Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

GLBT Persons in Church: Case for Full Inclusion, 5

We come to two texts in Leviticus:

Lev. 18: 22, You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; that is an abomination.

Lev. 20:13, If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

Well, that seems straightforward enough. There are no translation issues. The forbidden practice seems very clear: a ban on male-on-male anal sex. Since the prohibition is given twice in Leviticus with the second using nearly the same formulation, but expanded, it is likely that the second law was intended to clear up any confusion in the first formulation: Both partners are considered to have transgressed, not just the one penetrating or the one penetrated, and their punishment (death) is spelled out and there is an assurance that no blood-guilt attaches to executing the transgressors.

What is not clear from just reading these texts in isolation is the reasoning. The verses as they stand leave so many questions: Why aren’t sex acts between two women mentioned? Why the phrase “lies with a male as with a woman?” Same-sex eroticism, like heterosexual eroticism, takes many other forms than intercourse, are they also banned? If so, why weren’t they mentioned? If not, why this narrow focus on intercourse(penetration)? What does it mean to call something “an abomination?” What other actions are called by the same term? What unites them? Just what is going on that leads to these prohibitions?

Because of the nature of our source (Leviticus), which mostly lists commands without much explanation, getting trustworthy answers to the above questions is not easy. In what follows, I will present a summary of a widespread consensus among scholars (not all of whom come to the same conclusions I do about how to apply these verses, today), but the consensus is not beyond challenge. (People who speak of “the assured results of biblical scholarship,” are dealing with fantasy–at the level of those who dreamed of a “permanent Republican majority.” Today’s assured results can look very shaky tomorrow as new archeological finds, new tools or methods for considering background, etc. re-shapes the way scholars look at any texts.)

Holiness/Purity. In contemporary English, we tend to equate “holiness” with moral goodness. But that’s not how the ancient Hebrews, or many traditional societies, thought. Our two verses come from a large section in Leviticus (chaps. 17-26) called “the Holiness Code.” In addition to forbidding male-to-male intercourse, that Code outlaws heterosexual sex during a woman’s menstrual period, eating rare steaks, crossbreeding animals, child sacrifice, sex acts with animals, sowing two different kinds of seeds in the same field, wearing clothes of mixed fibres, adultery, consulting mediums, children disrespecting their parents, eating shellfish, and, for men, trimming the hair at the side of our heads or trimming our beards, as well as many other things.

What connects and/or distinguishes these different things? The concept of holiness involved a sense of awe or even fear connected with the sacred [See the classic study by Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy (1926) or, more recently, Mircea Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane]. It also involved the necessity of separating the sacred from the profane or ordinary. The world as God’s Creation has ORDER (see Gen. 1) and things are properly to be separated into their proper PLACE. Things which cross categories are taboo: One can eat fish and land animals, but shellfish (shrimp, lobster, etc.) crawl on the ground like land animals, but live in the sea like fish–they cross boundaries and are therefore “unclean” and must not be eaten.

The Levitical prohibitions on male/male intercourse are holiness or purity prohibitions. [See Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger, and Leviticus as Literature.] To call these acts “abomination” is to declare that they make one who commits them ritually impure. It is not, per se, a moral judgment since one also calls wearing clothing with mixed fibres or eating shellfish “abominations.” Ritual impurity was considered to be contagious–it “polluted” those around it. So, the death penalty for male/male intercourse was to “cleanse” the community–just as the death penalty for disobedient children did the same.

Now, over time, and especially in the ministry of Jesus, holiness/purity became redefined or refocused to have less to do with ritual purity and more with justice and morality. [See Marcus Borg, Conflict, Holiness, and Politics in the Teaching of Jesus; L. William Countryman, Dirt, Greed, and Sex; or, from an evangelical viewpoint that would not draw the same conclusions I am, Craig Blomberg’s, Contagious Holiness: Jesus’ Meals with Sinners.]

