Liberal Christians: STOP “Conceding” Readings that Victimize LGBT Christians

Adam Kotsko, professor, author, and blogger, has an provocative Twitter conversation going (@adamkotsko) in which he criticizes liberal Christians for making “half-assed” arguments along the lines of “Yes, God’s inspired word is anti-gay, but….”

He says, “It hurts my heart to see liberals so easily concede homophobic readings of the Bible.”

More importantly, he offers a potentially more constructive path of argumentation:

The Paul stuff in particular is a case study in over-confident translations of genuinely puzzling words and phrases.

Surely Paul could’ve drawn on the rich Greek vocabulary surrounding homoeroticism if he wanted to condemn it.

The Bible does not condemn homosexuality, “clearly” or otherwise.

Leviticus outlaws one particular homoerotic act (apparently anal sex); Christians don’t enforce Leviticus generally.

The passages where, in translation, Paul appears to condemn homosexuality either condemn luxurious living or are totally ambiguous.

Many biblical narratives can plausibly be read as including homoerotic overtones, if you don’t dismiss the possibility out of hand.

Compare Romans 1:26 to any other Greek writing on homoerotic acts and tell me Paul is “clearly condemning homosexuality.”

He was writing in the language of a culture *famous for homoeroticism.* The words were available if he wanted to send a clear message.

Would someone write an anti-gay open letter today without once using “gay,” “queer,” “homosexual,” etc.? I doubt it.

The arguments are there, liberal Christians. Stop “conceding” readings that victimize your LGBT comrades.

The “reason” that will be persuasive is to live in a community with gay Christians and see that they’re clearly Christians.

As support for this line of reasoning and interpretation, he recommends Theodore W. Jennings’ triology on homosexuality, particularly Plato or Paul?: The Origins of Western Homophobia, which I have not read, but am adding to my list.

Follow @adamkotsko to see where this and future conversation threads develop.

The Rev. Carl Gregg is the pastor of Broadview Church in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook ( and Twitter (@carlgregg).

The Generosity Path
Building Your Own Ethics
Jim Wallis’ Sojourners Throws Gays and Lesbians Under the Bus
Rosa Parks: The Rest of the Story
About Carl Gregg
  • Wayne

    I’m interested in this issue but I’m not clear on the specifics yet. I’m almost the reverse on Leviticus and Paul. To me, Romans 1 gets specific enough about what Paul doesn’t like that it seems pretty clear he means The Gays. By contrast, the phrase in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 does *not* look clear. The word mishkevei is translated as if it means sex, when in fact the only other occurrence of this word in the entire OT means “bed.” There are 43 occurrences of related words (like mishkab) and they ALL mean bed. It seems to me we are really going out of our way to read it as a euphemism for sex. Why not let it mean what it means, which is bed? “Men, don’t lie with a man IN A WOMAN’S BED.”

    One of the most interesting refutations I’ve heard of this position is that the ENTIRE Hebrew Bible was actually lost, so the Hebrew that we have now is only a back-translation. That person claims – and may well be right – that the Greek Septuagint is as close to the original as we can get, and it does say “as one lies with a woman.” But that is not what the Hebrew says.

    If that person is right however, then we don’t know what the original said, period. We can see with this exact verse how different translations can be. Maybe they were wrong when they translated it into Greek.

    Given that this is the ONLY anti-gay statement in the entire Old Testament (Ezekiel and Isaiah state that the sin of Sodom was greed, not homosexuality), it seems out f place to the extent that it loses credibility. The idea that God would drop this tidbit into 23,000 verses and we’re supposed to base our entire American national elections on this phrase seems grossly misguided.

    • Theophile

      Hi Wayne,
      Ezekiel lists Sodom’s sins:
      #1 Pride, (proud to be an American? parade anyone?)
      #2 Fulness of bread, (obesity problems? fast food?)
      #3 Abundance of idleness, (got entertainment?)
      #4 Failure to “strengthen” the hand of the poor, (big bank bailouts? government dependance?)
      #5 They were haughty, (were #1? God made us this way?)
      #6 and they committed abominations…
      This list gives us more reason to be concerned (as Americans) in several areas, and could be argued to be a list of prerequisite conditions for having this argument(same sex fornication) in the 1st place.

      • Wayne Johnson

        Ezekiel lists those items. So why do *you* introduce same sex fornication? Ezekiel does not list that. It sounds to me like you are haughtily introducing your own opinion because you so desparately *want* God to condemn homosexuality, when in fact it does not say that.

        • Theophile

          You brought up Sodom in the context that greed was their sin, when it is Pride, that God lists as their 1st sin, Um.. just like Lucifer. If You think that God does not condemn pride, better think again. BTW I can’t help it if Pride happens to be the name of the homosexual agenda, and their parades, and I can’t help it if God hates it.

          • Carl Gregg

            Lucifer? Are you confusing the Bible with Milton?

  • Leo

    Strictly speaking, homoerotic behavior was only acceptable in Greek culture if it was between a man and a prepubescent (which, given the diet of the time, lasted perhaps to 18-19) male. Male adult on male adult eroticism was heavily frowned upon. I wonder why people so often conveniently ignore this?

    • Wayne Johnson

      People ignore it because it is irrelevant. There were ignorant bigots then just like there are now. Anti-gay bigotry is not a new invention of the last 20 years. In the same way, we ignore the fact that slavery was considered “acceptable” 200 years ago. They were wrong then, and just like somebody posting now asking for slavery to be reinstated would be wrong now.

  • Jack g

    Two things: Greeks were definitely into adult male to male relationships. The most famous being Alexander the Great and the soldier who was the love of his life … He drowned and Alexander never recovered from the loss. Second, Leviticus either bans male on male sex or it does not; however, reading it to ban male to make sex means that it allows a man to have sex with his niece. Legal analysis indicates that the clause may refer to the previous list of prohibited incestuous relations and says that male and female are interchangeable in the list of incest Personally I think the passage forbids incest between uncle nd niece.

  • Robert Hagedorn

    Bible interpretation? Google First Scandal.