The Bible, You are using it wrong! (Pt.1 Romans Chapter one)

Welcome to the first instalment of the “The Bible, You are using it wrong!‘ a series about the many ways that the scriptures are often used, not only irreverently, but grossly misappropriated to cause more harm than good in the world at large, past and present. Sadly, a lot of the ways the Church has used the scriptures have been antithetical to the ways of Jesus and His Kingdom. Actually we are seeing a great deal of it right now in and around the circumstances involving the Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses despite the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize marriage between non-heterosexual couples. This post is not about whether homosexuality is “right” or all the obvious implications that come with her stating that her refusal to abide by the law was based on her “religious beliefs” but rather how I have seen so many “Christians” totally misuse scripture to defend Ms.Davis and how they have responded to the LGBTQ community.

In short, Ms.Davis’ supporters use of scripture is nothing new. People throughout all of history have wielded the scriptures for the end goal of abusing the marginalized in society. One of the earliest instances we know of this happening is contained within the Gospel narratives where Jesus spoke some of His most weighty judgments to the Pharisees, aka the religious right, for using the scriptures to abuse, and wound the weak and marginalized in society. For Jesus, and for Christians, using the scriptures in any way that causes harm whether mentally, physically, or spiritually is not only a wrong use of scripture that misses the point, but is considered damnable. If our interpretation and application of the Scriptures do not cause us to love people with a self giving unconditional cruciform love of neighbor then we must abandon the systems by which we are reading and arriving at such interpretations.

SODOM AND GOMORRAH

Throughout this happening I have heard so many “Sodom and Gomorrah” references that I could vomit. This post is not about the misuse of those texts but I felt like I needed to at least take a moment to mention them. I am going to say this a plain as I possibly can… I want you to repeat after me… Sodom and Gomorrah’s “destruction” had NOTHING to do with homosexuality! Nothing! Not even a little bit! So stop using it to dehumanize and “clobber” the people in the LGBTQ community. Not only is it scripturally inaccurate but it looks nothing like Jesus. Now that we have that out of the way…

ROMANS CHAPTER ONE

Romans Chapter One is one of the handful of passages that anyone who is against gay marriage start flinging right out the gate. It was only a few months ago I sat in a service where a pastor felt the need to spend near and hour in this text and the “Wrath of God!’ that is stored up for sinners. He seamlessly blended and inarticulate approach to scripture with your typical southern conservative rhetoric making sure to slam his hand down on the podium a few times while not forgetting to demand an “AMEN!” here and there throughout his discourse. The truth is that Romans Chapter One is not at all even remotely speaking of what we call homosexuality in the present day. Actually a mutual loving relationship between two same sex-persons was not a thing in the time and culture that Paul was writing to in the beginning of his letter to the Church in Rome. Paul is actually describing in vague detail the cultic sex practices that happened in many pagan places of worship. Where men and women would engage in heinous sex acts with temple slaves and young children of the same sex. This is something that the early church would have obviously have seen as abhorrent as well as something our culture also sees as criminal. These were predatory sex acts seen as worship to pagan gods inflicted on slaves and youth. Not mutually loving consensual relationships between two same-sex persons. So already the use of this text to “clobber” the gay marriage debate has absolutely zero footing to stand on.

For a moment let us atleast pretend that Paul was speaking of Homosexuality in the way we understand it in our present day and age. The truth is that even if that were the case, which it isn’t, that our use of these texts to wound the LGBTQ are not only unChist-like but are actually contradictory to the context and intent of Paul’s writing. Bible 101- KEEP READING. See Paul continues on with the real subject at hand in the beginning of chapter two. Unfortunately we often let our chapter headings and verse numbers (which weren’t present in the original documents) do a disservice to the text and our congregations by plucking out a few verses and using them in ways that they were not written. Paul’s whole point comes to focus if we keep reading on rather than stopping at the end of Chapter One and effectively carving what we want out of the text rather than getting down to what Paul was actually saying.

The purpose of Romans Chapter One is not so we can have a justifying set of verses for treating the LGBTQ community as if they are sub-human. But rather it is Paul’s way of setting up a climax to correct and teach the Church in Rome. See Paul uses the most awful picture of sin and lawlessness that he can think of, the raping of young kids as worship to  pagan gods, as a means to to show how sinful the Church in Rome had become. He spends several verses emphasizing the “Wrath of God” that will come on those who have committed such crimes against their fellow man. I can not help but imagine that most of the Church at Rome was cheering him on as the letter was being read in their midst.

“Yes they deserve destruction! They are sinners! God’s wrath will come on the wicked!” (I often here these same cries come from many in the american church.)

Well… at least until they rounded the top of the next portion of the text, or what we would call Romans Chapter two. Then I am certain they were not at all to fond of this letter from their beloved Paul.

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.(Romans 2:1-5)”

Boy! Does Paul flip it on them or what! See the whole purpose of Chapter One was not to provide them a means of justifying their thirst for the Wrath of God to come on the wicked but rather stood as a “set up” of sorts to reveal to them that by their longing for wrath to come on to sinners they were effectively no different than those who practice predatory rape of children in the pagan temples! He is talking to the Church! He literally just told the people of the Church, who he called “Saints” in Chapter One, that they are as bad off as child molesters because they thirst for wrath! So even if the text was speaking of homosexuality in a consensual loving relationship that we know of today it is still not only wrong, but self-condemning to use the scriptures as a means to judge and condemn those that we think deserve the wrath of God! Paul follows up with a reminder that it is only by God’s kindness, NOT HIS WRATH, that anyone is led to repentance!

If your theology does not lead to a greater love (I am not talking about that figurative crap christians throw around when they say “Hate the sin. Love the Sinner”) for the world around you then it is wrong. Point blank.

Through whom, to whom, and for whom all things exist!

-R

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