These two "clobber verses" in the book of Leviticus are among the Bibles most challenging scriptures. Join us as we continue with an affirming, LGBTQIA+ positive view of the Bible.
Today: Leviticus 18: 22 and Leviticus 20: 13.
Elton: Episode four: Men Lying with Men in Leviticus.
I'm Elton Sherwin, your host for the series. Thank you for joining us.
In episodes one through three, we looked at the first two “clobber verses.” We saw that neither was about consensual sex.
Both were about rape and sexual violence stories, twisted to blame gay men, gay men who played no part in the rape and murders described in the stories.
The Levitical “Clobber Verses”
In this episode, we discussed the two clobber verses most frequently used to condemn gay men. We will see that conservative churches ignore most of the surrounding verses only to pluck these two out of obscurity.
And gay Christians frequently agonize over these two verses. Here they are
Scripture Reader: Leviticus 18: 22.
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.”
Elton: and the second:
Scripture Reader: Leviticus 20: 13.
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall be put to death”.
Elton: Wow. In English, and out of context, these verses seem very damning.
First. Let's look at the context. Then, next time, we will look at the Hebrew.
Leviticus Bans Many Things
Leviticus bans over 70 activities, including:
- The selling of land,
- The wearing of mixed fiber clothes,
- The trimming of beards,
- The mistreatment of foreigners, and
- Body piercing
Leviticus also bans:
- Planting different types of seeds in the same field,
- Not standing in the presence of the elders,
- Working on the sabbath,
- Eating shrimp or crab,
- Eating pork…
Conservative Churches Ignore a Long List of Rules in Leviticus
A link to the longer list is in the notes. (click here)
Most churches today ignore all the dietary laws and many of the other rules in Leviticus.
Christian churches claiming all same-sex relationships are forbidden ignore most of the adjacent versus.
Selling Land Forbidden?
Conservative churches don't believe the selling of land is forbidden.
Think how the history of the world would have changed if Christians had been forbidden to buy and sell land.
The Death Penalty for Cursing Your Parents?
Conservative churches also don't believe CURSING YOUR MOTHER OR FATHER should BE PUNISHED BY DEATH as Leviticus commands.
And conservative churches don't believe mixed fiber clothes are sinful.
What makes “men lying with men different?” Why must we keep this part of Leviticus, but can ignore most other parts? There really is no satisfactory explanation. It appears to be a cultural and sexual bias.
How Do Churches Choose Which Levitical Laws to Follow?
Scripture Reader: “Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.” Leviticus 19: 13.
Elton: This is universally ignored. I know of no churches that pay their employees daily.
No Trimming Sideburns or Beards…
And then there is:
Scripture Reader: “Do not cut the hair on the sides of your head or trim your beard.” Leviticus 19: 27.
Elton: ALL churches IGNORE this rule and allow men to trim their beards and shave. Some churches even REQUIRE their employees to have neatly trimmed beards, directly contradicting this Levitical command.
Foreigners Receiving Social Security?
And then, there is:
Scripture Reader: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born. Love them as yourself for you were foreigners in Egypt,” Leviticus 19: 34.
Elton: I have never heard of a conservative pastor calling for all foreigners residing among us to be treated as native born:
- Obtaining driver's licenses,
- Being able to work,
- Receiving social security and so forth.
Then there is one of my favorites:
Priests Must Marry Virgins: From Their Own Race…?
Scripture Reader: “A priest is not to marry a widow, a divorced woman, or one defiled by prostitution. He is to marry a virgin from his own people.” Leviticus 21: 14.
Elton: Almost all Christian churches violate some part of this Levitical rule. The Catholic church bans most priests from marrying, even though it's clearly expected in Leviticus. Most churches, that allow priests to marry, ignore the requirement that priestly brides be virgins. And most churches that allow priests and pastors to marry, allow them to marry widows.
