Part 3: Homosexuality & The Bible
Homosexuality evokes perhaps the greatest rage among Christians, but is homosexuality the greatest sin? How does it rate on a scale, say, between spitting on the sidewalk and murder? Being a jerk is a sin, too, and carries an even harsher penalty than homosexuality because Jesus' only commandment to us was that we love one another. [Matthew 22:37] And yet we openly revile and openly hate the gay community— in direct contravention to our covenant with God. Few things in life have either/or yes/no right/wrong solutions. Believing homosexuality is sin doesn't give you a license to hate people who are homosexual. “Oh, you're trying to have it both ways, pastor.” You bet I am.
Leviticus 18.22: Thou shalt not lie with
mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. And Leviticus
20.13 says If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a
woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall
surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
This scripture clearly states homosexuality is wrong, and in the eyes of God is punishable by death. It is part of the Levitical Holiness Code, a code of conduct that was part of a covenant that required the children of Israel to not participate in the religious rituals of the Canaanites once they entered the land God promised to them. It is a code we no longer practice as Jesus’ death and resurrection marked the fulfillment of the law. We are no longer under the law but under grace [Romans 10:4: Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes]. Many Christians call for these Levitical Laws to be enforced upon the homosexual community, while disregarding the larger body of the Code as being no longer relevant (like stoning your brother for planting two different crops side by side).
Nine out of ten Christians will tell you their vehement near
hatred of gays has Genesis 19 as its nucleus, which misses
several problems with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham
and Lot had too many cattle to graze together (Gen. 13), so Lot
packed up and headed toward the plain of Jordan, settling out in
the plains but eventually coming to live inside the city of
Sodom— a wicked place. The first lesson is Sodom was a place Lot
had no business being in the first place. As Christians, we
often encamp around sin or near sin but soon find ourselves
caught up in sin and then lost to sin. By Chapter 19, Lot is
living inside Sodom. He has accepted the city, its culture and
its values. They are all a matter of routine for Lot, so much so
that, when an angry mob arrived at Lot’s house seeking to
violently rape angels who’d come to rescue him, Lot offered up
his virgin daughters—girls likely aged 14-16—to this
angry mob to, “do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto
these men do nothing…” [19:8]
Like Lot, we are living in a time of appeasement, of accepting sin as normal. This is a warning to all of us, to liberals who push for acceptance of LGBT persons and to conservatives who condemn them. It is what makes the LGBT question a complex one. We can treat it as simple—they are apostate Christians rebelling against God—but that creates an even larger moral dilemma for God's people. Beloved, every time you pay your cable bill, in my view, you are an apostate Christian rebelling against God (see The Great Satan: TV, Media, and Defining "Normal"). Offering your young daughters to be violently gang raped is beyond unthinkable, but Lot had grown so accustomed, so indoctrinated to the ways of Sodom, that handing the girls over seemed both right and reasonable to him. You'd never think of handing your daughters over, but you hand them over every single day when you allow music videos that are objectively filthy—loaded with non-stop cussing, violent imagery, binge drinking, drug use and immoral sexual acts—into your home. This just boggles me, how normal and accepted this is, that your kid, from cradle to college, has earbuds stuck in his ears, day and night, ingesting this filth. Killing and maiming and raping in video games so realistic that they desensitize him to human life. Music, video, and "games" that feature the murder of police officers, that erode his respect for authority. Every single week I see young girls, sometimes very young girls, arriving at church in tight-fitting clothes, low-cut to reveal and emphasize their breasts, makeup caked on, loud, ugly jewelry. These girls look like whores, and they dress like whores even when coming to God's house. And Mommy says nothing. Pastor says nothing because Mommy will go off on him if he does. Mommy has given up the fight, and now actually defends her child's right to display her body as if for sale. This overly-sexualized mode of dress seems both normal and even reasonable because that's the way they dress on TV and the TV is on all the time. You can fry an egg on it.
