The trumpets were left at home and the parades were canceled. The press releases and campaign signs were quietly forgotten. The news was big, but it did not contain what some had hoped for. On April 14, 2003, the International Human Genome Consortium announced the successful completion of the Human Genome Project—two years ahead of schedule. The press report read: “The human genome is complete and the Human Genome Project is over” (see “Human Genome Report…,” 2003, emp. added). Most of the major science journals reported on the progress in the field of genetics, but also speculated on how the information would now be used. The one piece of information that never materialized from the Human Genome Project was the identification of the so-called “gay gene.”
Homosexuality has been practiced for thousands of years. Simply put, homosexuality is defined as sexual relations between like genders (i.e., two males or two females). It was Sigmund Freud who first postulated that parental relationships with a child ultimately determine the youngster’s sexual orientation. But this “nurturing” aspect has effectively given way to the “nature” side of the equation. Can some behaviors (e.g., alcoholism, homosexuality, schizophrenia) be explained by genetics? Are these and other behaviors influenced by nature or by nurture? Are they inborn or learned? Some individuals believed that the answer would be found hiding amidst the chromosomes analyzed in the Human Genome Project.
The human X and Y chromosomes (the two “sex” chromosomes) have been completely sequenced. Thanks to work carried out by labs all across the globe, we know that the X chromosome contains 153 million base pairs, and harbors a total of 1168 genes (see NCBI, 2004). The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the Y chromosome—which is much smaller—contains “only” 50 million base pairs, and is estimated to contain a mere 251 genes. Educational institutions such as Baylor University, the Max Planck Institute, the Sanger Institute, Washington University in St. Louis, and others have spent countless hours and millions of research dollars analyzing these unique chromosomes. As the data began to pour in, they allowed scientists to construct gene maps—using actual sequences from the Human Genome Project. And yet, neither the map for the X nor the Y chromosome contains any “gay gene.”
What is the truth regarding homosexuality? Too often, speculation, emotions, and politics play a major role in its assessment. The following is a scientific investigation of human homosexuality.
BEHAVIORAL GENETICS AND CIVIL RIGHTS
In an effort to affect public policy and gain acceptance, the assertion often is made that homosexuals deserve equal rights just as other minority groups—and should not be punished for, or forbidden from, expressing their homosexuality. The fight for the acceptance of homosexuality often is compared to “civil rights” movements of racial minorities. Due to America’s failure to settle fully the civil rights issue (i.e., full and equal citizenship of racial minorities), social liberals, feminists, and homosexual activists were provided with the perfect “coat tail” to ride to advance their agenda. Using this camouflage of innate civil liberties, homosexual activists were able to divert attention away from thebehavior, and focus it on the “rights.”
The argument goes like this: “Just as a person cannot help being black, female, or Asian, I cannot help being homosexual. We were all born this way, and as such we should be treated equally.” However, this argument fails to comprehend the true “civil rights” movements. The law already protects the civil rights of everyone—black, white, male, female, homosexual, or heterosexual. Homosexuals enjoy the same civil rights everyone else does. The contention arises when specific laws deprive all citizens of certain behaviors (e.g., sodomy, etc.). We should keep in mind that these laws are the same for all members of society. Because of certain deprivations, homosexuals feel as though “equal” rights have been taken away (i.e., marriage, tax breaks, etc.).
Skin color and other genetic traits can be traced through inheritance patterns and simple Mendelian genetics. Homosexuals are identified not by a trait or a gene, but rather by their actions. Without the action, they would be indistinguishable from all other people. It is only when they alter their behavior that they become a group that is recognized as being different. If we were to assume momentarily that homosexuality was genetic, then the most one could conclude is that those individuals were not morally responsible for being homosexual. However, that does not mean that they are not morally responsible forhomosexual actions! Merely having the gene would not force one to carry out the behavior. For instance, if scientists were able to document that a “rape gene” existed, we certainly would not blame an individual for possessing this gene, but neither would we allow him to act upon that rape disposition. Neil Risch and his coworkers admitted:
There is little disagreement that male homosexual orientation is not a Mendelian trait. In fact, a priori, one would expect the role of a major gene in male homosexual orientation to be limited because of the strong selective pressures against such a gene. It is unlikely that a major gene underlying such a common trait could persist over time without an extraordinary counterbalancing mechanism (1993, 262:2064).
Evan S. Balaban, a neurobiologist at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, noted that
the search for the biological underpinnings of complex human traits has a sorry history of late. In recent years, researchers and the media have proclaimed the “discovery” of genes linked to alcoholism and mental illness as well as to homosexuality. None of the claims…has been confirmed (as quoted in Horgan, 1995).
Charles Mann agreed, stating: “Time and time again, scientists have claimed that particular genes or chromosomal regions are associated with behavioral traits, only to withdraw their findings when they were not replicated” (1994, 264:1687). It appears that the gay gene will be added to this category of unreplicated claims.
The real issue here is homosexual actions that society has deemed immoral and, in many instances, illegal. Since no study has firmly established an underlying genetic cause for homosexuality, arguments suggesting “equal rights” are both baseless and illogical.
Anyone who has tuned into prime-time television within the past few years has observed an increasing trend of shows featuring characters who are homosexual—and proud of it. It seems as though modern sitcoms require “token” homosexuals in order to be politically correct. The perception is that these individuals share the same apartment buildings, offices, clubs, etc., with heterosexual people, and that we need to realize just how prevalent homosexuality is. So, exactly what fraction of the population do homosexuals actually represent?
The famous Kinsey Institute report often is cited as evidence that 10% of the population is homosexual. In his book, Is It a Choice?: Answers to 300 of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Gays and Lesbians, Eric Marcus used the Kinsey studies to demonstrate that one in ten people is homosexual (1993). In truth, Kinsey never reported figures that high. The Kinsey Report clearly stated that: “Only about 4 percent of the men [evaluated] were exclusively homosexual throughout their entire lives…. Only 2 or 3 percent of these women were exclusively homosexual their entire lives” (see Reinisch and Beasley, 1990, p. 140). However, there is good reason to believe that the real percentage is not even this high.
While no one has carried out a door-to-door census, we do have a fairly accurate estimate. Interestingly, these statistics came to light in an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26, 2003, in the Lawrence vs. Texas case (commonly known as the Texas sodomy case). On page 16 of this legal brief, footnote 42 revealed that 31 homosexual and pro-homosexual groups admitted the following:
The most widely accepted study of sexual practices in the United States is the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS). The NHSLS found that 2.8% of the male, and 1.4% of the female population identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (Laumann, et al., 1994).
The study also found that only 0.9% of men and 0.4% of women reported having only same-sex partners since age 18—a figure that would represent a total of only 1.4 million Americans as homosexual (based on the last census report, showing roughly 292 million people living in America). The resulting accurate figures demonstrate that significantly less than one percent of the American population claims to be homosexual. The NHSLS results are similar to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Adolescent Health Survey (1986) of public school students. The survey showed that only 0.6% of the boys and 0.2% of the girls identified themselves as “mostly or 100% homosexual.”
The 2000 census sheds even more light on the subject. The overall statistics from the 2000 Census Bureau revealed:
- The total population of the U.S. is 285,230,516.
- The total number of households in the U.S. is 106,741,426.
- The total number of unmarried same-sex households is 601,209.
Thus, out of a population of 106,741,426 households, homosexuals represent 0.42% of those households. That is less than one half of one percent!
But since most people are not mathematicians, we would like to make this point in a way that most individuals will be able to better comprehend. If we were to start a new television sitcom, and wanted to accurately portray homosexual ratios in society, we would need 199heterosexual actors before we finally introduced one homosexual actor.
