The Zenit News Agency Interview:
The Bible and Homosexual Practice:
An Overview of Some Issues
[revised slightly from an interview with Zenit News Agency, Mar. 21 and
Mar. 28, 2002]
Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.
Prof. of New Testament
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics
It is not possible in so short a compass to do justice to
500 pages of research. However, I will attempt to hit some key points. I
will begin by talking about the two most important sets of texts: the
Levitical prohibitions and the texts in Paul. Included here will be a
brief discussion of whether “new knowledge” about homosexuality as an
innate condition changes matters for us. I will then proceed to a broader
array of texts in the Bible, both implicit and explicit, that make clear a
pervasive and strong condemnation of homosexual practice. In this context
I will also address the alleged silence of Jesus on the issue of same-sex
intercourse. Finally, I will say a few words about why the Bible’s
teaching should remain normative and how Christians should respond to the
Could you outline the principal passages in the Bible that you believe
are the basis for prohibiting homosexuality?
are two particularly important sets of explicit texts. First are the
prohibitions in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which declare that for a man to
“lie with a male as though lying with a woman” is “an abomination” or
“detestable act”—in Hebrew, to’evah—something utterly repugnant to
second set is the Apostle Paul’s references to same-sex intercourse, for
which the key text is Romans 1:24-27. Here he treats same-sex intercourse
as “exhibit B”—with idolatry as “exhibit A”—proving gross and deliberate
human sin on the part of Gentiles against the truth about God accessible
in creation or nature.
important in Paul is his reference to “males who lie with males” (arsenokoitai)
and “effeminate males who play the sexual role of females” (malakoi)
in the vice list in 1 Corinthians 6:9. The context here is the comparable
issue of a case of incest at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5). Paul argues that
the community of believers at Corinth should not deceive themselves:
believers who participate in serial and unrepentant fashion in immoral
sexual activity—be they participants in incest or in the solicitation of
prostitutes (pornoi), adulterers, or participants in same-sex
intercourse—along with believers who engage in serial and unrepentant
fashion in idolatry or egregious cases of economic exploitation and the
like, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. The term arsenokoitai
reappears in the vice list in 1 Tim 1:10. In the discussion that follows
we will not spend much time on these texts. It will suffice here to point
out that what Paul means by arsenokoitai has to be unpacked in
light of what Paul finds offensive about same-sex intercourse in Romans
1:24-27. Those who tend to dismiss the term arsenokoitai in 1
Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10 as utterly beyond knowing often act as if
Romans 1:24-27 did not exist.
are also a reasonably large number of other texts that explicitly or
implicitly indicate opposition to same-sex intercourse, leaving little
doubt that such opposition was the consensus position of both Testaments,
as well as of the historical communities out of which these texts arose.
Sometimes modern-day skeptics reject Leviticus.
texts in Leviticus are often dismissed on one or more grounds. For
example, it is claimed that these prohibitions have no more significance
for the church today than other defunct purity laws; or that they have in
view only same-sex intercourse conducted in the context of idolatrous
cults, prostitution or adult-adolescent unions. Yet such arguments
overlook at least seven points.
the prohibitions against same-sex intercourse occur in the context of
other types of sexual activity that the church today still largely regards
as illegitimate: incest, adultery and bestiality.
strong prohibitions against these forms of sexual activity represent the
closest analogues to the prohibition of same-sex intercourse. This is
particularly true of the incest prohibition which, like the prohibition of
same-sex intercourse, rejects intercourse between two beings that are too
much alike. Leviticus refers pejoratively to sex with a family member as
sex with the “flesh of one’s own flesh” (Lev 18:6). Bestiality is wrong
for the opposite reason: it is sex between two beings that are too much
the attachment of purity language in ancient Israelite culture to such
acts as incest, adultery, male-male intercourse, idolatry, economic
exploitation, and the like—far from suggesting an amoral or non-moral
basis for the rejection of such acts—actually buttresses the moral focus
on the inherently degrading character of the acts themselves. It
underscores that any talk about the positive moral intent of the
participants is irrelevant.
