February 26, 2004
In the comments to the previous post, Matthias wrote:
All this crap about who sleeps where and who puts what in whom seem clearly to fall on the side of worldly matters that can be duly rendered unto Caesar--remember when they asked him about marriages in Heaven and Jesus told them that they had no idea what they were talking about?
This is what I meant when I worried about going in "a manichean direction where sex and spiritual matters are irrevocably separate." Although manichean probably isn't the right word. The Manichees apparently believe the flesh was evil; this just renders it irrelevant. Yet the belief that the body is an unholy object can lead in opposite directions. Apparently this happened to the Gnostics, who made a similar spirit/body split: some sects became ascetic, others profligate, because they figured their spirits were enlightened so it didn't matter what their bodies did. This attitude goes on in our own culture, and with both results.
First of all, while it's true that Jesus said there's no marriage in heaven, it's not like it means that marriage is just an earthly matter in this world. Consider Jesus' most famous passage on marriage:
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
That makes it sound like marriage is very much God's business. The repeated condemnations of adultery also fit in with this picture.
This matters to me because I found out a while ago I needed an alternative to the cultural devaluation of the body more than I had ever realized. Back at my old church I was listening to a sermon, I don't even remember what about now, when the pastor quoted Paul's line from Romans about the body being a temple of God. I'd heard that line before, of course, but that was the first time I'd really heard it. I still couldn't tell you exactly what it means, but it was one of those moments when your perspective shifts, as if you put on glasses in a different color. (I didn't blog this at the time, for reasons I may go into later.)
I don't want to lose that perspective. I don't want to be told my body doesn't matter. Which is why I'm feeling cautious about the homosexuality thing. I don't want acceptance of gay people to turn into acceptance of a devaluation of the flesh. I don't think it has to, but it can. I noticed that Reconciling in Christ uses the following justification:
We affirm with the apostle Paul that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female" (Galatians 3:28). Christ has made us one. We acknowledge this reconciliation extends to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
I don't know, I'm not into saying, "There's no male and female in heaven, so let's act like there isn't now." For more on this, see Lynn's excellent post
that starts with the same quote.
UPDATE: Now that I look at it again, I think I was being a bit hard on RIC; they were probably just using that line for a general acceptance of differentness. (I'm a bit touchy on this subject, can you tell?)
The larger point is, it's precisely because I think that sex is important that I'm reluctant to call homosexuality a sin. It seems cruel to suppress something so deeply part of oneself. So I don't get how we can say on the one hand that telling homosexuals to be celibate (or hetero) is a grave violation of their humanity and self-fulfillment, and on the other hand that "who sleeps where and who puts what in whom" is too trivial for God to care about. It's got to resolve one way or the other.
Posted by Camassia at February 26, 2004 03:56 PM
I think I’d have to agree with the folks who see a kind of separation between the body/mind and the spirit, and say that the spirit is the essence of a person.
If we settle so much of “right and wrong” on a person’s gender or sexual orientation, what are we saying to folks who are hermaphroditites? Or people who are severely deformed physically? What about severely retarded people who may have no sex life, or whose sexual expression is only within themselves? Just because these people cannot adopt the “normal” genders or sexual behaviors of the mainstream culture, does not mean that they are sinful. It does not place them beyond God’s grace.
The folks on the edge, so to speak, must not be negated, devalued, accused or excluded. They have equal worth before God. The thing that gives them equal worth is their spirit. So that’s why I see the separation.
As for why I am pro-gay:
The Gospel is not about exclusion or condemnation. The Gospel message is that of love, reconciliation and forgiveness. We are charged to love one another, not to judge. We are charged to accept and care for each other, not to put people outside the camp and call them “unclean.” Instead of fumbling over draconian rules and categories, who’s “in” and who’s not, I prefer to put those things aside, recognizing that judgments are distractions from the real task that we are given by Christ, which is to love, forgive and lift each other up.
