You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
In the Preface to the book I mentioned about how many times two passages from Paul's letters...one to the church at Rome, and one to the church at Corinth...have been sent to me (as if I've never read them) in letters and messages from "Christians" who wanted to straighten me out (no pun intended).
In the days and weeks following my coming out, and the media coverage of it, there was an absolute avalanche of mail that came in from all over the world, especially after the video of my message to the church went viral on the internet, and most of them were from furious "Christians".
The reason I put the word "Christians" in quotations here is that nearly every one of these letters that contained references to Romans 1 and I Corinthians 6, with the exception of maybe less than I could count on one hand, also contained the vilest, most vitriolic and vulgar language I've nearly ever heard in my life. No mention of prayer...no mention of love...and for those who think of people with same-sex attraction as fallen reprobates, no mention of any kind of offer of restoration, whatsoever.
Just hostile hate-speech, sent and received over and over and over again.
Typically the hundreds and hundreds of letters from people who sent me references to the abominations mentioned in Leviticus (see Chapter Nine) were relatively tame...but for some reason, the people who have quoted Paul to me are some of the angriest, meanest homophobes I've ever heard from.
I mean, seriously...if you could read some of the stuff I've gotten from "Christians", you'd know that it's not over the top, or too politically correct to have people lobby for hate-crime legislation for gay people...there are some very scary heterosexuals out there!
I've deleted or thrown away all of their letters now because they're just so dark, but really you just wouldn't believe some of the things that the "Paul-quoters" have said to me...liberal usage of the word "fag" and "faggot"...explicit references and descriptions of what they imagine intimacy between two men is like (no mention of lesbianism...they generally seem to be fine with that)...and lots and lots of references to demon possession, hell, judgment, "sodomy", false prophets, signs of the times, and many, many threats of AIDS as a judgment from God.
I'm reluctant to empower this thought, but my favorite was the one that read:
HOW CAN YOU DARE TO CALL YOURSELF A PASTER [sic]?????????? YOU NEED TO READ THE BIBLE AND RECEIVE JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR PERSONAL SAVOR AND LORD!!!!!!!!!!! SOMEBODY NEEDS TO CAST THE DEVIL OUT OF YOU SO YOU CAN GET SAVED!!!!!! YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!!!!!!! GET RIGHT WITH GOD AND READ LEVITICUS AND ROMANS 1 YOU GODDAM FAGGOT!!!!!!!!!! REPINT [sic]!!!!!!!!!
FROM, A "REAL CHRISTIAN"
Truth be told, I hate to include that in a book that's supposed to be about GOOD NEWS, but it just really says it all, I think.
On the other hand, it's that kind of talk that actually makes me want to stay in the ministry and double my efforts to share some GOOD NEWS with the world, because if that's what a "real Christian" sounds like, then Jesus still has a lot of work to do with His followers! As the song says, where is the love?
Speaking of Jesus, He said that the thing that would separate the sheep from the goats, and send the goats into the fire ("hell" for those of you who believe that's what He meant), was whether or not you visited the sick and incarcerated, clothed the naked, and fed the hungry.
I dare say that if I had gone on national TV and announced to the world that, regardless of the commandments of Jesus Christ, I wanted to make a declaration that I would never, ever feed another hungry person, or visit a prisoner in prison, or provide clothing for someone who was indigent for as long as I live, that I probably would have gotten no reaction from it at all...wouldn't even be a blip on the radar screen of the "real Christians", because that kind of stuff is generally pretty low priority with them.
And to the Paul-quoters I would also interject that he said that he preferred that all people spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5), but I don't expect to hear the Southern Baptists speaking in tongues any time soon...are you kidding me? The denominational Pentecostals hardly speak in tongues any more!
Guess it doesn't matter what Paul said about that, unless you're a Charismatic Baptist, and I don't even know if there still are any of those around.
Paul said that women should cover their heads in church, but I don't see a lot of women wearing hats on Sundays...at least not like they used to.
Guess it doesn't matter what Paul said about that, unless you're a traditional Roman Catholic.
Paul said women should have long hair, and men should have short hair.
Guess it doesn't matter what Paul said about that, unless you're from an old-school Holiness church.
Paul said a good bit about the required marital status and family-life of Bishops, Pastors, and Elders, but I don't think a lot of the people on Christian Television know or care a lot about that...I don't know, maybe their ex-wives do.
I could go on and on about some of Paul's commandments that don't seem to push any buttons with most church people these days, but when you tell them that you have always had same sex attraction...well, OK...I think I've made my point.
When in Rome
You can read it for yourself (if you don't have a Bible, just google it).
As I said earlier, I assume that the people who have cut and pasted this passage to me so many times must think that in 40 years of preaching I never came across these verses.
Let me tell you...I 've read them.
