Homosexuality & the Bible
Probably the greatest obsession that the Christian Church has with sex is over the issue of homosexuality. Books are written against it, campaigns are waged against it, courses are run against it, nationwide fundraising and organisations exist to combat it. If such an obsession were to occur in any other area of life, the antagonists would be declared clinically insane. If anyone other than a religious organisation were to wage such an obsession, they would be diagnosed as disguising their own homosexual dystonia: ‘Methinks the fellow doth protest too much!’
The Church has invested a lot of time and effort into its persecution of homosexuality, and every time that one myth is debunked, they will rummage around desperately trying to find something else, anything else, to help them to preserve their pogrom. ‘Surely there must be something in this book that I can use against them!’ Its loathing of homosexuality will continue as long as there are religious people willing to hunt out some religious support for their secular prejudices.
I once went to a religious meeting at which the speaker declared that the four greatest problems of society were disrespect for God, the breakdown of the nuclear family, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality. It was interesting to note that sexual promiscuity and homosexuality were separated so that sexual issues could take over two of the four complaints. About six months later, I was at another meeting at which the speaker identified the three greatest problems: the breakdown of the nuclear family, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality. This time something as important as ‘disrespect for God’ did not even enter the picture… to a Christian! About a year later, another speaker mentioned the two greatest problems: you guessed it, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality. It was therefore of no surprise that six months after that, I heard a Christian speaker declare that the single most corrupting influence on human life was the promotion of homosexuality. For Christians and for the Christian Church, sex in general and homosexuality in particular are an obsession, and as with any obsessed person, they have therefore become blinded, inflexible and irrational. But in reality, it is because heterosexuality has been made so contrived, repressed and difficult to support that it has become necessary to attack whatever might end up being an attractive alternative: people attack homosexuality when they are approaching the discovery that their own sexuality is a failure! The major impetus of the Church is not the advancement of the Christian religion, because let’s face it, nobody gets particularly up in arms these days if a person happens not to believe in God, but rather it is the securing and perpetuation of heterosexuality in the face of its own limitations and detriments.
Old Testament origins
If homosexuality were such a big no-no, above all other sins and virtually to the exclusion of all others, why is there not a single reference in the entire Bible to the advent of this apocalyptic event? It does not indicate who invented it, when, with whom and what happened to them. If we eliminate the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, as we shall do shortly, why is there not a single example of anyone being put to death for it? Many far lesser sins have their examples. It is because it has always been there, since the first day: God, after all, we are told, created everything!
“To lay with as with a woman”
In the Old Testament, there is a condemnation of “men who lay with men as with a woman”. If this were a condemnation of homosexuality outright, it would simply say “men who lay with men”… period! That says everything! Therefore, the attachment of the phrase “as with a woman” is significant to its intent. Meaning ‘in the same fashion’, this would imply only the type of male-to-male sex which replicates or mimics heterosexuality, and indeed there is a noticeable lack of historical writings condemning non-anal intimacy between men, such as oral sex or intimacy in general. Indeed, the story of David and Jonathan shows a level of homosexual closeness which seems approved of by the people of the times, as long as they did the appropriate heterosexual things when the time was right. The loving relationship between men, which includes sex as we would know it today but which was not deemed to be sex by them, because it did not simulate reproduction, this seemed to be acceptable. As long as heterosexuality was not mocked by imitation! Some arguments proffer the idea that if this sex should not be a replacement of women, then homosexuality was acceptable as long as you had a wife and had done what was necessary by producing a next generation. We must remember that biblically the purpose for heterosexual sex with a woman was to produce children and not for the sake of pleasure! Cicero summed it up with “A woman for children, a boy for pleasure and a goat for necessity!”
The ancient Hebrews did not even know of the existence of homosexuality as we do today: it was defined and labelled only as recently as the 1860s. For the Hebrews, all that they could deal with was what people did and not how they felt; and many of the rules about behaviour had more to do with things like what protected a society from disease, what promoted or protected the patriarchal social structure, etc., than about religion. Rules were simply given a religious stamp to try to cement that behaviour (or lack of it) as a habit, just as they did with circumcision and the wearing of the yarmulke, which is not even biblical despite the fanatical religious adherence to it. When Moses collected the social rules of other societies to implement over his Jewish followers, in order to perpetuate his obsessive pro-heterosexuality, he simply adopted all radical right-wing laws and ignored any which were liberal. We suffered because Moses was neurotically self-defensive, misogynistic and homophobic!
