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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Anti-gay Industry, Part 3: Their Use of the Bible

Here are a few things to bear in mind when the discussion of homosexuality and the Bible arises. First, there is no word in either Greek or Hebrew for homosexual and the like. More importantly, there is no concept of sexual orientation, either. In the Greco-Roman world, there was only appropriate and inappropriate sex. Dio Chrysostom (a contemporary of the apostle Paul) famously said that the same passion that drove a man to a female prostitute would drive the same man to a male prostitute. 

Since there is no word for homosexuality, no Bible translation should have "homosexual" or its synonyms in it. Some, using the Dynamic Equivalent translation process, think they have found a modern equivalent in homosexual or "sodomy." Yet, what we know of homosexuality today is far removed from that of the ancient past. There is no apples-to-apples correspondence. Quite to the contrary, the differences in sexual behaviors are striking and most are not replicated in our day. Given what Chrysostom said, which is typical of his day, even heterosexuality cannot be thought of as a concept then, or considered anything like what we know of it today. As regards the term "sodomy," it was not coined until 1000 years after the New Testament was written. Any Bible translation that uses it is anachronistic. 

So, when people say, "My Bible says that homosexuality, sodomy, etc., is a sin," they are not quoting the Bible, they are quoting a mistranslation purporting to be Scripture but isn't. 

As for "my Bible says," here's how I begin the discussion of interpreting the Bible in my book, Marriage Equality:
The ultimate recourse for those who want to keep homosexuality on the sins list is, “My Bible says....” The sentence generally ends with “...homosexuals are an abomination,” or, “...gays are going to hell,” or “…God hates gays.” This is intended to be the final word on the matter; the Bible has spoken, the issue is clear, we can move on to other things. How so? Because the Bible has spoken.
The Bible, of course says no such thing. I will prove it to you. Go get your Bible. Now, take it in your hands and bring it up to your eyes. Say to it very clearly, “Bible, tell me, what do you have to say about homosexuality?” If you don't hear anything, repeat your question; maybe louder this time. If there is still no answer, shake it; it may be taking a nap. Still hearing nothing? Well, that's all right, because if you do hear the Bible answering, you may be on your way to a psychiatric hospital. 
The Bible “says” nothing. It is an inert object, words on paper. It can’t utter a sound. Of course, you knew that all along, yet you may still want to repeat that the Bible says something. What is really going on is that people say the Bible says something; people speak on behalf of  the Bible. The Bible is deaf and mute.
Unfortunately, people too often make what “the Bible says” what they want it to say. You see, there is no such thing as an uninterpreted reading of anything, from the daily newspaper to the Bible. All of us read (or “hear what it says”) though a filter or a lens. No one can read without one. Your filter/lens is everything that you have learned through your culture, ethnicity, gender, nationality, education...you get the point...that shapes how you perceive meaning. Every word you read or hear is processed through this filtering system. 
Everyone reads or hears the same word or words differently. Depending on how far apart our systems are, we can basically understand each other or totally misunderstand. In explaining this to an adult Sunday School class, one member said, “I can think of something we both read that needs no filtering, that is straightforward and immediately understood.” “Okay,” I said. “Let's have it.” He responded, “God is love.” I replied with, “What do you mean by 'God' and what do you mean by 'love'”? He got my point.
I could fill this post with any number of quotes from religious leaders, politicians and pundits of all kinds who repeat how the Bible condemns gays. This is unnecessary because you, my reader, have first-hand experience in hearing/reading such and in voluminous quantity. Finding an informed commentator who actually has studied the issue and isn't merely passing on unreflected upon, second-hand opinion is rare. Such is the success of the Anti-gay Industry. It has convinced people that the Bible condemns homosexuality when it doesn't even know what that is!

The success of convincing the public that homosexuality is evil spills over into the nonreligious as well. A question was posed in Yahoo Answers, "Are there any anti-gay nonreligious out there?" Here's the answer voted "best" by the readers:
Yes there are, I have no religious affiliations and I think being homosexual is an abomination to mankind, the anus is not a pleasure organ, if everyone was homosexual then the world would end, there would be no reproduction. Homosexuals will end us all, but they are good for spreading diseases, but if being homosexual is acceptable so should having sexual intercourse with animals, it's about the same thing, think about that.
Note the use of "abomination." Where do you suppose that came from ? And all the reasons given for being anti-gay are right out of the Industry's playbook, and they are all twisted from biblical sources.  One has to wonder about the critical thinking skills of the voters who made this response the best. It just shows how much work is left to do. 

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