On Leviticus and the classic “shellfish” argument

July 22, 2013

Opponents of the United Methodist Church’s traditional stance on homosexuality frequently resort to the following argument, as summarized by Christopher Wright in this helpful sidebar from Christianity Today.

The law in Leviticus prohibiting sexual intercourse between men (18:22) comes in the same book that contains laws prohibiting foods that Israelites were to consider unclean (chapter 11). We eat shellfish today without any moral problems, so why should we treat this sex law as morally binding? Haven’t we outgrown all of that Levitical law anyway? Christians who insist on the sexual laws of the Bible are being inconsistent in not keeping all the other laws too. So goes one line of argument in modern debates about homosexuality.

About this, Wright says we should say three things:

First, as I note in “Learning to Love Leviticus,” we no longer keep the food laws because the separation they symbolized (between Israelites and Gentiles in the Old Testament) is no longer relevant in Christ. But the ethical principles embodied in Old Testament laws on sexual relations (positive and negative) remain constant and are reaffirmed by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament.

In other words, contrary to what United Methodist megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton asserts in this sermon, the church doesn’t arbitrarily “pick and choose” which verses reflect “God’s timeless will” and which verses we can throw in the dustbin of cultural context. We would only be picking and choosing if our hermeneutical (interpretive) principles ignored context and said every command of scripture is equally binding for all time. Maybe there are some fundamentalist Christians out there who believe this—although I’ve never met one—but the capital-C Church (not to mention Jesus himself) never did.

If we have principled and logical reasons for believing, for instance, that some commands in Leviticus are binding today and others aren’t, then it’s not picking and choosing. Hamilton knows this as well as anyone. I wish he wouldn’t play dumb. Rachel Held Evans also played dumb about this in her recent book The Year of Biblical Womanhood, which drove me crazy, but I don’t expect as much from her.

We are picking and choosing, however, if, in spite of our principles, we disregard the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality mostly because we don’t like it. I’m not sure I like it, either, but that’s hardly the point.

For more on this “picking-and-choosing” argument, see Glenn Peoples’s post here.

Continuing with Wright:

Second, the argument would reduce the Bible to absurdity. The Ten Commandments come in the same book that commanded Israel not to climb the mountain. If we are told that we cannot with consistency disapprove of same-sex activity unless we also stop eating shellfish, then we should not condemn theft and murder unless we also ban mountaineering.

Even more, do the people who employ the classic “shellfish” argument not know that the second part of the Great Commandment (“Love your neighbor as yourself”) is also found in Leviticus? Why bother with that one if we also eat shellfish? “Yes, but Jesus reaffirmed that commandment so we know that’s still binding. He didn’t say anything about homosexuality.” This is the classic argument from silence, which is a terrible argument for a number of reasons, the most powerful of which is that homosexual behavior was illegal in first-century Judaism (which put Judaism at odds with surrounding pagan culture, by the way).

It would have been helpful, if our Lord believed that the status quo concerning homosexuality were wrong, that he would have said so. He spoke against Judaism’s status quo concerning divorce, after all. “Yes, but maybe he did and the Evangelists failed to record it.” Yes, well, maybe he said a lot of things. As you can see, this is a swirling black hole of an argument.

Besides, here’s the larger point, according to Wright:

Third, and most important, the biblical discussion of homosexual behaviour begins not in Leviticus, as if the whole argument depends on how we interpret a single Old Testament law. When Jesus was asked about divorce, he would not let the argument get stuck around the interpretation of the law. Instead he took the issue back to Genesis. That is where we find the foundational biblical teaching about God’s purpose in creating human sexual complementarity—and it is very rich. It reflects God—male and female together being made in God’s image—and it provides the necessary togetherness and equality in the task of procreating and ruling the earth. This God-given complementarity is so important that God explains how it is to be joyfully celebrated and exercised—the union of marriage that is heterosexual, monogamous, nonincestuous, socially visible and affirmed, physical, and permanent (Gen. 2:24, endorsed by Jesus).

