While most of the old Jewish law of the Old Testament was replaced by the New covenant of Christ, including the allowing of man to eat "unclean" food such as shellfish, the New Testament still admonishes against homosexual acts. See St. Paul's letter to the Romans 1:26-27.
Of course, this doesn't give us permission to hate gay people though, but rather only the sin of homosexual acts. Trying to obfuscate this truth by hiding behind other archaic and no-longer binding Jewish law such as wearing different fabrics, is silly.
T. Paine is responding to a protest I wrote a year and a half ago. I didn't much care for an attack on gays by a self-styled Christian spokesman. It is a bit of a sore point for me. It irritates that so often our faith is represented on mainstream media by voices of hatred.
Peter LaBarbera, who composes screeds against what he calls "Political Corectness" (one day he may find that missing "r"), is obsessed with homosexuality. A couple of years back, he had written yet another of what still seems an endless series of attacks against gay people. This one focused on the tolerance of gays in the military. The idea of gay people defending our country is abhorrent to Mr. LaBarbera. He accused President Obama of substituting his own agenda for that of God. To put the President's heresy in context, Mr. LaBarbera himself thoughtfully provided God's agenda, based on selected biblical passages.
At the time, I submitted my reaction to his attack. I suggested that other biblical prohibitions seem to escape his notice. He does not, for example, condemn Red Lobster restaurants for advancing the pro-shellfish agenda in violation of Leviticus. He does not advocate the public execution of children who defy their parents.
Mad Mike's America thoughtfully reprinted my efforts, linking back to this site.
T. Paine's reaction is, sadly, the unfortunate misinterpretation of scripture shared by many Christians. Too many condense Paul's letter to the Romans to a single verse. After introductions and salutations, Paul begins his message with a short, insightful, theory about the nature of sin. God created everything. Evidence of God can be seen pretty much everywhere you look. But some worship, not God, but things God has created. They put forth representations of these things, icons, and worship them instead of God. This substitution is called idolatry.
Paul expands on this substitution of values to name a host of afflictions that flow from it. Yes, he does mention homosexuality, alongside gossip and murder and disobedience toward parents.
Is Paul right in grouping homosexuality in with other acts as afflictions flowing from substitution? Paul often protests that his words are not to be taken as scriptural law. "I speak as a man" is repeated through many of his letters. His attitude toward sexuality itself is one of bemused befuddlement. Paul was asexual. In his advocacy of marriage, he confesses that he neither shares nor understands sexual attraction. But he does acknowledge its existence. Better to confine this strange practice to marriage rather than to increase our separation from God.
As with many things in Paul's letters, his larger point about idolatry is often missed. In the substitution of values, of lifting up things and worshiping them, humans let themselves in for all sorts of spiritual harm.
In fact, later translators of Paul's letter to the Romans grouped his thoughts about scripture itself into an entire chapter, Romans Chapter 3. It is a direct refutation of what has become a common Christian view of scripture, a mistaken view that seems to be shared by my friend T. Paine.
Many followers of Jesus view scriptural law as having been amended by, or replaced by, a new set of laws. This view sees scripture as a legal document to be interpreted much as a legal scholar would examine the Constitution., with the New Testament as a sort of list of amendments. Old scripture is valid unless supplanted by new scripture. In the US Constitution, for example, slaves were counted as partial humans for voting purposes, in order to make the votes of slaveholders count for more than non-slaveholders. The 3/5 rule is still in the Constitution, but it is viewed as no longer valid, having been repealed by amendments abolishing slavery.
Paul responded directly to a similar view regarding spiritual law. Old Testament law was not at all abolished or replaced. At the conclusion of this section, Paul summarizes his view of ancient law. "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law." Paul's "by no means" is often translated as "God forbid." He is emphatic in his rejection of T. Paine's formulation.
In fact, Paul devotes much effort to refuting folks like my friend T. Paine. Like Jesus, who said he was fulfilling rather than repealing the law, Paul sees Old Testament law as simply a manifestation of core principle. That core principle is what comes from God. That core principle is love. When the law contradicts love, go with core principle. You go beyond the law by fulfilling core principle, recognizing the difference.
The spiritual challenge for most of humanity, the overcoming of what separates us from God, involves a rejection of the worship of substitutes. Even when those substitutes were created by God.
Paul had some hangups about sexuality. But he seems to me to be in direct alignment with Jesus about scripture. By trying to separate gay people from God, even with the mitigating effort to "love the sinner and hate the sin" we would yield to yet another temptation. In the end that temptation does not separate anyone from our Creator but ourselves.
Scripture is for study, contemplation, and prayer. It serves the believer, not the other way around.
We pray to be led away from the temptation of idolatry to greener pastures.
We endeavor to worship, not scripture, but God.
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