Table of Contents
Also on this website:
Toby Johnson's books:
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
You're Not A Wave
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an ego?
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook
Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer
The Way Out by Christopher L Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr
Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low
Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman
The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine
The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther
The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak
Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman
Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano
The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
Occam’s Razor by David Duncan
Grace and Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso
The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
theologian and psychologist Daniel
Helminiak has a wonderful little book called What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.
It's been a major bestseller in the gay genre for years now. People,
especially gay people, are really interested in this question.
Helminiak explains how the references in the Bible that are applied to homosexuality really refer to something different from what we know as modern gay consciousness.
John Boswell's classic Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality treats this question in an even more scholarly fashion (placing the Bible in the context of the rise of classical civilization).
See Boswell & Kant on this site for a discussion of
gay consciousness and "reincarnation."
They both show that the Biblical objections to homosexuality come out of purity codes and ritual taboos, not real morality. In fact, the word "abomination" specifically means a taboo-violation in distinction to a sin. "Abominations" aren't worse, though the modern English word is used with that connotation. Abominations are acts our culture now calls "gross," like putting your bare feet in someone's face so they are exposed to the odor. That's hardly sinful, but it is "abominable."
The real objection to homosexual activity among the ancient Hebrews was that it was accepted -- even made sacred -- among the Canaanite peoples they lived around. They were instructed to avoid contaminating their particular tribal culture with cultural styles of their neighbors--for the sake of racial purity, not moral law.
As Helminiak & Boswell both explain, the references in the New Testament in the Epistles are mostly mistranslations or mispresentations.
The reason answer to the question "what does the Bible say about homosexuality" is "It doesn't matter."
Homosexuality as we know it today, and understand it as a psychological orientation based in neurological dynamics, wasn't understood by the ancients at all.
The condemnations in the Bible are no more valid than the assertions that the Earth is flat and that our planet is at the center of the solar system.
We know better.
Many commandments in the Bible are disregarded--even by conservatives--because they are no longer applicable to modern life. The evolution of consciousness has moved on.
The injunction against a man’s cutting his hair (Numbers 6:5) is an obvious example; everybody understands that was about a cultural style, not about morality. The same is true of the command against loaning money at interest (Leviticus 25:36); this ancient prohibition conflicts with our whole modern financial system, so we ignore it. Jesus unequivocally forbid divorce (Matthew 5:32), but most non-Catholic Christians disregard this commandment because it’s inconsistent with today’s marital lifestyles.
Modern gay-sensitive Scripture scholarship, like that in Daniel Helminiak’s perennial gay bestseller, What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality and John Boswell’s classic Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, shows the commandments against homosexual sex are also not as unequivocal as they might seem. They too reflected cultural styles, some of which are clearly outdated--like the verses that call for the stoning of homosexuals that are patently inconsistent with the spirit of religion and the modern concept of human rights.
Christians ought to rejoice that modern scholarship shows that the sexist and bigoted language of the Scriptures is actually a case of mistranslation, and the early Christians weren’t as unkind in their thought as we’ve been led to believe. Why did a religion of love and forgiveness need lists of sinners about whom to have judgmental thoughts? Jesus never gave such lists. The only people Jesus ever spoke against were the Scribes and Pharisees—the Temple officials and conservative religious leaders. And why is a religion of love and forgiveness still keeping lists of sinners? (Perhaps because it’s still dominated by Scribes and Pharisees!)
In any case, what difference does it make what people thought thousands of years ago? Morality has to be about how people live today, about how they can avoid causing each other pain and suffering. The Bible doesn’t say anything about oil spills, air pollution, or wasting electricity. But these are moral issues today. The violation of human and civil rights is a pressing moral issue that earlier cultures wouldn’t have understood. These are new ideas.
Read What Jesus said about Gay Rights
Read What Jesus Said about the Cause of Homosexuality
Jesus's teaching is in direct opposition to the Old Law of the Bible. A "New Law" I give you, he said, that you should love one another.
