Romans 1 Homosexuality
Last blog I discussed some issues with the Old Testament and homosexuality. This time I will try to tackle Romans 1. I would like to know what Jesus thought, but he said nothing about homosexuality and very little about marriage. The only thing Jesus said on marriage was that there should be no divorce and that Moses allowed that because of hard heartedness.
Romans 1 is often a big thumper verse that people use to condemn homosexuality. I actually find it quite unimportant in today’s society when it is taken into context with the surrounding verses. In some ways, I think Paul was setting up the Roman readers when writing the first chapter of this letter. He does list sins and then in verse 2:1 Paul tells them that they are doing the same things and to stop judging others. (Please read chapter 2 as Paul lists their problems.) As in the day of Paul, we like to hide our sins (gossip, laziness, hate, adultery etc.) and focus on someone else. So first of all, we need to know that we should not be condemning of others sins. That is God’s job and you and I are not God.
Secondly, I did say that Paul listed sins and for some people verses 26 and 27 seem to indicate that homosexuality is a sin. Romans 1: 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural 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 indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
The question is what is this unnatural that Paul is referring to? This may be one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. I find that no one really seems to know what exactly Paul is referring to. Is he referring to Temple prostitutes as in the Old Testament? Homosexuality as we see it today? Procreation vs. sexual pleasure? Is Paul simply a homophobe or was he gay and hating himself for it? I have read scholars’ ideas on all these subjects. So if Scholars can’t agree, how can we be sure of what it is?
From what I have read, there was not as much Temple prostitution going on as we might think, so although this is a possibility, I don’t think this is probably what Paul was talking about. However if it is temple prostitution then it is moot for our time. We don’t have temple prostitutes so it is not a problem. According to most of what I have read, homosexuality as we see it has nothing to do with what the society of Paul saw, so I really reject that idea as well. I don’t think Paul was gay, nor do I think he was a homophobe. He taught grace for everyone and equality for all. He often spoke about there being No Jew or Gentile, no free person or slave etc.. I can’t see him hating or fearing anyone. That left me with procreation vs. sexual pleasure.
I have often had people tell me that God could not have created homosexuals because they can’t produce children. Some denominations also have ideas that no birth control should be used and that sex is only for having children. Though there is no specific verse for this idea there are many that could be taken along these lines. Those ideas seem to have also been prevalent in Paul’s day. This is what I believe people were doing that was so unnatural. So in that case any form of homosexuality would be considered a sin, because you can’t procreate through it. However we would also have to say that sex just for pleasure would be a sin. So would the use of contraception (such as the pill or condoms), oral sex, and anal sex (homosexual or heterosexual). You could also add anyone who is infertile or had an operation to “fix” themselves or people who decide not to have children for risk of passing on certain genes or because it could cause health problems for the wife. You must also include any women above the age of menopause. All people unable to have children having sex would be considered a sin.
So basically if you condemn homosexuality you must condemn all those others that I have mentioned and more. However we don’t. Actually, homosexuality seems to be the only one of many non-procreation sex acts that we do condemn. So here is the question. Why condemn only one act and not another? Are we picking and choosing what to believe is a sin and what is not?
The verses also do not say that women had sex with each other. I have found no place in the Bible that condemns that, unless you decide to read into it something that is not there. So question two would be why would male homosexuality be a sin, but female homosexuality not? Is it because the male writers were homophobes or is it that they were thinking something entirely different than what we read it as today?
Question three may be if so many scholars have so many different thoughts on what this could mean, how can we really be sure of its meaning. And if we can’t be really sure how can we truly use this against so many people? In other words, can we condemn people on verses that are unclear when their meaning may be unknown? This is especially true when Paul (immediately after these verses) tells us not to judge.
The Final question would be what else does Paul and the New Testament say about homosexuality? I guess that will have to wait until the next blog. I try not to make these too long to read, so I’ll just leave you to contemplate what I have said so far.