In a small town in South Carolina, just a few minutes before noon on May 25, a nineteen-year-old girl went to her bedroom, closed the door, and typed a three-word status update: “I am gay.”
She took a deep breath, exhaled, and hit the enter key. Then she leaned toward the screen with her hands over her mouth, and waited.
It didn’t take long. Within seconds, the admiration poured in from around the world: Seattle, Scotland, New York, Tokyo, even into the deepest pockets of the Bible Belt. Throughout the day, friends and relatives weighed in — sixty responses, eighty responses, ninety responses: a baptismal deluge of love and support. And if things seemed almost too good to be true, that’s because they were.
The posts were nearing the one-hundred mark when a woman who began her response by announcing that she was the girl’s grandmother wrote, “I am so disappointed in you. You used to love the Lord.” And then she said it: that hoary chestnut usually reserved for overall-wearing porch-swingers in movies, the kind who find time to weigh moral judgment in between their tobaccah spittin’: “What you’re doing is an abomination. You know, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” And the balloons popped and the confetti got swept away and everyone went home.
But the woman was right. And if she’d had her Gideon at the ready, she could have quoted quite a few passages to prove her point. Like Leviticus 18:22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Or perhaps, Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
Spirit-guided scribes didn’t beat around the bush in the Old Testament. That’s for certain. Maybe the author’s arms were tired from parting the Red Sea, or maybe being cooped up indoors all day while it rained frogs and tadpoles got the better of Moses while he wrote God’s law books. Lord knows all that prophesying can make a man downright ornery.
But it’s not just Mosaic law; the New Testament weighs in on the subject as well. Though some argue that the Greek word arsenokoite (homosexual prostitutes), which Paul uses in the following verse, refers strictly to male prostitutes and not all homosexuals. But would Paul have written two different terms for the same word back-to-back? 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “[T]he wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God…Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers* nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.” (*more on adulterers — and divorce — in a moment, so sit tight Ronnie, Newt, and Rush — you’re next.)
But first, back to more of what the Lord commanded Moses to quill to parchment: Leviticus 19:19, “[Y]ou shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.” (Those same laws are mentioned two books later with nearly the exact phrasing in Deuteronomy, which is proof positive that even since the dawn of time, copy editors have been worthless drunks.) Farmers abided by these laws; after all they were the unquestionable dictates of their God, in addition, planting wheat and oats together would have made harvesting unprofitable. And what of your cotton-spandex underpants you’re wearing? According to this passage, God doesn’t just hate fruits; he also hates your Fruit of the Looms.
And every Sunday after services congregants scarf down platefuls of popcorn shrimp, and crab cakes from local Red Lobsters to New York’s Le Bernardin, yet Leviticus 11:10 calls the eating of shellfish a “detestable thing.” Afterward, they head home, prop up their feet, rip open a bag of pork rinds and watch some footballers toss the pig skin around—but not so fast: Leviticus 11:8 (discussing swine): “You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.” And what about a late-night trip to the White Castle for a slider with cheese? Forget it: no meats with dairy [Exodus 23:19].
All those laws were a lot to keep up with so the Lord thought His people might want some help around the house. You could purchase “slaves from among the foreigners” and “treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.” But hol’ up, “the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.”— [Leviticus 25:44-46]. However, according to Exodus 21:2-6, you could buy a nice Hebrew boy but you’ll have to set him free in six years’ time.
But, you’re saying to yourself, “I’m broke and my daughter is a hot mess. Can I sell her?” Absolutely, but don’t get too exited; you can’t sell her to a foreigner, and unlike your son, there’s a no-refund policy on her (lovely to look at, lovely to hold, break that girl and consider her sold). The Bible also broke out some mighty fine pre-civil rights laws for slaves: Exodus 21:20-21, says you could beat your slaves with “a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand,” but hang on a minute. You’ll “be punished.” Ah-oh. But don’t worry, slave owners: “If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, [the slave owner] is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.” That’s nice.
Considering getting a tramp stamp? You may want to rethink that. Leviticus 19:28 reads, “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” And those earrings you’re wearing — they’d better be clip-ons.
You know who God’s totally into? ZZ Top. Leviticus 19:27: “You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.” Sorry, Vin Diesel, give a nice “Namaste” to Gandhi for us while you’re gnashing your choppers in the Fiery Pits.
