8. To condemn homosexuality, you must use parts of the Bible you don’t yourself obey. Anyone who obeyed every part of Leviticus would rightly be put in prison.

One of the most common form of rebuttals I received was that of the Socratic questioner. People would send a very long letter with a list of yes or no questions. “Is homosexuality a sin, yes or no?” “Is incest a sin, yes or no?” If I did spend the time to wade through the mousetraps my reward would be an email with more mousetraps. Respondents would usually ignore any points I had made, and would just bring up more parts of scripture I was “ignoring.” Having a conversation with someone who has already memorized the answers is like trying to have a conversation with an answering machine.

Here’s what I couldn’t get across. The English word “sin” is a translation of over 72 Hebrew words. And, this is very important, some of those words for “sin” refer to  ceremonial infractions not ethical violations. In other words, some of the words for “sin” come from ethical codes like the Ten Commandments, but others come from the rituals that made one “clean” to approach holy things.

The list of ceremonial infractions is long and creepy. A church that truly honored the Levitical Code of cleanliness would never allow pork to be served at its family night suppers. Men would be expected to impregnate their brother’s widow. Every Sunday someone would check the women to make sure they weren’t having a period, and the men to make sure they weren’t trying to enter the temple with crushed testicles. In addition to condemning homosexuality, the clergy might need to condemn vasectomies as a varient of “crushed stones” and tampons for hiding a woman’s “sin”.

Thank God the new covenant did not include the cleanliness laws. The gospels are full of examples of Jesus breaking the cleanliness laws to minister to people who would be excluded by them. One of the clearest expressions of this point occurs in Acts when Peter has a vision of God offering him unclean food to eat. Peter reacts with piety saying he has never eaten unclean food, to which god responds, “Do not call unclean what I have declared clean!” Peter awakes to some gentile visitors. He realizes that the vision was not just about food, and that he is to call no human being “unclean.”

Some people don’t realize that they trivialize the message when they take out the food laws, and leave in the discriminatory parts about people. It’s like Jesus died so we can eat ham. Christians have been called to a new covenant that does not exclude anyone as impure by reasons of physical condition. When Jesus said we can’t sew old parts onto a new garment he was saying we can’t shift between these two worldviews at whim. In the new covenant no one is born into second class existence. This new hospitality is very clear, but have to have eyes to see and ears to hear, which means you have to read all of scripture with love.