From slogans to the so-called “clobber” passages, verses in the Bible commonly used to condemn homosexuality, we as LGBT people frequently encounter religious objections to everything from our full equality to our very existence.
Rev. Mel White, a former speechwriter for Jerry Falwell turned openly gay religious leader, attacks these arguments head on in “What the Bible Says (And Doesn’t Say) About Homosexuality,” a 24-page booklet available through Soulforce, the organization White founded to counter anti-LGBT religious bigotry with non-violence.
Here are excerpts to help you counter and understand the passages commonly used against us. You can download the entire PDF for free or order a print copy for $3 at www.soulforce.org.
Many of the pro-gay religious groups listed in the Resources on Page 15 also offer information for responding to biblical arguments.
If they say…
The Bible condemns homosexuality.
You can say… Jesus says nothing about same-sex behavior. The Jewish prophets are silent about homosexuality. Only six or seven of the Bible’s one million verses refer to same-sex behavior in any way — and none of these verses refer to homosexual orientation as it’s understood today.
ADAM AND STEVE
If they say…
The Bible says God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
You can say… This creation story is primarily about God, a story written to show the power of God who created the world. Because the text says it is “natural” that a man and a woman come together to create a new life, some people think this means gay or lesbian couples are “unnatural.” They read this interpretation into the text, even though the text is silent about all kinds of relationships that don’t lead to having children, like heterosexuals who are infertile or too old to have children. Are these relationships “unnatural”?
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
If they say…
God destroyed Sodom due to homosexuality. Genesis 19: Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”(New King James Version)
You can say… Jesus and five Old Testament prophets all speak of the sins that led to the destruction of Sodom — and not one of them mentions homosexuality.
Listen to what Ezekiel 16:48-49 tell us: “This is the sin of Sodom; she and her suburbs had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not help or encourage the poor and needy.”
It was common for soldiers, thieves, and bullies to rape a fallen enemy, asserting their victory by dehumanizing and demeaning the vanquished. This act of raping an enemy is about power and revenge, not about homosexuality or homosexual orientation.
LEVITICUS & ABOMINATION
If they say…
Leviticus 18:6 reads: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female. It is an abomination.” A similar verse occurs two chapters later, in Leviticus 20:13: “A man who sleeps with another man is an abomination and should be executed.”
You can say… Leviticus is a holiness code written 3,000 years ago. This code includes many of other outdated sexual laws (like stoning adulterers and brides who are not virgins, and executing a married couple for having sex during the woman’s period), and a lot more. It also includes prohibitions against round haircuts, tattoos, working on the Sabbath, wearing garments of mixed fabrics, eating pork or shellfish, getting your fortune told, and even playing with the skin of a pig. (There goes football!)
So what’s a holiness code? It’s a list of behaviors that people of faith find offensive in a certain place and time. In this case, the code was written for priests only, and its primary intent was to set the priests of Israel over and against priests of other cultures.
What about this word abomination that comes up in both passages? In Hebrew, “abominations” (TO’EBAH) are behaviors that people in a certain time and place consider tasteless or offensive. To the Jews an abomination was not a law, not something evil like rape or murder forbidden by the Ten Commandments. Jesus and Paul both said the holiness code in Leviticus does not pertain to Christian believers.
NATURAL AND UNNATURAL
If they say…
Romans 1:26-27: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” (New King James Version)
You can say… This verse appears to be clear: Paul sees women having sex with women and men having sex with men, and he condemns that practice. But let’s go back 2,000 years and try to understand why.
Paul is writing this letter to Rome after his missionary tour of the Mediterranean. On his journey, Paul had seen great temples built to honor Aphrodite, Diana, and other fertility gods instead of the one true God the apostle honors. Apparently, these priests and priestesses engaged in some odd sexual behaviors — including castrating themselves, carrying on drunken sexual orgies, and even having sex with young temple prostitutes (male and female).
The Bible is clear that sexuality is a gift from God. Our Creator celebrates our passion. But the Bible is also clear that when passion gets control of our lives, we’re in deep trouble.
As Rev. Dr. Louis B. Smedes, a distinguished Christian author and ethicist, explains: “The homosexuals that I know [have not] given up heterosexual passions for homosexual lusts. … They did not change from one orientation to another; they just discovered that they were homosexual. It would be unnatural for most homosexuals to have heterosexual sex.”
CORINTHIANS & TIMOTHY
If they say…
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God and lists them among those who are not righteous.
You can say… To remind the churches in Corinth and Ephesus how God wants us to treat one another, Paul recites examples from the Jewish law first. Don’t kill one another. Don’t sleep with a person who is married to someone else. Don’t lie or cheat or steal. The list goes on to include admonitions against fornication, idolatry, whoremongering, perjury, drunkenness, revelry, and extortion. If we go back to the Greek, he includes “malokois” and “arsenokoitai.”
Here’s where the confusion begins. What’s a malokois? What’s an arsenokoitai? Actually, those two Greek words have confused scholars to this very day. …
Greek scholars say that in first century the Greek word malaokois probably meant “effeminate call boys.”
As for arsenokoitai, Greek scholars don’t know exactly what it means — and the fact that we don’t know is a big part of this tragic debate. Some scholars believe Paul was coining a name to refer to the customers of “effeminate call boys.”
In 1958, for the first time in history, a person translating that mysterious Greek word into English decided it meant homosexuals, even though there is, in fact, no such word in Greek or Hebrew. …
In the past, people used Paul’s writings to support slavery, segregation, and apartheid. People still use Paul’s writings to oppress women and limit their role in the home, in church, and in society. Is a word in Greek that has no clear definition being used to reflect society’s prejudice and condemn God’s gay children?
We all need to look more closely at that mysterious Greek word arsenokoitai in its original context. [One] convincing argument from history is that Paul is condemning the married men who hired hairless young boys (malakois) for sexual pleasure just as they hired smooth-skinned young girls for that purpose.
Responsible homosexuals would join Paul in condemning anyone who uses children for sex.