Marriage and Scripture
Here are some of the scriptural passages cited most frequently by opponents of gay marriage and homosexuality:
Leviticus, the Torah
¢ 18:22: You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination.
¢ 20:13: A man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they have both done an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon themselves.
Romans, New Testament (New International Version)
¢ 1:24-27: Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
¢ Chapter 7, Verse 81: For you practise your lust on men in preference to women: you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.
Source: Los Angeles Times research
Los Angeles As gay and lesbian couples begin to wed across California this week, people of faith are renewing a passionate debate over whether homosexuality is sanctioned by God.
Christians, Jews and Muslims on both sides of the issue cite the holy writings of their religions. Some note that the Bible depicts man-lying-with-man as an "abomination," while others say it speaks of God's love for all people created in his image.
Both sides defend their positions with the zeal of the biblical warriors who inhabit their scriptures.
"Homosexual intimacy is out of bounds. It's not what God created us for," said Richard Mouw, president of the evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.
Mouw cites Romans 1 in the New Testament that decried men and women abandoning "natural relations" and men who were "inflamed with lust for one another" committing "indecent acts with other men" - behavior that carried death as punishment.
"Sexuality within the context of marriage," he said, "is the order of creation."
Nonsense, says the Rev. Mel White, a former Fuller professor and evangelical author who married his partner of 27 years during a ceremony Wednesday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.
White calls the Bible a living document that must be understood in its historical context - a view shared by reform-minded clergy and theologians from other faiths.
Early Jews and Christians, White says, defended a heterosexual ethic to ensure the continuity of tenuous tribal communities. These religious pioneers, he adds, had no way of foreseeing modern advances in psychology and other fields that would reveal homosexuality as an orientation rather than a deviant choice.
"The Bible says as much about sexual orientation as it does about toasters or nuclear reactors," White said. "We have to grow with the times."
A decision by the California Supreme Court in May allowed weddings to go forward starting Tuesday and set the stage for a statewide referendum in November aimed at reinstating the ban.
Theologians and biblical scholars trace the origins of that dispute to a handful of passages in the Torah, New Testament and Quran.
Perhaps the most frequently cited is Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination."
The passage from the Torah is repeated, with slight variations, in Christian scripture, which, like the Jewish text, orders death for violators. The Quran also denounces homosexuality, in Chapter 7, Verse 81: "For you practise your lust on men in preference to women: you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds."
Conservatives in the three religions largely interpret the passages the same way. There is nothing wrong with being gay, they say. Acting on homosexual impulses, however, is another matter.
"The church says that homosexuals should be treated with love and respect, but redefining the natural and divine institution of marriage is simply something we are not able to do," said Father Marcos Gonzalez of St. John Chrysostom, a Catholic parish in Inglewood that serves 9,000 families. "From all time, it is obvious, for the species to procreate, it requires a man and a woman. The bodies are made to fit with each other. We do not have the authority to redefine it."
But other clergy decry what they call a selective analysis of the texts. Jesus condemned divorce and remarriage, they point out, but that hasn't stopped legions of Christians, including priests in some cases, from splitting and remarrying.
"Everybody without exception reads the Bible selectively," said Jay Johnson, theology professor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. "The question is, how do we decide that one portion is critical to our lives while others are not?
"These texts come from a different culture, a different society," added Johnson, who also serves as research director at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. "They need to be interpreted."
Muslims weigh in
The same tension has played out in Islam.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision, the Islamic Shura Council, an umbrella organization for mosques and Muslim groups in Southern California, issued a statement that called the ruling "a violation of God's law as clearly given in the Quran and the Bible."
The group said that sexual relationships are to be "enjoyed within the framework of matrimony only," even as it registered its opposition to "all forms" of discrimination.