I’ve recently had a few people question me regarding my position on homosexuality, so I’d like to take the chance to explain myself so that anyone who is curious can understand. Of course, this isn’t going to be an extensive resource, as I’m no scholar, but I think it will serve as at least a basic introduction to the arguments many of us have when it comes to homosexuality.
I personally do not believe homosexuality is a sin, or an “abomination” (especially how we understand the word today), and I fully and *adamantly* support the rights of not just homosexuals, but the entire LGBT community.
Having said that, I will go through the two parts of this issue - my religious understanding of homosexuality, and the more civil idea of human rights (focusing mainly on the idea of marriage) - and offer the best explanation I can manage.
I’d like to start with the religious side of things, beginning with the word homosexual/homosexuality itself.
Although most people who read the Bible will argue that the word “homosexual/homosexuality” *is* indeed included in its pages, the word itself does not exist in the original text of the Biblical manuscripts. In fact, the first printed use of the word wasn’t until 1879, coined by Karl-Maria Kertbeny (who was an avid human rights campaigner, and was arguing *against* anti-sodomy laws - source). So, if the word homosexual/homosexuality *isn’t* in the original manuscripts, what do those original documents *really* say?
If you dig into the original language of the text, you’ll come across words like qadesh, pederasty, andarsenokoitai. We’ll look at each of these in turn.
The word qadesh is a word we find all over the OT (special thanks to this website for help in locating the word throughout the text) - in Genesis (38:21 and22), Deuteronomy (23:17), First Kings (14:24, 15:12, 22:46), Second Kinds (23:7), Job (36:14), Hosea (4:14)…
Qadesh is the masculine form; the female version of the word would be quedeshaw.Originally, this word referred to prostitutes, especially in regard to Pagan temple worship. It wasn’t until the KJV was written that the word qadesh was replaced with the word sodomite (and many other translations use the original idea of prostitute instead of the KJV’s sodomite,), which at the time was meant to refer to any sexual practice deemed “unnatural” (thanks to this source for this information), which isn’t in line with the original meaning of the text.
The next word, pederasty, is also often referred to as sodomy, but refers specifically to male on male pedophilia, as well as sometimes to prostitution, ritual sex, rape…. Again, this is not something which refers to the consensual, monogamous homosexual relationships we see today.
(for more on the idea of pederasty, you can check out this source - though there are more)
The last word that I will go into, arsenokoitai, found in 1Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 2, seems to be a word invented by Paul, as no one seems to have used the word before him. The KJV translates it as “abusers of themselves with mankind” which was later replaced with the word homosexual, once the word was coined. But if Paul were referring to homosexuals, as they were understood at the time, he would have used the wordpaiderasste instead (thanks to this source for this section).
So what do “they” say Paul’s word is meant to mean? “They” give a few suggestions, from “homosexual offenders” (which doesn’t forbid homosexuality, but only refers to “homosexuals who commit sexual offenses”), to prostitutes involved in Pagan temple worship, masturbators (this was apparently the understanding of the word at the time of Martin Luther - same source as before), pedophiles, and even sex slaves (especially young boys).
I could go on, mention other translations and meanings, like how the word סריס (saris - or eunich) has been thought to be where some of the mentions of homosexual or “effeminate” may stem from, but I think I’ve given a basic understanding that even though many translations *use* the word homosexual, the text never *meant* to refer to homosexuals or homosexuality.
Now, wait a minute, I’m sure some of you are thinking - that may put a kink in some of the verses, but there is still that one, you know, the “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” THAT verse doesn’t use the word homosexual, and therefore can’t be guilty of the same mis-translations.
There are two ways I need to address this idea - firstly, the idea of what “lie with mankind as with womankind” means, and secondly the idea of what “abomination” means.
There are many arguments for what the “lie with mankind as with womankind” could mean, ranging from the idea of Pagan ritual sex, or the impropriety of using a woman’s bed for male/male relationships (as this source says (using this source for this whole section, too), only a woman’s husband was allowed in her bed), to the idea of subordination in male/female sexual relationships not being acceptable in male/male sexual relationships. The idea that the same prohibitions of sexual relationships with kin is also one that is argued - that male/male relationships are forbidden if the two are somehow related, much like the idea of other forbidden sexual relationships within one’s own family.
There are other ways of looking at it, but they are also listed in that source (and this one, and this one, as well), so I won’t just copy them here (I have too much more to cover), and I won’t go into supporting the ideas here - you can find support for them in the sources (these as well as others I’ve not listed). I highly suggest giving the sources a read-through. In fact, for these sources in particular, I suggest starting here, as they are all part of one source. :)
Anyway, I personally believe the context of the passages implies that they’re referring, not to homosexuality, but the sexual practices of the worship of Molech, which involved bestiality and male cult prostitutes, but I wanted to move onto the topic of “abomination”.
Most Christians believe the word “abomination” refers to sin, even though other things are considered abominations, such as mixing fabrics in clothing, or eating shellfish. The original meaning of the word referred more to ideas of ritual purity, as understood when considering the original word to’ebah. It dealt with the idea of what was ritually “rite” or “pure”, what was considered “taboo”, the idea of moral or ritual law, what was “ritually improper” (here’s a source if you like).