But it is difficult to give weight to an Old Testament sanction when people, both Jewish and Christian alike, have been so selective over which rules they will and will not obey. According to the Old Testament, when a woman has her period, she is to be cast out of the community for a term of seven days. Do we obey that rule? If a man even touches a woman who is having her period, he is unclean and is not to be touched until the following day. Men are unclean and not to be touched for a day after a wet-dream. We are not to wear clothing made of mixed fibres. We are not to eat the meat of any cloven-hoofed animal, so bacon, pork and ham are out, as is goat-meat. When a guy with a tattoo of ‘Jesus’ on his arm tells me what I must not do, he ignores the fact that Leviticus bans tattoos. Any child who hits their parent is to be stoned. Any child who is found regularly drunk is to be stoned. The weekly wage is anti-biblical because all workers must be paid by sunset on the day that they worked, so that no man is beholding to another man for a debt. Retirement and superannuation are anti-biblical because God’s punishment to all men is that we should toil hard and long “all the days of our life”. We are not to shave the hair from our temples. A woman who grabs a man by his testicles during a fight between her husband and this other man is to be stoned. No one may charge interest on a loan to anyone in your community. A person shall only be put to death (in this day, imprisoned) for murder which occurred during the daytime. A man can not be convicted of rape if he pays the woman’s father what she is worth and marries her. Christians do not even strictly adhere to the rules about the Sabbath, and that is a biggie! The Bible expressly forbids swearing on God or on anything that is “of God”, and yet people in their millions have sworn on the Bible itself in courts of law! Hundreds of rules exist in the Old Testament, and people will pick and choose those which suit their secular prejudices or their secular liberalities: they will ignore the massive majority but say, ‘This one about homosexuality, that I like, so that one I will use, because I can use it against someone else!’ The Old Testament was written by heterosexual, patriarchal men in order to organise a staunchly patriarchal society in a nomadic lifestyle and in desperate need of social stability. Diversity was not an option, despite the fact that God has filled his entire universe with diversity! At worst, this section of the Old Testament considers homosexuality to be ‘unclean’, and being unclean does not make something a sin!
The second Old Testament attack comes with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and we in fact get the word ‘sodomy’ from it. But what was the peccatum Sodomiticum, as Saint Jerome first called it? The story went that God was talking to Abraham and told him that he was going to destroy Sodom because there were no righteous people living there. After several attempts to jog God’s memory, Abraham “reminded God” of his cousin Lot who resided there, and God “remembered him”, a curious lapse of memory for a deity who is supposed to know everything. God said, “I shall go down to see if the stories which have come to me are true. If they are true, I want to know.” Again, this is a curious recognition that God does not know everything, first to see if the stories are true, and then to know about them if they are true! Now, Lot lived outside of the city: he lived at Sodom but not in it, and wanted to live no part of their life. So, why he was there in the first place is a mystery. Two angels turned up to his tent (Gen. 19:1-3). These were not ‘messengers’ in the traditional sense of ‘angels’: they were actually God in the flesh, because God had said “I will go down…”. Lot prostrated himself before them and invited them to stay the night with him. This is what all righteous Jews (and Christians) were supposed to do, because of God’s commandment, “When a stranger comes into your midst, you must treat him as one of your own family, for you were once strangers in the wilderness.”
The local people did not trust Lot because he was from a different background, with different ways of behaviour and did not wish to be a part of the city, condescendingly setting himself outside of their world. They saw these two strangers enter Lot’s tent at night and were curious. The Bible says that “all the people without exception” (19:4) came to Lot’s tent, which implies either a very small city or a very large tent. They said, “Send out these men that we may know them” (19:5). It is curious that both Lot and the people of Sodom saw them as “men”: Lot refused, offering instead his virgin daughters, rather than have his guests abused: Lot was allowed to do this because in Jewish law, the daughters were Lot’s possessions, his property, to give away as he wished. But the locals refused the offer. This is often used as ‘proof’ that they were homosexual. But surely the women of Sodom would have been interested in the daughters if they were also homosexual! Also, the men would have found it just as easy to sodomise women as other men, if anal sex were their crime: clearly, with wives and children anal sex and not homosexuality seems to be the accusation, unless the biblical accusation is that only men can have sex. They turned down the offer because in reality, a) if they had wanted to, they could have taken the daughters any time that they wished, and b) as essentially decent and righteous people, this was inappropriate to them. It is just that they were not righteous in the Jewish, Jehovistic sense; but that does not mean that they were without any scruples at all. Anyway, God (i.e. the angels) blinded the inhabitants long enough for Lot and his family to escape, before God destroyed the city. (Of course, Lot and his family were so ‘righteous’ that the first thing that he did after fleeing was get rotten drunk and screw his own daughters. I guess God did not see that one coming! But to God, sex with one’s daughters is not a sin!)