I have been paying attention to the (Lutheran) church’s struggle with the sexuality statement for quite awhile. In my experience, the nay-sayers cling to certain verses in scripture to justify the human bigotry that already exists within them. The yeah-sayers risk letting go of these “certainties” to talk about love—reconciliation, openness, trust, acceptance—the persistent, global message of the Gospel.
Dash, I don't mean one should judge bodies on how beautiful, functional or "normal" they are. I don't see why a deformed or hermaphroditic body could not be a temple of God also. In fact, it seems to me that's one of the problems with desacralizing the body: it puts value not in what the body is, but what it can do.
I agree with you about the message of inclusion, and I certainly don't think the church should just toss people out if they fall short somehow. But I don't think "not judging" should turn into a total abdication of pastoral guidance. I mean, you're an American woman like me, you've surely noticed the negative messages our culture sends us about the female body, how they cheapen and commodify it. Implying that God doesn't really care about your body only makes that worse, in my opinion.
I don't believe there is a self separate from the body. I'm going to start working on my paper on the resurrection of the body soon, and I think this doctrine is so important because it does affirm that our bodies are created by God as good, and that if all creation is going to be redeemed and renewed, that includes our bodies.
About judgment...tough issue. As Camassia said, we don't want to say there is never any cause for judgment. Don't we wish the Catholic bishops would have done some more judgment on abusive priests than they did? Jesus did say not to judge others, but I do not think that excludes holding one another accountable. And if someone sins against us, we are supposed to confront them privately, as Jesus taught.
I think issue is whether sex outside marriage is a sin, not being gay or straight or bi. "Being" gay is not a sin; but fornicating is (or so says the Church). Seems to me if we just allowed gay marriage, then we could settle that issue and hold everyone to the same standard. Of course, not everyone believes sex before marriage is sinful...one good thing about all this controversy is it might force us to think theologically about sex - beyond just a "it's always sin outside of marriage!" or "God doesn't care what we put in what hole" dichotomy.
The key thing about the body is that it forms attractions and aversions; it feels pleasure and it suffers; it lives and then it dies. It is transitory and temporary. Thomas Merton writes some good things (using the creation of Adam in the Garden of Eden myth to hang his points on) about the body in his really fascinating little book "The New Man". It must be admitted, I think, that the body is a stumbling block for most of us, most of the time, to the extent that our goal is to be prepared to receive God's grace on the narrow Way that leads through the narrow gate that is the entrance of the Kingdom. Perhaps the body is not bad in itself, but the distracting, and even obsessive, attachments that it forms are bad in themselves.
Well, as Jennifer pointed out, the body isn't transitory if you take the idea of bodily resurrection seriously. More to the point, though, I don't see how you can limit attractions, aversions, pleasures, pains and attachments to the body. All those you can experience totally nonphysically, or in a way both physical and emotional (sex being a good example of this, actually). That's my point: you can't really make a split here. If you say the body is unlovable and irredeemable, I don't see how you can say the person is lovable and redeemable.
I also can't reconcile dualism with the maxim to bodily care for others, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked etc. When Jesus met the physically ill he didn't say, "Hey, your body doesn't matter! Rid yourself of attachments!" No, he healed them. Which implies to me that while this world may not be all there is, it also matters to God what we do and feel in it.
The resurrection of the body is a mystery. If we are resurrected in the same body we have now, then why do we not marry in heaven? What does it mean that in heaven we are like the angels? Or is "heaven" just some kind of holding pen, where the disembodied "dead" wait for Judgement Day so that they can get their original bodies returned to them, restored to their original condition, Cleaned and pressed, so to speak?
The Eastern religions tend to see the body as a necessary evil--a clay form that we necessarily inhabit while we work out our past transgressions in order to approach perfection. The goal is to get rid of it forever.
The Garden of Eden myth also sees the body, as we have it now, as a punishment for transgression. Because of sin, our body is punished by God: originally immorital, it dies; it gives women pain in childbirth; it makes man live by the sweat of his brow; it is an occasion for shame and must be hidden from the sight others, etc.
