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Homosexuality as viewed by different Christian denominations

Jehovah's Witnesses & homosexuality behavior

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Jehovah's Witnesses expectations of persons with a homosexual orientation:

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (WTS) is a conservative Christian denomination whose theology differs greatly from that of Fundamentalist and other Evangelical denominations. However, their attitude towards homosexuality is similar to essentially all other conservative religious groups. They require that both homosexual behavior and feelings be suppressed. That is:

  • Gays and lesbians must remain celibate.
  • Bisexuals must not engage in same-sex behavior.
  • Any opposite-sex behavior must be restricted to one man and one woman who are married to each other.
  • Jesus' stated that to obsessively lust after another person is to commit adultery with them in your heart. Conservative Christian groups generally ignore the term "obsessively;" it does not appear in Bible translations, even though it is in the original Greek. Thus they expect a gay or lesbian to suppress or distract themselves from their desire, longing, feelings of attraction, love, sexual fantasies etc. towards others of the same sex.
  • The WTS would not recognize a same-sex marriage as legitimizing two sexually active men or two women living together.

Homosexual Witnesses are expected to refrain from both sexual activity and sexual thoughts involving other persons of the same-sex. Although individuals with any orientation can choose celibacy, it is quite impossible for any person to totally control and eliminate their sexual feelings. The Witness' literal and restrictive interpretation of Jesus' statement places an immense emotional load on its heterosexual, bisexual, gay and lesbian membership who try to live up to the group's expectations.

Jim Moon is webmaster of A Common Bond, an international support group for ex-Jehovah's Witnesses who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. 1 Their web site states that:

"The Jehovah's Witness religion teaches its membership to believe that homosexuality is 'detestable', 'an abomination', 'abhorrent', and is caused by demon possession. Because of this, thousands of gay Witnesses are living lives of deeply closeted guilt, and fear of destruction by God. Those who choose to leave, or are expelled from the Witnesses face immediate isolation and shunning from family and friends. It is for this reason that 'A Common Bond' was created - to offer support and comfort to those who once thought they were alone and condemned...Gays and lesbians who have been kicked out of the JWs are in a special need for all the emotional and spiritual support they can get. If JWs don't conform completely to the sect's doctrines and practices, including a strict prohibition against merely being gay, they are disfellowshipped, which is a severe punishment. It amounts to total ostracism."

If detected, gays and lesbians who refuse to remain celibate are expected to repent of their actions and to refrain from same-sex behavior in the future. Those who refuse are almost inevitably disfellowshipped. The WTS expects all of its members to agree with and follow all of the requirements of the organization, which are based on the WTS' interpretation of the Bible.

While disfellowshipped, fellow members are required to shun him/her completely, avoiding all contact. If the disfellowshipped person is a family member, then they are treated normally within the family, except that they are made to understand that their actions are disapproved of. There is no discussion about church matters in their presence. This can have a devastating effect on a person whose entire religious, family and social life were grounded in the Society.

As in most large religious organizations, official policies must be administered by junior officials within the local congregation. Some consider even celibate gays and lesbians as unsuitable for membership.

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Confidential Textbook

The Society publishes a confidential Kingdom Ministry School Textbook which is titled "Pay Attention to Yourselves and to all the flock." The name comes from Acts 20:28. It is used by congregation elders and traveling overseers.

Pages 92 to 94 deal with "wrongdoing", which they regard as increasing "in frequency and depravity..." in society. In the area of sexual misconduct, they differentiate among three escalating levels of seriousness

  • Uncleanness (e.g. momentary touching of another person's sexual parts outside of marriage). This does not require a judicial hearing.
  • Loose conduct (e.g. heavy petting outside of marriage). This requires judicial action
  • "Pornei'a" which:
    "... involves immoral use of the genitals of at least one human (whether in a natural or a perverted way), and there must have been another party to the immorality: a human of either sex or a beast...It includes oral and anal sex or mutual masturbation between persons not married to each other, homosexuality, lesbianism, [sic] fornication, adultery, incest, and bestiality."
    Any person who engages in such activity must be handled through judicial action. Neither actual penetration or orgasm need be involved.

    It seems that this text defines "homosexuality" in terms of actual behavior. This is common among religious conservatives. Most others define "homosexuality" in terms of sexual orientation.

    The reference to "lesbianism" appears to be redundant because homosexuality includes both male and female same-sex behavior.

In Page 111, the handbook covers the evidence required to convict an accused person. Either two eyewitnesses or a confession of wrongdoing are adequate. However, evidence that "the accused stayed all night...with a known homosexual...under improper circumstances, is acceptable proof."

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Article in Awake! Magazine comparing child sexual abuse to homosexuality:

"Awake" is one of two mass-circulation magazine published by The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. Their issue for 1995-FEB-8 commented on homosexuality, drawing a comparison between the pedophilia and homosexual orientation:

"Scientists may never resolve exactly how much of a role nature and nurturing play in same-sex attraction. But one thing is clear: All humans are born with the tendency to succumb to wrong thinking and inclinations. --Romans 3:23. A youth who desires to please God must therefore conform to his moral standards and shun immoral behavior, though doing so may be agonizingly difficult. True, some individuals may very well be prone to homosexuality..."

"Similarly, a Christian cannot excuse immoral behavior by saying he was 'born that way.' Child molesters invoke the same pathetic excuse when they say their craving for children is "innate." But can anyone deny that their sexual appetite is perverted? So is the desire for someone of the same sex."

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Related essay:

See also our essay on the Jehovah's Witnesses and same-sex marriage

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. A Common Bond is an international "support network for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender former and current Jehovah's Witnesses." The California chapters have a web site at: http://www.gayxjw.org/ They have a list of web sites maintained by other "A Common Bond" chapters at: http://www.gayxjw.org/links.html
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Copyright 2002 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-APR-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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