As you may have observed by now, attempts to distort the Bible into a message of hate are badly misguided. The passages in Leviticus and Paul’s three letters specifically apply to people engaging in ritual activity in pagan temples, a feature absent from modern society except in such places as Wall Street. The references to ‘sodomites’ in Deuteronomy, etc., are a clear error in translation that refer to the same thing. The Sodom and Gomorrah references clearly refer to inhospitality and not to homosexuality at all. In addition, there are sections in the Bible that – if adequately translated – confirm God’s love for all of his children, gay included.
Summed up – albeit very densely – what has happened is that latent bisexuals have fostered knowingly inaccurate translations and then indulged in selective hypocrisy, all to reinforce their insecure sexuality. (Better read that again; it’s pretty thick.) In the Real World, rabid fundamentalists are doing nothing more than citing Biblical passages to support their pre-existing anti-gay prejudice – precisely doing what Southerners once did to justify slavery (which the Bible condones with considerably more clarity).
Here’s the most fundamental weakness in their thinking: the Bible does not condemn lesbians. There is a proscription against women wearing men’s clothing, and a letter from Paul mentions “women [who] did change the natural use into that which is against nature” – whatever that means – but nothing else. Any translations that apply to ‘homosexuals’ (i.e., including females as well as males) are mis-translations, possibly intentional, certainly political.
But, as we have seen, politics affects not just translations but also the bibles that are allowed to be published. So, what can we do in choosing a bible? Which translation comes closest to the original meanings?
None of them is generally correct in the supposed homosexual passages. Still, definitely avoid the Living Bible and its revision, the New Living Translation; they have an obvious anti-gay axe to grind which clearly supersedes accuracy in translation. The failure of the New King James Version and 21st Century King James Version to correct the use of the word ‘sodomite’ suggests something of the attention these two versions paid to accuracy. And despite its beauty, the English of the KJV is nearly four hundred years old and, for this reason, is obscure in places because of changes in the language. The Message is closest to the original texts in the vitality of its language, but those of you who expect measured formality in your religious texts will want other translations. Until someone with money goes out on a limb and puts meaning ahead of tradition and other agendas, your choices are limited.
And even if this happens, you will be reading a text with hundreds of irrelevant, obscure rules and situations, written for people of very different times and culture and yet, for example, lacking the (uniquely American) philosophy that all men are created equal and also lacking any clear, specific condemnation of pederasts or suicide bombers.
Some criticize the Bible because it is not specific enough. Even so, this same quality is a strength. The Bible was not written at a time when clones, stem cells, in-vitro fertilization, heart transplants, sarin gas, extra-terrestrial exploration, improvised explosive devices, or subdural computer chips were even imaginable, yet it is expected to be applicable to any moral consequences of all of these. Should the human race survive much longer, the Bible can expect to be applied to even stranger developments as well. A document of great precision for and applicability to only the age in which it was written would almost inevitably be irrelevant to this or any other age.
Meanwhile, what is anyone to do about all those obscure rules in the Bible?
Have you looked at the context of the verses in Leviticus? Three verses before Leviticus 18:22, there is the stricture that any child who curses its parents shall be put to death. Five verses after is the requirement that any couple having sex when the woman is menstruating shall be killed or put out of the community. There are also prohibitions against shaving and against eating certain creatures, including pork (”the other white meat”), any water creatures that lack fins or scales, and creeping/crawling things. People are forbidden from planting fields with two kinds of seed or wearing clothes woven of two different kinds of material. Not to mention that Leviticus requires priests to be physically perfect and to marry virgins (the Catholic church might want to take note). On the other hand, Leviticus specifically forbids all kinds of incest except the most common, father-daughter.
And is this to be the guide for the laws of a secular state?
For a delightfully tongue-in-cheek reaction to Leviticus, check out this link. It is an e-mail response to comments by one Dr. Laura Schlesinger, a radio personality who dispenses advice to people that call in to her radio show. Dr. Schlesinger occasioned the e-mail by observing on her program that, according to the Bible, homosexuality was an abomination.
In addition, for a more general view of the hypocrisy involved in maintaining that every command of the Bible must be observed, here is a more serious sampling of what these include.
For those still concerned at the fact that the modern world utterly ignores so many of the obscure rules in the Bible, consider a final result of translation. English-speaking Christians universally call the two major sections of the Bible the Old Testament and the New Testament. There is, however, better terminology for these two: the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Though they (and we) routinely broke it, the Israelites began with a covenant with God: Canaan from the Nile to the Euphrates would belong to them if they would follow God’s Law. Part of the basic thesis of Christianity is that the sacrifice of Jesus has fundamentally altered this relationship between mankind and God. Reflecting the change clearly by viewing the non-Hebraic part of the Bible as a New Covenant might help focus attention more on the love that the message of Jesus centers on rather than rituals which helped distinguish the Hebrews from the non-Hebrews among whom they lived – but which the Bible ceaselessly points out had not successfully caused people to live in the faith to which God calls them.
In the several pages of this Bible abuse discussion, you have seen evidence that, far from being excluded from the kingdom of God, gays will be judged by the love they show – just like everyone else. Thus we have been looking at a situation where the abuse, shame, and injury heaped on gays more properly belongs on those who are ignorant, prejudiced, and hypocritical enough to indulge in it. Wisdom would suggest that you not confuse such people with real Christians.
Living in God’s spirit means that the ill treatment that you may suffer is not a matter between you and the homophobe, but rather between him and God, to whom he will ultimately answer. A true Christian is directed in love to rise above – and forgive – what the world throws at him or her. This is considerably easier to say than to live … but then Jesus never promised anyone a rose garden, right?