The body is of the same substance as the world. And the world, so we are told, is the property of Satan--the prince of this world. This, at least, is the symbolism of the Old and New Testaments. Jesus healed to relieve human suffering and to the show the power that he had from the Father in order to promote belief, which is not the same as saying that he valued highly the flesh itself.
What Paul said about the resurrection of the body is that we will be changed -- as Jesus himself was, apparently, which is why his friends didn't recognize him at first. To say the body is different does not, it seems to me, mean that therefore the bodies we have now are bad. Same with the Garden of Eden story; they tell of changes to the body that make them less pleasant to live in, but the original plan was still to have living, breathing, reproducing bodies very similar to our own.
The body is of the same substance as the world. And the world, so we are told, is the property of Satan--the prince of this world.
As I understand it, the Greek word translated as "prince" in that passage is "archon." In ancient Greek, an archon was a subruler who managed things in lieu of an absent king. So to say that Satan ruled this world does not mean that this world is inherently of his substance, any more than you and I are the substance of President Bush. The evil that men do gives him power. And anyway, many would argue that Christ took over kingship with his life, death and resurrection, so that line doesn't even fully apply any more.
The Eastern religions tend to see the body as a necessary evil--a clay form that we necessarily inhabit while we work out our past transgressions in order to approach perfection. The goal is to get rid of it forever.
Yes, but this is not an Eastern religion, and I don't understand why you're so determined to make it one. I don't like your floaty inhuman version of Jesus, and I think I have at least as much historical and biblical evidence for my version as yours. I mean, I can understand the appeal of that sort of thing, but in my opinion Buddha did it a lot better to begin with.
There is something about the way our current culture treats the body and sexuality that is troubling, isn't there? What is it about watching the typical weekend sports event on TV (most recent Superbowl included) that makes us uncomfortable?
I don't think THE ANSWER lies in any particular scriptural law or admonition. Our culture is so vastly different from those ancient ones that we will have to do a great deal of thinking on our own. But Camassia has pointed to a good starting point--the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit--for Christians. Additionally, human beings as creations in the image of God may help us. The former points to purity/holiness as a standard valid for Christians to impose upon ourselves. The latter points to the inherent value of every human--something that should be defended by the entire community.
Prince, archon, whatever. When Satan tempts Jesus with all the cities and riches of the world, Jesus does not indicate that those things are not Satan's to give. Rather, he indicates that those things are not worth having. Jesus did not come to reform the material world, but to transform it; to restore it to the perfection that it was, prior to the Fall. Man was made in God's image, but that image has been distorted by sin, which is why we must be born again in Christ. Jesus said, if your eye offends you, pluck it out. To me, that is some indication of the importance he placed on the physical body.
I just now returned from seeing The Passion of the Christ, btw. I was disappointed in the Resurrection scene, but I think that Gibson did the rest of it justice. It's evident that he understands the weakness of the flesh as against the strength of the spirit.
If this is your "temple" citation (1Cor.3:16):
"Do you not realise that you are a temple of God with the Spirit of God living in you?" --
The New Jerusalem Bible. 1995, c1985. Doubleday: Garden City, N.Y.
then the pastor in your last church was hopefully talking about the universal Church (and specifically its leaders, those Paul was addressing) as the residence for the Spirit. This parallels the Jews' very-readily-accepted concept of the Holy of Holies as His dwelling-place in the Temple at Jerusalem. He was not talking about smoking or drinking or dancing or sex on a personal level.
In the comments about one man and one woman: any of the citations (Mt.5, Mk.10,Lk.16) in which Jesus responds to those pesky Pharisees is not about marriage, but about Divorce. He carefully reminds them that divorce was *allowed* by Moses only because those of the time had such hard hearts, and sets the permanent union as the ideal. The Pharisees were attempting to trap him into saying that the Law was wrong. Jesus was using the Law to show the Pharisees their own inadequate understanding. He *endorsed* the marriage of one man and one woman while they lived on the earth. He did not *proscribe* other forms of union.
