FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The gay rights movement finally wedged its proverbial foot in the door of the federal government.
The Veteran’s Administration agreed Aug. 5 to allow the United Federation of Metropolitan Community Churches — an organization comprised primarily of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender ministers and congregants — to field chaplains at VA healthcare facilities.
Spokesman Phil Budahn said the VA had followed procedure as it reviewed and approved the federation’s application just as it would any other religious organization. The VA really had no other option than to approve the application because of a new and clever tactic employed by the federation.
The tactic: declare homosexuality an inseparable component of the group’s religious beliefs.
Founded in Los Angeles in 1968 by defrocked Pentecostal minister Troy Perry, the federation has at its core the belief that homosexuality is a God-given, God-accepted lifestyle. Because the lifestyle is declared a religious experience and expression, the federal government cannot, by virtue of the First Amendment, discriminate against the federation or deny it an avenue into the chaplaincy at the federal level.
The federation, which now claims 300 churches and 40,000 members in the United States and 17 other countries, may have just found an Achilles heel. In fact, they plan to apply for the ability to endorse military chaplains as well.
You may be wondering — I, too, have scratched my head more than once over this — how this “denomination” can claim that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality and that sex is only sinful “when we exploit or use another person, abandoning the ways of love.”
If you are daring enough to point to a passage of Scripture that you believe speaks against homosexuality, members of the federation will huff, “Ah, poor, unenlightened soul. That’s just what you’ve always been taught. Let me tell you what the Bible really says.”
The pro-gay and lesbian federation’s website contains their statement of faith, their denomination’s history and a section called “The Bible,” a flurry of arguments that attempt to leap over the wall of moral decency built into orthodox Christianity. Before addressing statements about homosexuality in the Bible, the federation proposes two presuppositions.
The Bible must first, they say, be read in context. Second, those who read it must realize that “translating requires interpretation and personal judgment” because the Bible began as oral tradition and was copied and re-copied in the original languages. They then conclude, “Even with the best intentions, translators and copyists are quite capable of error.”
What are some of the errors? You don’t have to look far to find them, according to the federation.
For example, Genesis 19:1-28, the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, should not be misinterpreted as a condemnation of homosexuality. The federation claims the Sodomites were guilty of the grave sin of idolatry, according to a supporting text, Ezekiel 16:19-50. They also claim that the Hebrew verb “yadah,” which means to know or understand in an intimate sense, does not indicate that the men of Sodom desired a homosexual encounter.
They argue that the word yadah is used 943 times in the Old Testament, and only on 10 occasions does the word denote sexual intercourse but never a homosexual encounter. That is lie number one.
Judges 19:22-30 closely resembles the story of Sodom. Drunken townsmen want to attack a male guest in the town and “know him” sexually. What determines the meaning, as they say, is the context.
Here the context is a lawless, lascivious society. In Ezekiel 16:49-50, the prophet refers to the “abominable things” or “repugnant things” done by the Sodomites. The Hebrew word “towebah” used is the same word used to describe filthy, loathsome, polluted and unclean conduct, human sacrifice, the sacrifice of unclean animals, engaging in occultism and, yes, homosexuality. In the holiness code of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13), homosexuality is said to be towebah — an abomination.
Just in case the federation claims that the abomination had nothing to do with improper sexual relationships, take a look at Jude 7. It also refers to the men of Sodom as utterly promiscuous with a strange craving for flesh, and 2 Peter 2:6-10 claims that even Lot was oppressed by “sensual conduct.”
Thus, it is clear that the Bible actually says and means that the men of Sodom wanted to have a homosexual encounter with Lot’s guests. The Septuagint, the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, indicates the same.
Lie number two is that the New Testament does not condemn homosexuality. The federation would have us believe that Paul’s words in Romans 1:24-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 can be explained away with “fuzzy Greek” or simply reinterpreted in light of modern culture.
For example, neither 1 Corinthians 6:9 nor 1 Timothy 1:10 actually uses the word “homosexual,” they say. Well, yes, they do. Both Greek words used in the passages, “malakos” and “arsenokoitai,” mean an effeminate, homosexual, male sexual pervert and Sodomite. Both are used in the context of Paul’s description of “immorality” among the Corinthians beginning in chapter 5.
It is no coincidence that the federation expends most of its energy defending its own doctrine against the obvious condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1.
They argue that the passage condemns homosexuality for those who are created heterosexual but not for those created homosexual. It would be as great a sin, they say, for a created homosexual to practice heterosexual behavior. Paul did write that part of the punishment for such behavior was the delusion of thinking that it was an acceptable lifestyle.
The homosexual is only one type of sinner, Paul said in 1 Corinthians, that would be excluded from life in heaven. He or she stands condemned as does the drunkard, the adulterer and the slanderer. The gospel’s good news, however, is that Christ redeems and changes human beings — even homosexuals. After all, Paul wrote, “some of these things you once were.”
But that’s just Paul, according to the federation. Jesus, they say, never spoke of homosexuality.
I know it’s simple. He never spoke of it because it had long since been declared sinful by the inspired Word of God. His audience also was comprised of men and women who knew that the door to such abhorrent behavior as homosexuality should remained tightly latched and opened under no circumstance. To open it would invite the destruction of Sodom.
Gregory Tomlin is news director at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.