Most U.S. Christians (54% in 2014) believe homosexuality should be accepted by society. Many U.S. Christian denominations sanction same-sex marriage, including the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Church of Christ (UCC). Others oppose, including Assemblies of God, Mormon, Roman Catholic, and Southern Baptist.
Some Christians say that the Bible clearly prohibits same-sex marriage (or gay marriage). Others say it does not.
This is the first in a series of blog posts introducing differing views about scripture relevant to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. My plan is for each post to address one or two scriptural passages related to the topic.
For each, I plan to describe some of the context of the passage and quote it. I plan to then briefly describe some of what those who oppose same-sex marriage and those who affirm same-sex marriage say about the passage.
Introduction and Context: The first passage tells us about Sodom, the city from which the word “sodomize” is derived. Genesis describes God sending two angels to Sodom to investigate the city’s sin. Conservative scholars say that this happened 3400-3800 years ago.
Main Scripture (Genesis 19:1-28):
When the two angels arrived in Sodom, they ate dinner at Lot’s house. The men of the city, “surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may [have sex with] them.’
Lot went out … and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
But they replied, “Stand back! … [Lot] … would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they … came near the door to break it down. But the men inside reached out … and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door ….”
The next morning, after Lot and some of his family fled, God destroyed Sodom (and Gomorrah) with fire.
Some Non-Affirming Christians Say: God destroyed Sodom because men of the city were homosexuals, seeking homosexual sex. Thus, homosexual sex is a sin. We should oppose gay marriage, where homosexual sex would take place, because if we endorse gay marriage, then God might destroy us for the same reason God destroyed Sodom.
Some Affirming Christians Say: The Bible does not say God destroyed Sodom because of homosexuality. Sodom is cited as evil multiple times in the Bible, and not one time is homosexuality mentioned as the sin of Sodom. In fact, the Biblical book of Ezekiel describes the sin of Sodom specifically (and it is not homosexuality). Ezekiel 16:49-50 states:
God said, “Only this was the sin of your sister Sodom: arrogance! She and her daughters had plenty of bread and untroubled tranquillity; yet she did not support the poor and the needy. In their haughtiness, they committed abomination before Me; and so I removed them, as you saw.”
Sodom’s sin was arrogance and failing to support the poor and needy, not homosexuality.
Non-affirming Christians: First, the chief “abomination before Me” referenced in Ezekiel is homosexual sex because the first action of Sodom described in the main passage is men seeking homosexual sex. Second, Jude 1:7, in the New Testament, says Sodom’s sin included sexual immorality and going after “strange flesh,” which is homosexuality: “Sodom and Gomorrah, … giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Thus, we should not endorse homosexuality, even in marriage.
Affirming Christians: First, the “abomination” of “haughtiness” God is describing is right there in Ezekiel (having “plenty of bread and untroubled tranquillity; yet she did not support the poor and the needy”). Second, going after “strange” flesh means going after different flesh. The men of Sodom thought they were going after the same flesh as their own, flesh of men. Instead, the men of Sodom were going after “strange flesh”—the flesh of angels. So Jude noting they were going after “strange flesh” is not about homosexuality. Indeed, Jude was written in Greek, and the Greek word translated as “strange” is heteras (think hetero-, not homo-). Nowhere in the Bible does it say the sin that caused God to destroy Sodom was homosexuality.
My aim with this post was to begin introducing differing views among Christians regarding Biblical passages relevant to same-sex marriage. I will address additional passages on this topic in future posts.
There are many permutations on these views. And, of course, each side says more about these verses and points to other verses, too. You can find more discussion about this subject at the sources listed below.
To go on to part 2 in this series, click here.
(The picture at the top is of the main scripture in one of my hard-copy Bibles.)
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/18/most-u-s-christian-groups-grow-more-accepting-of-homosexuality/ (54% …. The question asked was “1 – Homosexuality should be accepted by society OR 2 – Homosexuality should be discouraged by society.” The complete report and questionnaire are available here.)
Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (Convergent Books 2014)
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/sodomize (sodomize origin)
Lot’s action with his two daughters relates to a slightly different topic, so I haven’t addressed its shocking nature in any depth here.
The scripture quoted in this post is from the New Revised Standard Version, the Tanakh Translation, or the King James Version.
Note: After the third post in this series, I changed the title in the posts to read “… Both Sides of the Debate,” rather than “… A Brief Look at Both Sides of the Debate” as it was originally, because—although each one is brief in the sense that there is a lot more to say on each sub-topic—after three posts on homosexuality and same-sex marriage and envisioning several more, “brief” in the running title of the series did not seem right. Updated.