I love when smart people repeat arguments I’ve made. In my post about Hamilton’s sermon, I commented on his using Genesis 1 as a basis for overturning the Church’s traditional stance against women in ordained ministry. I affirm what I said then—although I would add that Jesus himself endorses Genesis 2:24 in his teaching on divorce in Matthew 19. Why don’t Jesus’ clear words about marriage’s being between a man and woman have more weight in our debate about gay marriage?

Regarding ordination of women, he says that it took the church about 1,900 years to “live up to the words” of Genesis 1, which helps us to see that men and women were created equal. He sees something universal in those words. And through these clear words, we should interpret more disputed passages of scripture. I don’t disagree. But why stop there? In Genesis 2, we also have God’s creating male and female for one another. Why isn’t that also universal—that marriage and sexual relationships are, specifically, for a man and woman together? Outside of marriage, celibacy is the rule, whether you’re gay or straight. This has been the teaching of the universal church for 2,000 years.

25 Responses to “On Leviticus and the classic “shellfish” argument”

  1. Clay Knick Says:

    I want to know why Adam stops with homosexuality. Why not all forms of sexual expression as culturally conditioned? This step leaves a lot of things up for grabs: the position of the church on sex before marriage and a host of other things one could argue, are culturally conditioned. He’s made a mistake here that has great consequences.

    • brentwhite Says:

      I agree. It’s very disappointing to me. Hamilton had the potential, I thought, to be a great reformer of our denomination. Reformation, however, starts with reaffirming orthodoxy. And I’m so sick of his “four to eight verses” refrain. Please!

  2. Tom Harkins Says:

    Good stuff. “Picking and choosing” is actually bad only if it is arbitrary, without any sound principled basis.

    There are still some “puzzles,” even so. Such as, as perhaps the biggest “puzzle,” to what extent should we endorse our government’s imposing the death penalty for various conduct that Moses’ law did? We can’t just ignore those passages because we don’t “like them,” either. I don’t know the answer, but I wonder whether there was less “immorality” among the Puritans than in our day, when, virtually, “anything goes.” Even with murder, a vast chunk of society wants to abolish the death penalty (because it is “cruel and unusual”?), holding that the death penalty is NEVER the appropriate remedy for ANY crime. Whereas, aside from Leviticus, God told Noah, “If a man sheds blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”

    I know Christ told us to love our enemies, but isn’t this a “personal” directive, as opposed to the GOVERNMENT just letting crime run rampant? Romans 13 suggests that the government legitimately carries the “sword” as a “minister of God.”

    So, my point being, what is our “principled” basis for having the Church not speak out against our government allowing homosexuality to go unpunished, when, indeed, it was a death penalty crime in Leviticus? One point, of course, is that there were a lot of OTHER “death penalty” crimes that we are really loathe to enforce that way today (kid defying his parents, fornication, etc.). But, unfortunately, the question still stands as to the “principled” basis issue. Are we really just saying, “Sorry, I just can’t go that far with scriptural punishments”? Principled or not?

    Final note. You say, “We are picking and choosing, however, if, in spite of our principles, we disregard the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality mostly because we don’t like it. I’m not sure I like it, either, but that’s hardly the point.” I’m not sure I understand your suggested ambivalence to the proscription itself, if you are saying that. Regardless of punishment, scripture is unanimous in its rejection and stiff condemnation of any homosexual behavior. I don’t think we can offer any “white flag” when it comes to this type of conduct. Sure, we extend the hope of salvation to anybody, but we can’t possibly say, “Personally, I am not so offended by what you are doing.”

    Any thoughts on “what punishment”?

