AS MODERN SOCIETY HAS become somewhat less intolerant towards homosexuals and homosexuality, occasionally a celebrity who is known to be a devout Christian will come out as gay. One individual who comes to mind is Clay Aiken, the 2003 American Idol runner-up and a born again Southern Baptist. During his stint on Idol a significant portion of his fans were fans because they too were Christians.
For a number of years after his appearance on Idol rumors circulated regarding his sexuality. Then in 2006 as the bubbles of suspicion became more frothy, nine of his fans actually moved forward with a suit against record label executives for “false advertising” alleging, “As consumers, we feel ripped off. It is obvious now that the private Clay is very different from the manufactured packaged public Clay that was marketed to us.”
Aiken at first stuck to his denials of the rumor. Until, in 2008, as the single father of a surrogate baby, he essentially had no choice but to out himself. Interestingly, despite the fact he was now on very public record as being gay, a pariah to most members of his faith, he still considered himself a Southern Baptist.
Aiken’s conundrum is very similar to the predicament genuine ‘spiritually-minded’ gay JWs face. Most have absolutely no intentions of abandoning their religious upbringing – especially given the significant, non-gay related sacrifices they’ve made to be part of the religion. Also, most gay JWs I’ve known actually like having a religion-approved relationship with God. Because of this, gay Christians and even some gay ex-JWs, shop around for a faith that will satisfy their need for spirituality while not rejecting their sexuality.
The issue though, is regardless of how open-minded a person or group is, with religion, the final judge of what is correct is God, as his will is expressed in the Bible. So that leads us to the question: Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?
An Issue of Hospitality or Homosexuality?
After warning Abraham of the impending destruction of Sodom, the writer Moses indicates God says: “The cry of complaint about Sodom and Gomorrah, yes, it is loud, and their sin, yes, it is very heavy.” (Genesis 18:20) In contention is the nature of the ‘very heavy sin’ mentioned. Of course it has been easy to triangulate that the sin was homosexuality as once angels are brought to Lot’s home all the boys and men of Sodom show up with the intention of participating in a gang rape. (Genesis 19:4) But even before that account the men of Sodom had not been spoken of in the best light: “And the men of Sodom were bad and were gross sinners against God.” (Genesis 13:11-13) So it wasn’t just the inhabitants that were wicked, but it was the men of Sodom that seemed to keep getting singled out.In an effort to soften that account’s possible condemnation of homosexuals, some point to Ezekiel 16:49: “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.” Often the gay Christian community seizes on this stating the lack of hospitality and general human decency as the faults that led to Sodom’s destruction. However verse 50 continues: “They were haughty and did detestable things before me.” (Italics added)
Certainly that citation supports the idea that the heavy sin mentioned at Genesis 18:20 was multifaceted: they were arrogant, gluttonous and inhospitable. But it’s impossible to ignore that Ezekiel finishes by saying “they did detestable things before me.” So it’s entirely possible that the people were destroyed because they were arrogant, gluttonous, inhospitable and homosexual.
But wait! Maybe Genesis was only condemning ‘bad,’ promiscuous homosexuals. Fingers crossed.
The Abominable Gay Man
As the average person is aware Jewish law consists of a dizzying array of rules spelling out every important aspect of Hebrew living. Leviticus 18 specifically delves into sexual practices prohibited under the law. Of note is verse 22. Here it is, as it appears in the Tanauk: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.”
When one uses the argument that the account at Sodom is only condemning sexual excesses, it’s still difficult to ignore the fact that this edict seems to identify any same sex relationship – whether committed, monogamous, non-gang-rape related or whatever other normalizing term one would use – as “abomination.”
According to Strong’s concordance the English word ‘abomination’ is translated from the Hebrew word toebah or towebah. In every sense in which it’s used in the Old Testament there is a negative connotation associated with toebah. Strong’s Exhaustive concordance adds its indicative of “something disgusting (morally).”
Now, I have read a number of contorted arguments offering various reasons why the Hebrew word for “abomination” is not as bad as it sounds (and I use that word ‘contorted’ specifically, keeping in mind I spent many years of my life reading the equally contorted explanations of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs). These arguments offer various linguistic comparisons and logical convolutions to downplay the word’s negative overtones. These arguments often also state that translators and others have a bias against homosexuals and that is why the word has been interpreted in such a way. I generally don’t doubt the idea behind that argument. However the bias argument could be used just as easily against my fellow homosexuals attempting to prove that ‘abomination’ doesn’t have an overwhelmingly negative connotation.
In the conclusion of one online commentary it states that the word merely means something that is ‘bad.’ So with that reasoning God doesn’t hate gays and he doesn’t want gays dead. He accepts gays but just thinks what they do is pretty bad. Considering the number of times God reminds the Hebrews he represents holiness to the ‘nth’ degree, the ‘bad but acceptable’ argument doesn’t square with reality. It’s also not a conclusion that would, in my mind, make a gay Christian feel warm and fuzzy inside.
So who’s right? The biased heteros or the biased homos?
The Simplest Answer
William of Ockham is recognized as the author of a concept now considered one of the foremost tenets of scientific analysis: “Among competing hypothesis, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” Or put into the modern vernacular ‘the simplest answer is most often correct.’ This concept is called Occam’s Razor. It has become so closely identified with science it’s easy to overlook the fact that Ockham himself was not a scientist but in fact a 14th century philosopher, Franciscan friar and theologian! In light of his devout religious background his concept seems especially appropriate to the discussion.