You are living in Sodom. You have been indoctrinated. The sin is so normal, so banal to you, that this teaching sounds unreasonable and extreme. But, this is you—handing your daughters over to be mob raped—every time you pay that cable bill. Every time you buy them that CD, that video game with the explicit label, you are rebelling against God. This is sin. This is apostasy—the very same thing you ignorantly and haughtily accuse the LGBT community of. In God's eyes, sin is sin. Biblically, there is absolutely no difference between the lie most of us live with, this evil in our homes, and the lifestyle of LGBT persons.
As a child, and even as a teen, I would never be allowed a toy, a cookie, let alone a smartphone in my hands during service. Week after week I see mommies bringing toys and snacks and all manner of business to entertain their kids, teens with their heads down, thumbing expletive-laden texts and arranging sexual hook-ups during the worship service. I was taught to respect God's house. There were no snacks, no toys. Sit up and pay attention or Mom would jam you. By giving your 4-year old his favorite toy truck to run along the pews, you are teaching him God's House is not special, is not sacred, is no different from any other place. By allowing your teens to distract themselves with mobile devices both you and they should have left in the car, you are modeling apostate behavior. You are robbing God of His eminence and His Holiness, reducing Him to the same status as The Lion King or Harry Potter. This is apostate behavior, no different than and in many cases much worse than whatever we're accusing the LGBT community of.
Look: you either believe this thing or you don't. Christian parents who roll their eyes at me when I bring this up are, write this down someplace, in an apostate state. God does not reign in your home or in the lives of your children. When you allow this behavior in church, when you allow this filthy media in your home, when you allow your kids to adopt the world's ways over God's ways, when you make excuses for it, when you pay to have this garbage pumped, 24/7, into the place where God should reign, you are in rebellion against God. You are in absolutely no position to criticize anyone, gay or straight. God's response to us could likely be clean up your own house, first. This raggedy testimony of yours is destroying your children, the community and the church as we know it. With each successive generation we are moving farther away from God. We are becoming less and less like Him, to the point where we can no longer recognize His voice when He is speaking to us. We have to stand here, wringing our hands, trying to figure out what to do. That's the true evil of indoctrination, of Lot's story: not knowing a lie from the truth.
Peter and Paul: Making Room To Be Wrong
Is gay affirmation part of this indoctrination? When looking for truth, we must be willing to accept the possibility that we ourselves are wrong. We should all agree that hate and bigotry are evil and therefore not of God. Beyond that, regardless of your spiritual conviction, we must make room for truth. Truth is often inconvenient and painful. The bible isn't clear about whether or not Lot accepted the commonality of homosexual men in the city, "both young and old, all the people from every quarter" [Gen 19:6], but, one must assume he accepted gay persons on some level since he chose to live there (remember, Lot was living outside the city, out on the Jordan plain). Lot never spoke a word against homosexuality. He lived and worked and presumably socialized with homosexuals. And yet, God counted him as righteous. The Apostle Peter wrote, "... Lot, a righteous man ... was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard...)" [2 Peter 2:7-8]. There's no evidence anywhere else in the bible that Lot was distressed. He could only have been but so distressed because he remained there. There's no biblical evidence that Lot was broke, but, if he was, he had a rich uncle (Abraham) who could have helped him move if he wanted out.
It's not enough to read the bible. We have to be more than just quotologists. We have to understand not only what the words say but who said them, at what time and under what circumstances. We presume God's influence on Peter's writing, but it's important to understand Simon Peter (often called Cephas) was not a writer. Not a theologian. Not a rabbi. He had no formal religious training and very well may have been illiterate. He and his brother Andrew ran a fishing business in Bethsaida which they abandoned to follow Jesus. Peter built the church at Antioch, but allowed a Christian sect known as the Judaizers to bully him into false doctrine [Galatians 2:11-21]. The Apostle Paul had to come straighten Peter out—something which could never happen in our tradition because Peter was, essentially, the first pastor, bishop or pope. Jesus told him, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." [Matthew 16:18] In our tradition, Peter would have been so powerful (and, likely, so arrogant), that no matter how raggedy or wrong his doctrine, nobody could have challenged him. Paul, meanwhile, was a formally trained Pharisee who'd persecuted Christians and oversaw the murder of many of Jesus' followers. Could you imagine some ex-Muslim, for example, storming into TD Jakes' church and telling him he was wrong? It could never happen. And yet, this was Paul's confrontation with Peter at Antioch, and Peter, the father of the church, accepted Paul's correction. Peter was far from perfect, but he was willing to be wrong; something precious few of our pastors—prideful, arrogant and more invested in keeping their jobs than in revealing truth—are willing to do.
