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The “Clobber Passages,” Part I: Leviticus

Leviticus

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” ~ William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

I’m guessing most of you don’t crack open your Bible’s for fun, if you even have one. And Leviticus? Rhymes with “my clitoris?” Ok, seriously, even if this stuff isn’t your particular cup-of-tea, I thought it would be cool to take a couple of pesky bible verses and break ‘em down, because you know, as Ani DiFranco famously sang, “every tool is a weapon — if you hold it right,” and certain bible verses, known as the “clobber passages” have been consistently whipped out time and again by antigay conservative Christians to “prove” that God hates the gheys. They’ve been used so often that I can guess that pretty much all of you have heard them, so why not learn a little more about what they really mean? I promise, it’ll be painless and worth it, for the comebacks alone.

We’ll start with two verses from Leviticus that most of us have heard before:

Thou shalt not lie with a man, as with a woman: it is abomination.

Leviticus 18:22

If a man lie with a man, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Leviticus 20:13

1. Let’s start with the obvious: these passages have nothing to do with lesbian sex. Next.

2. These passages don’t ban homosexual male sex, but male temple prostitution.  In the surrounding passages of Leviticus, God makes it pretty clear that the Israelites are in danger of falling into idolatry, (remember that golden calf they built at the foot of Mt. Sinai while Moses was collecting the ten commandments?), and that the laws given to them were designed to set them apart from the idol-worshipers in Egypt, Canaan and Samaria that surrounded them. There were ritualistic sex practices that took place as part of the worship of Moloch that God wanted to forbid, that involved male-on-male sex — so it was really a prohibition about forced male ritual sex than homosexuality. (Leviticus 20: 1-8)

3. The law doesn’t bind Christians.
I’m sure many of you have heard that Leviticus outlaws a number of things that Christians don’t seem to observe — from the “abomination” of shellfish to the mixing of certain fabrics — to laws about hair length, tattoos, and the cleanliness of women after childbirth. The reason you don’t see/hear Christians practicing any of these prohibitions is because the Apostle Paul made it clear that these laws, which are described as a yoke of slavery, once Christ died for us, no longer bind us.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us.

(Galatians 3:13)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

(Galatians 5:1)

Paul warns that anyone who holds up one tenant of the law but cannot abide by the whole law has fallen under a curse. Therefore, Christians that cherry-pick what they mis-identify as a prohibition against homosexuality, while failing to abide by the rest of the Mosaic Law, are cursed by their own prohibitions, as the Apostle Paul warns.

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

(Galatians 3:10)

Any Christian who uses Leviticus as “proof” that God disproves of homosexuality has abused scripture. Period. If someone uses Leviticus 18:22 or 20:13 to prove that God hates homosexuality, don’t be afraid to challenge him or her on it, if you’re so inclined. You can point to any of the three points I’ve identified here, or point to any of the quotes above from Galatians. You could say, “Hey, don’t quote Leviticus at me. That prohibits temple prostitution and not homosexuality, and as Paul clearly states in Galatians 5:1, we are no longer under the yoke of slavery of the law. “

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About Val

Valency was born in San Francisco to hippie parents, but is a Chicago girl through and through. Ten years of Catholic school helped her develop a finely-tuned bullshit detector, as well as a love of all sorts of Catholic kitsch. Valency isn’t fond of labels. She is, however, fond of embracing her many paradoxes, and walking the fine lines between religion and politics, with an eye turned toward postmodern religion, feminist theology, and challenging patriarchy from inside religious institutions. She lives on the northside with her two daughters and two female cats, and is always looking for more ways increase the estrogen in her household.

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