same reason, the Apostle Paul many centuries later connected the language
of impurity with acts—usually sexual acts—that are rejected on moral
grounds: not only same-sex intercourse but also adultery, incest, sex with
prostitutes, and promiscuous sexual activity (Romans 1:24 and 6:19; 2
Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; cf. Ephesians
4:19; 5:3, 5; and Colossians 3:5).
unlike a number of the now-defunct elements of the Holiness Code to which
reference is often made, the indictment of same-sex intercourse is
particularly severe, as suggested by the specific attachment of the label
to’evah and by making it a capital offense.
intercourse was regarded by ancient Israel as a particularly severe
infraction of God’s will. Indeed, we know of no ancient Near Eastern
culture that adopted a more rigorous opposition to all forms of same-sex
intercourse. True, the New Testament and the contemporary church does not
apply the penalty attached to this act in the Levitical code. But, then
again, it does not retain the Old Testament valuation of adultery, incest
and bestiality as capital offenses either, even as it still rejects such
forms of intercourse as immoral.
the prohibitions of same-sex intercourse are not limited to particularly
exploitative forms but are rather unqualified and absolute.
general term “male” is used, not “cult prostitute,” “boy, youth,” or even
“neighbor.” The prohibition applies not only to the Israelite but also to
the non-Israelite who lives among them (Leviticus 18:26). The fact that
both parties to the act are penalized in Leviticus 20:13 indicates that
consensual acts are being addressed.
is hardly the main concern since the prohibition in 20:13 is set in
between prohibitions of adultery, incest and bestiality; it does not
follow immediately upon the prohibition of child sacrifice as in 18:22.
Moreover, male cult prostitution was not the only context in which
homosexual intercourse manifested itself in the ancient Near East
generally. It was merely the most acceptable context for homosexual
intercourse to be practiced in Mesopotamia, certainly for those who played
the role of the receptive partner.
the reason for the prohibition is evident from the phrase “lying with a
male as though lying with a woman.” What is wrong with same-sex
intercourse is that it puts another male, at least insofar as the act of
sexual intercourse is concerned, in the category of female rather than
regarded as incompatible with the creation of males and females as
distinct and complementary sexual beings, that is, as a violation of God’s
design for the created order. Here it is clear that the creation stories
in Genesis 1-2, or something like them, are in the background, which in
turn indicates that something broader than two isolated prohibitions is at
stake: nothing less than the divinely mandated norm for sexual pairing
given in creation.
the non-procreative character of same-sex intercourse was no more the
primary consideration in the rejection than it was for the proscription of
bestiality. Incest and adultery, two other sexual acts rejected in
Leviticus 18 and 20 are certainly not wrong because they are
non-procreative; but neither is the primary reason for their rejection
that fact that children might arise. All three are wrong because they
constitute sex with another who is either too much of an “other” (sex with
an animal) or too much of a “like” (sex with a near kin and sex with a
member of the same sex). These are transcultural creation categories, not
superstitious dregs from a bygone era.
How are these prohibitions reflected in the New Testament?
Levitical prohibitions of same-sex intercourse are clearly picked up in
the New Testament—our seventh point. The Apostle Paul, who emphasized that
the Mosaic law had been abrogated, nevertheless saw significant continuity
with the moral code of the Spirit.
basic categories of sexual immorality—such as same-sex intercourse,
incest, solicitation of prostitutes, adultery, etc.—remained in place for
believers in Christ (so 1 Corinthians 5-7). Indeed, Paul formulated his
reference to “men who lie with males” (arsenokoitai), one of the
groups of people whom he insists will not inherit the kingdom of God in 1
Corinthians 6:9-10, directly from the Levitical proscriptions of male-male
intercourse. Clearly, then, Paul himself did not believe that the
abrogation of the Mosaic law rendered obsolete the rejection of all
same-sex intercourse for believers.
