An Argument That Won't Change Anyone's Mind
Specifically, there’s one place in the Bible that prevents me from condoning homosexual behavior. And it’s not, as you might have suspected, in Leviticus. Everyone – gay and straight – wants to point to Leviticus and use it to bolster one side of the debate or the other. For the record, I believe the entire Bible is divinely inspired and ultimately authoritative. So, I actually enjoy studying the Book of Leviticus. It’s a beautiful book, and more Christians ought to read it – the whole thing not just the parts that prohibit behavior you already don’t like.
The two verses Christians most often point out to condemn homosexuality are:
“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22).
“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads” (Leviticus 20:13).
Interesting and articulate arguments have been made, as I said, from both sides of this argument over how to interpret these two passages from Leviticus. Some say that this is part of the ceremonial law in Leviticus and should be disregarded as we now disregard, for example, dietary laws. These interpreters suggest that since we view those laws that have to do with keeping kosher as temporary and no longer binding, we can do the same with the laws that have to do with homosexuality.
I understand their argument (though powerful counter-arguments have also been made by scholars like my friends Ken Boa and Rob Bowman among others). It’s difficult to figure out the distinction between temporary ceremonial codes and permanent moral laws. After all, Leviticus also forbids wearing clothing woven of two kinds of material (19:19), cutting the hair on the sides of your head (19:27) and touching the skin of a dead pig (11:7-8). That would mean, in order to be consistent, you’d have to throw out your poly-blend suit, condemn anyone sporting a mullet and stop watching those boys who play in the Super Bowl.
I’m only willing to do one of those.
Could Christians have gotten all of these verses wrong for nearly 2,000 years? Sure. I don’t believe that just because we’ve always interpreted these verses the same way we’re automatically right about what they mean. I’m just saying that we’re probably right. And if you’re going to change my mind about this traditional and near-universal understanding, you will need some really compelling evidence that it’s not right.
But let’s be honest about something: I have no hope of changing someone’s mind about the verses we’ve just discussed in the short blog post you’re currently reading. Nor is that my intention. No, my true goal here is to talk about how we should treat and talk to each other when we disagree. To that end, I’d like to shift our conversation to some common ground tomorrow with the help of Urban Hip Hop recording artist...R. Kelly.