Now, we are told that in the Bible the term ‘to know’ means to have sex with, and indeed we use the phrase ‘to know someone in the biblical sense’. However, it does not mean anything of the sort! It is one of the most enduring deceptions perpetrated by the Church! The Hebrew word yada means ‘to become familiar with by observing’ or ‘to deal with or to look upon with respect’, in a similar vein to the way that we use the word ‘recognise’ in ‘the Chair recognises such and such’. The word ‘know’ occurs 832 times in the Old Testament, of which 818 are translations of yada. But not one of them refers to having sex! Even in verses like “X knew his wife; and he begat Y,” the semi-colon and the non-causative use of “and” (which would otherwise be ‘and thus’) separate the two verbs: it is like saying, “They got married; and they had children.” Marriage may be an historical part of a process which ultimately resulted in children, but it does not mean having sex in itself. Essentially, it is saying that X offered his wife the dignity of recognition in his eyes. The Bible already has two phrases which mean to have sex: ‘to lay with’ and ‘to come in unto’ (used primarily in the exploits of King David). A third form really gives it away: on four occasions we find “a woman that hath [not] known a man by lying with him” (Num. 31:17, 18, 35; Jdg. 21:12), that is who has not been familiar by having sex. ‘Knowing a man’ does not automatically mean ‘having sex’ because that has to be specifically identified: ‘to know’ does not mean ‘to lay with’ until you specifically append the phrase ‘to lay with’. Gen. 24:16 describes Rebekah: “She was beautiful and a virgin; neither had any man known her.” What would be the point of saying, ‘She was a virgin and she had not had sex’? ‘To know’ does not mean ‘to have sex’! (It can not be argued that this could be “virgin” in the sense of ‘maiden’, in the way that the Latin virgo does, because the Hebrew word used is betûlâ, which does mean ‘virgin’, while the word for a maiden is naarah.)
What the Sodomites wanted to do was to know, to become familiar with these people in a way which was not appropriate to a guest: they wanted to interrogate these people, to grill them, to treat them with disrespect. And as we have already learnt, God’s loathing of disrespect is a big killer! They were essentially inhospitable people!
But there is another part of the Bible which clarifies the situation. Ezekiel 16:49-50 actually lists the crimes: arrogance, gluttony, avarice, complacency, not caring for the poor or the elderly; they were haughty and did detestable things. He even stated that the crimes of Israel were far worse than those of Sodom! If we wish to suppose that homosexuality could be squeezed into the phrase “detestable things”, it is certainly not worthy of Ezekiel identifying this, and he was by no means prudish, reticent or squeamish!
Of course, to punctuate all of this, Sodom is one of those places for which there is absolutely no archaeological evidence that such a location even existed in the first place. It appears to be entirely metaphorical, a city devoid of righteousness, set up to tell a moral tale about hospitality rather than to narrate an historical fact, similar to El Dorado and others.
The New Testament
A formidable difference in perspective takes place between the patriarchal and nomadic perspective of the Old Testament and the cosmopolitan and urbanised perspective of the New Testament.
“Them that defile with mankind”
The New Testament word arsenokoitēs (with its plural arsenokoitai) occurs twice and is translated as “abusers with mankind” (1 Cor. 6:9) and “them that defile with mankind” (1 Tim. 1:10) But we may ask ourselves, What did Paul actually write and what did he actually mean? We note for a start that even in English, the word “them” does not imply ‘men and only men’, for then it surely would have said simply ‘men that defile with mankind’. “Them” means anyone, and there is nothing to assume that it means ‘men’ at all! In all Western languages without exception the masculine gender is used for nouns which refer to men and only men or to men and women or to any situation in which the gender is unknown or unspecified, and this includes English, in which we have not had genders for over a thousand years (other than, of course, in the pronouns). This is especially so when we consider that the generic word ‘humankind’ was not introduced into the English language until 1645, and so until then, and even until very recently, ‘mankind’ has meant ‘humans’. Basically, the letter to Timothy says ‘people who defiled with men’, and if that could as easily refer to women, then it can not be talking about homosexuality. The operative word in the phrase, therefore, seems to be ‘defile’ or ‘abuse’: he is talking about what was happening and not who was doing it.
