I am trying to continually learn.
Today, my reading plan took me into the beginning of Romans, St. Paul's magnum opus on grace and faith. Romans 1 is called a clobber passage because it seems to categorize all homosexuality as bad. Here is the second half of the first chapter.
Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.My mind goes a couple ways with this passage.
One direction is to a past conversation I had with at church, before I was an ally. The context was the rise of gay marriage and all the gays. Knowing this passage, I spoke like Balaam's ass and said, "maybe this is God's judgment on our country," in effect saying, our country is being punished by Jesus with an onslaught of gay people. Even as I said it, I knew how stupid it sounded. I sounded Biblical, but not Christ-like. Paul's argument seems to be, "people were wicked and idolatrous, therefore, because of this, in other words, as a consequence, God turned them gay, men and women. Before, they were hetero idol worshipers, then they became homo idol worshipers by an act of God." God makes people gay. It's not their choice or by demonic possession.
Has this ever happened in anyone's experience? that is anyone reading this blog. The testimonies of gay Christians that I know and read is orientation has been fixed from childhood, whether raised in the church or later converted to the faith. Strength of orientation is different for everyone, full on hetero, no preference, full on homo. The norm for human beings is mostly hetero. But the flipping of the switch Paul talks about does not seem to happen. Gay conversion therapy has a very poor success rate and that is a long process but people desperate for its success. I do know of people who have left straight relationships for gay ones, but they would say they are bi-sexual, or were trying to make themselves straight by marrying hetero. There are also stories of those leaving gay relationships for straight, for the same reasons. But none of these straight to gay stories include idol-worshiping. The only unnatural relationships were the mixed orientation marriages that were a mistake from their beginnings.
"Natural" and "shameful" are interesting adjectives for Paul. In his first letter to the church in Corinth he also uses these categories,
1 Cor. 11:13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.When I was a young man, who tried to follow Jesus as best I could, I had long hair. I know in some church circles I was a disgrace, because those circles were Biblical. Yet some believers in those same circles thought this assertion of Paul was not applicable to today. In their minds, Paul was speaking to a local situation in Corinth. In their minds, the "nature of things" in Corinth was not applicable to all cultures across all times, not unlike Paul's teaching on slavery.
Maybe the nature of some other things in the early Mediterranean basin church culture are also not applicable to today's culture. The rest of Romans chapter 1, after the gay clobber passage, seems familiar to our human condition across all times and cultures. Verse 31 in particular stands out to me, "they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy." Over the past 25 years, I have sought to understand my gay friends and neighbors and fellow believers. This understanding, which has taken way too long, has revealed to me my lack of love and mercy towards them, and in some cases my lack of fidelity to them when I judged them false believers. I am among the condemned in Romans 1. My gay friends, neighbors, and siblings in the family of God are not victims of God's judgment for idol worshiping. They do not need to repent of their orientation or their relationships. We need to repent of the same things, selfishness, love of self more than each other or God. Part of my repentance is becoming an LGBTQ ally.