And yet modern television casts of three or four often include one or more homosexual actor(s). The statistics from the 2000 census are not figures grabbed from the air and placed on a political sign or Web site to promote a particular agenda. These were census data that were carefully collected from the entire United States population, contrary to the limited scope of studies designed to show a genetic cause for homosexuality.
IS HOMOSEXUALITY GENETIC?
It is one of the most explosive topics in society today. The social and political ramifications affect the very roots of this country. But is the country being told the truth concerning homosexuality? Is there really a genetic basis for homosexuality?
Former democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Governor Howard Dean signed a bill legalizing civil unions for homosexuals in Vermont. In defending his actions, he commented: “The overwhelming evidence is that there is a very significant, substantial genetic component to it. From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people” (as quoted in VandeHei, 2004). Dean is not alone in such thinking.
Most people are familiar with the idea that research has been performed that allegedly supports the existence of a gay gene. However, that idea has been a long time in the making. Almost fifty years ago, the landmark Kinsey report was produced using the sexual histories of thousands of Americans. While that report consisted of a diverse sample, it was not a representative sample of the general population (Kinsey, et al., 1948, 1953). In 1994, Richard Friedman and Jennifer Downey published a review on homosexuality in The New England Journal of Medicine. In reviewing Kinsey’s work, they noted:
Kinsey reported that 8 percent of men and 4 percent of women were exclusively homosexual for a period of at least three years during adulthood. Four percent of men and 2 percent of women were exclusively homosexual after adolescence (1994, 331:923).
With this “statistical information” in hand, some sought to change the way homosexuality was viewed by both the public and the medical community. Prior to 1973, homosexuality appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the official reference book used by the American Psychiatric Association for diagnosing mental disorders in America and throughout much of the rest of the world. Homosexuality was considered a sickness that doctors routinely treated. In 1973, however, it was removed as a sexual disorder, based on the claim that it did not fulfill the “distress and social disability” criteria that were used to define a disorder. Today, there is no mention of homosexuality in the DSM-IV (aside from a section describing gender identity disorder), indicating that individuals with this condition are not suitable candidates for therapy (see American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
Physicians treating patients for homosexuality (to bring about a change in sexual orientation) frequently are reported to ethics committees in an attempt to have them cease. Robert Spitzer lamented:
Several authors have argued that clinicians who attempt to help their clients change their homosexual orientation are violating professional ethical codes by providing a “treatment” that is ineffective, often harmful, and reinforces in their clients the false belief that homosexuality is a disorder and needs treatment (2003, 32:403).
Thus, the stage was set for the appearance of a “gay gene.”
SIMON LEVAY—BRAIN DIFFERENCES
The first “significant” published study that indicated a possible biological role for homosexuality came from Simon LeVay, who was then at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California. In 1991, Dr. LeVay reported subtle differences between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men (1991). LeVay measured a particular region of the brain (the interstitial nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus—INAH) in postmortem tissue of three distinct groups: (1) women; (2) men who were presumed to be heterosexual; (3) and homosexual men.
LeVay’s Reported Findings
LeVay reported that clusters of these neurons (INAH) in homosexual men were the same size as clusters in women, both of which were significantly smaller than clusters in heterosexual men. LeVay reported that the nuclei in INAH 3 were “more than twice as large in the heterosexual men as in the women. It was also, however, more than twice as large in the heterosexual men as in the homosexual men” (1991, 253:1034). This difference was interpreted as strong evidence of a biological link to homosexuality. LeVay’s assumption was that homosexual urges can be biologically based—so long as cluster size is accepted as being genetically determined.
Diagram showing INAHarea. LifeART images copyright © 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Problems with LeVay’s Study
When looking at the methodology of the LeVay study, one of the key problems is that the study has never been reproduced. As William Byne noted, LeVay’s work
has not been replicated, and human neuroanatomical studies of this kind have a very poor track record for reproducibility. Indeed,procedures similar to those LeVay used to identify nuclei have previously led researchers astray (1994, 270:53, emp. added).
Additionally, of nineteen homosexual subjects used in the study, all had died of complications of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS has been shown to decrease testosterone levels, so it should be expected that those who suffered from that condition would have smaller INAH. Byne continued his comments on LeVay’s work.
His inclusion of a few brains from heterosexual men with AIDS did not adequately address the fact that at the time of death, virtually all men with AIDS have decreased testosterone levels as the result of the disease itself or the side effects of particular treatments. To date, LeVay has examined the brain of only one gay man who did not die of AIDS (270:53).
Furthermore, in a scientific environment where controls and standards are a necessity, LeVay did not possess a complete medical history of the individuals included in his study. He therefore was forced to assume the sexual orientation of the non-AIDS victims as being heterosexual, when some may not have been. In addition, bear in mind that he had no evidence regarding the sexual orientation of the women whose brains he examined. LeVay has admitted:
It’s important to stress what I didn’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain(as quoted in Byrd, et al., 2001, emp. added).
Many have argued that what LeVay discovered in the brains of those he examined was only aresult of prior behavior, not the cause of it. Mark Breedlove, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, has demonstrated that sexual behavior has an effect on the brain. In referring to his own research, Breedlove commented: “These findings give us proof for what we theoretically know to be the case—that sexual experience can alter the structure of the brain, just as genes can alter it…. [I]t is possible that differences in sexual behavior cause (rather than are caused by) differences in the brain” (as quoted in Byrd, et al., parenthetical item in orig.). Considering this type of research, it makes sense that a homosexual lifestyle (and/or the AIDS condition) could alter the size of the nuclei LeVay was measuring.
What exactly did LeVay find? In actuality, not much. He did observe slight differences between the groups—if you accept the method he used for measuring the size of the neuron clusters (and some researchers do not). When each individual was considered by himself, there was not a significant difference; only when the individuals involved in the study were considered in groups of homosexuals vs. heterosexuals did differences result. Hubbard and Wald commented on this lack of difference:
Though, on average, the size of the hypothalamic nucleus LeVay considered significant was indeed smaller in the men he identified as homosexual, his published data show that the range of sizes of the individual samples was virtually the same as for the heterosexual men. That is, the area was larger in some of the homosexuals than in many of the heterosexual men, and smaller in some of the heterosexual men than in many of the homosexuals. This means that, though the groups showed some difference as groups, there was no way to tell anything about an individual’s sexual orientation by looking at his hypothalamus(1997, pp. 95-96, emp. added).
Being homosexual himself, it is no surprise that LeVay observed: “…[P]eople who think that gays and lesbians are born that way are more likely to support gay rights.” In a Newsweekarticle, LeVay was quoted as saying, “I felt if I didn’t find any [difference in the hypothalamuses], I would give up a scientific career altogether” (as quoted in Gelman, et al., 1992, p. 49). Given how (poorly) twisted LeVay’s data are, and his own personal bias, his abandonment of science may have ultimately been of greater service.
Brain Plasticity—A Fact Acknowledged by All Neuroscientists
Today, scientists are keenly aware of the fact that the brain is not as “hard-wired” or permanently fixed as once thought—an important factor that LeVay failed to acknowledge. One of the properties of plastic is flexibility—many containers are made out of plastic so that they will not shatter when dropped. In a similar manner, the brain was once considered to be rigid, like Ball® jars used for canning—but we now know the brain is “plastic” and flexible, and able to reorganize itself. Research has shown that the brain is able to remodel its connections and grow larger, according to the specific areas that are most frequently utilized. Given that we know today that the brain exhibits plasticity, one must ask if the act of living a homosexual lifestyle itself might be responsible for the difference LeVay noted? Commenting on brain plasticity, Shepherd noted:
The inability to generate new neurons might imply that the adult nervous system is a static, “hard-wired” machine. This is far from the truth. Although new neurons cannot be generated, each neuron retains the ability to form new processes and new synaptic connections (1994).
