We’re All Damned

The Bible says homosexuality’s an abomination. But estate agents and food manufacturers are in even bigger trouble.

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 19th November 1996.

Leviticus is pretty clear about homosexuality. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination”. Like those who defile themselves with beasts, such sinners will be, the Bible tells us, vomited out by the land itself. If evidence of this hideous destiny were ever required, one need look no further than the eructations which greeted the 20th anniversary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, celebrated on Saturday in Southwark Cathedral.

Never having lain with a man as with a woman, or with a beast to defile myself therewith, I was, until this weekend, fairly complacent about my chances of being vomited. Then, however, hoping to discover what the fuss was all about, I made the mistake of taking a look at Leviticus. It’s odd that no one else seems to have noticed it, but the news is much worse than we thought: terrestrial regurgitation awaits those who commit any one of the “abominable customs” listed in the book. All of us habitually defile ourselves before the Lord, but, as if to prove that He is a just God, food manufacturers and estate agents would seem to have the most to fear, as they lead all the rest of us into temptation. If anyone should be looking out for a cosmic spew, it should surely be them.

Leviticus leaves little room for doubt. Thou shalt not eat animal fat, or the fruit of a tree you’ve owned for less than five years. Thou shalt not round the corners of your head, or mar the corners of your beard. Thou shalt not touch a woman, or anything she’s sat on, until seven days after her menstruation begins. Thou shalt not put a stumbling block before the blind (which does for anyone parking on the pavement). Thou shalt not trade in freehold: after 50 years, all property must revert to the people it was bought from.

While God doubtless appreciates the fuss about gays being accepted into the priesthood, He surely can’t be very pleased that the rest of His injunctions in this regard have been so manifestly flouted. Leviticus prohibits from officiating in church anyone that hath a blemish, be he lame, crookbackt, with a flat nose, “or any thing superfluous”. Quite what this means is anyone’s guess, but it must certainly cover deaf aids, spectacles, dentures and toupees, thus barring the greater part of the priesthood from its duties.

Obviously, an awful lot of turtle doves are going to have to have their heads pulled off to atone for this lot. On the plus side, we have banned the import of ostrich meat from South Africa on the grounds of its uncleanliness, and incinerated plenty of oxen this year, which could be taken as a sort of expiatory sacrifice. We have been diligent in making bondmen of the heathen, and if we aren’t smiting the enemies of the Lord ourselves, at least we are supplying the hardware. But God’s land must surely be starting to gag.

In need of spiritual guidance, I telephoned the Rev Philip Hacking, Chairman of Reform, the group which led the protests against the service on Saturday. Why have he and his fellow evangelicals, so quick to warn homosexuals of the perils they face, been so slow to warn the rest of us?

Homosexuality, he told me, unlike other Old Testament abominations, is also recognised as a sin in the New Testament. There is no comparison, for example, with the sin of Onan, which “the Bible doesn’t take very seriously”.

Conspicuously, however, homosexuality is condemned in the New Testament not in the four Gospels, but in Romans, Corinthians and Revelations, along with stacks of wonderful material about many-horned beasts and the ordination of all governments by God. These books, like Leviticus, relay the words not of God, but of men striving, just as they do today, to apply His teachings to everyday life. Philip Hacking has rightly rejected the prejudices of 4000 years ago, only to embrace those of 2000 years ago.

There is, however, one small anti-nausea drug of hope, which may yet delay the global barf. Among Free Presbyterians in Glasgow, a small group is beginning to take the Bible seriously. The “theonomists”, like the Taliban, would replace the judiciary with religious courts. Homosexuals, adulterers and disobedient children would be stoned to death.

This honesty in sentencing may be as relevant to Britain in 1996 as the politics of Pol Pot would be, but at least the theonomists don’t succumb to the “pick and mix morality” so often lamented by groups like Reform. By concentrating on homosexuality and choosing to reject as irrelevant the other teachings of the Bible, evangelical Christians are surely commiting the very sin of which they accuse the homophiles. They are pandering to the whims of the moment, rather than listening to the God of their hearts.