DOES GOD SAY HOMOSEXUALITY
IS AN ‘ABOMINATION’?
The views of humanity on so many things have been impacted by our ideas about God and about God’s desiresthat it’s hard to decide what other areas of life interaction to include on this list. The truth is, this exploration could take up an entire book. We’re not going to be that expansive. We’ll limit our survey to ten more subjects: Male and Female, Marriage, Sex, Homosexuality, Love, Money, Free Will, Suffering, Morality, and Death.
Let’s take a look at what our ancestors and our contemporary teachers have told us about these things. Let’s see What God Wants.
MALE and FEMALE…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for humanity to understand that God is male. The result is that most people who believe in a deity at all hold this to be true. The idea that God is masculine is so pervasive that it’s shocking to the ear to hear God referred to as “She.”
Many humans have also been told that God wants men and women to have particular roles and to be treated in particular ways in life, and that He has specified all of this in Holy Scripture.
One result of this teaching: Males are considered superior to females in nearly all of the world’s cultures. In some of those cultures this manifests as cultural norms that do not allow females to go to school, to hold jobs of authority or responsibility, to leave the home without being in the company of a blood male relative, or to permit any part of their body to be seen in public, requiring them to be covered from head to toe.
A woman’s testimony at Court is worth half of that of a man’s—meaning that it requires two female witnesses to meet the test of adequate proof. A woman’s testimony regarding a husband’s beatings, cruelty, or infidelity will go ignored unless she can produce a corroborating witness, whereas a man can send his wife to death by stoning by simply stating that she committed adultery. His singular assertion is sufficient.
A woman’s share of any inheritance is also accepted as being half of that of her brother. The logic behind this is that a man is financially responsible for his family, while a woman is not. This is the identical logic that, in other cultures, blocks women from earning the same pay as men for doing the same work. The fact that a man may remain unmarried all his life and wind up not having a family, or that many women become widows, or that women would not and should not have to concede this role to a man if she were treated equally, is, of course, ignored by this logic.
In some male-dominant cultures female’s genitals are mutilated, cut and sewn, in order to deprive them of sexual pleasure and thus reduce the temptation they may feel to engage in sexual encounters other than those demanded by their husbands. In some cases this is seen as a rite of passage rendering female children desirable, suitable, and worthy marriage material.
Other cultural norms reflecting extreme bias against females include the custom of blocking women from becoming clergy in many religions or rising to power and authority in any civil, legal, or business enterprise, or holding any major leadership position in politics or government.
A handful of women in some cultures have overcome these customs (in many cultures they are still not allowed to even try), but always it’s a struggle, always it’s the notable exception, always it’s a steep uphill climb to be accepted in most high profile occupations or powerful or influential roles within the global society.
Katrina Brooks, of Rome, Georgia, U.S.A., knows all about that. According to an account written by Louise Chu for The Associated Press on September 25, 2004, Katrina is a member of the Southern Baptist Church who felt a calling and wanted to become a minister. She enrolled in the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia, then found a church that would accept both her and her husband, Dr. Tony Brooks, who was already ordained, as co-pastors. North Rome Baptist Church in Rome, Georgia invited the couple to lead its congregation in November of 2003.
Not everyone was pleased.
A revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000 takes a hard line on female pastors, the AP’s Louise Chu reports. The denomination’s chief doctrinal statement says that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” citing the Bible at 1 Timothy 2:11-14. That passage reads, “Let a woman learn in silence in all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.”
Two weeks after Katrina and her husband arrived at their new church several of her fellow clergy (all men) called meetings of the Floyd County Baptist Association to discuss the matter. They wanted the association to adopt a position that would, in effect, force the Rome church to leave the association.
This difference in the treatment of the genders is, many of the world’s people believe, What God Wants. After all, the Bible says so. And so do the Scriptures of other religions.
This is Part IV of an extended series of headline articles in The Global Conversation.
MARRIAGE…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for marriage to be an everlasting union between a man and a woman, for better or for worse, for the purpose of propagating the species and maintaining a civil society organized into family units, which supports God’s agenda for humanity.
One result of this teaching: In most religious cultures ending a marriage for whatever reason, including mental or physical cruelty, is deeply discouraged, and one major religion tells its followers that they may never divorce, may never remarry in the church nor receive the church’s sacraments if they do divorce, and may never marry another person who has been divorced.