Interestingly, since Shepherd’s textbook was published, additional research has even documented the ability of neurons to be generated within certain areas of the brain. This information must be considered when examining comparative anatomical experiments such as LeVay’s. These cortical rearrangements that occur are not as simple as unplugging a lamp and plugging it into another socket. The changes observed by researchers indicate that if the brain were represented by a home electrical system, then many of the wires within the walls would be pulled out, rewired to different connections in different rooms, new outlets would appear, and some would even carry different voltages. Due to the colossal connectivity that takes place within the brain, any “rewiring” is, by its very nature, going to have an effect on several areas—such as INAH3. Scientists understand these things, yet LeVay’s work is still mentioned as alleged support for the so-called gay gene.
BAILEY AND PILLARD—
THE FAMOUS “TWINS” STUDY
One of the most frequently cited studies used in promoting the genetics of sexual orientation is a 1952 study by Kallmann. In this famous work, he reported a concordance rate (or genetic association) of 100% for sexual orientation among monozygotic (identical) twins (1952, 115:283). This result, if true, would prove nearly insurmountable for those people who doubt the biological causation of homosexuality. However, Kallmann subsequently conjectured that this perfect concordance was an artifact, possibly due to the fact that his sample was drawn largely from mentally ill and institutionalized men (see Rainer, et al., 1960, 22:259). But Kallmann’s research opened the door to twin studies in regard to sexual orientation.
Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard, researchers at Northwestern University and the Boston University School of Medicine, carried out a similar experiment, examining 56 pairs of identical twins, 54 pairs of fraternal twins, 142 non-twin brothers of twins, and 57 pairs of adoptive brothers (1991, 48:1089-1096). Bailey and Pillard were looking to see if homosexuality was passed on through familial lines, or if one could point to environmental factors as the cause. Their hypothesis: if homosexuality is an inherited trait, then more twin brothers would be expected to have the same orientation than non-twin or non-biological brothers.
THEIR REPORTED FINDINGS
- 52% of identical (monozygotic) twins of homosexual men were homosexual
- 22% of fraternal (dizygotic) twins were likewise homosexual
- 11% of adoptive brothers of homosexual men were homosexual
- 9.2% of non-twin biological siblings reported homosexual orientations (Bailey and Pillard, 1991, “A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation”)
- 48% of identical twins of homosexual women were likewise homosexual
- 16% of fraternal (dizygotic) twins were likewise homosexual
- 6% of adoptive sisters of homosexual women were likewise homosexual (Bailey and Benishay, 1993, “Familial Aggregation of Female Sexual Orientation”)
PROBLEMS WITH BAILEY AND PILLARD’S STUDY
While the authors acknowledged some of the flaws with their research, they still were quoted in Science News as saying: “Our research shows that male sexual orientation is substantially genetic” (as quoted in Bower, 1992, 141:6). However, the most glaring observation is that clearly not 100% of the identical twins “inherited” homosexuality. If there was, in fact, a “gay gene,” then all of the identical twins should have reported a homosexual orientation. And yet, in nearly half of the twins studied, one brother was not homosexual. In a technical-comment letter in Science, Neil Risch and colleagues pointed out: “The biological brothers and adoptive brothers showed approximately the same rates. This latter observation suggests that there is no genetic component, but rather an environmental component shared in families” (1993, 262:2063). In fact, more adoptive brothers shared homosexuality than non-twin biological brothers. If there was a genetic factor, this result would be counter to the expected trend. Byne and Parsons noted:
However, the concordance rate for homosexuality in nontwin biologic brothers was only 9.2—significantly lower than that required by simple genetic hypothesis, which, on the basis of shared genetic material, would predict similar concordance rates for DZ [dizygotic] twins and nontwin biologic brothers. Furthermore, the fact that the concordance rates were similar for nontwin biologic brothers (9.2%) and genetically unrelated adoptive brothers (11.0%) is at odds with a simple genetic hypothesis, which would predict a higher concordance rate for biological siblings (1993, 50:229).
A more recently published twin study failed to find similar concordance rates. King and McDonald studied 46 homosexual men and women who were twins. The concordance rates that they reported were 10%, or 25% with monozygotic twins—depending on whether or not the bisexuals were included along with the homosexuals. The rates for dizygotic twins were 8% or 12%, again, depending on whether bisexuals were included (King and McDonald, 1992). Byne and Parsons commented: “These rates are significantly lower than those reported by Bailey and Pillard; in comparison of the MZ [monozygotic] concordance rate, including bisexuals (25%), with the comparable figure from Bailey and Pillard (52%)” (p. 230). They went on to observe: “Furthermore, if the concordance rate is similar for MZ and DZ twins, the importance of genetic factors would be considerably less than that suggested by Bailey and Pillard” (p. 230, emp. added).
Another factor that may have had a drastic affect on the results of this study (and other similar studies) centers on methodology. Bailey and Pillard did not study a random sample of homosexuals. Instead, the subjects were recruited through advertisements placed in homosexual publications. This method can be deemed questionable because it is highly dependent on the readership of those publications and on the motives of those who respond. Thus, it may lead to skewed results—for example, inflated rates of concordance in identical twins owing to preferential participation (see Baron, 1993). Hubbard and Wald observed:
The fact that fraternal twins of gay men were roughly twice as likely to be gay as other biological brothers shows that environmental factors are involved, since fraternal twins are no more similar biologically than are other biological brothers. If being a fraternal twin exerts an environmental influence, it does not seem surprising that this should be even truer for identical twins, who the world thinks of as “the same” and treats accordingly, and who often share those feelings of sameness (1997, p. 97).
In summarizing their findings, Byne and Parsons stated: “Critical review shows the evidence favoring a biologic theory to be lacking” (50:228). Commenting on Bailey and Pillard’s report, researchers Billings and Beckwith wrote:
While the authors interpreted their findings as evidence for a genetic basis for homosexuality, we think that the data in fact provide strong evidence for the influence of the environment (1993, p. 60).
When evaluated scientifically, twin studies fail to provide any valid support for the longed-for “gay gene.”
DEAN HAMER—THE GAY GENE
ON THE X CHROMOSOME
Two years after Simon LeVay’s report, a group led by Dean H. Hamer of the National Cancer Institute allegedly linked male homosexuality to a gene on the X chromosome. His team investigated 114 families of homosexual men. Hamer and his colleagues collected family history information from 76 gay male individuals and 40 gay brother pairs as they searched for incidences of homosexuality among relatives of gay men.
In many families, gay men had gay relatives through maternal lines. Thus, they concluded that a gene for homosexuality might be found on the X chromosome, which is passed from the mother alone. They then used DNA linkage analysis in an effort to find a correlation between inheritance and homosexual orientation.
THEIR REPORTED FINDINGS
Because many of the families with a prevalence of homosexual relatives had a common set of DNA markers on the X chromosome, Hamer’s group assumed a genetic etiology. Of the 40 pairs of homosexual brothers he analyzed, Hamer found that 33 exhibited a matching DNAregion called q28—a gene located at the tip of the long arm of the X chromosome. In summarizing their findings, Hamer and colleagues noted: “Our experiments suggest that a locus (or loci) related to sexual orientation lies within approximately 4 million base pairs ofDNA on the tip of the long arm of the X chromosome” (1993, 261:326, parenthetical item in orig.). This discovery prompted Hamer and his colleagues to speculate:
The linkage to markers on Xq28, the subtelomeric region of the long arm of the sex chromosome, had a multipoint lod score of 4.0, indicating a statistical confidence level of more than 99 percent that at least one subtype of male sexual orientation is genetically influenced (261:321, emp. added).
