Especially prevalent with the upcoming elections, the acceptance of homosexuality among Christians has been a topic heavily discussed in both political and social environments. The thing that surprised me the most while reading biblical material pertinent to the matter was that there wasn’t a lot to read. With all the religious fervor over the issues of legal gay marriage and the practice of sodomy, one would imagine that there is a gospel dedicated entirely to the prevention of such “sins”. The fact that there are only a few passing references in a variety of texts begs the question of why the acceptability of homosexuality is such a heated issue.
The sources in the bible that do talk about homosexuality actually talk about men having sexual relations with other men. This is because there doesn’t seem to be a concept of homosexuality when they were written. Right away this identifies a key problem when analyzing an ancient Christian perspective on homosexual activities. If there is no concept of sexual orientation then how can Christians have a problem with it in present times? Leviticus 18:22 says that “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination”. While it is clear here that sexual relations with another man are unacceptable, the reasoning, as pointed out by the Furnish article, is that the man will be unclean if he mixes with someone of the same sex. Leviticus does not find fault with males being attracted to males but it does disapprove of the unnatural sex that might result as a product of that attraction. Even so, I think that because Leviticus rejects sex between men twice (again in chapter 20, this time under the threat of death), there is enough to reason to say that sex between two men is, at the very least, an abomination in God’s eyes. Whether or not this can be applied to homosexuality in general remains to be seen. One of the problems that comes with assessing biblical understandings of homosexuality is that every passage that discusses the subject of homosexual relations can be seen to have alternate reasons for doing so. For example, Paul mentions men abandoning natural intercourse with women and having feelings of passion for other men. While this can be seen as an attack on homosexuality, it might not reflect Christian teachings. Looking at Paul’s writings in a cultural context reveals that many groups harbored prejudice against homosexuals. There was a fear that homosexuality was a threat to the continuation of the human species since men can’t reproduce with each other. This, combined with the role-reversal that occurs as a result of homosexuality, was enough to cause many non-Jew and non-Christian groups to speak out against homosexuality. Because of this, Paul’s writings might just be reflecting the cultural norms of the time and not the values of Christians. There is also no indication that Paul took any inspiration from earlier writings, like Leviticus, when informing his audience about the evils of sodomy and homosexuality. Because of the overwhelming amount of uncertainty concerning Paul’s damnation of sodomites and unnatural sex between men, it can be concluded that the New Testament writings don’t paint a clear vision of Christianity’s take on homosexuality.
The first article I read was Furnish’s which heavily colored my view of the others. Furnish’s arguments against the strength of biblical texts that speak on homosexual acts were both well composed and convincing. Furnish addresses all biblical accounts of homosexuality in order to support his overall claim that the material is not applicable in modern times. Because Furnish invalidates the claims made in biblical texts, Ratzinger’s article seems like a desperate plea from an outdated church to maintain equally outdated practices. Even though he thought homosexuals should be accepted, he did so on the terms that they ignore their feelings for men and live a chaste life. I think most