That's all that counts: love one another, treat other people the way you want to be treated, respect each other, don't make other people wrong, don't condemn something you don't know anything about. (Don't ask heterosexuals what they think about homsoexuality; they don't know. You have to ask homosexuals who understand what homosexuality is.)
Certainly the biblical distaste for homosexuality includes hygienic qualms about anal intercourse. The ancients, especially desert nomads, had no way to get anything truly clean. Body fluids were a major issue. Hence the biblical concern, as well, with menstrual blood.
Of course, the main objection to homosexual behavior was that a man was willingly assuming the role of a woman. That, after all, is the specific language of the command: You shall not have sex with a man as you would with a woman. That was a violation of sexual role identity and the masculine power structure.
The commandment against homosexual intercourse may have derived from a perfectly humane rule that prisoners of war not be homosexually raped. There’s a long tradition of victors in battle celebrating their male prowess by fucking vanquished soldiers to disgrace and demoralize them. The behavior continues to this very day. Of course this is not gay sexuality. This is male dominance behavior, and it ought to be forbidden. The fact that it isn’t specifically condemned elsewhere in the Bible suggests that’s the meaning of the one apparently explicit prohibition against anal fucking.
Such male dominance behavior is also what the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was about. If there was actually a sex act involved at all, it would have been forcible rape and humiliation of the angelic visitors by the otherwise “straight” men of Sodom. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about consensual homosexual lovemaking or even recreational sexplay, but that’s how the story gets interpreted out of context.
Historically, the great objection to homosexuality that we find in modern Christianity developed after the time of the Black Death in Europe. It was at this time in history that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah came to be interpreted as anti-homosexual. (There isn't actually anything about homosexuality in the story in the Bible; it's about not recognizing angels when they appear even disguised as foreigners.)
So many people died of the several waves of plague kown as the Black Death that the populace was expecting the end of the world and many were giving up on the propagation of life. Why have children if the end is near? So the Church and society had a need to encourage people to rebuild the population--if only so there would be workers for the fields to grow food. One way of doing that was to blame the plagues on non-reproductive sex. Then the solution would be reproductive sex. If God caused the plagues because people were not procreating enough, then the answer to stopping the plagues was to procreate more and condemn styles of sex--like homosexuality--that were aimed at the "natural" use of sex for procreation.
We've inherited that population-encouraging strategy from the Middle Ages as though it were central to the teachings of Jesus.
Male-dominated moral teaching is rife with homophobia. A basic purpose is to prevent men from behaving like women. The male virtues are bravado, courage, belligerence, righteousness, stoicism, unwavering conviction, and paternalistic responsibility. In practice, these mean suppressing feelings, insisting one’s beliefs and opinions are right when faced with opposition and proving it by force or violence, and being selfish for one’s own offspring. Homosexuality threatens male domination by prizing virtues that are womanly rather than manly: compassion, kindness, sensitivity, gentleness, egalitarianism, generosity, non-possessiveness, sophistication, cooperation, and sensuality.
Today we can understand that commandment in Leviticus against sex with a man as with a woman to mean something we’d agree with: Homosexual men should not have sex with other men the way heterosexual men--at least in traditional societies like that of the biblical Hebrews--had sex with their women. Men should treat other men as equals--as subjects--and express affection with no ulterior purpose, no goal but love and pleasure itself. The Bible wouldn’t have bothered to say it, but the same is true for women. Lesbians should treat other lesbians as subjects, not replicating what happens to women in male dominant societies.
We gay men and lesbians should respect one another and never commit against each other the sins straight society accepts as inevitable consequences of gender-polarized human nature: battering, violence, sex-murder, rape, pimping, routine meanness, scorn and derision for one’s partner, and general disrespect and abuse of the opposite sex. This is one of the moral tenets of the gay liberation movement. It is a sign of the religious dimension of gay consciousness and gay community.
Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.
Johnson's Lammy Award winning book
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are
available now from Lethe
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