Friday, December 3, 2010

The Heresy of Mind Control and Homosexuality

Basically, I consider The Heresy of Mind Control by Stephen Martin as a helpful book because he uses theological arguments in order to point out that spiritual abuse and authoritarianism in Bible-based cults are not biblical.

However, there is one point in which I strongly disagree with him. In this book, on page 79 of the first edition (2007), on page 87 of the second edition (2009), and on page 87 of the third edition (2012), there is a paragraph:
In many cults, it is typical for the leader to have illicit sexual relations. Many cult masters, through their charismatic personality, cunning arguments, and purported “messages from God,” often convince the subordinates that having these sexual relations is right. But scriptures against this are plain: Have only one wife (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6), “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18), and other kinds of sexual perversion and promiscuity (Lev. 18:22; Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21; Acts 15:20; Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19; Heb. 13:4). Even if the subordinates know it is wrong, they often are too afraid or even ashamed to tell anyone that this is happening. The cult leader might even encourage such promiscuous sexual behavior among the members. Here too, the members may become convinced that this is right, or else they are afraid to resist or speak out against it because of potential punishment by the chief, or because they think no one else disapproves since everyone else is doing it.
Apparently, here, Stephen Martin writes about cult leaders. However, there is one serious problem with this paragraph. He writes "... and other kinds of sexual perversion and promiscuity" and then he puts a number of verses, including Lev. 18:22 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11. Many homophobic Christians use these verses to condemn homosexuality. Thus, Stephen Martin makes it quite clear that he considers homosexuality as "sexual perversion and promiscuity." Does the Bible say that homosexuality is sexual perversion and promiscuity? No.

Stephen Martin received his Master of Divinity degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary. The Church of Nazarene still holds very negative attitude to homosexuality which obviously affected him. In an official document of this church entitled Manual of the Church of the Nazarene: History, Constitution, Government, Ritual / 2009-2013 Edition, p. 57, it is written:
Homosexuality is one means by which human sexuality is perverted. We recognize the depth of the perversion that leads to homosexual acts but affirm the biblical position that such acts are sinful and subject to the wrath of God. We believe the grace of God sufficient to overcome the practice of homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We deplore any action or statement that would seem to imply compatibility between Christian morality and the practice of homosexuality. We urge clear preaching and teaching concerning Bible standards of sexual morality.
(Genesis 1:27; 19:1-25; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-10)

So, I do believe that Stephen Martin views homosexuality as perversion as his church teaches and that this is his thought when he quotes Lev. 18:22 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11 in his book.

Most gay-bashing Christians do not know the context of Lev. 18:22 and will not be able to explain why this verse does not say anything about lesbians. Lev. 18:21-24 (NKJV):

21 And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. 23 Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. 24 ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you.
In Lev. 18:21, it is said about "letting children pass through the fire of Molech." In v. 23, it is said about bestiality. V. 24 says that the nations that lived in Palestine before Joshua led Israelites there practiced these things and that Israelites should not do the same. What do these verses have to do with v. 22?

Moloch was a pagan Ammonite and Canaanite god. Child sacrifices were one of the forms of worshiping him. Other forms of Canaanite pagan rituals included temple prostitution (both male and female) and bestiality. Canaanites believed that all these rituals would increase fertility of their land.

Deut. 23:17 (NASB) forbids cult prostitution:
None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute.
In this verse, there are two similar Hebrew words: qedeshah (female temple prostitute) and qadesh (male temple prostitute). In fact, they are two forms (masculine and feminine) of the same Hebrew word.

Since Lev. 18:22 directly follows the verse that forbids child sacrifice as a part of worship to Molech, there is a great probability that it actually forbids participation in male temple prostitution as a part of pagan rituals. Lev. 20:13 apparently speaks about the same and it is remarkable that chapter 20 of Leviticus begins with worshiping Moloch. V. 2-5 (NKJV):

2 “Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. 4 And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he gives some of his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, 5 then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.
What do Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 say about homosexuality per se? Nothing.

Romans 1:26-27, the verses that are also often used to condemn homosexuality, also are put in a clearly idol-worship context (v. 23, 25). V. 20-27 (NKJV):
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
In addition, v. 26-27 speak about what is unnatural. Homosexual relationships are definitely unnatural for heterosexual people, but not for homosexuals. So, Paul was writing here rather about heterosexuals than homosexuals.

Now, let us look at 1 Cor. 6:9-11, the verses that also were mentioned by Stephen Martin. There are various translations of these verses. In NKJV, they are translated this way:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Apparently, v. 9 forbids homosexuality. However, who are sodomites? Does this word means the same as "homosexuals"? If so, what is the need of putting these words together?

