Does the Bible teach “hatred of gays?”

To be frank, I’ve been dreading this post. Anyone addressing this topic has to be prepared for brickbats from every direction. Nevertheless, Cindy asked a legitimate question, and, as a Christian, I think I have a duty to answer her honestly.

I want to make it clear, for anyone who doesn’t yet understand, the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of the church at large, the Mid-America Union, the SDA denomination– even my family members may disagree. So it’s just me, just my understanding.

So here goes. When it comes to “gays” or “homosexuals” and the Old Testament, I understand how one could come to the conclusion, that it teaches “hatred of gays,” but I don’t believe that is an accurate reading of the text.

I will not here undertake an exhaustive review of every OT text but my understanding is this: When the OT condemns what we today would describe as “homosexual conduct,” it is always in the context of fasle worship, that is, the sexual activity as worship of a fertility goddess. That is the context in which it is called “an abomination.” But so is heterosexual activity as worship of a fertility god or goddess.

Many of the activities forbidden in the OT are forbidden because they had religious significance we do not understand today.

For example, Ex 23:19 forbids cooking a goat in its mother’s milk. What’s that about? Well, archeological evidence indicates that strange recipe was part of a conjuring or divining ceremony. They understood what it meant, even though we don’t.

Lots of things which are obvious in context may be obscure outside of that context. Sexual conduct in general was viewed in radically different ways in Ancient times. Both Isaac and Jacob married cousins. Cain, and Seth must have married sisters. The OT allowed polygamy. Does that mean these things are good, wholesome, or proper today? Of course not.

I could go on at some length. And the NT is a different situation entirely. But my take is that the OT does not directly address what we call “homosexuality.” When it describes those behaviors, it is in the context of false worship.


Comments

Does the Bible teach “hatred of gays?” — 5 Comments

  1. that is a very interesting idea, and i think it’s worthy of more thought, on my part!

    but what of the NT? and do the OT and NT agree? should they be in agreement, as many theologians insist? are they two parts of a consistent whole?

    • I’ll take up my understanding of the NT next time. But for now, I want to address your question in the following way.

      If the OT does not address homosexuality as we know it, and the NT does, does that constitute a disagreement?

      If Moses, in ca. 1450 B.C., mandates a bill of divorcement and improves the lot of women a little, and Jesus, more than 1500 years later, improves it even more, do they disagree?

      It seems to me it depends on whether “agree” means identical counsel, or similar attitudes. You tell me.

  2. Thanks for not shrinking from the question that is likely to make you enemies on one side of the fence or other.

    I have read those texts, and don’t remember there being any false worship context. Could you please point me to an article that explains that explanation? Prima facie it looks like a way to remain accepting when we have no inherent reason to reject behaviour.

    But if that exegesis holds water, does that leave us in a position that we should “hate” people who engage in certain types of false worship?

    I think the original question is to black and white. The Bible teaches concern for the sinner, but a recognition of the evil of sin. The Torah does that as a sort of spiritual kindergarten. Jesus in a more literate context could refine the ideas, but the same underlying principles apply.

    • Thank you for your very thoughtful comments. By the way, I like your clever screen name, especially considering the topic.

      First of all, I absolutely agree with your final paragraph. Whether or not the Bible condemns a certain behavior, that does not mean that we should hate the one who engages in that behavior. So on that basic question, I think pretty much everyone agrees. But it seemed to me that Cindy’s question was concerned with the deeper issue, and that is one that I think an honest person —and I try to be honest — really ought to address.

      First thing I think we need to realize is the difference between what the Bible says, and what we infer from that text.

      In this context, Genesis 19 and the whole episode of Sodom comes to mind. We infer that this is about homosexuality, but the ancient world rarely if ever separated sexuality from worship. When I say worship, I don’t mean an elaborate ceremony, necessarily, but rather acts of what we would call “sympathetic magic.” In short, humans engaged in sexual activity for the purpose of influencing the gods to engage in the same behavior, and/or accumulating fertility to one’s self.

      The bulk of the texts that directly address what we call homosexual behavior — as opposed to ones that we infer are about homosexual behavior — can be found in the book Leviticus.

      The book of Leviticus is for the Levites, and everything in the book is in the context of their cultic duties and requirements. So although it does not say explicitly that any of these prohibited activities are worship of false gods, the fact that they make a person “defiled” indicates that it unsuits them for worship.

      For example, if they come in contact with blood, they are unclean and cannot be in the camp. We infer from that that is a matter sanitation — and undoubtedly they would have have had that effect. But the question is whether they saw it as a matter sanitation, or something else.

      In the fertility cults of the day, to drink blood was to gain fertility(blood does act as a fertilizer for plants after all). Declaring a person who had contact with blood unclean sent a clear signal that worship of Jehovah did not involve such practices. In fact, those practices made one unfit to worship him. They were an abomination

      We may not understand the significance of every one of the prohibitions in the book of Leviticus in terms of false worship in that day, but that’s what Leviticus is about.

      Does that help? Please, feel free to counter or ask more questions. I will be glad to respond.

      As for your concerned that I was simply trying to find a way to be accepting — read my next post.

  3. If for no other reason, homosexual behaviour is inappropriate because it runs counter to the symbolism in scripture regarding the spread of the gospel. Jesus is the Bridegroom. We (His people) are the Bride. The marriage is supposed to produce children; which is what the gospel commission is all about. In this context, allowing the Holy Spirit to develop and use the gifts He has bestowed upon each believer equates with “Sex” in our marriage to our Saviour; and will occasionally produce new life in the church.
    In this scenario, sharing what God has revealed to us with those who already know it (For instance Sabbath School discussions of the finer points of our theology) is spiritual homosexuality. In order to produce new life in the family of God, we must share with those outside the walls of our churches. If we don’t then we are spiritual homosexuals. Some don’t even share in Sabbath School. I suppose that would make them spirtual self-abusers. My purpose here is not to malign all Sabbath School discussion but simply to point out that the Sabbath School is to be the “Soul-Winning Arm” of the church and, therefore, represents an opportunity to share the gospel (By inviting and focusing upon visitors) not serve as a committee entrusted with theological forays into fields of minor importance withing the Advent Community.
    None of this, of course, addresses the original question of hate for thise who involve themselves in actual homosexual behavior. Surely Jesus made this so clear as to be outside the realm of potential misunderstanding. “If you hate, you are a murderer”. He makes no provision for this hatred to be deserved. His example in praying for those who drove the nails and plucked out His beard and spat in His face and jeered at His nakedness, should be sermon enough!
    Sincerely,
    The Woodchuck

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