Monday, April 8, 2013

Humor and the Gay Marriage Debate

Back in the 1300s, a teenager almost became a saint by demanding people stop laughing.  His reasoning was based on the New Testament.  There was no laughter in the New Testament; therefore, he insisted, there shouldn’t any humor in life.

The mirthless teen died young and never reached sainthood, but his choice of evidence still carries a lot of weight.  Many people still base their decisions on biblical events and teachings.

Take the controversial question of gay marriage.   The sacred texts do contain commentary on that topic.  In the Jewish Bible, there are these statements:

Leviticus: 18:22: “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”

 Leviticus: 20:13: “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. “

In the Christian Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote:
Romans 26-27: “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.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or 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 thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.”

Ancient Canaanite
The translations are not as simple or clear cut as they seem.  The reality is that each of these lines requires interpretation.

For example, many of the prohibitions in the Jewish Bible were created to separate Jews from their Canaanite neighbors.  As such, a condemnation of a homosexual relationship may simply be a requirement that Jews do not follow that pagan ritual.

Fr. Martin
After all, homosexual relations were common and accepted (even encouraged) in Greece, whose culture dominated the Middle East both before, during and after the biblical texts were composed.

It’s even trickier for the New Testament.  Jesus is never described as having any type of emotional relationship with anyone.  In the various stories, author and Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin noted, Jesus “enjoyed the friendship of both men and women. And was affectionate toward them and showed emotion and wept over the death of Lazarus, so we know he was a loving person.”

The popular novel, The Da Vinci Code, played up the idea that Mary Magdalena was Jesus’ wife, but author Dan Brown had no facts to base his plot on.

Don Imus
On his radio show, DJ Don Imus recently suggested Jesus was gay.  He cited the Gospel of Judas, a third century book discovered in the 1970s.  Of course, Imus just wants publicity, but he may have a point although no line in the Gospel of Judas can be stretched far enough to reach Imus’ conclusion.

Still, Jesus might have been gay.  As gay Episcopal Bishop V. Eugene Robinson said laughingly on The Daily Show: “Here’s a guy who — in a culture that virtually demanded marriage — was a single guy, spent most of his time with twelve men, singled out three of them for leadership and one of them is known in the Bible as ‘the one whom Jesus loved.’ ”

Fr. Martin disagreed, noting that "there's nothing in the Gospel of Judas, or any of the four accepted gospels, that shows in any way that Jesus was gay.”  On the other hand, Fr. Martin added, “As a human, Jesus had full human sexuality and like any human being he had sexual desires, but he was unmarried and celibate. And that is all we know about his sexuality."

Actually, we don’t know that either.  The biblical accounts never say if Jesus had any sexual relationship or didn’t.  Jewish biblical figures “knew” their wives and sired children, but none of that knowing and siring showed up in the New Testament.

As a result, to condemn gay relationships based on the Bible, someone must read between the lines and interpret in the same way that serious teenager did centuries ago to condemn laughter.

That would be absurdly comical if people didn’t take the gay marriage topic so seriously.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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