No Sin To Be Homosexual

No Sin To Be Homosexual April 18, 2015

No sin to be homosexual

“We are each created in the image of God. It is no badge of honor to be heterosexual and it is no sin to be homosexual, just as it is no honor to be White and no sin to be Black. It is simply who we are.”

The quote from Rabbi Paul Menitoff comes from his opinion piece in Reform Judaism, “Boycott the Boy Scouts.” I thought it important to share it, since it illustrates a very different kind of reasoning based on the Bible than many Americans are familiar with if their contact with the Bible has been through conservative Christianity. In Reform Judaism, the concept of b’tzelem elohim – being made in the image of God – is a key moral foundation, one which is derived from the Bible but which trumps what individual passages may happen to say, much as the Golden Rule trumped passages about slavery for the abolitionists who opposed conservative Christians who defended slavery based on a variety of individual passages.

See also Mark Silk’s article arguing that Genesis supports same-sex relationships.

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  • Neko

    Christian invective against LGBTs suggests Romans 1:18-32 trumps any of this business about being created in the image of God.

    • antimule

      I think that you forget that Paul made two statements here. Paul said that (i) homosexuality is God’s punishment for not honoring God and (ii) is therefore evil. Now we know that people are born that way and that there doesn’t appear to be any faithlessness-gay link. Why insist that Paul was somehow right about the second statement despite being wrong about the first?

      Or maybe it is only wrong for people who are not born homosexual to act homosexual, while naturally gay people are in the clear?

      • Neko

        Well, that’s not how many Christians, who are convinced that homosexuality (or in the Catholic Church, homosexual relations) is an offense against God, interpret the text.

        (But I agree with you.)

    • Dan Ortiz

      you don’t really understand what you are reading….

      • Neko

        You misread me; Rom 1:18-32 is the citation Christians routinely deploy to justify condemning homosexuals as sinners who will be denied the kingdom.

        • While this comment is 2 years old, if anyone still happens to be reading this, I’d argue this text is fundamentally misunderstood.

          thebookofamos.wordpress.com/2016/12/11/why-im-soft-on-homosexuality/

  • melayton

    I’m curious, James (and anyone else): how does the Christian teaching about original sin fit into all this?

    To be clear, I’m not saying that homosexuality is sinful or attributable to original sin. (At absolute most –and I think even this is going too far– it seems that homosexual conduct or perhaps lusting that’s a problem, not the being itself, and I think even that’s a bad interpretation.) But looking at this generally, original sin as I understand it seems to say that we have inherited certain consequences of the “Fall,” so that how we were born isn’t necessarily the same as how we are meant to be, how we are created in God’s image. So with that in mind, how do we distinguish between what parts of our initial condition are made in the image of God, and which are a result of that sinful condition.

    (So far as I know, Judaism doesn’t have this concept so wouldn’t face this question. As a Christian, things don’t seem so straightforward to me.)

    • Andrew Dowling

      It also was absent from Christianity until Augustine. It was his way to resolve theodicy . . bad things happen because the human race has affronted God (basically). He also had residual negative sentiments regarding human nature and the body/physical from his days as a Manichean, which fed into his extreme guilt regarding his own sexual desires.

      In other words, I wouldn’t take it as an integral part of Christian doctrine.

      • melayton

        Well, a lot of things we consider part of the Christian tradition were absent before Augustine, because he came quite early in this tradition. And if people want to reject that as part of Christianity, I certainly wouldn’t argue! I think it’s actually fairly poisonous and would happily bid it adieu.

        But a lot of Christians do take it as a central part of the Christian tradition, and for them I think the problem still holds. It’s important if you’re going to talk about those people about being made in the image of God. What distinguishes original Imago Dei aspects of humanity from (working within the original sin framework) inherited but still not Imago Dei aspects, those parts of humanity that are due to the corruption of sin?

        • Andrew Dowling

          Well that’s part of the problem of the doctrine . .the question you pose is essentially answered by the biases and subjectivity of whomever is making the judgement (sprinkled with clobber texts and esoteric Scriptural passages as support of course)

      • Neko

        It’s an integral part of Catholic doctrine. Though as it happens the regime of sexuality in Catholicism is constructed in part from the idea that male and female are created in God’s image and “cooperate” in God’s plan for creation through procreation. Any sexual act that is not between a married man and woman “open to life” is therefore “disordered.” Needless to say, homosexuals are considered “disordered” and expected by the Church to be celibate for life.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Augustine’s influence is certainly strong in Catholic views on human sexuality, although funnily enough the Church itself reacted against taking Augustine’s theology to its logical conclusions (more from a soteriological perspective) as a reaction to the Reformation and Jacobins (both of whom were very much Augustine’s theological offspring).

          Also, it is fair to acknowledge that while the Patristics didn’t adhere to original sin, several (like Jerome) had views of sexuality which could be called equally regressive if not moreso.

