Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. ~Romans 1:19-25
Welcome to lgbtq Text of Terror #1: the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. It's too bad, because there is much in this letter that is absolutely beautiful and foundational for orthodox Christian understanding of Christ, his nature, and his call to God's people. But there is this business at the end of chapter 1. Today's lectionary reading stops just short of the lines that are most frequently used, Romans 1:26-27, verses I fully expect to hear used against lgbtq persons in the coming weeks and months in the context of all matter of church experiences. But here's the pity. Those who use these verses in this way do not understand two key points. Today's lectionary passage helps to illustrate one of those.
The people Paul is condemning are those who have abandoned worship of God for the worship of idols... those who "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles." This is not a description of 21st century lgbtq Christians.We are not idol-worshippers. We worship Jesus Christ, Immanuel, the Word made flesh. And, of course, God who is in relationship, the Trinity: Father/Mother, Christ, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, the "therefore" does not apply to us. Let me say that again: this is a passage condemning behavior that flows from worshipping something other than God. That is not the story for lgbtq Christians. This does not apply to us. That's the first area of misunderstanding.
The second area is one I despair of convincing those hostile to us to accept. Part of the reason is that it stems from an understanding outside scripture, and bibliolatrists (ahem, speaking of those who worship a thing rather than the glory of the eternal God... bibliolatrists would be those who worship the pages and words of scripture over and above the God and Jesus whom it reveals) refuse to admit anything outside scripture to help them understand it, a perversion of the sola scriptura mantra. In the next verses, Paul uses the word "unnatural" to describe sexual acts between those of the same sex. But lgbtq people experience their attractions as entirely natural. I am naturally oriented towards women... it is in my nature. With Beloved I am living fully into the nature God created in me. I am not rejecting something that is natural for something that is unnatural. Rather, it is the opposite: I am abstaining from what is unnatural for me.
Bibliolatrists don't want to hear this. It intrudes into their conviction that the bible is a handy rule-book for everyday living. It disturbs them to think that, as John Robinson put it, "God breaks forth yet more light from God's Word." In other words, as one denomination has put it, God is still speaking to us.
Will we listen?