****Be forewarned, this post contains frank discussion about homosexual behavior that some readers may find offensive. If you are sensitive to such things you may not want to read on.****
I know that I have addressed gay rights before (most notably here – Plucking Splinters ) and I have addressed my interpretation of the beginning books of Genesis before (most notably here – In The Beginning ), but with Question 6 on the ballot this fall in my home state and my patience for the slogan “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve: we can’t redefine marriage” wearing thin, I felt it warranted revisiting. While on the subject, if you are looking to further explore the idea of homosexuality amid a shifting Christian perspective I would encourage you to read this great article by Rachel Evans and watch this amazing video by Matthew Vines.
I will begin with a related conversation that I have had with many Christian friends. These people say things like “I would be okay with the idea of civil unions providing the rights gays are seeking, but marriage was established by God.” The battle that is currently raging and causing so much turmoil has boiled down to a resistance to changing what some people see as a Biblically established definition of the word marriage. The problem with that is this; the word marriage does not appear in the account of the Garden of Eden. In fact, it appears nowhere in the book of Genesis and only twice total in the entire Old Testament and in neither of those places is a specific definition provided.
Let’s take a look at the events just prior to the ‘establishment of marriage’ as presented in the second chapter of Genesis. If we take this account literally as some insist we must, and if we assume that the Garden account is a more detailed retelling of the creation of man in Genesis 1, then this story begins to unravel rather quickly. Let’s begin with the fact that it tells of Adam already in the Garden when God creates animals, which contradicts the order given in the previous chapter. Setting that aside for a moment, let’s take a closer look at the details of the story. God is in the Garden with Adam and says “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now I want you to read these next two passages carefully: “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.” So let me translate to modern English: God decides that man should have a partner and proceeds to create every kind of animal he can think of and brings them to Adam to see if they work. ‘Hmm, nope, an elephant won’t work; nope, not a platypus either. Gee, I guess I’ll have to make a woman.’ This is the story that we are fighting over folks, the fact that a duck wasn’t a good life partner for a man has led to “It’s Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve.” Insisting that this story be taken absolutely literally not only makes Christians look foolish, it makes God look pretty silly.
I can’t leave this topic before I address the “abomination” conversation. I am somewhat puzzled by people who take a hard line about this issue based on a few passages in the Old Testament when there is SO much that we do not follow. In fact, if you’re from Maryland like me I can assure you that you have participated, regularly and enthusiastically in abominable behavior (See Leviticus 11:10-12). I am of the relatively rare opinion that God makes rules for a reason, not to randomly exert His authority. So with that perspective, let’s think about who the Israelites were. These people were nomadic desert dwellers with little means or methods of sanitation (that is why women had to leave camp for a week every month, etc) and that coupled with the lack of medical knowledge, being careful about what you ate and maintaining as much cleanliness as possible was fairly important to survival. Mishandled pork can kill you, the Bible calls pork and abomination. Mishandled seafood (would you buy crabs at a stand in the middle of the desert?) can kill you, the Bible calls it an abomination. Why should a man who touches an unclean thing be cut off from his people? Because he touched an unclean thing and, lacking hand sanitizer, is now a threat to the entire community. These rules were not about holiness, they were about sanitation and food safety.
Continuing in the same vein, homosexual behavior can be risky: specifically “lying with a man as with a woman,” i.e. having anal sex. There are two specific risks that I will address that I think were particularly relevant in the environment in which the people to whom it was called an abomination lived. The first is the issue of lubrication. One of the greatest concerns when participating in anal sex is that of anal fissures. The primary way to avoid anal fissures is proper lubrication; I will take this moment to remind you that they couldn’t just run down to the drug store for some KY. Anal fissures can lead to bleeding, pain and sometimes to serious infections which would likely lead to death in a pre-antibiotic society. The second concern is the inability in this environment to appropriate deal with the fecal germs that one partner would have all over his genitals. This to, obviously, could lead to infection and become potentially deadly. SO, having said that, in the same way that pork is a potential danger and crabs are a potential danger, homosexual behavior is a potential danger and therefore they are all called abomination, which is defined as “unclean.”
One final thought, in a nod to Westboro Baptist Church, let me close with this little tidbit. The list of things that God hates, found in Proverbs 6, doesn’t include gays.