In the United States there is an ongoing debate about homosexuality and civil rights. On one end you have the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights which says you cannot discriminate against a group of people arbitrarily (such as by sexual orientation). On the other hand there are people who decry homosexuality as immoral, and that it is somehow a threat to society as a whole. The secondary argument tends to come from conservative political groups, as well as from evangelical and conservative Christian groups which often use the Bible to back up their arguments. According to these groups it is against the will of God for anyone to be a homosexual.
But is it really? Let's look at what the source material has to say.
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Where Is Homosexuality Discussed in The Bible?
Homosexuality is discussed approximately seven times in the whole book (avoiding greed and caring for the poor and sickly receive hundreds of mentions, but that's a whole separate article). The seven mentions are found in:
- Genesis 19:1 (The story of Sodom and Gomorrah)
- Judges 19:16 (A story about homosexual rape)
- Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (The infamous "it is an abomination" section)
- Romans 1:26, Corinthians 6:9, and Timothy 9:11 (all about law and wrongdoing)
That's literally all we hear about homosexuality in the bible. However even with seven passages outlining Christianity's views on the topic there's still a lot of muddled confusion and interpretation going on.
What Do These Passages Mean?
This is where things get tricky. You see the passages in Genesis and Judges seem to be talking primarily about rape, and less about homosexuality. The villagers in Sodom, and the men in Judges, committed violent acts. There's very little argument that both these passages are condemning this crime, rather than the act of being gay.
The two mentions in Leviticus are part of what's called the Purity Code, and while that sounds like something a private school might make 12-year-olds sign it's actually a code meant to set Israel apart from the other tribes. Other parts of the code include things like dietary restrictions, banning tattoos, and other things that surrounding tribes and nations did that Israel did not want to partake in. It's also been theorized that due to the small size of Israel as a nation they couldn't afford not to marry and reproduce. These two quotes are often seen as cherry-picking, since so many of Leviticus's other, equally important (or more important) strictures are ignored because they simply aren't meant to apply to modern life. That, and there are many schools of thought who argue that all of the strictures set forth in the Old Testament are irrelevant once Jesus came and re-wrote the faithful's contract with the Almighty.
Speaking of that, let's move onto the New Testament.
Romans, Corinthians, and Timothy all take place in the New Testament. At a glance they seem to be banning homosexuality because it was something practiced by gentiles (Greeks and other, associated peoples), but there are still questions regarding the intent of these statements. For instance, were they meant to ban consensual homosexual relationships in all instances, or were they meant to ban male prostitution, religious sexual acts of men with other men, or the practice of pederasty (adult men engaging in sexual acts with younger boys)? There are arguments going both ways on the subject.
The Reason It Doesn't Matter
As Far As Politics Goes, Anyway
Interpreting religious texts is of great importance to those of faith. Understanding holy books and the ways their religion counsels them to live is a worthwhile spiritual activity.
That said it is not an argument that can (or should) be used for making a law.
The reason for that is simple; laws are made to govern all people, and thus they need to be fair and equal for all people. By allowing one religion to demand that laws follow the teachings of their particular book it's showing preference, and it can be detrimental to all of those who don't follow that faith and who don't agree with what its holy book says.
There's an amendment in the Bill of Rights for that kind of freedom as well.