Saturday, January 9, 2010

Refuting Homosexuals who Use the Bible to Defend Homosexuality

Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality? An Interview with Dr. Reverend Cheri DiNovo. As the interview with Dr. DiNovo is conducted, Robert Sungenis will provide rebuttal to DiNovo’s arguments.

Introduction by The Turning: As the debate rages over the legality and morality of same sex marriages, many Christians rely on the Bible as their guide. Many believe that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality, and they provide specific passages to back up their claim. We decided to give the other side of the debate a chance to answer. So, we interviewed Dr Reverend Cheri DiNovo, a United Church Minister who has performed a dozen same-sex marriages in Canada. She has also written a Ph.D. thesis on the subject of how Christianity deals with the outcasts of society.

In this interview, we asked Dr Reverend DiNovo to explain her perspective on three often-quoted biblical passages that seem to condemn homosexuality.

THE TURNING: Well, let’s go through the Bible and take a look at some of the passages which people often quote when condemning homosexuality. Starting in the beginning with Genesis 19, we have the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot invites two men into his home, not knowing that they are really angels. Soon, a crowd forms outside the house, demanding that the strangers be sent out so they can be raped. Lot refuses, and offers his virgin daughters instead. How do you read this in terms of an attitude towards homosexuality?

DiNovo: Well, first of all it’s important to remark that this passage is not about homosexuality. In fact, it has nothing to do with homosexuality. It’s about welcoming, it’s about the theology of hospitality, which is the great theology, biblically speaking, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelations. So, always and everywhere, the bible tells us to be welcoming and hospitable to strangers, especially strangers who are not like us. So here come some strangers into your town, so what do you do with them. The great sin of Sodom, for which it was punished, is the abuse of the strangers. It has nothing to do with how they were abused. That is irrelevant to the story. Anything could have happened. It is the fact that they were abused at all that is the point of the story.

It is not a question of sexual ethics, because it is absurd to say that it’s okay to send your virgin daughters out to be gang-raped, but it’s not okay to have strangers gang-raped. And that would be an absurd reading of it, but that would be a literalist reading of it, if you want to take it at face value, without any thought involved. I think there’s a great deal of prevarication when talking about this. People just throw Sodom and Gomorrah out as if they know what it’s about. They either don’t know what it’s about or if they’ve actually studied the bible in obvious detail, they’d see that it’s not about homosexuality. It’s a smokescreen.

R. Sungenis: To those who know better, it is uncanny the excuse that Sodom and Gomorrah was about “hospitality” has actually remained in the apologetic of the homosexual advocates for so long, being that it is one of the most ridiculous answers ever devised by intelligent men. I remember I first heard the “hospitality” excuse when I was in college in 1978. I took a minor in Psychology and in a class on Abnormal Psychology the professor, with tongue in cheek, stated that the more popular explanation psychologists were giving at that time concerning the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was that it had nothing to do with homosexuality; rather, it was about the sin of “inhospitality.” I remember distinctly, as soon as he uttered those words, the whole class went into hysterical laughter. And that, of course, is what we can do with “Reverend Cheri DiNovo’s” present advocacy of the “hospitality” argument.

Any biblical exegete worth his salt would tell DiNovo that in order for “hospitality” to be the central focus of the Genesis narrative, there would have to be some mention of “hospitality,” or some similar term, as that which was the object of God’s concern regarding the events occurring in Sodom and Gomorrah. As it stands, there is not one word about hospitality.

The only time hospitality is part of the narrative is when Abraham meets the three strangers who eventually condemn Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18:1f). To show kindness, Abraham and Sarah provide nourishment for the three strangers.

Second, Genesis 18:16-33 provides us with the actual conversation between God and Abraham concerning the fate of the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. Verse 20 states: “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.” Thus, the Lord has ALREADY seen the sin of Sodom, and it is exceedingly perverse. Hence, this couldn’t be the sin of “inhospitality” because the event concerning Lot and the men pounding on his door seeking to consort with the angels has not yet occurred. That event won’t occur until the next chapter, Genesis 19. So “Reverend Cheri’s” argument is completely anachronistic, not to mention completely bogus.

Evidently, the Lord had been observing the sin of Sodom for quite some time, and it is the very reason he has come to Abraham. So perverse and so complete is the sin of Sodom (long before Lot’s door is accosted) that Abraham finds himself bargaining with God not to destroy the city if he can find 10 righteous people. Evidently, Abraham can’t find even 10 righteous people, and thus God plans on destroying the whole city.

Granted, Genesis 18 doesn’t tell us what the sin of Sodom is, but that information is supplied in Genesis 19:5 when the men at Lot’s door say: “and they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.’” (NASB)

The clause “that we may have relations with them” is from the Hebrew word YADAH, which means “to know,” and is often used in idiomatic form to represent sexual relations (cf., Gn 4:25: “And Adam knew his wife and she bore a child”). We know that sexual relations is the meaning of YADAH in this context because it is used again in regard to sexual relations with Lot’s daughters, as Lot says in verse 8: “Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations [YADAH] with man” (NASB).

It is obvious to any unbiased exegete that the context of the narrative demands that sexual relations is the focus of the passage.

How else do we know that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah involved illicit sexual relations? We know it from the many commentaries in Scripture on this very event. In fact, “Sodom” is used as a figure of sexual sin and is referred to as the place of divine judgment over two dozen times in Scripture (cf., Dt 29:23; 32:32; Is 1:9-10; 3:9; 13:19; Jr 23:14; 49:18; 50:40; Lm 4:6; Ez 16:46-56; Am 4:11; Zp 2:9; Mt 10:15; 11:23; Rm 9:29).

