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Is He too through with “I do?"
The issue of gay marriage has captivated the nation as the world watches in astonishment. While the high court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the first to legalize such unions, it was the state of California, home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland and Hollywood that has grabbed the spotlight from the Kennedy Clan and the Boston Celtics when said unions were legitimized here. Does the ruling by the Supreme Court of the State of California legalizing same-sex unions put it on the same par with traditional opposite-sex marriages? Do opponents of the ruling have legal recourse? From a secular standpoint, since the democratic form of government is based on Greek civilization, what did ancient Greek writers have to say about homosexuality? From a theological point of view, since the Constitution of the United States is said to be based on the Judeo-Christian ethic, what does the Bible really say about same-sex unions? Before we entertain these questions, let’s recap the recent history of the debate.
Up until Thursday, May 15, 2008, same-sex marriage was against the law in the State of California. That changed when the California Supreme Court cancelled the ban in a tight 4-3 decision that said the State Constitution embraces same-sex unions too. It put discrimination against such unions on par with discrimination based on race and gender. It all started in 2004 when in open defiance of State law San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson endorsed and championed same-sex marriages by issuing licenses. In reaction to Newson’s bold affront, several states shored up their constitutions by adding amendments that specifically banned gay marriage. After a month of merrymaking in marriage following Newson’s stance, the state high court intervened and made null and void all licenses issued by Newson. Countermeasures were then put in place by Newson and City Attorney Dennis Herrera, both working in concert with gay rights attorneys, to challenge the state law head on. This ultimately resulted in the May 15 ruling.
In a countermove, opponents of the ruling sponsored an initiative for the November ballot that would amend the state Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages as other states, as mentioned, have done. Interestingly, the rulings in Massachusetts and California are the same, but different. As the May 16, 2008, issue of the Los Angeles Times states: “The Massachusetts high court ruling...did not give sexual orientation the same kind of constitutional protection that [the California] decision did, nor was the Massachusetts ruling as explicit in stating that marriage licenses must be given to same-sex couples in the immediate future.” Although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed two pro-gay marriage bills before, he stated that he wouldn’t support an amendment that would contradict the high court’s decision.
There is no Biblical Hebrew word for “homosexual,” per se. Male homosexual behavior, however, is described as having taken place in the ancient cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zoboiim. (Deut. 29:23; Jude 7) Regarding homosexual activity in the region, the Bible states: “Consequently Jehovah said: ‘The cry of complaint about Sodom and Gomorrah, yes, it is loud, and their sin, yes, it is very heavy.’” (Gen. 18:20) Interestingly, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary describes Sodom as a “city of ancient Palestine destroyed by God for its wickedness in Gen 18:20, 21; 19:24-28.” And in giving the etymology of the word “sodomy,” Webster’s Ninth says it is from “the homosexual proclivities of the men of the city in Gen 19:1-11.” It actually defines sodomy as “copulation with a member of the same sex or with an animal.”
God saw the need to legislate the “sin” and “wickedness,” as Webster’s puts it, of homosexuality. Under the Mosaic Law, He stated tersely: “You will not have intercourse with a man as you would with a woman. This is a hateful thing.” (Lev. 18:22; The New Jerusalem Bible) If they did this “hateful thing” anyway, God said: “They should be put to death without fail. Their own blood is upon them.” (Lev. 20:13; New World Translation) Because of this law, when one of the twelve tribes of Israel almost sodomized a man from the tribe of Levi and actually raped his concubine until she died, the rest of the tribes attacked the offending tribe, eventually defeating it and burned the city down where the atrocity took place. (Judges 19:15-20:48) The defeat was divine retribution.
Male temple prostitution was primarily homosexuality, hence was condemned. (1 Kings 14:23, 24; 15:12; 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7) The text at Deut. 23:17, 18 (NWT) reads: “Neither may anyone of the sons of Israel become a temple prostitute (ftn, “Or, ‘a catamite,’ a boy kept for purposes of sexual perversion”). You must not bring the hire of a harlot or the price of a dog (ftn, “Likely a pederast; one who practices anal intercourse, especially with a boy.”) into the house of Jehovah your God for any vow, because they are something detestable to Jehovah your God, even both of them.” As brought out in my nearly 15-year-old book Are Gays Really “Gay”?-A Sociological, Scientific, and Theological Analysis (1994), “In the Greek translation of this Hebrew text (LXX) the Greek word for ‘dog’ (...kunos) is used.” The male temple prostitute (Hebrew, qadhesh) was called an effeminati in Latin, which means “effeminate man.”
Speaking of Greek, the language of the “New Testament,” the apostle Paul condemned the practice of homosexuality. (Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10) Being more descriptive than the English terms “gay” or “homosexual,” in the latter two Scriptural texts Paul uses the words malakos (the passive or receptive male partner) and arsenokoites (the active or intrusive male partner). For this reason, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 reads: “Don’t delude yourselves-people who engage in sex before marriage...who engage in sex after marriage with someone other than their spouse, who engage in active or passive homosexuality...none of them will share in the Kingdom of God.” (Jewish New Testament) Don’t hate the messenger; hate the message, if you’re so inclined.
In Are Gays Really “Gay”? I show that numerous Greek historians and/or theologians paraphrased Paul’s words above in condemnation of homosexuality. “They are as follows: Basilius, Clemens Alexandrinus, Eusebius, Ignatius, Joannes Damascenus, Pseudo-Macarius, Origenes, Philo Judaeus, Polycarpus (who incidentally wrote that ‘homosexuals were prohibited from engaging in military service’), and Theodoretus. Heraclides the philosopher, who lived about 400 years before Paul, spoke of the ‘indecency of homosexual men.’ In so doing, he used forms of both malakos and arsenokoitai in one passage.”
Under the current ruling gay couples can marry in California even if they don’t live here, though other states don’t have to recognize said unions. They are also denied certain federal benefits. Though a growing number of Californians favor same-sex marriages, “the majority is not always supposed to have its way” in constitutional democracies says Prof. Kermit Roosevelt of the Univ. of Penn. It’s an ironic clash of Greco-Roman democracy versus Bible-based theocracy, both claiming dibs on the US Constitution. Significantly, marriage in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in both Greek and Roman civilizations were opposite-sex unions, as it should be. Amen.
Word for the Week (or is it “Weak”): buggery: another word for sodomy.
Dr. Firpo Carr n can be reached at 800.501.2713 or