What does Romans 1:24-27 say?
in Romans 1:24-27 is worth quoting at length: “because of the desires of
their hearts God gave them over”—that is, those who chose not to worship
God as God—“to an uncleanness”—that is, filthy conduct—“consisting of
their bodies being dishonored among themselves. . . . God gave them over
to dishonorable passions, for even their females exchanged the natural
use”—that is, of the male as regards sexual intercourse—“for that which is
contrary to nature”—that is, sexual intercourse with other females—“and
likewise also the males, having left behind the natural use of the female,
were inflamed with their yearning for one another, males with males
committing indecency and in return receiving in themselves the payback
which was necessitated by their straying”—that is, from the truth about
God evident in nature.
intertextual echoes to Genesis 1-2 are even more pronounced than in the
You have examples of this, of course.
context of Romans 1:18-32 there are obvious allusions to Genesis 1 in the
words “ever since the creation of the world” (1:20) and “the Creator”
unmistakable is the link between Romans 1:23—referring to idols “in the
likeness of the image of a mortal human and of birds and of four-footed
animals and of reptiles” —and Genesis 1:26—“Let us make a human according
to our image and . . . likeness; and let them rule over the . . . birds .
. . and the cattle . . . and the reptiles.”
denotation of the sexes in Romans 1:26-27 as “females” and “males” rather
than “women” and “men” follows the style of Genesis 1:27: “male and female
he made them.”
What are the implications of such an echo to Genesis 1:26-27?
Paul, both idolatry and same-sex intercourse reject God’s verdict that
what was made and arranged was “very good,” as Genesis 1:31 says. Instead
of recognizing their indebtedness to one God in whose likeness they were
made and exercising dominion over the animal kingdom, humans worshipped
statues made in their own likeness and even in the likeness of animals.
Similarly, instead of acknowledging that God had made them “male and
female” and had confined legitimate sexual intercourse to opposite-sex
pairing, humans denied the transparent complementarity of their sexuality
by engaging in sex with the same sex, females with females, and males with
Would this harking back to Genesis be natural for Paul?
Paul should have the creation stories in the background of his critique of
same-sex intercourse is not surprising.
earlier letter to Corinth, when Paul discussed the case of incest, he drew
on a hypothetical analogy of sexual immorality—solicitation of
prostitutes—and in the process appealed to the creation texts: “a man ...
shall be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh” (Genesis
2:24, cited in 1 Corinthians 6:16). It was in this context that Paul
listed serial, unrepentant same-sex intercourse as one of the behaviors
that could lead to exclusion from God´s kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9). So,
clearly, just as Paul had Genesis 1:27 in the background when critiquing
same-sex intercourse in Romans 1:24-27, so too he had Genesis 2:24 in the
background when critiquing same-sex intercourse in 1 Corinthians 6:9.
other Jew in his day, it was not possible for him to think about sexual
immorality apart from such an appeal. In the same way, when Jesus
criticized divorce and remarriage he too cited from Genesis 1:27—“God made
them male and female”—and Genesis 2:24—“for this reason a man shall leave
his father and mother and will be joined to his wife and the two shall
become one flesh.”
Consequently, any assessment of sexual immorality by Jews and Christians
of the first century ultimately had in view the creation stories. It is
for this reason that attempts to limit Paul’s—or any other early Jewish or
Christian—critique of same-sex intercourse to particularly exploitative
forms is doomed to failure. Moreover, for all the occasional critique of
homosexual behavior that could be found among some Greco-Roman moralists,
it did not approach the degree of revulsion experienced by Israel and the
church. Jews and Christians stood apart from all other cultures of their
time in their absolute opposition to all forms of homosexual practice.
own wording in Romans 1:24-27 makes clear that the contrast in his mind is
not between exploitative and non-exploitative forms of homosexual behavior
but between same-sex intercourse per se and opposite-sex intercourse:
females exchanging sex with males for sex with females; males leaving
behind sex with women and yearning for sex with other males. In Paul’s
view—and indeed in the view of every Jew or Christian from whom we have
firsthand written records within a millennium or more of Paul’s day—what
was wrong, first and foremost, with two females or two males having sex is
the same-sexness of the erotic act, an act that was intended by God to be
a reunion of complementary sexual others according to Genesis 1-2.
You have argued that Paul had the creation stories in Genesis 1-2 in view
when he rejected all homosexual practice. How does his argument that
homosexual practice is “against nature” fit into this?
Christians recognized that the scriptural understanding of human sexuality
was not accessible only to those who had exposure to the Scriptures of the
the Creator had designed human sexual pairing for complementary “sexual
others,” it is not surprising that such a design was imbedded in
compatible opposite-sex differences and still observable in the natural
world set in motion by the Creator’s decree.
Paul could argue in Romans 1:24-27 that even Gentiles without access to
Scripture had enough knowledge in creation/nature to know that same-sex
unions represented a non-complementary sexual pairing, an “unnatural”
union, a violation of Creator’s will for creation.
naturalness of opposite-sex unions is readily visible in the areas of
anatomy, physiology—that is, the procreative capacity—and in a host of
interpersonal aspects that contribute in our own day to the popular
slogan, “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” To tamper with that
naturalness and to act as if male-female sexual differences are not vital
components of sexual pairings is, in short, to reap the whirlwind. There
is no disharmony between Scripture and nature on this score.
Q: What about those who argue
that “we now know” today that people are born with homoerotic attraction
and thus it is a "natural" phenomenon?
points can be made here.
was not saying that every human impulse is “natural” and therefore
God-approved. He went on to list in Romans 1:29-31 a series of impulses
and behaviors that have some innate proclivity—including covetousness or
envy—but which were not, for that reason, “natural” or morally acceptable.
Paul distinguished between innate passions perverted by the fall of Adam
and exacerbated by idol worship on the one hand, and material creation
that was left relatively intact despite human sin on the other hand.
some current theories of homosexual development are essentially compatible
with Paul’s own view of sin. In Romans 5 and 7 Paul speaks of sin as an
innate impulse operating in the human body, transmitted by an ancestor
human, and never entirely within the control of human will. This is
precisely how most homosexual-affirming advocates describe homosexual
theories about a congenital basis for homoerotic attraction were
widespread in Paul’s day, as was the existence of men whose sexual desire
was oriented exclusively toward other males. We may have refined the view
of exclusive innate attraction to members of the same sex, but the basic
elements of this theory were already in place in antiquity and still made
little difference to critical assessments of homosexual behavior.
Because it is obvious—especially in a worldview that incorporates the
notion of a human fall from an original sinless state—that innate impulses
are not necessarily moral simply because they are innate.
and finally, it is not quite true that science has now discovered that
homosexual impulses are given at birth, whether through genes or hormones
or special homosexual brains. In fact, studies to date indicate that
homoerotic impulses are not congenital. Rather, whatever contribution is
made through genes, hormones or brain-wiring is largely indirect and
subordinate to macro- and micro-cultural factors [see pp. 384-432 of my
example, cross-cultural studies have been done showing a wide variance in
the incidence of homosexual behavior and homosexual self-identification in
different population groups, ancient and modern. And the most important
identical twin study to date, recently conducted by J. Michael Bailey,
“did not provide statistically significant support for the importance of
genetic factors” in the development of homosexuality.
Q: Anything else that you want
to say that might indicate that Paul was opposed to all forms of same-sex
addition to, first, the allusion to the creation stories in Genesis 1-2
and to, second, the broad argument from nature, three other points can be
made that show that Paul’s critique of homosexual practice was not limited
in scope only to certain exploitative types.
Paul critiques not only male homosexual practice but also female
homosexual practice. The latter did not conform to the male pederastic
model, nor did it usually entail cultic associations. Apparently, then,
Paul’s main problem with homosexual behavior did not have to do with
pederastic or idolatrous dimensions.
the fact that Paul indicts both partners in same-sex unions and speaks of
mutual gratification indicates that he does not have in view forms where
coercion is involved.
glowing tributes to homosexual love in Paul’s time and the wide variety of
manifestations of same-sex love in Greco-Roman society give the lie to
contemporary claims that Paul could not have conceived of caring
homoerotic unions when he opposed same-sex intercourse.