But more importantly, there are two explicit passages in the New Testament that tell us precisely that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was sexual in nature. First there is 2 Peter 2:6-8:

“and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for 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)”

The words “sensual conduct” are the Greek ASELGEIA ANASTROPHES. The first ASELGEIA, appears 9 times in the New Testament and is usually translated as “lasciviousness” (Mt 7:22; Rm 13:13; 2Co 12:21; Gl 5:19; Ep 4:19; 1Pt 4:3; 2Pt 2:18; Jd 4), which refers to one having lustful, lewd or wanton thoughts or behavior.

We also note here that the men of Sodom were tormenting Lot “day after day.” Hence, this is not merely a one-time occasion of force exerted at Lot’s door, but a continual display of lascivious behavior long before the angels ever arrived.

Then there is Jude 7:

“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.”

Here it is even more explicit as to the nature of the sin of Sodom. The clause indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh is from the Greek EKPORNUESASAI and APELTHOUSAI OPISO SARKOS HETERAS. The first is a combination of the Greek PORNEIA, which is derivation for our English word “pornography,” and the prefix “EK,” which means “out of.” The second phrase literally means “going after different flesh.” The operative word here is “different,” which is from the Greek HETERAS. In this context it refers to sexual relations that are “different” than normal sexual relations, i.e., homosexual relations.

Hence, DiNovo’s interpretation of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being accepted by reputable biblical exegetes.

There is one curious fact we also need to mention. The mere fact that DiNovo feels compelled to answer the Bible shows that she implicitly regards the Bible as a practical authority on the issue. If she didn’t esteem the Bible, then all she would need to do to answer the narrative is say: “The Bible is not an authority, and therefore we are not compelled to answer its assertions.” Instead, DiNovo implicitly subjects herself to the authority of Scripture, and thus, if she is wrong about her interpretation of Scripture (which we have clearly shown), then she will also suffer the condemnations Scripture specifies for those who practice or advocate homosexuality.

THE TURNING: And yet, this story has cast an enormous shadow over Christianity. We speak of ‘sodomy’ because of this story. It suggests that church leaders over the centuries have considered this story to be about homosexuality.

DiNovo: I know, and isn’t that absurd. That truly is prevarication, it clearly speaks to an agenda of the church, and that agenda is about hegemony and control, and it’s always about control over those places where people feel the most vulnerable, and that’s in their sexuality and in their ethical dealings with each other. Where the church wields the hammer the most, that’s where you should question it the most. This is one of those texts that has simply been abused by the church.

R. Sungenis: Unfortunately for DiNovo the “absurdity” lies in the fact that she carries a Ph.D. and purports to speak as an authority on biblical exegesis, but she obviously knows very little about it. Instead she speaks of the Church as having an “agenda” when it gives an interpretation of the passage that is opposite her interpretation. It’s all about “control” as far as DiNovo is concerned. But, of course, where would the world be without “control.” The very fact that the interviewer from THE TURNING doesn’t get up and rape DiNovo and stick a knife in her chest is that there are certain “controls” our society puts on immoral and deviant behavior.

THE TURNING: I guess it begs the question, had the angels appeared as women, what would have happened in the house?

DiNovo: Well, the same thing, it would have made no difference, except that sodomy wouldn’t be a part of our vocabulary. But another thing to point out about the biblical period: there was no such thing as homosexuality in the biblical era, neither in the Hebrew scripture era nor in the New Testament era. Homosexuality did not exist as a term or as a person. Homosexuality as a person was invented in the nineteenth century, as a pathology.

R. Sungenis: Now we see DiNovo attempting to base her argument on etymology. Granted, the technical term “homosexuality” wasn’t used prior to the nineteenth century. It originated as a clinical term to describe what was commonly understood in all previous generations as sexual relations with someone of the same sex. Often the Hebrew or Greek did not assign one word to describe an action or state, but used several words. For example, Hebrew did not have a word for “uncle,” and thus whenever an uncle is in view the Hebrew would describe the person as “your father’s brother.” The same was true with homosexuality. It was described by various phrases in both Hebrew and Greek. Hebrew used “a man who lies with a male” (Lv 20:13). Greek would refer to them as “abandoning the natural function of the woman” or “burning in lust towards one another, men with men” (Rm 1:27).

But at one point the Greek does, indeed, describe homosexuality with one word. In 1 Cor 9:9, St. Paul uses the word ARSENOKOITAI, stating that such persons will not inherit the kingdom of heaven: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals.” This word appears one other time in the New Testament, 1Tm 1:10: “and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.”

The Greek word ARSENOKOITAI is a combination of the words ARSEN = “male”; and KOITUS = “sexual copulation.” We have a word in English, “coitus,” which means sexual intercourse. So here we have a word in Greek that is about as precise as a word can be to describe two males having sexual relations. The word ARSENOKOITAI literally means “male sexual relations.”

We also find the word ARSENOKOITAI in classical Greek literature many years before and after the New Testament made use of the word. It appeared in the Revenue Laws of Ptolemy Philadelphus 6, 10, 25; Anthologia Palatina 9, 686, 5; and Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum viii, 4, p. 196, 6; 8; and the Sibylene Oracles 2, 73 and Polycarp to the Philippians 5:3. The pedigree is established, and thus, any claims to “homosexuality” surfacing as merely a “nineteenth century” classification is simply fallacious.