In the Greek text of 1 Cor. 6:9, the words for the people who will not inherit the kingdom of God are: "pornoi," "eidolatrai," "moichoi," "malakoi," "arsenokoitai." "Pornoi" means "fornicators." "Eidolatroi" means "idolaters." "Moichoi" means "adulterers." However, Bible scholars and Bible translators are not sure what the words "malakoi" (translated as "homosexuals" in NKJV) and "arsenokoitai" (translated as "sodomites" in NKJV) exactly mean. The singular forms of these words are "malakos" and "arsenokoites." The word "malakos" is used several times in the New Testament as an adjective, meaning "soft," but it is used as a noun only in 1 Cor. 6:9. The word "arsenokoites" is used two times in the New Testament: in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10. In both verses, its meaning is not clear. These two words were used in writings of Greek Christian authors only when they quoted 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10. These words were used in few non-Christian Greek writings, but their meanings are not clear there either. According to one of hypotheses, Paul invented the word "arsenokoites," composing it from "arsen" (male) and "koite" (bed). Both words were used in Septuagint in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13. So, according to this hypothesis, Paul was referring to these verses. However, this is just a hypothesis. Nobody knows what these words really mean. Some Bible scholars say that they refer to male prostitution or to male pedophilia. Both were widely practiced in the ancient world. However, there is no indication that 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10 condemn homosexuality per se.

One more biblical passage I would like to mention is Gen. 19, the story of destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Many people believe that these cities were destroyed because of homosexuality, but the Bible never says about it. In v. 4 (NKJV) it is said:
But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter.
Have you seen a city where all the inhabitants are gays? They have been minority in every society. Thus, most of the men of Sodom were heterosexual. What happened then was a gang rape. In Judges 19, there is a similar story of a gang rape, but the victim was a woman. The story in Genesis 19 tells not more about homosexuality per se than the story in Judges 19 about heterosexuality per se.

Jude 7 is sometimes used to "prove" that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality. However, the context of this verse does not support this idea. Jude 6-7 (NASB):

6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
What is "strange flesh" in v. 7? If it has to do with homosexuality, why the previous verse says about angels who did not keep their own domain? The most popular interpretation of Gen. 6:1-4 is that these verses speak about angels who had sexual contacts with humans. This is what Jude 6 is referring to. In v. 7, the situation in Sodom and Gomorrah is comparing to it. Sexual contacts between angels and human females took place before the flood. Could they take place after the flood? Gen. 6:4 says that as a result of sexual contacts with angels, women gave birth to Nephilim. When Moses sent twelve spies, they reported that they saw Nephilim in Palestine (Num. 13:33). Since Nephilim existed after the flood, it is possible that angels had sexual contacts with humans after the flood and that it took place in Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a hypothesis, but the fact is that there is no indication that "strange flesh" has anything to do with homosexuality.

Thus, the Bible never condemns homosexuality per se. It condemns some homosexual actions. In the same way, the Bible never condemns heterosexuality per se, but condemns some heterosexual actions.

Of course, Stephen Martin may have any view on homosexuality whatever he likes. However, the problem is that he is a staff member of Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center. Since one of the editors-in-chief of his book was his brother Paul, the founder of Wellspring, I believe that the anti-gay position is the official position of Wellspring.

According to statistics, 5-10% of people are homosexual. There are LGBT Jehovah's Witnesses and ex-Jehovah's Witnesses: and LGBT Mormons and ex-Mormons: Obviously, there are LGBT ex-members of other cults. Gay and lesbian Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons report that they experience a strong conflict between their religion and their sexual orientation. This conflict leads many of them to depression, self-abhorrence. Some of them even attempt or commit suicides. If these people go to Wellspring, will it be helpful for them? I do not think so. I believe that their stay in Wellspring may only increase their conflict which they already have. This is why I do not recommend Wellspring for LGBT ex-members of cults.

In my opinion, LGBT ex-members of Bible-based cults should learn that not all the Christians condemn LGBT people. There are LGBT-affirmative interpretations of the Bible. To name just a few of them:
Another book which might be helpful for them is Steps To Recovery from Bible Abuse by Dr. Rembert S. Truluck.

In conclusion, two videos from "It Gets Better" project by Gene Robinson and Mel White. Both are Christian ministers and open gays.


Anonymous said...

If you want to know Wellsprings stance on homosexuality just ask them. Don't infer from one persons single book. And don't talk down about my father Paul Martin. As a real Christian, a follower of Christ, just like my dad we love and respect homosexuals, tho we may not condone there life style choice there is no hate, or condemnation, and if a homosexual came to Wellspring they would not be treated and helped any different then someone that was straight or bi. The stance of Wellspring is helping people who have been in abusive relationships in which they have been taken advantage of and are in need of piecing their lives back together. If you don't believe that people need help from that, then please leave this blog up. If not, then I suggest you rewrite or delete this post.

Borz Lom (Löma) Nal said...