    • brentwhite Says:

      I’m not at all ambivalent about the church’s traditional and orthodox stance on human sexuality. But don’t we all know gay people? I sympathize with a gay Christian who, unlike me, feels same-sex attraction and can’t not feel that way. And, unlike me, can’t act on it—and remain faithful. That’s deeply sad to me. That’s how I feel. I’m saying that my feeling isn’t an argument.

      Punishments? Well, we have the woman caught in adultery in John 8-ish, right? Jesus himself seems to overturn those Mosaic penalties. We are not living in a theocracy as ancient Israel was. Those punishments were in place for a relatively short period of time.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Okay, I think I understand your position of feeling sorry for someone in a state of constant temptation that he cannot act upon, whereas I have no such temptation to deal with. (I think C.S. Lewis said in “Surprised by Joy” something to the effect that he did not castigate the homosexuality at the school he attended because he was never tempted in that fashion.) I guess my problem with that, if I have one, is that this is not (in my opinion) simply an “improper” use of a valid “drive” (such as “lusting” after a female co-worker, when being attracted to a member of the opposite sex is not wrong “in itself,” but has to be subdued because we are only supposed to “channel” that desire to our wives). Whereas, Paul seems to suggest in Romans 1:26-27 that simply so desiring a member of one’s own sex in itself is “unnatural,” a “shameful lust,” and “perverse.” (NIV)

        I believe you said once before (I apologize if I mis-remember it–please correct!) that while not all sins are the same, they may be “equal” to each other if they are in the same “category” (i.e., sexual sins are equivalent, though they are not equivalent to theft, I think was the subject we were addressing). If that is correct as to what your position was, I cannot agree with it. I think that just as there are different “levels” of sexual sin (lust versus actually committing adultery, the latter of which actually physically harms other people), so there can be, as it were, different “sub-categories” (heterosexual versus homosexual) which are different “levels” of depravity “in themselves”). So, I guess that is a long way around to getting to my point that I think it is appropriate to “FEEL differently” about homosexuality as opposed to heterosexual offenses (though we recognize that we are all sinners as well, and need help and forgiveness, just as they do, Romans 2).

        Back to the issue of punishments. I agree that Israel was a “theocracy.” I don’t know that this quite entirely gets us “off the hook” as opposed to what we should “lobby for” as members of a democratic society, however, where we participate in making the laws in the first instance. I assume that we are to “inform” our positions in that respect with what we believe God would want our society to look like (or operate like). So, we still have to deal with, I think, what, for example, the death penalty should apply to. Or, perhaps more to the actual “issue of the moment” (the Supreme Court already threw out illegality of homosexual behavior), whether we should be opposed to homosexual “marriages.” I think we should.

        Finally, with respect to the woman taken in adultery, in my opinion Jesus was not making the point that there should be no punishment of adultery. Indeed, he says that not one jot or one tittle should pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Rather, I think he was pointing up removing a log from one’s own eye before removing a splinter in another’s. And the availability of forgiveness upon repentance (“sin no more”).

  3. brentwhite Says:

    But every “jot or tittle” was fulfilled—by Jesus, Israel’s (and humanity’s) representative. I don’t follow your argument. If Jesus’ point regarding the woman caught in adultery was “removing a log from one’s own eye before removing a splinter in another’s,” then are you saying that adultery is merely a splinter—this sin which was punishable by death under Israel’s law?

    So are you saying that the state should punish homosexual behavior? And on that same basis, they shouldn’t also punish, say, adultery or fornication (which they used to do, of course)?

    I simply don’t agree about your categories of sexual sin, although wouldn’t that be convenient for all of us straight men, tempted as we are by so much heterosexual sin?

    • Tom Harkins Says:

      You make some good points. Certainly adultery is not a “splinter” in its own right, but the motives of those who brought her to Jesus were pretty suspect in their own right. I think Jesus’ point was that we should ALWAYS “examine ourselves” before we offer to chastise someone else about ANYTHING, using hyperbole. Also, I think (merely) that Jesus could see the lady’s heart–by saying, “Go, and sin no more,” he may have recognized her contrition about what she did. In any event, I think the “Doctrine of Competing Principles” applies. What she did was very wrong, but Jesus thought there was a more important point he needed to make at the moment so as to “override” what may otherwise have been an appropriate punishment.