It is important to note that Hamer did not claim to have found a “gay gene,” or even the set of genes, that might contribute to a propensity for homosexuality. According to Chicago Tribune staff writer, John Crewdson, what Hamer claimed to have found was “statistical evidence that such genes exist” (1995).
PROBLEMS WITH HAMER’S STUDY
One of the most significant problems with Hamer’s approach is that he and his colleagues did not feel that it was necessary to check whether any of the heterosexual men in these families shared the marker in question! Would it not be useful to know whether or not this “gay gene” is found in heterosexuals? Even if only a few of them possess the gene, it calls into question what the gene or the self-identification signifies. Additionally, Hamer never explained why the other seven pairs of brothers did not display the same genetic marker. If this is “the gene” for homosexuality, then one must assume all homosexual individuals would possess that particular marker—and yet that was not the case in Hamer’s study.
In a letter to Science, Anne Fausto-Sterling and Evan Balaban pointed out some of the additional problems with Hamer’s study. They noted:
Despite our praise for aspects of Hamer, et al.’s work, we feel it is also important to recognize some of its weaknesses. The most obvious of these is the lack of an adequate control group. Their study demonstrates cosegregation of a trait (which Hamer, et al. have labeled “homosexuality”) with X chromosome markers and the trait’s concordance in homosexual brothers. This cosegregation is potentially meaningful if the mother is heterozygous for the trait. In this case, segregating chromosomes without the markers should show up in nonhomosexual brothers,but Hamer, et al. present no data to that effect (1993, 261:1257, emp. added).
Fausto-Sterling and Balaban continued:
This sensitivity to assumptions about background levels makes Hamer, et al.’s data less robust than the summary in their abstract indicates…. Finally we wish to emphasize a point with which we are sure Hamer, et al. would agree: correlation does not necessarily indicate causation (261:1257).
In other words, Hamer’s methodology leaves something to be desired. One also should keep in mind that Hamer’s sampling was not random, and, as a result, his data may not reflect the real population.
George Rice and his colleagues from Canada looked intently at the gene Xq28. They then observed: “Allele and halotype sharing for these markers was not increased over expectation.These results do not support an X-linked gene underlying male homosexuality” (1999, 284:665, emp. added). Rice, et al., included 182 families in their study. They noted:
It is unclear why our results are so discrepant from Hamer’s original study. Because our study was larger than that of Hamer et al., we certainly had adequate power to detect a genetic effect as large as was reported in that study. Nonetheless, our data do not support the presence of a gene of large effect influencing sexual orientation at position Xq28 (284:667).
That is a tactful way of saying that any claims of having found a “gay gene” were overblown, if not outright false, and that Hamer’s results are dubious at best. Commenting on the study of Rice and his colleagues, Ingrid Wickelgren remarked: “…the Ontario team found that gay brothers were no more likely to share the Xq28 markers than would be expected by chance…. Ebers interprets all these results to mean that the X linkage is all but dead” (1999, 284:571, emp. added).
In June of 1998, University of Chicago psychiatrist Alan Sanders reported at the meeting of the American Psychiatric Association that he, too, had been unable to verify Hamer’s results. Looking for an increase in Xq28 linkage, Sanders’ team studied 54 pairs of gay brothers. As Wickelgren indicated, Sanders’ team had found “only a weak hint—that wasn’t statistically significant—of an Xq28 linkage among 54 gay brother pairs” (284:571). Commenting on the validity of Hamer’s study, Wickelgren quoted George Rice: “Taken together, Rice says, the results ‘suggest that if there is a linkage it’s so weak it’s not important’” (1999, emp. added). Two independent labs failed to reproduce anything even remotely resembling Hamer’s results.
CHANGEABILITY OF HOMOSEXUALS—
EVIDENCE AGAINST GENETICS
An individual born with diabetes has no hope of changing that condition. Likewise, a child born with Down’s syndrome will carry that chromosomal abnormality throughout his or her life. These individuals are a product of the genes they inherited from their parents. Homosexuality appears to be vastly different. Many people have been able to successfully change their sexual orientation. [Truth be told, some individuals experiment with a variety of sexual partners—male/female—often, going back and forth. One might inquire if the bisexuality denotes the existence of a “bisexual gene?”] Ironically, however, the removal of homosexuality as a designation from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association has kept many physicians from attempting to provide reparative therapy to homosexuals.
Robert Spitzer conducted a study on 200 self-selected individuals (143 males, 57 females) in an effort to see if participants could change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual (2003, 32:403-417). He reported some minimal change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation that lasted at least five years (p. 403). Spitzer observed:
The majority of participants gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year (p. 403).
In summarizing his findings, Spitzer declared: “Thus, there is evidence that change in sexual orientation following some form of reparative therapy does occur in some gay men and lesbians.” He thus concluded: “This study provides evidence that some gay men and lesbians are able to also change the core features of sexual orientation” (p. 415).
Six years earlier, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) released the results of a two-year study stating:
Before treatment, 68 percent of the respondents perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entirely homosexual, with another 22 percent stating that they were more homosexual than heterosexual. After treatment, only 13 percent perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entirely homosexual, while 33 percent described themselves as either exclusively or almost entirely heterosexual (see Nicolosi, 2000, 86:1071).
The study also reported:
Although 83 percent of respondents indicated that they entered therapy primarily because of homosexuality, 99 percent of those who participated in the survey said they now believe treatment to change homosexuality can be effective and valuable (p. 1071).
These data are consistent with the ongoing research project of Rob Goetze, who has identified 84 articles or books that contain some relevance to the possibility of sexual orientation change (2004). Of the data reported, 31 of the 84 studies showed a quantitative outcome of individuals able to change sexual orientation. These are not studies that merely speculate on the ability to change; they actually have the numbers to back it up! All of these data come on the heels of warnings from the Surgeon General, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and all of the major mental health associations, which have issued position statements warning of possible harm from such therapy, and have asserted that there is no evidence that such therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation. For instance, the 1998 American Psychiatric Association Position Statement on Psychiatric Treatment and Sexual Orientation noted:
…there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation…. The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior (see American Psychiatric Association, 1999, p. 1131).
Thus, physicians are caught in a quandary of a double standard. On the one hand, they are told that it is “unethical” for a clinician to provide reparative therapy because homosexuality is not a diagnosable disorder, and thus one should not seek to change. Yet, they contend that not enough studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of reparative therapy. The message is loud and clear: “Do not do this because it is unethical to ask a homosexual person to change. However, truth be told, we have not collected enough data to know if a person can safely change his or her sexual orientation.”
In situations where sexual orientation is being measured, studies face serious methodological problems (i.e., follow-up assessment, possible bias, no detailed sexual history, random sampling, etc.). But even given these serious shortcomings from behavioral studies such as these, there are sufficient data to indicate that an individual can change his or her sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual—something that would be an impossibility if homosexuality were caused by genetics.
Consider the obvious problem of survival for individuals who allegedly possess a gay gene:individuals who have partners of the same sex are biologically unable to reproduce (without resorting to artificial means). Therefore, if an alleged “gay gene” did exist, the homosexual population eventually would disappear altogether. We now know that it is not scientifically accurate to refer to a “gay gene” as the causative agent in homosexuality. The available evidence clearly establishes that no such gene has been identified. Additionally, evidence exists which documents that homosexuals can change their sexual orientation. Future decisions regarding policies about, and/or treatment of, homosexuals should reflect this knowledge.