A second thing may be going on in the background of Leviticus: the temptation to follow Israel’s pagan neighbors and have temple prostitution, including male temple prostitutes. To be holy was to be separate and distinct from the pagan nations–and to avoid any practices which even called to mind the practices of pagan religion. Hence the warnings against child sacrifice (specifically to the god, Molech). We know from the prophetic books (especially Ezekiel) that Israel sometimes lapsed into syncretistic religious practices which turned the worship of YHWH into something close to the surrounding fertility cults. “Abomination” is a term most often used about idolatry.

A final part of the background may be viewing sex as primarily (if not exclusively) for procreation. Women in the ancient world were not known to contribute anything to reproduction except “fertile ground.” (Only with the rise of modern science did we come to understand that women contribute as much or more to conception as men. Biblical authors all assumed that pregnancy was just men “sowing their seed” in women.) Male/male intercourse would be viewed as “wasting their seed” in “infertile ground.” This could explain why female same-sex eroticism is not even mentioned. As long as children are being produced, women’s sexuality is basically ignored in much of the ancient world, including almost all of Scripture.  The strong biblical prohibitions on adultery focus most on women because men needed to be assured their offspring were theirs–especially since ancient Hebrew thought considered immortality to be mostly a matter of having offspring and not “being forgotten.” (Thus, the practice of levirate marriage in which the childless widow is married to the closest male relative to the dead man and offspring from that union are considered the dead man’s children.)

Now, some of what is forbidden in the Holiness Code still makes sense to us today, to forbid on moral grounds: I don’t hear any voices within contemporary churches arguing for permitting child sacrifice, or bestiality, for instance. But neither do I hear any voices claiming that Christians are forbidden to wear polyester blends or crossbreed animals or eat shrimp. And few Protestant fundamentalists, at least, would condemn men who trim their beards–it would indict too many a clean-shaven evangelist! And, if some of us avoid marital sex during menstruation it has more to do with aesthetics than with either purity or morality concerns–i.e., it strikes us not so much as “bad,” as “gross.”

So, in deciding the application of these ancient laws today, we have to ask whether male/male intercourse is more like bestiality or child sacrifice (things we would still condemn) or more like eating shellfish or trimming our beards.  I will eventually argue that promiscuous male/male intercourse (and other forms of same-sex sexual intimacy) should still be condemned, as should all forms of exploitive sex.  I will, however, argue that covenantal same-sex relationships analagous to heterosexual marriage should be permitted–that forbidding them was more like forbidding consumption of shellfish than it was to forbidding bestiality or child sacrifice.  But, no matter which way we decide, how do we decide? How do we know which things in the Holiness Code should still be condemned and which should not?

Moral Law? One answer that has been given at least since John Calvin has been to divide the Old Testament Law into categories: Ritual laws, laws for running Israel’s civil society, and the moral law. In this way of thinking, Jesus abolished the ritual laws as binding on Christians, the civil laws are binding only by way of analogy in modern societies, but the moral law is still binding–we still forbid murder, and adultery, and theft.

There could be merit to this idea. But we have to notice something: Leviticus does not divide laws this way. The Holiness Code, for instance, places laws on gleaning (a way of providing for the poor), false scales, and defrauding neighbors right alongside laws about sacrifice, food laws, sabbath keeping, ritual purity, and not selling one’s daughter into prostitution.

So, the question for us, today, with our different views of sex, purity, and morality is this: Are all same-sex actions today more like murder, theft, and bestiality or are they more like eating shellfish, trimming beards, and wearing polyester blends?

To many, the answer to that question will seem obvious. I can hear the outrage that I should even ask the question. But, whatever way we answer the question, notice that we are making a judgment that brings outside criteria to the question. That is, we will not be deciding the issue for the same reasons that the writers of Leviticus did. Whether we decide to retain the ban on same-sex relations or lift it, we STILL will be using non-biblical considerations in making our judgment. Unless we adopt the entire Holiness Code without exception, we are not simply following the letter of Scripture–even if other biblical texts are among the influences on our moral decision.