So what about divorce? Well, the God of the Old Testament “hates” it [Malachi 2:16], and Jesus says in Luke 16:18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (And again in Mark 10:11-12 this is repeated practically verbatim — oy gevalt these editors are a shonda). There are no other exceptions save for sexual immorality (original text in Greek: “porneia”), [Matthew 19:19], or if the spouse is a nonbeliever [1 Corinthians 7:15]. That’s it. One day your husband’s footwear makes you sick? Tough it out. Wife dying in the hospital of cancer and Calista’s hiking up her skirt? Too bad.
“The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”
—Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice
Since the birth of our nation, our leaders, as well as the general citizenry, buttressed their bigotry and beliefs with Bible verses — from slavery, to killings, to wars, to denying women’s suffrage (1 Peter 3:1-2, “Wives…be submissive to your husbands…”), to the separation of the races from coffee counters to wedding chapels [from Genesis to Ezra] and most recently, the rights of gay American citizens to engage in the same rights as their fellow countrymen.
There was a time when seeing corn and sunflowers in a field was enough to shun an entire family; it was a horticultural sign that they were not a family of God.
There was a time when seeing a man with a clean-shaven face was enough to have him run out of town.
There was a time when preachers beat their slaves, when Jews bought Jews, and when white men thumped their Bibles and screamed into the faces of black girls in Alabama.
There was a time when a woman who batted her eyes at another man could be buried up to waist, while the townsfolk surrounded her and bashed rocks against her torso and skull until she was dead [Deuteronomy 22:13-19].
So what changed?
Much of Mosaic law (the laws of Moses) went by the wayside in the New Testament, especially dietary codes: Matthew 15:11 “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ”
But if “God does not change” [Malachi 3:16] his prophets and edicts most certainly did, and that came about because society changed first — it changed the New Testament, and it alters scriptural perceptions even today.
Between the times of Moses and Jesus, sanitary conditions improved, people learned the proper way to cook certain foods so they wouldn’t become ill, and in doing so people realized that eating oysters and pigs didn’t seem like such an abomination after all. Their perceptions of food changed, and fewer and fewer people in society condemned them — for a great many people dietary restrictions simply became unimportant. Society changed and the Biblical scribes followed suit.
When people began mixing their crops out of necessity they experimented with what could be planted next to another plant and still survive, and in time their almanacs later superseded verses to the contrary.
Slaves were freed and we learned we could cope and run businesses and households without the degradation of other human beings, and though the Bible permitted it, we knew slavery was wrong. We abolished it.
Women fought for the right to vote, to be paid equal wages, and they made a ruckus; refusing to be submissive to men, and even though the Bible allows it, we knew it was wrong, and we changed the laws.
When Ronald Reagan entered the Republican primary in 1976 against Gerald Ford, religious conservatives decried that a divorced man could never be president; so they backed Gerald Ford. (Reagan, in his first earnest attempt at the presidency garnered his candidacy a single electoral vote that year.) Yet in 2012, in the middle of the Republican primaries, most religious conservatives backed a thrice-married Newt Gingrich. The stigma of divorce has lost its sting — if Reagan shifted the perceptual tide of divorce in the political sea, Gingrich practically tsunami’d it.
When Ellen Degeneres came out in 1997, NBC worried they would lose sponsorships. Flash forward to 2012 and a group called “One Million Moms” decided to boycott JC Penny because they didn’t like the department store’s spokeswoman, Ellen Degeneres simply because she is gay. The company didn’t bend: Instead it produced a Mother’s Day ad with a real-life lesbian couple, and when the “Million Moms” ramped up their protests, JC Penny featured a Father’s Day ad with two gay dads.
Had the Apostles known what the scientific community knows today that homosexuality begins in the womb and is not a choice; would that have changed scripture? That’s debatable. But it does prove one thing: If indeed God made Adam and Eve, then logic serves, and science proves, that he also made gay Steve.
On that Friday afternoon on May 25th, I saw the bravery of a young girl — my cousin — admit to the world – defiantly, yet scared – who she was. Her world is changing quickly, so much faster than the generation that preceded her could have possibly imagined. Had Facebook been around twenty or thirty years ago, it’s safe to say that the positive/negative ratio of those comments would have been the reverse.
I spoke to Alexandra’s mother, my aunt, later that day, and this is what the Southern Baptist said: “I have the same amount of love for my daughter as I did the day I first laid eyes on her. She is as precious to me as she always has been. I will carry a banner down the middle of town that says ‘My daughter is gay and I love her, and I am proud of her!’”
I didn’t see that coming. Hallelujah.
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Sites That Link to this Post
- Bible Scriptures Online New Testament | June 24, 2012