the New Testament, declared Christians free from. If we are supposed to put homosexuals to death, then we are also supposed to put thieves to death, offer oxen to God, and circumcise all men. If we are free of the latter laws, we are also free of the former.
I pray for the Christians who commit the true sin of Sodom -- cruelty toward the outsider, the one who is not like you -- to be reborn in humility, mercy and justice.
Discussion on Homosexuality: Sources For and Against Homosexuality as Sin
An Analysis of the Fundamentalist Interpretation
Human Rights Page
Anitra's Home Page
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