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An Investigation of the Biblical Evidence Against Homosexuality
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part series that we authored on the issue of homosexuality. The first part (“ ‘This is the Way God Made Me’—A Scientific Examination of Homosexuality and the ‘Gay Gene’ ”) appeared in the August 2004 issue of Reason & Revelation.]
Nothing less than “complete and total acceptance!” This often is the answer given when homosexual activists are asked what they are seeking from the public in general. Such activists equate acceptance with civil liberties and equality. They believe that those individuals who do not accept the homosexual “lifestyle” are committing the unpardonable sin—the sin of intolerance (see Bloom, 1987, p. 25). In fact, certain school systems today actively teach youngsters the idea that we must embrace every concept that society popularizes, else we will be unloving and intolerant. Thus, many children are quietly convinced from a very young age that if they do not give everyone “complete and total acceptance,” then they are bigoted and mean spirited.
Using books like Heather Has Two Mommies or Daddy’s Roommate, teachers have begun instructing that there are essentially no right or wrong actions when it comes to relationships and families. Anything goes, as long as “love” is the ultimate motivation. Consider the message that children receive when they sit in classrooms filled with pictures of family units composed of two female “parents” or two male “parents,” alongside a picture of a husband and wife. [James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, has suggested: “The number one issue for the family today is the homosexual activist agenda“ (as quoted in Floyd, 2004, p. 49).] Homosexual activists argue that some homosexual couples show more love than heterosexual couples, so where is the harm? By focusing attention on love and acceptance, homosexual activists have successfully taken the spotlight off of their immoral behavior and abnormal acts. Students are told that homosexual parents are “normal,” and that they should be “accepted.” If a student rejects that tact, then he or she is labeled as (gulp!) “intolerant.”
Those who actually graduate from the halls of academia, and yet still object to homosexuality, are castigated as “homophobes,” “hatemongers,” “bigots,” “sexists,” “puritanical fanatics,” “religious fundamentalists,” etc. Homosexuality no longer is referred to as sodomy (the longtime historical term for same-sex relations), but rather as an “alternative lifestyle.” The media do not view homosexuality as sin, but rather as a valuable contribution to “diversity.” Individuals (or organizations) who dare to speak out against homosexuality in order to expose it as an immoral practice, often are confronted by militant activists who work diligently to spin the issue back into a “civil rights” matter.
Unfortunately, the success of the homosexual movement in this area has resulted in numerous Christians remaining silent, for fear of being labeled as hatemongers—or worse. Some Christians seem to have forgotten the words of the Savior:
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake (Matthew 5:10-11).
Yet, the homosexual’s quest for “complete and total acceptance” often goes unchallenged because the Scriptures have been twisted and perverted to accept “alternative lifestyles,” while believers in Bible morality have been effectively silenced. That silence has allowed the social engineers of “political correctness” to achieve significant success in reversing the historically universal rejection by American civilization of the legality, political legitimacy, and social propriety of homosexuality, with the most recent being “gay marriages.”
Monday, May 17, 2004, was a day that will live in moral and spiritual infamy. Homosexual and lesbian couples were granted by the state of Massachusetts the right to marry—the first state in U.S. history to do so. On November 18, 2003, four activist justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Court paved the way for this occurrence by ruling that the Commonwealth must recognize the right of homosexual couples to marry (“Is Homosexual Marriage…?,” 2003). Perhaps this should not be surprising, since only five months earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historically and constitutionally unprecedented elimination of state sodomy laws (“Lawrence…,” 2003)—a reversal of the high court’s own 1986 decision that upheld state sodomy laws and reinforced the historic stance that homosexuality is not a constitutional right (“Bowers…,” 1986).
In the midst of this reshaping of societal sensibilities, some who wish to retain their affiliation with the Bible, but also maintain political correctness, insist that the Bible itself teaches that same-sex relations are not inherently sinful. They argue that the Bible, in fact,condones homosexuality in the same way, and to the same extent, that it approves of heterosexuality.
CONFUSION EVEN WITHIN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
As the militant pressures of homosexual activists penetrate various realms of society, homosexuality slowly but methodically has begun to spread into various denominations. Homosexual theologians and individuals with a specific agenda have been effective at obscuring the true issues. For instance, Peter J. Gomes, a self-confessed homosexual—and a Baptist minister—alleges that the use of the Bible to condemn homosexuality is the end result of simplistic interpretative methods that reflect a failure to comprehend the context in which the Scriptures were written. Such proceduralism he calls “textual harassment.” These attacks flow easily, of course, from those who reject the plain testimony of God’s Word in the interest of their own personal agenda. For example, Gomes tries to create an artificial distinction in types of homosexual relationships. At first, he contends that Paul, in his various letters, merely was condemning the “debauched pagan expression” of homosexuality; later, he alleges that the apostle hardly can be faulted for his ignorance, since he knew nothing of “the concept of a homosexual nature” (1996, p. 158). He also suggests (p. 25) that there was a homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan—a notion not even remotely reflected in the Old Testament narrative regarding these great men. Gomes obviously is desperate to find some semblance of support for his aberrant lifestyle.
On March 7, 2004, V. Gene Robinson—an open homosexual who has lived with his “partner” Mark Andrew—became the ninth bishop of New Hampshire for the Episcopal Church. During his investiture, he remarked: “Journeys of faith, you know, are a risky business. God is always calling us out of our comfort zone” (see Diocese of New Hampshire, 2004). At the conclusion of that service, Robinson disclosed: “I’m just having the best time being your bishop. The rest of the world is watching us. This is going to be a great adventure.” Adventure indeed! Currently Michael W. Hopkins and Susan N. Blue, two priests who favor same-sex blessings, are leading an Episcopal diocesan task force to develop a same-sex “blessing ceremony” (Benson, 2004, p. 19). The Episcopal Church is struggling to prevent a major split in that denomination between those who disagree with Robinson’s appointment as bishop, and the new direction that the Episcopal Church is going. As Ronnie Floyd put it in his book, The Gay Agenda, when the decision to accept Robinson as a church bishop was made, “both rejoicing and lamentation broke out in that denomination as never before” (2004, p. 14).
This major news story fell on the heels of other denominations that already have begun to accept homosexual preachers or priests. In America, five of the major denominations openly “ordain” homosexuals as ministers, and recognize same-sex marriages (Floyd, p. 46). In Australia, the Uniting Church—the third largest church in the country—has become that country’s first mainstream denomination to accept homosexual priests (Little, 2003). The president of Australia’s Uniting church, Dean Drayton, said that the church had been living in what he referred to as “the messy middle” for six years, and thus has voted to formalize the unofficial tolerance and allow the ordination of openly gay ministers (Little, 2003).
The United Methodist Church (UMC) also is trying to maintain some sense of direction, having “been in turmoil over the issue for decades” (Floyd, p. 48). In fact, in early 2004, theUMC carried out an ecclesiastical trial (and subsequent exoneration!) of self-professed lesbian “minister” Karen Dammann. The Methodist Book of Discipline contains a number of clauses relating to homosexuality, such as, “Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals* are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” The asterisk (*) by the word “homosexuals” refers to a footnote at the bottom of the page, which reads as follows: “ ‘Self-avowed practicing homosexual’ is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual” (Par. 304.3). And yet, 13 ministers from Dammann’s own conference did not uphold these basic tenets. Her defense counsel, Robert Ward, observed that the Church should not elevate “a few, select paragraphs” of the Discipline above another passage that spoke in vague terms of “inclusiveness” (Vitagliano, 2004). Georgia Methodist bishops Michael Watson and Lindsey Davis protested vociferously:
[I]t is a clear sign of rebellion when a group chooses to flagrantly ignore [The Book of Discipline], substituting their own perspective for the corporate wisdom [of the church] (Vitagliano).
