Apostle Paul Thought Everybody Was Straight

This is the second part of a posting on what the Apostle Paul might have to say to Community of Christ as it gathers for World Conference. Part 1 concerned baptism.

Theologian Walter Wink put it this way in his much-lauded essay, “Homosexuality and the Bible.”

“He [Paul] seemed to assume that those whom he condemned were heterosexuals who were acting contrary to nature, ‘leaving,’ ‘giving up,’ or ‘exchanging’ their regular sexual orientation for that which was foreign to them. Paul knew nothing of the modern psychosexual understanding of homosexuals as persons whose orientation is fixed early in life, or perhaps even genetically in some cases. For such persons, having heterosexual relations would be acting contrary to nature, ‘leaving,’ ‘giving up,’ or ‘exchanging’ their natural sexual orientation for one that was unnatural to them. In other words, Paul really thought that those whose behavior he condemned were ‘straight,’ and that they were behaving in ways that were unnatural to them. Paul believed that everyone was straight. He had no concept of homosexual orientation. The idea was not available in his world.”

Wink goes on to say that the relationships Paul describes are “heavy with lust; they are not relationships between consenting adults who are committed to each other as faithfully and with as much integrity as any heterosexual couple. That was something Paul simply could not envision.” The crux of the matter, Wink explains, is simply this:

“…the Bible has no sexual ethic. There is no biblical sex ethic. Instead, it exhibits a variety of sexual mores, some of which changed over the thousand year span of biblical history. Mores are unreflective customs accepted by a given community. Many of the practices that the Bible prohibits, we allow, and many that it allows, we prohibit. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, or culture, or period.”

The ancient worldview of all Bible writers and editors precluded any distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior, which many of us in the 21st century take for granted. Unfortunately, that worldview is still around and undergirds much of the often-heated opposition to full rights for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.

The perceived threat to church unity and even its survival (whether denominational or congregational) related to this issue in some cases is as great today as the issue of slavery was in the nineteenth-century church. Interestingly, slavery proponents had far more biblical passages supporting their viewpoint than opponents of LGBT rights do today.
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What Would the Apostle Paul Say to the Community of Christ?

Rich Brown is the newest columnist here at saintsherald.com. He recently posted the following on his own blog, ForeWords, published at the Isaac’s Press Web site.

The letters attributed to Apostle Paul offer particular guidance to Community of Christ in its current struggles related to baptism and human sexuality. Of course, they need to be considered along with 2,000 years of Christian history and doctrinal development, almost two centuries of the same in Joseph Smith Jr.’s Restoration movement, and 150 years of the Reorganization.

Let’s begin with baptism.  One basic statement stands out in the seven letters just about everybody agrees were actually written by Paul (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon):

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” –Romans 6:3-8 NRSV

Clearly Paul positions the act of baptism as participation with Christ in being raised from “death” to “life.” Thus believers experience a symbolic death to the power of Sin and a rising to new life. Note what’s not in that passage: the idea that baptism washes away sins (meaning individual transgressions), the ministerial authority of the person administering baptism, the particular method of baptizing, any connection with an institutional church, and baptism’s relationship with confirmation.
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