Even then, it is not essential that the words “defile” or “abuse” must refer to having sex at all. There are many ways in which we may defile or abuse men. On top of this, “defile” or “abuse” are not accurate translations of the Greek at all, as we shall see.
The word arsenokoitēs itself has two possible meanings: one is the traditional Christian interpretation and the other is the more likely meaning. Paul was the first identifiable individual ever to write this word down, and he may have in fact invented it. If it existed in common spoken language, he would have to write a word which he had never seen, and would therefore not necessarily know how to spell. It is equally possible that he did spell it correctly according to what he intended, but that any one of the numerous copyists over the following centuries made an improper ‘correction’ to what they thought it should be. We find this difficult to swallow because we do like to believe that the Bible is perfect, and yet there are other spelling errors in it. There are even phrases in the English translation which do not even exist at all in the original Greek. In the Book of Revelations, the clause “I am the alpha and the omega” (ego ho alpha kai ho ō) is a mistranslation which should be ‘I am the alpha and the essential substance’, while the following phrase, “the beginning and the end” (ho genesos kai ho telos), does not even exist: it is entirely the invention of the translators, despite John’s warning that we should not alter a single word of his book (Rev. 22:18). One such spelling error occurs in the very same Corinthian verse (6:9), that of “male prostitutes”. (Many bibles render it as “effeminates”, but the New International Version and the New Revised Standard Version stretch it to “male prostitutes”.) The word is malachoi, which actually means ‘soft’, or with humans ‘gentle’. At its semantic stretch it has even gone so far as to mean ‘cowardly’. But how on earth did they get ‘male prostitutes’ from ‘gentle’?! The chances are that it was in fact a misspelling of a different declension, malachai, which means ‘masturbators’. (This difference in declension is common in many languages, such as in French where le vase means ‘the vase’, but la vase means ‘the mud or silt’, le mode means ‘the method’, la mode means ‘the fashion’, le manche means ‘the handle’, la Manche means ‘the English Channel’, le livre, ‘the book’, la livre, ‘the pound’, le tour, ‘the trick’, la tour, ‘the tower’, le voile, ‘the veil’, la voile, ‘the sail’.) Spelling errors based on different declensions are common throughout the world, and the Bibleis no exception!
The Church held that the Greek arsenokoites derived from arsenos, ‘a male’, andkeimai, ‘to lie with’. Already we see the intrusion of judgementalism: ‘to lie with’ becomes the more derogatory ‘to defile’! The problem is that turning the verbkeimai into the agent-noun koitēs is extremely difficult to support linguistically, especially when we consider that the only letter common to both words would be the initial letter kay: it would be no different than suggesting that the verb ‘walk’ gives us the agent-noun ‘wanker’ because they both start with the same letter. The Senior Lecturer in Greek at Auckland University, Dr Barnes, has suggested that koitēs in fact comes directly from the Latin coitus, meaning sex as in, literally, ‘a going together’. The problem here is that while Latin borrowed a lot of words from Greek, and while Greek borrowed a very small amount from Latin, we do not tend to find such borrowing a) when it is only a part of a word, in other words that is becomes a hybrid or ‘bastard’ word, half Greek and half Latin, or b) when there is already an existing word in one’s own language to begin with: such a borrowing would be simply unnecessary… and the Greeks definitely already had their own word for ‘one who has sex’, erōtitēs. (The proposition that the second element may derive from koitē, a bed, is false, because that is only the ‘bed’ of a river and has a visual similarity to the other bed only in English: the bed that one sleeps in is eunē or krebati.)
The fact that the translators used “them that defile with mankind” rather than ‘them that lay with men’ would imply that these translators themselves were not so comfortable about the allegèd bilingual basis of this otherwise completely unknown word to them. The logical origin is that the word derives rather fromarsenikon, meaning arsenic, or poison in general, and the suffix –itēs, meaning an agent, ‘one who is or does’, as in Israelite, ‘one who is from Israel’. This would render the word as ‘poisoner’. The change of the central syllable from –nik– to –nok–, as a respelling of a schwa, is so linguistically commonplace that it implies nothing. (Cf. temperəmental or the –i– in the middle of ‘business’.) Would Paul in writing to the Corinthians have used a word which no one had heard or seen, or would he use one which, due to the influence of Arab chemists in the Near and Middle Eastern world, was common at least in spoken language? Despite the fact that the spelling error of arsenokoitēs was minute, its historical consequences were enormous!
The verse 1 Corinthians 6:9 is rendered typically as “…neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminates [or ‘male prostitutes’], nor homosexuals [arsenokoitēs], nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers…”, but rather than dedicating three out of the ten problems to sexual issues, it seems that Paul was speaking more broadly: “…neither the immoral, nor those who lust for things, nor those who lust forothers, nor those who lust for themselves, nor those who poison others with their behaviour or ideas, nor those who take for themselves by stealth, nor those who want more than they need, nor those who indulge too much, nor those who insult others, nor those who take from others by force…”. A lecture to the Church at Corinth is more likely to have a broad application than a highly specific one generally found in the Bible, for which a follower, wishing to absolve themselves, may easily say, ‘Ah yes, but Paul is clearly not talking about me, because whereas it is true, I do indulge too much, I am not actually a “drunkard”: I do not actually drink too much, so he must be talking about other people! I do take from others by conning them, but I do not actually “thieve” them, so I am all right!’ Being overly specific would avoid the intention of Paul’s epistle!
Romans 1:24, 26
In this text, the Bible usually translates it as “For this cause God gave them up to uncleanness” (1:24) and “unto vile affections” (1:26). We note some surprising things. One is the term “God gave them up”, which first implies that no one should attempt to interfere with a homosexual being homosexual, since God himself ‘gave them up’ to it. This sense of ‘giving up’ is amplified by Revelation 22:11, which states “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile.” (This is further stressed in 1 Cor. 7:17-20, in which Paul asserts that if one is circumcised when “called”, they should not become uncircumcised, and vice versa. “Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.”) Secondly, it implies that heterosexuality isapplied by God, and without his support we return to a natural homosexuality, because God does not maintain the heterosexuality: this certainly fits in with a great deal of modern psychoanalysis, in which heterosexuality develops in an individual to supersede the natural homosexual basis of our early development, which would have been observed, even if not identified, by the Jews. Certainly, there is no evidence of Adam and Eve exemplifying heterosexuality until afterthey had sinned and been cast out of the Garden and into the wider world, when only then were they told to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28), in other words to perform a heterosexual act, even if neither of them was. Another point is the opening phrase “for this cause”, which indicates that when God ‘gives people up’ to homosexuality, it is for a purpose, it is a part of God’s plan. Another note is that “uncleanness” simply refers to the temporal customs of the society, and not to a sin in itself. (Thus, wet dreams, menstruation and eating certain foods were all “unclean” but scarcely constitute ‘sins’. Indeed, with the huge number of things that were ‘unclean’, they must have been considered mild or else people would have spent half their entire lives in front of the judges and priests and paying penance for it all. In fact, the rectification for an ‘uncleanness’ was usually no more than the individual spending a short period of time away from others, so that the uncleanness may not affect them.) And in the term “vile affections”, the word “vile” simply means ‘common’ or ‘commonplace’ (from the Latin vilis): it has only meant ‘disgusting’ since the late 1800s. Even the Greek phrase, pathoi atimias, means ‘feelings of grief or suffering from dishonour’. But as in so many other cases, the Church could not resist amplifying its meaning into something more dramatic and judgemental, turning mere ‘feelings’ into “vile affections”.
These verses deal with a simple short-coming in our understanding. They basically talk about women whose lust is so strong that they give up their ‘natural’ desires for men, and men whose lust is so strong that they give up their ‘natural’ desire for women. But what does Paul say about women whose natural desires are for women, or men whose natural desires are for men? Not a thing! Even though they had not identified homosexuality as a psychological phenomenon, they would have been aware that certain people felt that way, and yet there is no mention of such people. The phrase “natural use” occurs simplybecause Paul, like everyone around him, had not discovered the psychological element of sexuality and defaulted to the scriptural idea that sex was never for pleasure or intimacy but only as a function for reproduction… it was a mechanism of use and not a psychological disposition! Again we note that while Paul is often maligned for his negativity about sex, in fact if we read him more fully, we see that it is not sex per se of which he disapproves but the unrestricted lust which debases these children of God. Who is doing it, how it is being done, are irrelevant to him. If a man is so randy, and so willing to give in to that randiness, that he thinks that he must have sex, regardless of with whom, that is the problem! It is not the sex about which he is talking, but the giving in to lust. In short, these verses do not deal with homosexuality at all, but with heterosexuality and with heterosexual lust!