In many instances, the Bible has been completely discarded, as many denominations not only overlook the sin of homosexuality, but even embrace it. Groups such as “More Light” (a Presbyterian organization that is “seeking the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church”) are becoming common within denominations that are trying to bolster their numbers. Church slogans with words like tolerance, inclusiveness, and love are now being touted, and are paraded on banners and in commercials—neglecting any precepts from the Word of God. Thus, religious groups all over the world are scrambling to determine on which side of the homosexual fence they want to be found.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Homosexuality in the Patriarchal Period
What, precisely, is God’s will concerning human sexuality? That will was demonstrated originally in the creation of the first human beings: “Male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). God’s decision to create a female counterpart to the male was not coincidental. The female uniquely met three essential criteria: (1) “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18); (2) a helper, suitable to him, was needed (Genesis 2:18,20); and (3) the human race was to be perpetuated through sexual union (Genesis 1:28). Both Jesus and Paul reiterated this same understanding (Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 7:2). So the woman was: (a) the divine antidote to Adam’s loneliness; (b) a helper fit for him; and (c) the means of the propagation of the human race. Here, we see the divine arrangement for the human species.
Not long after God set into motion the created order—which He had pronounced as “very good” (Genesis 1:31)—man began to tamper with the divine will, and altered God’s original intentions concerning human sexuality. Lamech—not God—introduced polygamy into the world (Genesis 4:19). God could have created two women for Adam, but He did not. Rather, He made one man for one woman for life. That is the divine will—“male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27; cf. Matthew 19:1-9). Genesis 19:1-11 now comes into view.
Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 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 know them carnally.” So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.” And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to sojourn, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door (vss. 4-11).
Defenders of homosexuality who seek justification for their viewpoint from the Bible have pursued a revisionist interpretation of the account of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (along with Admah and Zeboiim, Deuteronomy 29:23). This passage has traditionally been understood to be a denunciation of homosexuality. This understanding has been so universal that the word “sodomy” was incorporated into English vernacular as referring to “any of various forms of sexual intercourse held to be unnatural or abnormal, especially anal intercourse or bestiality” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000, p. 1651). How may the account of Sodom be reinterpreted to place same-sex relationships in a favorable light? Two explanations have been offered in an effort to promote the biblical legitimacy of homosexuality.
(1) Inhospitality or Homosexuality?
The first claim maintains that the men of Sodom simply were guilty of inhospitality. The text says that the men of Sodom insisted on Lot bringing the angelic visitors out to them, “that we may know them” (Genesis 19:5). It thus is argued that “know” refers to their intention to meet, greet, get to know, or become acquainted with the visitors. However, contextual indicators exclude the feasibility of this interpretation.
First, while the Hebrew verb translated “know” (yada) has a wide range of meanings, including “to get to know” or “to become acquainted” (for the most part, the nuances of the Hebrew verb parallel the corresponding English verb), Hebrew, in common with other ancient languages, also used “know” as a euphemism for sexual intercourse (Genesis 4:1; 19:8). Other Semitic euphemisms similarly used include “lie with” (2 Samuel 11:4), “uncover the nakedness of ” (Leviticus 18), “go in unto” (Genesis 16:2; 38:2), and “touch” (Genesis 20:6; Proverbs 6:29; 1 Corinthians 7:1). Ancient languages that shared this figurative use of “know” included Egyptian, Akkadian, and Ugaritic (Botterweck, 1986, pp. 455-456,460), as well as Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Greek (Gesenius, 1979, p. 334). When Hebrew scholars define “know,” as used in Genesis 19:5, they use terminology like “sexual perversion” (Harris, et al., 1980, 1:366), “homosexual intercourse” (Botterweck, 1986, 5:464), and “crimes against nature” (Gesenius, p. 334).
Second, if “know” simply means “to get acquainted,” why did the Bible writers repeatedly use forms of the word “wicked” to refer to the actions of the Sodomites? Lot pleaded, “Do not do so wickedly!” (Genesis 19:7). Moses, by inspiration, already had given God’s assessment in the words, “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13); “their sin is very grievous” (Genesis 18:20). Peter referred to the “filthy conduct of the wicked” sodomites and their “lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2:7-8). But “getting acquainted” is not “wicked”! In fact, if the men of Sodom were nothing more than a group of friendly, civic-minded neighbors who sought to make the visitors welcome to their city, God surely would have commended them—not condemned them!
Third, if “know” simply means “to get to know,” then why did Lot offer his virgin daughters to the men? He would not have offered his daughters for the purpose of the men “getting to know” or “becoming acquainted” with them. The daughters were already residents of Sodom, and would have been known to the men. Lot was offering his daughters to the men assexual alternatives. Lot specifically said: “I have two daughters who have not known a man” (Genesis 19:8, emp. added). “Known” is another reference to sexual intercourse. Lot referred to their sexual status for the very reason that these men were interested in sexual impropriety. As astonishing and objectionable to us as it may seem for a father to sacrifice his own daughters in such a fashion, it verifies the fact that the unnatural lust of homosexuality was considered far more repugnant than even illicit heterosexuality. Scholars have further noted that in antiquity, a host was to protect his guests at the cost of his own life (Whitelaw, 1950, 1:253).
Fourth, the men of Sodom threatened Lot with the words, “we will deal worse with you than with them” (Genesis 19:9). If their intention was simply to “get to know” the male visitors, what would “dealing worse” with Lot entail? Perhaps it would have entailed their becoming so thoroughly “acquainted” with Lot that they would perpetually remain in his presence and make a pest of themselves? Maybe they intended to impose on Lot’s hospitality to the point that they would monopolize his living room couch, consume all of his snack foods, and refuse to vacate his home at a courteous hour?
In a further effort to achieve sanction for homosexuality, attention has been directed to the words of Jesus in His commissioning of the Seventy. He instructed them, in their evangelistic travels, to enter into those cities that would receive them and to feel free to partake of their hospitality (Luke 10:7-8). However, should a city fail to receive them, they were to shake the dust off their feet against the city (Luke 10:10-11). Jesus then declared: “It will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city” (Luke 10:12). Defenders and practitioners of same-sex relations claim that Jesus was drawing a comparison between the inhospitality of Sodom and the cities that the disciples would encounter. They claim that the inhospitality of a city that would reject Christ’s emissaries would be a greater evil than Sodom’s inhospitable treatment of the angelic visitors.
However, if “hospitality” was the issue at stake in Sodom, the Sodomites should have been commended, since they only wanted to “get to know” and be hospitable to the visitors. In fact, Lot should have been the one condemned, since he attempted to deter the hospitable overtures of the “Welcome Wagon.” In reality, the words of Jesus in Luke 10 were not directed against the cities’ refusal to be hospitable toward the disciples. Rather, He condemned them for their refusal to accept the teaching of the disciples. Jesus pinpointed their task when He warned: “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me” (Luke 10:16). Jesus placed Sodom at the top of the list of the most notoriously wicked cities of antiquity. He stressed the fact that to reject Christ and the Gospel would be a far greater offense than what the most wicked city in human history ever did. What the inhabitants of Sodom did was repulsive, repugnant, disgusting, and incredibly depraved. But to reject the antidote to sin is the ultimate insult and the final infraction against God!
