I recently read an article by Adam Hamilton, a delegate to the general conference of the United Methodist Church, in which he compared homosexuality to slavery, in that he said that Christians condoned slavery because the Bible taught it as acceptable, so we had the right to practice slavery. When it was decided that slavery was culturally unacceptable, slavery was condemned by Christians, who also used the Bible to condemn.
(Note: the Bible never actually condoned slavery. Rather, it regulated something that was already going on in the Israelite culture. Just because it was condoned in the Bible [particularly the Old Testament] doesn’t mean God actually supported it. Rather, God saw fit to regulate something the Israelites were already practicing before it became much worse.)
(For a good, yet long, explanation of slavery in the Bible, check out Dr. Peter Williams’ lecture here.)
Now, we have to look at the difference here between slavery and homosexuality
God may not have seen slavery as right, but it was a common cultural practice already, and instead of completely abolishing it, He chose to regulate it. As a matter of fact, slaves, in the Old Testament, were given equal rights in the house that they served, they could plead a case in front of the judges, they were given sexual protection (i.e. rape and sexual abuse of a slave was frowned upon), and they were even given enough food to eat. If they were beaten, it was a form of discipline, not just random happenings of the master, and if they lost a tooth or an eye during the beating, they were set free. They were freed after 7 years, unless they wanted to stay, and if they ran away, no one was under obligation to return them to their master. Not only that, but slavery was largely a form of debt related servitude, wherein one person served another until the debt was paid off.
Contrast this with slavery as we had it in North America: we kidnapped people from Africa. We beat them, chained them, forced them to work in our cotton fields and homes. We deprived them of basic human rights, including enough food, proper clothing, sexual protection and the right to the law. They were treated as second class citizens, or not treated as people at all.
These two ideas are completely different. We, as Americans, took the Bible’s teaching’s on slaves and corrupted it, as so many sinful people do, and we used it to justify beating our slaves and treating them like property and not people.
The Bible, on the other hand, commanded that slaves be treated with respect, were set free after a certain number of years or when their debt was paid off, and beatings were usually the result of punishment. They were people, with equal rights.
Now, why do I use this as an example when the idea of this is homosexuality?
Simple. God condoned slavery to a point, but everywhere you turn in the Bible, homosexuality is condemned.
Many argue that the reason God condemned it was because it wasn’t understood by the writers of the Old Testament (or even the New Testament).
What? What you are saying is that God, the creator of the universe, who is omnipotent and omniscient (meaning all powerful and all knowing) did not understand human sexuality? Is that the point those people are trying to make?
I think so, but that limits God. Greatly limits God.
Some even argue that, while the writers of the Bible were inspired, the extent of their inspiration is limited. Not really sure what they are trying to get at here.
If I understand a lot of the arguments correctly, they say that God only condemned homosexuality because He found it culturally unacceptable, but, now that humanity has changed, God’s laws have to change with it (and they argue slavery and women’s rights and female pastors as evidence of this).
I don’t want to ramble on here, so I’m going to save the Bible verses for my next post, but I want you to think about what has been said here.
Until then, keep the faith.