Monday, July 6, 2015

Romans 1 ff: God hates homosexuality! I don't think so!

      I didn't write this to stir up happiness / sadness in anyone!  I wrote this to simply do the scratch-pad thing.  I believe too many people have twisted and misused Romans as fuel for their anti-homosexuality nuances.  One person doing that would be too many, I would say!

     This is a note pad, not a book with footnotes.  

     "It's inspired by God" many have said about Bible texts.  Ok, I can buy that!  But, so what!  Am I to take it less seriously?  Am I to make less effort to handle it accurately?  Are my interpetations of it to require less diligence?  Often, I think, "It's inspired by God" can be a mere attempt to hide prejudice, laziness, hatefulness, evasiveness, and such.
     Is God able to tell us how to live?  Well, who really knows the limits of what God can do, so I think that question is irrelevant!  I would say a more relevant question would be "What interpretation should I make of the texts, even a "plain and ordinary reading" of them?"

     Has God told us how to live?  Not only would I say that's irrelevant, I would call that a disingenuous attempt to hide prejudice!  Again, "What interpretation should I make of the text (even the plain and ordinary reading of it)?" is a more relevant question!

     Several times, I've read the entire book of Romans in single sittings.  Having done that orally has taken me about an hour each time.  Yea, just plain and ordinary reading, and I have come away thinking over and over again, "There's no reason for thinking that Paul made any point about 'homosexuality' other than (and only by implication) homosexuality, like anything else, could be exploited towards (for the sake of) immorality!  Long sentence after long sentence, paragraph after paragraph (chapter after chapter), Paul hammered on his theme: 1) It is senseless for any of us to be judging others since we're, likely, guilty of doing what amounts to the same immorality, so stop it!  Stop judging!; 2) God loves everyone more than anyone will ever know; 3) God's love surrounds everyone more than anyone will ever know;  4) Love God, all others, and yourself; and 5) Enjoy learning how to grow freely in God!"

     From what I have read in the last chapter of Romans, someone other than Paul did the actual writing of the text.  How much time did that require?  An hour?  A day?  A week?  Did they ever take a break?  Did Paul's voice get tired and hoarse?  Did the writer's hands ever get tired?  Who knows?  Did Paul ever have to say something like, "Wait!  I should reword that part!" Did Paul say what he should have said all during the first draft?  Did the scribe get it all correct -- no typos, all jots and tittles in proper place -- during the first shot, or did he have to do some editing and rewriting to produce a final draft?  Did he make only one final draft?  If he had to make more than one, did he have to edit and re-write any / all of those?  How many drafts ended up in circulation?  Who knows?  Following the life of Paul as I've read it summarized in the New Testament, it's difficult to see when Paul would have had time to get the final script of Romans accomplished before he ever actually went to Rome.  But, if the Romans were to ever get a letter (delivered to them through some means) then Paul had to get busy, get to it, get it written, and send it on its way.  Clearly, Paul had spent much time thinking and talking about God's service, through Jesus Christ, for human beings all over the world since the beginning.  Romans was a reflection of that thinking.  An expose about homosexuality it clearly was not! 

     At the very least, Paul was a Roman citizen, but had he ever been to Rome?  I think not!  Did Paul know anything about people and their livelihoods in Rome?  Who knows?  If he did, how did he learn of it all?  Tabloid?  Grapevine?  Rumor? -- "You know what they say about those Romans who actually live in Rome!"  (Kinda like "You know what they say about those Pentecostals, those Baptists, those Southerners, the Yankies, ...!")
    The word "homosexuality" did not exist until the mid 1800's and it was never intended to mean "homosexual behavior" or "homosexual acts."  It was an umbrella term intended to encompass a wide range of phenomenon -- emotions, personality, dreams, desires, sexual activity, romance, romantic activity, love, bonding, socializing... seen not only in human populations, but in populations of creatures all over planet earth! Like it or not, homosexuality has been a natural phenomenon naturally occuring throughout the living system on earth and now a word "homosexual" helped provide some intellectual shorthand to help describe / categorize a field of scrupulous study.  It never has been "an act."  It never has been "anal intercourse."  It never has been "immorality."  It never has been "Man lying in bed as with a woman."  A lot of things were not studied meticulously and in depth until many centuries after Bible contents were published.  Bible contents have never told anyone to study mental illnesses, but thankfully people have been doing that!  Bible contents have never told anyone to study cancers, but thankfully people have been doing that!  Bible contents have never told anyone to study epilepsy, blood issues, physics, mathematics, ecology, astronomy, etc., but thankfully people have been doing all that!  Thankfully, people have been studying "homosexuality" rather than glibly, naively, hypcritically, and arrogantly assuming and claiming  (under the guise of beliefs about "divine inspiration," "God said it, and that settles it!") that Bible content writers wrote all that ever needed to be said relevant to the matter.  New studies about all sorts of matters don't prove that Bible contents have not been "inspired by God," but that human readers, students, interpreters have gotten it wrong again, again, and again and have stirred up hell on earth until finally it all backfired and left such readers, students, and interpreters burned after having set paths of damage in motion all along the way.  The very broad field of study categorized as "homosexuality" has been one of those matters.

