It can be comforting to believe God’s laws are eternal and unchanging, but no Christian can think that is true, as Christianity itself was a dramatic change in God’s laws. The story of Jesus is of one of history’s most powerful revolutionaries, and Christianity has been toppling old ways of thinking ever since.
The New Testament, for example, was new because it was a change in God’s covenant with his people. The Old Testament is a listing of the laws and morals God gave to the Jews. In Christian ethics, those laws were superceded in Christ, and few modern Christians live ethical aligned with the Old Testament. Those who do follow those old laws are called Orthodox Jews, not Christians.
Under the laws of the Old Testament, God’s people ate a kosher diet and sacrificed animals on altars, yet Christians no longer practice those laws, because they were fulfilled in Christ. Or to use the most famous example, Old Testament morality of “an eye for an eye” was transformed through the life and teachings of Jesus into to “turn the other cheek.”
Christianity only exists because God’s laws did not continue eternal and unchanged, as Christ changed them. I believe modern Christians can also find growth within their morality. As the current Pope, of all people, said recently: “God is not afraid of new things.”
As someone raised deeply Christian, but born gay, I understand the dilemma modern gay life poses for faithful Christians. This post is one in a series exploring how to reconcile modern gay life with truly Christian values.
Many people use the Bible as a moral guide. Unfortunately, it offers little or no guidance for a modern gay man.
I know the Bible well. Unlike most Americans, I have read it from cover to cover, four or five times, studying it in depth each time. I find it fascinating and rich, but biblical morality is complex, which is a mixed blessing. That complexity is both its strength and its weakness, as it makes the Bible expansive, contradictory, and often messy in ways that can accurately mirror real life, but those same qualities leave it vulnerable to selective interpretation
The anti-gay language in the Bible sounds harsh at first, ripe for simplistic thinking, but a closer reading reveals more depth and nuance.
### What Jesus said
Obviously, the most important thing for Christians to know is what Jesus said about gay lives: Nothing.
Living under the Romans, who openly and enthusiastically practiced homosexuality in their social relationships and in their sacred rituals, Jesus had no comment. He was completely silent on the issues of homosexuality and gender variation.
Given that anti-gay preaching simply had no place the ministry of Jesus, it is weird to see the prominence some of his followers give it. Pope Francis recently [called that out the church](http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/world/europe/pope-bluntly-faults-churchs-focus-on-gays-and-abortion.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0″ target=”_blank) for what he called its obsession with gay sexuality. “We have to find a new balance,” he said, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.” Very Christlike, this Pope.
*Answers for my life’s questions*: None.
### Against nature
The Apostle Paul didn’t like any sex, including straight sex within marriage. “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” he wrote, adding, “…those who marry will have affliction in regard to the flesh, and I would spare you that.”  He also wrote to the Roman people:
Matthew Vine is an intelligent young Christian who worked through his deeply held Bible-based beliefs to understand who it relates to his homosexuality. Interviewed in the New York Times, Vine summarizes his research:
It is simply a fact that the Bible does not discuss or condemn loving, gay relationships. […] The point is that these texts have a meaning, and the traditional reading of them is wrong. It is incorrect — biblically, historically, linguistically.
As Vine realized, the Bible never addresses same-sex love.
…every instance of homosexuality in the Bible represented excess lust, gang rape or “unnatural” acts committed by heterosexual men. Portrayals — much less condemnations — of naturally gay men, for whom opposite-sex relationships are not an option, simply never appear.
Christians quote the Bible’s few verses against male-male sex acts as if that ends the discussion. Few gay people find useful answers to the questions we have about leading ethical sexual lives in these ancient scriptures. For those of us who are intrinsically gay and Christian the Bible is only a starting point, just as Old Testament sexual ethics are just a starting place understanding modern heterosexual relationships.
Although an hour long, the video of Vine’s speech is well worth watching for those who are interested in sorting out the Christianity versus Homosexuality debate.
Preston with the incomparable Sister Unity
A very gay Easter Sunday got me thinking about the fascinating ways gay people often mix the sacred and the profane into something new and potentially empowering.
Every Easter the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence hold their Hunky Jesus contest in San Francisco. It is a major event, famous in San Francisco, and it packs the central Dolores Park every year.
