Homosexuality and the Bible: The Clobber Passages—Part 2

First and foremost, this blog is a safe place for all people to discuss the topic of Christianity and homosexuality. That being said, I get a lot of questions about what I think the Bible does or doesn’t say about the topic. Since the “What We Believe” section of the website is one of the most visited pages, I thought it might be constructive to do a 4-part series on the clobber passages—the six passages of the Bible most often used to condemn homosexuals. The majority of the material I will use comes from Dr. Rembert Truluck, simply because I think he does a fantastic job at hashing out these passages. As always, discussion is encouraged!

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Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as those who lie with a female; it is an abomination.”

Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and they shall surely be put to death.”

First of all, we must determine the meaning of the word “abomination”. This word literally meant “uncustomary” in the time that the Holy Law was written. The word was used to describe a breach of ritual. That’s a big difference from how the word “abomination” is sometimes understood today! Both of these Levitical verses refer to those who took part in the Baal fertility rituals. By engaging in pagan practices, they were rejecting their true God and ignoring the Laws that were put in place to set the nation of Israel apart from all other cultures of the time. These two passages are interestingly still sometimes used against homosexuals. However, the rest of this Pentateuchal book both demands rituals that are uncustomary/uncommon today and forbids a number of other practices that are customary/common today. For instance:

•Leviticus 12:1-8 states that a woman is unclean for 33 days after giving birth to a boy, and for 66 days after giving birth to a girl. Additionally, it demands that certain animals be sacrificed as a burnt offering and a sin offering for cleansing.

•Leviticus 11:1-12 says all unclean animals are forbidden as food, including: rabbits, pigs, and shellfish, such as oysters, shrimp, lobsters, crabs, clams, etc. Eating these as food is called an “abomination“.

•Leviticus 20:25 demands that “you are to make a distinction between the clean and unclean animal and between the unclean and clean bird; and you shall not make yourself an abomination by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean.” Eating these unclean birds (and certain unclean insects) is called an “abomination“.

•Leviticus 18:19 forbids a husband from having sex with his wife during her menstrual period. This is considered an “abomination“.

•Leviticus 19:19 forbids mixed breeding of various kinds of cattle, sowing various kinds of seeds in your field or wearing “a garment made from two kinds of material mixed together.” This is an “abomination“.

•Leviticus 19:27 demands that “you shall not round off the side-growth of your heads, nor harm the edges of your beard.” The next verse forbids “tattoo marks on yourself.” These are all “abominations“.

•Leviticus 26 begins: “If you do not obey me and do not carry out all of these commandments, if instead, you reject my statutes, and if your soul abhors my ordinances so as not to carry out all my commandments …I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that shall waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you shall sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies shall eat it up.” This notion continues through the entire chapter, reminding the nation of Israel what horrible things will occur if they fail to keep the commandments in their entirety.

People who use Leviticus as a way to discriminate and condemn homosexuals have become quite proficient at proof-texting, or cherry-picking verses to justify their point of view. However, if they cling to these two verses, they must be ready to embrace the rest of the statutes just as passionately. Dr. Truluck said it best:

“Why don’t fundamentalists organize protests and picket seafood restaurants, oyster bars, church barbecue suppers, all grocery stores, barber shops, tattoo parlors, and stores that sell suits and dresses made of mixed wool, cotton, polyester, and other materials? All of these products and services are “abominations” in Leviticus. When have you heard a preacher condemn the demonic abomination of garments that are made of mixed fabrics?”  -Dr. Rembert Truluck

When we read the Scriptures panoramically rather than microscopically, we begin to see the history of God’s people as it was meant to be seen. The origins of our faith and the journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land… all of it escalates to the profound essentiality of the Love that came to earth through Jesus.

9 responses to “Homosexuality and the Bible: The Clobber Passages—Part 2

  1. I have heard some ministers agree that we don’t follow all the Leviticus laws today but that we do need to follow the ones from Leviticus that carryover into the New Testament. For example, Leviticus 18:22 (NIV), “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
    If someone is going to cherry pick this verse from the OT and the NT to argue against homosexuality then I would like to cherry pick from Hebrews the following verses:

    7:11-12 “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come….for when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.”

    7:18 “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”

    8:7 “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. “

    8:13 “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.”

