I’ll tell you what got me started on this train of thought: seeing that movie Alexander (the recent one with Colin Farrell).
In it, there was much talk about how the gods dealt with the hubris (excessive pride resulting in a fall) of mankind.
As a side thing which I later picked up on, there was the underlying subtext of Alexander’s homosexual/bisexual relations that were depicted as being fairly commonplace (among Greek/Macedonian elites). I am not sure to what degree homosexuality flourished in ancient Greece outside of the pederasty that is well known to have existed and was practiced by the elites, but barring Oliver Stone’s portrayal of peer-to-peer homosexual love as a normal occurrence among Greek men as a "figment of Hollywierdness", it would not be entirely inaccurate to suggest that it occurred.
In this same movie, Aristotle is depicted as making an important note to the effect that when men lay with men (just for the sex, is the implication) that it gives rise to powerful, insatiable passions and its (by implication) destructive results… BUT, when two men share love (implying a platonic relationship - no pun intended) based upon higher thoughts, it becomes a thing of beauty.
I may be brutally misrepresenting this part of the movie, but the idea I got from it was that he (Aristotle) was saying that mere sex could be trouble, but the "truer" love was more noble. Ain’t that nice?
Now what may throw me through a loop a bit is the bitter bit of rhetoric between some Christians and some folks in the LGBT community over whether or not homosexuality or even same-sex attraction (regardless of whether or not it results in sex) is morally acceptable.
What, exactly…. does God think about it?
While there seems to be some ambiguity on this subject, but we know that with God, there are no "shifting shadows". (James 1:17)
Naturally, whenever this topic comes up, the Leviticus Thumpers and the Leviticus Bashers line up on opposite sides of the theatre and prepare to draw each other’s blood; but I hope to find the middle ground, the "just balance" that is the Lord’s delight.
To begin, I will enumerate a few of my opinions on this, based on some biblical passages.
1) Same sex attraction is not inherently wrong. Re: David and Jonathan, Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, and as a stretch, Elijah and Elisha, and Paul and Barnabas. Thse all had some form of male-male attraction, but none of these can really be proven to have been gay (especially sexual) relationships. Especially where Paul is concerned; he might have bordered on being asexual… and I won’t argue that point. The most notable case is David and Jonathan, where Jonathan "stripped off his robe" and other garments and weapons in front of David. Taken at face value, Jonathan (as a son and heir of the king) made himself vulnerable in front of David, a most curious act for the crown prince to do in front of a contender for the throne.
Not long after David had found favor with Saul (Jonathan’s father, and then king of Israel) - Saul had grown very jealous of David’s God-blessed talents, and later had sought to destroy him. Jonathan, on the other hand… on account of his love for David, perhaps sought to prove that love by making himself so vulnerable before David (who could have at that point easily killed Jonathan - nothing was said regarding David’s state of dress or undress, and if a warrior of that time and place was dressed, he usually had his weapons handy).
Also, it was common practice among ancient Semitic cultures for contenders for a kingdom’s throne to wipe out the competition’s heirs; instead, they re-affirmed the covenant they had between each other.
Whether or not that lead to a sexual relationship is not clearly indicated. I personally doubt that it did. But one thing I do think happened, is that they formed a very deep (platonic) bond, one that would be best equated to the "higher love" alluded to by Aristotle.
2) Sex outside of male-female marriage is sin. While many arguments are passed around over the David/Jonathan relationship, or in favor of an interpretation or outright mangling of Scripture to accomodate an LGBT-marriage friendly God… compared to the abundance of scripture supporting male-female monogamous marriage… there is a surprising lack of scripture in support of LGBT marriages or LGBT sexual relationships.
Unfortunately, whenever LGBT sexual activity is mentioned directly in the Bible, it is usually in reference to God expressing either judgment against it, or directly acting against it. Rather, the Bible tends to support the male-female marriage as the only God-endorsed expression of "holy" sexual love.