Q: Many people are willing to
concede your point that both Paul and the authors of the Levitical
prohibitions were unequivocally against all homosexual practice. But they
would counter-argue that same-sex intercourse is not much of a concern to
Scripture because it receives so little attention. What is your response?
are two problems with this claim. The first is that there are a fair
amount of texts that speak strongly against same-sex intercourse.
allegations by some scholars that the stories of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-11)
and of the Levite at Gibeah (Judges 19:22-25) only express opposition to
homosexual intercourse in the context of rape, these stories do include
male-male intercourse per se as an important factor in the evil behavior
of the inhabitants. To them can be added the story of Ham’s sexual act on
his father Noah (Genesis 9:20-27).
these stories are relevant to an indictment of same-sex intercourse
generally is apparent from: (a) the wider narratives of both the Yahwist
and the Deuteronomistic historian which elsewhere indicate a restriction
of appropriate sexual activity to heterosexual relations; (b) ancient Near
Eastern texts that censure male-male intercourse for reasons other than
coercion; (c) the assessment of Sodom’s sin by a number of later texts,
including Ezekiel 16:50, Jude 7, and 2 Peter 2:7; and (d) the motifs
common to the Ham and Sodom stories on the one hand and the denunciation
of Canaanite sexual sins in Leviticus 18 and 20, including Canaanite
participation in non-coercive male-male intercourse as a basis for
expulsion from the land.
Also to be
included among anti-homosex texts are a series of texts in the
Deuteronomistic history (Joshua through 2 Kings) that speak disparagingly
of cultic participants in homosexual activity: 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12;
22:46; 2 Kings 23:7. These texts are grounded in the law of Deuteronomy
(23:17-18) and continued in the Book of Revelation (21:8; 22:15). They
show a special revulsion for males functioning as receptive partners in
intercourse with other males, referring to them as “dogs.” Parallel
Mesopotamian texts indicate that the main issue is not cult association or
fees but rather behaving sexually as though female rather than male.
Q: And what is the second
problem with claiming that Scripture shows little concern for homosexual
that implicitly reject homosexual unions run the gamut of the entire
Bible, including not only the creation stories in Genesis 1-3 and the
apostolic decree in Acts 15:20, 29, and 21:25, along with other
occurrences of the word porneia (“sexual immorality”) in the New
Testament, but also the whole range of narratives, laws, proverbs,
exhortations, metaphors and poetry that in addressing sexual relationships
presume the sole legitimacy of heterosexual unions.
example, when the relationship between God and Israel or between Jesus and
the church is depicted as an intimate covenant relationship between
adults, it is always imaged as a heterosexual relationship, never as a
homoerotic relationship. And this is so despite the apparent incongruity
of male-dominated communities imaging themselves as females. Why? Because
the idea of a homosexual union was utterly repugnant to biblical authors.
example: why is it that there exists not a single law in any of the legal
codes in the Pentateuch that distinguishes appropriate and inappropriate
types of same-sex erotic relationships? After all, such laws abound for
heterosexual relationships. The reason is self-evident: all same-sex
erotic relationships were regarded as inappropriate.
is there the slightest indication of openness anywhere in the Bible to
homoerotic attachments, including the narrative about David and Jonathan.
reason why not every author of Scripture explicitly comments on same-sex
intercourse is that some views are treated as so obvious that very little
needs to be said. The only form of consensual sexual behavior that was
regarded by ancient Israel, early Judaism, and early Christianity as more
egregious than same-sex intercourse was bestiality. It is no accident that
bestiality receives even less attention in the Bible than same-sex
intercourse—it is mentioned only in Exod 22:19; Lev 18:23 and 20:15-16;
and Deut 27:21. Incest receives only comparable attention. Yet unequivocal
opposition to bestiality and incest by every biblical author and by Jesus
can hardly be doubted.
picture” of the Bible on the issue of homosexual practice is not some
vague concept of love and tolerance of every form of consensual sex but
rather the complementarity of male-female sexual bonds and the universal
restriction of acceptable sexual activity to heterosexual marriage.
Q: Speaking of Jesus, some
argue that because Jesus said nothing about the matter that it was not an
important issue for him. What do you think?
no historical basis for arguing that Jesus might have been neutral or even
favorable toward same-sex intercourse.
evidence we have points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that Jesus would
have strongly opposed same-sex intercourse had such behavior been a
serious problem among first-century Jews. It simply was not a problem in
Jesus’ alleged silence has to be set against the backdrop of unequivocal
and strong opposition to same-sex intercourse in the Hebrew Bible and
throughout early Judaism. It is not historically likely that Jesus
overturned any prohibition of the Mosaic law, let alone on a strongly held
moral matter such as this. And Jesus was not shy about disagreeing with
prevailing viewpoints. Had he wanted his disciples to take a different
viewpoint he would have had to say so.
the notion of Jesus’ “silence” has to be qualified. According to Mark,
Jesus spoke out against porneia, “sexual immorality” (Mark 7:21-23)
and accepted the Decalogue commandment against adultery (Mark 10:19). In
Jesus’ day, and for many centuries before and thereafter, porneia
was universally understood in Judaism to include same-sex intercourse.
Moreover, the Decalogue commandment against adultery was treated as a
broad rubric prohibiting all forms of sexual practice that deviated from
the creation model in Genesis 1-2, including homoerotic intercourse.
that Jesus lifted up the male-female model for sexual relationships in
Genesis 1-2 as the basis for defining God’s will for sexuality is apparent
from his back-to-back citation in Mark 10:6-7 of Genesis 1:27 (“God made
them male and female”) and Genesis 2:24 (“For this reason a man shall
leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall
become one flesh”).
are the same two texts that Paul cites or alludes to in his denunciation
of same-sex intercourse in Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9. For
Jesus, marriage was ordained by the Creator to be an indissoluble
(re-)union of a man and woman—two complementary sexual others—into one
flesh. Authorization of homoerotic unions requires a different creation
it is time to deconstruct the myth of a sexually tolerant Jesus. Three
sets of Jesus sayings make clear that, far from loosening the law’s stance
on sex, Jesus intensified the ethical demand in this area: (a) Jesus´
stance on divorce and remarriage (Mark 10:1-12; also Matthew 5:32 and the
parallel in Luke 16:18; and Paul’s citation of Jesus´ position in 1
Corinthians 7:10-11); (b) Jesus´ remark about adultery of the heart
(Matthew 5:27-28); and (c) Jesus´ statement about removing body parts as
preferable to being thrown into hell (Matthew 5:29-30 and Mark 9:43-48)
which, based on the context in Matthew as well as rabbinic parallels,
primarily has to do with sexual immorality.
put, sex mattered to Jesus. Jesus did not broaden the range of acceptable
sexual expression; he narrowed it. And he thought that unrepentant,
repetitive deviation from this norm could get a person thrown into hell.
then do we get the impression that Jesus was soft on sex? People think of
his encounters with the adulterous woman in John 7:53-8:11, the sinful
woman in Luke 7:36-50, and the Samaritan woman who had many husbands in
first story suggests is that Jesus did modify the law at one point: Sexual
immorality should not incur a death penalty from the state. Why? Not
because sex for him did not matter but rather because stoning was a
terminal act that did not give opportunity for repentance and reform.
Moreover, all three stories confirm what we know about Jesus elsewhere:
that he aggressively sought the lost, ate with them, fraternized with
them. But the same Jesus who could protect an adulterous woman from
stoning also took a very strong stance against divorce-and-remarriage.
We see a
parallel in Jesus’ stance toward tax collectors, who had a justly deserved
reputation for exploiting their own people for personal gain. We do not
conclude from Jesus’ well-known outreach to tax collectors that Jesus was
soft on economic exploitation. To the contrary: All scholars agree that
Jesus intensified God’s ethical demand with respect to treatment of the
poor and generosity with material possessions. Why then do we conclude
from Jesus’ outreach to sexual sinners that sexual sin was not so
important to Jesus?
Q: Some would still argue that
the teaching against homosexuality is related to cultural and social
conditioning. Now that society is more accepting of homosexuality, why
shouldn’t Christianity change its position? In other words, why is this
Israel, early Judaism and early Christianity never adopted the position
that they should alter their ethical standards simply because the broader
cultural milieu took a more accepting view of some practices.
lived in environments where male-male intercourse was often more of an
accepted practice than it is in our own contemporary culture. Yet, far
from capitulating on their position regarding acceptable sexual
expression, they maintained clear distinctions between their own practices
and the practices of those outside the community of God.
what holiness refers to: being set apart for the exclusive use of God
rather than conforming to the ways of the world. Jesus himself called on
his followers to be “the light of the world” and “a city built on a hill,”
and not to act “like the Gentiles.”
of Scripture against same-sex intercourse is pervasive, absolute and
strong, and was all those things in relation to the broader cultural
contexts from which Scripture emerged. It was then, and remains today, a
core countercultural vision for human sexuality.
