By Jeanne Wells
I'm writing to address the recent discussions regarding homosexuality and Christianity, specifically the letter from Jared Rouggly.
The most popular and commonly cited biblical condemnation of homosexuality is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19. The oft-accepted interpretation of these passages is that God destroyed Sodom because its inhabitants engaged in homosexual acts. However, if you read Matthew 10:14-15 and Luke 10:7-16, Jesus implies that the sin of the Sodomites was their lack of hospitality toward strangers. Furthermore, in Ezekiel 16:48-50, God states that he destroyed Sodom for the following reasons: their pride, their excess of food while the poor and needy were suffering and their idolatrous acts. Sexual activity of any kind is never mentioned.
The passages that Rouggly cites, namely I Corinthians 6:9-11 and Romans 1:18-32, don't stand up under scrutiny either.
In I Corinthians, the meaning of the original key word, arsenokoitai, has been lost, but we do know that it probably originally referred to male temple prostitutes. Later, it was interpreted to mean unethical people, and from Luther's time it was believed to refer to masturbation. The word has only recently been translated to refer to homosexuals. Clearly, the word's meaning has been twisted to conform to whatever sin the interpreting society takes umbrage with.
The Romans passage is equally vague. Basically, Paul was referring to same-sex acts committed in idolatrous worship, not homosexual acts in general. Also, he was talking about homosexual acts, not homosexual people. Furthermore, if you take this passage in context and read Chapters 1 to 3 in Romans, Paul states that God's covenant applies to all those who believe in Jesus, whether they be Jew or Gentile, straight or gay.
Another well-known "condemnation" of homosexuality is found in Leviticus 18:22 and Levitics 20:13. These passages specifically state that "if a man lies with a man as with a woman, it is an abomination."
These prohibitions were probably put in place for the following reasons:
1. Any sexual act that did not lead to procreation was frowned upon because at this time the Jewish tribes were trying to increase their numbers.
2. Male homosexual sex was connected with idolatry in the Hebrew world view and therefore considered a sin.
Most of the other prohibitions in this section of Leviticus deal in one way or another with idolatry. Finally, we must remember that in Hebrew society, women were considered to be little more than property, so if a man were to have sexual relations with another man, it would be degrading to him. The offense was not the homosexual act itself, but rather that the man was being treated like a woman.
This goes a long way toward explaining why there is no condemnation of female homosexual acts in Leviticus. Women were already held in low esteem, so they could not be degraded by a homosexual act.
Lastly, even if some Christians disagree with this argument, they must remember that this condemnation of homosexuality is part of what is commonly referred to as the Jewish Holiness Code, a code which has largely been abandoned by the Christian church. This is the same code that permits polygamy, bans tattoos, prohibits eating rare meat, bans cross-breeding of livestock and prohibits eating pigs, rabbits and certain types of seafood.
I firmly believe there is enough room in this world for people of all stripes. The fact that I can give my opinions on subjects such as this one speaks, I think, to the tremendous freedoms we enjoy in this country. To me, these freedoms include the right to be who you are without fear of judgment, harassment or attack. If we all try to be good people and lead caring, tolerant lives, the rest will take care of itself.
Jeanne Wells is a human-rights activist who resides in Cape Girardeau.