Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Emmy Winner Charlotte Robinson asks Other Sheep Steve Parelli to comment on Leviticus 18 and Romans 1 in view of Rev. Donald Spitz's "hateful comment" that gays, according to the Bible, should be criminalized

By Rev. Stephen Parelli
December 21, 2011
Bronx, NY

Today, OUTTAKE posted my comments on Lev. 18 & 20 and Romans 1 with the following title and introductory remarks:


" . . . We called on our openly gay Bible expert Rev. Stephen Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep in New York to explain this biblical misconception once and for all.  Parelli stated . . . "

The following comments by Rev. Parelli appear on OUTTAKE blog, Dec. 21, 2011, and were written expressly for OUTTAKE on December 19, 2011, in the Bronx, NY

Lev. 18:22 and 20:13

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." NRSV

Levitical purity laws, of which Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 are a part, were Jewish religious laws, not universal moral and ethical laws, which served to define how the Jewish people were to live as a unique chosen people.

Two principles served to define the purity code, the second of which was the prohibition of mixing ‘kinds,’ such as mixing linen and wool in the making of clothes.

“The lyings-of-a-woman,” the English rendering of the Hebrew phrase אִשָּׁה מִשְׁכְּבֵי  found in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, and which is understood to refer specifically to anal penetration, fails the second principle of the “purity” code.  Like mixing linen with wool, the male receptive partner is himself a combination of kinds – a male-female mixture.

At first sight, it is hard for us to wrap our heads around the idea that Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 have no more moral or ethical value for us today than the mixing of linin and wool in the making of clothes.  We need to dismantle our present-day frame-work and see our preconceived ideas for what they unfortunately are:  centuries-old, uninformed, so-called “biblical” biases against a misunderstood minority in society.

Romans 1:26-27a

“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions.  Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another.” NRSV

Elizabeth Stuart, in her book Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference, says Paul uses these words “natural” and “unnatural” (“against nature” in the KJV), “to describe, not homosexual people, but Gentiles who characteristically engaged in same-sex activity, a characteristic that distinguishes them, not from heterosexuals, but from the Jews” [emphasis mine].   For all the exegesis one must engage in to grasp how Paul is not talking about homosexuality as we understand it today, Stuart’s statement is the best summary I’ve found and completely fits the context.  Underline it.  Save it.  Repeat it to yourselves and others.

“Natural” and “unnatural” (“against nature” in the KJV) did not have for Paul the same meaning it has for us today.  In ancient times, “unnatural” meant “unconventional” (cf. I Cor. 11:14-15 NRSV and Rom. 11:24 NRSV where long hair on a man is unnatural and where God himself does what is “contrary to nature”).  Seneca, for example, refers to hot baths, banquets after sunset, potted plants and a man’s passive sexual role as all, equally “against nature”, i.e., contrary to custom.

Paul is not talking about homosexuals in contrast to heterosexuals, but rather about Gentiles whose customs are outside of the norm, especially in comparison to Jewish religious purity codes.  Paul, therefore, is not condemning all same-sex acts, and certainly not homosexuality as an orientation.

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