DiNovo: At the time the Bible was written, both the Hebrew scripture and the New Testament, homosexual acts were just variations of sexual acts. We remember that during the Greek era when the New Testament was written, homosexuality between an older man and a younger man was seen as a very common form of mentoring. It was average, it was not frowned upon.

R. Sungenis: Notice how DiNovo tries to confuse the issue by implying that merely because some in the Greek culture considered homosexual acts as normal, and because this practice took place during the writing of the Scripture, it is safe for her to conclude that the writers of Scripture condoned homosexuality just as did the citizens of the Greek culture. How DiNovo arrives at this bit of convoluted logic she does not tell us, but there it is nonetheless. In DiNovo’s view, certain people in the “Greek era” become the standard upon which all behavior is judged, and somehow they attain mastery over the biblical writers who specialized in judging moral behavior. Suffice it to say, DiNovo’s understanding of history and culture is, shall we say, a little askew. Many in the “Greek era” were either immoral or amoral. It was precisely for the deterioration of their society through illicit sexual relations that they were eventually conquered by the Romans. But both the Old Testament and New Testament writers were adamantly against all homosexual acts. All one need do to verify this is to read the writings of the early Church Fathers on the issue. Below are just a few who have written on the issue:

Chrysostom: "But when God abandons a person to his own devices, then everything is turned upside down. thus not only was their doctrine satanic, but their life was too....How disgraceful it is when even the women sought after these things, when they ought to have a greater sense of shame than men have" (Homilies on Romans, 4).

Chrysostom: "This is clear proof of the ultimate degree of corruption, when both sexes are abandoned. Both he who was called to be the leader of the woman and she who was told to become a help meet to the man now behave as enemies to one another. Notice how deliberately Paul measures his words. for he does not say that they were enamored of one another but that they were consumed by lust for one another! You see that the whole of desire comes from an excess which cannot contain itself within its proper limits. for everything which transgresses God's appointed laws lusts after monstrous things which are not normal.

"The normal desire for sexual intercourse united the sexes to one another, but by taking this away and turning it into something else, the devil divided the sexes from each other and forced what was one to become two, in opposition to the law of God...The devil was bent on destroying the human race, not only by preventing them from copulating lawfully but by stirring them up to war and subversion against each other" (Homilies on Romans, 4).

Cyprian: "If you were direct your eyes into secret places, to unfasten the locked doors of sleeping chambers and to open these hidden recesses to the perception of sight, you would behold that being carried on by the unchaste which a chaste countenance could not behold. You would see what it is an indignity even to see...Men with frenzied lust rush against men. Things are done which cannot even give pleasure to those who do them." (To Donatus, 9).

Severian: "Paul did not say this lightly, but because he had heard that there was a homosexual community at Rome" (Commentary from the Greek Church).

Ambrosiaster: "It is clear that, because they changed the truth of God into a lie, they change the natural use (of sexuality) into that use by which they were dishonored and were condemned to the second death. For since Satan cannot make another law, having no power to do so, it must be said that they changed to another order and by doing thing which were not allowed, fell into sin" (Commentary on Paul's Epistles)

R.Sungenis: end

DiNovo: Where we see Paul and others in the New Testament railing about what seems like homosexuality, what they’re actually railing about is manipulation of youth. It’s really more pedophilia that they’re railing at in that context, especially among the Greeks themselves and the whole Greek mythic structure. They’re railing against the Greek way of life. And part of that way of life was this initiation procedure with young boys, and it’s really pedophilia, and the kind of power imbalance which that implies is really the problem.

So, homosexuality is really a bad translation in this context. There were no ‘homosexuals’ at that time, there were only adults having sex in various ways, and one of those was having sex with their own gender.

R. Sungenis: We see that DiNovo is adopting the same kind of convoluted logic she used previously. Here she attempts to make a connection between what the Greeks rationalized for sexual behavior and what the New Testament writers condemned. In DiNovo’s contorted logic, because the Greeks allowed grown-males to have sexual relations but frowned upon grown-males having sex with young males, to her this means that the New Testament writers accepted grown males having sex but not young males. That DiNovo actually thinks she can get away with this is rather amazing. There is not the slightest hint that the New Testament writers condoned grown males having sex. In fact, every reference we have in the New Testament concerning homosexual relations refers explicitly to grown males engaging in sexual relations. There is not one reference to youths being abused. Now, if DiNovo would like to disprove this fact, she will need to cite passages in the New Testament that prove her point, not just assert as fact the very thing she is required to prove.

THE TURNING: So, just to put that in context, would most of the men who were having sex with boys also be married to women?

DiNovo: Oh, absolutely. This was a patriarchy, so you want your name to be carried on. You have to remember that marriage was not what it is now, either. Marriage in biblical times was usually polygamy, and women had the status of cattle, they were purchased with gold, and they were really there to have children for the men. They were not seen as a man's prime object of sexual attraction. Maybe there was a component of that, but that was not really the key component. Marriage was to produce children. And to produce the patriarch's children, with the patriarch's name.

So marriage didn't have very much to do with sex, and the classic example of that is Solomon and his thousand wives. That's in the same breath as the Ten Commandments' injunction against committing adultery. Well, what does it mean not to commit adultery in a community that would allow you to have one thousand wives? How much energy does one guy have, you know? Clearly, there's something else at work here than sexual prohibition. Again, we have to see things in context, in terms of the differences between their world and our modern world.