          • Sorry for taking so long to chime in. I don’t think that many Christians today are inclined to accept Augustine’s view of sex, and so I don’t see any reason why his view of sex and of its role in the transmission of the “sinful nature” ought to define how same-sex relations or anything else is viewed today.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            And it’s never really been a thing in the Eastern Churches. Due to local demography my classes tend to have a high proportion of Coptic Orthodox Christians and one thing they are very anxious for you to know is that they don’t have a doctrine of original sin.

  • Jordan Hurley

    Say what?

  • Frank

    He says: “It is simply who we are”
    Homosexuality is a religion, not a biology.

    • Gary

      Please explain. Otherwise I might think you are crazy.

      • Frank

        If you believe you are born gay, then you believe in g-d. If you believe in g-d, then you believe he created you for a reason. Sex is never a reason why g-d creates anyone. It is a consequence of creation, not a reason for it. Thus how you use your genital is only a portion of who you are. It is not everything. Some people know sex well. Some people do not. we can all learn to be better persons in many categories. To give up by claiming that g-d created you to give up, is a cowardly way to fail.

        • That isn’t an explanation of what you wrote earlier.

          • Frank

            Just saying. If you are gay and believe in g-d, then you know you are defying him out of mistrust (at the least). If you don’t believe in g-d, then you are gay because you hate g-d. Either way, it is a double edge sword. On this particular type of sin, there is not a chance you can be forgiven. It is not a small sin.

          • Gary

            If you don’t believe in God, you wouldn’t hate God. He’d be irrelevant. I.e, nothing real to hate. How do you hate something that doesn’t exist for you? Very OT. But whatever. Some Gnostics, just like some people, made/make no sense at all. As I figured, not worth discussing.

          • Frank

            G-d=creation
            You can refuse to acknowledge that there is a source of creation other than yourself, but you can never deny that creation exists.
            So everyone believes in g-d in some form or another, including those who think they are g-d themselves. Atheism is just an impossible hypothetical, just like travelling backwards in time.
            When people realize that g-d exists and they are not him, thats when the hate comes. A hatred of g-d is also a hatred of oneself

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            Frank, you appear to be saying that people choose to be gay as a way of rebelling against Creation. In other words, gay people are not just succumbing to what you regard as aberrant impulses; they are doing something far more sinister. Is this really what you are trying to say?

          • Frank

            as a way of rebelling against creation is accurate. And yes, symbolic representation of oneself in a semi-permanent expression of sin is more damaging than the simple desire to succomb to aberrant impulses. We all sin, we all make mistakes, but there is something different about a person who knows he is making a mistake and regrets it, and one who makes a point to be proud of sin. Pride in sin is much more sinister than sin itself, so the source of sin in very important to g-d. He will question us about our sins in a very intimate way when he judges us, and you will see that why we sin is just as important as the sin itself.

        • Gary

          For some reason, Gnostics seem to be the best reply.
          “Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].”
          When Gnostics make as much sense as people today, I know I am in big trouble. At least I’m not hung up on blood moons, which seems to be the latest fad of the gnosis-deprived followers of Jesus. Of course, I am pulling your leg. Be happy in whatever religion you happen to find yourself in. I’ve got enough problems with my own religion.

        • Andrew Dowling

          That made zero sense, sorry

          • Frank

            Dont be sorry. You don’t need to cash out yet. You have adjudicated the value to be zero so it was a free donation into the event horizon of your black hole (no pun intended).

        • Jonathan Bernier

          Well, yeah, absolutely, sexuality is a small portion of who a person is. And that’s the problem: LGBT persons have been defined for centuries on the basis of this small part of their person. They were excluded, persecuted, and murdered on the basis of this small part. So, yeah, it’s quite understandable that if a part of your person leads you to be targeted for beating and lynching that you tend to focus upon that part of your person. Perhaps the answer is not to further shame LGBT persons but to stop the shaming.

          Edit: also, please read more carefully. He does not say “It is simply all that we are.” He does not say that being LGBT defines one in her or his entirety. No LGBT person would actually think that, please each is of course aware that she or he is also a woman or man, someone of African or Asian or European or Polynesian or etc. descent, some of this or that religious background, etc. So your argument, such as it is, is predicated upon a bad reading.

  • John MacDonald

    It is clear that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was a homophobe. For instance, we read “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. (Leviticus 18:22).” If you went up to Jesus back then and asked him if homosexuals should be allowed to marry, he probably would have laughed in your face.

    • What does that have to do with anything? If you asked Jesus about airplanes you might have gotten the same response. So what?

      • John MacDonald

        Jesus was probably just another homophobic bigot in a homophobic time and place – Nothing morally special about him at all.

        • I would certainly want to see some evidence of bigotry before pigeonholing someone the way you are trying to.

          • Michael Wilson

            John’s post raises questions I have about how progressive Christians view Jesus. How much should we follow him and why? Only to the extent he conforms to contemporary marxist( or progressive/socialist if you think Marx is a dirty name) ideals? Is it that Jesus, like Spartacus, can be interpreted as a marxist hero but that you shouldn’t consider everything he did or may have believed exemplary? I wonder how he is viewed.

