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Movie review: Fish Out of Water

This 52 minute documentary relates the experience of a young lesbian woman coming to terms with her sexuality and faith, as she interviews various (somewhat) Christian experts on the subject. Much of the documentary is comprised of contemporary commentary on relevant Bible passages, from Sodom & Gomorrah, to Jesus and beyond.

The young woman’s face is not identified and her name is never provided, even in the credits. She interviews numerous people; some highly educated, others presumably not, some conservative, but most “Progressive”. Or at least it’s the ‘Progressive’ interviewees that get the most screen-time. Unofficial representatives from both extremes; Fred Phelps and John Spong, appear regularly throughout. The interviewees speak independently rather than responding to each other, meaning their opinions don’t tend to be critiqued. The editing is fairly fast and furious, and at times someone might speak only a single short sentence before it cuts to someone else speaking. The result is numerous opinions being expressed. And often the opinions are flawed. For me to respond to each and every point, would render this a verrrry long response, so instead I’ll focus on certain highlights.

Genesis: Sodom & Gomorrah

Some elements of what is said about Sodom & Gomorrah, are fair. But on the other hand, interviewees repeatedly say the story is about hospitality. That advice contradicts Ezekiel 16:49-50 – 

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.”

Leviticus 18 and 20

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

The interviewees say this passage is really about ownership of wives rather than homosexuality. But that advice doesnt line up with verses such as 18:10 or 13 or 17 or 18 or 19 or 21.

The interviewees also say we cant be selective about which passages from Leviticus we follow. But Jesus was selective. He affirmed some elements and rejected other elements.

Romans 1

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual 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 shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

The interviewees say that when the author, Paul, wrote that gay sex is ‘unnatural’, he meant culturally inappropriate. But there is little or nothing in the text that indicates that Paul was intending to be culturally specific. He seems to be speaking for God. If his words about homosexuality were to only apply to one culture, is the same true for other principles in Scripture? EG is murder only sinful for some cultures and not others?

Another point made by the interviewees is that if God made someone in a certain way, God must approve of it. But it’s a common theme throughout the New Testament that Christians are supposed to turn away from their natural inclinations!

1 Corinthians 6 & 1 Timothy 1

do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine

Several interviewees claim that a loving homosexual relationship between equals “never would have occurred to Paul” and that “Paul never understands” that people might enter loving homosexual relationships. This is conjecture without a firm basis. Homosexual activity at the time was not entirely abusive. Pederastic relationships of the time were regarded by some as altruistic. Sure homosexual practise at the time may have often occurred between non-equals. But that doesnt mean that Paul couldn’t have conceived it happening between equals or as it being a loving relationship.

At one point, an interviewee claims that Paul said “don’t get married.” This is a misleading oversimplification. Paul said it’s better not to marry, but in the same statement, said that it’s okay to marry if needed (1 Corinthians 7).

At another point, the documentary displays text stating that 98% of male pedophiles are heterosexual. This is contradicted by https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00926239208404356?journalCode=usmt20
and
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1556756

At another point, the host says “… people can debate any aspect of the Bible. But it is almost impossible to debate the central themes presented by Jesus’ ministry.” This just isn’t reality. In many churches today, whether they realise it or not there is much debate about what it means to “love your neighbour”. Many feel that it means welcoming refugees and sanctioning gay marriage, while others feel it refers instead to specific types of love that Jesus mentioned, such as supporting the poor, eg from Matthew 25:42-43.

At another point, it’s asked what did Jesus said about homosexuality? An interviewee responds “absolutely nothing.” But again, this is an exaggeration. See details here.

At another point, John Spong claims  “…you cant be the Christian church and exclude people.” But of course you can! Jesus said many would be excluded from heaven. Jesus said that if people didn’t meet some conditions they are not fit to be his disciples (Luke 14:27).