Bottom line: whenever we hear "my pastor said that this bible verse shows that...", our ears should prick up in cautious attention. Leviticus forbade eunuchs in the Temple, and yet Jesus, right after his discourse on divorce in Matthew, says that there are "eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." (Mt.19:10)
Similarly, Mt.15:10 and following debunks the Levitical dietary laws.
He blew away most of the Levitical heritage, and He left us with very few commandments. He boiled the 613 mitzvah into 2: Love God, Love your neighbor; and he modified the latter into "Love one another as I have loved you." He told us that by feeding the hungry, we feed him, and so on.
Most of all, Jesus told us that he did not come to us to judge us! Leading by example, he exalted only God and our humility. Because a person is uncomfortable with something does not make it evil; snakes keep the rodent population from exploding, but I don't like to be near them at hall. A herpetologist can't understand my feelings any more than an airline pilot can understand your fear of flying.
Let us praise God that Jesus left His Peace with us, and tap into it.
I happened to come across the following while reading this morning:
Let us make our body an altar of sacrifice.
Let us place all our desires on it
and beseech the Lord
that he would send down from heaven
that invisible and mighty fire
to consume the altar and everything that is on it.
--Makarios the Great
In the temptation scene, Jesus didn't say one thing or the other about whether the kingdoms are worth having. Satan offers the kingdoms if Jesus will worship him, which Jesus refuses to do. Moreover, as I said before, the fact that these things were under Satan's charge does not mean that they are inherently of his (evil) substance. You could just as easily say that people's evil actions 'elected' him ruler.
The point is, there's a difference between saying that the material world is evil, and saying that it's fallen. The idea of fallenness is the God created the physical world and it was meant to be good, but sin distorted it. However, it is still redeemable. That is quite a different thing from saying that the physical world is so evil or illusory that you can only find redemption by casting it off or destroying it. Transformation is not the same as destruction. And if you believe that the world is God's creation (I realize Gnostics don't exactly, but that's another story), how could he hate his own creation? How could God be said to love me if he doesn't love anything about me that's human? Buddha called extinction of the self enlightenment, but he didn't call it love, and for good reason.
GG, the passage I was thinking of was in 1 Corinthians 6 (sorry I misremembered it as Romans), where Paul says: "Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?" This comes in the middle of him explaining why church members should not sleep with prostitutes. So clearly, he's talking about personal sexual behavior.
Like I said, I don't actually remember the context of the pastor bringing that up. This is me talking, not him.
I am aware of the rest of what you say, but I think you miss the point I was trying to make. I didn't bring up the passage about marriage to support the idea that marriage is exclusively heterosexual. I bring it up to point out the Jesus cared about marriage. When he warns so strongly against divorce and adultery, and in such theological language, it's hard to believe he didn't really give a damn what people do in bed. He disregarded Levitical law when it came to things like diet, but in the marriage department he made it even stricter. So I think Jennifer is right that if gays could be included in marriage that wouldn't be bending scripture much, but I think saying "he didn't really care" bends it to the breaking point.
Here's some of what St. Paul had to say about marriage and the body. Note particularly 7:6 and 7:7--
7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote to me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 7:2 But, because of sexual immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection owed her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 7:4 The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise also the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife. 7:5 Don’t deprive one another, unless it is by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and may be together again, that Satan doesn’t tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
7:6 But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment. 7:7 Yet I wish that all men were like me. However each man has his own gift from God, one of this kind, and another of that kind. 7:8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am. 7:9 But if they don’t have self-control, let them marry. For it’s better to marry than to burn. 7:10 But to the married I command—not I, but the Lord—that the wife not leave her husband 7:11 (but if she departs, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband not leave his wife.