      Also, I am not certain that ALL “jots and tittles” came to an end when Christ was offered on the cross. He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets.” And that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (which I take it to mean, at least, that our heart motives must exceed theirs). He said to obey what the Pharisees taught, because they sat in Moses’ seat, but not to follow what they actually did. Also, certainly there is a huge chunk of the “moral” laws of the Old Testament which are still in effect–Hebrews deals with ceremonial and sacrificial. In fact, I think we agree that the law against homosexuality in the first place is one which “carries over.”

      What about punishment for heterosexual sins? I don’t know but what adultery SHOULD be punished (as it was before, as you note). We have been on a “slippery slope” as to what we now allow that we formerly prohibited, which proscriptions were based on the “Judeo-Christian tradition” which we used to operate under.

      Finally, I did not mean to suggest that heterosexual sins were not sins. Certainly they are. But, just as murder is worse than anger (because it takes a life), so many other sins in some general “category” may be worse than others. (As in adultery being worse than lust, even though lust as well is clearly wrong.) What I cannot get around is the strong language used about homosexuality (abomination, etc., including by Paul in Romans 1, as I noted). Paul was noting “just how far” society had gone downhill as a result of rejecting the Creator. And we have Sodom, burned to the ground. It strikes me that homosexuality “reverses the natural order” that God created–heterosexual as “complimentary” and designed for having and raising offspring. I can see why God might hold homosexuality to be “worse.”

  4. Mary Daly Says:

    WOW

  5. Mary Daly Says:

    This issue of homosexuality is incredibly difficult because we all have friends and family members who are gay. It’s one thing to discuss this issue in the abstract and quite another when we’re face to face with someone we love who is a good and loving person, similar to us in so many ways, except that they happen to be gay. Regardless how or when sexual orientation is formed, I think everyone agrees that it becomes relatively fixed and difficult to change. To my knowledge I never chose to be straight, and I doubt I could choose to be gay even if I wanted. Why should I assume that my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters had a choice that I never had?* [See footnote below.]

    I think your questions strike at the heart of the issue for Christians: “Are they to deny their own heart and live a lonely life void of intimacy because the love they feel for someone is considered sinful? Is monogamous, consensual love between two adults a sin? Is this what really was meant by these passages?” Sexuality is surely one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. Sexuality helps to define who we are; we almost can’t exaggerate how important it is to our identity.

    So, regardless of our position on gay equality within the church, let’s feel the very real tension here: The church often tells gay and lesbian Christians that in order to be faithful to Christ they have to abstain from enjoying this gift of sexuality and deny this incredibly important part of their identity. And, no, it’s not helpful for the church to simply say, “Well, you can just be straight.” As I implied earlier, if someone told me I had to be gay, I would be in a bind! I wouldn’t know how to do that. All this to say that at the very least—regardless of one’s position on the subject—we ought to acknowledge the unfairness of this problem and feel great compassion for our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with sexual orientation. Can’t everyone agree on that?

    Another thing that the church sometimes says is, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I don’t know how to do that, either. I do feel hatred toward plenty of sins, but I can’t work up any special anger or resentment toward two adults in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship. If this is a moral failure on their part, it would rank very low on my list of problems in the world. When I hear some Christians argue against homosexuality and say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” I wonder if they’re not “hating the sinner,” too. I suspect a lot of these same people would be passionately opposed to homosexuality if the Bible were silent on the subject because it’s personally distasteful to them.

