Choosing and Ignoring Scripture

When I was looking for a web designer to create, I answered an ad from someone who was just starting his business. He was offering a special rate for non-profits and community based organizations. We had just started to talk over the phone about the design I might be interested in when he asked “so, what will the website be about?”  I barely got the words “Christian and gay” out of my mouth, when he immediately retorted that he would not work on such a site.  When I asked him why, he snapped, “homosexuality is a sin, read your Bible.” I said I was sorry that he felt that way and hoped that he was not having a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch while wearing a polyester shirt. (Both are things forbidden by the Bible).

Emphasizing certain passages from the Bible, while ignoring other passages, has become a favorite recreational sport of some Christians.  Inevitably when someone mentions homosexuality, another always will bring up the Old Testament passages found primarily in the book of Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, that state “for a man to lie with a man is an abomination.”  Numerous theological treatises have been written about these and other passages, which have been used for centuries to beat gay Christians over the head with.  I leave the debate about the meaning of the terms malakoi and arsenokoites, to Biblical scholars.  The issue of the word “homosexual” appearing in modern translations of Scripture when the word was not even used until the 19 century is also not a discussion that interests me. 

However, the discussion that interests me is why people hold on to certain passages from Scripture and yet ignore others.  The Orthodox Church has never been a fundamentalist church in that it does not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. 

If Leviticus 18:22 – the prohibition of men having sex with each other – is enforced, why not enforce Leviticus 11:7 – the prohibition of eating pork?  Every Ukrainian, Russian and other Slavs that I know of would not be able to exist, let alone celebrate Pascha (Easter) without eating significant amounts of some form of smoked pig.

If Leviticus 18:22 is enforced – why is Leviticus 19:27 – the prohibition against shaving – not followed?  Has any Orthodox priest ever refused to forgive a penitent who has confessed to shaving?  Any quick glance at recent photos of Orthodox bishops and priests will reveal that numerous clergy are indeed clean-shaven or do shave to some extent. 

Those that want to further malign gay people turn to the New Testament for two more Scriptural passages to use in their arguments.  Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (6:9-11) is a favorite – used to tell gay people that they will not get to heaven unless they repent of their homosexuality.

If the Orthodox Church believes that I Corinthians 6:9-11 can be used in such a fundamental way, what about I Timothy 3:2 – that the bishop must be the husband of one wife? How many bishops of the Orthodox Church today are openly married or are allowed to be married by the Church?  NONE!

There are numerous other examples of Biblical mandates that the Church has chosen to ignore or not enforce and for logical, theological, historical or pastoral reasons.

Orthodox Christians, especially bishops and priests, need to stop picking and choosing certain Scriptural passages and outdated interpretations of Scripture to destroy the lives of gay people, simply because they are gay and want to be in healthy, loving, and secure relationships.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Ralph S.

    I totally agree with you! I see many times over and over people shounting Leviticus 18 & 20, puting down gays while noticing the tattoos covering their bodys. I've come across too many ignorant Christians which is pretty much driving me to the brink of Atheist.

    1. andre

      Ralph, I understand your frustrations. The same goes for those that throw unkind words at gay people and yet eat shrimp and wear clothes of cotton-wool blends. I hope that you remember that our loving God is greater than those that pick and choose which scripture to quote. Andriy

  2. Tim D

    Hi, just curious to understand how you define – and place boundaries around – “outdated interpretations” of scripture?

    By your reckoning, because there’s some seemingly irrelevant rules written in the New testament, Christians don’t really have a valid reason to obey any commands do they?

    1. andre

      Thank you for your comment. In the Orthodox Church we recognize the interpretations of Sacred Scripture written by the fathers of the Church. Some date back to the post-Gospel period. Some of the most venerable would be the fathers St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzus and others from the fourth century and later. As sainted as these holy men were, they were not infallible and some of their writings and interpretations of Scripture today would be viewed by many as outdated. For example, St. John warns against attending theatrical performances. Am I to be condemned for attending plays performed by my students? You ask about commandments – certainly the commandment prohibiting murder is more important and valid than the commandment prohibiting the eating of shellfish. Would you not agree?

  3. Duke

    Perhaps if you reconcile Mathew 5:17 and Mark 7:18-19 with one another, this may provide some illumination to the questions posed in your post.

  4. BJ

    We all have sin my friend, and I certainly am not without mine. They are called passions for a reason. I can tell from the tone of your post that you are angry. You feel wronged. You use the logical fallacy that because others have sin that your sin is justified.

    Please pray for me that I may overcome my passions. And I will do likewise. But the issue at hand is the first step to seeking healing is to realize you are sick. The church is a hospital, but can’t help you if don’t want to be healed.

    Homosexuality is a sin without question. Sexual sin in itself is among the most obvious and dangerous of sins. You know that to equate it with eating shellfish is not a fair comparison. How the rules of Leviticus apply to Christians is too complicated a matter to deal with here as you know. But I’m sure you’ve done your research. Homosexuality is mentioned in the New Testament as well so any references to OT admonitions are redundant. Not just homosexuality, but there is many sexual sin between man and woman as well. God and the Church do not discriminate.

    I wish you well on your walk, and am happy to have you a member of the Church.

    1. andre

      Dear BJ,

      Thank you for your email and I appreciate your direct comments. I do take issue with a few of the points that you raise. While I do agree with you that we are all sinners afflicted with passions and the Church is indeed the hospital where we can be healed by Christ. 

      Homosexuality in itself can not be a sin. I did not choose to be a homosexual anymore than you choose your sexuality – probably heterosexuality. The Church states that since I am a homosexual I must be celibate and denied the love, compassion and support that comes from a life long monogamous same sex relationship. The Church also recognizes that very few people are called to be celibate, even allowing its priests to be married.  Do you not see a contradiction in this logic? 

      Considering the prohibitions against homosexuality in the Old and New Testament – we agree that they are there. But the Church has relaxed, changed, and even ignored other Scriptural directives – even those coming from Christ. How else are we to understand the Church allowing up to 3 marriages in light of Matthew 19 and Christ’s comments on divorce.  This means that the Church is allowing, (blessing) even in its penitential rite of second crowning, to commit adultery. The reason is that the Church understands human frailty and acts in the interest of that with economia. They could the same thing with same-sex relationships. 

      I bid you peace,

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