R. Sungenis: DiNovo claims that “marriage was not what it is now…Marriage in biblical times was usually polygamy, and women had the status of cattle…” On the one hand, we can agree that “marriage was not what it is now,” but perhaps not the way DiNovo expected. At least in biblical times we didn’t have throw-away-marriages like we have today. Divorce was practically unheard of in biblical times, but today, for the first time in history, we have a divorce rate of 50% for first marriages and 60% for second marriages. Some improvement. Today we have homosexuals getting married, something previous societies did not practice, especially “biblical times.” Today we have teens having babies and getting married, something that was quite rare in older times. So if DiNovo’s point was to make a case that marriage today is better than it was in previous times, she needs to look again.

DiNovo then asserts that “marriage in biblical times was usually polygamy.” This is also fallacious. There were only certain instances of polygamy in the Old Testament, and there are none recorded in the New Testament. Adam had one wife. Noah had one wife. Abraham had one wife at a time, and only took Hagar as a concubine when Sarah wasn’t producing children (an act that was condemned by God). The Mosaic law made a stipulation against polygamy in Dt 17:17: “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away.” Those who had multiple wives were going against what God had ordained. David did so, and he also committed adultery and murder. Solomon did so, and his multiple wives did precisely what Dt 17:17 predicted, since 1 Kings 11 tells us of Solomon’s apostasy.

DiNovo also says that “woman had the status of cattle.” Of course, her intention is to create the impression that women were treated no better than animals, but that is simply not the case at all. Wives were the possessions of the husband, but that was stipulated in the Mosaic law in order to protect the wife legally and financially. As a legal possession of his, the husband was obligated to provide for his wife. This was especially needful when the marriage deteriorated. The same is true today. If a marriage deteriorates and the husband and wife divorce, the wife is entitled to at least half of the assets of the marriage, and that is because she is legally attached to the husband and his assets. The husband cannot simply dispense with the wife and have her fend for herself.

Lastly, DiNovo claims that: “Marriage was to produce children. And to produce the patriarch's children, with the patriarch's name.” This implies, of course, that no man in the ancient world looked upon his wife with love and affection. According to DiNovo’s distorted view of life, the wife existed merely to produce children but the husband actually got more pleasure in having sex with males. Unfortunately for DiNovo, the exact opposite is true. All one need do is read the literature from these periods to see that love and fidelity were of the utmost concern in society, both in Hebrew and Greek culture. No society could survive otherwise. It has been shown time and time again that as soon as a society condones or institutionalizes homosexuality, it is not long before that society crumbles. It was only the marginal quarters of society that engaged in deviant sexual behavior and who then sought to institutionalize that behavior, much like we see today.

Leviticus: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman, it is an abomination." 18:22

THE TURNING: Okay, well, let's continue our march through the Bible, and get to Leviticus, where God says to Moses, among many other things, " You shall not lie with a male as with a woman, it is an abomination."

DiNovo: Okay, so, here you have the Jews differentiating themselves from the other great cultures of their day. In Leviticus you will find another six hundred strictures as well, including against eating shellfish, as well as spitting on the floor, prohibitions about women having their periods. There's all sorts of stuff there that we would now throw out, with very little thought. We would say, this is a people with very little in common with our people who have prohibitions for all sorts of strange reasons, and this would be of interest to a cultural anthropologist maybe, but it is certainly not anything we're going to live our lives by.

This is Rabbinical wisdom, this is not mine: the ban against homosexual sex acts is of the same order as not eating shellfish. So, if the Religious Right condemned the eating of shellfish in the same breath as homosexual acts, then maybe they would have it in context.

R. Sungenis: DiNovo’s twisting of Scripture is precisely why it is absolutely necessary to understand Scripture and how it is written. First, notice that in her attempt to dismiss the Old Testament as irrelevant to today, she has implicitly admitted that the Old Testament condemned homosexuality. DiNovo’s only escape from the Old Testament’s condemnation is for her to say that it was merely “Rabbinical wisdom,” or something akin to the condemnation of eating shellfish. In DiNovo’s view, homosexuality was condemned in THAT day, but not in ours, since we don’t subscribe to Old Testament laws any longer.

Previously, DiNovo argued just the opposite. She argued that the incident at Sodom and Gomorrah was not about homosexuality but about hospitality, as if to argue that there was nothing wrong with the men of Sodom seeking to have sexual relations with Lot’s friends, as long as they did it hospitably. But now DiNovo is arguing that the Old Testament did, indeed, condemn homosexuality, but she insists we can dispense with that prohibition because we are not required to follow Old Testament law any longer. Do you see the duplicity in her argument? DiNovo wants to have her cake and eat it, too. On the one hand she wants to argue that there was nothing wrong with homosexuality; but on the other hand she wants to argue that homosexuality was condemned, but we need not follow that condemnation any longer, otherwise we will be required to abstain from shellfish. Thus, her own illogic shows the fallacious nature of her argumentation.

Now, let’s deal with the issue of Old Testament law. DiNovo is certainly correct in arguing that the Mosaic Law is obsolete. We are not under it any longer. In fact, anyone who puts themselves under the Mosaic Law will be condemned (Gal 3:10-12; 5:1-4). The New Testament makes a specific point of the Old Covenant’s obsolescence in several places (2 Cor 3:6-14; Hebrews 7:18; 8:7-13; 10:9). This would include the laws against homosexuality and the laws against eating shellfish. But what DiNovo doesn’t tell you is that, in the New Covenant (which replaced the Old Covenant), the Church re-established the moral code of the Mosaic Law, including the condemnation of homosexuality. Under the stipulations of the New Covenant, the Church has the right to re-establish any law from the Old Testament she desires to have (cf., Mt 16:18-19; Acts 15:1-12). That is why we see 9 of the 10 commandments re-established in Romans 13:9-10 (minus the law on Sabbath-keeping). That is why St. Paul can continue to denounce homosexuality in Romans 1:18-24 and 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tm 1:10, since he, as a New Testament apostle, has the authority to either keep or dispense with Old Testament moral and civil provisions. He does so in other ways in, for example, 1 Cor 9:9 when he uses the Old Testament law against muzzling the ox as a support for his wages as a minister.

DiNovo: What's really true about Leviticus, and what kosher is about, is being mindful. Mindfulness about what you do, how you do it and why you do it. Mindful about the fact that God is aware of what you are doing, and God is present in what you are doing, and so you do it in a spirit of holiness. That holiness is imbued in every moment of your life. So, when you’re washing your dishes, what fork you use, what you eat with, all of this has to do with God in some beautiful and brilliant way. So, it's not about what fork you use, it's not about who you sleep with, it's about the mindfulness in which you engage in sexual acts, it's not about eating shellfish, it's about the mindfulness of the food that you put into your mouth - where did it come from, what pain when into producing it. So, that's what Leviticus is about, and this is what gets lost.

R. Sungenis: Now do you see why the Bible warns us in 2 Cor 11:14-15: “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness”? Notice how DiNovo speaks of “God” so flowingly and caringly! This woman is an expert.

In any case, let’s follow DiNovo’s argument to its logical conclusion. Let’s say that some man decided to rape DiNovo, and then beat her to a pulp. Let’s say he decided to rape her children and keep them as sex slaves. According to Dinovo’s above argument (e.g., “So, it’s not about what fork you use, it’s not about who you sleep with, it’s about the mindfulness in which you engage in sexual acts”), as long as the man rapes her and her children “mindfully,” there should be no problem. Perhaps he can really be a nice guy when he’s doing it, and offer them monetary compensation for the slight inconvenience they will endure. Of course, DiNovo will argue, “But rape is against the law and every notion of decency we have in society.” And I will argue: “Why, yes, you are quite correct. But then again, homosexuality is against the law and every form of decency we have in society.” And then DiNovo will argue that homosexuality should not be in the same category as rape; and I will argue that they should. And I will argue based on what Scripture has stated about both rape and homosexuality. In the Old Testament, both were capital crimes that resulted in execution by stoning. In the New Testament, although the civil magistrate has the power to execute, still, both rape and homosexuality are considered capital crimes that will disinherit one from the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 5:1-8; 6:9-10). Now, unless DiNovo can show us from sound biblical exegesis why these conclusions are not true, then she, as a “Reverend” who speaks about a God who “is aware of what you are doing,” is required to abide by them. So far, DiNovo has shown us anything BUT sound biblical exegesis. Even her knowledge of Hebrew and Greek history is askew. Suffice it to say, she has not proved her case.

THE TURNING: We've received a fair bit of mail at the magazine from people who read the Bible quite literally …

DiNovo: I wish they did! I wish they read it more literally, I wish they actually read it. My problem with literalists and fundamentalists is that they don't actually read it, because if they did, it would be very difficult to uphold these kinds of arguments, the hatred of homosexuals, for example. It simply isn't there. What they have done very successfully is taken one passage out of context, without studying it, and then used that to beat up their neighbors. I really wish people would study the bible more, it's not a question of studying it less, or being less literal. I wish people would actually study the words there, i.e., being a bit more literalist about it. That would lead to a whole different conclusion.

R. Sungenis: Now we see DiNovo actually digging her grave a little deeper. She says that she wants us to read the Bible “literally”! Well, I don’t know how much more literally we have to read it than the foregoing examination of the context and words that we pointed out in the biblical narratives and injunctions. How much more literal can we be than parsing the Greek word ARSENOKOITAI into its constituent parts, that is, a combination of the words ARSEN = “male”; and KOITUS = “sexual copulation,” an action that St. Paul condemns in 1 Cor 6:9?

Incidentally, you will notice above how “Reverend Cheri” tries to misdirect the argument by attempting to make a connection between biblical interpretation and “the hatred of homosexuals,” as if sound exegesis of Scripture is somehow going to lead one to the conclusion that homosexuals are to be “hated.” This is the typical homosexual ploy – mark yourself as a group that is “hated” and thus draw on the natural sympathies of people to accept you. This has been a very successful ploy. It has developed into the establishment of “hate law” crimes in Canada. The homosexuals in the United States are desperately trying to make it law in our land. But it is nothing but a clever ploy. The fact is, sound biblical exegesis of Scripture leads us far away from the conclusion that we are to “hate homosexuals.” If we hated them we wouldn’t say anything to stop them. Does a mother who scolds and disciplines her child for bad behavior hate her child? No, in fact, Scripture says that those who don’t discipline their children “hate” them (Pro 13:24).

THE TURNING: And if you go down that Leviticus list, it says you should never even see your own sister naked. So, if this is what God said to Moses, and hence to the rest of us, how does one pick and choose out of that list?

