10. Between the lines

So far, I have presented the material in the Bible that relates to homosexuality, either with regard to homosexuality itself or to the various stories and personalities that are found in scripture. But there are many other passages that at first glance (or even after considerable study) do not seem to be relevant to homosexuality, yet are often used to justify a position on one side or the other of the homosexuality debate.

In this chapter I will present some of the passages that are used in this way, along with the interpretation that results from carefully reading between the lines.


Lot and his daughters vs. Noah and Ham

The Sin of Onan

Crossdressing: Just another abomination to the Lord

What Did Jesus Say About Homosexuality?

Revelation

Lot and his daughters vs. Noah and Ham

I told you the story about the destruction of Sodom in Chapter 2. Here's the rest of the story.

While God was busy stoning and burning to death everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot's unnamed wife looked back. And God turned her into a pillar of salt.

The LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven ... But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:24-26

Lot and his (also unnamed) virgin daughters kept going, without looking back, until they reached a cave in the mountain.

Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him ... and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. Genesis 19:30

Then the older daughter said to her sister, "Let's get Dad drunk and have sex with him."

And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us ... Let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. Genesis 19:31-32

So they got their dad drunk and the older sister had sex with him. Lot was so drunk that he didn't know what happened.

And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Genesis 19:33

The following night, the older daughter said to her sister, "I had sex with Dad last night, now it's your turn. Let's get him drunk again tonight and you can have sex with him."

I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him. Genesis 19:34

So they got him drunk again and the younger daughter had sex with him.

And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Genesis 19:35

And, as luck would have it, both daughters were impregnated by their father, and each had a baby boy.

Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. The first born bare a son ... And the younger, she also bare a son. Genesis 19:30-38

Robert Gagnon says the reason Noah's curse in Genesis 9 was so severe in comparison to the non-curse (and apparent approval in 2 Peter 2:4-8)1 of Lot and his daughters in Genesis 19 was that the latter was the heterosexual rape of a drunken father, while the former was homosexual rape.

In Gen 19:30-38 ... the degree of revulsion expressed by the Yahwist for this case of heterosexual incest is nothing like the degree of revulsion registered toward Ham's act of homosexual incest.2


The Sin of Onan

The "sin of Onan" or "Onanism" is often used as a euphemism for masturbation.3 Here is an example of a confession that a teenage catholic boy might make:

Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last confession. Since that time I have been guilty of the sin of Onanism thirty-nine times...

But it is also used to condemn birth control (especially coitus interruptus) along with any deposition of semen outside of a woman's vagina.4

The original "sin of Onan" is briefly mentioned in the book of Genesis, where Onan is told to fill in for his dead brother Er, after God killed Er for being "wicked in the sight of the Lord."

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. Genesis 38:6-8

Onan obliged, but when the time came, he "spilled it on the ground."

And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. Genesis 38:9

So God, of course, had to kill him for it.

And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. Genesis 38:10

For as we all know from watching Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" --"Every sperm is sacred. Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate."5

Which is all very interesting, you say, but what does any of this have to do with homosexuality? Well, you just have to use your imagination a bit to realise that pretty much every male same-sex sexual activity that you can think of involves wasting seed in one way or another. (As usual, the lesbians get off scot-free in this regard.)


Crossdressing: Just another abomination to the Lord

There are a lot of things that gross God out;6 crossdressing is one of them.

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 22:5

Which seems a bit strange. Why does God care what people wear?

Jesus didn't, and he told us not to either.

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Matthew 6:28-307

But I guess Deuteronomy 22:5 is all about God's hatred of homosexuality, as the NIV Study Bible says:

Deuteronomy 22:5 was "[p]robably intended to prohibit such perversions as transvestism and homosexuality, especially under religious auspices. The God-created differences between men and women are not to be disregarded. (See Lev 18:22; 20:13) 8


What Did Jesus Say About Homosexuality?

It is often said that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality.9 And that may be true, strictly speaking. But that doesn't stop people from reading between the lines, putting words in both sides of Jesus's mouth.