Some scholars have tried to paint the David/Jonathan relationship as a gay marriage (using other verses to validate Saul’s approval of it, or that "nude scene" as some expression of physical love between two commited, "monogamous" male partners).
Admittedly, for me, it is an incredible stretch to accomodate thier relationship as a gay marriage, much less a brief sexual congress between two youthful men discovering thier sexuality, or however one might justify these difficult passages. Yet, if we must accomodate it as such, then it is definitely a minority case. If we are going to use a sound hermeneutical framework for establishing what God’s definition of a marriage is, we must go with what is the overwhelming preponderance of God’s endorsement of a coupled, monogamous male-female relationship as His ideal.
3) Avoiding the appearance of evil. This one I speak to the Christian who is struggling with this issue. To sum up points 1 and 2, it is not sinful for a man to have a deep love for other men, but it is not good for a Christian man to *act* on that love in a sexual context. This was perhaps the "abomination" and "confusion" that God is thinking of in Leviticus 18: we are commanded to love each other, but to confuse that with sexual love that is most properly reserved for male husbands to female wives is not fitting for a godly people.
This was at the center of Paul’s arguments in the often treated 1 Corinthians 6 where people and scholars alike will pick nits over the meaning of "arsenokoites" (rendered as either "men-lovers", "homosexual offenders", "effeminate", or "immoral persons" depending upon the translation). Rather than straining the linguistic gnats here, would it not be better to obey the Spirit of the Law here, and (for the Christian) give yourself to the service of Christ, and your love to the service for the brethren and sisters in Christ?
In considering Paul’s example, I count my body as dead to Christ when I am afflicted by the lust of the flesh that troubles me in the manner of my old way of life. Yes, I still have ungodly attractions (that is, a desire to commit sin against my flesh by lusting after men) but by the power of Christ within me, I am putting those lusts to death. That death by which I am dying daily to my fleshly desires in obedience to Christ IS the fulfillment of that awful death required by Leviticus 18:23. (For Christians and unbelievers alike, after the context of Christ being the fulfilment of the Law… let me make this perfectly clear: LEVITICUS 18 IS NOT ABOUT "KILLING QUEERS"!! )
For it is in Christ that I live: By His death, I also was made dead to sin, and by His resurrection, I am made alive, as it is written:
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Alive in Christ, I am being daily transformed by the renewing of my mind according to Christ’s word, to do God’s perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
4) This one is a bit of a doozie: God does not hate sexual sins any more than any other kinds of sin. In God’s eyes, all sin is served from the same table.
According to the Bible, there are seven particular sins God hates.
Again, this is not to dogmatically say that their is an heirarchy of sins, for any sin we commit is worthy of death according to the Law of God (thanks be to God for our saviour, and our Lord, the Son of God, Jesus Christ) but this may shed light on how God does not harp on a particular facet of sin to the minimalization of the others like we do.
Religous hypocrites make a field day of pointing out the obvious, when ignoring the less obvious sins that are really aggravating God to no end.
Make a note of which sin is "at the top of the list".
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look,
a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations,
feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies,
and he that soweth discord among brethren.
While God has at times directly judged (acted against in righteous anger) both people and states for specific sins, He (in the Bible) seems to have rarely struck people for just commiting sexual sins. I honestly believe that the oft-used Genesis 19 account of Sodom and Gomorrah was not an act against those cities on account of the homosexuals who dwelt there. Nor was it God’s judgment against that city’s "inhospitality", although having a gang of all of the men of a city wanting to gang-rape your house-guests can hardly be an example of hospitality.
But God did accuse those cities of being "sinners exceedingly before the Lord"… and He sent His angels to execute His judgment. Naturally, this begs the question: If God didn’t nuke those cities for being huge flaming gay ghettoes, what exactly did he nuke them for?