The Sisters are hard to describe to outsiders. Mostly gay men, they don an assemblage of iconography and go out as nuns combining the sacred and the profane in a blaze of street theater.But the Sisters are not a joke. They do not aim to offend but are not shy about doing so.
In many ways they embody the earthy sacred, doing good works among the people. The very first information about the possibility of a new gay disease that was later called AIDS was written and disseminated by the Sisters, and their central focus is caring for the community, often raise vast serious money for good causes. We love the Sisters in San Francisco, even as they are misunderstood by many.
Mircea Eliade, the great scholar of religious experience, wrote a book called The Sacred and The Profane. In it he explained the difference between the ways pre-modern man experienced the sacred from the way we do now. In particular he emphasizes that ritual used to actually embody the sacred. The shaman dressed as the mythical great hunter and doing the traditional dance playing out the great hunter’s triumph was not role-playing a historical character. He was being the actual great hunter, right then, and right there. We still see this perspectives carried forward into modern times with Catholics and the eucharist, as the wafer is not seen as a symbol of the body of Christ, but as the actual body.
Eliade’s central point was that the profane, meaning the earthy hear and now, and the sacred, meaning the divine and transcendent, were not separate. The separation between sacred and profane came later in history. One obvious example was seen in Christians who denied the body and separated everything related to it — flesh, sexuality, and even sensuality — from the sacred. The result was weird constructs like “sex is only for procreation,” that purposefully labeled basic functions of human nature as sinful.
Gay men, of all people in our society, know how to mix the sacred and the profane in a way lost to most modern people. This can be troubling to some, as we often invoke depth while being crude by refusing to acknowledge a distinction. Christianists are appalled when they see it, as they only see one level of meaning. But we know there is more. Real life has multiple layers of truth, all overlapping and interwoven.
And for more Sister Unity, who embodies just that mix of the sacred and profane, see her YouTube Channel, or start with this video on the Gay Agenda, which clarifies the Gay Agenda’s plan for Utah, among other things. Hilarious and pointed. Some of her teachings on religious history can be really profound as well.
And in the spirt of the occasion I offer this picture of me, in a resplendent Easter Bonnet. Finally coming out of my shell, I guess. Not that I own such a fabulous hat or glasses…they were borrowed. Thanks Mikey!!!
Gay people are a threat to Christianity.
Coyote, the trickster, in Death Valley (photo by Preston Grant)
The paranoid anti-gay Christians are right to fear us. We do represent a threat to their core beliefs and their way of life.
This is not because we are attacking Christianity. A quick news search finds Christians constantly attacking gay people, yet we rarely strike back, other than to point out the absurdity of our attacker’s assertions. We certainly don’t attack Christians in the streets or mobilize to take away their rights. (Telling a religious organization they cannot receive government money if they discriminate against some of our citizens is not an “attack,” it is separation of church and state.)
No, gay people don’t undermine Christianity with our words. We undermine it by our existence.
Christianity is based on a belief in one God, opposed by an evil force. There is no nuance in this worldview. Everything is right or wrong, good or evil.
Into this black and white world march the rainbow people who burst the binary and dance our songs and colors right down the church’s center aisle. Organizations, all tidy and tight, hate this kind of disruption, so they kill and oppress us. They burn us alive and take away our rights, and yet we are continually born anew into every family, culture, and religion, disrupting as we go.
We are the trickster. In the old stories the trickster doesn’t follow the regular rules or normal behavior, causing helpful disruptions to regimented systems. In mythology trickster was Mercury, Prometheus, Lilith, Loki, and Kokopeli, and in modern times we have Br’er Rabbit, Pippy Longstocking, and Bugs Bunny—all playful, subversive, and ultimately wise.
In Native American mythology, trickster is coyote. In Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World he notes coyotes are rarely trapped:
Coyotes develop their own relationship to the trap; as one naturalist has written, “it is difficult to escape the conclusion that coyotes…have a sense of humor. How else to explain, for instance, the well-known propensity of experienced coyotes to dig up traps, turn them over, and urinate or defecate on them?”
…When a coyote defecates on a trap he is neither predator nor prey, but some third thing.
