Paul, Homosexuality, Marriage, and Power

A few follow-up thoughts on yesterday’s post, “Coming Out In Favor of Same-Sex Marriage (because of Jesus).”:

It seems to me that when Paul condemns a series of activities and Greek/Roman cultural norms that get translated in our New Testament as “homosexuality,” he’s really speaking out against oppressive power dynamics that were being expressed sexually as a matter of civic and, in some cases, religous, ritual.  Pederasty and exploitative prostitution were widely accepted in some of the cultures Paul engaged with the Gospel.  Clearly, Paul understands the Gospel to be squarely opposed to these arrangements because they deny the personhood of those being used towards personal ends (sexual gratification, perhaps, and a slew of other goods supposedly endowed to the oppressor).

It’s not at all clear that anything to which Paul refered had anything whatsoever to do with same-gender attraction and sexuality, but everything to do with the behavior and actions mentioned above.  There are those who believe from the interprative evidence that part of the injunction against these things stems from Paul’s observation of heterosexual men engaging in opportunistic sexual gratification in unequal arrangements where things like consent are largely impossible.   If true, this finds Paul condemning these actions on the basis of injustice and on the opportunistic rejection of one’s natural sexual identity or nature.  If you believe that sexuality is determined before birth, you’d have no problem extrapolating from this a similiar condemnation against the idea of homosexuals entering into opportunistic heterosexual dynamics in exchange for things like cultural or familial acceptance.  If you believe sexual orientation is learned, assumed, or some kind of affliction, you’re not going to follow this particular line of reasoning.  But you still need to wrestle with the cultural-sexual situations Paul was actually condemning, which, again, were very clearly oppressive and opportunistic.  There is no mention anywhere in Paul of anything resembling monogamous, loving relationships between two consenting adults of the same gender.

I’ll close this post with a comment from yesterday from Pator Bob Stevens regarding Paul’s stand on heterosexual marriage (don’t do it if you can help it), which puts this whole discussion in, I think, an accessible context:

Your reference to 1 Cor 7 should also include a reminder that Paul’s writings on marriage and sexual activity are couched with phrases like “I do not have a direct command from the Lord (vs 12 NRSV) and ” I have no command of the Lord but I give my opinion” (vs 25 NRSV). He is decisive and directive only when it comes to the 7th commandment (vs 10), which of course simply reinforces fidelity. Otherwise he acknowledges that he is giving only suggestions (“concession not command” vs 6). His response to questions on this issue is within the context of his belief in the imminent end of the age. So he also says not to be concerned about slavery (vs 21). Of course Paul doesn’t hesitate to give his opinions, he clearly states that is all they are. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear such clarity and humility in the midst of our present debate on this issue?



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