People are often amazed to learn that Jesus never condemned homosexuality. Once that is made known, I am often asked why Jesus didn’t say anything against homosexuality. One questioner wondered if it was because Jesus simply assumed that everyone believed homosexuality was wrong and so he didn’t need to mention it, making his silence on the subject a tacit agreement with the condemnation of same-gender attraction. Of course, I did not agree with the questioner’s assessment of Jesus’ position on gay people.
Let’s consider what the scriptures available to Jesus had to say about homosexuality.
Many people assume the story of Sodom & Gomorrah condemns homosexuality, but it doesn’t. The prophet Ezekiel stated that the sin of Sodom was inhospitality, lack of compassion and lack of concern for the poor. Those “sins” continue to plague our world. In fact, inhospitality and lack of compassion are often directed toward gay people!
The Sodom & Gomorrah story includes attempted rape and repeated incest but there is not a single mention of same-gender love or mutual attraction.
Some will say that the Adam and Eve story where the man is told to “cleave unto his wife and become one flesh” is a statement against same-sex marriage. But the creation myths are just that…origin myths, not dictates about marriage (in fact, there is no mention of a marriage ceremony in the story).
That leaves only two verses in Leviticus from the Hebrew bible that could be considered “homophobic”. Two verses….not two stories, not two chapters, just two sentences. And since most Christians routinely ignore prohibitions and dictates from Leviticus, it is disingenuous for them to try to enforce two lone verses from the text.
Since Jesus reinterpreted, ignored, or defied ancient texts that called for killing Canaanites (he healed a Canaanite woman’s daughter) or keeping a strict Sabbath (saying the Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath), or killing those caught in adultery (he rescued a woman who was about to be stoned, noticing, no doubt, that her male co-adulterer somehow had escaped punishment), there is no reason to believe that Jesus would have been one to enforce two obscure and isolated verses. So, from the evidence that I can gather, I believe Jesus didn’t mention homosexuality because it wasn’t an issue of concern for him.
There is another story of Jesus healing a centurion’s male “servant” and the Greek word used for servant was often used to refer to a sexual relationship (and a sexual relationship would explain why a Roman nobleman would seek out a faith healer to help his “servant”…only romantic attachment would explain the desperation of seeking out a peasant magician to help save a servant). So, not only did Jesus never condemn homosexuality (nor were the scriptures that he treasured as homophobic as they are sometimes presented to be), but there are times when Jesus seems to have embraced and affirmed same-gender loving people..
Whenever religion is used to justify bigotry of any kind, it is being misused.
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the senior minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.