The Pro-gay Jesus

Jesus, it turns out, was all about gay rights. He just had a funny way of expressing himself.

Blind from birth

According to Jesus, blindness is not a punishment from God. Neither the blind person nor the parents sinned.

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. John 9:1-3

Just like homosexuality. People are just born that way.

This question reveals clearly the cultural assumptions of the time towards blindness, which sadly are the same cultural assumptions still widespread about homosexuality. ... From these sayings of Jesus we see gay people being just the way they are 'so that God's works may be revealed' in them. Nobody sinned.10

Call no man "Raca"

Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:22

"Raca", according to David F. Greenberg, may refer to effeminate men or homosexuals.

There is a possible reference to male homosexuality in a puzzling passage in the Gospel of Matthew. ... One intriguing possibility is that raca is actually the Hebrew rakha (soft), and carries connotations of effeminacy and weakness. By implication the phrase refers to passive effeminate male homosexuals.11

If Greenberg is right about that, then those who insult homosexuals are in danger of "the council" or maybe even "hell fire."

The Anti-gay side of Jesus

When Jesus wasn't speaking at gay rights rallies, he was defending traditional marriage and condemning homosexuality.

God made them male and female

When the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, he responded by saying:

Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Matthew 19:4-612

Conservatives use this quote to claim that Jesus approved of only one type of marriage: the marriage between one man and one woman. Here, for example, is what Darrel Boock at The Gospel Coalition's website says about it:

Here Jesus defines and affirms marriage as between a man and a woman, a reflection of the fact that God made us male and female to care for creation together. With this definition, same-sex marriage is excluded. Had Jesus wished to extend the right of marriage beyond this definition, here was his opportunity. But he didn't take it.13

Do not commit adultery

When Jesus was asked how a person obtained eternal life, he answered by saying to follow the commandments -- including the one about adultery.

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery. Mark 10:1914

From this, Gagnon concludes that "it is probable that implicit in Jesus' embrace of the seventh commandment against adultery was a reflection of all same-sex intercourse." 15

They shoot disobedient children, don't they?

Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees for not washing his hands before eating.

Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. Matthew 15:1-2

He defended himself by criticizing them for not killing disobedient children according to the commandment: "He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death."16

He answered and said unto them,

Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever ... honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites ... teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:3-917

So did Jesus think that children who curse their parents should be killed? It sure sounds like it. But maybe he was just making excuses for not washing his hands before eating.

But if he was serious in his criticism of the Pharisees and really thought that disobedient children should be executed in accordance with "the commandment of God," would he also have believed that sexually active gay men should be executed according to Leviticus 20:13?18


Revelation

The book of Revelation is as conflicted about homosexuality as Jesus is in the gospels. Sometimes implies that only gay men will be saved; in other places it seems to condemn homosexuals as "abominable dogs."

A Heavenly Y.M.C.A.

The book of Revelation says that only 144,000 men who have the Lamb's father's name written on their foreheads will be saved.

A Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. ... They sung ... a new song ... and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. Revelation 14:1-4

If this verse is true, then no females or sexually active heterosexual men will make it into heaven. Only gay men and straight virgin men need apply.

Dogs

"Dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, idolaters" and anyone who ever told a lie will not enter the heavenly city.

For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. Revelation 22:15

So I guess all dogs don't go to heaven. Unless "dogs" means something else here, as Robert Gagnon suggests in The Bible and Homosexual Practice:

[T]he most likely explanation is that the term 'dogs' in Rev 22:15 primarily has in view emasculated male cult prostitutes, without excluding a wider reference to any who engage in homosexual practices.19

The Abominable

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8

The author of Revelation isn't talking about the snowman here. According to Gagnon, it's homosexuals.

The reference [in Revelation 21:8] to "the abominable" (ebdelygmenois) matches up with "dogs" ... including incest and same sex intercourse....20

If so, then homosexuals will die their second death in the lake of fire and brimstone.

