Emboldened by the recent Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges, homosexual activists are declaring a full-court press on conservative Christians with the startling assertion that the Bible is pro-gay.
A recent Huffington Post article bearing the title “The Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality. Why Does Franklin Graham Not Get This?” attempts to school the evangelist and the rest of America in biblical interpretation. Graham, they say, has simply been misreading his Bible. Despite all that stuff about “men lying with other men” being an abomination, God—it turns out—is actually very cool with sodomy.
The HuffPo author Adam Philips, “Pastor of Christ Church: Portland, an open, active & inclusive faith community,” takes offense at Graham’s recent Facebook post where he laments the “assault on biblical marriage.”
Philips claims that Graham’s statement that the One who created marriage “defined it as between a man and a woman” is “Biblically inaccurate.”
“Here’s the thing, Franklin,” he quips. “You need to read your Bible better.”
In his post, Pastor Graham criticizes the attempt by California politicians to ban the words “husband” and “wife” from being used in federal law, under the pretense that they are “gendered terms” that discriminate against homosexuals.
“You’re absolutely right they are gendered terms—because marriage was created to be gendered!” Graham argues.
Philips asserts that Graham has it all wrong, and that the Bible has been misinterpreted regarding homosexuality for the past 2,000 years. He goes on to deconstruct every passage he can find in Scripture relating to homosexuality, beginning with what he calls “the fabled Sodom & Gomorrah passage.”
It turns out that sodomy doesn’t refer to man-on-man sex at all. “What was their sin?” Philips asks. “They were ruthless in their acquisition of wealth, power and territory—and they oppressed the poor and took advantage of the weak and were terrible at hospitality.” Ah, yes, terrible at hospitality, that was it. Therefore the fire and brimstone.
Philips carefully omits other passages that make it clear what the sin of Sodom was, such as the Second Letter of Peter where the author says that God, in turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, “condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly,” whom he describes as “those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust.”
Then there is the passage from Leviticus that reads: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination,” which Philips asserts has “nothing to do with homosexuality.” Go figure.
There is no point in going through each of Philips’ “arguments” one by one, however, since they have been masterfully dealt with in the definitive work on homosexuality in the Bible by scholar Robert A. J. Gagnon in The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. For anyone who really cares to engage the biblical record on homosexuality, the book is simply the best available.
Of course, instead of an honest approach to biblical scholarship, one could also choose to do interpretative backflips to twist the Bible into saying what it doesn’t say. This was done to great effect by Christian advocates of slavery in the 19th century, such as Rev. Ebenezer W. Warren in his anti-abolitionist tract “Southern Slavery and the Bible,” subtitled “A Vindication of Southern Slavery from the Old and New Testaments.”
Honesty is a rare and precious commodity these days, and Franklin Graham should be congratulated, not pilloried for it.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome