Coming-Out Day (sermon excerpt)

I do not mean to imply that all people who oppose same-sex marriage—or who oppose homosexuality in general—are liars or hateful.  Many of them may be good people, trying to live according to their beliefs.

The ones who are not lying, not deliberately confusing and inflaming things, usually base their beliefs on one of four reasons.  Many people who oppose same-sex marriage cite a biblical injunction against it as the reason for their opposition.  Others say that a child needs parents of both sexes as role models, to develop in the most healthy way possible.  Still others cite nature, claiming that the natural form of love and sex is one male and one female, so that should be the normative, legally acceptable form.  Finally, the last common reason used by opponents of same-sex marriage is an appeal to history:  if marriage has always been between one woman and one man, then it should continue to be so.

I do not think that any of these four reasons are legitimate, but are actually misunderstandings.

For example, the bible verses most commonly used to declare opposition to homosexuality are Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13.  Both of these do say something like “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” However, Leviticus chapter 20, verse 9 says “All who curse father or mother shall be put to death”; and other passages from Leviticus outlaw beard trimming [19:27], tattoos [19:28], the eating of pork or shellfish [11:7, 11:10], and the wearing of two fibers at once [19:19].

If everyone who used these bible verses to decry homosexuality would also want to outlaw pork and tattoos, I would at least feel they were being consistent.  And we haven’t even gotten to Exodus 21:7, which begins “when a man sells his daughter as a slave…”

Virtually nobody believes in selling daughters into slavery, and few seriously want to put rebellious teenagers to death.  If they are going to pick and choose which verses to take literally and which to ignore, then I submit we ignore the ones about lying with men as with women.

As for children needing two parents of opposite sex, well, I know some children who were raised by same-sex couples who are wonderful human beings; and I know quite a few who were raised by opposite-sex couples who are…not so wonderful.  And we know lots of single parents who are making it work, too, so this objection simply does not hold water, either.

Besides, marriage is about more than just having or raising children.  People who cannot, or who can no longer, have children, should be allowed to be married.

When people say that homosexuality is not “natural,” I refer them to any one of many articles or books that show that homosexuality has been  observed in 1500 different species of animals, and well-documented in over 500.  Petter Bockman states, “No species has been found in which homosexual behavior has not been shown to exist, with the exception of species that never have sex at all, such as sea urchins.”

And within the human community, homosexuality is known to occur in virtually every culture we know. Bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender behaviors are *entirely* natural.

Which leaves us only the historical argument—which is again, easily demolished.

The ancient Greeks and Romans both had forms of socially-sanctioned, same-sex relationships. James Davidson’s recent book, “Greeks and Greek Love,” details how the Greeks formed mentoring relationships between older and younger men—yes, there was often romance and sex, *and* the Greeks were just as cautious as we are that the younger men were still “old enough,” that is, older than 18.  Men in their late twenties would mentor men who were in their late teens.  Most of these relationships ended after a few years, but some were long-term partnerships.

Similar mentoring relationships occurred in ancient Asia, as well.

The first recorded mention of a same-sex marriage in the west occurred in the early Roman Empire, where Cicero records it in passing, as if it were commonplace.  Other historians mention numerous gay weddings, and the practice seemed entirely common until Christianity became the official religion of the empire.

During the Middle Ages, there are many accounts of same-sex partnerships.  These were not called marriages, but rather “enbrotherments,” and they offered most of the benefits of today’s civil unions.

Finally, the historical argument brings us back to the Hebrew Bible, where we find not one, not two, but three accounts of same-sex relationships.   (see Religious Tolerance .org)

In the book of Ruth, after their men have died in a famine, Ruth tells her mother-in-law, Naomi, [Ruth 1:16] “where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” In the King James translation, it says that Ruth *clave* to Naomi, [Ruth 1:14] using the same word that is used in the description of heterosexual marriage in Genesis: [2:24]  “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:  and they shall be one flesh.”

The books of first and second Samuel describe a relationship between David-—who was to become King David-—and a man named Jonathan.  I Samuel, chapter 18, verses 3 and 4 state, “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David.”  I must admit, many conservative theologians disagree with my interpretation, but I think it is pretty clear: Jonathan loved David as himself, and then he got naked with him.

Later, Jonathan’s father finds out, and threatens to kill David, so David has to leave. The book describes their parting: [1 Samuel 20:41   “David got up…and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with is face to the ground.  Then they kissed one another and wept with one another, until David exceeded.”  I will leave you to translate what that means, but I will say, it is evidently so dangerous that some modern translators deliberately mis-translate it as “they sadly shook hands.”

Finally, in the book of Daniel, Daniel has a relationship with a man named Ashpenaz, who was the chief of the court officials of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon.  Chapter 1, verse 9 in the King James translation states, “Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with [Ashpenaz.]”  Again, some translators use “compassion” for “tender love,” but in the original Hebrew, the words are chesed and v’rachamim.“Chesed” is translated as “mercy,” and “v’rachamim” can mean either “mercy” or “physical love.”  It would be silly to say that Ashpenaz showed Daniel mercy and mercy; I think it is clear that Ashpenaz showed Daniel mercy and physical love.

I think that arguments against same-sex relationships are rationalizations, which amount to little more than “I do not like this, so I want it outlawed for all people.”

The good news is, that more and more people are seeing those reasons as the rationalizations they are, and more and more states and nations are  granting same-sex rights.

–from Love Leads Gaily Forward, A service celebrated at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse on 11 October 2009; by Chip Roush

(image from Visual Bible Alive)

1 comment to Coming-Out Day (sermon excerpt)

  • Then there’s the centurion’s “lad,” or “servant,” from the gospels. According to my gospels prof, the original word translated to “younger man who is my lover” – not servant or lad… (Jesus heals the centurion’s lover.)

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