The Bible Tells Me So

The following is a column taken from the April 26, 1994 San Francisco Chronicle. The author's name is Scott Marley.

Scott Marley

--The `sin' that obsesses some Christians did not rate a mention by [Jesus] himself.

Why do Christian fundamentalists hate homosexuals? Because (so they tell us) they believe the Bible is infallibly true. And the Bible (so they tell us) condemns homosexuals.

I've heard that over and over again all my life: The Bible condemns homosexuals. And I accepted it without question -- until the last couple of years when I've started reading the Bible for myself. And I'm more than a little surprised at how little it actually says about homosexuals -- and how much it says about those who condemn them.

The Bible's alleged condemnation of homosexuals boils down pretty much to three passages: the story of Sodom, two verses from Leviticus, and the first chapter of Romans.

The Sodom story is Genesis 19. Some angels came to Sodom to visit Lot, and the men of Sodom gave the angels a hard time, so God destroyed the city. If you think the word "know" in verse five means "have carnal knowledge of" (which it occasionally does in the Bible, though not nearly as often as people seem to think), then maybe the men wanted to rape the angels, and I suppose that's a homosexual act of a sort.

But there are dozens of later references to Sodom, and not once is any kind of sexual behavior mentioned. In Ezekiel 16:48-49, God Himself even spells out the sins of Sodom. Homosexuality is not on His list. And the Bible is infallibly true.

Leviticus condemns homosexuality twice, in 18:22 and 20:13. It's part of the Mosaic law, a long list of foods and acts that were considered unclean, from eating shellfish to cursing your father. And one of the big themes of the New Testament, I've been discovering, is that Christians are not bound by Mosaic law. If the Bible is infallibly true, then Christians may use their own judgment in choosing whether to follow the Mosaic law, and should stop all this fretting about those who choose differently.

And there's the first chapter of Romans, where Paul describes people who worship idols instead of God, "wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness," and they turned to homosexuality and a long list of other wrongs running the gamut from murder and deceit to whispering. I've never heard any of these fundamentalists quote this passage all the way to its punch line: "Therefore art thou inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself." Paul isn't telling this story to condemn the homosexuals: He's condemning the people who condemn the homosexuals.

Read Romans all the way through and its hard to miss Paul's point: He's writing to a group of Jewish Christians who have been criticising gentile Christians for not keeping the Mosaic law, and Paul is telling them, politely but firmly, to knock it off. If the Bible is infallibly true, it's wrong to use Leviticus as a basis for condemning homosexuals.

Jesus wasn't faced with AIDS, of course, so we can't be sure what he would have said or done about it. But he did know another disease much like AIDS, both in its incurability and in the way that society shunned its victims. I've read the New Testament a couple of times through, and I just haven't come across the passage where Jesus goes to the funerals of lepers carrying a picket sign.

So it seems to me that a real fundamentalist would be preaching that it's wrong for a church to exclude people solely because they're gay, and it seems to me that a real fundamentalist would be following Jesus' example and trying to bring comfort to people with AIDS, and perhaps even working toward a cure. The more I get to know the Bible for myself, the less I think these so-called fundamentalists are any such thing. I think they're wolves in Lamb of God's clothing.

--Scott Marley is a writer and editor in the Bay Area.