Same-Sex Activity and the “Yuck Factor”

Last week Thabiti Anyabwile, writing an article for the Gospel Coalition, called for Christians to reclaim their “gag reflex” when it came to same-sex activity. He was apparently oblivious as to how this claim favors heterosexual activity by drawing his lines the way he did. No mention was made of having the same reaction for the production of children out of wedlock or any of the other sinful things which heterosexuals can get up to. No, his line implicitly defines one form of sin as icky and another as not-icky. In fact, treating same-sex activity on its own, segregated from other sexual issues, isolates it from other sins and makes it seem somehow “worse” because of where we are drawing our lines. Sure, our kids might be shacking up, but at least they’re not doing something icky, right? This is not at all to say that Anyabwile wouldn’t stand up against heterosexual activity outside of marriage, of course, simply that the very frame of his argument turns one of these things into a “super-sin” and tends to normalize the other.

Now, it is certainly true that Leviticus 18:22 calls same-sex activity an “abomination,” and the Hebrew word here (toaybaw) means “moral disgust.” But this got me thinking about what else the Bible calls an abomination. It turns out that there are a lot of things that are “morally disgusting” to God in just the same way as same-sex activity which we don’t consider morally disgusting at all. Witchcraft, for instance, is equally as repugnant (Deut. 18:10-12). Most interesting to me is that economic injustice is said to be an “abomination,” or “morally disgusting” to God (Deut. 25:13-16; Prov. 11:1; 20:10). Do we feel that same “gag reflex” when banks and giant corporations lie and cheat their employees, exploit poverty-stricken third-world nations, and abuse their workers? The devious or crafty person is also morally disgusting to God (Prov. 3:32). Israel’s worship is an abomination when they have abused the poor and needy among them (Isa. 1:13). Are we equally outraged when the Church contributes to such oppression? Do we find our nostrils filled with revulsion when we see the Church worship while contributing to oppression?

What this seems to tell me is that the “moral disgust” which is referred to in Scripture is not the same as our internal “gag reflex.” There is no universal “yuck factor” regarding the oppression of the needy and poor, nor for deviousness or craftiness. Most of the abominations, such as idol worship, are learned. They are cultural, not innate, feelings. The native american cultures who performed same-sex activity on younger men as part of their initiation to the warrior class had no innate moral qualms about it; in fact, they saw it as injecting masculinity into the young men.

What is more, Jonathan Merritt has a great article in response to Anyabwile’s post, in which he points out that Jesus had no problem with hanging out with morally disgusting sinners. Zacchaeus, for example, practiced economic injustice by cheating people out of their money – which is an abomination to God, morally disgusting. Yet, Jesus did not remain at a distance to him until he got his life together, but went to him while he was yet morally disgusting and sat at table with him. Jesus is the greatest illustration how problematic the conservative approach to same-sex activity is. Do we imagine Jesus would respond to those who practice same-sex activity by holding His nose and saying, “Eww, that’s so icky?” Or do we imagine that He would be eating and drinking with them while they were yet in their sin?

It is a question that really answers itself.

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