I am currently acting in a production of the musical MAME! at the Media Theater in Media, PA; soon we’ll be moving to the Bucks County Playhouse. It’s a terrific show and a lot of fun to do!
The other day, I came out the stage door and was approached by a lovely woman who wanted to stop me and tell me how much she enjoyed the show. It’s always nice to hear when someone is moved by the work you do; I was deeply appreciative.
At the same time, however, I felt the need to stone her.
See, she was wearing a cotton/polyester blended blouse. (Lev. 19:19)
A mile and a half from my house is a wonderful family farm- The Stults Farm. It’s a beautiful place where we get our pumpkins every fall, and we’ve even taken the kids (when they were younger, of course…geeze, Dad!) on the Hay Rides. In the spring and summer months, you can pick-ur-own fruits and vegetables for much less than what you’d pay at the Acme or Piggly Wiggly.
As I drive by there, though, I’m always compelled to burn the place down since it is clearly operating in defiance of God’s will.
See, they continually plant more than one kind of seed in their fields. (Also Lev. 19:19)
Ok, you get me…I’m obviously being a bit dramatic (a bit…), but I do want to be memorable, here.
Leviticus 18:22 reads, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”
Now, you could very easily say to me, “Scott, that passage is very clear. You cannot argue that it’s not.”
To which, I would say to you, “The passage may be very clear, but the context is not and, for me, context makes all the difference.”
(Read all of Leviticus HERE)
The section of Leviticus pointed to by people opposed to homosexuality is part of what is known to the Jewish tradition as the Holiness Code. The rules set up in the Holiness Code were designed for a very particular purpose in a very particular setting.
God had given the Jewish people the land of Canaan, and the Holiness Code was established to provide a standard of moral behavior that would distinguish the Jews from the Canaanites. The Jews were not to worship the god, Molech, as the Canaanites did, nor were they allowed to adopt the practices of the people they had conquered.
What we see in this context is a list of commandments (laws) put together in an effort to promote specific ritual and ethnic purity for a new nation. Their purpose is nation building and their context is a people’s entry into a promised but very foreign land.
Under these extreme circumstances, the rules were made to keep a community very different from the community that formerly inhabited the land. They were a frontier community in need of very specific instructions.
But, look at some of these specific instructions:
Round haircuts are forbidden, as are tattoos; cattle inbreeding is a no no; keeping the Sabbath is essential; and children who dishonor their parents are to be put to death. This is just to name a few.
The context is cultural identity, protection, and procreation (the nation must be peopled, after all). In this context, homosexual conduct would put all three of these things at risk. But, we have long since passed the discussion of God’s frontier community as it existed when the people of Israel first arrived in the Promised Land. The context is clearly culturally different and, at the same time, it is theologically different.
From a Christian perspective, Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Israel, and Saint Paul tells us that the gift of the Holy Spirit is available to us as the guidance that was once given to the Jews through the Law. Both Jesus and Saint Paul were concerned entirely with the purity of one’s heart, not the letter of the Law.
In addition, there must be a distinction made between that which is ritually impure and that which is intrinsically wrong. The key to this distinction is found in the word “abomination.”
The word “abomination” is not used to describe something intrinsically evil, like rape or murder, but, rather, something ritually impure, like, eating pork or planting two types of seed in a field or wearing a cotton/polyester blend to a matinee performance of MAME!.
An abomination, in this context, is what the Gentiles were doing, but that, in and of itself, is not necessarily a violation of the Commandments or an intrinsically evil notion. So, as a new nation (the chosen nation of God) the instructions are clear: Don’t do as the Gentiles do!
It’s funny to me that I’ve been criticized as “picking and choosing” from the Bible in order to justify my faith. When I look at things a little more closely, I tend to see certain Christians ignoring the Holiness Code, believing it to be irrelevant in light of a New Testament understanding of purity of heart under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and yet cite Leviticus as the basis for their feelings on the prohibition of all homosexuality.
Also, I’d like to take a moment to go back to my original position on this topic and reassert that, regarding the prohibition of homosexuality in Scripture, the concerns of the writers have nothing to do with loving, monogamous relationships. The prohibition is directed at the deviant behavior of men and women who have left what is natural for them and participated in behavior that is unloving and destructive.
In Leviticus in particular, and in the New Testament scriptures we will visit in the next post, what is being addressed, among other things, is participation in pagan temple prostitution. Prostitution on any level, whether heterosexual or homosexual, denigrates the participants and is an unloving act. No good comes of it.
What we are talking about when we talk about homosexuality today is much different than what the writers of these passages were talking about. What is biologically relevant today was not an issue then. All that’s being addressed is unloving and destructive behavior, the kind that would surely be heartbreaking to God, even today.
Next time, we will venture into the New Testament and examine the passages that, for most Christians, hold the most relevant authority on this subject.
Until next time…
Peace to you all,