There's an interesting distinction in my battered old King James that is replaced with the word 'homosexuality' in a lot of the newer translations. The word homosexuality wasn't even coined until something like the 1890's, so using it in a Bible translation seems the height of hubris. Anyway, in Romans 1:26-27, Paul says "…even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another…" Big-time condemnation of homosexuality and homosexuals, right?
But remember who Paul was speaking to. He was a Roman Jew living in an area that was saturated in Greek culture. Remember what a mentor was originally? He was an older Greek man who accepted a post-pubescent boy to be his apprentice, student, and paramour. Every man was expected to mentor somebody, and every boy expected to be mentored. Remember Sodom? Who wanted to have sex with Abram and Lot? That's right, it was every single man in town. (All the married ones, too.) It wasn't a few women shacking up together that earned Lesbos its reputation.
So who was Paul talking about? Read the whole chapter. It sounds a hell of a lot like a hell of a lot of people. Not just a few queers.
Was he condemning homosexuals? Or condemning people who had sex against their own nature?
Who hurt other people more – Barney Frank, the openly gay congressman from Massachusetts who enjoys a loving relationship with another man, or that pastor in Colorado, what was his name, Ted Haggard or something, who ripped his family and church apart with his relationship with a gay prostitute?
Homosexuality isn't a choice. Nobody in their right mind, in our culture, would make a choice like that, and invite all the hate, ridicule, discrimination, and physical danger of gay-bashing that comes with it. You're gay because that's who you are, and either God made you that way, or God got the hell out of the way and it was a random chance, or God doesn't exist, or God made a mistake. Oops. Sorry, Tom. I got these rules, see, but I just made you in a way that you can never obey them and be true to yourself at the same time. You don't obey them, and I'm gonna drop you into a fire and torture you forever. Tough life, dude, good luck.
It's tough to say with Paul [- at least, it is for me, because I disagree with a lot of what he said -] but I think he [had intentions of helping people live happier lives]. I'm guessing he was talking about heterosexuals. And that would imply that it's a sin for a homosexual to get married and have sex with a person of the opposite sex. That's right. I said that Paul's words imply that sometimes it's a sin to have heterosexual sex within the bonds of matrimony.
(I think that's why Republicans have so many problems holding their marriages sacred. At least when Democrats cheat, they cheat with people of the opposite sex.)
The question is, do we generalize Paul's condemnations in the first chapter of Romans to mean that the problem is sex outside of marriage and individual nature, or do we generalize it to mean that the problem is homosexual sex?
If it's the first, are we furthering the gospel by ensuring that between two or three percent of the population cannot have sex that is natural to them within the sanctity of marriage?
How do we decide which position Paul was taking? How do we gain the wisdom to make that choice? And what is our responsibility to do so, and sit in judgment over our fellow humans? Does Paul, or perhaps Jesus, offer any guidance?
I turn my battered old Bible to Matthew 5:44, and read, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
I flip the page. It's made of rice paper, thin, delicate, and torn from many readings, so I turn it carefully, kind of holding the torn pieces together. And there I see Matthew 7:1-3: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?" I turn the pages again, to Matthew 22:21, where Jesus says, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"
(Y'all can have your new translations. I'll keep my old King James, with its beauty and poetry. And it smells good, too.)
Maybe we don't have to make that choice.
Maybe we don't have to take that responsibility unto ourselves.
Maybe we can withdraw from the argument, and let God do the judging.
But wouldn't that mean we'd have to let people decide for themselves who they thought it was natural to marry? Wouldn't that mean changing the laws to admit the whole range of gender and sex into the legal institution of marriage? Men with men, women with women, transpeople with whoever?
Wouldn't that destroy our society?
Um… well – what does it change, on a practical level? Those folks are getting married in their own churches already. They're giving birth, adopting, raising kids, and doing it with legal hurtles we don't have to deal with. But they're making it work. They're signing contracts and living wills that ensure they own their children and that they'll be with their partners in medical emergencies. They're planning ahead and enriching lawyers left and right. They're facing life with courage and passion, and yes, love.
What is our responsibility to our fellow humans – and, for that matter, to the elect of God, our own congregations?
What does it mean to come out from the world, and be separate?
If our neighbors Tom and Andrew want to go down to the courthouse and sign a contract to love each other and raise their daughter together, we don't have to officiate at their wedding, do we?
We don't have to welcome them into our pews, do we?
We don't have to say we agree with them, do we?
We don't have to compromise our faith in any way, do we?
The legal contract that they sign in front of the county clerk doesn't equate in any way with sacred vows spoken at the holy altar of God, does it?
No. That contract is sealed with the "image and superscription" of Caesar (or, at least, the state).
We can, however, stand out in front of the courthouse, and show 'em Romans 1:26-27, and explain that we're really worried that they're making a big mistake, and all those bad things Paul threatens are going to happen to them, and tell them how much we love them and how badly we'll miss them if they don't make it into heaven with us. That's what we'd do if we really loved them, like Jesus says we should, right?
But if we really loved them, would we stop them from passing by and making that mistake? Would we raise a gun, and point it at them, and tell them we'll shoot if they pass through those courthouse doors? Would we join arms together and form a human chain that would block them, and use our greater numbers to prevent them from acting on their own conscience?
Because that's what you're doing.
What would Jesus do?