The Biblical book of Leviticus largely contains religious laws that the Jews of the time were expected to follow. Chapter 18 of Leviticus is basically a list of laws in relation to sexual partners. It is generally regarded as being written to Jewish males. Relevant sections include –
Leviticus 18:22 (NIV)
Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
and Leviticus 20:13 (NIV), which begins
If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.
Different gay activists respond to Leviticus in different ways. Lets consider some of the common excuses.
- Some gay activists concede that Leviticus makes a clear statement against sex between men. But these activists tend to claim that Leviticus doesnt apply to Christians. They point to elements of the New Testament which say that Christians are not bound by (Old Testament) religious law.
And it’s true that Christians do not follow all of the book of Leviticus (or various other elements of the Bible). But it’s not the case that Christians disregard all of Leviticus. Jesus himself cited approvingly of some elements of Leviticus (Matthew 22.37-39 / Leviticus 19.18) while rejecting other elements (Matthew 5.38 / Leviticus 24.19-20). Likewise Christians today adhere to some elements of Leviticus, while rejecting other elements. Traditionalists say that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 continue to apply to Christians, due in part to the fact that St Paul affirmed the same principles in the New Testament in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9 etc. And they note that Jesus taught that following religious law in general, continues to be important (See Matthew 7:23 in various translations).
- Some gay activists claim that the above verses are referring to gay sex only in the context of pagan temple rituals. They point to Leviticus 18:21 referring to worshipping other gods, and say that verse 22 is specifically connected to that.
Problems with this theory though, include the fact that Leviticus 20:13 is not next to a verse about pagan rituals, meaning there is little cause to think that this line of reasoning would apply there. Also, the wording of verse 22 seems independent of verse 21. And, while basically all of chapter 18 refers to sexual partners, most people think that much of Leviticus 18 is not limited to pagan rituals, so it is odd to believe that pagan rituals only applies to part of the chapter.
By the way, although Leviticus talks of a death penalty for various sins, including homosexual practise, it should be noted that Jesus wasnt keen on the death penalty (see John 8) and from what Ive heard, the Christian church has never had a tradition of practising the death penalty as a religious legal system.