THE BLOG
05/15/2014 01:01 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

The Joy of Gay Sex, Michael Sam and Biblical Literalism: Let's Not Take It Lying Down

Peter Dazeley via Getty Images

As CNN recently reported, the viral video of newly drafted openly gay NFL player Michael Sam's beautiful kiss with his boyfriend after finding out he'd been drafted by the St. Louis Rams has inspired rabid homophobic backlash. This latest social-media wildfire of Christian hate of committed same-gender loving coincides with several young gay Christian men coming out to me after years of struggle and shame. These are young men who are celibate but conflicted because they are not called to a whole lifetime of chastity, young men who dream of having a husband with whom they can share a committed life of faith, service and love. Both these young Christians called to covenant one day with a same-sex partner and those spewing hatred and hell-fire in response Sam's modest kiss have internalized the same biblical message from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination. If a man also lie with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Countless volumes of scholarly commentary have been published over the years correcting the decontextualized and ridiculous misinterpretation and wrongful applications of these Jewish verses as well as their usual Christian companion for religious bullying, Romans 1:27. Of course, it is obvious even without looking at the Hebrew of Leviticus or the Greek of Romans that these verses have nothing to do with marriage but reference sex acts outside a marriage covenant, which biblical law forbids equally for heterosexual couples. Furthermore, most scholars agree that both the Levitical verses and the one in Romans are actually decrying temple prostitution, which is more problematic for the idolatry that motivates it than the gender of the sex partners involved. Other than Jesus' healing of the Roman centurion's pais (gay partner) in Matthew 7, which affirms same-gender couples, the Bible never mentions same-sex marriage or homosexuality (an enduring orientation including the romantic and committed aspects evident in Sam's example). What is forbidden explicitly if one insists on a literal reading of these verses out of context? If this is what Christians want to build their argument against Sam's kiss upon, then let them consider the real implications of their stubborn proof-texting.

According to the Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals (GAAAP), the passage translated as closely to the original Hebrew as possible states, "And with a male thou shalt not lie down in beds of a woman; it is an abomination." Thus the prohibition isn't against same-sex partnership or even specific sex acts but the defilement of a woman's bed consistent with the other purity laws in Leviticus separating things ancient Hebrews perceived as categorically different (which we no longer observe today): two crops could not be grown in the same field at the same time, nor could one cloth be made out of two different raw materials. A field could not even be plowed with an ox and a donkey yoked together. So only a woman's husband was permitted in his wife's marriage bed, and then only under certain circumstances. (She could not be menstruating or post-childbirth, for example.)

So Sam and his boyfriend's kiss do not violate Levitical law by the most conservative standards of word-for-word biblical literalism. First of all, they were just kissing, not having intercourse. More importantly for taking the Bible literally, they were not lying down; they were standing up to kiss (certainly not in a woman's bed either way). By the absurd standards of right-wing Christian literal application of Levitical purity codes to contemporary gay couples, a good many other romantic and sexual activities between gay men who love one another can be enjoyed without inviting criticism for violating Levitical law -- specifically without lying down in bed -- especially by those of us gay men who practice tantric and kundalini yoga and are not only romantic but quite flexible, athletic and energetic. However, I doubt this is the point of Christian criticism of Michael Sam.

Therefore, for everyone's sake, it's long past time to stop claiming that right-wing Christian revulsion in response to same-sex romantic love has anything to do with the Bible. Nothing in scriptures prohibits a kiss between two men; in fact, the "holy kiss" between all members of Christian community was part of worship in the early church. And Christian scriptures forbid acts (temple prostitution, two men having sex in the bed of the wife of one of them) that aren't practiced by too many gay men these days anyway. The homophobic Christian response to Sam's kiss isn't biblical; it's bigotry, plain and simple. It's time for Christian homophobia to stop parading as "faith" and come out of is its own closet as what it really is: fear and hatred.

Subscribe to the Queer Voices email.
Get all of the queer news that matters to you.