When we return to Leviticus Chapter 18, continuing beyond the “abomination” mentioned in verse 22, what else do we find:
“Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things; for in all these the nations are defiled, which I cast out from before you. And the land was defiled, therefore I did visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land vomited out her inhabitants. Ye therefore shall keep My statutes and Mine ordinances, and shall not do any of these abominations; neither the home-born, nor the stranger that sojourneth among you – For all these abominations have the men of the land done, that were before you, and the land is defiled – that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.” (Bold added)
And there’s that word again. Leviticus has lumped every sexual act from verse 6 through 23 into the same ‘abomination’ bucket, adding that anyone engaging in such practices would be ‘vomited out of the land.’ I’d have a difficult time thinking of a phrase more indicative of hatred for a person’s actions than to ‘vomit them out.’
This is where I believe the concept of Occam’s Razor is salient: the simplest explanation is usually the right one. The nations that had been displaced – vomited out of the land – practiced incest, bestiality and homosexuality. The God of the Bible did not like this. And if the Hebrews did the same kinds of things they too would be vomited out. Again the purpose of Leviticus 18 is not to discuss a mix of good and bad sexual practices. It’s not even a discussion of bad and ‘kinda bad’ ones. The entire tone of the discussion is only negative. And for those ancient people the intent of Leviticus 18 would have been easy to grasp with no logical contortions necessary.
Kinder, Gentler Christianity to the Rescue, Right?
Of course when Jesus arrived he came to set aside the levitical Law and introduced the Law of Love. So if there were ever an opportunity to set matter straights this would’ve been a perfect time for it. Fingers crossed. Again.
In some ways I feel sorry for the unfortunate closeted gay Jew, forced into a loveless marriage by the community and now hanging on each word coming from Jesus’ mouth. That guy was probably at every sermon he could attend, hoping beyond all hope that Jesus would clarify things. Pretty please?
Jesus doesn’t, of course.
Now the Jesus-Loves-Gay-People ministries will argue that the fact Jesus never condemned homosexuality means he tacitly approved of it. Again, even as a gay man, this seems to be somewhat of a colossal stretch. What we do get from Jesus is consistent support of heterosexual relationships. At Matthew 19:5 he reaches all the way back to the Bible’s first statement about marriage (Genesis 2:24) and quotes it verbatim: “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.”
See. Like father, like son.
Also the “Kinder Gentler” religious groups like to put forth the idea that the God of the Bible created homosexuals. I agree with the idea of this concept. However, if true, adding something positive into the Bible record would have been immensely helpful. At more than 1000 pages and considering the numerous redundant accounts – a few clarifying scriptures would’ve changed the course of history. Just thinking about Genesis 2:24, notice how this citation could have been easily inspired to cover all bases: “That is why a man will leave his father and mother and will stick to his wife and they must become one flesh. And a man may leave his father and mother and stick to another man and they too will become one flesh. They are both creations of God. One is not inferior to the other.”
That’s a mere 34 words that literally would’ve prevented centuries of the pain, heartache, hatred, violence and death perpetrated against millions of gay kids, teens and adults. If I could cobble those 34 words together over the span of 5 minutes, I’m sure that the God of the Bible was capable of doing so.
Instead the Omniscient, speaking for himself, only mentions the union of a man and women. Then his son, speaking on his father’s behalf, reiterates the same thing. And in case there was hope that the developing Christian congregation might finally give the gay folks a positive ‘shout out,’ an excerpt from Paul’s letter at Ephesians 5:31 ‘three-peats’ by again quoting nearly the exact same words of Genesis: “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and he will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.”
The Light Bulb Finally Switches On
Does it make sense that God’s will, as expressed in the Bible, is supportive of homosexual relationships, although those relationships are not mentioned in a positive sense anywhere? Does it make sense that with his knowledge of the human tendency towards intolerance, God would neglect to mention that ‘being gay is okay?’ Does it make sense that to determine God’s opinion towards gay relationships it would require analysis of the sentence structure and word origin of an ancient language, while simultaneously considering multiple scriptural citations and other confusing biblical accounts?
If gay people had truly been included in the God of the Bible’s master plan they would have been included in some positive manner in the scriptures. God would have included accounts of gay Hebrews who had been used mightily. Instead we have a lot of heterosexual ‘heroes’ in polygamous and polyamorous relationships – apparently with that elusive tacit approval.
The silence is deafening when searching the Bible to find even one positive statement in support of homosexuality. So if we revisit Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is, the Bible does not support homosexuality in any way, shape or form.
If you are a gay JW this is a very important concept to grasp. When I was struggling with the truth of JW doctrines what kept me in the religion was the fact that no matter how I read it, the Bible condemned homosexuality. So, in my mind, “I may as well just stick with JWs because they are the lesser of the religious evils.”
Eventually though, I came to a truly life changing realization: Not only is religion the worst thing that has ever happened to gay people – it’s also the worst thing that’s ever happened to God.
But that’s for next time.
The content above is the personal opinion of the writer, A. Turing, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion(s) of AvoidJW.org.