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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Why is one abomination singled out for condemnation while others are ignored?

All too often, unfortunately, religious folks turn out to be hypocrites. It is my contention that this phenomenon is so widespread because too many people haven't given enough thought to the things which they believe, and it is much easier to find fault with someone else's behavior than to spend time reflecting on the relative merits or failures of one's own behavior! An excellent example of this phenomenon is the absolute joy which some folks derive from pointing out that homosexual behavior is an abomination to God. To be clear, the purpose of this post is NOT to debate whether or not homosexual behavior is abominable to God. It is, rather, to explore why so many other behaviors which are labeled as abominable are basically ignored!

The Hebrew word is "toeba", and it is used in the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to things which are disgusting or abominable, unclean, or wicked. In Leviticus 18, for instance, there are a number of sexual behaviors which are listed as being abominable to the Lord (incest, sex with a mother and her daughter, marrying two sisters, sex with menstruating women, adultery, sacrificing children to Molech, and bestiality). Even so, the one that is most often quoted by religious folks is "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." (Verse 22) This, despite the fact that the passage makes clear that all of the behaviors listed were considered abominable by the Lord. Indeed, the chapter concludes: "Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 18:24-30, ESV) Interestingly, you don't see many religious folks pointing out that adultery is clearly considered an abomination in God's sight according to this passage.

Likewise, the same folks are quick to underscore this passage from the twentieth chapter: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them." (Leviticus 20:13, ESV) Once again, however, no mention of the verses which immediately precede it: "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. If a man lies with his father's wife, he has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them." (Leviticus 20:10-12, ESV) Why this disparity? Is it intentional or unintentional? Is there some reason why one passage is quoted, and the others are ignored?

Similarly, in the book of Deuteronomy, the sin of idolatry is said to be an abomination (same Hebrew word) to God (Deuteronomy 7:25, 12:31, 20:18, 27:15, 32:16). Also, the same book reveals that eating unclean food is an abomination (Deuteronomy 14:3), and that sacrificing an animal with a blemish or imperfection is an abomination to God (Deuteronomy 17:1).

Moreover, in the book of Proverbs, we read: "for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence." (Proverbs 3:32, ESV) A little later, in the same book, we read: "There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers." (Proverbs 6:16-19, ESV) Cheating someone in weights and measures is also called an abomination (Provers 11:1). And, just in case anyone missed it the first time, telling lies is again singled out as an abomination (Proverbs 12:22), and a lack of humility is also reiterated as an abomination (Proverbs 16:5). Are these other abominations ignored because most of us have been guilty of one or more of them in the course of our lifetimes? In other words, is singling out homosexual behavior for special attention as an abomination a means of scapegoating? Is it a way to shift attention away from our own failures to someone else?

It is my thesis that the folks who cite this passage to condemn homosexual behavior as an abomination are doing so to make themselves feel better/superior. It is a phenomenon that Christ once commented on in another context. In the Gospel of Luke, we read: "He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 'Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14, ESV) What do you think? 

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