crosscultural studies indicate, cultural affirmation of homosexual
practice will lead to higher numbers of self-identifying and practicing
homosexuals and bisexuals in the population, which in turn will lead to an
increase in the ancillary problems that affect the homosexual and bisexual
population at a disproportionately high rate.
includes health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, mental
illness, substance abuse, and a 10-year or more decrease in life
expectancy; problems in relational dynamics, including a high incidence of
non-monogamy (especially among male homosexuals) and short-term
relationships (especially among lesbians) due to the distinctive natures
of males as males and females as females; and higher incidence of
adult-adolescent and adult-child sexual activity.
macro-culture generally, approval of homosexual behavior will all but
annihilate societal gender norms of any sort, promoting the normalization
of the most bizarre elements of the homosexual movement—transsexualism,
transvestism—thereby increasing gender identity confusion among the young.
Indeed, we can expect a lessening of aversion to various sexual
relationships hitherto regarded as sexual perversions—for example,
“threesomes,” “open” committed relationships, adult-adolescent sexual
relations, and consensual adult sex between close blood relations—owing to
a complete abandonment of single divinely-sanctioned, nature-imbedded
model for acceptable sexual expression.
of all this, we can expect—given the track record to date of the
leadership in the homosexual lobby—the public marginalization and
eventually persecution of any who make known their opposition to
homosexual behavior. If anyone needs any proof of this, they need only
look at what is happening to the Boy Scouts and the Salvation Army, and to
Christian student groups at colleges and universities who are derecognized
for their stance on homosexual behavior. Or examine the mandatory
“sensitivity training” programs and “zero tolerance” policies implemented
in some school systems and major corporations, alongside the official
endorsement of homosexual organizations that tar those who question the
acceptance of homosexual practice with the label of “homophobic bigots,”
akin to racists. Is this something we want our children to face?
deemed that sexual intercourse be an experience between complementary
sexual “others” that creates a “one-flesh” union, a celebration of sexual
diversity and pluralism in the best sense of the terms. There is clearly
something developmentally deficient or “unnatural” about a person being
erotically attracted to the body parts shared in common with another of
the same sex, about someone seeking a complementary sexual relationship
from a person who in terms of sex is non-complementary, a sexual “same.”
It is no more wise, or loving, to promote such unions than it is to
promote adult, committed incestuous unions.
Q: We live in an age of
“tolerance.” What does the Bible say about how we should treat
homosexuals? And how can Christians oppose homosexuality in the public
square without falling into extremism?
should love all people, regardless of whether they engage in immoral
activity or not. Love is a much better, and far more scriptural, concept
lifted up the command to “love one’s neighbor” in Leviticus 19:18—a
command in the Holiness Code—as the second great command. We often miss
the intertextual echo to Leviticus 19:17, which not only says that we
should not hate, take revenge, or hold a grudge against our neighbor but
also says that we should “reprove” our neighbor “and so not incur guilt
because of him.”
really love somebody, we will not provide approval, let alone cultural
incentives, for forms of behavior that are self-destructive and
other-destructive. Jesus combined an intensification of God’s ethical
demand in the areas of sex and money with an active and loving outreach to
sexual sinners and economic exploiters. We should do the same: love the
sinner, hate the sin.
Concretely, this means abhorring demeaning descriptions of homosexuals as
“fags,” “queers,” and the like. It means supporting fair and equal
prosecution of violence done to homosexuals. It might even mean—consistent
with Jesus’ actions toward the adulterous woman—decriminalization of
homosexual behavior. It certainly means making friends with homosexuals
and helping AIDS sufferers. It means making a distinction between people
who experience homoerotic impulses and people who act on them.
not mean, however, embracing “sexual orientation” along with race and
gender as a specially protected legal classification. The unfortunate
effect of such legislation is: (a) to provide cultural and legal
incentives for the behavior in question; (b) to send the wrong message
that homosexual behavior is as morally neutral as race and gender; (c) to
marginalize and intimidate legally those who adopt a critical view of
homosexual practice; and (d) to establish the legal basis for
indoctrinating our children and for mandating state-sponsored homosexual
© 2002 Robert A. J. Gagnon