    But the Bible isn’t silent on the subject of same-sex sexual relationships, so we have to deal with it. But we also have to understand what the Bible says in context. The first and most important point is that there was no such thing as “homosexuality” in the first century (or before). Homosexuality, from what I understand, is a recent concept to describe same-sex attraction as a relatively fixed orientation. In the world of the Bible, even people who engaged in what we would regard as homosexual conduct did so as straight people (if that makes any sense at all). In Romans 1, for example, Paul understands homosexual conduct as a problem of excessive sexual desire. Men and women who engage in this conduct have a natural desire for people of the opposite sex, but their lust is so great that they’ve moved beyond heterosexual desire. Paul views homosexual behavior like a river that has overflowed its banks. It has, in Paul’s view, become idolatrous. (Idolatry is the important context of this discussion.)

    Homosexuals today would say, of course, that this is not at all what their experience of sexuality is like—and I’m sure the social sciences would agree with them. People understood the world very differently in the first century. Let’s not judge them. I’m sure people in future centuries will think we people of the 21st really got it wrong, too. Regardless, Paul is not speaking about the monogamous, committed relationship you mention. He knows nothing of it. That doesn’t mean that this scripture doesn’t apply to them. It just wasn’t a question that Paul answered. The questions facing him and his contemporaries were very different from the ones facing us. So when we apply this scripture to new questions, let’s wield it more like a surgeon’s scalpel than a sledgehammer. OK?

    Does our sex-worshiping culture commit idolatry—even if we understand sexuality differently today? Is it possible for gay and lesbian Christians to affirm the truth of this scripture (and others) if they are in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship? What changes do all of us—gay and straight—need to make in our lives in order that our sexual conduct not become destructive, idolatrous, and life-denying?

    We have to answer these questions for ourselves. I’m open to hearing different arguments. But you’re right: we make a grave mistake if we single out homosexual conduct in some special category of sin. What does Paul say in Romans 2:1, just a few verses later? “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

    *One of you asked a question about choice. I raised the issue because most gays I’ve known have said that they had no choice. My point above is that based on my own experience of being straight, I have no reason to doubt them. I simply wanted to underline the difficulty faced by gay Christians, many of whom try and fail to be straight. Regardless, the question of whether homosexual practice is a sin is independent of whether people choose to be gay. First, we don’t have to consciously choose something in order for that thing to be sinful. Sin has a terrible way of finding us whether we choose it or not. We often sin unconsciously. Second, the UMC, along with the Catholic Church, does not say that the orientation is sinful, only the practice.

    • brentwhite Says:

      I didn’t know you were such a fine writer, Mary Daly! I don’t disagree with much of that. Some of it I do disagree with.

  6. Tom Harkins Says:

    Mary, I would have to concede that we should recognize the difficulty anyone caught in ANY sin has in breaking free from that compulsion, realizing that in some ways we also have similar problems. (Romans 2:1, as you note.) However, I have to disagree with some of your other points.

    First, regardless of the genesis of some sinful desire, it is still sinful, and has to be dealt with as such. For example, if someone is a kleptomaniac, we don’t tell him, “Oh, I understand, that it just part of who you are.” We tell him that he has to control himself and not steal. And, if he nonetheless elects to follow his compulsion, we put him in jail. Just on its face, and considering scripture as a whole, I don’t think we can distinguish homosexual “compulsion” differently than that scripturally (leaving aside any criminal punishment question, which in all events is essentially a moot point in the U.S. presently under Supreme Court precedent).

    Second, with all due respect, I think you misread scripture, the “mores of that day,” and glamorize certain homosexual behavior. Starting with the last first, you suggest that the question for homosexuality is a “loving, monogamous relationship.” I know for a fact that a substantial amount of homosexual practice is not monogamous at all. Is that what makes the difference? Do we tell a homosexual that his orientation or his acting on that orientation is okay, just so long as he limits himself to just one other and promises to live with him in longevity, but otherwise not?

    As far as what was common in biblical times, you are arguing completely from silence. Homosexuality is as old as Genesis and Judges. How do we know that there were not any homosexual “couples” back then? Perhaps the reason the Apostle Paul makes no such “distinction” is simply because God draws no such “distinction.” It’s ALL wrong, monogamous or otherwise.

