Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lent Day 12: LGBTQ Texts of Terror

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

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?


bugs said...

Well said!

Arkansas Hillbilly said...

Fundangelicals have a tendency to stop at the end of Chapter One here. They miss Chapter Two where the condemnation falls not on the people mentioned in the first chapter, but the reader, "Therefore YOU have no excuse..." I've tried to convince my own fundangelical family that the entire argument is simply whipping up the frenzy of zeal before dropping the bomb on the reader that they in fact are no better or worse than the "pagans".

Anonymous said...

paul also says that it's "natural" for a man to have short hair, which makes clear that natural for paul is about social expectations, rather than laws of nature.

good people, holy people, have faith disciplines that do not involve worship of the "one, true god," and i am no more willing to apply this text to them than to faithful queer and trans folks.

it's getting harder and harder to understand the bible as more than a search for a people to understand god. its truths are not really working for me anymore as anything approaching absolute truth.


Choralgirl said...

Hope so. :-) Thanks for this; hadn't really fully fledged first point you made here. That's helpful!

Hug for you.

Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

...and I am convinced that St Paul was writing a particular letter to a specific context. He never thought that this letter would be used as normative for Christians 2000 years later. He could not have dreamed that his letter would be multiplied millions of times thought the miracle of printing; and that Christian people around the world would read it. I suspect that he would most probably have destroyed his letter there and then if had seen the cruel way it has been used/abused since then.

Cecilia said...

Cheese and crackers, peacester. I go making this whole argument and then there you are, with your second paragraph, all true and everything!

Of course, you are right.

Anonymous said...

Your rationalizations may work in the GLBT echo chamber, but God will be less impressed.

Peacesters' second and third paragraphs give the game away-- you are worshipping some strange god different than the Triune God we know through revelation.

Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand!

--a concerned Christian

Jan said...

Cecilia, I love your writing. Do we really believe that God is active?? Or God stopped?

Cecilia said...

Anonymous-- I was wondering when you would show up! Welcome.

I disagree. Your certainty about the mind of God combined with the need to speak here-- anonymously, of course-- to correct us is, sadly, all too typical of folks who insist on using scripture as a bludgeon to confirm all their own prejudices. Try reading with an open mind-- "Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality" by Jack Rogers is a good place to start. God would like you to stop hating those who are different from you. Try it as a Lenten discipline.

Pax, C.

murat11 said...

Bibliolatrists: gotta love the word.

Sophia said...

Thank you, peacester, for speaking out for holy pagans and those of other faiths, and thank you C. for affirming that wisdom. I squirmed a little when I read this but didn't have the courage/integrity to speak up. And did the same thing recently when a beloved RevGal posted the long version of St. Patrick's Breastplate which has something similar. This calls me back, thank you.

Saintly Ramblings said...

I think this is the first time I have seen someone else expound the "unnatural" and "natural" explanation. I can recall using it back in the late 1970's when discussing homosexuality with an evangelical friend. Then I said that for a gay person to enter into a heterosexual partnership would be "unatural" for them, and that the "natural" affections that heterosexuals have for the opposite sex is exactly the same feelings as the homosexual has towards their own sex. I didn't change his mind then, but it made him think, and now some 30 years later he is more accepting of difference in orientation.

Diane said...

thanks for this, Cecilia, and for your grace toward others. That's holiness.