Today’s Best of the Web feature on the Wall Street Journal’s website (or, perhaps I should say yesterday’s, in the event that this does not get out before midnight) gave me two interesting references concerning homosexuality in the news. One was a rather ludicrous account of a city council in England that is being prevented from clearing brush and undergrowth in a wooded area because the plan was considered discriminatory to homosexuals who were using the wooded area at night for behavior I would rather not discuss here (the article in the UK’s online Telegraph can be found here). Absolutely ludicrous.
But it was the other reference which really stood out: a Michigan man is actually suing Zondervan for $60 million and Thomas Nelson for $10 million for translating parts of the Bible in such way as to include homosexuality as sin. From the Grand Rapids Press article:
Fowler alleges Zondervan’s Bibles referring to homosexuality as a sin have made him an outcast from his family and contributed to physical discomfort and periods of “demoralization, chaos and bewilderment.”
The intent of the publisher was to design a religious, sacred document to reflect an individual opinion or a group’s conclusion to cause “me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence … including murder,” Fowler wrote.
Another article discussing the case (but leaving out the Thomas Nelson portion of the legal action) can be found here at MSNBC. [UPDATE: Hat tip to B. Thiel–article and a news video here.] While this article leaves out the legal action against Thomas Nelson, it contains additional details, such as this:
His suit centers on one passage in scripture — 1 Corinthians 6:9 — and how it reads in Bibles published by Zondervan.
Fowler says Zondervan Bibles published in 1982 and 1987 use the word homosexuals among a list of those who are “wicked” or “unrighteous” and won’t inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Fowler says his family’s pastor used that Zondervan Bible, and because of it his family considered him a sinner and he suffered.
Now he is asking for an apology and $60 million.
“To compensate for the past 20 years of emotional duress and mental instability,” Fowler told 24 Hour News 8 in a phone interview.
Wow! It’s amazing what difficulties can be addressed with “an apology and $60 million.”
I’m not a lawyer or legal expert, so I won’t bother to weigh in substantially on whether or not the suit will go anywhere. It is meant to be a civil rights suit, claiming that Zondervan is purposefully trying to make homosexuals suffer — I just don’t see it. Also, given that Zondervan does not do the translating, itself, makes me think that the suit is “poorly aimed” (well, unless the real aim is at the guy with the biggest wallet, then it might be “good aim”). I will say, however, that it seems utterly ridiculous, and if it weren’t for the subject matter (homosexuality, the Bible, and a major religious publisher) I doubt that the suit would even be making this much news.
The Greek word around which Mr. Fowler seems to be crafting his “case” is one for which — as is often the case — it is hard to come up with an exact one word English translation. As with all translations, decisions have to be made, and in this case if you want to use just one word “homosexual” seems to be the one that fits the bill pretty well, as far as I am concerned, though “sodomite” might work just as well.
The older translation “abusers of themselves with mankind” seems (I suppose) to be more along the lines of what Mr. Fowler would like to see used, yet the word “abusers” is meant to carry the connotation of any and all sexual activity between men. In this case, the existence of “consenting adults” would not suddenly make the abuse non-abuse — that would be reading one’s own ideas into the translation, not trying to understand what the translators (let alone God through Paul) were trying to communicate.
While my favorite overall Bible translation is the New King James Version, the New Century Version has a pretty clear translation of the word: “men who have sexual relations with other men.”
I would add that Paul points out to his readers after listing examples of those who would not be in the Kingdom of God: “Such were some of you,” he tells the church (1 Cor. 6:11). That is, some of those to whom he was writing (and that includes those who read his words today) used to engage in such practices. But all can repent and turn from those practices — come to Christ and be “washed” of their sin. Yes, homosexual behavior and entertaining homosexual thoughts are sin (just as lustful heterosexual behavior and thoughts outside of the bounds of marriage between man and woman), but the forgiveness of God in Christ knows no bounds for one willing to truly repent and truly turn from sin.
I know that Paul prophesied that the last days would be a time when people generally do not wish to hear sound doctrine or teaching (2 Timothy 4:3) — an attitude which the church surely picks up from the world around it — but it is still disheartening when you see it. Hopefully those who, like Mr. Fowler, seek to change the Bible will, instead, learn to allow the Bible to change them. I know some think that certain changes are just plain impossible, but Jesus says otherwise: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).