DiNovo: The bible is designed to be read in community, and then to be debated and discussed. It's not a fait accompli. This is why in the midrashic traditions there are libraries full of texts asking 'what does it all mean?' And we Christians have libraries full, called theology, asking 'what does it all mean?'. The reason for this is that we don't know, we can never know for sure. So this is a book that is meant to be read out loud in community, so we can all hear it, all think our different thoughts, and then we all come together to discuss it. That is the purpose of it, and that was the way it was meant to be used. It was originally a partly oral tradition handed on down, and discussed, 'What does this mean? What do you think this means, these words of our tribal elders? What implications does this have for our lives?' It's not an immediate prescription. This is a book that is designed to engender a lot of things, prayer among them, worship, all sorts of things, but it was never meant to be read as a prescription for people.

R. Sungenis: So according to DiNovo the only thing the Bible is supposed to do is generate “discussion” amongst its readers, but never dogmatic conclusions. Unfortunately for her, the Bible itself says just the opposite. How did the list in Leviticus 20 originate? If DiNovo’s thesis were correct, Moses should have never produced such a list. He should have just kept “discussing” with his elders “what does it all mean?” but never come to a dogmatic conclusion. But how many times do we have Moses making dogmatic decisions for the people of Israel? Moses was so busy making decisions that he had to hire 70 elders to help him! (Number 11:16f; Exodus 18:17-27). If Dinovo’s thesis were correct, then the New Testament Church should have just kept saying “what does it all mean?” but never come to any hard and fast rules. But this isn’t what the New Testament tells us. Right from the get-go decisions were made that determined the course of history (Acts 1:20; 5:1-10; 15:1-12; Rom 13:1-10; etc., etc.). But in the world of “Dr Reverend Cheri DiNovo” and her “United Church” (whatever that is), there are no rules, just discussion; and if your discussion ends up condemning something she likes to do, then its back to the discussion table until she can convince you that there are to be no rules against her desires. Moreover, DiNovo is making it sound as if its so hard to figure out whether a male rectum is the proper receptacle for the male organ. She’s trying to make the nature of homosexuality into one of the great mysterious doctrines of the Church (e.g., the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.). But it’s not. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that rectums are not sexual organs and that male bodies don’t produce children. It’s all very simple, but “Reverend Cheri” wants “discussion” in the hopes of turning you away from your common sense, and deceiving you just as the devil deceived Eve into thinking she could become a god. It’s all very old, but the devil is always looking for a new crop of naïve believers just as R. J. Reynolds is always looking for a new crop of naïve smokers.

DiNovo: You know, you look at the stories in the Bible, and you wonder how does this show me how to live my life? I mean, the story of Jonah or Noah -- what we are we supposed to do, when it rains go out and build an ark? It would be an absurd way of reading it, we don’t read any text that way. What we do is that we read it and then we discuss what it really means, and that's exactly the tradition from which it comes, and has been from the beginning of it's writing.

R. Sungenis: Notice how DiNovo tries to trivialize the story of Noah. Unfortunately, she hasn’t read the account of the Flood “literally” as she hoped everyone else would read the Bible. She ignores the fact that God communicated with Noah and told him there was going to be a flood, not a normal rainfall. It would not be absurd at all to build an ark if God himself told you to build it because a flood was coming (you know, that God that DiNovo said is a God who “is aware of what you are doing, and God is present in what you are doing, and so you do it in a spirit of holiness”). Thus, unless God comes down and tells DiNovo that she should build an ark when it starts raining, she can go outside and merely open her umbrella. Of course, that knowledge only comes from reading the Bible literally, without a homosexual bias.

THE TURNING: Well, let's jump ahead then to the New Testament. In Corinthians there is a section which reads:

' Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived, neither fornicators nor idolaters or adulterers nor homosexuals nor sodomites nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor revilers nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." ( 9-10)

Homosexuals are clearly mentioned, at least in this translation. What is this text trying to say?

DiNovo: What if all of our emails which we sent to our friends would be saved for two thousand years, collated, put together as a series of letters, written basically as holy scripture? There'd be some pretty wacky stuff in them. And some of our emails were clearly meant for particular people at a particular time, for a particular situation.

The letter to the people at Corinth was exactly that - written at a particular time, to a particular people, in a particular situation.

At Corinth they were having basically orgiastic meetings, people kind of blending in an interesting (sexual) way, taking what was in the old pagan religions and in the new Christian story. Among the Greeks, there were temple prostitutes, and so here in Corinth you had this decidedly unJewish living out of the story! There were wild parties, fornication and all sorts of wild things happening. So Paul is kind of ranting at them here, saying clean up your act, this is not what church should be about. Now, again, we have to remember that Paul himself is a human, this is not the word of God. This is the word of a first-century male, and he is writing in a patriarchy, and he is writing to a culture that he finds loathsome as a Jew. He grew up with Leviticus, where you’re supposed to be mindful of everything you did, with rigid rules about everything they did. And although he railed against the Pharisees for doing that, he was also offended by the Greeks who had thrown all of those rules out - "Do what you want, let’s party, let's blast!" So, here he is trying to reign in what has become a little too Greek for him.

R. Sungenis: In case you weren’t aware, DiNovo’s above argument has become commonplace for any group today who wants a sure-fire way of dismissing the condemnations in the New Testament against their favorite sin. All one need do is say that St. Paul was writing only to the people of his day; that he was not inspired by God and thus was merely giving his male-dominated opinion. Problem is, St. Paul never says this about his own writings; and if we are going to read the Bible “literally” (as DiNovo demanded previously), then we’re going to need a little help from St. Paul in order to make such dogmatic conclusions about his writings (Incidentally, whatever happened to the “discussion” DiNovo was pushing? Why is she making such hard and fast conclusions concerning St. Paul’s intentions and purpose in writing his epistles?). If Paul doesn’t claim to be writing “only for his time,” then how does Reverend Cheri reach such a conclusion? It’s certainly not based on the biblical text.

