On Jan. 9, Pope Benedict XVI told a gathering of diplomats that family is only "based on the marriage of a man and a woman" and then went on to say that "policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself." (See report here) Why are so many Christian churches still offended by homosexuality? Of all of the "causes" that a religious group could choose to focus their attention (and wrath) upon, what is it about gays that bothers them so much? Why does this issue carry more weight for some people than the environment, terrorism, poverty, domestic violence, the national debt, or the myriad of other real issues facing our society? Today we better understand the complicated interplay of genetics, environment, biochemistry, and psychology that shapes all aspects of who we are. So why is someone's sexual orientation a moral issue at all?
The answer we often hear to these questions is that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is an abomination. But if we step back and understand that the purpose behind morality is to set forth the principles that govern how we live in harmony with others in our society, then we realize that the specifics of our moral laws will be dependent upon the times and cultures in which we live. If we look to Jesus' teaching about the most important commandments (to love God and to love our neighbor), we can find universal moral principles that are as applicable today as they were two thousand years ago. However, the context in which we live today is very different. (We don't stone unruly children to death, we do not own slaves, and women are not subservient to men). Therefore, we should expect the application of these moral principles to be different today than they were then. Are two people in a loving gay relationship causing moral harm to our society while those who angrily condemn them are helping?
A few years ago, radio pop-psychologist Dr. Laura Schlesinger, who is Jewish, spoke out against homosexuality, justifying her stance with teachings from the Bible. Although she has since recanted her comments, the following letter, which can be found online in various forms, written to her then is still applicable (and quite funny) to the debate we continue to hear today. In fact, we might as well change the salutation to Dear Pope Benedict.
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to best follow them.
1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev.1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. What do I do about this?
2. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
3. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as allowed in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
4. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev.15: 19-24). The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there "degrees" of abomination?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev.24:10-16). Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Sincerely, Your adoring fan"
As the letter above so humorously demonstrates, the Bible contains many moral teachings we no longer heed because the society in which we live today is different from the one in which the authors of these books lived. Is it not time to add the teachings against homosexuality to the list of outdated commandments?