Daniel Helminiak’s What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality – The “Abomination” of Leviticus
Although there may be few mentions (or hints) of homosexual content in the Bible—there are six—that’s enough for some who choose to use the Bible as evidence of our “lifestyle” being “wrong.” After all, the Bible refers to homosexual acts as “an abomination.” In What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality, author Daniel Helminiak has plenty to say about this word and the context in which it is used.
In Leviticus, the word is used to label the act of a man laying with another man. According to Helminiak, the point of the holiness code dictated in Leviticus exists for religious reasons, though, and not sexual ones. Why? Well, Jews wanted to distinguish themselves from the Gentiles, who were engaging in homosexual sex acts during religious ceremonies. To support this, he points out how other codes contained in Leviticus are repeated (and often) elsewhere, such as adultery, incest, and bestiality. This is not the case for male-male sex (55).
But what about the emphatic nature of referring to these same sex acts as an “abomination”? The issue rests in how the Bible uses this word, not our modern context (56). According to Helminiak, abomination is just another word for unclean. Therefore, in context, the act is merely a violation of purity laws, such as eating unclean animals. Therefore, this didn’t—and does not—refer to homosexuality as we know it. Otherwise, in the way abomination is used, we would be likening homosexuality to menstruating women, attending a burial, giving birth, and a man’s “seminal emissions” (59).
However, there still seems to be more to this issue than merely the word choice used to evaluate the action. Helminiak adds that there are several other things to consider when evaluating what the Bible has to say about these homosexual acts. First, the specific reference in Leviticus refers to penetrative sex—as you would with a woman; therefore, the specific act is targeted. So, for example, oral sex would be fine, as would identifying as a homosexual. So, technically, if a modern gay person abstained from anal sex, the Bible would have no issue with it—if you were to take the good book literally. However, Helminiak does not make this suggestion. He does carry to point further by suggesting that a particular action for a particular people—in this case, the Jews of the Old Testament—turned something that made them uncomfortable—homosexual penetrative sex—and turned it into a sin in order to discourage the behavior (63).
Today, we often discourage actions once embraced by society—such as smoking—and turned them into social taboos; however, we haven’t converted them into sins (unless you see smoking as a sin). So here he suggests that something that was once embraced can become a social taboo; the reverse also happens, in part because knowledge allows us to better understand something, such as what it means to be gay.
He builds on these ideas in the following chapter by discussing purity laws in more detail (69). Specifically, he feels that Jesus rejected these laws, in part because he felt that what goes into the body is not as important as what come out—in words, actions. Therefore, what mattered was purity of heart (70).
If this idea was good enough for Jesus, why isn’t it good enough for his followers? Furthermore, Helminiak asserts that the restrictions against any male-male sex acts were designed to outlaw “the abuse and exploitation” that might be part of these activities (73).
Often, our society embraces an idea with the best intentions; however, new information surfaces which changes our point of view. Take, for instance, the modern obsession about getting/staying “clean”—anti-bacterial soap. For a while, the best-selling soaps were ones that claimed to kill all bacteria. Who wouldn’t want to as clean as possible? Then we learned (or rediscovered what was already known but not as widely publicized) that there are two kinds of bacteria—good and bad. We need the good; however, the anti-bacteria soap killed it all. So we’ve backed off. Sometimes a good idea turns out to not be one after all. We have to be willing to accept that our ideas can evolve. Negative thoughts about homosexuality should be one of these concepts if your problem with us is dictated by your interpretation of the Bible.