    You focus on sexual “identity,” lamenting that we are telling someone that they cannot express who they are in an “important” or fundamental way if we tell them they have to squelch their homosexual or lesbian desires. But do we not all have sinful desires? What about people who have desires to have sex with children? Do we say, “Oh, that is just what you are, go right ahead?” Of course not. Aside from the fact that pedophilia is highly abhorrent, in principle the issue is the same–controlling “who we are,” whether sexually or otherwise. We can’t get ourselves off the hook for ANY sin based on some idea of “identity.”

    So, sure, we can sympathize with someone caught in the throes of any sin, but, just as with other sins, we still have to say (out of love for that person), “Say, I’m sorry, but that is sinful behavior which is offensive to God, so you must stop, for your own good.”

    • brentwhite Says:

      Tom, it’s no use arguing. As “Mary Daly” (the name of a radical feminist philosopher/theologian, now deceased) would delight in pointing out to you, the words that she wrote were, in fact, my own from when I started this blog. Needless to say, my thoughts on the subject have evolved in the past four years.

      • Mary Daly Says:

        do you also condemn gay people who are in committed relationships, but don’t have sex? you both clearly seem to think that all homosexuals are promiscuous deviants, but the truth is there do exist gay people who are in committed loving relationships who don’t have sex. are they such an offense to God? are they going to hell, too?

      • brentwhite Says:

        I’m sitting this out, Mary. You quoted back something I wrote four years ago. Fine. That’s a good start. Now go back and read everything I’ve written on the subject. You don’t know what I “clearly think.” Type “Wesley Hill” in the search field, for instance.

        Tom can speak for himself if he wants.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Mary, with respect to your earlier email above regarding condemning gay people, are you asking if I condemn someone simply because they are “gay-tempted” but control that so that they never engage in “gay-activity”? I think rather that I would likely commend someone like that, fighting off a tougher temptation than most I face. However, I am not so sure I know of a lot of homosexual couples who “don’t have sex” at any time with any other “homosexual” people. Or, don’t “act out” in a homosexual fashion. The whole key is to see homosexuality as a sin and to attempt to avoid it as much as possible. In that sense, it is very much like a person who is tempted to engage in heterosexual conduct which is forbidden by scripture. The key is to recognize the act one is tempted to do is sin and fight against it. Again, if there is someone who is tempted homosexually but does recognize that activity to be wrong and fight against succumbing to it, then I would give him a vote of confidence.

  7. Mary Daly Says:

    i have read everything you’ve written on the subject. how do you think i came across that one? it’s just disheartening to see a pastor change from a loving and rational view point to such a pharisaical one.

    • Tom Harkins Says:

      Mary, I have a further thought about “homosexual desires” after additional consideration of my earlier comment today. That is, ALL “desires” which are contrary to scripture are wrongful. The 10th Commandment forbids “covetousness.” Also, “From out of the heart come the issues of life.” “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” “He who looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her in his heart.” So, if I have a desire for someone other than my wife, I am sinning. So, the same is true of anyone who has a homosexual desire. All heart attitudes which are contrary to scripture are wrong, sinful.

      However, what I would insist is that all sins are “not the same.” I take the 10 Commandments to be in “decreasing” level of “wrongness.” Sins directly against God are more “wrongful” than sins against other men; the sin of murder is a worse sin than theft; which is itself a worse sin than a desire to steal. So, all sins are sins and should be fought against, but I cannot see all sins as being equal. In my view, “lusting” after a woman is not the same “level” of sin as ACTUALLY committing adultery, even though they are in the same “category.” Though both are wrong and should be fought against, actually committing adultery has dramatically bad consequences to lots of people. So, in fact, having a desire to have homosexual sex is likewise a “sin.” But it is not as “bad” of a sin as is actually committing homosexual acts.

