Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Wednesday, February 13

Punishment, not crime

Regular readers of my blog will have followed my transition from a strongly conservative position on homosexuality to a new position that describes itself as ‘liberal for conservative reasons’.

I feel that by digging a little to find the real intention of the various ‘proof texts’, I find that they do not relate to general homosexuality.

The one sticking point for me in this road has been Romans chapter 1.

The first approach which I found acceptable for a while was that it relates to temple prostitution. This follows from the interpretation of Leviticus 18 as temple prostitution (which I believe I can demonstrate but not in this short blog post), and that Paul’s use of ‘arsenokoitai’ in Corinthians and Timothy derives from Leviticus, those letters being addressed to cities where fertility cults prevailed. The theory then followed that Rome, as the centre of the empire, suffered the same pollutions as its provincial cities of Corinth and Ephesus. But I never found that final step in the logic to be strong enough to convince me let alone an opponent.

A second approach is that the ‘unnatural’ in Romans is the same ‘unnatural’ that Paul uses of a man with long hair. Well, OK. But perhaps we should have more sermons against long hair.

Others have suggested that Paul was a conservative Jew, so of course he would say all of that that, and given his cultural context he was right to say it, but it doesn’t apply to homosexuality in general. I can’t work out how one can argue that Paul was right for then but wrong for now. Personally, I believe that ‘all scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, correction and reproof’. I believe that the scripture is in itself timeless*. So I don’t buy the excuses that Paul was wrong, that he didn’t know about homosexuality, that he was talking about pederasty, etc.

So Romans 1 has been the fly in my pro-gay-marriage soup.

But I have come across a line that is new to me, and which for now at least I find satisfying. The book it came from also contains some utter tosh which I dismiss with complete disdain. But I think this bit is worth salvaging.

In Romans 1, homosexuality is the punishment, not the crime.

The crime is idolatry, failing to recognise the creator and worshipping the creation instead. “Therefore, God has given them over …..”

So for example, if you indulge in the sin of gluttony, you will be ‘given over’ to obesity.

This does not mean that obesity is in itself sinful. Nor does it mean that all obese people have committed the sin of gluttony. Many eat a lot less than I do, but I am gifted with a more efficient metabolism. For some obese people, it is congenital that they will put on the pounds just by smelling a cake in the house next door.

There is however, in our society, a certain shame around obesity. It’s embarrassing to be fat. It’s not the done thing. It’s a poor show, old chap.

So those Romans who worshipped the creation found themselves as a consequence in a position of shame in the society, like the obese. But Gay people are in most cases congenitally homosexual. They know even as children that they are gay, long before they have started to make religious and moral choices or decided to experiment with sex. And so it is unreasonable to equate congenital homosexuality with the homosexuality newly inflicted on the pagans by God in Romans 1.

(*In saying timeless, I mean its core message is for all time. One does need to account for the cultural context in the sense that it helps to understand what the intent and meaning of the words is, and there is an extent to which the modern cultural context needs to be understood to know how to apply it, and also some argue a dispensationalist case that God spoke law in ancient times to Israel but grace to the household of faith after the resurrection, but the underlying message that God intends the passage to have remains for all time. So in Leviticus 11 it classes a bat as a bird. In their language the word ‘bird’ includes ‘bat’. So what?)

No comments:

Post a Comment