It’s interesting to Google some of the names mentioned. I only did a few. But there is a section of photos depicting ‘murdered’ LGBT people, towards the end, making them sound like vulnerable victims. But details I found on the last one, indicate that he was teasing and inciting his murderer. And the photo of him doesnt reflect the descriptions of how he tended to present himself. Googling the name of one of the most common faces in the documentary, Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, reveals that she doesnt even seem to identify as a Christian, but rather as a Jew (https://divinity.vanderbilt.edu/people/bio/amy-jill-levine).


A Review of Thomas Grover’s “A Biblical look at Homosexuality”

One Thomas Grover recently pointed me to a webpage here where he had sought to advance the idea that homosexual practise might not be sinful. I read through the web page, but didnt find it compelling. Annoyingly the webpage doesnt have a facility for feedback available, so here is my 6-point reply to him –

1. Near the start of the page, you wrote – 

No where in the Bible is there a word equivalent to homosexual. Neither Hebrew, Greek, Syric, or Arimaic. Hebrew, Arabic, and Modern Greek still do not.  No language did until the 19th. Century. Obviously there are ways of alluding to things with out actually giving them a specific name. But can a concept exist with out a name and in this particular case it is doubtful if the concept of homosexual behavior as a class existed.”

However, this seems to me to contradict what is written towards the end, IE

“… the idea that homosexuality represented a congenital physical characteristic was widespread in the Hellenistic world …”

Huh? Weren’t you arguing that the concept didn’t exist, and now your referring to elements of it being widely regarded?

2. When reviewing the story of Sodom, you extensively cite 14 references to it, from throughout the Bible. But you emit a key verse; Ezekiel 16:50. Why oh why omit something so fundamental? Amazingly you then surmised in the absence of the contradictory evidence of verse 50, that “Nowhere is there any reference to (even obliquely) to homosexuality?”, despite also your two prior sentences, which cite Jude 7 to say “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. …” The article doesnt put those two words in bold as I have, but … how could you not see that?

3. You suggest that lack of hospitality may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, resulting in the destruction of Sodom. This is mere conjecture. The straw that broke the camels back, may just as likely been homosexual practise.

4. Part 3 begins “Saint Paul, whose commitment to Jewish law had taken up most of his life, never suggested that there was any historical or legal reason to oppose homosexual behavior: if he did in fact object to it, it was purely on the basis of functional, contemporary moral standards.” Im not so sure. In 1 Corinthians 6, he talks of barriers to inheriting the kingdom of God. Is that not about holy standards rather than contemporary moral standards? And we should note also that St Paul’s word ‘arsenokoites’ has been said to be drawn from parallel Greek terminology in Leviticus (http://www.kotipetripaavola.com/arsenokoitesmeanshomosexuality.html). Yes, from a book of Jewish law.

5. You claim that ‘arsenokoites’ was originally defined as male prostitute. But no proof is provided.

6. In part 4, you argue that Paul’s condemnation in Romans 1, was that those depicted enjoyed heterosexuality, but also indulged in homosexual behavior. But Romans 1 says the men lusted after each other, so doesnt this line of thinking mean that they were bisexual? Surely if the men were lusting after each other, they couldn’t be simply straight. So are you saying that bisexuality is immoral?


Book Review: THE HANDBOOK by Will Horn

This post is a review of the Kindle version of the 2019 book named THE HANDBOOK: A Quick Conversation Guide to What the Bible Does and Does Not Say About Homosexuality, By Will Horn, Copyright 2019 Weeping Willow Publishing.

This book claims that the Bible does not reference homosexuality, and that “… every time you see the word “homosexual” in the Bible, it is a mistranslation!” The claims in the book are often based on exaggeration, unsubstantiated conjecture presented as fact, and on turning a blind eye to inconvenient details. EG from chapter 11; “… Paul did not understand that there were people who had an innate sexual or affectional attraction to the same gender …”

The book examines the key relevant texts of Scripture one by one.