Yet another argument marshaled in an effort to justify homosexuality concerns the allusions in the prophets to Sodom. Isaiah (3:9), Jeremiah (23:14), and Ezekiel (16:49) all refer to the sinfulness of Sodom, but none explicitly mentioned homosexuality as the problem. In fact, Ezekiel pinpointed the specific sins of “pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness,” as well as her unwillingness to aid the poor and needy. In response, we should not be surprised that a city that was guilty of sexual perversion also would be guilty of additional violations of God’s will.
Isaiah, in his discussion of Sodom, did not specify a particular sin, but merely noted how brazen and open the Sodomites were with their sin: “The look on their countenance witnesses against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom; they do not hide it.” Interestingly, this depiction is very apropos of the “in-your-face” attitude of those who seek to advance the homosexual agenda in our day. Jeremiah made essentially the same point in his comparison between Judah and Sodom when he wrote that “no one turns back from his wickedness.” He, too, was noting the sodomites’ blatant, unbending, determined intention to proceed with their sin. Ezekiel, though mentioning the additional sins that we have listed above, nevertheless referred repeatedly to Sodom’s “abomination” (16:50; cf., vs. 43,47,51,52,58). Moses also linked “abomination” with homosexual activity (Leviticus 18:22).
(2) Homosexual Rape?
The second explanation offered to justify homosexual relations is that the men of Sodom were not condemned for their homosexuality, but for their inhospitable intention to engage in homosexual rape. Rape, some suggest (whether homosexual or heterosexual), being nonconsensual, is wrong, and is worthy of condemnation. However, this extension of the inhospitality quibble is likewise contextually indefensible. First, if gang rape was the issue, why did Lot offer his daughters in exchange for the visitors? Rape would have been at issue in both cases. Lot’s offer of his daughters indicated his clear concern over gender and same-sex relations. Second, the men of Sodom were declared wicked and guilty of “very grievous” sin before the visitors ever came to town (Genesis 18:20).
Third, Jude cinched the matter in his discussion of the sin of Sodom. He wrote that Sodom and her sister cities had “given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh” (Jude 7). “Given themselves over to sexual immorality” is a translation of the compound word ekporneusasai, which combines the verb porneuo (to commit illicit sexual intercourse) with the preposition ek (out of). The attachment of the prepositional prefix indicates intensification, i.e., that the men of Sodom possessed “a lust that gluts itself” (Thayer, 1977, p. 199). Their sexual appetites took them beyond the range of normal sexual activity. The idea of force or coercion is not in the meaning of the word. “Strange” refers to “one not of the same nature, form, class, kind” (Thayer, p. 254), and so pertains to the indulgence of passions that are “contrary to nature” (Barnes, 1949, p. 392)—“a departure from the laws of nature in the impurities practiced” (Salmond, 1950, 22:7). The frequent allusion to “nature” by scholars is interesting, in view of the fact that Scripture elsewhere links same-sex relations with that which is “against nature” (Romans 1:26-27) or unnatural, i.e., out of harmony with God’s original arrangement of nature (e.g., Genesis 1:27; 2:22; Matthew 19:4-6). Summarizing, Jude asserted that the sin of Sodom was homosexualrelations—not homosexual rape.
Fourth, homosexuality itself is specifically condemned in Scripture. Under the Law of Moses, God made homosexuality a capital crime, and stipulated that both participants in the illicit sexual activity were to be put to death (Leviticus 20:13). God would not have required the innocent victim of homosexual rape to be executed along with the rapist.
American culture may well reach the point where the majority approves of homosexuality as acceptable behavior. And those who disapprove may well be accused of being “politically incorrect,” intolerant, and “homophobic.” It surely is reminiscent of our day to observe that when Lot urged the sodomites not to do “so wickedly,” the men accused Lot of beingjudgmental (Genesis 19:9; cf. Deuteronomy 23:17-18). Nevertheless, the objective, unbiased reader of the Bible is forced to conclude that God destroyed the men of Sodom on account of their sinful practice of homosexuality.
Homosexuality in the Mosaic Period
In addition to the pre-Mosaic, Patriarchal Period of history, God made clear His will on this matter when He handed down the Law of Moses to the Israelite nation. In a chapter dealing almost exclusively with sexual regulations, His words are explicit and unmistakable.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination…. Do not defile yourselves with any of these things,…lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you (Leviticus 18:22-30).
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them (Leviticus 20:13).
We suggest that a reader would need help to misunderstand these injunctions.
Another graphic account is presented during the period of the judges, which was a time of spiritual and moral depravity and decay—the “Dark Ages” of Jewish history. Judges 19 records that “sons of Belial” (i.e., wicked scoundrels) surrounded a house where travelers had taken refuge for the night. As in Sodom, they desired to “know” the male guests (vs. 22). The host, like Lot, knew exactly what they meant, as is evident from the fact that, like Lot, he offered them a sexual alternative (which, of course, God did not approve). Their sexual desire was labeled as “wickedness,” “outrage,” “vileness,” “lewdness,” and “evil” (Judges 19:23-24; 20:3,6,10,12,13). The rest of the Old Testament corroborates this judgment of same-sex relations. For example, during the period of the kings, Josiah instituted sweeping moral and religious reforms, including tearing down the homes of the Sodomites (2 Kings 23:7).
Homosexuality in the New Testament Period
The New Testament is equally definitive in its uncompromising and unquestioned condemnation of illicit sexual activity. Paul summarized the “unrighteous” and “ungodly” behavior of the Gentile nations, and declared:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their womenexchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. …who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:26-32, emp. added).
Observe that “God gave them up” to “vile passions.” Other renderings include “lusts of dishonor” (Bengel, 1971, 2:26), “passions of dishonor” (Lenski, 1951, p. 113), and “passions which bring dishonour” (Cranfield, 1985, p. 125). The passions to which the heathen nations were given are declared to be vile and debased. Barrett observed: “No feature of pagan society filled the Jew with greater loathing than the toleration, or rather admiration, of homosexual practices” (1967, p. 39). In fact, Melina noted that homosexuality is the sin that lies at the heart of idolatry. Therefore the Jews despised this practice that defiled both the soul as well as the body (1998, 25:57-68). The “women” and “men” (i.e., the “females” and “males” of verse 26) had descended “to the brutish level of being nothing but creatures of sex” (Lenski, p. 113; Bengel, 2:26).
The contrast between the “natural” and the “unnatural” shows that the Gentiles had “left aside and thus discarded” the natural form of intercourse between a man and his wife (Lenski, p. 113). The fact that this exchange involved sexual intercourse is well established (Bauer, 1979, p. 886; Cranfield, p. 125). And Lenski adds, “It was bad enough to sin with males, vastly worse and the very limit of vice to sin as they did” (p. 114). Kent Hughes observed that Paul singled out homosexuality “because it is obviously unnatural and therefore underlines the extent to which sin takes mankind” (1991, p. 43). Indeed, same-sex relations were “quite prevalent in the Greco-Roman society in which he [Paul] lived” (Fitzmyer, 1993, p. 275).
Paul’s observation that homosexual activity goes “against nature” harks back to the Creation model when God created the first human beings (Genesis 1:26). Homosexual practices go against the natural pattern established by God when He created “male and female” (Deyoung, 1988, pp. 429-441). Such behavior is “contrary to the intention of the Creator” (Cranfield, p. 123). Therefore, homosexuality goes against the natural order of marriage, not of Jews or Gentiles; the marriage bed should be undefiled in all nationalities and cultures.
