16 May 2006

The First Tortured Homosexual Christian

ROMANS 1:23-27
Instead of worshipping the immortal God, (men) worship images made to look like mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. Because men are such fools, God has given them over to do the filthy things their hearts desire, and they do shameful things with each other . . . God has given them over to shameful passions. Even the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts! In the same way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with passion for each other. Men do shameful things with each other, and as a result they themselves are punished as they deserve for their wrongdoing.

This is one of the handful of texts in the Bible which have been used to justify persecution of Lesbians and Gay men over the centuries. It is part of a letter to early Roman Christians that was written by the Apostle Paul. He was the "fire and brimstone" apostle, the first fundamentalist Christian. He was absolutely preoccupied with sin and the perception of sin.

In First Corinthians 7:35, he feels the need to say "I am not trying to put restrictions on you," but his letters fairly brim over with restrictions and warnings. He is restrictive about sex roles, about marriage, about church hierarchy, and especially about giving in to one's sinful "human nature." The Conservative men who compiled the Bible obviously approved of his stern brand of Christianity, because they chose more of Paul's letters to include in the New Testament than any written by the other apostles(and keep in mind that Paul was not one of the original twelve).

He was originally an enforcer of the Jewish Council, a bully and a fierce persecutor of Christians. We are told that God Himself transformed Paul into a minister of the Christian Gospel. However, God did not make him perfect; Paul could perform miracles in the name of the Divine One, but he himself was not Divine.

The Apostle Paul's letters reveal him to be painfully human. He was prideful and judgmental, despite his own warnings against being either of those things. He spoke at length about what privileges he felt entitled to as an apostle of Jesus Christ. His teachings about not associating with "immoral" people contradicted the actions of his Savior, Jesus Christ, who actively sought out the company of outcasts.

Also unlike the Christ, he seemed obsessed with sexual practices. How strange that he describes homosexual activity as something God imposes upon sinners, rather than speaking of it as just another sin. Three times Paul refers to sex between men as "shameful," almost as if he personally felt the shame. He certainly seems to know an awful lot about it! Consider these passages he wrote later in the same letter:

ROMANS 7:14-25
. . . I am mortal man, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do, for I don't do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate . . . I am not really the one who does this thing, rather it is the sin that lives in me. I know that good does not live in me, that is, in my human nature . . . my inner being delights in the law of God. But I see a different law at work in my body, a law that fights against the law that my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? . . . this, then, is my condition: By myself, I can serve God's law only with my mind, while my human nature serves the law of sin.

Then, check out this passage from his second letter to the Corinthian churches:

. . . to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times, I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but He said to me: "My Grace is sufficient for you, for power is made Perfect in weakness."

Is it possible for any Gay man or Lesbian who has ever fought against their true nature to miss what Paul is talking about? Can there be any doubt that he was a tortured homosexual man? I am convinced of it! The first fundamentalist Christian was Gay . . . and there would be many more Gay fundamentalist Christians in his wake, stretching over centuries.

I suspect that many of them have been guilty of distorting the teachings of Jesus Christ, just like the Apostle Paul did. However, as I have said before, it's possible to avoid distorted Christian teachings. It's easy to do. Simply read the words that the Christ Himself is quoted as having said, and ponder His deeds. Della Reese said it best on an unforgettable episode of the TV show "Touched By An Angel" . . . "God is not the source of confusion." So true! Whatever would we do if He were?

As he grew in his knowledge of Divine salvation, I wonder if Paul came to regret writing some of the things he'd written earlier? Let's hope so. In any case, we must not resent the Apostle Paul or his writings, despite the misery they have caused. God had compassion and bestowed great gifts upon him despite his human flaws. We must likewise feel compassion for him, especially knowing that he was, in all likelihood, one of us!

I encourage you to re-read the letters of the Apostle Paul with a new understanding. Understand that being a Christian or even a Christian minister does not render a person incapable of making mistakes . . . and understand that God forgives our mistakes, no matter how profound they are.

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