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Sexuality and Religion

I will say one thing right at the outset: being gay is a gift from God and anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about.  For centuries, the Church has worked to drive a wedge between sexuality and spirituality, which I regard as absolutely wrong.  Spirituality and sexuality are inextricably linked and belong together.

Bob Francouer, a teacher of graduate and undergraduate classes in Human Sexuality at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the editor of the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality notes,

“Sexuality and spirituality have always been joined and interwoven from the very beginning of the human race. It is only in the last 2000 to 3000 years of Western civilization that the two have been separated. And they have not just been separated, but have been seen as antagonistic to each other. The split between sex and spirit came out of the Greek philosophy of dualism, and a dichotomous view of humans as matter/evil/female and spirit/good/rational/male.”

Over the years, many people who claim to be Christians have preached hatred and violence against gay men and women. If Jesus were walking around today he would hang his head in shame at what the people who claim to be his are doing in his name.  Jesus preached love. Many Christians today preach hatred and bigotry and violence.  Jesus preached openness and inclusivity.  Many Christians today preach close-mindedness and keeping people out.

With 7,959 verses in the Bible, those who hate homosexuality latch onto a mere six verses.  Based on my reading and research, I regard these six verses to be utterly irrelevant.  Also, with only six verses homosexuality is certainly not a Biblical priority by any stretch of the imagination, compared with, for example, the 54 verses that prohibit usury, the charging of interest on loans.

The verses that are are used most frequently are drawn, out of context, from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus.  The Book of Leviticus presents what is known as The Holiness Code, a collection of 613 laws, in chapters 17 through 26.  Those who oppose homosexuality latch onto two very brief mentions found in Leviticus 18:22, and Leviticus 20:13-14, while of course disregarding the many, many others that they violate on a regular basis. If you are interested, hop on over to A List of the 613 Mitzvot to have a look at the list.

But the entire basis the anti-gay forces rely on is built on a foundation of sand:

“Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.  While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” (RSV Romans 7:4-6)

In the second chapter of his letter to the Galatians he confronts Peter who has been forcing Gentiles to follow the Jewish law (Galatians 2:14), and he goes on to boldly assert:

“We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified” (RSV Galatians 2:15-16)

In the third chapter of his letter to the Galatians we also find:

“Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed.  So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian [i.e. The Law]. For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (RSV Galatians 3:23-26).

In the Gospel of Matthew 5:17, Christ tells his followers that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. So what is the fulfillment of the law?  Jesus was once asked, “Rabbi, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

And there is the ultimate message that the anti-gay forces completely miss and utterly disregard.  While they are so wrapped up in trying to live on (selected) parts of a set of laws that deal with ritual purity, what Christ wants his follows to do is to practice hospitality.  Matthew 22:36-44 sums it up simply.  The fulfillment of all of the law and prophets is the higher law of love, given to us by Christ.

Pretty simple.  Maybe someday even the bigots who claim to be followers of Christ will figure it out. The Word will remain a stranger in a strange land until the world sees his followers embracing one another and, by extension, inviting others into a mutual embrace.

The Holiness Code

Now, if those same folks are so eager to follow the Levitical Holiness Code, they will likely encounter a few personal problems.  For example, I refer you to the wonderful website God Hates Shrimp.  The shrimp farmers of the Louisiana bayous would be put out of business and the lobster and scallop populations of the world would rebound if we all followed this particular law. To help everyone get ready to take on the mighty shellfish industry, I’ve included a link to a picket sign we can use:

God_Hates_Shrimp_Protest_Sign (PDF)

Similarly, I would ask them what Amalek did.  I doubt that many could answer that, which puts them in direct violation of the law.  Deuteronomy 25:17 directs “Always to remember what Amalek did.”

And then of course there are the laws that prohibit the eating of the second title of cereals outside of Jerusalem (Deut.12:17).  Or the law that prohibits the wearing of garments made of wool and linen mixed together (Deut. 22:11). Or the law that prohibits the sowing of different kinds of seed together in one field (Lev. 19:19). I could go on and on, but I think you’ve got the point.  The Old Testament law was for another people in another time in another culture that is no more.

The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals. It’s just that they need more supervision.
-Lynn Lavner