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Wed, Feb. 4th, 2004, 08:20 pm
lunamorgan: Religion and the Bible Essay

Recently, many people have been upset by the idea of gay marriage. One side of the argument says that marriage is solely a union between a man and a woman. The other half believes that marriage is a human right and that any two consenting adults of any gender should have the right to join themselves legally and spiritually, therefore receiving the same rights and privileges the government gives to opposite sex couples. Because this issue affects me deeply, I decided to study what I believe is the main defense against gay marriage -- the bible.

For years religious conservatives have used the bible to prove that homosexuality is a sin and that in God's eyes a gay marriage would be a horrible wrong that condoned a grievous sin. As a Christian myself, I started to believe the teachings of my pastors in church rather than looking to the bible itself. Now I have.

Genesis: 19 tells of how two angels came to the city of Sodom to warn Lot of its forthcoming destruction and, having just been through a war (Genesis 14:1-2), the people of Sodom were likely looking to avoid further conflict. Instead, they came to Lot and asked that they might "know" the strangers.

Generally, conservative Christians believe that by wanting to "know" the angels the mob (assumed to be composed entirely of men) intended to engage in same-sex intercourse with them. This is taken to mean that God was displeased that the people of Sodom engaged in homosexual acts. Proof to many that God hates gays.

On the other hand, this event happened after God's decision to obliterate Sodom and the surrounding areas. How could this be the reason God destroys Sodom? Furthermore, how are we sure that the translation is absolutely correct? After all, the bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, forms of which were not the same as modern versions of those languages. The word "ya,da" translated as "know" is all that we have to go by in deciding what was to be done to the strangers. It is used hundreds of times in the bible, only about a dozen of which are thought to be sexual in nature. The word has no defined meaning. Know, assuming it doesn't simply mean that the people of Sodom wanted to be introduced to the strangers (perhaps with more sinister intent if the answer was not to their liking), may mean anything from a public stoning or mob riot against them to jail time to actual rape. We cannot know for sure what the implications of the word "know" was at that moment in time, nor can we ever be sure that what we're reading is exactly what was said thousands of years ago, in another language.

In Leviticus 18:22, in Hebrew, it reads, "V'et zachar lo tishkav mishk'vey eesah toeyvah hee." The first part of that verse is translated as, "And with a male you shall not lay lyings of a woman." Many will say that this means a male should not engage in sexual acts with another male. Simple enough right?

When have you ever laid lyings? While the verse does imply homosexual behavior, it's apparent that the literal translation doesn't make total sense in modern English. Religious liberals also believe that this may refer to men having sex with other men during Pagan temple ritual. Which, of course, would have been forbidden in Christianity, as would most, if not all, Pagan rituals. Pagan temples were also known for the practice of keeping male prostitutes, gay and straight. It's possible that this verse is not forbidding gay sex but gay prostitution. It is also possible that the verse referred to sex in a woman's bed. In the biblical sense, a woman's bed would have been considered sacred. In a modern sense, what woman wants two men having sex in her bed whenever she's got her back turned? So our problem here is deciding what this verse is actually condemning - all homosexual behavior by either gender, all sexual behavior between two men, only anal sex between two men, only homosexual sex in a Pagan temple ritual, male prostitution or sexual activity between two men in a woman's bed? While this passage doesn't prove that mainstream Christianity is wrong, it does show that there are too many ifs to form a definite opinion either way.

Deuteronomy 23:17 is often cited for its usage of the term "sodomite" (King James Version) as being anti-homosexual. "There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel." When this version of the bible was translated, a sodomite was used to refer to anyone who practiced in what was considered "unnatural" sex. This would include not only anal sex but oral sex and prostitution. It is only in more recent times that the word sodomite has come to mean a homosexual male. Other versions of the bible often use prostitute in place of sodomite and commonly place "shrine," "temple" or "cult" before it, references again to a prostitute in a Pagan temple.

Finally, if we were to assume that the conservative interpretation is, in fact, correct we must also observe other laws that have long since been thrown out the window. In this perfect world we must allow slavery (Leviticus 25:44), kill our children if they should ever curse us (Leviticus 20:9) or our husbands or wives if they commit adultery (20:10). If you've ever taken God's name in vain, I'm afraid we'll have to kill you as well (Leviticus 24:16). And if you eat the fruit of a young tree, you're in trouble (Leviticus 19:23). A lot of people are breaking the code by shaving or getting a haircut (Leviticus 19:27) or by getting a tattoo (Leviticus 19:28). Is your favorite shirt a cotton-poly blend? Because wearing clothes made of a blend of textile materials is also forbidden.

Is this how far we've really come; what all our struggles for civil rights add up? Just another target, one more group to attack without reason. It's a never ending circle -- and it uses a book of love to fuel its hate."