The Hypocrisy of Conservative Churches
Yet, these same churches claim that Leviticus demands that men not lie with men. There is no consistent theology that supports this, this cherry picking, this hypocrisy.
They Don’t Even Follow the Whole Verse
Among the conservative churches that teach that all male same-sex acts are sinful: They follow one Levitical rule on men lying with men, but ignore half of the other.
They agree with the first half of this verse, but they universally ignore the second half. The death sentence:
Scripture Reader: Leviticus 20: 13. “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall be put to death.”
Elton: Many conservative churches teach the first half of this verse and ignore the second half.
Traveling While Gay
Unfortunately, some conservative churches, particularly outside of the U.S., but some in the U.S., teach that this entire verse is a command from God. This can have disastrous consequences or the LGBTQIA+ community. Several organizations track this violence and issue travel warnings. I will put the relevant links in the notes. (See below)
Conservative Churches Require…
Many conservative churches claim that gay men and women MUST:
- Abstain from all sex,
- Never marry, and
- Forego leadership or teaching positions in churches.
It Is a High Bar
It is a high bar to claim the Bible condemns all same sex relationships. There would have to be a clearly articulated theology on why to ignore most of Leviticus, but not 75% of two verses on male, same-sex relationships.
There Is No Clearly Articulated Theology
How do churches know which part of Leviticus to follow? And what parts of Leviticus to ignore? Even the denominations cannot agree.
- The Southern Baptists don't agree with the American Baptists.
- The Presbyterian Church in America does not agree with the Presbyterian Church USA.
- The Episcopalian Church does not agree with the Anglican Church.
- The Lutherans don't agree with the Catholics.
None of the denominations can agree on which rules in Leviticus to follow.
The inability of pastors and theologians to explain why ONE AND A HALF VERSES should be the law, but most of the rest of Leviticus should be ignored undermines the entire case against same-sex relationships.
There Is No Biblical Case Against Same Sex Relationships Without These Two Verses
Why are these two verses—really one and a half verses—so critical? Because the other five clobber verses are about:
- Sexual violence,
- Sex with children,
- Human trafficking, and
- Roman orgies.
All things that should be condemned.
But they have nothing to do with consensual, same sex-relationships.
The Other Clobber Verses Are Unconvincing
As we saw previously, the first to clobber verses were about rape and attempted rape. Similarly, we will see in upcoming episodes, the three New Testament clobber verses—used to condemn same sex relationships—are actually about abusive sexual practices that are illegal.
The Other Clobber Verses Are Not About Consensual Same-Sex relationships
None of the other clobber verses, outside of Leviticus, address consensual, same-sex relationships.
And Leviticus is a house of cards with so many cards removed the house cannot stand.
Homophobia Is Not Christ-like
Many church elders—and large donors—have a deep dislike of same-sex and non-traditional relationships. This antipathy is out of step with Jesus inclusive gospel message.
This antipathy towards the LGBTQIA+ community has driven millions of young people away from the church.
The Hypocrisy of Some Churches
The hypocrisy of some churches is just mind boggling. They demand, the LGBTQIA+ community obey all of one verse—and half of another—while blatantly ignoring many of the other verses in Leviticus. Verses that would cause the powerful and the wealthy to change their behavior.
Join us next time in episode five, as we uncover even more problems with these two disputed verses in the Levitical house of cards. And then in episode six and seven, we will look at what Jesus said about sexual minorities.
A lot more coming up.
This is Elton Sherwin, and I am excited that you have found this series.
An older version of this episode is also available on YouTube: (although the audio is not quite as good as the podcast)
References and URLs:
Levitical clobber verses:
6. List of Levitical sins: https://hill-kleerup.org/blog/2012/06/13/76-things-banned-in-leviticus-and-their-penalties.html
Travel safety for LQBTQIA+ individuals, families and employees:
C. www.smartraveller.gov.au/before-you-go/who-you-are/LGBTIQuotes voiced by Speechelo
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