Accepting Peter's comments about Lot's loathing of his
homosexual community requires an assumption of supernatural
revelation to Peter which is not in evidence. Peter,
writing some 62 years after Jesus' death and several hundred
after Sodom and Gomorrah, could not possibly know what Lot had been thinking
at the time. Remember, nobody carried bibles in those days; they
did not exist. You went to Temple and the priests told you what
was in those scrolls. Secondly, remember Peter was likely the
most headstrong and least educated of Jesus' disciples. Peter
was, plainly, a screw-up, a guy with lousy impulse control whose
most persistent attribute in the Gospels is he routinely shot
off his mouth without thinking, including denying he even knew
Jesus just when Jesus needed Peter most. There is no evidence
Peter had the gift of clairvoyance. I'm more than willing to
accept Peter's writing as God-inspired, I believe all scripture
to be, but that doesn't rule out
the possibility Peter was talking out of his hat. God-inspired doesn't mean Peter is
literally speaking for God or speaking as God. Lot being
miserable in Sodom and/or disliking his neighbors has no real
impact on the story's lesson, but it is one example of how the
larger-than-life story of Sodom and Gomorrah, passed down
through a largely oral tradition over several centuries,
can be interpreted a number of ways.
In any case, Abraham considered Lot righteous and God agreed, which suggests homosexuality in and of itself was not the point of the story: Ezekiel 16:49-50: "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it." No mention of homosexuality here, but there are 27 references outside of Genesis where Sodom is mentioned. It is emblematic of gross immorality, deepest depravity, and ultimate judgment. Which certainly makes God's judgment of the city not only or even specifically about homosexuality—although it is surely on the list—so much as rebellion against Him. In order to find truth, we must consider every possibility. Lot was not merely accepting of homosexuality, he was accepting and affirming (facilitating, supporting) of mob rape. He did not object to the mob raping somebody, he objected to them raping his houseguests, for whom, under the Levitical code, he was responsible. It was his duty to protect the angels. Handing over his daughters is just nonsensical, you're on your own with that. Sorry, I got nothin'. But holding Lot up as a standard of holiness and condemning homosexuals, while convenient in a juvenile bedtime story sort of way, is faulty exegesis. In order to process the story the way we'd like to, we'd have had to applaud the mob had they chosen instead to drag 14, 15-year old girls out into the street and gang rape them. Yes, that is the hand of God. At least they weren't gay rapes.
In the next chapter, Lot, this righteous man, rapes the girls himself, albeit under the influence [v. 30-38] and by their initiative. Which mirrors the lousy parenting going on today, Lot's girls having become so indoctrinated to the world, to the evil and corrupt ways of Sodom and, as a result, knowing so little of God, that they didn't trust God even after God saved them from the city's destruction. Rather than trust God for their future, the girls rebelled and went their own way. This behavior is not condemned as "an abomination," and Lot is later counted as righteous by Peter.
This is the plank in our own eye, calling homosexuals apostate while parading our little whore and gangsta teens before the church. That tight dress, those sagging pants, all that texting during service tells the story of your Christian commitment, of what's going on in your home. You've moved into Sodom. You've been indoctrinated to the point where you don't even notice sin anymore, even when it is sitting next to you in the car. Instead, you notice other peoples' sin. We condemn gays while we ourselves have all manner of cussing and whoring going on under our roofs, blaring from our car stereos on the way home from hollering and rolling down the aisle in church. While it's our kids getting locked up and knocked up. We hide behind legalism while handing our children over to the angry mob. It's hypocrisy. Worse, rebellion against God is, by definition, witchcraft. Let's certainly start burning all the gays at the stake, but don't forget to round up you cable TV subscribers along with them.