Reading Romans 1.18-32 this morning, I was struck yet again as I attended to Paul’s carefully extended argument and blistering attack, that this has nothing to do with me. Let me explain it as I see it.
Divine retribution is falling on men and women who suppress the truth. Do I suppress the truth? No. I am unconscious of the whole of truth, as are we all, and the unconscious is a form of suppression, but I don’t consciously suppress truth.
All that can be known of God lies plain before their eyes. God himself has been disclosed to them. His everlasting power and deity have been visible to the eye of reason in the things he has made. Creation, says Paul, reveals God. For those with eyes and hearts to see and feel, God could be known prior to the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the writing of New Testament scripture. For those, like me, of an intuitive, introvert, contemplative nature, Paul’s statement that all that can be known of God lies plain before our eyes isn’t true, and early Christian tradition decided such statement cannot be true about God.
The conduct of those who know God is indefensible, when they refuse to honour God or give him thanks. I honour God, I worship and pray and reverence the holiness of God and the glory of creation. What do I do wrong? Is it my loving of another man?
All their thinking has ended in futility. Their misguided minds are plunged in darkness. Is this how I experience myself? No. I could be totally deluded, but I experience great openness and clarity of thought and awareness in my mind.
The people Paul writes about worship idols, images of human beings, birds, beasts and reptiles in exchange for the glory of God. Do I do that? No.
I am a contemplative. Every day begins with an hour of prayer focussed on the Bible followed by meditation and a deep, inner stillness rooted in the presence of God. I do not believe my life pattern and actions are in any way like the actions of those in Rome who Paul has in his sights.
God has given these people in Rome up to their own vile desires and the consequent degradation of their own bodies. I don’t experience this description as characterising me.
It does, however, help explain why conservatives need repeatedly to maintain that homosexuality is intrinsically related to pederasty, bestiality, shortened life span, addiction to sex, and the inability to create faithful, deep, loving, life-long relationships.
I feel so angry about the false witness born by conservatives against me and my lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. Some conservatives are guilty of proclaiming wicked and false lies against us of scandalous dishonesty.
I offer worship and reverence to the Creator and not to created things. I do not give myself up to unnatural passions but to that which is natural and healthy for me.
Whatever Paul is writing about in 24-27, it is not about me nor people like me nor my LGBT friends and colleagues.
I acknowledge God. I am committed to the path of holiness, to worship with my church family, reading the Bible, corporate and private prayer and meditation, working for justice, truth and peace and the service of my fellow human beings – the poorest of the poor.
My thinking is not depraved. I am not filled with every kind of wickedness, villainy, greed and malice. I am not one mass of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery and malevolence. I am not a gossip, scandalmonger, blasphemer, insolent, arrogant or boastful. (Well, one moment Colin – yes, I can be arrogant and I’m well aware of my arrogance. One of my psychotherapy tutors told me not to be afraid of arrogance but to use it creatively).
I don’t invent new kinds of vice. I was respectful to my parents, both now deceased. I do have sense and fidelity. I am a person of natural affection and piety.
In my own self-awareness, I am not remotely like the people Paul is writing to, and about. Perhaps those who use Romans 1 as a proof text to attack LGBT people think that I am mistaken in my own identity and self-understanding – that I really am like the Paul’s people in Rome. However, if conservatives are wrong about my own nature, then their whole argument based on Romans 1 collapses.
In 2.1 Paul turns his argument outlined in 1.16-32 on those in Rome to whom he is writing. When they sit in judgement, whoever they may be, they have no defence for in judging others they condemn themselves since they are equally guilty. I refrain from expanding further on the implications of Paul’s argument.
This is the crunch point for Christians, those who have set out to follow the way of Christ. How does the conservative argument from Romans 1 ever stand as an authoritative word from God against faithful lesbian and gay Christians? I’m sure the conservatives will have an answer – they always do.