Christian Extremist Behind Ohio Abortion Bill Believes Gay Marriage Caused Noah's Flood, Will Destroy World Again
It turns out that the Nephilim are at it again. Last night, the CW series Supernatural identified angel-human hybrids as Nephilim, and the back half of the season will involve a hunt for the Nephilim fetus of Lucifer and the U.S. president’s girlfriend. But that is small potatoes compared to the pernicious influence of the Nephilim from the “Days of Noah” on U.S. public discourse. According to media reports, Ohio’s new highly restrictive anti-abortion legislation was spearheaded by none other than Janet Folger Porter (a.k.a. Janet L. Porter and Janet Folger), a Christian extremist who has promoted a number of faith-based conspiracy theories, ranging from allegations that Barack Obama planned to open concentration camps for conservatives to claims that gay people cause natural disasters by having sex. But Folger isn’t just a standard-issue Evangelical extremist. She also believes that the Nephilim were gay and caused the Flood of Noah, so therefore the world will end soon because gay marriage is now legal.
This seems funny, I’m sure, but the fact that Folger Porter achieved a legislative victory speaks to the power and influence of these ideas. Worse, because media reports indicate that Donald Trump has suggested that he will roll back federal regulations protecting gay people, and because his nominees for cabinet jobs listen to Evangelical extremists, it’s important to understand what they believe and why. The media do a terrible job of this, and mostly just point and laugh without taking the time to understand how scraps of data are assembled into vast mountains of hate.
A few years ago, Folger (as she was then known) explained that legalizing gay marriage would cause God to destroy the world. She learned of this, she said, when she had a different nut job on her radio show:
As I wrote about in my book, “The Criminalization of Christianity,” Jeffrey Satinover, who holds an M.D. from Princeton and doctorates from Yale, MIT and Harvard, was on my radio program one day and I asked him about where we are in history. He explained that according to the “Babylonian Talmud” – the book of rabbis’ interpretation of the scriptures 1,000 years before Christ, there was only one time in history that reflects where we are right now. There was only one time in history, according to these writings, where men were given in marriage to men, and women given in marriage to women.
Satinover is a psychiatrist who believes that homosexuality is a compulsion that can be “treated” and “cured” like alcoholism or pedophilia. He also believes—and I am not making this up—that he discovered a secret code in the Torah. Yes, he’s the same guy that wrote Cracking the Bible Code a couple of decades ago. Anyway, despite his manifestly ridiculous belief in magical Bible codes that predict the future, he makes a disturbing argument based on his conclusion that homosexuality is a pathology: “the debate over homosexual behavior and its implications for public policy can only be decided conclusively on moral grounds, and moral grounds will ultimately mean religious grounds.” Notice the careful illogic used to privilege religion as the arbiter of gay rights. Religious grounds are not moral grounds (for example, religion compels Jews to avoid mixed fabrics, but cotton-poly blends are not inherently immoral), and moral grounds are only one possible basis for public policy, which traditionally favors either universalist or utilitarian reason, not the fuzzier ethics of virtue.
Folger quoted Satinover’s argument for why gays caused the Flood, and it’s a doozy:
But, he said, the Talmud’s writings reveal that “before the Flood people started to write marriage contracts between men, in other words, homosexual ‘marriage,’ which is more than homosexual activity – it’s giving an official state stamp of approval, a sanctification … of homosexual partnership.” […] In fact, he said, “the writings indicated that it wasn’t even so much the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back,’ but that the sin in and of itself is so contrary to why God created the world, so contrary to the order of God’s nature, that God said then and there ‘I have to start all over … to annihilate the world and start from the beginning.[’] …
The argument, Folger said, is because Jesus said that the Days of Noah would be like the period leading up to the Second Coming (Matthew 24:37), therefore gay marriage will bring about the Apocalypse. Now, since the Second Coming, unlike the Flood, is in theory a consummation devoutly to be wished, you’d think she’d be pretty gung-ho about it, but that’s not the case. And never mind that Jesus did not mean that the Nephilim would return to gay-marry their way to sin, but rather that humanity would be blind to the Second Coming the way the antediluvians failed to foresee the coming of the Flood.