I think existence of gay people is inherently funny. The structure of a joke leads us along at one level, and then shifts levels abruptly at the punch line, the distance between the two creating the humor. Society trundles along in its standard procreative ways and then BOING! the gay kid comes along, all different and challenging.
Serious Elmer Fudd saw impish Bugs as a threat, the rest of us got the joke. We know how important a skillful jester can be when the king won’t listen to anybody else.
Bugs Bunny, ever provoking Mr. Fudd. (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.)
We are the unexpected answer that subverts the paradigm, the anomaly that points out the flaws in the system. We don’t fit the thinking of right/wrong, good/evil, saint/sinner because we are the border people. We synthesize the sacred and the profane together into something new and fabulous, and the establishment quakes.
People think of us in terms of sex and gender, and while we do synthesize the core masculine and feminine divide of our species in provocative ways, we are more than that. Gay people are, by our very nature, a threat to binary thinking wherever it occurs. We are born outside the binary, so how could it be otherwise?
I don’t know if the monotheistic religions can survive the challenge we represent. As post-Enlightenment secular values increase respect for each individual human being, the ability to purge society of the non-conforming decreases. Monotheists will have to try to see the spirit of God that lives within everyone, or fade into irrelevance. This is a good thing, as small-minded Christianity isn’t helping much at this point.
So I say to the Catholics and Mormons and Southern Baptists: What’s up, Doc?
Mainstream Christians are quick to label Mormons weirdos for their polygamous past. Mormons are deeply weird, its true, but Bible believers calling polygamists strange makes no sense as all proper marriages in the Bible are polygamous, and the book never once mentions monogamy. Every Christian who proclaims the Bible as justification for their own belief that marriage is between one man and one woman has not read the book, as that concept is not in there.
King Solomon, a wise, temple-building man, with a busy home life. (Russian patchwork by Elena Rogacheva, http://patchwork.ucoz.ru)
Because true biblical marriages are polygamous, their stories sound weird too. Wise King Solom had 700 wives and 300 concubines. So much for monogamy. More modern men could keep their marital vows if they had 3+ different women to service for each day of the year. David, on the other hand, not only slew the giant, but he also founded the unified kingdom of Israel and put its capital in Jerusalem. David also had many wives and concubines, along with a very special first love in his buddy Jonathon. (see the full version of the David story here).
Concubines are a fascinating part of a godly biblical marriage, not much mentioned by evangelicals, Mormons, Catholics, or Republicans. Concubines were women you owned, because in true biblical marriage and families the man owns his women, both wives and daughters, as property. Concubines lived in the household and the man can have sex with them without giving them the status of marriage. So in a good biblical marriage, you can sleep with the help. I’ve also heard concubines described as in-house whores, but that seems overly harsh. I think if we are going to define marriage by the Bible we have to bring back concubines. And eunuchs. Because God likes lots of concubines and nice cadre of eunuchs in a man’s household. Picture that the next time you hear an evangelical Christianist say he’s for biblical marriage.
As an example of how slippery the definition of marriage can be in the Bible, look no farther than the founding patriarch of the entire Judeo-Christian tradition, the prophet Abraham. It was his biblically-sanctioned sleeping with the help that created the whole Jewish/Muslim split we see today.
Abraham could not have a child by his wife Sarah, so Sarah gave Abraham her ladies servant, Hagar to sleep with. Abraham and Hagar had a son Ishmael, Abraham’s first son, a crucial title in matters of inheritance. But then Sarah conceived, and had a son Isaac, so Isaac was the first son of Abraham’s official wife. The question of who inherited Abraham’s legacy plays out to this day because the Jews (and therefore Christianity) are descended from Isaac, while Muhammad (and therefore Islam) was the descendant of Ishmael. Middle Eastern politics is a family feud still playing out across the millennia, originating in the funky definitions of marriage right there in the Bible.
The idea that biblical fundamentalists call Mormons weird because of polygamy is nonsense. Polygamy is the biblical concept and monogamy the secular one. It’s always a shame that the wiring of the conservative brain doesn’t get irony.
The Japanese have a wonderful conception of the divine. They use the word kami (kah-mee).
In English we translate kami as God, but I learned the limitations of translation during my two years as a Mormon missionary in Japan. As Christians, we were explaining a religion where the word God refers to a singular entity. The problem was there was no Japanese word for the concept of a monotheistic God.
(I sometimes wonder if all fundamentalists are monolingual. To think the English Bible is the exact word of God is to fundamentally miss the nature of language, as so much is lost, muddled, or misdirected as we move between translations.)
In Japanese, kami means “that which is beyond man’s understanding.” It is the transcendent, the sublime, the thing that is more. If the Japanese call the Emperor a God, they say the Emperor is kami. He is not a God in the Western sense, but his power, his majesty, and the unbroken reign of his Imperial household over thousands of years is seen as being of “divine” origin. We have a somewhat similar concept in the West when we say the divine right of Kings.
In a culture rising from animistic Shintoism, kami can be anywhere. Mount Fuji, rising so dramatically from the sea and recognizably symmetrical on every side, is kami. The beautifully twisted pine that leans out majestically over the the craggy seaside cliff is kami. The standing stones in your family’s forest may be kami. One way to recognize kami in Japanese pictures is the white banners strung from the tree or stones. White is the color of the divine and sacred, and those garlands indicate the sanctity of that natural beauty.
Strangely, Americans best know the concept of kami from war, as it is used in the compound word kamikaze. In 1281 Kublai Khan launched an invasion fleet against Japan of 4,400 ships and over 140,000 men. This massive attack threatened to conquer island Japan for the first time in its entire history, assimilating it into a Mongol empire that stretched from China to the borders of Poland. It seemed the Mongol invasion was inevitable given the size of their fleet and their power of their armies, but just as the Mongol fleet got within sight of the Japanese coast a typhoon arose, completely destroying the Mongols and saving Japan. The word is kami, meaning divine + kaze, meaning wind.
The only other time Japan was truly threatened with invasion was from the Americans in World War II. In an attempt to stop the American fleets, kamikaze suicide pilots were seen as a last ditch hope to stop the American threat, like the divine wind that stopped the Mongols. Fortunately for all of us, this second kamikaze was not as successful as the first.
My life is full of feelings, experiences, realizations and realities that leave me in awe at the wonders of life and the universe. I like this word kami, and I wish we had an equivalent in our American vocabulary. Sometimes we need a clear way to respectfully say that it is something so beautiful or profound or transcendent that it is beyond human understanding.
(Japan photo by Preston. WWII photo from the US Navy: the USS Enterprise after being hit by a kamikaze pilot in May of 1945.)
Jesus (Giovanni Bellini)
John Shore is a Christian blogger who engages gay issues directly, taking on homosexuality as a part of being human instead of a sign of being broken.
For those interested in sorting out some practical sanity from the gay/Christian kerfuffle of the last 2,000 years and bringing the whole discussion up to date, John Shore’s blog is a great place to start, as he is a straight faithful Christian who does not see that as conflicting with full acceptance for gay people. His facebook discussions are also thoughtful and entertaining, and he invites you to friend him if you are interested.
Bottom line: I love Christians who act in ways that are actually, you know, Christian.
…plus how can you not love a guy whose blog is sub-titled: “Trying God’s Patience Since 1958.” Brilliant.
The Last Judgement by Michelangelo (Jüngstes Gericht)
The word sodomy always confused me, as it means different things in different jurisdictions. It usually means any penetrative sex between men, but may include two women together, and often includes oral or anal sex between married heterosexuals. Basically, sodomy is our word for sex acts the authorities do not approve of.
I do not understand laws that list what is acceptable and unacceptable for other people to do in private, but they make more sense in antiquity. I admire the Bible’s attention to hygiene. For a desert people of little water and little understanding of disease transmission, many of the restrictions made sense. Basic sanitation requires rules of social behavior, so guidelines around sex are reasonable, particularly around menstruation. Concern with mixing blood and sex was clearly a valid concern, so pre-modern societies developed rules, taboos, and customs around women’s menstrual cycles. The same is true with other health concerns, which is why the Old Testament lists man to man sex as a taboo on the same order as eating shellfish. Both were seen as ritual impurities. As modern people we have adjusted our attitudes on menstruation and shrimp eating to match modern understanding of healthy practices.
