I was in Spain this past August, and while I planned our trip, I spent little time thinking about the food. I’d waited tables at a Latin restaurant for 3 ½ years and felt like I knew the cuisine well enough to find plenty of dishes that worked with my particular likes and dislikes. One of those people who eats anything, I am not. Our first night in Barcelona, I realized that I was going to have far more trouble than I realized.
For dinner we found a very cool local tapas bar in the old part of town. I okayed the restaurant in part because of the menu outside, on which, among the variety of ways to serve ham (of which I am not a particular fan) and a bunch of seafood dishes was what translated to chicken tortelloni with mushrooms. Perfect, I thought, I’ll just order it without the mushrooms (which I avoid at all costs). We headed in.
When we ordered, I asked for the dish without mushrooms (I speak fine enough restaurant Spanish to navigate this type of conversation) but, alas, that wasn’t possible: the dish had already been prepped. Fine, I said. I felt confident I could pick out what I didn’t care for. But when the dish arrived, the mushrooms had been threaded throughout the tortelloni (which look more like an enchilada than what I had in mind) and would be impossible to weed out. I could either suck it up and eat the dish as prepared, send it back, or make such a mess of my plate that the dish would be destroyed.
The Bible is sort of like a dish that’s prepared a certain way, and the kitchen does not take requests. Still, people find ways to carve it up in ways that suit them. The Book of Romans offers a few opportunities to tweak the included points, and the effect is messy.
Even if the idea that Paul is denouncing homosexuality in his letter to the Romans is taken in context, there are other words in there that should be noted, and missing words considered.
First, there’s no mention of homosexual LOVE. Part of the issue is that during that era, the homosexual identity did not exist (or at least not as we know it). Therefore, gays and lesbians did not court, fall in love, live as couples, etc. Or if they did, they kept it REAL quiet. So perhaps this didn’t occur to Paul (or people that shared his point of view back then).
I’ll suggest that two gays or lesbians do and can love one another.
Given this then, if they don’t have sex and live together in love, they aren’t “violating” the “law” here, right? Furthermore, the troubling coda suggests that all people who engage in homosexual sex are also evil, etc. (1:29). Do people who cite this part of the Bible as evidence that being gay is wrong really believe this? If you use Romans to justify an anti-gay stance, you also have to include what Paul says goes along with being gay. You CAN’T cite one part and leave off the other. They are included together for a reason: each detail is needed in order to develop the point the particular section is developing.
I do, however, understand why someone would want to exclude certain words or phrases, especially in our modern, technologically-advanced society. I’m referring specifically to the use of the world “natural,” as in people who engage in gay sex have abandoned “natural” relations with women (and vice versa). Without getting too graphic, the term “natural” suggests to me any form of sex that can lead to pregnancy. Therefore, introducing something unnatural, like, I don’t know, Viagra would violate this natural clause. Last I checked, condoms were also unnatural—I don’t recall seeing a condom tree or a condom farm, for that matter, right? And what about other birth control forms? These are unnatural as well, right?
If we are going to employ an enlightened definition to words in the Bible—expanding “natural” to include things that promote a healthy society through population control, spreading diseases, etc.—surely we then can take the same license to explore an enlightened view of homosexuality: it’s not all about sex.
If people who maintain their anti-gay stance by citing Romans as part of their evidence, they should know that they sound like this guy, Major Andrew Craibe, A Salvation Army Media Relations director based in Australia, who believes that gays should die: http://bit.ly/1aixttx. He uses Romans to justify his opinion on gays.
Is this really what Jesus would have believed? Not based on anything I’ve read. Jesus does not even mention homosexuality—though he does mention sexual immorality (which could refer to a lot of things). It seems that some people have gone searching for a section to justify their hate and misrepresented what they found.
In Barcelona that night, I made a mess of my plate, and in the process managed to not get enough to eat. I should have just ordered another dish, one that I knew I would like, not one that I knew I would have to dissect in order for it to work for me.
Next up: 1 Corinthians. I don’t anticipate the discussion of a lot of columns. Should I?