I wondered, though, what exactly the Talmud said since very few of the Christian polemicists on the subject of gay Nephilim apocalypses actually tell us where to find the passage. Using a partial quotations Satinover provides, I found the passage in Chullin 92a and b of the Babylonian Talmud. The passage starts out as an analysis of which parts of the hip-bone of an animal are kosher. This spirals into bizarre tangents until, after a discussion comparing righteous men to various objects like grain and silver, the conversation turns to the laws that God gave all humans after the Flood:
Said Rab Judah: These are the thirty righteous men among the nations of the world by whose virtue the nations of the world continue to exist. Ulla said: These are the thirty commandments which the sons of Noah took upon themselves but they observe three of them, namely, (i) they do not draw up a kethubah document for males, (ii) they do not weigh flesh of the dead in the market, and (iii) they respect the Torah. (Soncino translation)
That’s it. That’s the whole of Satinover’s evidence for the Talmud speaking of pre-Flood gay weddings.
The most important part is that it refers to the “sons of Noah” (literally: Bnei Noach), which is a Hebrew term used for all non-Jewish humans, since after the Flood all humans were assumed to be descended from Noah’s three sons. It was sometimes used to describe righteous Gentiles. According to the text—which, I will remind you, was written thousands of years after the imaginary Flood—all these sons of Noah refrained from drawing up kethuba documents for males, which refers to a marriage deed. The text, you will note, is silent on pre-Flood practices. Instead, it refers to what all humans do not do. There is an implication that the practice of same-sex marriage must have been desired in order for it to be condemned as sinful, but the text offers no suggestion that the Nephilim were gay-marrying their way to disaster. It speaks only of post-Flood events, and indeed it praises the pagans and other Gentiles for not practicing same-sex marriage.
The second commandment, incidentally, also praises the sons of Noah for keeping their cannibalism at home rather than openly buying and selling human flesh in the marketplace. High standards!
Instead, it seems that Satinover’s evidence comes from a different Jewish source, the Genesis Rabbah, composed around 500 CE, at a time when Christians had already spent two or three centuries cracking down on decadent Greco-Roman sexuality. (Cf. the prohibitions on homosexuality in the slightly later Justinian Code.) The Genesis Rabbah 26.5.4 gives the following: “The generation of the Flood was not blotted out from the world until they composed nuptial songs in honour of pederasty and bestiality” (trans. H. Freedman and Maurice Simon). The reasoning for this is torturous, but comes down to an extreme form of Biblical literalness in which early medieval Jews read Genesis 6:2 in a peculiar way. You see, in that passage it says that the Sons of God “took them wives of all which they chose.” The Jews of the era believed that no word of the Torah was extraneous, and so, because “which they chose” seems extraneous, they interpreted it to mean something different than the wives. As the Genesis Rabbah bluntly puts it: “whomsoever they chose: that means males and beasts.” There is no logical reason to believe this except by imposing that weird form of literalism on the text.
Indeed, the only way even that turns into a pre-Flood gay marriage orgy is if the Sons of God are not the Fallen Angels (who wouldn’t be human at all), but rather the righteous sons of Seth, from the interpretation of Genesis which was popular in that era, the interpretation that excises Fallen Angels from Genesis. The authors of the Genesis Rabbah agreed that the Sons of God were not angels.
This line of reasoning seems to be influenced by the passages we find in the much older Book of Jubilees (5:1-3) describing how the Nephilim—here meaning the giant offspring of the Fallen Angels—committed sins against men and beasts, who were all cannibals, or in 1 Enoch 7:4-5, where the Nephilim specifically cause God to destroy the world by eating people and sinning against animals. (In these books, the Nephilim, not humanity, cause God to bring about the Flood.) It’s also parallel to the reasoning given in the Christian Epistle of Jude (6-7), which equated the Fallen Angels with the sexual immorality of Sodom. Indeed, in the Genesis Rabbah, the rabbis specifically equate the Sons of God taking male wives with the people of Sodom trying to rape God’s male angels.
Remember, though: The idea of pre-Flood gay marriage causing God to destroy the world isn’t found in Genesis, or even the Books of Enoch or Jubilees. According to the textual evidence, it’s an invention of Late Antiquity. As such, it fits right in with extremist Evangelicals’ medieval vision for society.
I’d like to ask this, though: Why is it that I know the history of his bad idea better than the “Christian” polemicists? There’s no need to answer that. We already know that they don’t care about the history of ideas, or even whether their bizarre view of pre-Flood Nephilim gay weddings has any sort of support in the texts they claim to live by and ask us to take literally. Their only concern is that that U.S. government enshrine their prejudices into law, so that their interpretation of scripture achieves the blessing of the state and can be imposed by force on those of other faiths, or no faith. You know, freedom.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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