The males mentioned in verse 27 are equally as debased as their previously discussed female counterparts. Being “set on fire” with lust for each other, one must realize that “[t]he moment God is taken out of the control in men’s life, the stench of sex aberration is bound to arise. It is so in the world to this day. Without God sex runs wild” (Lenski, p. 115). One of the consequences that follows for those who engage in homosexual relations is that they receive “in themselves the penalty of their error which was due”—“the vicious effect of the unnatural sexual vices upon men’s own bodies and their minds, corruption, destroying, disintegrating” (p. 116).
Such forthright words—“set on fire”—from an inspired apostle are set against a specific social and cultural milieu. In his survey of homosexuality in Western Europe from the beginning of the Christian era to the 14th century, John Boswell depicted how Rome had a severe problem with homosexuality, contributing significantly to the glorification and proliferation of homosexual activity. He noted that 14 out of the first 15 Roman emperors were homosexuals, and spent 25 pages detailing facts that prove Rome to have been a hotbed of homosexual activity. For example, during the Augustan reign, the government not only allowed male homosexual prostitutes to operate on her streets, but also taxed them and gave them a national day off work (1980, p. 70). The Emperor Hadrian, called by some “the most outstanding of the ‘five good emperors,’ ” according to Boswell, “appears to have been exclusively gay” (p. 84). Dupont adds that “it was said of Caesar that he was the ‘husband of all women and the wife of all husbands,’ ” identifying his bisexual nature (1993, p. 117). One needs only peruse any reputable historical account of the life and times of the average Roman citizen to see that homosexual activity played a major role in the politics, recreations, and commerce of the first century. It is no surprise then that the apostle Paul spoke so stringently on such practices.
Those who attempt to soften or contradict the clear teaching of Paul in Romans 1 regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality sometimes attempt to sidestep the clear import of the passage by insisting that it applied only to its original recipients. Boswell claimed that the idea of the passage is not to “stigmatize sexual behavior but to condemn Gentiles for their general infidelity” (p. 108). Martin has suggested that Paul referred to the Gentile culture, not the “universal human condition” (1995, p. 338). But is Romans 1:26-27 a “cultural chastisement,” or a universal condemnation? The immediate context (1:18-3:20) consists of God’s pronouncement that all humans in every culture and nation are under sin—“all the world” (3:19). In fact, the entire book of Romans is the New Testament’s flagship declaration of the means of justification for all persons—“everyone” (Romans 1:16). Hence, the condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1 is parallel to its like condemnation of murder, deceit, covetousness, and all the other sins itemized by Paul.
One final observation regarding Romans 1 is noteworthy. Not only is God displeased with those who participate in homosexual behavior, but Paul indicates that He is equally displeased with those who are supportive of such conduct—even if they do not engage in the activity themselves. The wording is: “[T]hose who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (vs. 32). On this count alone, many have earned the disapproval of God.
Compare Paul’s remarks to the church at Rome with the question he posed to the Corinthian church:
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 homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, emp. added).
The Greek word translated “homosexual” in this passage is a metaphorical use of a term that literally means “soft,” and when referring to people, refers to males allowing themselves to be used sexually by other males. Again, lexicographers apply the term to the person who is a “catamite,” i.e., a male who submits his body to another male for unnatural lewdness—i.e., homosexually (Thayer, p. 387; Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 489).
“Sodomites” (“abusers of themselves with mankind” in the KJV) is a translation of the termarsenokoitai. It derives from two words: arsein (a male) and koitei (a bed), and refers to one who engages in sex with a male as with a female (Thayer, p. 75). Paul used the same term when he wrote to Timothy to discuss certain behaviors that are both “contrary to sound doctrine” and characteristic of the one who is not “a righteous man” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).
As D. Gene West correctly observed regarding Paul’s letter to Timothy:
We can see from the context that homosexual activities are classed with such sins as patricide, matricide, homicide, kidnapping, and perjury. If we accept that any of these things are sins, we must accept that all are sins. If it is a sin to be a whoremonger, to pursue a lascivious life with prostitutes, then it is likewise a sin to engage in homosexual acts. There is no way to escape that conclusion. If it is a sin to murder one’s father, or mother, or some other human being, then it is a sin for both males and females to “cohabitate” (2004).
When Paul said to the Christians at Corinth, “such were some of you,” he proved not only that homosexuals may be forgiven, but that they can cease such sinful activity. Here we have a clear biblical indication that someone can change their sexual orientation, and can be forgiven of a past immoral lifestyle. We are forced to conclude that sexual activity between persons of the same sex is not a matter of genetics; but is a behavioral phenomenon associated largely with environmental factors (see the August 2004 issue of Reason and Revelation).
Homosexuality is only one of many departures from God’s will for human morality and sexuality that society is facing. The Greek term for fornication, porneia, is a broad term that covers every form of illicit sexual intercourse, including adultery, incest, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, bisexuality, homosexuality, pedophilia, necrophilia, and more. Our sex-crazed society is so promiscuous, and so estranged from God’s view of human sexuality, that our public schools consider it appropriate to teach children to simply “take precautions” when they engage in sexual escapades outside of marriage. But God never encouraged people to practice that kind of “safe sex.” The Bible definition of “safe sex” is sex that is confined to a divinely authorized, scriptural marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2-5). God insists that people can, and must, exercise self-control, self-discipline, and moral responsibility. The Bible teaches that we are not to be self-indulgent. We are to put restraints on ourselves, controlling our sexual urges in accordance with God’s teachings.
Encouraging young people simply to “take precautions” only encourages additional illicit behavior. It encourages more promiscuity. It contributes to an increase—not a decrease—in the number of pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Despite several decades of having inundated our schools with sex education and the promotion of so-called “safe sex,” the statisticians inform us that in the next thirty days alone, 83,850 unwed girls will become pregnant in this country (“Teens in Crisis,” 2001, p. 1). The liberals’ “solution” has not worked. In fact, the problem has greatly worsened.
The depths to which our country has slumped morally is evinced by the legality of the distribution birth control devices to students, and the illegality to distribute Bibles or to teach Bible principles. The time has come for our nation to wake up, and for all citizens to understand that freedom requires restraint. Rights require personal responsibility. People must take responsibility for their personal choices, and accept the consequences of their own actions. Paul declared: “flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18). He did not write, “engage in ‘safe’ fornication”! There is no such thing as “safe” sin or “safe” immorality, because all sin is damning (James 1:15). God said a person must run away from it, resist it, and reject it (2 Corinthians 6:18). To a youth, Paul said: “Keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). The writer of Hebrews insisted that the marriage bed is to be kept “undefiled.” “[F]ornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). There should not be so much as a hint of sexual immorality among Christians (Ephesians 5:3).
Please understand: God loves all sinners—regardless of the specific sins they have committed. But it is imperative that we be about the business of alerting those who are engaged in sexual sin regarding God’s will, in an effort to “snatch them out of the fire” (Jude 23), and to “save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). One day it will be too late for both those who “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). Indeed, the “sexually immoral…shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8).
Sexual sin undoubtedly will go down in history as one of the major contributors to the moral and spiritual deterioration, decline, and downfall of American society. Homosexuality is one more glaring proof of the sexual anarchy that prevails in American civilization. One wonders how much longer such widespread unchastity can continue in our land before God will “visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25). We know today that homosexuality is not caused by genetics (see Harrub, et al., 2004). It is not “nature,” but “nurture” that is responsible. It is not a life “style,” but rather a life “choice.” And it is wrong.
Every society in human history that has followed a course of moral and spiritual depravity has either been destroyed by God or has imploded from within. Like these previous civilized nations, our society will not be permitted to survive indefinitely into the future—unless, of course, God is prepared to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.
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