When looking at the Sodom & Gomorrah story, it focuses on Ezekiel 16:49 which lists various reasons why the towns were destroyed. But the book omits verse 50, and so gives a misleading summary. When later evaluating Jude 1:7, the author dismisses it. This dismissal is contradictory to other advice he provides about giving context due weight.

When examining the relevant passage in Leviticus, the author says it’s about temple prostitution and idol worship rather than about homosexuality. But if you read the whole of Leviticus 18 for yourself, you see that the wider context is inappropriate sexual partners, and that the author is turning a blind eye to this. The author of the book also says that we no longer follow Leviticus, eg we now eat shrimp. But he omits to mention that the reason we eat shrimp, is because Jesus said that it’s fine to do so, unlike homosexual practise.

When interpreting Romans 1, the author tends to obfuscate, and say we “must” admit that “we don’t really know for sure what Paul is talking about”. He suggests that “a contextual reading of the passage generally leads us to one point of view and this is that Paul was not speaking about homosexuality at all.” Well many use a contextual reading to conclude that Paul was speaking about homosexuality. The author’s conclusion is odd.

When looking into 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, the author translates the first passage as being about catamites rather than homosexual adults. And although this is a possible translation, it’s not the only possible translation. The text itself does not specifically state it’s about catamites.

When examining what Jesus believed, it’s not balanced for the handbook to claim that Jesus is “… conspicuously silent on this topic.” I like how the book says in chapter 3 that context is important. But the author seems to disregard his own advice. Jesus had context. Jesus arrived in a Jewish context. The Jews believed that homosexual sex was sinful. Historians will tell you that. Leviticus will tell you that. If Jesus didnt mention homosexuality, this would imply that he agreed with the status quo. And we do know that Jesus said that sexual morality was important (Mark 7:21). And we know that Jesus presented 1 option as an alternative to lifelong heterosexual marriage – the life of a eunuch (Matthew 19). Many see this as implying not marrying at all. Yes Matthew 19 is open to interpretation, but its not “silent” as the handbook claims.


Liberal Methodists Value Reason over Scripture

Many times I’ve experienced liberal Christians arguing that they believe Scripture. But I’ve wondered how that’s possible when they sometimes believe the opposite to what it says. Now a new survey reveals that UMC liberals value reason over Scripture. I knew it!

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/what-do-united-methodists-really-believe#.XGNYcTb7IIw.facebook


Common Flawed LGBT Apologetics in 2018

Many have learnt the hard way that the LGBT apologetics is deep and extensive. EG you might come across an LGBT apologist in your church, and assume that by simply quoting Scripture to them, they will see the error of their ways, but you might actually find they reply that the Scripture you are quoting, or even Bibles in general are mistranslated. When they respond that way, you can likely find that neither of you shift in what you believe at all.

Yes indeed, to change the mind of a deeply deceived LGBT apologist can take a vast amount of knowledge. Often more knowledge than the average Christian has tucked away in their memory, or even if you have graduated seminary! There are actually people around today whose very career centres on writing LGBT apologetics. Simply reading a few books from a decide or two ago, may leave you under-informed. But there are semi-common arguments that they make that can be fairly easily refuted, so long as the LGBT apologist stays on track (sometimes you refute one thing they say, and they simply duck your reply to raise something else that’s barely related, and then repeat that cycle until they tire you out!) Anyways, here are some common yet easily refuted claims that were commonly circulating in late 2018 –

  1. The word ‘homosexual’ was inserted into the Bible less than 200 years ago.

Activists will sometimes employ this argument to imply or even state that prior to this, the Bible did not refer to homosexuality, thus the Bible did not originally speak to homosexuality at all, and that insertion of the word ‘homosexual’ in recent centuries, was a corruption.