Well, quite frankly, it looks strange that you write your comment anonymously, but state that Paul Martin is your father. I do not think I wrote anything offensive about your father in my post, and I mentioned him only once. Mainly I wrote about Stephen Martin (who I guess is your uncle) and his book. I do not think I wrote anything offensive about him either.

I am also a real Christian, born again and consecrated to God. However, there are homophobic Christians and there are those who fully accept gay Christians as their brothers and sisters in Christ. I belong to the second group.

Homophobic Christians are not only Fred
Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church with their slogan "God hates fags." Most homophobic Christians disagree with this. They say: "We love the sinner, but we hate the sin," which means: "We love gays, but we hate homosexuality and
consider it sinful."

There are too many gay Christians who were seriously damaged by this slogan. I read their stories. They attempted suicides, had clinical depressions for many years, and so on. This is a very dangerous slogan, and it seems that this is your position as well.

Also, for your information, homosexuality is not "life style choice." If you think sexual orientation is a choice, ask yourself when you chose to be heterosexual. Do you know how many gays struggled with their homosexuality and tried to become heterosexual? Would have they do it if sexual orientation had been a choice?

The main purpose of my post (which you obviously missed) was to state that homosexuality is not a sin. All the biblical verses that are used to condemn homosexuality do not condemn homosexuality per se. They condemn only some homosexual actions such as raping or prostitution in pagan temples. The Bible condemns the same heterosexual actions, by the way. However, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality per se in the same way as it does not condemn heterosexuality per se.

This information is extremely important for gay Christians, and I am not going to remove it from my blog.

There is one important principle of interpreting the Bible: the proper interpretation of the Bible does not contradict the science. For example, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Philip Melanchton (one of Luther's closest allies and his successor) condemned Copernicus because they believed that the Bible contradicts his theory. They used verses: Joshua 10:13; Psalm 93; Ecclesiastes 1:4-5. These verses seem to say that it is the sun that goes around the earth and not vice versa. However, this conclusion contradicts the scientific fact that it is the earth that goes around the sun. This is why theologians had to change the interpretation of these verses. They say that the Bible was written from the point of view of a person who lives on the earth and it does not state the scientific facts. For a person who lives on the earth, it seems that the sun goes around the earth, but it is not the scientific fact.

Likewise, the science state that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed. For example, read the website of American Psychological Association or the website of National Association of Social Workers. The proper interpretation of the Bible cannot contradict these scientific facts. It means that the Bible cannot condemn homosexuality per se because God is a just God. He cannot condemn people for who they are if it is not their choice and they cannot change it. It means that all the interpretations of the Bible that are used to support the idea that homosexuality is a sin are wrong.

Borz Lom (Löma) Nal said...

By the way, according to your words, "if a homosexual came to Wellspring they would not be treated and helped any different then someone that was straight or bi." However, gay ex-cult members may have special needs and it seems from your words that Wellspring staff has no idea about this.

There is a series of articles on Bible abuse by Micah Royal:

Micah Royal grew up in the Worldwide Church of God. However, in these articles he considers not thought reform/mind control or spiritual abuse, but special problems of gay people in such groups and fundamentalist Christian denominations. These problems are what he calls Bible abuse:

"One of the greatest issues facing individuals coming out of an experience with the Worldwide Church of God and its related organizations is what many pastoral counselors call “Bible abuse”. This is an issue not limited to the WCG experience which I have shared, but common also to many who are from other Fundamentalist Christian denominations.

"What is Bible abuse? Bible abuse is a form of spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse is when religious beliefs or practices are removed from the context they were intended for and used as tools of discrimination or oppression of others. <...>

""Bible abuse is a particular form of spiritual abuse. In Bible abuse, select texts, taken out of their historical context, are quoted in order to support the marginalization of individuals from certain minority groups, whether that be the divorced, homosexuals, or those in an inter-racial marriage. These verses are used to justify unequal and oppressive church and community structures, to justify discrimination by individuals and families, and end up deeply scarring those in whatever minority is being oppressed.

"Many times, the end of this Bible abuse will be serious emotional and mental problems for the recipient of it, besides being marginalized and oppressed. Many, many times, this will lead an individual to give up on a life of faith altogether, turning toward atheism, agnosticism, or secular spiritualities. I have known of people who turned toward drug or alcohol abuse to squelch the pain that Bible abuse has caused them. Other times, the crushing fear of God and hatred of one’s self will be expressed by resorting to irrational violence against others, whether abusing other family members, going on a rampage of violence, or committing suicide."

If gay people who left cults go to Wellspring, will they receive help to deal with the damage of Bible abuse? I am not sure that Wellspring staff knows about this isue at all. It seems that instead gay ex-cult members will just hear what they already heard in their cults: that homosexuality is "sexual perversion and promiscuity" (like Stephen Martin wrote in his book) or that homosexuality is a "life style choice" which Wellspring staff does not "condone" (your comment). It will just increase the damage of the Bible abuse and will not help these people.