In many places and cultures marriage rules are established by religion, then become civil law, limiting and constricting the behavior of marriage partners—and those limits remain in place for life. Chief among those limits is what humans call “fidelity.” Human beings living in marriage must remain faithful to each other. That is, they may not have sexual experiences with anyone else for the rest of their lives—not as a matter of personal devotion or sacred agreement, but as a matter of civil law.
This should not be surprising, since, as has just been noted, prohibitions against many kinds of private sexual activity have been placed in the common culture by religions. According to their accounts of What God Wants, human beings may not have sex with anyone outside of marriage, with anyone prior to marriage, and, therefore, should they never marry, at no time during their entire lives.
This is the expectation, and humans are told that the breaking of this taboo can lead to severe punishments, from God and from the social environment.
As a result, marriage is entered into by many young people around the world who are neither ready for such a commitment nor sufficiently mature for the responsibilities attached to it, but who are unwilling to endure any longer the prohibition against sexual experience.
The idea of male supremacy, drawn from the concept of God as male, has a major effect in many marriage scenarios. In some cultures marriage is considered a form of ownership and servitude, with the woman being the owned object—actually paid for with a dowry—and the male being the person served. Even in cultures with less extreme views a wife is expected to be “obedient” to her husband, and to be subservient to him in every way. The man is “the head of the household.”
This is, many people believe, What God Wants.
SEX…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for sexual union to be experienced only with one’s spouse for the purposes of procreation and the expression of love.
One result of this teaching: Millions of people believe that sex may absolutely never be experienced in any way that deliberately prevents conception, and that while sex is wonderful, to experience sex simply for pleasure with no possibility of procreation is against the will of God and, therefore, “unnatural,” immoral, shameful and a giving in to baser instincts.
As with the combining of fear and love in the earlier understanding of God, the combining of pleasure and shame in this construction has produced chronic emotional confusion: wonder, excitement and passion, yet embarrassment, fear and guilt about sexual desires and experiences.
In most cultures the sexual parts of human bodies may not be referred to by name. The words vagina and penis are not to be used in public (except as absolutely necessary in a purely clinical setting), and never with small children. The words wee-wee, pee-pee, or bottom may be used freely. In short, the human culture agrees that the actual names of certain body parts are shameful and embarrassing and are to be avoided whenever possible.
Again, you may believe that the above assertion is a bit of an exaggeration. I assure you it is not. Internationally known columnist Molly Ivins reports in the September/October 2004 issue of Mother Jones magazine that Advocates for Youth, a group working for comprehensive sex education, had its funding for AIDS prevention yanked by the Center for Disease Control, a U.S. government agency, because “young people [in the project’s video] used the correct terminology for male and female anatomy.” That, said James Wagoner, head of Advocates for Youth, “is absurd. What is the president going to do? Issue an executive order that every man, woman, and child should refer to the penis as a dingaling?”
And, of course, if one cannot speak of certain body parts, one certainly cannot show them. Not even, apparently, to oneself. Yet another exaggeration? I’m sorry to say, no. So puritanical is the viewpoint on all of this in many places that the following letter could actually appear, without anyone blinking an eye, in over 300 newspapers in the United States on September 25, 2004 in an advice column:
“Dear Abby: I went to wake up my 14-year-old daughter today and discovered her sleeping in the nude. Apparently she has been doing it for some time.
“Normally she is good about getting up and I haven’t needed to enter her room to awaken her. When I asked her why she does it, she said it’s more comfortable and she sleeps better.
“When I told her I was not comfortable with it, she asked me why, and frankly I could not come up with a good reason other than it seemed ‘wrong,’ and fear about what would happen in an earthquake or fire. She questioned how it could be wrong if no one knows—unless they walk into her room without knocking (as I did).
“She keeps a long robe next to the bed so she can put it on in case of emergency. (Indeed, she walks around the house in that robe, and I thought she had a nightgown underneath, when in fact she has been naked underneath since Christmas.)
“I am still not comfortable with it, but we agreed to abide by your advice. Is it OK for her to sleep in the nude, and why—or why not?
–Worried Mom in San Leandro.”
