When someone does a cut-and-paste job of Romans 1

Most of us have seen those cut-and-paste jobs of Romans 1: 18-27 or 18-32 an awful lot of times.  I rarely reply to these sincere folks, but I did just now on another blog, A Flock of Crows.  I’ve made these points before, but you can’t say it often enough, it seems.  I was replying to someone named Eternity-is-forever.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Eternity-is-forever, please look at some of the sins of the depraved or useless mind in the passage you quoted.  Many of the sins of the useless mind are quite common in the church.

fornication: whether we’re talking about pedophile pastors, porn-addicted elders, evangelists caught with prostitutes, or just garden-variety lust, many (most?) religious men are fornicators.

maliciousness:  when Christians used to say that AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuals, this was malicious.  Many homosexuals saw dozens of their friends die gruesome deaths when Jerry Fallwell said this, while America ignored the crisis.

backbiters:  I’ve never seen Christians go at it the way I’ve seen Southern Baptists chew one another up on Southern Baptist websites.  Bickering, attacking, backbiting, calling people out for their “heresy” over the slightest doctrinal disagreement.

gossips:  from “little old ladies” to pastors at their conferences and ministerial meetings, gossip is nearly universal in the church.

without understanding: many good, religious people are just plain ignorant and unreflective.    

without natural affection:  any parent who can kick their teen-age kid out of the house and onto the streets really is without natural affection.  But they’ll get a hearty “Amen!” if they attend certain churches.

implacable:  your most strident fundamentalists aren’t satisfied until you either knuckle under and agree with them, or you leave.  Stubborn.  You simply can’t reason with some of them.  Some, but not all, literally don’t know how to reason.  You cannot placate their irrational demands.

unmerciful: no concern or compassion for gay and lesbian teenagers who, in their despair, commit suicide because of fundamentalist teachings.  “They needed to repent.  I just declare the Word of God.  I’m not responsible.”

Christians suffer from the sins of the depraved mind, then do exactly what Paul says they do.  “Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

Now continue on to Romans 2, and you’ll see why Romans 1 was written.

Therefore, you may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things?  Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?  (Romans 2: 1-4)

Eternity-is-forever, these verses are directed directly at your religious heart.  Read it out loud, it is God’s word for you right this moment.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Romans 1 and 2 were directed at us religious folks, pure and simple.  Paul knew that we good religious people wouldn’t think any of these sins applied to us, not really

Our capacity for self-deception never ceases to amaze.

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
This entry was posted in Clobber Passages, Homosexuality, Homosexuality and the Bible, Marriage Equality, Paul Gays, Paul Homosexuality, Religion, Romans, Romans Gays, Romans Homosexuality, Southern Baptist. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to When someone does a cut-and-paste job of Romans 1

  1. Another insightful, compassionate and honest post. I look forward to all of your posts!


  2. Dan Sloan says:

    In my experience, the cut and paste usually starts at verse 26, which conveniently, glosses over to what Paul is directing the condemnation. It’s pretty clear from the context that Paul was talking about sexual acts done in the context of pagan idolatry – viz., cult prostitution. In Romans 1:23 he even goes to the trouble of describing the idols which he references again in verse 25: “and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”. It’s pretty clear Paul was paraphrasing the Wisdom of Solomon ch. 13-14.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Thanks for the lead, Dan. I just looked up the link for anyone interested. Thanks very much!



    • thayes9217 says:

      It is also my understanding that the Greek word used for “unnatural” (contrary to nature) behavior in Romans 1 is the same word used for discussing the new relationship between Jews and Gentiles in Romans 11. Symbolically, the Jews were the “olive tree” and God “grafted” the Gentiles into this tree, “contrary to nature” or unnaturally (the same Greek word referred to earlier). The Catholic theologian Daniel Helminiak says that the literalists have given the translation of this word an erroneous interpretation by calling it “contrary to nature” rather than the more accurate meaning of “something unexpected.”

      Does this mean that, if the folks in Romans 1 engaging in unexpected behavior were sinners, God was also a sinner in Romans 11? If so, Houston, we have a problem; a really BIG problem!


      • Ron Goetz says:

        Thanks for this information, Ted. This is something I need to study. So much emotional weight is put on that “contrary to nature” rendering–this is a very interesting wrinkle indeed.

        Houston, come in please!


  3. Paul Porter says:

    So what do you say when you post a nice little quote from Martin Luther King about freeing people from poverty, oppression and injustice and someone cuts and pastes 2Thessalonians 3:10b (“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”)?


    • Ron Goetz says:

      I don’t totally know. Shake your head in amazement? So many church leaders have contempt for justice that it’s more than pitiful. It borders on criminal. We literally have King James to thank for that. He instructed the translation team to suppress the word “justice” from the King James Version. The Greek word can be translated either “justice” or “righteousness.” There are around 20 or 25 places where it really should be rendered “justice,” but was translated “righteousness” instead. And conservative translations follow the “traditional” rendering because they fear Bible sales will be weak because their audience doesn’t like to have to revise their thinking and theology.