      What I was trying to emphasize before (albeit in artfully and frankly without considering the matter sufficiently) is that I have a DEGREE of admiration for anyone who, though “lustful,” nevertheless keeps that “lust” from leading into the even worse sin of acting on that lust. And I would say that this is as true for those with homosexual desires as it is for those with “improper” heterosexual desires. I can’t just say, “It’s okay to lust in a homosexual fashion, so long as you don’t act on it.” It is not okay. Just as it is not okay to “covet your neighbor’s wife,” to quote from the 10th Commandment. Yet, all of us have wrongful desires that we have to fight.

      My conclusion, then, is that we must recognize EVEN THE DESIRE TO BE A SIN, and must “fight against it,” but there is still SOMETHING admirable to be said for someone who can “tame” his sinful desire so as to not actually fall in to the activity itself.


  8. One of the problems that the American Christian church has – and doesn’t seem to realise that it has – is that it’s lost all authority to speak to the LGBT community from any sort of moral high ground.Christians delight in pointing out how gays are trying to push their sinful lifestyle on to good, decent, normal people, as if some dreadful crime or indoctrinating was going on. But then they completely ignore the history of the Christian church’s interaction with the LGBT community over the past few decades alone. But let’s take a stroll through history and look back over some of the brighter moments, shall we?

    We can start by stepping back to 2012. Not too long ago, is it? Remember how Pastor Sean Harris told his congregation that if their children acted too gay, he would give them ‘special dispensation’ to ‘crack their wrists’ and punch them in order to man them up? Ah, child abuse, the Christian response to the gay agenda. Remember how Pastor Charles Worley gave a sermon in which he advocated rounding up homosexuals, putting them in concentration camps and dropping food in occasionally? Remember how the evangelical Christian government of Uganda passed a bill in which ‘aggravated homosexuality’ (two or more offenses) were punishable by death? American Pastor Scott Lively was partially responsible for that bill, as he worked closely with Ugandan lawmakers concerning how to handle the homosexual menace in Uganda. The US Congress passed a resolution to denounce the bill, which was blocked by lobbying by the Christian group the Family Research Counsel, on the grounds that it portrayed homosexuality as a human right. Yes, 2012 was a good year for Christian love towards the LGBT community.

    I’ll brush over the immense work the Christian Church has done to deny gays the right to a civil marriage to the consenting adult of their choice. That debate is all over the blogosphere and I can’t imagine I’d have any new arguments that you haven’t heard already. I will address how the Christian church has lobbied in the political arena to deny gays the right to serve their nation with dignity and honour. To work for employers without fear of being fired for their sexual orientation (which is still legal in about 30 states.) Even their private sexual lives were politically demonised until Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, despite the overwhelming Christian effort to legislate their own brand of morality in the political forums.

    Now lets step back to the 80′s, during the AIDS crises. IA terrible time to be a gay man in America. HIV was a new, unknown disease that ravaged individuals and destroyed thousands of lives. And what was the Christian response? Christian hospitals refused to treat those with AIDS. The funerals of AIDS victims were picketed by Christian organisations (ever wonder where the Wesboro Baptist Church got their tactics from?). Hospitals and hospices that did treat AIDS victims were picketed as well. Federal aid to AIDS research and support was blocked by Christian organisations and politicians. Pastor Jerry Falwell told his flock that AIDS was God’s punishment on a nation that tolerated homosexuality. Hundreds of pastors followed suit. Because, in the end, what’s a few more dead gays?

    Do you understand what I am saying? Or do I need to continue? Should I take you through a tour of the internet, where the LGBT community is frequently called the vilest of names? How many times have you heard a Christian call gay men and women f-gs? How many times have you heard them referred to as abominations? How many times has someone mention in your hearing that the Bible issued the death penalty for gays and it’s a shame we don’t follow it so closely anymore?

