Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thoughts on God and Sex [Revised]

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?

Well, perhaps.

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?

No.

We don't have to welcome them into our pews, do we?

No.

We don't have to say we agree with them, do we?

No.

We don't have to compromise our faith in any way, do we?

No.

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?

13 comments:

Rev Med said...

I think that the nature they were going against was human nature - which we know is man with woman.
I believe Paul knew it was completely against the will of God for any type of sexual relationship outside of man and woman. If it were otherwise, God would have created a different model from the beginning for us to follow.

David Carrel said...

I think that you need to take the Bible as a whole and it takes a lot to understand each context and put it all together. While God has characteristics like love, mercy, goodness, graciousness, and so much more, He also has characteristics like being just and holy. He has many different instructions written in His Word. I am glad that you have read so much in your Bible; that is great to hear.
God does tell us to love each other and not to judge each other. But He also tells us to hate sin and to stay away from it. But since Adam, we have not been able to and continue in sin despite God's clear warnings against it. In Romans, Paul makes it clear that we are all sinners. All have fallen short of God's glory. (We all miss the mark). When you say to look who Paul was condemning and say it was a lot of people, you are right. It was all of us. Everyone is guilty in their sin.
Who gets hurt more in sin? Everyone does, and especially Christians who fall into sin. I never knew who Ted Haggard was until after the scandal came out and it hurt me to know that Christian leaders can fall into sin like that. But it is painfully apparent that no one is exempt from making a bad choice. So Paul is condemning every sexual sin (any sexual act outside of a man-woman marriage relationship, including any thoughts of lust). That is all of us obviously.
Well, I got to go, but thanks for this post.

Seda said...

Rev m.
1. How do YOU know that human nature is man with woman for ALL people? Don't you have to look into the heart to see that? How can you make that judgment against me without usurping God's judgment throne?

2. Regardless of right, wrong, or God's lack of imagination, what gives you the right to make that decision for me?

David,
"So Paul is condemning ... any sexual act outside of a man-woman marriage relationship, including any thoughts of lust."

Okay, fine. That's your interpretation, and I defend your right to hold it and make your decisions based upon it. I respectfully disagree.

But what I would like to know is, what gives you the right to make legal decisions for me based upon your personal conviction of truth and God's law?

Why aren't you Christians willing to grant me the autonomy to act on my own convictions? What need of yours is met by oppressing me with your secular laws written to coincide with your personal faith?

I honestly don't understand, and I feel really frustrated that none of you will answer that question. You just repeat your faith. How can I make it completely clear that I'm okay with your faith? I respect it. And I disagree with it. I'm not asking you to officiate at our weddings, or welcome us to your churches, or stop preaching against the evillness of us and our lusts or whatever.

What is it about having your particular faith that makes you infallible? I know, I know, you fail all the time, sin all the time, deserve to be tortured with red hot irons, etc. But - your interpretation of the "Word" is so infallible that you don't hesitate to legislate laws that hurt me.

Why?

Seda said...

Hey, there, you christians,
I'm not sure that you got the point I was trying to make with my little impromptu sermon on this post. Would you be willing to leave a comment that explains what you thought I said?

Thank you,
Seda

Rev Med said...

As a Christian, it is my stance that we view the bible as the standard for our morals. There can be argument about many reasons of that alone, however, when God created the world, it was one man and one woman he created.
Man chose to change that, by exchanging natural for unnatural. You can make a decision to live the way you want, but for over 2000 years it has been the 'natural' thing to be straight. Only a minority of the world lives 'unnaturally,' and they are often doing it against state law. Well, I'm not a really smart guy. I'm no official on these matters. I just believe that it should be one man and one woman. They then complete each other, and compliment one anothers strengths and weaknesses.

Nick the Geek said...

seda,

I disagree with your treatment of the text. Paul is speaking as a Roman Jew yes, but it is important to note that he was trained as an incredibly conservative Jew and so this is the framework that shapes his thoughts. Further it is a characterization to call him a liar.

Still, I agree with the idea of approaching in love not hate. The idea of "love the sinner hate the sin" is great but people need to understand what the difference is. With a murderer, for example, it is easy to separate the sinner from the sin (the person from the act) if the person wasn't a serial killer. The more the murder become a part of the murderer the harder it is to make that distinction. This same thought applies to all other kinds of sin as well. That is why so many Christians have a hard time. They can't make the distinction between the sin, which is the act of sex, and the person, who is attracted to people of the same sex.

A large part of this inability to honestly draw the distinction is ignorance. That is where honest and open communication is required. Trying to twist the Bible to make it seem as if Paul had a kind of relationship with Timothy that didn't exist in order to support the idea that Paul didn't write against homosexual sex is not the place to start if you are trying to achieve open and honest communication.

I find it interesting that you feel the need to make it seem as if Paul is referring to something different when you do not consider yourself a Christian and so don't hold yourself accountable to the requirements of Christianity.

Anyways, that is my first blush reaction to what you have said. I'll try to read again and read the comments here. I'm not sure what the next few days hold though.

David Carrel said...

I understand what you are asking for and questioning Seda. I think it has been clear. You want to know why my personal convictions have to apply to you legally. I understand that. I am sorry that I have not found a way to tell you why, but here is my next attempt. haha

If a certain group of people thought that stealing was ok in order to feed their family. They had no personal convictions about it because it was what they had to do in order to survive. But the majority of the collective group thought that it was wrong and bad for society overall and so they made stealing illegal, would they be wrong in doing so; even though the thiefs had no personal conviction against it?

The collective group is all of America who do not believe that it is good for our country to hold those marriage laws and views. The LGBTQ has no personal convictions over these laws and feel that they need them to survive.

But the majority of people disagree with them. So our US government goes to work in deciding what laws we want to have in this country. The majority is generally, or supposed to be, the votes that count. In addition to personal convictions, we have learned from history (or at least I have heard and been taught, I could be wrong on this point) that countries that have allowed and endorsed homosexual practices have lead to failure as a country. So I feel that having God's laws be our laws helps preserve our country. We are taught to be a salt (a preserver) and a light as Christians. Now, I think that we have gone about it the wrong way (hence my comment that started our whole conversation). I actually wrote a book on that topic.
Thanks for the conversation so far Seda. I am continuing to learn!

Seda said...

Thanks, Rev m. I see from your answer that you didn't hear what I was trying to convey, and I appreciate the clarity. I'm going to try again in a new post, titled "Could we start again, please?" Would you be willing to respond to that, too?

Seda said...

Thanks, Nick. I see you didn't hear what I was trying to say, either, and given the nature of the text, I'm not surprised. Would you be willing to read my next post, too?

David,
You're getting it, mostly, except there are some distinctions I'd like to draw out, which I'll try to do in my next post. Thank you.

I suspect there are a whole lot of lesbian and gay people who would be offended by the equation of their ability to legally marry with thievery!

I'd appreciate it if you, also, would continue the conversation.

ajandmac said...

standing O

David Carrel said...

Yeah, in my head the connection is so clear, but I can see how you all would react. I wish that I could be better at explaining things. I have always been a horrible debater. Sorry about that. There have been many times this last week where I have thought that this conversation is way over my head, but I will keep trying.

Sara said...

this is over my head as far as text goes... I only know that there are many books of the bible that were cut out, left behind during different struggles in the church.

(Lost Christianities, by Bart Ehrman.

it seems to me, any direct, as if from God, reading of the bible is to be ignorant to how the hands of man have shaped the text.

Seda said...

I think you're right, Sara. Good point.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz