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God, Gay, Christian and Jew – thoughts during a Holy Week

I regularly attend quite a few religious events and due to a mixed background and even more mixed relatives and children, those events occur in different faith settings where there are different views on the relationship of gay and God. So, having many gay friends, I was pondering how the view of Gays varies from my Episcopal Church, where we have gay Bishops, to my Greek Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church where parishioners accept gay members but the church authorities have major problems with homosexual behavior, to my relatives Reform Judaism where gays are accepted, to the Orthodox Judaism where homosexual behavior is not accepted, to a relative’s Unitarian Church that has changed over the last 50 years into a place where all beliefs – and non-belief – and all behaviors -are accepted. With computers it is not hard to pull together a few things from the Bible on this, so below are some things I noticed as I looked into this.

Paul is the one most often quoted for his rules on the role of women (best viewed in my opinion by noting that he prefaces those rules by saying one should not do behavior outside the cultural norm lest the message of Jesus is lost in discussions of your behavior) and for his lists of “don’ts” that include Homosexual acts. From Paul’s letter to the Romans – Romans 1:18-32 NIV “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” It is a bit of a stretch, but in my opinion not an unreasonable one, to see in Romans 1 Paul not condemning those born homosexual, but only condemning those that leave their natural state, both gay and straight. Indeed while Paul has his list of things one must not do, Paul is not Jesus and can not tell us who “shall not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven” despite his list in 1 Co. 6:9-11.

Of more interest perhaps is how Jesus refused to issue a blanket condemnation but wrote into the law groups that need not obey the law – such as eunuchs and perhaps those born gay. Matthew 19:3-12 (King James Version) states: “4And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,5And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. 10His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

Now early on the view of many in the Church was reflected in the writings (around 180 AD) of Saint Clement of Alexandria (Sainthood suppressed by the Roman Church around 600 AD as he was not with the exclusive male clergy program) who argues for the absolute equality of sexes, on the grounds that salvation is extended to all of mankind equally, suggesting that Christ is neither male or female, and that God the Father has both male and female aspects and is supportive of women playing an active role in the leadership of the church, as he promotes the idea that salvation is by the Grace of God, one needing faith and not special knowledge. He argues both promiscuity and sexual abstinence are unnatural, and that the main goal of human sexuality is procreation, saying one should avoid Homosexuality, prostitution, concubinage, adultery and coitus with pregnant women as such acts do not generate legitimate offspring.

Many that condemn homosexuality do so on the basis of the Old Testament based on the story of Sodom – but Sodom is condemned for inhospitality 16:49 and pride 16:50, with no mention of homosexuality. The general condemnation in the Sodom story for “abominations” – a word used for a host of behaviors – is stretched by some to say Ezekiel is condemning homosexuality in Sodom, but the early church, and much of the church today, see “abominations” as a reference to the purity laws which have procedures for going from unclean to clean and able to go to Temple again (a purity law prohibition being homosexual behavior in Leviticus 19:22 and 20:13) and the early church saw purity laws as of no interest to the Church. Even the gay Jew can read the Mishnah (Sanh. 7:1-9.1) and note how it ignores any death penalty in Leviticus as it allows for atonement for homosexual acts (the same as for adultery) and that such interpretation has been standard for a couple of thousand years. The Mishnah also knows of sexual confusion as it provides for determining the inheritance of one of doubtful sex (Bava Batra, 9.2).

Finally the Bible sets forth the ethic of love as the chief principal for being a Christian – it is hard to see where condemnation of homosexual love fits into this. I ascribe to concept of “every person is their own priest” – one does not accept God, or reject God, via one’s reasoning ability, and any religious practice view is based on where you sit. The above is just my thoughts, and as one does not convince others on matters of faith of anything, this is one post where I won’t toss in my two cents should anyone comment. I’ll leave to others the discussion of the Muslim view, as I am already over my head with the above.

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