What Does The Bible Say?
The Uniting Church acknowledges the Church has received the books of the Old and New Testaments as unique prophetic and apostolic testimony, in which it hears the Word of God and by which its faith and obedience are nourished and regulated. When the Church preaches Jesus Christ, its message is controlled by the Biblical witnesses. from The Basis of Union Paragraph 5
The Bible And Sex
Is sex basically a dirty and shameful thing? Or is it something good? Many of us have inherited a strong tradition from the church that sex is really not a terribly nice thing. Or even that it is downright bad. If we are uncomfortable about homosexuality, what are we uncomfortable with? Is it just homosexuality, or is some of it to do with our sexuality? Often we are uncomfortable with homosexuality because we are uncertain about our own sexual feelings. Some (young men especially) men who are strongly anti-homosexual seem really to be afraid that they themselves may be homosexual. Sometimes people ashamed of their own sexual urges project this as hostility toward homosexual people.
The Song of Songs, in our Bible, is an unashamedly erotic book. Its clear message is that sexuality is good and a thing in which to rejoice. The notion that God created us in the image of God, and saw that it was good, clearly suggests that sex, too, is good.
Is sex just for procreation? Song of Songs seems to make no mention of procreation at all! This begs hard questions of anyone seeking to argue against homogenital sex (ie a sexual act with someone of the same gender) on the basis of its being wrong because it is non-procreative. Homogenital sex may indeed be wrong, but such books as the Song of Songs suggest it cannot simply be wrong because it is not procreative. 'The defence of marriage between sterile people; sex after menopause, and the acceptance of birth control, including the so-called rhythm method-- all tacitly accept the autonomous love-relational purpose of sex. (16)
We might ask what is a moral sexual relationship? Rosemary Radford Ruether says,
She goes on to say that this norm of sexual morality 'eliminates the neat boundaries between moral and immoral sex' based on gender and marriage. (18) Much sex within marriages may be immoral! (See the section later on what the Bible says about relationships.)
We get the word sodomy, meaning anal sex, from this story. It is often taken to show that homosexuality is sinful and the reason the city was destroyed. But is this so?
Lot had a sacred duty of hospitality. He was responsible for the safety of the men he had invited under his roof. He refers to the men of Sodom as 'my brothers', this was a legal form of address, reminding them all of their responsibility to those their city had given shelter for the night. The sin is about the breaking of the sacred law of hospitality, first of all. The safety of a person taken into your house as a guest was your high responsibility; hence Lot even offered his daughters to the mob to protect his guests. The sin is then about rape. Only then is the sin that the rape is of a particular kind, ie men raping men. We can see here that Sodom was punished for something that is far from the love of two women, or two men, for each other.
We should note that it was not until the first century AD that the 'sin of Sodom' was ever associated by the scholars with homosexuality, they thought of things like lack of justice, adultery, lying etc. (21) (Isa 1:10, 3:9 justice, Ezekial 16:49 pride, surfeit of food, Jeremiah 23:14 speaks of adultery, lying and unwillingness to repent, but appears not to be speaking of homosexual behaviour in particular.) (22) There is no indication before the angels get to Sodom that the 'grave' sin (Genesis 18:20) God spoke of had to do with rape, or any kind of homosexual behaviour men.
LEVITICUS 18:22, 20:13. This is the Old Testament Holiness Code, where male homosexual intercourse appears to be explicitly prohibited. 'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.'
We always need to ask carefully here what the author actually meant at the time when he/she wrote the text? Was the author talking about exactly the same issue we are talking about? The classic texts which illustrate this question are in Romans 1 and here in Leviticus.
Homosexual acts happened in at least two ways in the Hebrew culture at this time. One was sacred prostitution. The other was anal rape by conquering armies upon the conquered. It expressed extreme for the defeated foes. This was not the sex of desire, but of idolatry or hate. ....(23)
Clearly the bible is speaking out of revulsion of idolatry, and rape. Is this revulsion alone the cause of the law in Leviticus, or does Leviticus refer also to a loving and faithful relationship between two people. Numbers of scholars conclude that the issues at Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with 'an obligatory homosexual life orientation.'(24)
ROMANS 1:18-32 notes 'dishonourable passions.' 'Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for each other, men committing shameless acts with men...' (RSV) Also mentioned in the same list of sin/sinners, are gossips, slanderers, haughty people, boastful people and those disobedient to their parents, among others. Richard Hays (25) claims this is the only place in the bible where Lesbian relationships are spoken of. Also, this 'is the only passage in the New Testament that places the condemnation of homosexuality in an explicitly theological context.(26)
But Paul is plainly writing about idolatry, pagan worship with sacred male and female prostitutes causes him to say people had,'... exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles...(27)
There is no indication here that he was even aware of what we have defined as homosexuality above.
The question we must ask is whether Paul was only referring to the idolatry and sacred prostitution of his time, or to all homosexuality.
Again we must ask what Paul is trying to do with his text.
The Book of Romans has a profound question to ask of us when we seek to restrict homosexuals from membership or ministry in the church. It can be strongly claimed that homosexuality, even that violent, idolatrous kind the bible seems most familiar with, is not any more serious a sin than others in this broken world! All of us are saved purely by grace, and if it were not for that grace of God we would stand condemned by the law. All of us, except for God's grace are unsuitable for membership or leadership or ministry, at all times because we are sinners. There is no difference between any of us. All fall short. Pitt Street Uniting Church concludes that
We must answer the challenge of the paragraphs above as we read the remaining texts:
I CORINTHIANS 6:9. 'male prostitutes and sodomites' (NRSV) are listed (along with adulterers, idolaters, the greedy, robbers and others) as those who will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. (RSV has 'adulterers' and 'sexual perverts', Good News says adulterers' and 'homosexual perverts.')
1 TIMOTHY 1:10 The law is laid down for 'sodomites' (RSV), liars, and others.
(16) Ruether, Rosemary Radford "Homophobia,
heterosexism, and Pastoral Practice" in Grammick pp 25