The “God’s plan” argument
When all else has failed and the analysis of Scripture can no longer support the hatred of homosexuality, Christians will turn to the question of what was God’s plan or design? It is here that trite slogans appear, like ‘God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!’ It is here that we presume to know, and to dictate, what God is thinking or intending. It is here also that the words ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ rear their ugly heads.
The argument arises that homosexuality is ‘unnatural’ and that heterosexuality is the ‘natural’ form of sexuality. The word ‘natural’ has three different meanings or applications: one is ‘that which occurs in nature’, two is ‘that which occurs when unhindered and left to its own devices’, and three, a contrived meaning, is ‘that which exemplifies God’s plan or design’. The ‘occurrence in nature’ argument can be debunked with the simple observation that some form of homosexuality occurs in every known form of mammal life. Horses will divide into male groups and female groups, and the males will copulate with each other until such time as one or two of them dominate the harem of females. The remaining males will then continue with each other. One of our friendliest and most intelligent animals, the dolphin, can remain homosexual throughout the entirety of their lives. Primates, our nearest cousins, display frequent homosexuality. Cats will frequently form lesbian bonds. Even among the birds, parrots will be homosexual until the chief male, who is copulating with all of the females, dies and another one takes his place. Among many species of fish, the same occurs. Admittedly, a lot of this does seem to be in the form of homosexual behaviour and not a homosexual relationship, but even among humans the evolution of a heterosexual ‘relationship’ is culturally a fairly recent adaptation. Nevertheless, every time that some biologist discovers a rare species that heterosexually mates for life, they will go overboard advertising this find to the world, as if one or two examples of a heterosexual relationshipprove both the ubiquity of it and the naturalness of it. Yet no lifelong homosexual relationships are ever advertised, and since our appalling education system promotes only heterosexual perspectives, most people are none the wiser! Psychoanalytically we know that homosexuality is natural and that it is in fact heterosexuality which is socially contrived and unnatural, but no one is willing to teach that to our young!
We must also be cautious with any argument that something is wrong if it does not occur in nature and right if it does. For a start, the non-existence of something in itself has no moral value to it: the fact that I do not have a car makes no moral commentary either on me or on car ownership. Therefore, ifdespite all of the evidence homosexuality did not occur in nature, that absence does not make it ‘wrong’. Second, the vast majority of human behaviour does not occur in nature: spectacles, cell-phones, clothing, rugby, voting, taxes. What we do find in nature is infanticide, even paedophagia (the eating of children), and incest, theft, rape, cannibalism, murder for mating. The ‘occurrence in nature’ argument is a very dangerous can to open.
The ‘left to its own devices’ argument fails for very similar reasons. Most of human behaviour is the result of social pressure, societal regulation and family training. Left to our own devices, we would walk around naked, we would masturbate in public and have sex whenever we were randy, we would allow the elderly and the sick to die, we would reject all foreigners. All social conventions are contrived and therefore ‘unnatural’. Again, we must be very cautious if we try to use the ‘devices’ argument.
This ‘design’ argument can be debunked in a few ways. First, we note the above-mentioned phrase “for this cause”, which implies that ‘giving people up’ to homosexuality is a part of God’s plan. Second, an original form does not mean a compulsory form. Initially we all wore clothes made of fig-leaves: is this to be the only form of clothing just because it was the first? Initially, the only forms of work were farming vegetables or hunting animals: is this to be the only form of occupation? Initially people lived in tents: is this to be the only form of accommodation? Something always has to be first, but that never means that variation and diversity are not to be considered. Does God want everyone to be exactly the same? If Adam and Eve were by some strange logic only two individuals, it is true that they would have had to have had sex to reproduce, and we call that ‘heterosexual sex’, even without knowing the psychological preference of either or both parties, but an initial act does not mean that no other act may follow.
Third, as a related argument, is that if Adam, being heterosexual, ‘preferred’ women, i.e. Eve, her preferred her to whom? We have no idea what their sexualpreferences were, or even if they had any, only that they had to have had a certain type of sex to reproduce. With no alternative source to observe, we can not have a ‘preference’ of any sort! Indeed, we are even taught that in a ‘state of grace’ all things are allowable. Adam, after all, allegedly had sex with all of the animals first, to see if any of them was an adequate ‘helpmate’, and theology has always held that this was fine in that ‘state of grace’. We do not know what they ‘initially’ were, and even if we did, that does not exclude other variations. We only assume that Adam and Eve were heterosexual rather than, say, asexual, because they simply had no one else with whom to do it!