The columnist wrote back that there was “nothing inherently wrong” with sleeping in the nude. “Look at the bright side,” she advised the mother. “It makes for less laundry.”
As this parent’s letter makes clear, many humans feel that certain body parts must be covered and hidden, having been deemed too arousing or too shameful, or both. For those parts not to be covered is incorrect and unacceptable. Indeed, in many places it’s actually illegal, with punishments in civil law for those who fail to obey.
Many people believe that sex experienced in certain ways, even between husband and wife, is “unnatural” and therefore immoral. And again, in many times and places, some experiences, although between consenting adults, have actually been made illegal. Those who wrote such legislation said that they understand that God does not want certain sexual experiences to occur. God sends people to hell for this.
Humans also believe that intensely graphic depictions of sexual activity in photographs, drawings, comic books, video games, television and motion pictures are distasteful, repugnant, disgusting and unacceptable. Intensely graphic depictions of extreme physical violence and killing are, however, entirely acceptable.
Millions of humans believe that sexual energy and spiritual energy do not mix. They have been told that sexual energy is a “lower chakra” energy, and that sexual activity and spiritual clarity essentially oppose each other. Persons seeking to achieve spiritual mastery are therefore advised against engaging in sexual experiences. Some are actually required to remain abstinent.
This is, many of the world’s people believe, What God Wants.
HOMOSEXUALITY…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for sex to be experienced between a male and a female only, and for same-gender sexual interaction to be considered an abomination.
One result of this teaching: Humans for whom same-gender sexual attraction feels most natural have been denounced, vilified, condemned, ostracized, isolated, assaulted, and killed by people who believe they are doing God’s will.
The sad account of the killing of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming offers us a now-famous case in point. Shepard, an openly gay freshman at the University of Wyoming, was dragged out of a bar in Laramie by two young men, driven to a deserted road outside of town, tied to a cow fence and beaten so severely that he lapsed into a coma and died five days later.
His youthful assailants were apprehended and sentenced to life in prison, but the Reverend Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas was not inclined to let the matter rest there. Every year for the five years following Matthew’s brutal beating and death this Christian minister has traveled to Laramie, as well as to Casper, Wyoming, Matthew’s birth place, to “celebrate” his death. And, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times by reporter David Kelly, on October 12, 2003 Reverend Phelps brought with him to Casper a granite monument engraved with Matthew’s face, followed by these words chiseled in stone:
“Matthew Shepard Entered Hell October 12, 1998 at age 21 In Defiance of God’s Warning: ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.’ Leviticus 18:32.”
It was the Reverend Phelps who also attended Matthew Shepard’s funeral and, as the young man’s parents, family, and friends stood in mourning, screamed: “God hates fags!”
With this level of clarity as to the Divine Intention and Desire, entire countries have been forced under power of governmental authority and rule of law to obey God’s Will in this matter. In some nations the civil penalty for homosexuality is death—burial under a 12-foot concrete wall. In many places civil law has been created making gay marriage illegal. In the United States the president in 2004 personally campaigned to have his understanding of God’s desires regarding prohibition of gay marriage written into his country’s Constitution.
While certain sexual feelings may be very natural to the persons feeling them, they are not What God Wants, many people say, and are therefore, by definition, “unnatural.” A report on October 20, 2003 by Chris Zdeb of CanWest News Service in the Calgary Herald in Edmonton, Canada points to the possibility that the exact opposite may be true.
“Scientists have discovered 54 genes that suggest sexual identity is hard-wired into the brain before birth, and before development of the sex organs,” the journalist reports, and goes on to say:
“The findings released today by a team of University of California, Los Angeles, researchers could mean that sexuality, including homosexuality and transgender sexuality, are not a choice.”
Nevertheless, the clergy of many of the world’s largest religious denominations continue to assert that God condemns such sexual experiences.
Reporter Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press reported on October 7, 2004 that the most influential Anglican leader in Africa—home to nearly half the world’s Anglicans—said that the U.S. Episcopal Church has created a “new religion” by confirming a gay bishop in New Hampshire, breaking the bonds between the denominations with roots in the Church of England.
Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria also said in an exclusive AP interview with Zoll that he views the head of the Episcopal Church as an advocate for gays and lesbians and no longer trusts him. His comments come less than two weeks before an international panel was scheduled to release a critical report on whether the global Anglican Communion can bridge its divide over homosexuality. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of Anglicanism; Akinola leads the Anglican Church of Nigeria.
“The Communion is shattered. It is broken,” Akinola said. “The commonality that bound us together is no longer true.” (More separation in the name of God.)
Zoll’s report says that Akinola insisted he did not hate gays, despite his fiery comments in the past protesting the growing acceptance of homosexuality. He once called the trend a “satanic attack” on the church. But he said he could not accept attempts to “superimpose” modern culture on Scripture by ignoring what he said were Biblical injunctions against gay sex.
“I didn’t write the Bible. It’s part of our Christian heritage. It tells us what to do,” Akinola said. “If the word of God says homosexuality is an abomination, then so be it.”
The Zoll story goes on to say that those who support ordaining gays contend Scripture does not ban same-sex relationships, and that there was no understanding in biblical times that homosexuality was, as science is now proving, a natural orientation, not a choice.
Nevertheless, for many of the world’s people the afterlife consequence of engaging in such unnatural activities is understood to be everlasting damnation and torture in the fires of hell.
This is, those people believe, What God Wants.
LOVE…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for love to be conditional. God has made it clear that He loves humans if they do what He wants. If they do not, humans shall know His wrath. They’ll be condemned to everlasting damnation.
Some say that God acts with love when He condemns people to eternal and unending torture. With this explanation they seek to preserve the image and the notion of a loving God.
One result of this teaching: Many people are very confused about the true nature of love. Human beings “get,” at some deeply intuitive level, that the imposing of unending punishment is not a loving thing to do. Yet they are told that such punishment is a demonstration of the purest and highest love. It’s God’s love in action.
It’s not unusual for human beings to therefore be afraid of love, even as they have been made afraid of God, who is the source of love. They have been taught that God’s love can turn into wrath in a flicker, producing horrifying results. This packaging of love and fear in human theology has not been without consequences in human behavior.
Earlier it was said, “Humanity’s ideas about God produce humanity’s ideas about life and about people.” This is profoundly true, and thus, many humans are afraid of and attracted to love at the same time. Often their first thought upon moving into a closer love relationship with another is, “Now what is this person going to want, or need, or expect from me?” That is, after all, the nature of their love relationship with an all-powerful God, and they have no reason to believe it will be any different with a much weaker human being.
There is also the corollary thought that partners in a relationship have a right to expect certain things in exchange for love—that love is a give-and-take, quid pro quo proposition.
These expectations and fears undermine many love relationships at the outset.
Because love and the worst torture imaginable have been linked in the minds of humans as natural activities on the part of God, most humans believe that it’s right and proper to punish other humans for their behaviors—just as God does.
In perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of this, many human beings believe that it’s appropriate to kill human beings as a warning to human beings that it’s inappropriate to kill human beings.
This is, many of the world’s people believe, What God Wants.
MONEY…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for money to be considered the root of all evil. Money is bad and God is good, and so money and God do not mix.
One result of this teaching: The higher one’s purpose and the greater one’s value to society, the lower one’s income must be. Nurses, teachers, public safety officials and those in similar service professions are not to ask to make much money. Ministers, rabbis and priests are to ask even less. Homemakers and mothers, under this guideline, should have no personal income at all. If they want something for themselves, they may ask their husband for a few dollars, or scrimp pennies from the grocery money.
The message here is: Because “filthy lucre” is bad, because money is intrinsically evil, pay must be in reverse proportion to the value of the function performed. The better the deed, the worse the pay. People should not get lots of money for doing good things. And if they’re doing something really, really, really good, they should want to do it for free.
Humans have created a disconnect between “doing good” and being well compensated. On the other hand, doing things of somewhat less lasting intrinsic value can produce compensation in the millions. So can illegal activity of all kinds. Thus, society’s values discourage noble actions and encourage triviality and illegality. Humanity’s watchword is: The higher the purpose, the lower the reward.
This is, many of the world’s people believe, What God Wants.
(Our exploration of this topic continues in Part V of this extended series, coming very soon. Don’t miss a single entry. And if you wish to catch up on installments that you have missed, simply click on the word HEADLINE in the Categories list at right, then scroll down to find the column you wish to read.)