In fact, if we search St. Paul’s writings, he makes a point to tell us that his injunctions are for all time. For example, in 2 Tim 3:1-7, St. Paul says that in the “last days” the same sins that were prevalent in his day will appear once again. He names about 20 different sins. Incidentally, he says in verse 6-7: “For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I would suggest that “Reverend Cheri” is one such woman – “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

In 2 Thess 1:5-10, St. Paul speaks of the future coming of Christ who will judge all ungodliness. Nowhere does Paul ever claim that homosexuality was taken out of the category of ungodliness, nor any other sin. In 2 Thess 2:3-9 he speaks of a “falling away from the faith” that will occur before Christ returns. In 2 Cor 5:10 and Romans 14:10-12 he speaks about all of us having to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer for all the good and bad things we have done. Does that sound like Paul is saying that he was only speaking to the culture of his day? Unless DiNovo can show us places in Paul’s writing where certain prohibitions were no longer considered sins by either St. Paul or the rest of the New Testament writers, then she is required to stick to the “literal” interpretation of Scripture and not think otherwise. It’s easy to make claims. Backing them up is another ball game altogether.

DiNovo: He also says that women shouldn't speak at church, and he seems to support slavery in one passage. Again, do we need to accept that? Of course not, it's ludicrous.

R. Sungenis: It’s only “ludicrous” for someone who has virtually dismissed whatever she doesn’t want to obey in the New Testament. Unless designated to speak by an official authority, women shouldn’t be speaking in Church. That’s only common sense. And this was not something St. Paul dreamed up. He says in 1 Cor 14:33-35 that it was from “the command of the Lord” and “the law” that such things should be enforced. That throws the “cultural” argument out the window.

THE TURNING: I wonder if we can end this by talking about where Christ himself would stand on this. Christ to my knowledge doesn't say anything about homosexuality or homosexual acts. However, he does say quite a lot about judgment and whether human beings should be judging each other.

DiNovo: Christ basically says, 'judge not' . That sums it all up, 'judge not'. Love thy neighbor as yourself. Well, your neighbor in an adulterer, your neighbor is a fornicator, your neighbor is a homosexual. This is your neighbor. Who do you think your neighbor is? Sometimes your neighbor is your enemy, this is the person you must love as yourself. Your neighbor is not the person who looks just like you and thinks just like you.

So, in light of that, what does it mean to love your neighbor? Does it mean to judge them, to harass them? To force them to change to become more like you? Absolutely not. Does it also mean to accept everything that your neighbor is doing? Not that either, because clearly, at some point, one draws the line. Jesus drew the line many times. He drew the line at stoning the adulterous woman. He made declarations in terms of justice. Certainly when you look at his ministry, it is based on justice and love.

R. Sungenis: So in DiNovo’s book it’s okay to “draw the line many times,” just as long as you don’t draw it over her favorite sins, like homosexuality. For DiNovo, to love her is to accept her homosexuality (or lesbianism, as the case may be). If you condemn it, you don’t “love” her. Funny. Wasn’t it Jesus who laid down some of the harshest condemnations in Scripture against those who sinned (cf., Matthew 23)? Wasn’t it Jesus who said that if you even look at a woman with lust you have already committed adultery in your heart, and are unfit for the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:32)? Jesus forgave the adulterous woman when she repented of her sin, and told her never to commit the sin again. He would tell the same thing to DiNovo. Likewise, Jesus will forgive DiNovo, but no sooner, when Dinovo admits that homosexuality is a sin and that Jesus and the rest of the Church have condemned it. Incidentally, if we read the Bible “literally” (as Dinovo once demanded) it tells us that Jesus gave authority to the Church to bind and loose in regards to faith and morals (Matthew 16:18-19). Thus, it is no surprise to find St. Paul, speaking for the Church, against homosexuality (Rom 1:18-24; 1 Cor 6:9).

DiNovo: So what is Christ calling us to do in a situation? And that's the great question for a Christian. And it is a question, it's not a pat answer, it's a real question. Every situation is a little bit different, so we can't always rush in with pat answers, the way the church is wont to do. There's all sorts of reasons. The Church has been an agent of patriarchy and that doesn't die overnight. One can quickly see, if you’re a feminist at all, why you wouldn't want adultery or sleeping with homosexuals. In a patriarchy, whether in the 1st century or in Genesis, you want the bloodline to be clear, and you want property to be passed along. Follow the money. And that's where this comes from, it's an overlay over what's holy in the Bible.

THE TURNING: I saw a man on CNN the other night who is the father of a homosexual son, and this issue had split his family in two. His son was no longer welcome in the house, he said with apparent sincerity that he loves his son, as all fathers do. However, he felt his son's homosexual lifestyle was endangering the young man's soul. He couldn’t stand by as a father and look aside. What advice would you give that father in light of your reading of the Bible?

DiNovo: I always find it interesting that Christians can read the passages about not judging and then immediately do exactly that. I would immediately call the father's attention back to his own life, his own lifestyle, who he really is, and what he really did. In the same way as Jesus said, it's not even what you do, it's what you think. Okay, let's look at your thoughts now, and see if there's any sin there. And if there is any sin there, you had better pack up your stones and go home. To be biblical about it, he is judging, whether he wants to admit to it or not. And that is what all people do who hurt their own children. I mean, how horrible is that, to turn away from your own child, how unbiblical is that? So, is it loving, is it just? One would think as a community that is sitting together, praying together, that one would say no, it is neither loving nor just.