Many, many times.
And here's the deal...I could go verse by verse and show you that he was referring there to ancient pagan practices of temple worship...people who were worshipping graven images of "birds, animals and reptiles"...and, as I said in an earlier chapter that Sodom and Gomorrah has no more relevance to my life than it does to the life of a straight man, I could add that this reference has no relevance to my life as a gay, Christian man living in the 21st century, whatsoever.
I mean, I'm gay, but I promise you I've never worshipped the statue of a bird...
...or of a reptile...
...and I don't know any gay people who have, either.
In other words, pagan temple worship of idols didn't turn me gay. I do not identify with these people of antiquity in any way.
If I were to take this whole passage literally, I would have to deduce that people who aren't "thankful" turn gay...that people who "do not retain God in their knowledge" turn gay.
Sorry, that's not true.
I'm very thankful...always have been...still gay.
I retain God in my knowledge every day of my life...always have...still gay.
Nothing "turns" you gay...you either are or you aren't.
I could also point out that these people who were "given over to depraved minds (KJV uses the word 'reprobate')" were not identified by who they were in relationship with...the litmus test of the reprobate mind was this:
"Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:28-32 - NIV)
Again, a literal interpretation would conclude that people who are full of envy are "given over to a reprobate mind".
Same goes for people who are in strife...
...and greedy people...reprobate!
People who boast...reprobate!
People with no understanding...people who show no love or mercy (in other words, most of the Christians who have sent me hate-mail)...
...even people who are disobedient to parents...I don't know, did you ever disobey your parents? Well, welcome to the world of the reprobate mind!
Wow...if I take these words literally, I would have to presume that most of the whole world, including people in the church, are gay!
I could even take you to the first verse of Chapter 2 and show you that Paul said if you even judge someone for doing or being these things, that you are the exact same thing!
"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." (Romans 2:1 - NIV)
So I guess the appropriate response to the hundreds of "Christians" who have sent me a cut and paste of this passage because I'm gay would be, "I know you are, but what am I?"
Bottom line...I could show you all these verses in their proper, historical context, along with studies of original Greek words...and there are many books already written out there that do a better job of that than I could, authored by people who are more educated than I am...but it has been my experience that if you present a more educated way of thinking to someone whose prejudices have been established and deeply ingrained by what they think the Bible says, that they generally aren't swayed by your words at all.
The response from them is usually something like, "Well, I guess you're right about that passage, but I still say..."
And sometimes they get really, really, really mad about it.
And when they get violently angry about it, you understand why Jesus said not to cast your pearls before swine, because they will "trample them underfoot, and turn and rend you".
In 1 Timothy, Chapter 1, Paul indeed writes to his protege, and lists the kinds of rebels for whom the law is made...and included in that list, along with, liars, murderers, and fornicators is what the KJV interprets as "them that defile themselves with mankind"...some modern translations use the word "homosexual" or "sodomite"...
But the verse that has been quoted to me the most often is probably 1 Corinthians 6:9, in which Paul gives a partial list of those who will not "inherit the kingdom".
I guess some people think I've never read it.
In this list the KJV uses the word "effeminate" (which is the Greek word "malakoi", which actually means "soft" or "weak" or "spineless"), and the term "abusers of themselves with mankind", which refers to the type of physical mutilation that was practiced among pagans in bizarre sexual/worship practices among young male temple prostitutes. Some modern translations make a difference here between homosexual and sodomite used in the same sentence.
Whatever the case, many Paul-quoters don't seem to be all that concerned with the fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, people who covet, drunks, revilers and/or extortioners, but they want to make sure that the gays know they're not going to heaven (which is not what that verse is talking about if you read in it context), as they interpret this verse to mean....by the way, "not inheriting the Kingdom" and "not going to heaven" are two different things...but I'll save that for later.
Paul made lots of these kinds of lists in his letters, but the ones found in 1 Timothy and in 1 Corinthians are the ones that contained words often seen as being relevant to what it means to be gay by many traditionalists.
Again, here's the point...
I could examine these words and split hairs over meaning and context here, but the bottom line is you're basically going to see what you see in the Scriptures, no matter what I say...or anyone else, for that matter.
As I said, many books have already been written that examine these things, and even more similar articles are available on the internet....and the books and articles on both sides of Biblical interpretation on these matters don't always agree.
Think what you need to think about Paul...or about legalism...or about what Paul said that Jesus didn't say...
When I use the phrase "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch", I'm not calling The Apostle Paul the Dr. Seuss character by that name...I'm talking about the religious people who think that they can speak for Paul when it serves their purposes of oppressing people and putting them in religious bondage.
As I said, I love Paul.
But, at the end of the day, trust your own heart on these matters...it's what Paul himself called "working out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
Need to go meditate a minute on some GOOD NEWS now.