In light of the Department of Homeland Security’s most recent statement warning against domestic terrorism to the LGBTQIA+ community, I would like to briefly address homosexuality in the Bible in an effort to further this community’s Biblical literacy and reduce the hate in people’s hearts.
The Bible is often used to condemn the LGBTQIA+ community. The specific verses used to further homophobic and transphobic agendas have come to be known as the “Clobber Verses.” However, these verses aren’t actually saying what many people think they are saying.
For example, when people condemn same-sex marriage in favor of “Biblical marriage,” they are ignoring the many and diverse examples of marriage that are found in the Bible. In actuality, the Bible endorses monogamous marriages between one male and one female in addition to polygamy, sexual slavery, incest, and forced marriage to virgins…and God even blesses all these varieties of marriage.
Another example is this: just because two genders are mentioned in the creation stories does not mean that only two genders exist. God created man and woman in Genesis 2, just like God created day and night in Genesis 1. However, the time of the day is not just two things; it’s actually a spectrum that includes things like dawn, midday, dusk and twilight. Similarly, gender is a spectrum that includes things like people who are trans and nonbinary.
Lost in translation
In modern translations of the Bible, Leviticus seems to condemn homosexual activity. However, the Hebrew words used to write scripture have much more nuanced meanings than can be conveyed in one quick, easy translation. When you look at these scriptures in their original linguistic and cultural contexts, you can see that Leviticus is specifically condemning sexual activity that involves incest.
In the same way, what we read in 1 Timothy seems to condemn homosexual activity. But when we go back to the scripture in its original Greek form, we can see that it is talking about sexual acts that are coercive in nature (specifically pederasty and rape) rather than sexual acts that occur between two consensual adults of the same gender.
In Romans, Paul is writing against unbridled passions as opposed to stable, appropriately utilized desires within committed relationships. In 1 Corinthians, he’s responding to the patriarchy and pederasty that existed in that society.
Of course, all of these examples are much more complicated than what can be explained in such a brief piece of writing, but the important thing to remember when reading the Bible is that we are reading a translation of what was originally written. Throughout time and through the process of translation, the meaning of the Bible as we know it today has lost much of what the original authors actually intended.
Out of context
In addition to losing the original authors’ intentions over time, we have forgotten to look at the historical, cultural and linguistic context that the Bible exists in. Instead of translating it and understanding it according to the time, place and language it originally existed in, we try to translate and understand it in our own current contexts.
This is like taking instructions written by a Renaissance woodworker on how to build a desk - instructions that detailed how to hew the wood from trees, lathe and carve all the appropriate pieces, and hand-fitting everything with an iron chisel and mallet - and using those 1,000 year old instructions to put together your IKEA desk today. It’s talking about the same basic idea, but it’s saying very different things.
The one thing that the Bible does talk about in nearly every verse is the importance of living in right relationship with God, with each other and with all of creation. That is, creating, strengthening and maintaining relationships and communities that are supportive, life-giving and lived in love. This also includes reconciling damaged relationships and communities wherever right relationship is possible.
The Bible also tells us that all people are made in the image of God. This means that when you are looking at another individual, you are looking at a reflection of God…even if you are looking at an individual who is queer or trans.
You will never look upon a person who is not one of God’s beloveds. So the next time one of us feels like we have something hateful or hurtful to share with someone, I would like to encourage us to remember whose we are talking to.
In conclusion, I would just like to say to my queer siblings that in a world filled with hateful people, please know that you are sacred and holy, created by a loving God who cherishes and delights in you and who is proud of you for living your life authentically. This world is a better place because you are in it.
The Rev. Claire T. Ackleow (she/they) is the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church (ELCA) inJeffersonville, IN and a board member of Southern Indiana Pride.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: LGBTQ: Homophobic, transphobic agendas are not supported by the Bible