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More Emails we received about homosexuality

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This is a continuation of a previous essay

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Homosexual behavior is a "detestable sin."

Incoming E-mail: The Bible says "Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin." That seems as clear as a bell to me.

Response: Conservative Christians -- those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, need to make a fundamental decision: is the it the original text in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek that is inerrant, or is it a particular English translation inerrant?

You appear to be quoting Leviticus 18:22 as it appears in the New Living Translation of the Bible. You are correct; there is little ambiguity here. The passage does not condemn a person because they have a homosexual orientation. However, it clearly says that all same-sex behavior is wrong, whether it is done by a homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual, and whether it is done by two women, or two men.

But consider the following thoughts:

bulletThe New International Version translates this same verse as "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." There is no reference to two women engaging in sexual behavior here; only two men. Further examination of this verse shows that the New Living Translation is clearly a mistranslation -- possibly done intentionally. The translators of this version may have ignored the clear meaning of the original Hebrew text in order to project their personal views against homosexual behavior. This is one reason why parallel translations of the Bible are so useful. They display various translations side-by-side. A reader can more easily see whether some translators are overlaying their own viewpoints on the original text.

bullet In ancient Israel, men and women had very different, rigidly defined roles. Positions of power in the government and temple were reserved for men. Women were often considered as property, to be owned first by their fathers and later by their husbands. During sexual intercourse, the man was to take the active role, and the woman was passive. In some forms of homosexual behavior by two men, one man takes the passive role; one of the men takes on the role of a woman. This was considered to be ritually impure -- the original meaning of the Hebrew word translated as "abomination." In today's world, we allow women and men to take an active role in everything from management to driving trucks. Although this verse might have been valid in ancient times, it can be argued that it is no longer meaningful.

bullet The history of ancient Israel consists of a long series of battles with Pagan neighbors. In such an environment, a high birth rate is of critical importance. A well populated army was a necessity for survival. Homosexual behavior would be oppressed in such a society because it did not end in procreation. One can raise the argument that the proscription against homosexual activity made sense in ancient times. But today's world is different. Some futurists suggest that the future of the human race is threatened by uncontrolled population expansion causing accelerated climate change. It can be debated that this verse, like those prohibiting the eating of pork or of having a tattoo, or of wearing clothing made from a polyester-cotton blend, no longer applies today.

bullet The writers of the Bible lived in a pre-scientific era. They were unaware of the science of genetics and human sexuality. They believed that the male's sperm provided the female with ready-made babies which the woman need only nurture. Sex was something like planting a seed in the earth: the seed provided all of the genetic information and life; the soil only provided moisture and nutrients. So, the woman only supplied a nurturing environment for the baby to grow. Any form of sexual activity that could not produce a baby was thus considered a form of murder and was forbidden.

bulletThe National Gay Pentecostal Alliance (NGPA) has translated the original Hebrew literally as: "And with a male thou shalt not lie down in beds of a woman; it is an abomination. In modern day English this could be translated as: "Men may not engage in homosexual sex on a woman's bed; it is an abomination" Rather than forbidding male homosexuality, it simply restricts where it may occur. More details.

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Is homosexuality OK just because it is genetic?

Incoming E-mail: Many in our society seem to think that homosexuality should be accepted because it is genetic. Yet most of the same psychologists, physicians, and other researchers who promote that view also say that pedophiles and alcoholics are born that way. If a behavior is genetically determined, is it automatically acceptable?

Response: There is a method by which researchers can try to determine whether a certain trait is determined by genetics or by the environment. They study identical twins -- people with essentially identical DNA -- who were separated at birth and raised apart. Such studies show that left-handedness, right handedness, skin color, the potential for alcohol addiction, eye color, blood type, the potential for homosexuality and many other traits and physical factors are all either directly caused by genes, or are set up by genes and later may triggered by factors in the environment. Genes may also be involved in pedophilia.

Just because something is determined genetically does not mean that it is automatically moral or immoral. However, knowing the cause does help us understand more about its nature.

It is important to differentiate between desires and actions. Unfortunately, words like homosexuality, heterosexuality, alcoholism, and pedophilia are often used to refer to both feelings and behaviors. In the original use of the word "pedophilia," it meant feelings of sexual attraction by an adult towards a pre-pubertal child. This may well be genetically determined. But whether to act on those feelings and sexually molest a child is a decision made by the adult. A person may have inherited the potential to have an uncontrolled desire for alcohol. But if they are aware that they might have inherited this from a parent, they can decide to avoid the problem by never taking their first drink of an alcoholic beverage. If a person has inherited the trait of being sexually attracted to members of the opposite gender -- i.e. if they have a heterosexual orientation -- then they can decide whether to remain celibate for life or seek to become sexually active. So too, if a person has a homosexual orientation, they can decide whether or not to act upon it. Genes may result in a desire to engage in a certain behavior, but the desire does not necessarily need to be acted upon.

