Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Biblical defense of same-sex love.

Okay, I know I've done a comparative lot of this lately, but since I just basically wrote another essay in someone's journal comments, it's apparently another thing I'm worked up about. Well, truth be told, I've meant to write this up for a long time, but it came together cleaner than usual in this attempt, so I'm basically going to use it here, with some edits.

To preface this, I spent kind of a lot of time and energy in junior high and high school studying up and trying to reconcile being bisexual with being into the Bible. Eventually religion and I parted ways, anyway, but it wasn't about that, and I like to think it was a fairly amicable divorce ("Ooh, you know I was trying/ to give you the best of my-y love"). That said, I still think there's plenty of room to have faith and belief, as a GLBTQIA, if you want it.

Considering that, and alternately considering hostile parties willing to use the Bible against you regardless of whether or not you feel any affinity with it, I thought it would be useful to have the case for "alternative lifestyles" being acceptable even in the Christian Bible (especially if someone's not beholden to the "Living Bible" and its highly clunky translations).

So here goes nothing.

A case for acceptability of same-sex relationships and/or leanings with regards to the Christian Bible:

In older translations of the Bible, the only thing explicitly put on the no-no list about same-sex love is "[a man] shall not lie with mankind as with womankind" (right next to where it says not to sleep with menstruating women). The idea that the Bible says "homosexuality is a sin" there
(as purported by those handy "Living Bibles") is a modern invention, and I think oversimplifies what's actually going on there.

That passage is in the Old Testament in Leviticus, which is where all of the codes for clean, kosher living are--the rest of that book has been generally discarded by Christians as rules for the Jewish that they no longer had to follow (in part to help convert Pagans to Christianity, because adding all the extra work load to conversion was a bit of a turn-off). So even most devout Christians don't tend to avoid cutting their hair, or piercing their ears. They eat pork and have milk with meat and don't pay much heed to kosher preparation of food. And hardly anyone of any religion tries to stone people for working on Sundays, now, or considers it sinful to wear clothing that's made of a blend of fibers (cotton-poly blends, what?). And it's not even generally considered a killing offense to sleep with a woman who is on her period, these days. So choosing to retain only tiny pieces of that book seems strangely selective.

But even if someone wants to just keep that part, the only thing that's really expressly forbidden in that passage is male-male anal sex (that's the only literal, direct way I can interpret 'lying with a man as with a woman'). It doesn't address love between people of the same sex at all (and in fact there are love stories concerning male Christian martyrs and saints in pre-modern Europe), it doesn't address women together at all. It doesn't even necessarily address other forms of sex between men. So you could make an argument that even that passage allows for lesbians, bisexuals, and celibate or oral-only gay men.

And because it's in the book for living well and cleanly, I really think there's a good case to be made that the reasons for it being included at all were sanitary ones. At that point in time, with opportunities for hygiene and protection as limited as they were, mixing foods, slaughtering near other food supplies, having sex where blood was involved, and even anal sex could be dangerous for your health. It's more likely to spread disease or draw bacteria etc, if you haven't got ready access to good soap, latex, disinfectants. And so, if we've generally decided as a society that we can now do all the other things in Leviticus without it being a health hazard anymore, I don't see why even male-male sex shouldn't be on the pardoned list, too.

Another way to look at why that would be included has to do with the evolution of religions. How can a religion grow efficiently without all members actively engaged in reproduction (and, often, evangelism)? Or conquering and converting? And this, too, is no longer a problem; there is no longer a physical barrier from people of the same sex raising a child of their own blood, if they so choose.

Because there are milennia of fear and interpretation laid on all of this, mounds of cultural meaning, this all probably isn't going to cut through for most people. But I think it's a fair interpretation, and a fair way to deal with it. If someone was committed to the Book before the Church--or if they could be persuaded to consider what's written in what they consider an infallible book over what mortal men say about it--it might have some hope. Most people tend to be more committed to whatever their religious leader has said about what's in their holy book(s) than what's actually written there, though, so maybe I'm preaching to the choir.

...Haha, see, that was an humorous play on words.

End-note: this tends to be, in my head, just one section of the argument for allowing same-sex marriage, in the "that bible doesn't actually cover the 'sanctity of marriage' as one-man-one-woman" section of the treatise. I'll probably fail to contain myself and eventually post all the other parts. But we'll see if I can manage to at least not do it soon. I've got work to do, after all.

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