I am not saying that these texts have no bearing on the contemporary questions surrounding gays in churches. Unlike the Sodom story, these texts do relate to our questions. But the way they relate may not be all that simple.

For further study: John Gammie, Holiness in Israel; “The Abomination of Leviticus: Uncleanness,” chapt. four of What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, by Daniel Helminiak; “Moral Abominations,” chapt. 7 of Ethics After Babel: The Languages of Morals and Their Discontents by Jeffrey Stout. More to be added as our study progresses.


January 30, 2007 - Posted by | Biblical exegesis, GLBT issues, Hebrew Bible/O.T., homosexuality


  1. Great job, Michael. Quite clear and well-wrought.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | January 30, 2007

  2. Yep. All that ponderous pondering is important. But the bottom line for me was this:

    The same Spirit of Jesus within me that recoiled at the “Christian” claims of the KKK during its resurgence back in the ’80s recoils now at “Christian” claims of certitude and judgment regarding gays.

    Thank the UCC’s controversial TV ad for cutting through my lingering cultural confusion with its “Bouncer” ad. Spoke to me directly. I was a bouncer at a Texas dancehall in the early ’90s …

    Only Nixon could go to China. Only reformed rednecks will be able to resolve the gay thing in the church. 🙂

    Comment by Erudite Redneck | January 30, 2007

  3. Interesting post Michael. I have for some time tried to figure out which laws we should still follow. Romans many times says that we are no longer under the law, but obviously, it is not okay to murder or steal. I do know Paul seems to condemn homosexuality in Romans, but I am sure you are getting there are some point, as you can only cover so much ground at once. That will be an interesting read.

    Comment by Chance | January 30, 2007

  4. Gawd!

    How more simplistic can you be, Michael? You must constantly research how to bend the Word of God to fit your agend.

    This post does nothing more than prove your complete ignorance of grace, law, or holiness.

    “Ritually impure”…pshaw!

    Comment by D.Daddio Al-Ozarka | January 30, 2007

  5. Yes, Chance, I am getting to Rom. 1. It is the most important text in the canon on the topic and the only one in which the prohibition is given a theological rationale. It was Rom. 1 which settled this question negatively for me for many, many years. But I cannot rush to deal with Rom. 1.

    E. R. has called my approach “plodding,” and I suppose it is. I like those UCC ads, too. But I come from and am writing to Christians who would self-identify as “Evangelical.” For us, there can be no shortcuts on moral discernment that bypass serious biblical exegesis and hermeneutical reflection.

    That’s also my response to Daddio who has taken time out from rants on his blog where he argues for nuking Iran and much of the rest of the Middle East, to grace us hear with his presence. No, Daddio, I don’t research how to “bend the Word of God to my agenda.” I try very hard to bend myself to God’s agenda as revealed in and through the Holy Scriptures, with Jesus Christ as the key to interpretation.

    But I don’t assume that the way I was taught to read passages on a particular issue is necessarily correct. The Protestant principle is that ANY and ALL church tradition can be wrong. We must always look again.

    Now, a departure from a traditional doctrine or way of reading Scripture has the burden of proof. The traditional reading is the default one for those of us who take Scripture and tradition seriously. That’s why it took me well over a decade of reading arguments on this topic from all sides before I changed my mind and threw in with the “welcoming and affirming” revisionists. It was NOT an overnight change of mind and heart.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 31, 2007

  6. Michael, I think your exegesis in this post is good; there is one small hermeneutical point I would put differently.

    You said: Whether we decide to retain the ban on same-sex relations or lift it, we STILL will be using non-biblical considerations in making our judgment.

    I would rather say, Whether we decide to retain the ban on same-sex relations or lift it, we STILL will be using non-LEVITICAL considerations in making our judgment.