The story of Sodom underpins Christianity’s 2,000 year obsession with homosexuality. It is a great old tale and a fascinating example of the complexity of biblical morality. As our story opens, God asks if there are any righteous men in Sodom, saying he will not destroy the city if he can find ten righteous men. Angels disguised as men appear at the gates of the city, where they meet Lot, who invites them to stay in his home, deep hospitality in a dangerous world without safe highways and hotels.
And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways.
And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
What a strangely horrible scene. All the men of Sodom come to rape the visitors! This is the single scene by which gay men have been condemned across millennia.
But stop and think for a second. Are these gay men? According to the common interpretation, all the men of Sodom are gay—think hairdressers and accountants and gay soccer team members—who formed one massive mob of rapist intent. Does that sound right? Given that Sodom is back in the time of myth, do we have an example where this has happened anywhere in recorded history? Does this sound like something likely to happen in Provincetown or Chelsea or West Hollywood?
No. Gangs of gay men do not go on raping rampages—this is not a Pride Parade gone wrong, and the entire male population of cities do not turn suddenly gay. If they did God wouldn’t need to destroy the city as it would be gone in a generation. So what is going on here?
The threatened crime is rape, and rape is a crime of violence, not lust. New York City cops don’t sodomize an arrested man with their baton because they think it is hot, they do it to humiliate him. Rebels in Congo’s recent wars didn’t rape hundreds of thousands women and men because of an erotic frenzy, they did it as an act of war. Anyone who has seen the movie Deliverance knows that male-male rape is not even homoerotic. The men of Sodom are violent men who use sex as a weapon, just as it has been used on women throughout history, and they are just as likely to be straight.
Lot goes outside and makes the men an offer:
And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.
Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.
Incredibly brave, Lot faces the mob in defense of strangers. However, a) if these are crazed gay men, offering your daughters does not seem a productive solution. Either Lot is unbelievably clueless about his city’s dominant sin, or these men are not gay. And, b) Seriously? The biblical solution to violent rapists is to toss your virgin daughters at them? This is a story of the one righteous man of Sodom. Thank God we do not live those Biblical morals anymore, because that is really disturbing.
The story resumes with the men pressing forward, either because they are so very gay that the daughters offer didn’t take, or because their real motive is assault. The angels save Lot from the mob and tell him to leave the city with his family and not to look back. They leave.
Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.
And that’s why we read Genesis, for the gory destruction and wrath of a story like that. In this tale, following soon after Noah’s flood and the Tower of Babel, again the bad people get zapped.
The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah (painting by John Martin, 1852)
Because the story is about the horrors of threatened male-on-male rape, we should consider the Bible’s ethics around rape. In another example of the Bible’s surreal morality, female rape is OK, and the Bible even gives instructions on how to do it ethically. Repeated verses make clear, even from Moses himself, that if the righteous capture a city, they can keep the virgins even as they kill off her family and community. In fact, the Bible says these brave men deserve a couple of women for their efforts: “They must be dividing the spoils they took: there must be a damsel or two for each man.” If a man rapes one of his own people, however, he is punished by having to pay off her father and marry her. Of course this means a raped woman must marry her rapist, but that is not seen as a problem. Oh, and if she has a child from the rape, God’s people can kill it.
So how can Lot ethically offer up his daughters for rape? In biblical morality women are property, and the Bible gives specific laws for selling your daughters:
When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.
Daughters sold do not get freed in the seventh year like male slaves, plus they come with a money-back guarantee if they do not please their new owner, and we know what kind of satisfaction a man requires. Christians preach that Sodom was a city worthy of destruction because the men threatened rape, even though it was never committed. In the patriarchal world of the Bible a threat to violate a man is worse than actually violating a woman. Fortunately, this is not our modern ethics, even for those who claim they take the Bible literally.
To finish the Sodom story is to marvel at the morality tale the Bible is telling. Lot is newly widowed as his disobedient wife was turned into a condiment. Lot and his two daughters are holed up in a cave as their shared husband wouldn’t leave with them. (Nothing like sharing a man with your sister. However, considering that the daughters are married but virgins, I can see why their husband let them leave.)