Some people base the morality of an action on humanistic concerns: whether the behavior harms people, or not. To such individuals, pedophilia, as a desire without any resultant action, is not immoral because it is unchosen. However, they view abusive pedophilia actions involving sexual molestation as immoral because it has the strong potential to very seriously hurt a child for the rest of her/his life. Similarly, they would feel that a homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual orientation is morally neutral, because feelings generated by the orientation are beyond the control of the individual. They might believe that homosexual, bisexual, and/or heterosexual behavior may be moral or immoral, depending upon the specifics of the action and the relationship between the parties, including the safety of the specific practice, the degree of commitment within the relationship, whether coercion is involved, the age of the individuals, etc.

Other people base the morality of an action on a religiously-derived moral code. Often this code is found in a holy book, like the Bible. If the behavior is one of the prohibited actions, then it is automatically immoral; otherwise it may be morally neutral or good. Unfortunately, persons from various wings of various religions have conflicting views about what their holy book says about specific behaviors. Some Christians, for example, might believe that the Bible views all same-sex activity as an abomination, regardless of the nature of the relationship. Other Christians might conclude that the Bible condemns homosexual rape, homosexual behavior in Pagan temples, homosexual prostitution, molesting boys, and heterosexuals engaging in homosexual sex. They see the Bible as being silent on same-sex, consensual behavior within a loving relationship. They conclude that homosexual sexual activity is not necessarily immoral.

So, it appears that we have to agree to disagree. However, the main conflicts at this time are not whether same-sex behavior is immoral or not. It is whether lesbians, gays and bisexuals should have the same rights and protections as do heterosexuals in this society, including the right to marry and adopt children.

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A general criticism of our position on homosexuality:

Incoming E-mail: It's really sad that you twist the very words of "God" to suit your own purpose, and in that I mean promoting the homosexual life style and trying to justify it in any form much less Greek, which by the way you're clearly not a professor of the ancient Greek language! The bible states clearly to HOMOSEXUALITY and yes it does mean men with men and the same with women, it's not rocket science, It is a sin! No different than any other sin, and if you do t turn from your sinful nature you WILL NOT enter the kingdom of heaven. Your organization will also be accountable to God in the matter of you leading people astray -- being a Stumbling block for others -- causing them to sin. That's a lot of souls to be responsible for! We can't tell God how it's gonna be (like your trying to do) he told us through the black and white pages of "his" word the Holy Bible!

May you see the truth as it really is and not be deceived by Satan- In Jesus name!

Response: It is not our intent to promote "the homosexual life style".

First of all, there is no "homosexual lifestyle" just as there is no "heterosexual lifestyle". Rather there are homosexual and heterosexual lifestyleS: celibacy, promiscuity, dating, living together, marrying, etc.

Secondly, there are six "clobber passages" in the Bible that have been long used to condemn persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation, and same-sex behavior. As you point out, we are not experts in ancient Greek. We don't have to be. We simply report on the full range of conclusions reached by individuals who are qualified to interpret these passages in their original language. None of these interpretations are by us; we do not twist the biblical text. We simply report on what others have concluded. We explain carefully and objectively the various beliefs concerning heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality, including the positions of most conservative Protestants, the teachings of the Roman Catholic church, the liberal Christian/Secularist/Humanist and similar positions, and the findings by human sexuality researchers. We let our readers decide which makes the most sense, and which to accept and support.

We do recommend that religious conservatives revisit their position against homosexuals. That position is driving their own young people away from fundamentalist and evangelical churches. Besides, it is a losing battle. In every other case where a discriminated group sought equality -- African Americans, women, and others -- they have achieved it. Looking back at history, we see that equality has been beneficial to the individuals and the nation. Our essays at hom_polls.htm show how the opinions of the average American are changing in favor of equality for persons of all sexual orientations. In the late 20th century, support for inter-racial marriage increased a little over 1 percentage point a year until finally in the early 1990s, most American adults supported the right of inter-racial couples to marry. Support for same-sex marriage (SSM) appears to be increasing at a slightly faster rate, and recently took a major leap forward -- largely do to an increase in support by adult males. Overall, there is a small but growing majority of the population in favor of SSM.

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Copyright 2003 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JUN-29
Latest update: 2011-APR-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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