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Homosexuality: The New Testament

Now we move forward to the New Testament in our quest to understand the bible passages supposedly condemning homosexual practice. Three passages are relevant here: Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which we won’t look at because we examined it previously; and lastly 1 Timothy 1:9-10.

Let’s start with the passage from Romans. This has all the appearance of being an ‘open and shut case’ - but appearances can be deceptive.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:24-27

Homosexuality: Continuing to Examine Scripture

We move on now to two laws found in Leviticus. We’ll deal with both together, because they are very similar. I am quoting here from the NIV, not because I think it’s a particularly good translation, but because it’s widely used and familiar.

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. Leviticus 18:22

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. Leviticus 20:13

The original verses were written, obviously, in Hebrew. I don’t know much Hebrew at all, so I’m relying on others for anything connected to the language used. What I do know is that translating from Hebrew to English is very difficult; it’s made even more so by the huge gulf between ancient Jewish culture and modern Western culture - many things we think are ‘obvious’ have no correspondence in ancient Jewish culture, and vice versa. So some concepts don’t translate well, if at all.

Homosexuality: More Scripture to Consider

At the end of the official ‘Living in Love and Faith’ course, we had a sixth session, in which the Church of England statute on marriage was explained, along with what is considered to be the traditional view on what the bible has to say about sexuality.

This traditional view is based on six or seven verses from the bible, which some would argue condemn homosexuality the (so-called ‘clobber verses’), and although there have been recent attempts to reinterpret them, some would still argue that actually the only way to read them is to read them literally.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t agree. Yes, the English translations of those verses are very clear, and make it all too plain that the translators are almost universally of one mind on the matter: that homosexuality is a sinful life choice. That’s probably not surprising - not least because they’re working for ‘Christian’ publishing houses, whose aim is to sell bibles. The work of translating bibles isn’t cheap, and you don’t want an expensive ‘flop’ on your hands, so you’re going to go with what sells… In this case a ‘traditional’, quite conservative, interpretation.

The Narrow Way

This post is going to be a bit political. But actually, that’s okay… Jesus was political. It’s partly what got him killed.

This morning, the newspapers here are full of outrage over the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter Day sermon, in which he ‘intervened’ in the growing row over Priti Patel’s plan to send single male asylum seekers to Rwanda for ‘processing’… A ‘process’ which, it seems to me, is a blatant attempt to ‘offload’ the problem onto a struggling third-world country - there’s no plan, apparently, to allow any men whose applications ’succeed’ to return to the UK. The plan is probably illegal anyway, and is certain to result in huge legal costs… Overall, it’s an ideological ‘stunt’ - and likely to cost far more than simply allowing the men to apply for asylum and settle here if their applications succeed.

Anyway, returning to the point I want to make. The headlines are quite vicious.

‘Outcry at Welby’s Attack on ‘Ungodly’ Asylum Plan’ screams the Daily Mail.

‘MPs Attack Welby Rant’ takes up most of the Daily Mirror’s front page.

Loving God?

This post is related in a way, to a the one before last - in ways which should, I hope, become obvious as you read.

Here I am, yet again, about to start banging on about God’s love. But this time looking at it from the other side, specifically, thinking about how we love God. It has taken me some days to write and, yesterday, I thought I was about finished. But then Fr. Richard Rohr published one of his Daily Meditations, which turned out to be saying almost precisely the same thing. Here then, is a somewhat ‘nuanced’ version of what I was going to say.

Jesus told a questioner, when he asked which was the greatest commandment, that there were two:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40

The second is easy to understand, and is related closely to the ‘Golden Rule’, found in all major religions ‘treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.’

Precious

Yesterday we were at the wedding of two young friends - a couple we’d got to know when they were students attending our church. The invitation had come as a complete surprise - we neither of us felt we could have ‘mattered enough’ to deserve an invitation to their wedding. Sometimes it’s a case of ‘how wrong can you be?’

It was a very special, blessed day, witnessing the ceremony, and celebrating it with them.There was much joy and laughter, as well as moments of seriousness and sadness mixed in - life’s rich tapestry in microcosm.It was made more precious because others from that same ‘student crowd’ were there too. It was so good to see them all, and to spend time with them, celebrating and catching up with what’s happened to us all in two years of ‘pandemic life’. A real blessing, and quite cathartic to see them and spend time with them, after all that’s gone on.

This morning I went out for a walk, and some much-needed solitude after all the noise and blessed busy-ness of yesterday.

Why?

I thought, for a moment, of entitling this post ‘Shit Happens’, but thought better of it. It’s inspired by it having been ‘Mothers’ Day’ here in the UK recently. It isn’t always an easy day for either of us, for a number of reasons.

I have spent many, many, years wrestling with the concept of what are known in theological circles as ‘theodicies’ - i.e. theories as to why a supposedly loving God allows suffering. The short answer is that I don’t know and neither, really, does anybody else. The long answer says essentially the same thing, but in a lot more words.

When our first child was stillborn, the loudest question, which at times even drowned out our grief-stricken wailing, was

‘Why?’

That question propelled me into questioning my faith in God. And, in that questioning, I found no easy answers. But I did find companions.

It has to be said that there were people who had simple, black-and-white, answers.

For some ‘it was God’s will’ or ‘it was God’s plan.’ Well, if that’s what God is like, He can think again if He imagines I’m going to worship Him - I want nothing to do with a god who has plans like that.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022