Rev Clinton Chisholm, Contributor
MY FRIEND Byron Buckley's recent article in The Gleaner of December 27, 2012 challenging the Church concerning attitudes to sexual minorities was a commendably eirenic and creative piece. Though I agree with the general sentiment of the article, I must take issue with a few ideas in it.
Since it is very likely that the headline was Buckley's choice, I would suggest that what 'sexual minorities' (to use Buckley's expression) need and deserve, and what the adulteress in John 8 got from Jesus was not justice but mercy. What's the difference you ask?
Justice is commensurate desserts based on law, mercy is not giving to a confessedly guilty person the punishment deserved. It must not be overlooked that there is a radical difference between the woman caught in adultery in John 8 and the average practising homosexual today; she acknowledged her immoral act, the average practising homosexual will agitate for the dubious 'right' to continue in immoral acts. Attitudinally, it is like comparing apples and ice cream!
It is a praiseworthy suggestion that " … we should be able to end discrimination and stigmatisation of sexual minorities", but is this for all sexual minorities or just for homosexuals? What of the rapists, paedophiles, carnal abusers and those involved in incest?
When Buckley urges the point about Jamaica commendably ending discrimination against children born out of wedlock then proceeds to urge us to end discrimination and stigmatisation of sexual minorities he is comparing apples and ice cream, passive status and unlawful/immoral behaviour. The children once called bastards did nothing to be treated in law as bastards, but practising homosexuals choose to indulge a behaviour that they know is contrary to law and wholesome morality.
Now to my brother's reasoning from Scripture. He says of our Lord in John 8, "Firstly, he pointed out that her sin of adultery WAS NOT more reprehensible than the sins of persons accusing her. 'If any of you are [sic.] sinless, cast the first stone'." Not quite sound reasoning at all because it does not necessarily follow that because Jesus said "if any of you is without sin cast the first stone", he meant that adultery was no more reprehensible than the sins of the accusers.
STRIVE FOR MIDDLE PATH
I think a more likely conclusion (see Jn. 8:10-11) is that our Lord was rebuking the tendency to condemn, coming from people who have their own [darling] sins. We all should avoid the extremes of condemnation and compromise and strive for the middle path of compassion as we recall our sins.
All [sexual] sins are equally sins before God, but they are not all described in similar terms in Scripture. Some sins seem to be more heinous 'in God's eyes' than others owing to the language used to describe them.
As I urge in my audio book Homosexuality: Clinical & Biblical Perspectives, "It is significant … that though toevah [Hebrew for abomination] occurs six times in Leviticus (all in chapters 18 and 20) in summary statements concerning certain acts, only homosexuality specifically attracts the description toevah in 18.22 and 20.13."
With reference to the sins of the folk in Sodom and Gomorrah, my friend Buckley seems to be drawing on a now popular, but erroneous, view given scholarly credence by John Boswell in his 1980 book, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality.
Contrary to the traditional view that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, depicted so graphically in Genesis 19:4-13, is homosexuality, scholars like Boswell have argued that what prompted the divine judgment was not homosexuality but inhospitality.
The cumulative witness of Scripture (Old and New Testament) is contrary to this view. It is beyond controversy that hospitality is an issue in the narrative. But it is also beyond controversy that inhospitality was not the central sin of the men in Sodom. Their central sin was homosexuality or attempted homosexual gang rape of Lot's male guests. From my audio book again I say, "One cannot overlook the point that before the alleged 'inhospitality' incident in Gen. 19, it was God's expressed intention in Gen. 18.20 to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their grave sin. Of course this could be ongoing and aggravated inhospitality or ongoing and aggravated homosexuality. Of those two live options, only homosexuality is regarded as a capital offence in the Old Testament."
The testimony concerning Sodom and Gomorrah elsewhere in the Bible suggests that they were guilty of several offences but the most consistent witness re these cities in the New Testament has to do with sexual immorality.
Jude v. 7 says, "just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire." (New American Standard Bible)
Second Peter 2. 7, 8 and 10 say of Lot in Sodom, "[He] was oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men … by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds) … " (New American Standard Bible). Whatever other sin is involved in the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative in Genesis, homosexuality heads the list.
I wholeheartedly concur with my friend and brother Byron in his double-edged prayer and wish "that the heterosexual majority - especially members of the faith-based community - and members of sexual minority groups will embrace, rather tolerate, each other going forward. Each side will have to respect each other's sensibilities and coexist".
Rev Dr Clinton Chisholm is a lecturer at the Jamaica Theological Seminary and host of LOVE FM's 'The Morning Watch'.