|Is Homosexuality a cultural issue|
(Rom 1:26 NKJV) For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. (Rom 1:27 NKJV) Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due
The Christian Post SG did a long article on former US President Jimmy Carter especially emphasising on his views of homosexuality and the Pauline world view.
Ex-US President Jimmy Carter on His Study Bible, Saturday, Mar. 31, 2012
CP: You said that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. Carter: That's right.
CP: Many believe that Apostle Paul addressed the issue of homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27 and that has been referred to a lot in this debate amongst Christianity. How would you interpret this verse? Carter: Well, Paul mentions a lot of other things too. Paul advised people not to get married unless they could not control their sexual impulses and he chose himself not to be married. So I think Paul had some letters he wrote to the congregation based on the current events that might have been affecting that particular group of people. Paul was highly biased in some of his statements. But in general, in the matters that relate to theology or behaviour, people to one another, Paul was obviously biblically correct. But when he said that women should always cover their hair or that women should not teach men, women should not have leadership positions in the church, women should not speak in the church, I don't' think that those writings of Paul can be extracted by themselves to stand alone. Also, Paul said that women should be subservient to their husbands but if you read a couple of verses down it says husbands should treat their wives as equals. So you have to use your own modern-day beliefs and basic Christianity to select which of those conflicting statements of Paul you want to observe that says we should treat women as equals and says we should not discriminate against people.
CP: So for that verse in Romans 1, do you believe it characterises homosexuality as a sin or do you believe homosexuality was a cultural issue that was relevant then and not relevant now? Carter: Well, homosexuality was massively practiced in some of the conflicting religions at the time of Christ and even at the time of Christ, in Roman times show that homosexuality was widely prevalent. I think it's quite significant that Jesus never did mention it. When Paul mentions the verse, it can be interpreted homosexually critical. He also says that selfishness is sinful. He also goes through a whole gamut of things that are sinful. On Saint Paul, he's probably one of the best theologians of all time, but I don't believe that some of his teachings are appropriate today. When I have a conflict like that in my interpretation of scripture, I go back and see what Jesus said about that.
CP: So, you don't believe homosexuality is a sin? Carter: No, I don't. Our church accepts gay people without any question. We don't perform marriages between gay couples. That's something that a local Baptist church decide on being autonomous. I don't have any complaints about homosexuals being married in a civil ceremony. But I don't think that the government ought to require religious organisations, churches, should perform marriages between homosexuals if a local congregation decides otherwise. I believe in the autonomy of individual churches.
The CP asked Jimmy Carter the question on homosexuality based on a cultural understanding. I am reminded of an incident in the train where I overheard a group of City Harvesters talking about two indian men holding hands. They remarked "Should ask them to listen to Pastor Kong talking about the World Culture". For many Christinas in Singapore, being gay is a culture, a choice even though it was obvious that the two indian men were holding hands because it was their culture and not because they were gay. These two are very different.
There is a half truth because culture can never be divorced from religion. Often what we say culture, it is about religion. And the bible was not talking about a biblical culture versus a world culture per say, it was referring to the conflicts between different faiths as Israel carves out her place in the promised land ruled by other deities whom the others worshipped.
Both Carter and Christian Post missed the crux of the argument on homosexuality as a cultural when the bible frames it as a religious issue, an abomination for it was practised by people of faith to worship the gods, to be filled with the demonic spirits to join themselves in one flesh with Satan by having sex with the temple priest. It was not out of same sex love or orientation.
The then religious context of Rome gives us a better understanding. The prevailing worship in Rome of the Syrian goddess Cybele was both male and female with a bearded face and a big breast. The male priests who serve the cults were castrated to mark the mourning of Cybele’s androgynous lover Attis. His death would be re-enacted by cutting themselves with stones, castrating themselves and putting on women's clothing. Catherine Kroeger in “The Apostle Paul and the Greco-Roman cults Of Women” found in the Journal of the Evangelical Society details how these cults were often marked by gruesome sex exchanges.
Hence, it was a choice for the male priests to exchange their natural sexual orientation, to become a "women", and what Paul said was shameful was their role as the receipient of anal sex by the men who worship this goddess having now the role of a woman. By having sex with the castrated priests, the worshippers were having sex with the deity behind it, thus joined to the deity in one body and spirit.
Sex exchange was the personification of evil for Paul because it was an attack on God's order of nature, and undermines and distorts God's creation of man in His image. The deities were mocking God's creation by influencing the male priests to harm themselves and make themselves less than human or less than a man by being castrated.
When we assert being gay as a modern culture, it gives others the right to claim that Christianity is a Western culture, a Western Religion of which Rome is the prime example where the Catholic Faith has been embedded into all levels of society and civil life. It is not being gay that is a culture, it is Christianity that have become the World culture. Gay people exist in the small minority irrespective of culture, race or religion.