Growing up deep in the bible belt of the Ozarks can create a challenge for Christians who strive to pursue spiritual growth. It seems that a common theme within this particular culture, is to teach children the obvious rules that are laid out in the Word. I too have followed suit to a great degree in this area, crediting scriptures such as Proverbs 22:6 to support that case. I think that many positive outcomes can come from teaching children principles taught directly from the Word. However, in reflection of the current society we are living in, I also have noted that sometimes as Christians we have created new and ever evolving ways to sin, through a focus on our own abilities to aspire for a level of perfection that quite frankly, doesn’t seem scriptural.
Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
The more I study, and strive to develop my spiritual life, the more I feel that these methods are what breeds a lack of faith throughout the world of Christianity. As an adult Christian I feel a deep and personal desire to question main stream ideas that are easily accepted by the masses. At times these questions have developed due to personal factors such as my divorce at a younger age, or conflict within a church congregation. In recent months, I’ve become more interested in topics that in some ways it might seem don’t apply to me, my family, or my life. However, what I have continued to come back to is this… all topics pertaining to Christians will always apply to me if I am in fact a Christian too.
One particular area of concern that I’ve personally felt compelled to delve further into is the topic of same-sex relationships, specifically from angle of families and individuals who are members of the lgbt community, who also strive to follow the Word and develop spiritually in Christ. It seemed that at church or school, the topic of gays/same sex marriage/ gays in the church/ has often seemed to be discussed as an “us vs. them” type discussion. The level of contempt and disdain that is often promoted toward the lgbt community is in my opinion without rival. For whatever reason, I have just never been able to FEEL that contempt, like I’ve often observed in the religious culture around me. As I was younger I attributed it to Proverbs 14:12:
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
So when my feelings about the topic didn’t seem to line up with the main stream… I tended to push it to the back of my mind. Recently it’s just become too much to keep pushing back… so it was time to address the topic personally.
One of the books used in a study I recently attended is God and the Gay Christian, by Matthew Vines. I’ve been taught to be somewhat skeptical of published materials that are not the actual Bible itself, so I always tread cautiously when opening the work of man. This book so beautifully addresses many of the questions that have long plagued my mind on the topic of lgbt rights, specifically within the world of Christianity. Vines systematically addresses each passage in the Word which pertains to same-sex relationships.
The further I read, the more obvious some basic common themes became. While my views on same sex relationships have developed, the thing that struck me most was how much information that we have been missing as Christians. By taking six passages from the bible, and creating a justification to feel disgust, with a topic that many people are uncomfortable with there are several principles that have often gone unnoticed it seems. I have compiled a summary of thoughts… these by no means will do this book justice so please read it for yourself.
In the scriptures that pertain to same sex relationships there is an element of sexual violence. Probably the most well known scriptures that speaks of homosexual activity is the story of Sodom found in the 19th chapter of Genesis. This story has long been associated with the justification of abuse toward those in the lgbt community (something that just never added up to me). When we really dig deeper into the chapter and also note the reference to Genesis 13 when Lot moved near Sodom we can see that there are references about how sinful this city was. However, it isn’t noted of what particular sins were prevalent in city. It is often assumed that the city of Sodom was full of sin from same-sex behavior. This is likely due to the situation Lot experienced while trying to protect the angels who were sent to destroy the city. However, as Vines points out there are many references to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah throughout the Old Testament:
- In ancient Jewish literature, such as the Ethics of the Fathers and the Talmud, there are many references to Sodom. The phrase “middat Sdom” was used. It may be translated as “the way the people of Sodom thought”. It meant a lack of charity and hospitality towards others; ignoring the needs of the poor, etc. In the Middle East, a person’s survival could depend upon the charity of strangers. To help strangers was a solemn religious duty of paramount importance. See Leviticus 19:33-34 and Matthew 25:35, 38 and 43.
- Isaiah 1; The entire first chapter is an utter condemnation of Judah. They are repeatedly compared with Sodom and Gomorrah in their evildoing and depravity. Throughout the chapter, the Prophet lists many sins of the people: rebelling against God, lacking in knowledge, deserting the Lord, idolatry, engaging in meaningless religious ritual, being unjust and oppressive to others, being insensitive to the needs of widows and orphans, committing murder, accepting bribes, etc. There is no reference to homosexuality or to any other sexual activities at all.
- Jeremiah 23:14:”…among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.”
- Ezekeiel 16:49-50:”Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”
Murderers, oppressors of the poor,thieves, prostitutes, idolaters, sexual violence… there are many examples of sinners in various sorts listed in reference to the cities. The more I looked into the topic the more sense it makes that the evil being done in these cities may have much less to do with same- sex relationships, and more to do with a variety of evil doing, some in the name of religion. I do not believe that the same-sex behavior that is described in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, is representative of committed same-sex relationships.
BUT THE BIBLE CLEARLY TALKS ABOUT THE SINFUL MEN WHO WANTED TO RAPE THE ANGELS??
I do not argue or suggest that a gang rape by sinful men isn’t evil. It is also important to remember historical and cultural factors associated with behaviors. In ancient times especially during times of war, men would overtake each other sexually as a means to show dominance. For these men to sexually assault the guests of Lot, would be an attack on Lot’s masculinity and authority as the “lord” of his home. Lot offers his two virgins, but the men reject them. For the men to have had their way with young women would not have accomplished the task of emasculating Lot. During this period women were still viewed as property, and men typically carried on sexual relationships outside of marriage with both women and men.
In Part 2, we will look at the historical factors of pedestary, sexual violence, and excessive lust that was prevalent during ancient Roman times.
There is a great deal more to take away from the study than this one story… but for the sake of wanting to address several points I have decided to make this a three part post. Within the next few weeks I will discuss my ideas that are further developing on the topic of same sex relationships based on the Bible. Thanks for reading!
Vines, M. (n.d.). God and the gay Christian: The biblical case in support of same-sex relationships.