So, you will note that, for Paul at least, marriage is a concession to the inevitable, rather than something purely positive in itself. The body does not exactly get a ringing endorsement here, either. It is certainly seen as something that is likely to become the occasion of sin, although I don't know that "...to burn" means that it is exactly evil in nature.
Let me go back to what follows the Matthew quote about marriage (switching back to the NRSV translation for clarity's sake):
"His disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.' But he said to them, 'Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'"
It sounds to me as though Jesus is saying, "I know the rule about marriage is hard, but not everyone is bound to marry. Some may be celibate instead." This broke from Jewish precendent, which encouraged everyone to marry. Paul's "each man has his own gift from God" may be referring to this. Paul evidently thinks his own gift (celibacy) is superior, but I don't see that overruling Jesus' strong words on the subject. More to the point, I don't see that overruling Paul's lines elsewhere about the body being God's holy property. In fact, the whole point I've been trying to make here is that looking at the body that way argues for sexual self-control -- not self-mortification, but control. Clearly neither Jesus nor Paul thinks that what you do with your body doesn't matter, because it is transitory or "of the world" or whatever. The message I'm getting from all of these passages is that your body is not exclusively yours to do with what you wish -- it belongs to God and, if you are married, it belongs to your spouse. It is when people forget that that they sin. That is quite different from saying your body is evil, or bound for the trash heap. In fact, it being God's property makes it holier, in my view.
God bless him, Paul was writing to certain people in a certain culture at a certain time. This was a church he himself had founded (and apparently in which he would like to take some pride[?]). His ideas about where women fit in the Church surely don't add up to even his own Greek/Jew male/female discourse. He was absolutely certain in AD 54 or so, that the world was coming to its conclusion "any day now."
All that aside, Paul asks in 1Cor5 about who he is to judge. Our Lord had a very simple command about those whom we are to judge: nobody.
The three synoptics plus John form for me the basis against which all other scriptures are to be interpreted. Paul, a Pharisee of the first order, gave up much, but not all of his background.
He can be labeled as Saint Paul or the Apostle Paul (a title which he conferred upon himself), but he's not quoted in the Gospels. He and Peter got into peeing contests about what was and what wasn't "right" for the church. That kind of disunity is exactly opposite what Jesus begged us to be. So Paul's not one of my prototype authorities on living right. When what he says jives with the Gospels, more power to him. When it doesn't I have to wonder just which spirit was working his tongue that day.
I agree completely that the question is "control", not "self-mortification" for the people to whom Christ spoke in parables. But he apparently didn't speak in parables to his inner circle. I also agree with GG that you can take what Paul says, or leave it. I think that Paul often disagrees with the spirit of the Gospels, and sometimes with the letter. I would also point out, however, that Jesus said that "few are chosen"--those few are the saints, and the saints were often celibate and generally ascetic. Jesus warns that he will not recognize every person who is crying "Lord, Lord" on the day of judgement. It is relevant that the Catholic church has traditionally taught that sex is for procreation only. Still, I find no admonition in the New Testament to "be fruitful and multiply."
I don't like the argument that what Paul said can be discounted on the basis that he and his followers expected the imminent end of the world. You could nullify any of the teachings of the gospels on the same basis. To the contrary, all capital "T" truths are eternal. They were valid then; they are valid now; they will be valid until the end of time.
GG, I'm not talking about judging. I'm talking about a way of looking at one's own body, and those of other people. Like "love your neighbor," or "give to the poor," it's a starting point for making decisions. I have not said that such decisions would be the same for everybody, or that they should be enforced by some sort of punitive action.
Look: I have brought up a passage from Jesus (that isn't a parable, btw), I have brought up passages from Paul, and I have explained how they seem to me to express an underlying attitude toward the body and sex. Nobody's actually refuted it on points, so I'm sticking with it. As for Catholic tradition: its theology of the body has always been very similar to what I'm saying here. Actually it was St. Augustine who first outlined the sex-for-procreation idea, and this was in the process of explicitly arguing against the Manichees' belief that flesh is evil. And if Catholicism was so wrong about that, how did it pick the right saints? Maybe they didn't see celibacy and procreation as being inherently contradictory?