Fourth is that in Hebrew the word Adam, like all words ending in the letter em, is a plural, in this case a collective noun: it means ‘people, humans, mankind’. Eve, or Chevveh, similarly means ‘womankind’. Their personification into a single entity was simply a common habit of most ancient and primitive cultures who needed to ask ‘who was first’, although the Greeks circumvented this question by proposing that when Ouranos had his testicles cut off, the semen spilled on the ground and the human race was born. Many Polynesian cultures have a similar story! Certainly, the plurality of Adam helps to explain how ‘he’ was expected to tend to the Garden of Eden, which was approximately 65,000 square kilometres in size. It also answers the age-old question of where Cain and Seth got their wives and where their children got their wives, and so on. It also explains the question, If Cain was driven away by God for murdering Abel and was given a mark so that others may not kill him, who were these ‘others’ to threaten that killing? Cain built a city, but a city for whom? It explains how after only about ten generations the entire world was so overpopulated with sinful people that God was compelled to destroy it with the Great Flood. This personification of the many into one also exists in modern culture, such as when the Americans refer to ‘Uncle Sam’ for the entire American people. In the beginning, God certainly did create Adam and Steve, along with many others! And if many humans existed at the beginning, an example given by one or two of them does not necessarily represent the nature of all of them.
It is the ‘design’ argument which destroys itself when we examine the behaviour of bees, in which half of their entire population, the drones, were considered by us to be a drain on their societies simply because they do not reproduce, and yet their presence is critical to maintaining the exact temperature needed for the pupae to develop and be born. In other words, redundancy in nature or in God’s design seems to be a matter of our perspective or of our ignorance, andeverything has its place in the grand scheme of things! Would God have created a system of reproduction which periodically creates people who are reproductively redundant, unless he had an actual plan and purpose for us regardless of that redundancy?
There is nothing to assume that God wanted diversity in all things except for relationships and sex, that this was to be the only thing of strict conformity! If ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ was a universal absolute commandment rather than a suggestion or an allowance (as in ‘May you be fruitful…’), why did God make certain people “barren”, and why did most people stop producing children after a certain manageable number? Indeed, why did God create menopause at all, and why is the process of fertilisation so complex and hostile to life that only one in twenty acts of unprotected sex ends up in pregnancy? God apparently does not cooperate with his own instruction! It does seem to be ‘May you be fruitful…’.
What did Jesus say?
Most people are unaware that Jesus did actually make a comment on homosexuality. It occurs in Matthew 19:11-12:Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Now, it may seem that this has nothing to do with homosexuality because it talks about “eunuchs”, but this is a misconception based on poor education. The word ‘eunuch’ entered the language as meaning a castrato, a castrated person, only around 1680, and the meaning was popularised during the 1700s. Prior to that, they would have used the Middle English word spado, which derived from the Greek word spadon, meaning a eunuch in the castrated sense. So what did the word ‘eunuch’ actually mean for those who wrote the scripture and for those who translated it? For a long time it had been used to refer to homosexuals, because it originally meant a ‘bed-keeper’, from the Greek eunē, ‘a bed’, andoukhos, ‘a keeper’. It referred to men who were used as bed-chamber guards because they had no sexual interest in pursuing women: they were ‘safe’. Some were eunuchs in the modern sense, true, but these were few and far between: after all, Europe, where the word was used, was not riddled with men who had had their balls cut off. More common were homosexuals. Indeed, even in the Islamic nations, until the recent fundamentalist resurgence, homosexuals were frequently used to guard their harems.