And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
So there we have it, after God incinerated the evil homosexuals, the good righteous folk went to live in a cave where the married-but-virgin daughters get dad blind drunk and raped him twice, incestuously impregnating so the family can continue their righteous heterosexual ways. (There is a similar tale about Noah’s drinking problem, involving a son, but we won’t get into that here. Old Testament prophets seem to use the “but I was drunk” defense a lot.)
Lot and his daughters (Hendrick Goltius, 1616)
The story of Sodom is one twisted morality tale. It is hard to see how the ethics described here provide guidance for modern gay people, yet this is the story continually used to justify anti-gay hate. It makes my stomach turn every time I hear it.
Having read the story, it is now easier to understand that the Sodom story wasn’t always about sex. Early commentators noted that Sodom was arrogant and violent to visitors, whereas Lot was righteous for providing hospitality and protection. Jude condemned the men of Sodom for craving “strange flesh,” but he is referring to the angels in that verse, and craving angel flesh would be truly strange. It wasn’t until St. Augustine wrote The City of God in 412 AD, after 400 years of Christians fighting Roman paganism and more than 2,000 years after Sodom, that homosexuality was first clearly named the sin of Sodom.
Yet some would have have us use this story, so old it smells more of myth than fact, as the basis for our modern morality, applying it to people who are clearly not in the story at all.
 Genesis 19:1-5
 Genesis 19:6-8
 Gensis 19:24-28
 Numbers 31:7-18 NLT, also Judges 21:10-24 NLT, Deuteronomy 20:10-14, Deuteronomy 21:10-14
 Judges 5:30
 Deuteronomy 22:28-29
 2 Samuel 12:11-14
 Exodus 21:7-11 (NLT)
 Genesis 19:31-36
 Jude 6-7
God hates fags.
» Westboro Baptist Church
A faggot is a bundle of sticks used to fuel a fire. How faggot became the term for a gay man is unknown. It may have been a derogatory term for an old women that got applied to gay men, but another derivation suggests that we throw the faggots on the fire. From Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, and for the next 1,500 years, Christians burned the gay. We think of the Inquisition as burning heretics, but according to records of the trials, more gay people were killed than religious heretics. Joan of Arc, for example was burned alive by the church for the sin of wearing pants, in defiance of the Bible. Who were all those witches but spiritually feisty women in a patriarchal world? The central question in Christendom was not whether it was just to burn gay people or not, but whether it was better to kill them first or to burn them alive.
Venice is beautiful. Modern visitors to Venice arriving from land cross over causeways to the island city, and then make their way down the Grand Canal to the one great open space, the Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square. The view from that square is immortalized in countless postcards and snapshots, the lagoon framed by two monumental columns, gondolas bobbing in the waves. On one of those columns stands the city’s original patron, Saint Theodore with his crocodile, and on the other a bronze lion with wings, the symbol of Venice itself. More gay people were killed between those two columns than anywhere else in Europe until the holocaust.
Venice was able to build such an opulent city because it was rich, wealth gained through its fleet’s control of the Adriatic. From there they built a trading empire that sent emissaries like Marco Polo as far as China in search of opportunities. But Venice is vulnerable to the sea. Inundated by annual floods, the Venetians lived in constant fear of worse climatic disasters.
Being Christian, the Venetians believed that the primary story of God destroying a city is the tale of Sodom, where God rained down fire and brimstone because the Sodomites allowed homosexuality to thrive. So the citizens of Venice decided to protect their city and their wealth by killing the gay people, burning them alive between those magnificent pillars. Over the years the screams of gay people burning in Saint Mark’s Square became too much for the bureaucrats working in the surrounding palaces, so in a humanitarian gesture towards those working nearby, the city decided to behead the accused gay person before the burnings. For hundreds of years Venetians pursued and killed gay people to ensure the city’s prosperity and God’s blessings.
Hard as it is to believe, there are modern American Christians who continue to preach the killing of gay people. There are American evangelicals who are unable to kill gays in America, and so are backing “death for gays” legislation across Africa. This legislation got dangerously close to passing in Uganda in 2010, and Christian American money promoting these bills continues to flow. Even here in the States Christians attend rallies with signs advocating death for the gay. Gay people are blamed for 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and pretty much every earthquake or wildfire in California. The medieval views of the Venetians are alive and well to this day.