    Within 8:8-12 the Lord says, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

    This encourages me. He did not say he would write his law on a tablet, or scrolls, or in books or in any other man made items with regulations, but he wrote His law directly on our hearts in which he created. Praise God for the “new” covenant. Praise God for Jesus who reconciles us with the Lord. Therefore, anyone can come into relationship with God. It does not matter what religion, race, gender, age, clean or unclean, Biblical scholar or illiterate prisoner, gay or straight….ANYONE can come into relationship with God and know the law that is written directly on our hearts. And I believe that the law that God has written on our hearts is all about true love and we can recognize it in the life and teachings of Jesus, and in the spirit that binds us with the Lord, and in the hearts of all human kind as we interact with one another and as we discern what is pure and holy.

    My intentions are not to belittle the Bible or to belittle people who study and minister to others (the Bible and ministers are valuable), but I just wanted to draw more attention to the love of God rather than man made regulations. I think it is AWESOME that scripture informs us that God wrote his law on our hearts. And we have got to approach scripture and each other with the law that God himself has written on our hearts.

    People who are homosexual are indeed in relationship with God and NOTHING can separate us from God’s covenant of love.

    • More thoughts from looking at Hebrews…. I filled in for children’s worship today and ironically the theme for the lesson was Hebrews 7:24-25,

      “but because Jesus LIVES forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to SAVES COMPLETELY those who come to God through him, because he ALWAYS lives to INTERCEDE for them.”

      I was teaching the kids today that Jesus prays for us (John 17:6-25) as he is still alive and interceding for us. Actually, I was being taught today. I was reminded of the reality of Jesus’s involvement in my life and in all the lives of LGBT. I don’t see Jesus interceding and saying, “please forgive these people of their sexual sin.” I see Jesus with a heart that see us as we were created and brings our concerns to God and brings our heart’s desires to God as we look toward purity in our sexuality. I’m comforted in the fact that Jesus, the High Priest, is interceding for me even though my Christian community does not seem to be doing so as a whole. I put my hope in Jesus while I continue to be patient with my Christian community. I do believe the day will come when there will be more support for us from fellow Christians….it seems to be happening right before my eyes.

      More irony, the communion meditation was Hebrews 7:26-28,

      “Such a high priest meets our need…..”

      I was encouraged today in the fact that Jesus meets our needs….where “weak” laws, regulations, rituals, and traditions do not.

  2. Right on, Mandy! And right on, Josha! There was once a purpose for those Niddah (cleanliness) laws in Leviticus…but now that purpose is gone. Because the perfect law has come. The curtain was torn when Jesus died for all of us – Hebrews mentions that, too. The population group who is so bent on following all of the “jots” and “tittles” and letters of the law just happen to become the population that Jesus abhored the most. Isn’t that strange? Do those folks still find their way into our Christian communities and conversations today? Sadly, they do. Pharisees still exist. Who, then, is the abomination?

  3. I appreciate all these comments above. The conversation is refreshing.
    After being in full-time ministry for 20 years I need to say a couple of things.
    A) The more time I spend in ministry the less I know which parts of the Bible “carry over.” I am getting less in tune with what is right and wrong, and more in tune with my need and others’ need for mercy and forgiveness and grace to help me/us make it through the day.
    B) None of the people to whom I minister ever go to bars (or even drink), never cuss or tell dirty jokes, rarely struggle with lust, pornography, always treat their family with utmost respect, only watch G-rated movies, always have neat and clean homes, and all of them are “straight.”
    Before you throw rocks, please know that in B above I am speaking tongue-in-cheek. I know it’s not true. It’s just that this is how they present themselves to me. Church members have a way of keeping the important parts of their lives hidden, sometimes especially, from their ministers. That creates a dynamic that keeps the minister out of touch from real stuff with which their members are dealing and keeps church members without solid pastoral care. I believe that a lot of this is my own fault and I am working on that. Hhowever, I must say that it seems wrong for me to use profanity or to tell people my own struggles all the time just to get people to open up, because it would not be authentic and could possibly harm the relationship.
    But needless to say, this is not a good dynamic. I personally work at trying to let people know I am human and don’t have all the answers. In fact, I believe that what people are really seeking when they do come to me is not answers so much as for me to listen to and understand them. Yet it is very hard, and maybe even wrong at times, not to cherry pick if people say they are coming for “answers” and passages of Scripture-. I try to be transparent and non-judgmental so that they will trust that I will not judge their “real” lives. Because of the dynamic of “sheltering” the minister, it is important for me to work extra hard at being non-judgmental, extra hard at finding out what is going on in the real world. Very often I see people only after their lives have become a wreck and they are so desperate that they finally reveal what is going on. I am open to learning how ministers (or at least I) can get out of the role of “religious specialist” (which is the way that people treat ministers) into the role of fellow spiritual struggler who is equipped to help another struggler. I am in no way giving excuses for my inadequate ministry, but seek to reveal a systemic problem that the church must work on together. It’s hard not to label ministers for being bone-headed and narrow-minded. I wonder if we can discover a way that people can treat their ministers so that their ministers can help them with their real stuff. I’m all ears, and I really appreciate honest feedback. Thanks!