There’s always more, but I’m going to wrap up the religious part of this, just because I have so much more I’d like to have time for, but if you’re interested in reading more there are plenty of sources online for it - like this one, which I found to be quite in depth. I also highly recommend the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So”.
But I want to move on to the other side of the argument about homosexuality and homosexual marriage - the marriage side.
I’d like to start this portion by looking at the tradition of marriage within the context of history - especially within Christian history.
In summarization of a section in Owen Chadwick’s History of Christianity (pg 155-156), I think it’s important to know that before 1100 peasants and workers did not bother much with marriage, in terms of ceremony or ritual. If man and woman chose to live together they were considered married. Church services were not necessary, and it was something left up to the lay people, not a priest.
It was in the upper class, where money and property were at stake, where marriages were really formalized.
He goes on to also tell us that around the end of the Western Roman Empire both the Church and the lawyers wanted to witness people consent. So the priest was introduced as a witness, not because of any sort of religious role, but merely because he was believed to be the most responsible person in the community. There were issues, like how closely couples were related, whether the couple really consented, or if they were already married to other people, that the priest was trusted to determine. Chadwick tells us the religious function was an “additional asset”, only consisting of blessing the union in hopes it would help the couple be fruitful and bear children. Even with this involvement of the priest, though, services in a church were optional, and we are told not many of the common people opted for it.
It wasn’t until 1100, he tells us, that Church councils decided laypeople should not conduct marriages, even though he mentions that the ban was repeated even as late as the middle of the 14th century, indicating that it wasn’t exactly followed.
Likewise, the book I’m reading currently - Christianity : The Illustrated History (general editor Hans J. Hillerbrand) speaks (on page 95) of how the earliest evidence supports the idea of Christian weddings as domestic issues, where priests may have been invited guests. It speaks of how the wedding was understood to be a *civil* affair, with the priest merely giving a blessing to the pair, and how the more prominent role of religion - the priest/church - in marriage wasn’t really until 1100, though it goes on to claim that “only at the time of the Reformation did weddings in the West move into the church, though some Protestants rejected this, seeing marriage as purely a civil act.”
Skipping to page 125, the book speaks of Pope Gregory VII “profoundly” affecting marriage through his “major transformation in the Western church”, which led to the idea of marriage being regarded as a sacrament, reiterating yet again how “until relatively recent times” most marriages were “ones of social convention” without formal ecclesial ceremony.
Their writing shows us that marriage is not something that Christianity seems to have a monopoly on, and that its history as a religious ceremony isn’t a very long one. Given that, when we understand the history of marriage within the Christian faith, as well as the original language/context of the passages commonly used to support anti-homosexual mentalities, can we really deny marriage to homosexuals?
If you don’t buy that, if that isn’t enough for you, I have more. ;)
One of the great things about living in America is all of the freedoms and rights afforded to each and every one of its citizens - inalienable, undeniable rights granted to each and every one of us just for being Americans. One of these very rights is the freedom of religion.
So even if you (general you) were to reject my previous arguments and maintain the *religiously convicted* belief that homosexuality is wrong, those of us who don’t agree are free from having to worry about your convictions and beliefs being forced upon us, given how the government isn’t supposed to make any law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Meaning if you believe homosexuality is a “sin”, you’re free to that belief, but we’re free to disagree, and it would go against the very foundation of the idea of religious freedom to use the government to push your opinion onto those who don’t agree with you, or denying them the right to live as they please, according to their own religious convictions or personal beliefs.
And then there’s the idea that marriage is a right. Did you know that? It is, not just a right, but pretty much a *universally recognized* right. Just check out Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - a Declaration the US has signed and endorsed.
Regardless of that, though, marriage isn’t seen as a religious issue in the United States - it’s regarded as a civil one. That’s why we go get marriage licenses, issued by the government. The religious aspect of marriage is an optional one, but the civil side of marriage is one that is (should be) available to *all* citizens. And to deny anyone this right because of their sexuality is discrimination - and discrimination based on reasons of religion or sexuality is not tolerated in *any* of the other areas of American life…
So I guess I just I fail to see how anyone should be allowed to deny someone else the right to live as they please. What other people do shouldn’t affect you; you should be able to live according to your convictions while leaving others to live to theirs (this makes me think of the controversies over divorce, birth control, or inter racial marriage, etc). So why can’t people just choose to apply their convictions to themselves, instead of expecting everyone else to live according to them too? That’s basically the whole point of religious freedom - “it only extends as far as your own nose” is the expression I’m most familiar with, implying that you’re free to believe however you please, but your beliefs can and should only apply to you and your life. No one should be forced to live according to the standards of another’s conscience or religious beliefs.
And before anyone accuses me of doing the same thing, I’m not trying to force anyone to vote for or support homosexual marriage - I actually don’t believe civil rights should be up for a vote. Rights are not contingent upon the majority’s approval, and I don’t believe in asking for approval for something people should be granted to begin with.
No, I’m merely attempting to explain where I’m coming from, what my reasoning is when it comes to the idea of homosexuality, and since I’ve given a basic overview of my stance on the issue I’ll leave you now (though with one last source to suggest - it really is a good one) to accept or reject any of what I’ve said. I just hope I’ve given you something to think about…
(up next : A Brief Overview of My Personal Faith)