     It was not until the mid 1900's that, naively, hypocritically, arrogantly, and just plain unjustly, and (as I would say) immorally, the word "homosexual" was ever used in an English translation of Bible contents.  It was a questionable translation then, and it has continue to be such.  That unjust translation has not added one iota to human knowledge of anything, but has proven to be a powerful sedative -- easy to produce and easy to swallow -- against diligent persuit of truth and righteousness.  Publishers (some owned and managed by denominations) have made lots of money printing Bibles and selling Bibles containing that pill.  How many have swallowed it?  Who knows?

     I'm not looking for any reason to "justify" homosexuality.  The fact is I believe no justification has ever been needed, and that anti-homosexuality nuanced translations of Bible contents have been more about arrogant deceit and prejudices of translators and interpretors than about "rightly dividing the word of truth." I believe homosexuality has never been a product of, nor an inevitable catalyst for sin, but has always been a God given natural part of life on earth open to anyones scrupulous study and increased understanding.  It, in and of itself, has always been good.  It, in and of itself, has always been a just avenue through which revelations of love could be witnessed and through which just morality could be kept in motion.

     I believe that people have labeled "homosexuality" as "immorality" without thinking and, thus, have failed to realize how ridiculous such a labeling has always been.  In my own words, "immorality" has always been "the absence of love for God, for all others, and for oneself."  Homosexuality (or anything else God ever made) has been (could be, can be, has never had to be) exploited immorally, but has never been, in and of itself, equal to any lack of love for God, all others, and for oneself.  If ever there was a law (any where and at any time) mandating that condemnation and punishment, even death, be pronounced and enacted against homosexuals without any further qualification, it was an immoral law I would say.  I believe God never inspired it. Now God may have inspired the writing of that material to show how wrong and immoral law makers can be.  I believe that people who have believed that God inspired it to show that "God hates homosexuality" have been wrong and, by definition, immoral.  It's one thing to condemn and punish a homosexual person for killing someone, for vandalizing someone's property, for disturbing the peace, for abusing a child, for abusing another person, etc.  It's another thing, an immoral thing, to condemn and punish a homosexual person for falling in love with another homosexual person, bonding together, and building a life together that contributes peace and goodwill to the world. 

     I think that much of "Romans one" reads not like a first hand, eyewitness, rationally worked out opinion of Paul, but like tabloid, rumor mill, run of the mill type rant, rage, and ramble that Paul cleverly used (and maybe mixed with a stock of his own colloquial way of rambling) to reflect back to his audience a proverbial rope of their own making with which they could easily end up hanging themselves.  Quickly, aiming for his punchline before his elaborations, he engaged them and set them up -- "Since the beginning, people have been surrendering their minds and foolishly wasting time, energy, and resources journeying away from love for God, others, and oneself, making rituals devoted to images made of stone, wood, clay, and animals as if each was fit to be called "god."  Word has it that you all can see as plain as day those Romans have been doing this out in the open!  You say you're not making this up, but that any casual observer has been able to see men with women, women with women, men with men, women with animals, men with animals... behaving without love for God, all others, and oneself... behaving wildly and totally wasted ... repulsive...!  Ok!  Ok!  I get it!  We might as well endlessly add to the list of vices!" -- "WHAT ABOUT YOUR OWN IMMORALITY?"  I think Romans was a device of persuasion and that Paul was using language familiar to his audience to connect with them and set them up for his punchline and elaborations about it.  He didn't want them to hang themselves, but wanted to help them equip themselves for making better use of their time and energy, which, in effect, could set "morality" in motion and, consequently, encourage uninhibited growth in God, not only for Jews but for everyone on earth as God intended since the beginning.  Of course he wasn't approving any carelessness going on anywhere in Rome or anywhere else.  Yes, as rumor would have it, some homosexuality -- in a mindless, careless, wasting way that signals journeying away from God rather than towards God, that signals lack of love for God, all others, and oneself-- was in the mix.  But, "God hates homosexuality" was not!

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