A Gemora reviews Sodom

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Grace Cathedral

The Bible is frequently used to condemn LGBTQ+ people. While this is harmful to all LGBTQ+ people, it is especially difficult for those who are both religious and LGBTQ+. Often times religious LGBTQ+ people must choose to either ignore those less savory parts of the Bible and hope to find a community that does the same, leave their Christianity behind, or attempt to suppress their LGBTQ+ identity. None of these options are healthy.

This month, Epic was invited to Western Washington University’s first Pride Festival. In preparation for it, I decided to finally research all those parts of the Bible I’ve been ignoring.

Sodom and Gomorrah:

Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them. -Genesis 19:5

The most famous anti-gay section of the Bible is in fact the easiest to discount. The men referenced in this section are guests (as well as angels) who were supposed to be treated as such. Instead, a mob attempts to gang rape them. The sin is not same-sex attraction, it is assault and in-hospitality.

Now this was the sin of Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. -Ezekiel 16:49

Leviticus:

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. -Leviticus 18:22

The book of Leviticus is a list of rules written to the Israelites to guide them on worship, living near the Tabernacle, and to set them apart from the Egyptians (whose land they had just left) and the Canaanites (whose land they were moving to). In this list of rules, there are various words used to condemn different actions. Leviticus 18:22 uses the word תּוֹעֵבָה which refers to something that is not a cultural practice or something that is ritually unclean. Leviticus 18:17 condemns marrying or having sex with your step-children and uses the word זִמָּה  which means something is a lustful crime. Leviticus 18:23 condemns bestiality with the word תֶּבֶל which means that something is a violation against nature.

I find the distinction between these words for condemnation interesting as same-sex relationships are often described as being lustful crimes or against nature, but in Leviticus they are not. Instead Leviticus uses a word that is often used to describe idolatry. It is possible that this word was used in reference to the Canaanites who had their own rituals and ways of worshiping their gods, including a same-sex fertility ritual.

Deuteronomy:

A woman shall not wear a man’s apparel, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does such things is abhorrent to the Lord your God. -Deuteronomy 22:5

The word translated to mean “abhorrent” here is once again the word, תּוֹעֵבָה, used in Leviticus 18:22. Crossdressing is not culturally practiced by the Israelites and is ritually unclean. Furthermore, this verse is found in a section about deceit and mixing things together. It was written in a time and within a culture that was highly segregated by gender. The implication is that the man or woman is under disguise to gain access to the opposite-sex in order to have sex. This verse is unrelated to transgender people (who aren’t men in women’s clothes or vice-versa, but are in fact attempting to be more true to themselves than before). As for people who wear clothing that is more typically found on the opposite gender, this is still culturally unusual, but by the rules in this section, a man wearing a skirt is taboo for the skirt being mixed fabrics as well as a woman’s garment.

No one whose testicles are crushed or  whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. -Deuteronomy 23:1

There are varying opinions on what exactly the “assembly of the Lord” refers to. Many people believe it refers to being converted to Judaism, being able to marry a Jewish person, or being admitted into the governing body of the Israelites. Within this context the verse makes more sense. At this time, the Israelites needed to repopulate, so they would not want to have someone marry into their assembly if it wouldn’t result in children. Furthermore, circumcision is the sign of the covenant for Israelites. Without a penis, a person would not be able to have this important symbol.

Another theory that has been presented as a context for this verse is that it refers to members of cults from the time that used genital mutilation to show devotion to the cult.

Romans:

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. -Romans 1:26-27

Once again, this chapter talks about same-sex relationships while also discussing idolatry. Other important things to keep in mind while reading this verse is that sex and bodily fluids were seen as unclean in general. Sex was for married people in an act of procreation. At the time, sperm was seen as completely containing new life. Ejaculating anywhere besides into a womb (which was seen as the incubation space for sperm) was seen as abortion. Women were also considered to not have sex drives, women having sex with each other was a bizarre concept.

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There are other passages of the Bible which can be used against LGBTQ+ people and aren’t included here. With a little research most of them can be found to refer to setting oneself apart from other religions, prostitution, or the importance of procreation.

a note about the blog title: my last name is Gemora. People often think it is Gomorrah or that it comes from that city. It actually comes from a book that discuss Jewish law and means “to study.” Somewhere in there is an analogy for me writing this blog…

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