God nuked those cities because they had collectively gotten too proud; they were way too big for thier breeches, to the point of making themselves out to be the most important things in thier own imaginations. In so doing, they forgot to protect God’s favored people, the poor, the weak, the widows and the orphans of thier cities and towns.
Rather, they began to oppress the unfortunate.
The specific sins that may be a "casus justi" for God to punish and destroy those cities are found in Ezekiel 16:49-50 :
Behold, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and prosperous ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. They were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
(Does this sound like any country that we know today….? Mr. Bush? Fellow Americans? *cough, cough* )
Sodom, along with the four other "cities of the plain" (Gomorrah, Zeboiim, Admah, and Zoar) that God destroyed in Genesis 19, were regarded as among the wealthiest cities of thier era. They were situated at what was likely a good stopping point between Egypt and eastern Mesopotamia, and in Abraham’s time, were quite powerful, able to take on the four nation confederacy of King Chedorlaomer.
Some of the things that work hand-in-hand here were abundant pride, a pride that expressed itself on account of all the nice material things that Sodom had accumulated to itself. The rich get richer, while the poor get… oppressed.
I do not think that God is a respecter of persons (or nations) in terms of how He views sin, but I am inclined to think that if there is one thing that that God hates to see, even more than gross sexual immorality…. it is seeing the poor and defenseless getting crushed by the strong and the mighty rich.
Perhaps these sins are all intertwined: whether the attempted gang-rape was an expression of unbridled (presumably gay) lust, or an act of trying to force these unarmed guests (the angels) into submission, that is, to put those men "in thier place", one thing stands out:
Those (would-be rapists) were acting on lusts that were insatiable; they were so steeped in thier pride of life, thier ability to get instant satisfaction, thier desire to prove themselves better at the expense of others, that they were hardly able to control themselves.
The extremely perverted outworkings of this pride were the expressions of gang-rape and perhaps many more vile forms of sexual abuse and other sins; while there is little said about the economically oppressed people who suffered under the rule of the "Cities of the Plain", one can only imagine that it must not have been good - many human lives were likely traded around as chattels to the visiting tradesmen and merchant princes that stopped there at a common meeting place between the Eastern and Western worlds.
Sodom and its sister cities were actually an archtype as well; many more cities follow in thier example of what happens when its citizens get too proud over the generations, and God judged them.
Even God’s own chosen people were not immune to divine judgment: the Israelite city of Gibeah was destroyed by God on the occassion of a very similar offense as Sodom (Judges 19:20-finish)
In history, it repeats itself with Jerusalem (sacked and utterly destroyed at least twice), and Babylon (by Cyrus the Persian, and later by Alexander) and then Rome (AD 476 by various barbarian tribes) and finally, Constantinople in 1452 by the Ottoman Turks.
In fact, the whole of Leviticus chapter 18 (and in fact, much of the entire book of Leviticus) was a treatment NOT on gay sex, or even specific facets of sexual immorality, but rather, and admonition for Israel not to practice the same things that the Canaanites did before; God promised that the land would vomit them out just as it was doing to the Canaanites.
And, no less than 700 years later, the land did indeed vomit out the Israelites from Palestine, when they were carried away to captivity under Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
A modern case may be playing itself out with America in the 21st century: indeed, we are proud well beyond the point of meer arrogance; and we do tolerate, if not encourage, the (corporate) oppression of the weak, the poor, and the defenseless people of not only our land, but foreign lands as well. Far be it for me to suggest that America is in any way a "modern covenant nation" with God after the fashion of ancient Israel; such a vain imagination is neither biblical, nor reasonable. Rather, I am holding that the principles of God hold true for all men and women: if we violate our people and we violate, and foul the land we dwell in, that land will eventually reject us.
God is truly merciful and longsuffering towards us, but how long will He tarry with His divine Justice? Could it be that He has allowed that man in Iran - like Cyrus the Persian of so long ago - to be raised up as His instrument to discipline us, if not destroy this America on account of our insufferable pride?
May God truly help us if this is so.