    That is, you are right that we will have to use criteria EXTERIOR to the book of Leviticus, but we may not necessarily have to use criteria exterior to the whole Bible, for as many people have said, that will depend on what we make of Romans 1. An old rule of thumb is, “interpret obscure passages of Scripture in light of clearer passages of Scripture.” If we come to the conclusion that Romans 1 is clear, then Leviticus can be interpreted in its light. But of course, I am not asking you to jump ahead, just recognize that we can’t quite yet say some things until Romans 1 has been examined.

    Comment by Jonathan | January 31, 2007

  7. Jonathan, I think Leviticus is clear. Clarity is not the issue. The issue is whether or not ALL same-sex acts and relationships are more like the ban on shellfish or the ban on child sacrifice–since we no longer view all these matters as primarily ones of purity.

    SURE, Rom. 1 can influence our final decision. And our interpretation of these Levitical texts will influence how we understand the background to Paul’s argument in Romans. But that won’t mean that if we take the traditional view that all we are doing is interpreting Scripture by Scripture–criteria outside Scripture will still be influencing our decisions as I hope to show.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 31, 2007

  8. This key thing is missing:

    Gays are hyper-promiscuous. They spread disease and NEED many partners. Both Genesis 19 and Judges 19 are consequences of societies which had reasoned around the morality of homosexuality. In the case of Judges 19, the law of Leviticus was long ago discarded.

    Society as a whole has always had an interest in containing homosexuality due to the effects, hence this is the reason that only gays are mentioned in Leviticus. Any discussion of gay issues that doesn’t begin with its documented effects on society is automatically to be rejected.

    Comment by Looney | January 31, 2007

  9. “Gays are hyper-promiscuous. They spread disease and NEED many partners.”


    Your source? How many gay folk do you know personally, looney? Dozens? One? None?

    Its “documented effects”?!

    To be sure, promiscuity of all forms has damaging effects, but as Michael has pointed out in an earlier part of this series, this is not an argument in favor of promiscuity, but in favor of stable, loving, committed gay relationships as acceptable in the body of Christ.

    To the degree that some gays might be promiscuous, we can set some of the blame for that at the feet of the church, who has too often told gays that they’re not welcome. If I’m gay and I’m rejected by the church, well then, maybe I’ll just have nothing to do with the church or her morals.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | January 31, 2007

  10. Dan, I live near San Francisco. One of the popular gay meeting spots is the Altamont Pass rest area on highway 80 which is also on a popular cycling route that I have done countless times. You see them meeting random men, heading for a car, and then …

    Whether the “stable, loving, committed gay relationship” is a myth or not, I can’t be sure, but I do know that hyperpromiscuity is the norm. No correct exegesis of the Biblical passages can be started without this fact.

    Comment by Looney | January 31, 2007

  11. Correction: Altamont Pass is on interstate 580, not 80!

    Comment by Looney | January 31, 2007

  12. Looney, the late liberal NT scholar and theologian Rudolf Bultmann was famous for saying that “presuppositioless exegeis is impossible.” Some argue that he was his own best evidence for this saying, but that’s beside the point. You prove that here: Your reasons for rejecting an (unfinished) argument for Christian acceptance of same-sex MONOGAMY has to do with your experience of the promiscuity of gay men in your area of San Francisco. Please note that this is an extra-biblical influence on your reading of Scripture–an argument from experience, just as Dan and I are influenced our friendships with Christian gays and lesbians who are NOT promiscuous.

    Suppose I were to try to accept an argument for the acceptance of HETEROSEXUAL monogamy–How fair would it be for me to begin by examining the promiscuous lifestyles of heterosexuals in Hollywood, or in professional athletics, etc.? I played football in highschool and some of my teammates thought I might be gay. Their evidence? I didn’t try to get laid weekly after the game!

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 31, 2007

  13. I could also apply Looney’s logic to another one of the Levitical laws in the Holiness Code: the death penalty for disrespectful children.