    You, the Christians of America, have labeled gays as less than human. F-gs. Abominations. Deviants. Your organisations, like the FRC and the AFA frequently refer to gays as potential pedophiles. You mock and slander them. You harass and despise them. You throw them out of your homes. Why do you think 40% of homeless youth are LGBT? You fight to deny them the opportunity to live life as they choose, demanding that they live life as you choose. You have beaten them on the streets in the name of your God. You have tortured them in camps designed to cure them, often with documented cases of electroshock therapy and ammonia aversion.

    And you have killed them. The names are branded into any conversation about the Christian church’s relationship with the LGBT community. Charlie Howard. Rebecca Wight. Matthew Shepard. Marc Carson. And so many more. Men and women, killed by church-going, Christ-confessing Christians.

    And after all of this, after decades of mockery and harassment and persecution and torture and murder, you dare, you DARE to tell gay people that ‘only we can cure you. Only we can save you. It is only through us that you can come to live a truly happy and content life. The religion that we have used to build a foundation of your misery is the only thing that can lead you away from your unhappiness. We are the reason you are so lost and alone and despairing, and now we can save you.’

    That is why your ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ creed (which does not appear in the Bible) is treated with such disdain. That is why there is so much vehemence and anger and bitterness from LGBT people towards the Christian Church. It’s because Christians have earned it, and earned it again tenfold.

  9. Tom Harkins Says:

    Theirish, let’s acknowledge mistreatment of some “gays” by some members of the “Christian” community. Does that operate to make “gay” behavior biblically acceptable? Or, are you simply unconcerned with that issue, evidently being an “atheist.” If you don’t accept the Bible in the first place, you are not in much of a position to argue over whether Christians should be opposed to the “gay lifestyle” or not. I do agree that “aggression” is not the proper Christian response to biblically offensive behavior, so if your point is that there are some “Christians” with blood on their hands, I don’t think I can really dispute that. But that can’t take away from the fact that Brent can argue that we as Christians are still bound by the scriptural proscriptions on homosexual behavior, as against efforts to place that in the same category as proscriptions against eating shellfish. God made it clear to Peter that the old laws as to “unclean” foods were no longer in effect in Peter’s vision leading to the “acceptance” of Gentiles into the Church. There has been no such “override” of the laws against homosexuality; instead, those continue to be stated in the New Testament.

    So, there is blame to be pointed out, but this cannot operate to make homosexual behavior biblically okay, nor can it be a ground for Christians to be prevented from being opposed to such behavior in the “public arena.” The public arena is no more closed to people with religious backgrounds than to those with atheist ones. Are you claiming that only atheists can speak in public? Or only their mores prevail?


    • “Tom Harkins,” your “use” of “quotations” is both arbitrary and confusing and not helping your point at all. At no point did I say Christians did not have the rights to their beliefs. Neither did I say that they did not have the right to express them in a public arena, although you did a magnificent job of setting up that straw man argument just so you could knock it down with a righteous blast of hot air.

      If you’ll go back through my post, you’ll find that I’m saying that the only things Christians don’t have a right to are murder, torture, harrassment and withholding civil rights from gay individuals, all of which they are guilty of doing. When I say that Christians have lost the right to speak to gay people from a moral ground due to these actions, I’m not talking about from a legal sense, but a moral one.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        By removing a “moral ground” to speak, you are pulling in the point of my “quotation marks.” In other words, there are a vast number of true Christians who have never murdered, tortured, etc. Are THEY prohibited from speaking from a “moral ground” because OTHERS (perhaps some are true Christians, but I doubt most are–hence the quotation marks) have done such things? (I am not sure about “civil rights”–I think that can go to whether homosexual marriages should be recognized as true marriages or not. That would be something that I think Christians should have just as much a right to speak about as atheists.)

  10. Chris Mullis Says:

    Brent, I appreciate the way you explain this issue. Thanks for posting this. I may link to it in my blog if that’s OK.


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