Of course that is not the norm. Most Christians in America do not believe we should kill gay people. They believe tormenting us is enough. In the name of God, morals, families, righteousness, country, national security, civilization, and the human race, many Americans believe hurting the gay is a Christian duty. Gay people are bad and must be punished for their wrongness, and the pain inflicted must be horrible enough to serve as a message to others who might choose this deviant path. So we end up with what my friend Jathan Gurr calls the “If we just hurt them enough they won’t be gay” attitudes that dominate our political and religious discourse.
Here is my attempt to lay out this conservative view:
According to our most common religious teachings, homosexuals are committing a grievous sin. By choosing to follow their same-sex attraction, those who live the homosexual lifestyle are making a choice that snips a thread from the fabric of society. If too many individuals chose to live the gay lifestyle, society would unravel in an orgy of selfish indulgence, procreation would cease, and human life would come to an abrupt end.
Because this view declares homosexuality to be a choice, the ethics of that choice become central. Societies encourage positive behavior and discourage the detrimental. Because homosexuality damages society and the family, and threatens the human race, we must be against it. As families, and as God-fearing people, we must not allow gay people in our midst, or any discussion of homosexuality outside of condemnation. Whether by taunting the effeminate in the schoolyard, preaching against them from the pulpit, firing them from workplace, or outlawing their relationships in our laws, they must be stopped. Our continued health and very existence are at stake.
Homosexuality is a lifestyle that is, at its base, unnatural, going against everything from the design of our genitalia to our need to reproduce. God made male and female to fit together a certain way. As Anita Bryant said while fighting gay rights in the 1970s, “even barnyard animals don’t do what homosexuals do.”
Scientists have never found a gay gene. No one is born gay, no more than one is born a thief or a liar. God has given us free will to choose a righteous path and not give in to sin. It is absurd to think someone could be born with such unnatural desires.
Even with the obvious harm, bad people still live the gay lifestyle. They act out in this detrimental way because they are sick and damaged, and they end up stuck in this deviant lifestyle because of poor parenting, weak moral character, or valuing decadence over propriety. Homosexuals, having strayed, become hooked in the practice through addiction and psychological maladaptation.
Having made sin into a persistent lifestyle, homosexuals are now implementing a direct assault on the foundations of social order. They now seek to join the most exclusive of heterosexual clubs by gaining the right to marry, against all tradition and religious teaching. The purpose of marriage is for a man and a woman to bond and produce children. That is what it means to be human, and the homosexuals would rob us even of that.
In an unraveling modern society, where our social ties are breaking down before our eyes, the last bastion of human connection is the nuclear family. Multigenerational family living is gone. Ties with our neighbors are gone. The idea that “it takes a village” is mocked for being so far from our actual lives. Only the family, the nuclear family of a mother and a father and children, survives to hold society together. By choosing to not fulfill my manly duties and marry a woman, generate a nuclear family, and create children, I am personally a threat to all civilization.
The clearest message that homosexuality is wrong comes from the Bible. Homosexual acts are prohibited by scripture. The Old Testament, in particular, has strict prohibitions on homosexual acts, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah shows God’s anger at sexual decadence. As a predominantly Christian society we must follow the clear commands of the Bible and enforce moral behavior, or else we too shall be destroyed in a rain of fire and brimstone like the people of Sodom.
Fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah, by Charles Foster, 1860
But it is not just the Bible. A quick glance at the historical record shows the folly of the homosexual lifestyle. Look at the fall of Rome, brought down by the decadence of their homosexual perversions. Centers of sin throughout history have allowed homosexuality to flourish causing the collapse of civilizations.
Finally, the true sickness of homosexuality is seen in the scourge of AIDS. By having unnatural sex, and so much of it, gay men spread a horrific disease. Many innocent victims died because of the irresponsible decadence of gay sexuality. AIDS provides tangible proof of the consequences of sin and God’s punishment for the sick and immoral lifestyles of the gay.
The sickness that pervades modern society is exemplified by the prevalence of homosexuality. Gay people personify a society that is narcissistic, sexualized, sinful, and amoral.
** Remember, this is not anything I agree with. This is my attempt to elucidate the anti-gay position.
And now, some palate-cleansing humor. God’s truth:
God hates figs.
» Jeremiah 29:17
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.”