It’s true that prior the last few centuries, Bibles did not contain the basically English word ‘homosexual’. This is because the English language is not static. New words enter the language and some words fall into disuse. The word ‘homosexual’ is comparatively speaking, one of the new words of English, having been coined in the mid 19th century. But just as today, we have a variety of words that mean much the same thing, such as ‘gay’, prior to the word ‘homosexual’, English-speakers had other words and phrases that meant much the same thing, eg ‘uranian’. And lets remember that the Bible was not originally written in English! Generally, Bibles in English use contemporary English to express what the original languages said. So whether English words come and go, does not affect the original meaning of the Bible in it’s original languages! And various relevant verses of the Bible reference homosexuality without even needing to use a term such as ‘homosexual’, because they spell out what they are talking about. EG in Leviticus where it says that a man should not “lay with a man” or in Romans 1 where it talks of men lusting after men; clearly a characteristic that only applies to true homosexuals. So the claim that only recent Bibles contain the word ‘homosexual’ is generally a misleading red herring.

2. The modern understanding of homosexuality, did not exist in Biblical times. The people of those times were not educated enough to know about homosexuality as understood today, so the Bible couldnt be referring to what we understand today as homosexuality. 

It’s true that today, we have a greater understanding of the human condition, and the variations and nuances found in human sexuality. But that doesnt mean that those in Biblical times knew nothing. The basic concept of homosexuality, is a person being sexually attracted to a member of their own sex, rather than the opposite sex. That’s not very complicated! And that’s exactly what we seem to see in Romans 1, where it says in verse 27 “… the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.” Men lusting after men, is homosexuality! Is there any instance where a man lusts after another man, and it’s not a case of homosexuality? No.

And consider Leviticus 18:22 “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman”. Is that portrayal of sex between men, archaic or foreign to what happens today? No. Some LGBT apologists want to suggest that the Biblical writers were referring to pagan rituals and other complications. But if you read the Bible for yourself, in a modern translation, it tends to give the impression that the understanding of the writers back then, tends to match our understanding today.

And we have records from historians from Jesus’ time, such as Philo, who writes of men dressing as women, and even castrating themselves. Yes, trans people, even then. There is nothing new under the sun.

3. At the time the Bible was written, sexually intimate relationships between men were abusive and exploitative. The people of that time did not know of mutually loving relationships, so the Bible could not have been addressing homosexuality as we know it today.

This one is a little gray, because it’s true that when the Bible was written, sex between men was often exploitative. However, please note that I say it was often exploitative. I did not say it was always exploitative. Historical records show there was often a significant age difference between the 2 sexual partners, with one being around the age of puberty and the other being a full grown man. Such pairings are obviously much more disallowed today. However, in modern times, large age gaps between a homosexual couple do exist. EG between Tom Daley, 19, and Dustin Lance Black, 39, or between the founder of the Human Rights Campaign (66) and a tryst (15).

However, it’s not true that the people of 2 millennia ago did not have mutual loving yet sexual relationships between males. According to Benardete’s translation of Plato’s Symposium, c. 400 BC, the idea of a sexual relationship between males is presented as being potentially life-long (p. 245) with the younger one referred to as a ‘lover’ (p.243), and suggesting that sometimes it’s the boy that pursues the man (also p. 243). Though Symposium is a work of fiction, it shows what the people of the time were thinking and capable of contemplating. One section refers to some male romantic couples as being –

“wondrously struck with friendship, attachment, and love, and are just about unwilling to be apart from one another even for a short time. And here you have those who continue through life with one another …”

And no, it’s not just plantonic love. On pp 279-281 there is talk of stripping, sleeping in bed together, and ‘gratifying’ your lover.

And in other lands, there is evidence of the ancients perceiving homosexuality to be tender rather than exploitative. Chinese culture even today refers to “the passion of the cut sleeve” in reference to homosexuality. According to Chinese historians, this reference arose from the emporer Ai, who ruled between 27 and 1 BC, and “did not care for women”, but rather for men such as the married Dong Xian. According to author Ban Gu, cited in A Little Gay History (p. 15) –

emporer Ai was sleeping in the daytime with Dong Xian stretched out across his sleeve. When the emperor wanted to get up, Dong Xian was still asleep. Because he did not want to disturb him, the emperor cut off his own sleeve and got up. His love and thoughtfulness went this far.