R. Sungenis: This is the common ploy of those who practice sin but don’t want it pointed out by others. Invariably, reference is made to Jesus’ statement in Mt 7:1: “Judge not and you shall not be judged.” What DiNovo doesn’t tell you is that in the context Jesus is speaking to “hypocrites” (verse 5), that is, those who have unconfessed sin in their own life but make it a practice to point out the sins of others. The typical example of such hypocritical behavior were the Pharisees, the very people who were twisting the law in order to escape condemnation.

But for those who have confessed their sins, yet see a bother commit a sin, they have an obligation, not just a right, to bring that sin to his attention so that he will be compelled to repent of it. That is why Jesus teaches in Mt 18:15-17 that we are to go to our brother and tell him his sin. If he doesn’t listen to us, we bring it to his attention again with witnesses; and if doesn’t listen to them, we bring the matter to the Church; and if he doesn’t listen to the Church, we ignore him, just as the father of the above son has been doing. For those in deep sin (such as sexual sin), the Church is to excommunicate them until they repent (1 Cor 5:1-13.

THE TURNING: From a parental perspective, we try to instill rules that our kids can live by, and many, many people look to the Bible as essentially a rule book, what behaviours are allowed or not. But what you've just said could be interpreted as ' you know what, anything goes, just love your kids through it.'

DiNovo: Well, the thrust of the bible is anti-morality. People are always aghast at that, but that is exactly what it is. Certainly, the thrust of Jesus' ministry is against the morality of his day. He breaks just about every rule, including the commandments. He works on Sunday, and he calls for us all to stand on the side of the marginalized. And to be welcoming to everyone. Now, look at how the church is actually marginalizing people. Look at gays and lesbians, they are so marginalized, we've forced them to start their own church. And women have been marginalized for millennia. Then you've got to ask are we really being faithful, are we really being biblical? That would be the way to approach it. And then, when you look at your own children and your own life, you ask yourself: ' how am I living my life now? Am I living it with a profound and deep ethicality that is not just what ruling class morality says I should do? Am I standing up for the downtrodden? Am I welcoming the marginalized, am I welcoming everyone? Those to me are the overriding ethical demands placed upon us by Christ, and upon our children.

R. Sungenis: This is about as perverse as it comes. DiNovo is trying to put those who practice immoral behavior in the category of those who are “marginalized” and “down trodden”! Instead of encouraging these people to repent of their lascivious and deviant life-style, she attempts to make them victims of prejudice. And then she tries to back it up by claiming that Jesus “breaks just about every rule, including the commandments. He works on Sunday”! What “rule” did Jesus break, pray tell? If Dinovo is talking about Jesus breaking man-made rules, yes, he certainly did so (Mt 15:1-7). But laws against homosexuality are not man-made rules. We already saw that it was God himself who brought the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Unless DiNovo can show us by the rules of biblical exegesis that the sin of Sodom was “inhospitality” and not homosexuality, then she has no case.

As for the “commandments,” Jesus never broke any. If DiNovo thinks that allowing a man to get his ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath is breaking the Sabbath, she needs to think again, for a law greater than the Sabbath supersedes the Sabbath law in those cases.

Most of all, however, Jesus wasn’t “welcoming to everyone.” To the Pharisee who refused to see and repent of their sin Jesus had the harshest condemnation in Scripture (Mt 23:12-39). To all those who reject Jesus, he will reject them (Mt 10:33; 2Tm 2:11-13). Likewise, those who refuse to repent of homosexual sin will be rejected by Jesus.

DiNovo: That doesn't mean that everything goes - absolutely not. It means you are always working for justice. There is always a struggle to be involved in, and there is always someone to be stood up for, and that shifts, of course, depending on the context. But that's always where you should stand. In terms of your own personal ethicality and morality, that comes to play very nicely to, which is to say, 'who's hurt, who's bleeding in my life right now?' There's the call of Christ to you, to stand with the wounded. That's what's important. Sexual ethics, every kind of ethics comes from that same place. And keep in mind: we will never, never be perfect. This is the great 'joy' of original sin ( laughs), we are always going to be separate from God and Christ. This is the great lie of Gnosticism, the great lie of the prophets of perfection. We're never going to be there, nobody is. How dare anyone set themselves up as holy over us, to say that you’re worse than I am. That's the most unchristian attitude I can possibly imagine. If someone passes themselves off as holy and enlightened, run the other way and hold onto your wallet! They're charlatans for sure.

R. Sungenis: In essence, DiNovo is claiming that anyone who tells her that homosexuality is a sin is someone who “sets themselves up as holy over us.” But once again, this is just a ploy to make the weak Christian feel guilty for condemning homosexuality. The homosexuals really know how to work on one’s emotions. The appeal to “judge not” is as old as the hills, and it is probably the one Scripture that is the most abused of all passages. Unfortunately, the homosexuals know how to exploit it to their advantage. It is truly amazing how hard homosexuals try to convince people that what they practice is normal and non-sinful. As the old saying goes, “they protesteth too much.” But if there is one thing Scripture is very clear about: homosexuality is not only a sin, but one of the worst kinds of sin, and it will receive an even greater punishment in hell.

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