    • I’m sorry that ministers also have a stereotype and can be judged based on the “minister” stereotype rather than their heart. You make some good points about the dilemma of being in the role of a professional minister. Thank you for listening and being open.

      In regards to homosexuality it is hard to come to ministers because you know that most likely you will be quoted all the same verses that you have grown up hearing with the message of how disgustingly wrong it is. And you have already spent a lifetime trying to fit the Christian mold of what marriage looks like externally. This only fuels self-hatred and confusion and does not bring anyone closer to peace. (Perhaps Satan is involved with this dilemma?)

      What I would like to hear a minister say from the pulpit is this:
      “I love the Lord and I am seeking to love all people with the love of the Lord. I do not understand the Bible in its entirety. I do not have all the answers. Scripture can indeed be grey. I am merely another human being trying to honor the Lord with my life. And I want to understand people who have same-sex attraction. I am heterosexual and male and have only been viewing scripture from that point of view. I want to hear your stories. I want to listen to what you have discovered about your sexuality. I want to hear how you have reconciled your sexuality and spirituality. Or even your lack of reconciliation. I want to learn from you as I work on understanding the will of God. And if you are just so confused about your sexuality and don’t understand how it fits into your spirituality, then I still want to hear about the road you have been on.”

      If I heard a minister say something like that from the pulpit, you bet I’d be open to discussion with him.

      Jesus never preached from the pulpit, on the mountainside, saying that same-sex attraction is wrong. He preached about not judging and about being a peacemaker and about tending to the needs of others. And then he practiced what he preached. Do people sitting in the pews at church questioning their sexuality have needs? Are these needs getting met? Are they leaving those pews? Where are they landing? Seems to me that Satan is doing a pretty good job at keeping people with same-sex attraction out of the churches….. well, at least some churches.

      • That helps me so much to hear what you think I could say that might help especially those with same sex attraction enter into discussion with me and feel safe. I plan on Easter to mention this very thing (based on where I am now in my current series). It wouldn’t be the centerpiece, but included in some of the things Jesus said that led people to condemn him. I will also be speaking about how God resurrecting Christ sets us free and forms a new community that throws off labels to become one in Christ. I would like to say exactly what you wrote that you would like to hear, if and only if I had your permission–I would be glad to keep the source confidential in every way, or to give full credit (depending on your wish). I have mentioned often in sermons, classes, and in discussions and leadership meetings that I cannot remember the Bible mentioning anything about sexual attraction being wrong or bad. Right now I am trying to find literature on the theology of sexual attraction. Easter for some people is the only time they attend church, so I try to form my messages with that in mind.

  4. I’m loving the conversation here! Kevin, thank you for being so open and for being willing to discuss this. I have never really thought about some of the things you mentioned, but it makes so much sense! You said: “Church members have a way of keeping the important parts of their lives hidden, sometimes especially, from their ministers. That creates a dynamic that keeps the minister out of touch from real stuff with which their members are dealing and keeps church members without solid pastoral care.” I can totally see how this would be a challenge—how can you be expected to truly help people when they can’t/won’t be honest about their struggles?

    Thank you so much for your insight. I’m really enjoying hearing what you have to say. God bless you!

  5. To Kevin, yes, you may use what I said. And, Wow!! You have no idea how encouraging that is to me. You are not only listening but acting in an uplifting way. Thanks!!

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