Clarity on a Word’s Meaning
I notice how often Christians use the Bible’s prohibition against “sodomy” to stand in for “homosexuality.”
Let me be clear: The Bible absolutely prohibits homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13 makes it pretty clear), just as it prohibits so many things (like eating rabbits). I’m not contesting that. But I am objecting to the lazy equating of sodomy with homosexuality.
Sodomy does not just include homosexual sex. It basically refers to any and all kinds of sex that aren’t heterosexual missionary-position intercourse. Here’s Dictionary.com’s definition:
Hmm. So Dictionary.com at least thinks sodomy includes things like oral sex and heterosexual anal sex. But maybe that’s just a weird Dictionary.com thing. Let’s check good ole Merriam-Webster.
Wow. Same thing. Well, let’s try something different, like Wiktionary.
Okay, so we at least know sodomy doesn’t just refer to homosexual sex. This is the legal definition of the word, and in fact there are still laws in the United States forbidding sodomy. In my dear state of Louisiana, sodomy is illegal. Now, this law was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, so it’s not actually enforceable, but still, the law is on the books. Efforts to get this obsolete law taken off the books are met with staunch opposition from dumb people. Hey, this law isn’t legal. We’re not allowed to enforce it. Shouldn’t we just delete it? HELL NO!
[Aside: Last year there was a horrendous story out of Baton Rouge in which police officers were going undercover to seduce gay men into sexual encounters, then arresting them for attempting to violate Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law. Once the men were arrested and processed, the District Attorney would strike the charges, because, after all, no actual crime had been committed. But still, our tax dollars supported buffoonish, homophobic police operations like these—police operations that can yield no positive result. Even if you were the world’s most zealous homophobe, the only thing you would get from this operation is gay people being inconvenienced for a few hours. This operation, nonetheless, was politically popular, because this is pious Louisiana, in the heart of the Bible Belt, and to hell with the gays. And keep in mind, this didn’t happen in some small, safe town where police officers have nothing to do… this is Baton Rouge, with a violent crime rate that’s more than twice the national average! It’s one of the most dangerous cities in America, and cops were spending time and money on arresting gay people for seeking gay sex, then releasing them and never pressing charges. If you want a reason to get angry about how religiously-motivated bigotry pollutes our political system, look no further.]
So what’s up? Every definition of sodomy includes heterosexual sex as well as homosexual sex, but it somehow became shorthand for “gay sex.” Does the Bible intend for it to apply to heterosexual people as well?
I hereby ask any learned religious authority—a priest, pastor, minister, philosopher, etc.—does the Bible prohibit sodomy as defined by the legal system? Does God forbid oral sex between married couples? Can a wife give her husband a blowjob and avoid God’s wrath?
Actually, scratch those questions. I have a better one: Why exactly does the creator of the universe care so much about what people do in the bedroom?