    Now, I am a parent and sometimes my children are very disrespectful. And even as I am trying to correct them, threatening a punishment, they seem to NEED to continue.

    Further, I am a former youth minister and I can tell you that disrespectful youth are on the rise in this nation. The culture of youth disrespect is rampant. There can be no “proper exegesis” of the Levitical command to execute disrespectful children that does not take into consideration their rampant disrespect and rudeness.

    Conclusion: We must reinstitute death for disrespectful children and youth immediately. I recommend starting with preachers’ kids, since they are notorious for their misbehavior, rudeness, flouting of authority, and mocking of their parents’ faith.

    Any takers?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 31, 2007

  14. Well, that seems factual beyond all question, Michael. I mean, if you’ve seen it, then that must be the reality worldwide and without exception.

    Get out the stones.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | January 31, 2007

  15. And seriously, looney, my question remains open: How many gay people do you personally know? (not ones that you’ve seen, but with whom you have a personal friendship?)

    Comment by Dan Trabue | January 31, 2007

  16. Lev. 20:9 per the NIV is:

    ‘If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.

    Yes, I have experienced a lot of disrespect, but I have never heard someone curse his father or mother. Not even a preachers kid!

    But to bring this back around, are we saying that disrespect and cursing of parents is good and pleasing before God, because we no longer have a death penalty for cursing parents? Should we mandate role models in kindergarten stories of young children cursing their parents in order to promote a more tolerant culture?

    Comment by Looney | January 31, 2007

  17. “And seriously, looney, my question remains open: How many gay people do you personally know? (not ones that you’ve seen, but with whom you have a personal friendship?)”

    Dan, you are correct in guessing that I don’t have too many gay friends. The community that I live in doesn’t have many. My brother’s family had a close acquaintance who was a piano teacher and music director. He dumped his wife and kids to pursue a gay lifestyle. That is about as close as I get.

    Comment by Looney | January 31, 2007

  18. All polite views are welcome, including those who disagree vigorously. But Roger Niccum has been banned from this blog. So, no matter what he posts or how often, I WILL remove it without reading it. Eventually, I hope he will go somewhere else as I have repeatedly told him.

    This applies to no one else, just this turkey who has been a pain in the butt since I started this blog. He can go get his own.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 1, 2007

  19. Michael said:>In addition to forbidding male-to-male intercourse, that Code outlaws heterosexual sex during a woman’s menstrual period, eating rare steaks, crossbreeding animals, child sacrifice, sex acts with animals, sowing two different kinds of seeds in the same field, wearing clothes of mixed fibres, adultery, consulting mediums, children disrespecting their parents, eating shellfish, and, for men, trimming the hair at the side of our heads or trimming our beards. What connects and/or distinguishes these different things?

    That question is asked a lot and it was addressed on my blog. For those wanting to read more about it, the link is here. Thanks!

    Comment by Roger | February 2, 2007

  20. Against my better judgment, I will allow the last comment by Roger to stand, since he is just inviting others to go to his blog. If anyone wants to try to make his case here, I will deal with those arguments. But Roger himself continues to be unwelcome.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 2, 2007

  21. “D.Daddio Al-Ozarka”

    I see you’re good at flinging insults, but can you actually break down the post here and point out all the inaccuracy? Probably not.


    Don’t judge all homosexuals by the passing few you know, please.

    “Gays are hyper-promiscuous. They spread disease and NEED many partners.”

    There is absolutely NO creditable information to back up this ridiculous statement. Of course, I assume you apply this to heterosexuals too, right?

    Comment by Sarah | February 3, 2007

  22. Very good post, Michael!

    But, then I’m also convinced by your arguments to reinstate the death penalty for disrespectful kids, so now I don’t know what to think! 😉

    Looney, you crack me up! I can barely believe that you’re being serious. For the record, before I becamse a Christian I was more promiscuous than any of my gay friends.

