וְאֶת־זָכָר לֹא תִשְׁכַּב מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה תֹּועֵבָה הִוא 18:22
Levi. 18:22 “And you shall not lie down with a male as the lyings down of a woman. It is an abomination.”
I have a lot to say about this commandment. In fact, an entire diatribe. The central subject of this discussion is homosexuality. This is a difficult subject to address because of its inherently abhorrent nature for many people and because of this biblical prohibition. But address it we must. To a significant proportion of our population (up to 10 percent), it is vital that we do. We are obligated to do so because of new knowledge that has surfaced about homosexuality in the last few years.
The bible says “You shall not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is an abomination.” or words to the same effect in only two places, both in Leviticus (this verse and Levi. 20:13), Should we now take this proscription and apply it without another thought or shred of compassion? Should we automatically, like robots, immediately condemn with abhorrence? Or should we first attempt to understand, to comprehend? Should we try to put ourselves in the place and time of the ancients and delve into their understanding of things? I believe we have to do the latter. I believe that God does require our obedience -- but not blind, unyielding, unfeeling obedience. He requires our love and wisdom. Otherwise, when telling us to choose His way versus our way, would He have explained that we were choosing between life and death? But how do we love? How do we choose life over death? If we are to love, then I believe we must come to a realization that all God’s creatures are His creation. We must strive to understand and embrace this reality. For loving God entails loving His creations. When will we learn to live according to that realization? When will we accept that all humans -- not just those we like or approve of -- are our brothers and sisters, whom God implores us to love as ourselves dozens of times? When and how will we learn to put that commandment into our everyday practices?
So attempting to do this, I asked myself, when did we first learn that there might be two forms of homosexual behavior? One is the apparently involuntary and virtually irresistible urge for a same-sex relationship (that now appears to be genetically based) and the other is the voluntary exploration of homosexual experience, perhaps out of curiosity about the unknown or different, boredom with sameness, a general desire for excitement, or in protest, anger, or frustration. Most of us even today do not differentiate these two behavior modes: Genetic or willful. When we say homosexuality we are almost invariably referring to an act or lifestyle in which two people of the same sex arbitrarily indulge in non-procreative sexual behavior. Now, though, we have been told that it’s not that simple. Now we must understand that there is that differentiation. The delineation between two forms of homosexual behavior described above is real, it has become clinically recognized. We cannot ignore this if we are to love the Lord.
What must we take away from this realization? Well, it’s even more complicated than it appears on the surface. The reality is that the expression of sexuality is spread out on a scale. It’s not a question of homosexual or heterosexual. The sexuality scale is a continuum. One may have a 10% contribution of genetic male or female. Another may have a 20% contribution. Still another may have a 50% contribution from his or her genes. Yet another may have a 100% contribution form his or her genes. Many who are in the upper part of the scale would have very strong inclinations for same-sex relations that are virtually irresistible. Now, having a clearer picture of the complexity of the situation, let’s continue our exploration of it.
When an ancient scribe received the inspired thought that lying with another of the same sex was an abomination, what was the context which led to the resulting expression of that inspiration? Remembering that we are to interpret his writing within the environment of the scribe’s times and experience, we must assume that he knew that these “unnatural” acts occurred, that they were common practice and visible to the general population, often occurring as part of the worship of a local god, and that they were all of the same kind of behavior, motivated by the same general emotions. There was no reason for him to differentiate between two different forms of this behavior. There was no way for him to know that some of those behaviors were dictated by internal drives that many humans could not resist if they experienced them. To the scribe they all looked alike. They were abhorrent idol worship or the wanton ways of the misguided. They had no way to recognize two different behaviors, that dictated by genetics and that indulged in curiosity, conformity or nonconformity, or whatever. There was no understanding of the differentiation or its necessity. Just as the scribe of Genesis 1 took God’s message of “energy” as meaning “light,” so this scribe (if different) made this message regarding homosexuality a homogeneous abomination.
Today we are coming to the realization that a difference exists. Once we have learned that a behavior of ours may be genetically predisposed or dictated in a proportion of the population, we are obligated to reexamine our perceptions of that behavior. As reasonable people, once we have learned this, we are required to determine whether in any behavior there is a genetic component and, if so, differentiate it from the same behavior that is voluntary and under our control. In a way, the bible itself informs us that we must do this. Where a difference is recognized, the bible engages in rudimentary forms of differentiation in behavior. For example, the act of killing is separated into the involuntary accidental taking of another’s life and premeditated vicious murder. Elaborate rules (and the setting aside of refuge cities) are contained in the bible to protect the accidental killer. But where the ancient scribes could not possibly make a differentiation because of lack of knowledge, we must do it for them.
So the point of all this is that I believe I’ve been led to understand that lying with mankind as with womankind is an abomination when it is done willfully out of mischief, curiosity, conformity or nonconformity, or in worship of idols. I believe the Lord has led me to recognize that this is the reason the prohibition appears only in the book of Leviticus and no where else in the bible. It had to do with the worship practices of the pagans, all of which were an abomination to the Lord (and they are all identified as such here in Leviticus). So it is an abomination to willfully choose to be homosexual. But It cannot be an abomination to be born with “mixed up” genes. That’s like saying it’s an abomination to be born with a cleft lip or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
In attempting to address this excruciatingly difficult subject further, I had to ask myself: If God is all-knowing, why would He not differentiate between the two modes of behavior, one an abomination, the other an impartial result of genetics? I concluded that God did differentiate. That’s why He confined this commandment to Leviticus, which deals with all matters of worship. God deals with matters of cleanness, sexuality, and all forms of behavior throughout Numbers and Deutoronomy, but He never again brings up the subject of homosexuality. He left this clue of exclusivity to Leviticus for us to comprehend it when we were able to, when we had the knowledge to recognize the difference.
Therefore, because of the knowledge we now possess, I see it as our responsibility to help the willful homosexual change his ways because what he practices is an abomination to the Lord. And, as lovers of the Lord, we may either ignore, feel compassion for, or support and console the genetic homosexual. If we don’t do this, we are like someone who condemns and vilifies the genetically disabled. We are not walking in the way of the Lord, for He tells us repeatedly to protect, defend, and care for the weak.
You may say that all this is fine, but how are we to differentiate between the two forms of homosexual behavior? Who should we educate (or condemn) and who should we tolerate or accept? Well, we now have the means by which we can make such a determination: Gene testing. That may or may not be the answer, however. It could be -- is -- fraught with danger and controversy. As I’m not expert in these matters, I am willing to leave the answers to the experts, the clergymen, the doctors, the psychologists and psychiatrists, the philosophers, perhaps even the politicians. Whatever happens, we will find that mistakes will be inevitable. But try we must, if we love the Lord and desire to walk with wisdom and compassion in His ways. [Back]