Last week we did a story about the United Nations
report that recognizes the rights of our LGBT community around the globe as human rights. The story also addressed that the UN has made recommendations for changes in laws that currently make living as an LGBT person a crime. This was great news for our LGBT community. However we got a hateful comment from Rev. Donald Spitz of Virginia misquoting the bible specifically Leviticus 20:13 & Romans 1:24. (You can read his full homophobic rage in comments.) We called on our openly gay bible expert Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep
in New York to explain this biblical misconception once & for all. Parelli stated, Lev. 18:22 & 20:13 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Lev. 18:22, NRSV The Levitical purity laws, of which Lev. 18:22 & 20:13 are a part, were Jewish religious laws, not universal moral & ethical laws, which served to define how the Jewish people were to live as a unique chosen people. Two principles served to define the purity code, the second of which was the ban of mixing ‘kinds,’ as mixing linen & wool in making of clothes.
“The lyings-of-a-woman,” the English rendering of the Hebrew phrase אִשָּׁה מִשְׁכְּבֵי found in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 & which is understood to refer specifically to anal penetration, fails the second principle of the “purity” code. Like mixing linen with wool, the male receptive partner is himself a combination of kinds – a male-female mixture.
At first sight, it is hard for us to wrap our heads around the idea that Lev. 18:22 & 20:13 have no more moral or ethical value for us today than the mixing of linen & wool in the making of clothes. We need to dismantle our present-day frame-work & see our preconceived ideas for what they unfortunately are: centuries-old, uninformed, so-called “biblical” biases against a misunderstood minority in society.
“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural & in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another.” NRSV
Elizabeth Stuart, in her book Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference, says Paul uses these words “natural” & “unnatural” (“against nature” in the KJV), “to describe, not homosexual people, but Gentiles who engaged in same-gender activity, a characteristic that distinguishes them, not from heterosexuals but from the Jews” [emphasis mine]. For all the exegesis one must engage in to grasp how Paul is not talking about homosexuality as we understand it today, Stuart’s statement is the best summary I’ve found & completely fits the context. Underline it. Save it. Repeat it to yourselves & others.
“Natural” & “unnatural” (“against nature” in the KJV) did not have for Paul the same meaning it has for us today. In ancient times, “unnatural” meant “unconventional” (cf. I Cor. 11:14-15 NRSV & Rom. 11:24 NRSV where long hair on a man is unnatural & where God himself does what is “contrary to nature”). Seneca, for example, refers to hot baths, banquets after sunset, potted plants & a man’s passive sexual role as all, equally “against nature”, i.e., contrary to custom. Paul is not talking about homosexuals in contrast to heterosexuals but rather about Gentiles whose customs are outside of the norm, especially in comparison to Jewish religious purity codes. Paul, therefore, is not condemning all same-gender acts, & certainly not homosexuality as an orientation." Updates to Come...:)