In Jesus’ line in the Gospel of Matthew, he seems to refer to ‘eunuch’ in its modern meaning only in the clause “others were made that way by men,” but the concept of ‘some… others…’ is important, implying that ‘some’ were not eunuchised by men. But even this clause does not of necessity imply physical castration, because there may be other ways in which we make men not sexually pursue women. The chemists of the time, like those of today, had numerous potions which diminished a man’s sexual drive. The clause that “others have made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of heaven” can not imply physical castration, because according to the Old Testament, men were not permitted into the orthodox assembly of God if they had damaged ‘members’ (Lev. 21:20, Deut. 23:1), and this included the penis and the ‘stones’. So, it seems implausible that someone would cut their balls off to serve God if by that very action they could not be in the presence of other believers! He must be talking about those who reject the pursuit of women in order to serve God. The most significant clause is the first, that “some are eunuchs because they were born that way.” Throughout the Bible we tend to find that the most important thing in any issue is the one which comes first or is mentioned first, like the first-born or the First Commandment. Is Jesus talking about physically castrated eunuchs or about men who are not interested in women? Men who do not have testicles because they were born that way are extremely rare, maybe even non-existent. I know of no such person and no one that I know knows of any such person. Are we to assume that first-century Palestine was so riddled with men who had been born with no testicles that it required Jesus to make such a strong and unequivocal comment on them? We know that boys do not have visible testicles until such time as the ‘drop’, but they are clearly not ‘eunuchs’, and is Jesus really saying, ‘You should accept boys’? His comment definitely seems to be about homosexuals. In the last clause, he states that “the one who can accept this should accept this,” and one of the major tasks of the Christian is to accept others! But in the first clause, Jesus does consider the reality of attitude, that there does seem to be a noticeable, even understandable lack of acceptance by the community… until such time as the word is given to them. So, he is really saying, ‘It is not wrong that you disapprove of homosexuals, but it is wrong that you would continue to disapprove of them after you have been given the opportunity to understand.’ The word of Christ himself should be the final word, and yet Matthew 19:11-12 remains one of the most unquoted sections of the entire Bible.
The Church’s attitude
The Catholic Church did default to an allowance of one variety of homosexuality: it saw a distinction between fellatio, the sucking of a penis, and irruminatio, the placing of a penis into a mouth, what we today would see as very much the same thing… but they did not. The Church considered that fellatio was not merely a sin but a breach of ecclesiastical law, because the man doing the sucking had emasculated himself: he had degraded his masculinity created by God. By contrast, irruminatio was a forgivable sin, a sin only in the fact that it was sexual and not that it was perverse, because to the Church a man has a natural desire to insert his penis into apertures, and while a mouth is not a vagina, by asserting his natural drive to penetrate, the man has not been emasculated, and therefore God has not been emasculated. This is one of the many ways in which the Church attempted to play around with the ‘legalities’ of definitions and avoid looking at the over-all picture. Modern theology is in fact looking for ways to deal with this issue of homosexuality not only in light of the development of the discipline of psychology and of its related scientific research, not only in light of the axiology which promotes the ‘new’ God as a ‘loving God’ and Jesus as accepting of us all through a process of love, but also in light of the notion that more people are becoming personally aware that, just as psychoanalysis has claimed, a certain element of homosexuality exists in all of us as a natural part of our development. Most of us are aware, if we are truthful, of some situation in which we have found some other male attractive; in some situations nothing has happened, depending on the level of repression, yet we may have still wondered or fantasised about a potential activity with such a person; in other situations many have even had a momentary experimentation or indulgence, which, much to our surprise, was not as repulsive and soul-destroying as we had been led to believe, all because these are natural processes. And if it is natural, how do we deal with it in terms of the new theology?
The Church has essentially gotten away with centuries of bullshit, a) because for a long time they could enforce their viewpoint with the threat of death, and b) because people naïvely felt that the Church, surely, would not ever lie to them and that as educated people, the clergy must know what they are talking about! My goodness, how could anybody who can read or write, and in Latin of all things, ever possibly not know what they are talking about?! The simple fact is that, regardless of the integrity of the individual, if an educated person is wrongly taught, they will still wrongly profess!
If we really are to be obsessed, we may be obsessed in one of two ways: we can be obsessed in the pursuit of condemnation or we can be obsessed in our pursuit of understanding! I know which one I prefer!
. The declensions are paradigms for changing nouns to suit their meanings. In Latin we find the first declension (often erroneously called the masculine), words which end in –us, such as dominus (lord, master), terminus (end), calculus (small stone). These are made up of a stem, domin–, and an inflection, –us, and only the inflection changes. Thus, domini means ‘masters’ or ‘of the lord’, domino means ‘by, with, from, to or for the master’, dominorum means ‘of the masters’. The second declension (wrongly called feminine) ends in –a, such as formula (example of form), nauta (sailor), poeta (poet). Its plural is formulae. The third declension (neuter) ends in –um, such as agendum (something to be done), stadium (one eighth of a mile), aquarium (place containing water). Its plural is agenda. There are a couple of others. The Greek declensions end in –os, –as, and –on, respectively, the last of which gives us English words like ‘criterion’ and ‘phenomenon’ and their plurals.