Homosexuality is abomination. The Christian Right says so all the time, and non-religious LGBT activists say it too, to relegate religion to humanity’s dustheap. After all, isn’t that what it says in the Bible?
No—and progressive religionists should not use the word. It’s a mistranslation and a misconception, doing harm to LGBT people and religious people alike.
The word “abomination” is found, of course, in the King James translation of Leviticus 18:22, a translation which reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination.” Yet this is a thoroughly misleading rendition of the word toevah, which, while we may not know exactly what it means, definitely does not mean “abomination.” An “abomination” conjures up images of things which should not exist on the face of the earth: three-legged babies, oceans choked with oil, or Cheez-Whiz. And indeed, this is how many religious people regard gays and lesbians. It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.Homosexuality is unnatural, a perversion, a disease, an abomination.
Yet a close reading of the term toevah suggests an entirely different meaning: something permitted to one group, and forbidden to another. Though there is (probably) no etymological relationship, toevah means taboo.
It’d be a good thing if ‘abomination’ fell out of usage. ‘Taboo’ is a softer word, sure. But when Leviticus 20:13 goes on to say “they have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them”, changing ‘abomination’ to ‘taboo’ is like saying ‘you’re only a little bit naughty’ before wrapping a noose around someone’s neck.
A contextual ‘taboo’ that recognises and respects the mores of other cultures would theoretically make it harder for the Christian Right to campaign against homosexuality in wider society (forgetting that, in the US at least, they like to insist that everyone should be subject to Christian ‘values’), but it makes little difference to those within the Christian community who could still be pressured and persecuted with impunity.