      • Paul Porter says:

        Pretty much my response too. It’s amazing how far people can get from the Gospel by being inerrantists. Someone somewhere preached to this woman (the cut and paster) that this little verse in the closing chapter of a minor letter of Paul, was more important than the Sermon on the Mount or really anything that Jesus actually said. Not only are we supposed to practice justice, but we are to go beyond justice and be merciful, as our Father in Heaven is merciful. What kind of miserable life is it that has no grace, no compassion, no justice, no mercy?


      • Ron Goetz says:

        Yes Paul, an awful lot of this stuff boggles the mind. Based on some people’s teaching, you’d think that the only thing different under the New Covenant is that because of the cross we don’t have to sacrifice animals anymore, but everything else is the same.

        The N.T. book of Hebrews is a bit neglected, but the oopeninv two verses are really significant. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”

        Spoken, spoken, spoken. The Red-Letter Christians have always understood this. As an intellectual I probably like the discussions and debates over scripture more than is healthy, so I’ve “enjoyed” the debates since I was a teenager. But would the church over the centuries be better off if the “New Testament” had never been collected together and given that misleading official label?

        I would probably be “a better Christian” if I’d been living my life only referring to the teachings of Christ. Maybe.


      • Stephen Argent says:

        Paul, that is exactly the viewpoint of my church. Progressive revelation holds that the final source of doctrinal teaching is from Paul. So we read the gospels in the light of Paul’s epistles rather than the other way round….


    • Brea says:

      I would answer them by talking about the context of Thessalonians – people were giving up on life because they thought Jesus would be back any day so why work? That is what is discussed in 2 Thessalonians 2. In 2 Thessalonians 3 he talks about busy-bodies who won’t work for their food. To me it seems much more like a warning against charlatans who tell people what they want to hear in exchange for money (televangelists maybe, or some kinds of cult leaders) and against specific people in that church who were signing on to Christianity in order to take advantage of the group. I think it is a bad interpretation to apply it to the political arena.


  4. Pastor LN says:

    Love it.


  5. Sarah says:

    I learn so much from your posts. Thank you!


  6. stephen argent says:

    So how should we respond to a church that seeks to batter us into submission or make us leave?


  7. robw77 says:

    Hi Ron, Thanks for another great post. i actually thought you were going a slightly different direction with this and to the biggest point about Romans 1. Ok, the second biggest… the first biggest is that it leads to Romans 2!

    Long ago, when I as a young man discovered that the gay instincts I had were not going away, I went to the Bible to find out EXACTLY why they were wrong. I was very shocked to find how weak the Bible actually was on it. Many of the passages took some studying to understand the rationalization, the culture, the context.

    When someone first used a cut and paste from Romans 1, I was shocked. I had not actually heard “that one”. When I went to the Bible, I found out why. It really isn’t there.

    What I mean is that because the concept of same sex relations and the word “unnatural” appear in a passage, the ENTIRE chapter suddenly becomes a treatise that says “Thou shalt not be gay” (or so the cut and pasters would have you believe).

    Unlike other Biblical passages, I need no other information to see why this one is bogus in terms of being anti-gay. All one needs to do is read the whole chapter, in context and in order.

    Here is what it says– there are a group of people, they reject God, they worship half man half animal statues, God no longer protects them and gives them over to evil inclinations….they have wanton orgies with opposite sex people, they then move on to even having same sex orgies, they lie, cheat and live destructive lives that turn in on them. There is the story, cliff notes version. Nowhere in there are gay people acting against God’s will…. if anything, God MAKES them gay. Almost every gay person I know LOVED God at the point they came out as gay. None of them (us) worshipped idols. None of us qualified in Romans 1 terms to be turned gay. There ARE atheists who have turned against God. God, in his power, has not made them rabid orgy masters however… and He did not strike them gay.

    So…attempting to show that Romans 1 is about gay people is like trying to show that the destruction of a barbaric city with mad rapists is akin to being ga…..wait, i guess they DO think that… well, it is as silly as taking a talk the Lord gave about divorce and try to make it about gay marr…..oh, wait…they do that too.

    Well… it is just pretty darn silly.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      I had the same experience when I looked at the Clobber Passages. I discovered that the anti-homosexual case is incredibly weak. Everyone seems to handle them a bit differently. The linguistic and cultural differences are so great that it’s virtually impossible to know precisely what they’re talking about, despite the hopelessly naive and simplistic reading that fundamentalists place on them. The problem is worsened when translation teams like that of the NIV render key passages with such clear bias.

      No one denies the role of politics and commerce in the Bible translation business, except the consumers, who are at the mercy of their biased experts.

      One thing seems certain in this struggle: demographics.

      BTW: love your Gravatar pic! Nice looking kids, dad!


  8. simplysuzi says:

    Thank you for your intelligent and compassionate writings. Your ministry is greatly appreciated.


  9. Pingback: Quick Update « A Queer P@th

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