    Comment by graham old | February 3, 2007

  23. Graham, are you confessing or bragging? 🙂

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 3, 2007

  24. I have to post, regards this… Looney? Apt name.

    I’m lesbian. I have had one long-term partner. Period. We have split up due to problems induced by prolonged homophobic victimisation. I do not intend to seek another relationship. Period. My best friend is lesbian, she has been in two, monogamous, same-sex relationships, both lasting over ten years. I can count the number of sexual partners she has had on half the fingers of one hand.

    I’m also a Christian, a devout Christian, I try and live my life in accordance with Christ’s ministry, and take his teachings extremely seriously, including “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons [and daughters!] of your Father in heaven.” In that vein, God be with you, and thank you for your valuable input into this very interesting discussion.

    Michael, you’re a star, and a great boon to us amatuer internet theology wannabes. Now back to lurking…

    Comment by Jenny | March 29, 2007

  25. Thanks for the kind words, Jenny. Looney’s domain name is Looneyfundamentalist, so draw your own conclusions.

    While you are not seeking another relationship, I hope you are open to a love God might send your way. I also hope you either have or find a loving church context–not a homophobic one.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | March 29, 2007

  26. Marshall, after reading all your comments, it appears obvious that you are starting from the presumption that homosexuality is wrong and then finding support for that position in the bible and in your own reasoning. That, as opposed to honestly seeking God’s Word.

    Which is not to be unexpected. When you’ve been raised such as I and probably you were – to believe that homosexuality is an obvious (and specially awful) offense before God, it’s hard to step away from that position.

    And as a result, we read the Sodom and Gomorrah story and see God’s righteous anger against gays – when homosexuality is not even mentioned in that story. We read the condemnation of men laying with men and assume that it must be refering to all homosexual instances.

    You mock Michael’s question of “Which way we ought to take this teaching? (as one of the teachings we can ignore, like the polyester ban or one that we need to heed, as the bestiality ban)” but you don’t offer any reason why that is not a legitimate question, other than proximity – ie, the fact that it appears with one particular list.

    The question of “Why do we heed some and not others?” has gone unanswered by you in your mock answer. This is not especially helpful in an honest conversation.

    It’s difficult to NOT interpret things the way we’ve been taught. And I’m not trying to convince you to do otherwise, myself. All I’m asking is that we all pray for God’s wisdom and be willing to go wherever that takes us – even if it is in a direction that opposes our earlier traditions.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | April 1, 2007

  27. Marshall. You are deluded. No one, and I mean NO ONE reads Scripture without presuppositions. This has been proven repeatedly. The most one can do is to become aware of one’s presuppositions and try to correct for them.

    As for your divisions of Mosaic law–they are not divided like that anywhere in Scripture. You have created a system and are reading that back on Leviticus.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | April 2, 2007

  28. ‘So I AM hoping to convince all who abide your positions to at least study the actual words of the Bible.’

    Art, perhaps you could consider – just for a moment – that it would be possible for some to disagree with your position and still have studied the ‘actual words of the Bible’.

    Comment by graham | April 2, 2007

  29. Dan is right. If you want to kill gay people, you have to ban polyester and shellfish too.

    Comment by Scamp | July 18, 2007

  30. “So, the question for us, today, with our different views of sex, purity, and morality is this: Are all same-sex actions today more like murder, theft, and bestiality or are they more like eating shellfish, trimming beards, and wearing polyester blends?”

    This is a very easy question to answer. Read the passages in context. Leviticus 18 contains many moral laws, and they are sandwiched by strong statements that the Israelites are not to behave like the pagan Canaanites did (the Israelites are about to displace them and take over the land). God did not expect the Canaanites to follow the ceremonial laws, but He did expect them to follow the moral laws written on our hearts. The Canaanites had committed the offenses noted in Leviticus 18 for hundreds of years, so God was judging them.

    “If you want to kill gay people, you have to ban polyester and shellfish too.”

    Was someone saying we should kill gay people? I’m certainly not. The question is whether the behavior is sinful.