Playing With Scripture

I believe that it is fun to play with the Scriptures to see what they might hold for us if we are willing to use our imaginations. -- Thomas Bohache, "To Cut or Not to Cut" in Take Back the Word21

There are other biblical passages that are sometimes claimed to involve homosexuality in one way or another, but they seem to require more imagination than I can muster. Even in my most playful moods, I can't find the gay interpretation that is so carefully hidden between the lines.

But others are not as limited. Here are some of the fun things that have been found while playing with the scriptures: The Book of Exodus is about the freeing of gay people22; the Song of Solomon proposes same-sex love as a model for heterosexuals23; Ezekiel wrote about AIDS24; the Book of Jonah is a queer parable25; and in the the Emmaus road account in the gospel of Luke, we become sexually intimate with Jesus.26

It's all there in the Bible, if you're willing to read between the lines.


Notes

  1. "God ... delivered just Lot ... that righteous man." 2 Peter 2:4-8
  2. The Bible and Homosexual Practice, page 70.

  3. "I was guilty of the sin of Onanism ____ times. (masturbation, withdrawal method)" On making a good confession - Sacred Heart Traditional Catholic Church. http://www.willingshepherds.org/Examination.html.
  4. "'Onanism', the term derived from Genesis 38: 9-10 which in traditional Christian usage has designated both masturbation and unnatural intercourse between a man and woman...." Living Tradition: The Sin of Onan Revisited http:rtforum.org/lt/lt67.html.
  5. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, 1983.
  6. See Chapter 1: The Explicit Verses for a list of abomintions to God.
  7. Jesus gives the same fashion advice in the Luke 12:22-28.
  8. NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1985), 270.
  9. "Jesus Christ made no public pronouncements on homosexuality." Torm Horner, Jonathan Loved David, 110.
  10. Keith Sharpe, The Gay Gospels, pages 166-168.

  11. David F. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, 210-211.
  12. A similar statement by Jesus is found in Mark 10:609

  13. The Bible and Same-Sex Marriage: 6 Common But Mistaken Claims
  14. Jesus also quotes "You shall not commit adultery" in Matthew 19:18 and Luke 18:20.
  15. The Bible and Homosexual Practice, page 192
  16. Jesus was probably referring to Leviticus 20:9 here, which says,

    "For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him." Leviticus 20:9

    But the same punishment (death) is also specified and for children who smite their parents (in Exodus 21:15) or are stuborn and rebellious (in Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
  17. A similar statement is made by Jesus in Mark 7:9-13
  18. "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." Leviticus 20:13
  19. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 105.
  20. Ibid., 105.
  21. Thomas Bohache, "To Cut or Not to Cut" in Take Back the Word.
  22. The Exodus narrative call us all to come out of whatever bondage enslaves us. For African Americans, our bodies and sexualities are in as much nedd ofr reform as our skin color is. Irene Monroe, "When and Where I enter, Then the Whole Race Enters with Me." in Take Bav the Word, 90-91.
  23. "[T]he Son of Solomon might seem to e the biblical book most friendly to a queer-positive reading ... [T]he Song of Songs not only chapions the dignity of queer passion bu upholds it as a model for any love worth pursuing." Christopher King, "A Love as Fierce as Death: reclaiming the Song of Songs for Queer Lovers" in Take Back the Word, 127, 132.
  24. "The book of Ezekiel ... is the story of a community affected by HIV reconstructing its future. It is told by Ezekiel, a prophet who understands deeply the HIV expereience...." Jim Mitulski, "Ezekiel understand AIDS" in Take Bav the Word, 153.
  25. "[T]he story of Jonah as a modern-day queer parable in which Jonah is identified with the religious right and the ninevites are queer people living in San Fancisco." Sharon Bezner, "A Queer Reading for the book of Jonah" in Take Back the Word, 161.
  26. "While some may not wish to encounter Jesus as lover, the story brings clarity to and enriches the diverse experience of a personal relationship with Jesus the Christ and our God ... Jesus at Emmaus (Luke 24:38-35) ... is a story about resurrections and the naked vulnerability of Jesus in sexual giving and receiving." James Martin, "And Then He Killed Me" in Take Back the Word, 219.