Gentiles, Gays, and Animals

Gentiles, Gays, and Animals June 2, 2013

I had someone comment on a post I wrote about homosexuality, making the tired but nonetheless common non sequitur that, if one views same-sex relations as acceptable, then one must also embrace bestiality.

I found myself wondering whether the apostle Paul faced the same sort of ridiculous objection from his contemporaries. I can imagine his opponents saying, “Paul, if you allow uncircumcised men into the people of God, then you cannot logically exclude animals from it.”

The objection seems silly, doesn't it? Yet it might have seemed a natural one for ancient Jews with a nationalist bent to make. The Gentiles are often represented by animals in apocalyptic literature, and compared with beasts when casting aspersions on their morality.

And so I could well imagine someone in Paul's time suggesting that, if one picks and chooses as he did, and simply sets aside as clear a commandment as the one given to Abraham requiring that all males who are considered part of his household or family be circumcised, then one must logically consider all moral matters relative. One will have to embrace the inclusion of animals (presumably also uncircumcised) too.

If Paul faced such a silly objection, he didn't consider it worth replying to. Presumably it would be appropriate to follow his example? But it is also appropriate to point out that the very equation – treating some human beings as inferior, as though they were less than human – is itself morally reprehensible. And so, if the objection is wearisome in its inanity, it is nevertheless welcome inasmuch as it exposes the debased and twisted morality of such religious fundamentalists, who from their own warped perspective think they actually occupy the moral high ground.



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  • Ian

    It hadn’t occurred to me that the tired comparison with bestiality is an underhanded way of calling gay people animals. But there’s nothing new about that, as you say:” Jesus refers to the canaanite woman (indirectly) as a dog.

    • William Tarbush

      It also brings new meaning to that statement about 400 species including homosexuality but only 1 including homophobia (wouldn’t that mean fear of men or self?).

      • Ian

        Good point, yes.

        Phobias of human sexuality rarely are about fear, per se (when they are, they are usually fear of the person’s own sexuality). But they show the same patterns of obsession as other phobias. Often phobics tend to spend lots of time thinking about the subject of their phobia, worry unduly about clearing their surroundings of stimuli and can therefore end up exposing themselves to the stimulus to a greater degree than non-phobics.

        There is probably a useful distinction to be made between a homophobe and a bigot.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    The “one must also embrace bestiality” argument epitomizes Libby Anne’s “A Tale of Two Boxes.”

    In other words, conservatives divide sexual acts into “wrong” or “okay” based on what God thinks of them, and progressives divide sexual acts into “wrong” and “okay” based on whether or not they are consensual.

    Because of this, conservatives associate acts like gay sex, pedophilia, and bestiality in a way progressives don’t, and progressives associate acts like marital sex, premarital sex, and gay sex in a way conservatives never would. Similarly, conservatives see a bright line between, say, marital sex and gay sex but not between gay sex and pedophilia while progressives draw a bright line between, say, gay sex and pedophilia but not between gay sex and marital sex.

    Thus when a conservative hears someone saying that gay sex is okay, they’re seeing that person dip into the box labeled “What God forbids,” and thus they wonder how, if you can dip into that box for one thing, that’s any different from taking something else out of that same box, like pedophilia or bestiality. But for the progressive, pedophilia and bestiality aren’t in the same box as gay sex. So when the conservative asks how someone can accept gay sex but still condemn pedophilia or bestiality, the progressive says, “What? Where in the world is that question coming from?”

    • If we accept this division of conservative vs progressive boxed views, what’s clear to me is that the progressive box is easy to define, while the conservative box is impossible to define. The conservative box of forbidden fruit would be different at every denomination, every church, and every individual.

  • domy

    is Prof. McGrath claiming that bestiaity is wrong?

  • Stewart Felker

    I’m pretty sure Philo does exactly this, in De Decalogo.

  • One nitpick…Paul may have replied to this hypothetical objection, but we don’t have the document (obviously you know this…just sort of stating the obvious for conversation).

    This is a really clever post. I’m going to borrow this argument 🙂

  • kellly

    I guess I might be a bit dense, but since we all evolved together, I don’t really see what the big fuss is about a bit of sexual play between species. This is quite common in the farm yard among animals with animals of other species, for anyone who has any experience they could testify of this. Of course some animal rights folks get a bit upset about this, and in some cases understandable so, but there are plenty of willing dogs that have partnered with adult humans to have some sexual fun with no great harm to anyone. This of course is not equivalent to any human to human relationships, but I am not sure what basis you can condemn such a practice.

  • domy

    There is a problems with McGrath’s analogy.
    As far as I know, no one in Paul’s time was demanding the inclusion of the animals but today we find advocates for the zoophilia (
    So, may I know what a ‘progressive Christian’ would respond to these arguments (something that has not already been answered by these people)?

    • I am not sure that the existence of a Wikipedia page for something indicates that there are more advocates for it than in the past. And I don’t really have time at the moment to try to figure out what “has already been answered” by “these people” (who?). But if you have a specific question, I will try to answer it, or eventually get around to a blog post if it is something that requires a lengthier treatment.

      • domy

        I do not see how the number of the adovacates should interfere in the judgment on the issue, few or many what changes? Furthermore, the advocates could be few, but the statistics I read about this phenomenon do not seem to me minimal at all.
        Anyway, assuming that you are against zoophilia, can you tell me the main reason for this opposition, but possibly a reason to which these advocates have not already answered.

        • I am afraid I do mot have the familiarity with this phenomenon that you seem to. I do not know the statistics, nor what objections advocates of zoophilia have or have not answered. If at some point I look into this further, I will gladly share my thoughts about it.

      • newenglandsun

        I would have to agree that it’s a bad analogy but for different reasons. The notions of maintaining sexual morality were always highly emphasized within the NT Church as well as in the ancients.

        However, a better analogy than saying “uncircumcized men should not be allowed in Church and neither should animals” then comparing it to “homosexuality should not be allowed in Church if bestiality isn’t” is rather to look at the person instead.

        AFAIK, I think WBC is the *only* church on planet Earth that will say that homosexuals should not be allowed in Church. A better analogy would be comparing masturbation to homosexuality.

        Most Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin, condemn masturbation on similar lines. However, masturbators are allowed in Church.

  • Gary

    I find it interesting that we are probably all a product of inter species breeding. Neanderthal DNA within us. Lucky Lott and his daughters didn’t stumble upon a Neaderthal clan in that cave post Sodom. Amazing what a lot of wine will do.

    • Gary

      Forgot to add, Lott was a righteous man at least according to God, or was that the author of Genesis. Not that I want to cast the first stone at anyone.