    The shellfish argument is full of holes but is appealing to many because so few bother to read the passages in context. I encourage you to read flaws of the shellfish argument.

    Comment by Neil | June 21, 2008

  31. I think this is probably the weakest argument I’ve heard from you. You don’t give any reasons behind why you think same-sex relations should be sequestered the way you suggest, nor why it should be compared to shellfish and not bestiality. Bestiality and same-sex relations are sexual impurities in the text where shellfish is a dietary impurity.

    You’ve simply not given an argument at all to why you come to your conclusion. You simply appeal to the postmodern secular morality.

    Instead, I would rather jump to Acts 15 where the Apostles remove all burden of the Law except, “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.”

    From here you just have to show what “fornication” means.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | July 17, 2008

  32. I have NOT appealed to secular or postmodern morality. And I will speak about Acts 15.

    I have not claimed that same-sex acts should be “sequestered.” The ones doing the “sequestering” are those who are upholding these texts literalistically, while completely ignoring the other “abominations” of Leviticus like eating shellfish–without any hermeneutical guidelines except their own prejudices.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 17, 2008

  33. You are sequestering them EXACTLY like the other side of this argument does. They put them in categories (“moral law”) and you also put them in categories. But this is splitting hairs when my critique was that you gave to reason for why you came to your point.

    And you definitely appealed to the reader’s own morals shaped by the culture we live in with questions like: “Are all same-sex actions today more like murder, theft, and bestiality or are they more like eating shellfish, trimming beards, and wearing polyester blends?” You are trying to ask if same-sex relations are like violent or infringing crimes everybody believes are wrong, or to rules about style and diet.

    You didn’t ask if it was more like menstrual sex and less like bestiality sex, which would have been more fair, considering those two would be related to sexual acts.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | July 18, 2008

  34. I know I’m late to the discussion, so I don’t know if you’ll even answer this question. But regardless, I shall ask.

    I am trying to approach this issue openly. As it stands, I guess I’m undecided. I have been taught in my five years as a Christian that homosexuality is wrong for many different reasons and from different frameworks of Christianity. As I have become increasingly “liberal” (at least, in my own formal community and their canon), I have come to question many things considered status quo. As I get ready to write a paper on homosexuality for my crisis counseling class, I really would like to progress in my “stance” on this. I tend to be more radical in my thinking, but I want to be as Christian as possible.

    My question is, I’m having trouble finding any other time in the Leviticus legal discourse where something besides in those two texts is called an “abomination” specifically. It is of course in other books, especially in Deut. and Eze., but I could not find it anywhere else. Are you concluding that sense these are together, they are all couched in that language? Or is there some words I’m missing?

    Whatever the stance I come to, I know that the Church must approach the question of homosexuality with Reconciliation, Redemption, and New Creation at the center, as revealed to us by our loving God. “Hey you! Come here and be like us!” is not a redemptive answer.

    Comment by alex | August 16, 2008

  35. Alex, “abomination” is always used in Scripture to refer to something ritually unclean, usually associated with idolatry. It does NOT mean “morally wrong” in the sense used by most churches. I suggest reading the texts I have cited concerning holiness/purity, especially by Mary Douglas.

    Stephen, I guess you are right that comparing male/male sex with sex during menstruation vs. bestiality would have a certain logic. But Leviticus is not that organized. I chose the examples I did because they are ALL part of the “Holiness Code” and all lumped together. The Levitical writers saw them as all being of one category–ritually unclean things. If we modern Christians separate them out, we must do so based on criteria different from those used by Leviticus. I say, however we decide, we should do this deliberately and with eyes wide open, not assuming that our separation is simply “biblical.”

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 16, 2008

  36. […] If you are new to the series, please read the previous installments first:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, this addendum, and 6.  Jumping straight to this post is not advised.  Also, even those who have […]

    Pingback by GLBT Persons in the Church: The Case for Full Inclusion 7 « Levellers | August 18, 2008

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