            Second, if Jesus and Paul could be against gay marriage (and honestly, even without direct evidence, we have to accept that historically Jesus would probably believe what most people did, we need evidence that he was unusual not usual), how should we treat people that are also homophobes out of ignorance? We can’t assume they are monsters without indicting Paul and reasonably Jesus too.

          • I don’t think that one should simply conform Jesus to some modern framework. But one should not simply embrace what they think Jesus said simply because Jesus said it. It is a matter of dialogue between past and present, and using one’s critical reasoning to interact with sources and authorities ancient and modern.

          • Michael Wilson

            Thanks James for getting back to me on this. I agree, and I think that Jesus’ thoughts and deeds should be considered in broad strokes not specifics. While the issue of Jesus being wrong is more a problem of those that think the bible is inerrent or that Jesus was supernaturally wise, I have seen a lot of liberal scholarship flounder out of the mistaken belief that historical research can retrieve a real Jesus and that Jesus is some uniquely wise teacher. I don’t think Christians should feel that Jesus’ failure to hold more enlightened positions negates his movement.

          • Michael Wilson

            My thought is that we do get hints that Jesus may not have thought himself infallible, his getting baptized and comment that only God is good, if the record is to be believed. I have thought to that John’s belief that Jesus’ followers would do greater works than he should encourage Christians to look beyond his earthly example. I suspect that for John, it was the “spirit” not Jesus of Nazareth that is the guide, a continuing source of inspiration. The anointed one, once the king of Judah imagined to represent God on earth, I wonder might might for Jesus be the whole of the faithful community. Jesus, they say, is Christ, but, if the goal is to be one with Jesus, then is he uniquely Christ?

          • There have always been a range of views on that subject – see for instance the way Jesus is depicted in the Gospel of Thomas as saying that Thomas has no need for Jesus to teach him.

          • John MacDonald

            The men of Jesus’ time were misogynistic, proslavery homophobes. Jesus’ 12 closest disciples were all men (no women), and Paul spoke favorably about slavery, and homophobia (ranting against ‘effeminates’). The onus is on the historian who wants to argue that Jesus was not a misogynistic, proslavery homophobe to produce evidence, for example, that Jesus thought homosexuals should have the same marital rights as heterosexuals.

        • Andrew Dowling

          That’s a ridiculous thing to say, like the idiots who toss away Jefferson’s genius and progressive insights because he owned slaves.

          • Michael Wilson

            But does it make you wonder how a slave owner could make progressive insights? How could a good man own slaves he could free or a wicked man makes those insights. I think it demand humility when we are tempted to moral pride.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “How could a good man own slaves he could free”

            From the perspective of a rich 18th century slave owner, I can easily see the perspective of “well, I can free these slaves and they can be poor laborers subject to continual abuse and racism, or they can stay in my stead treated well and with respect, given the time to pursue their own interests/hobbies, and live in relative opulence.” Life is not black and white.

          • Michael Wilson

            Andrew, couldn’t he just free them and then employ them voluntarily? Its not as though he kept slaves as pets, he had work that needed doing. His enslavement of them was continual abuse and racism. By not letting them negotiate wages he was stealing their labour and presuming they weren’t as worthy of freedom as white folk is racism.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “Voluntary” employees usually don’t get shelter, clothing, food, protection along with their wages. Your retrograde moralistic view on this topic is not seeing the forest through the trees.

          • Michael Wilson

            Yeah, they buy them with wages, but slave owners provided them as minimal investments in their tools. If you don’t feed a slave they’ll be dead in weeks, not a good return on the cost of buying. Slave owners save money by providing minimal necessities and skimping on anything else. Free labor cost more because they can walk of the job if they don’t get food, shelter, clothing, protection + some fun money or savings. Its much less work to tell some one to hand over their wealth or you will stab them than to figure out away that they will freely give it to you.

          • Michael Wilson

            Jefferson didn’t free them in part because he was greedy and thought blacks to dumb to take care of themselves.

          • Michael Wilson

            Basically, I don’t know why he would have to offer less compensation just because he freed them.

    • Jess3200 .

      I doubt Jesus would laugh in anyone’s face. He comes across as far more patient and willing to engage in dialogue than that.

      • Gary

        Most likely you are right. In the narrow issue of marriage (the original comment), and given the culture of the time, more like, “Eunuchs marry? Gays marry? Inconceivable!”

        Matt 19: 10The disciples say unto him, If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry. 11But he said unto them, Not all men can receive this saying, but they to whom it is given. 12For there are eunuchs, that were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are eunuchs, that were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, that made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

    • Jonathan Bernier

      So, Jewish persons follow an irredeemably homophobic God? That’s an interesting new variety of anti-semitism.

      • Michael Wilson

        Lots of Jews are atheist. Lots of gentiels follow that homophobic god. No anti semitism to challange the bible’s world view.

  • Michael Wilson

    Is it only that we are made gay or straight that excuses it? If I choose to have homosexual sex against the desires of my libido, am I then a sinner? I think Christians should recognize homosexuality is good because it hurts no one. It doesn’t matter if your born that way. If it turns out some maniacs are born psychotic it doesn’t justify their depredations.