In a recent article over at TGC, Thabiti Anyabwile suggested that Christians need to point to the visceral revulsion that many feel at the mechanics of sodomy. This, he says, would be a good way to get the debate away from spurious appeals to “rights” and “equality,” and back to the real issue, which is the morality of certain sex acts.
Other Christians have found fault with Anyabwile’s approach. A St. Louis seminarian named Kyle Keating writes writes:
There was once a “yuck factor” associated with interracial marriage and sex, but I cannot imagine anyone holding that up as part of a God-given conscience. While Scripture affirms that homosexual sexual behavior is sinful, it does not stigmatize that behavior, but rather places it in the context of other types of sexual sin, most of which is heterosexual. So there really is no basis for claiming the “gag reflex” as a type of moral imperative… There are good reasons to view homosexual sexual behavior as sinful, but they are rooted in the testimony of the Scriptures, not in a subjective gag reflex.
Mr. Keating is mistaken. He says that Scripture “does not stigmatize” sodomy. It clearly does. Scripture speaks with words like “abomination” (tonebah, Leviticus 20) and “obscene or disgraceful conduct” (ἀσχημοσύνη, Romans 1).
Mr. Keating is also misleading when he says that Scripture “places [sodomy] in the context of other types of sexual sin, most of which is [sic] heterosexual.” Reading this, one might imagine that it is listed next to premarital sex, rape, polygamy, or prostitution. But the most specific prohibition of sodomy in the Torah is in Leviticus 20. What are the “other types of sexual sin” there? Incest, man-on-animal bestiality, woman-on-animal bestiality, and sex with a woman during her menses. The other main prohibition of sodomy is in Leviticus 18:22. In that chapter, full of incest prohibitions, the law against sodomy is sandwiched between child sacrifice and bestiality. Keating must have hoped that no one would open Leviticus and look at these lists for themselves, for they prove exactly the opposite of what he suggests: they shows that sodomy was considered one of the most extraordinary sexual sins in ancient Israel.
Thus, “stigmatizing” sodomy as a revolting act is exactly what the Bible does. It does it by its diction (“abomination”), and it does it by context (lists of revolting acts). In His wisdom, God used the language of the Scriptures, no less than fear of civil penalties, to make the act of sodomy abhorred among the children of Israel, and to cultivate a visceral (gut-level) reaction against it. While the Greeks, Mesopotamians, and Canaanites round about them were busily sodomizing each other so much that it became normal in those societies, ancient Israel drove sodomy underground or eliminated it.
For the church to attempt to sugar-coat the act of sodomy, or not mention it, or use only clinical, neutral, anatomy textbook language about it — this is to join the unbelievers who think they are holier than God.
It is also a refusal to allow Scripture to shape our own attitudes and reactions. The world doesn’t want us to think about what sodomites do. But if we do think of it, it wants us to think that a man using another man sexually is an act of love. But the language of the Scriptures trains us to be viscerally revolted at the idea. Do we think we know better than God how to prevent sodomy from becoming prevalent and proud?