But what about Scripture itself? When it refers to homosexuality, are the references about exploitative relationships or loving relationships? Both, depending on the verse! In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, it’s clearly about exploitation and violence. Then in Leviticus 20 it talks of if “a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman”. Notice that it’s drawing an analogy between gay sex, and straight sex; implying similarity between them. We cant read too much into this, but it seems odd that in the analogy one would be exploitative and one not exploitative, otherwise it’s not comparing apples with apples and isnt a good analogy. And the verse continues, specifying a punishment. The punishment in that era was “They are to be put to death”. That’s both participants. Surely if the sex was exploitative, only the exploiter would face such a punishment. But no, the punishment was mutual, so perhaps the sin was also mutual. Later, Romans 1, it says –

“… the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men …”

It doesnt say older men were inflamed with lust for younger men. It doesnt say men took advantage of less powerful men. It doesnt specify rape. Rather, as far as I can see, it seems to present a mutuality to it. No, there is an absence of reason to interpret some of the verses as referring to exploitation, and instead there are signs that some of the verses portray mutuality.

4. The Bible does not address the situation of gay marriage, because the people of that time could not conceive of such as idea.

Yes they could. The historian Flavious Josephus lived in the first century. In his book Against Apion, Book II (section 25), Josephus wrote in the context of a section about marriage, that a relationship between males is rejected by Jewish society. Given that the context of section 25 is marriage, perhaps Josephus was referring to a marriage-like relationship between males. That the possibility of such a relationship is raised by Josephus, suggests that Jewish people of that era were also aware of the concept of men who wanted such relationships.

Then in A.D. 319, Eusebius of Caesarea wrote in Proof of the Gospel

“[H]aving forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men, he [God] adds: ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; ”

The concept of a man marrying a man was later also raised in the Jewish Babylonian Talmud of the 3rd to 5th centuries, where it states (in Chulin 92a, b);

Ula said: Non-Jews [litt. Bnei Noach, the progeny of Noah] accepted upon themselves thirty mitzvot [divinely ordered laws] but they only abide by three of them: the first one is that they do not write marriage documents for male couples, the second one is that they don’t sell dead [human] meat by the pound in stores and the third one is that they respect the Torah.

Do you have an easily refuted example to add to this list? Comment away.


Flaws in media praise of Boy Erased

My gosh the media is fawning over the new movie Boy Erased. Fawning. Well some media anyway. But those who are talking about it, are doing so with passion. Passion, but not always with accuracy.

Take the following clip –


Here are 3 inaccuracies that annoy me.

  1. When defining conversion therapy, they characterise it as being achieved by “coercion, violence or even shock therapy.” Violence? Doesn’t happen. Shock therapy? Not this century! Coercion? Not so much. What a demonising description. Where is the journalistic balance?
  2. They play a line from the movie, where it’s voiced that “God will not love you the way that you are.” Nobody says that. Do they? No. Gay people have often said they dont feel loved by God. But I never hear anyone in the church say that God doesnt love. However I have heard people say that God loves everybody.

  3. They say “at least 77,000 are being held in these programs.” Held? Of the 2 living examples in this story, of those who have undergone the practise, one is described in other reports as having “put himself through years of anguish with so-called gay conversion therapies.” Put himself. It says even his parents accepted his sexuality before he did. The majority are not held. Ive heard some of the therapists say that they will not treat those who are not willing participants.

Many of the media reports speak of conversion therapy as leading to suicidal depression. And yes I suspect it has contributed. Im not saying it’s all good. But the reality is that those who are depressed while doing the therapy, tended to be depressed before they started the therapy. That’s partly why they entered into it in the first place! The guy on whom the movie was based, had suicidal thoughts before he sought treatment! http://www.frcblog.com/2018/11/truth-obscured-hollywood-take-sexual-orientation-therapy/#.W_gj2-Ugq78.facebook