What is May 17th?
The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was created in 2004 to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.
The date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexually as a mental health disorder. This Day represents a major global annual landmark to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, corporations, opinion leaders, local authorities etc. to the alarming situation faced by people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.
May 17th is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal. Thousands of initiatives, big and small, are reported throughout the planet. Celebrating this day allows for a widespread amalgamation of different self-identified expressions coming together to share pride in oneself, happiness, and love with others.
Homosexuality and the Bible
When we begin to examine what is written in the Bible about “homosexuality” it is important to consider asking: Who were the people it was written to? Where did they live? When it was written? Why was it written?
And then, - How is it understood by most biblical scholars, who now have access to many researched sources that were unavailable in times past?
When the practice of biblical interpretation is grounded in a literal “word for word” interpretation of the Bible, these biblical references are used by church related groups (e.g. Fundamentalists) to judge and discriminate against those who identify as other than heterosexual. Most modern biblical scholars have agreed that none of these biblical references were referring to same gender, loving, relationships.
Today, when we read the few verses in the Old and New Testaments that seem to refer to homosexual practice, we need to remember that they were written to a people who lived in cultures in which sexual expression was often used in “cultic” worship of many gods. It was a culture in which young children, men, women, and slaves, were prostituted (and worse), for the temple worship of pagan gods, and were also used (i.e. abused) by other persons in power. Some of the god idols were specifically sexual “fertility” symbols and the worshipping of them required all sorts of sexual practices that we would find horrifying (examples of this can be found by a Google search of “Sexuality in the Roman Empire”).
If you would like further information related to this topic, a very good and thorough presentation can be found on the YouTube website :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mouJJyos-M where the Rev. Dr. Brant Hawke gave a lecture re “Homosexuality and The Bible.” He began with some general, background information and then continued with an examination of what he identifies as the eight sets of verses in the Bible which some religious traditions have used to condemn homosexuality. Although his lecture is rather long, it is very informative and thorough. (The whole lecture is well worth listening to, but the part where he begins to deal specifically with the Bible verses that seem to deal with homosexuality begins at about minute 57.)
Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, C.M. is an LGBTQ rights activist, Pastor Emeritus of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto [MCC Toronto, where he served for 40 years], and the founder of the Rainbow Faith & Freedom Movement.
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