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Throughout my life, I have been taught by my family and my religion to be an open-minded, accepting person with the capacity for empathy and understanding. With that background, With that background, I have never had any difficulty accepting homosexuals as who they are human beings born with a different sexual orientation than me. The difficulty for me has been in understanding the view of those who use the Bible to condemn homosexuals. I’ve often heard them rattling off Bible verses call homosexuality an abomination and call for the death of all homosexuals. These verses have always confused me. I believe strongly that homosexuality is an inborn trait, just as heterosexuality is. So, hearing people use the Bible to condemn homosexuals didn’t make sense because the loving God that I believe in would not create people a certain way and then condemn them for being that way.
In the literature that I have read on the subject, there seem to be six main bible passages that are utilized by many to condemn homosexuality. The first of these is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:26-19:29. This passage is probably the most famous instance in scripture where homosexuality seems to be condemned. In fact, it was in this story that the word “sodomy” was coined. The story begins with two angels arriving in Sodom and being invited into Lot’s home as guests for the night. “But, before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we may know them.’” Then, Lot went out to speak to the men and offer them his virgin daughters to do with as they pleased, but the men persisted. So, the angels struck the mob blind and warned Lot to leave the city with his entire family because it was to be destroyed for its wickedness. Taken literally, those against homosexuals exert that this story means that the men of Sodom wanted to have sexual intercourse with the strangers and that God annihilated the city for that reason.
However, for me this passage is not as clear-cut. For one, the men’s request to “know” the strangers does not necessarily mean that they wanted to rape them. There is no really clear understanding of their intent. The verb “vadha” (“to know” in Hebrew) is mentioned 943 times in the Old Testament. But, only 10 times does it refer to sexual intercourse, and then it is referring to heterosexual relations between husband and wife (“Homosexuality in the Bible: Interpretation” 2).
It is very possible that the intent of the crowd was to rape the angels. However, this can be explained by looking at the context of the times. According to a major study of homosexuality in the Greek world, Anthropological data indicates that human societies at this time subjected strangers, newcomers, and trespassers to anal intercourse as a way of reminding them of their subordinate status (Witt 3). The attempted rape is not necessarily of sexual deviance, but of an arrogant and violent society. The only homosexual practice that this passage could condemn is the practice of male rape as a means of humiliating others (Vasey 125). But, is this a condemnation of homosexuality in general? I don’t think so because rape is a far cry from the act of consensual sex, whether it is homosexual or heterosexual.
Continued study of the Bible also points out that Sodom is referred to throughout the Old Testament as a place of wickedness, but nowhere does it state that homosexuality was the wickedness in question. Among the sins attributed to Sodom are pride, and in Ezekiel 16:49-50 is proclaims, “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.” The only terms in this passage that could pertain to homosexuality are “abominable things.” But, according to Hebrew dictionaries, the Hebrew word interpreted to mean “abominable things” is usually associated with idol worship (Witt 2). Also, in Matthew 10:14-15, Jesus even says that Sodom was destroyed because it was a place that was lacking in hospitality to strangers (Gomes 152). This view seems clearly supported by the Bible passage.
The debate about homosexuality in the Bible continues with Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which has become the central battle cry for the anti-gay movement among Christians. Leviticus 18:22 reads, “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 proclaims, “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.” Literally, these statements seem to be very definitive in saying that homosexuality