Rob, you've been at this for a while and it seems to me you're just picking a line here and a tradition there to support your personal vibe about what's "mythic truth." Obviously we all bring a personal sense of mythos to this, and clearly mine is going the opposite way than yours is on this subject. That's life, and probably further argument would be useless. But please, a personal mythos does not give you authority to go around saying whoever doesn't see it that way is just a lip-service Christian. Pointing out that there are false prophets out there doesn't make you a true one.
This is the last I'm saying here. I think I need a vacation from this blog.
For what it's worth, Camassia, I think you're getting close to something I've been giving a lot of thought to lately, and ending up at pretty much the same conclusions--or lack of conclusions--as you... this was an excellent post, and I think you're right. It's a hard thing to figure out.
For me, it was really hard to reconcile myself to the idea of not having sex until marriage at first--and yet, it does mean something to me, now. I can't come back to a position of saying that it really doesn't matter what you do with your body.
Don't get discouraged--keep in mind that religion is an opiate and a crutch for the weak-minded; with such as the case, these difficult conversations can hardly even be taking place.
I think open, sincere dialog on this issue is incredibly important. I'm deeply impressed by your intellectualy honesty, Camassia. My comment on the previous post was less civil that you've been--an expression of frustration over the difficulties in communication on this touchy subject.
That there is something special about the relationship between man and woman is true beyond any question. It is the prevailing mode of coupling for humankind and every other species that reproduces sexually. Jesus in the gospels specifically reinforces that concept because, according to him, it has always been so. I can certainly see the value of it in my own marriage.
The question is *not* whether gay people can have the kind of relationship that Jesus refers to. They clearly cannot, unless they enter into a heterosexual relationship against their orientation. This male-female pairbonding is clearly beneficial to all parties, including children.
The question *is*, rather, whether gay couples can establish a union based on love, that can include child bearing and rearing. This, to me, is a separate question, and has little to do with what Jesus is talking about in the divorce issue. It's not the normative situation, but--and here's the really important question--so what? Is a different relationship from the norm by definition a *wrong* relationship, or is it just different? A close reading of Mark 10 doesn't really help us here. The primary thrust of Jesus's argument is that the law was created with the ancient Israelites' moral turpitude in mind, and that they couldn't have handled the *real* moral law that Jesus was about to replace it with.
Jesus is clearly holding us to a higher standard with regard to marriage and sex. But it is *not* a legalistic standard. It is a standard based on purity of motivation and dedication and commitment. A standard based on love, not the Torah. In fact, it explicity *contradicts* the Torah. We see in the Gospels again and again situations where the public wants Jesus to affirm or deny this or that social custom, and Jesus always, always, always responds with a variation on: "you need to set your sights a little higher." Jesus doesn't rewrite the Torah; he doesn't change it in any way. What he does is, he supercedes it completely. He tells us that we're to be held to a higher standard, and that this standard is based on our love for God and one another.
That this standard includes faithful male-female couples coming together and raising children seems airtight. But whether that inclusion *precludes* some other type of marriage is, to me, unclear. It means that we are forced to ask ourselves: how does my innate, God-given morality respond to this situation? What are my ethicals standards in my culture? What are my responsibilities here?
At any rate, the enormous irony of any discussion of Mark 10 or Matthew 5 is that these passages refer to *divorce*, a practice that Jesus specifically forbids and which our culture appears to have no difficulty with whatsoever. And yet the very vocal opponents of gay marriage are almost universally silent on this point. We all know this, but my question is this: knowing that this is true, *where is the outrage against divorce equal to that against gay marriage*? Where is the uproar, the protesting? I think when we answer *this* question, we see where the *culture's* difficulties with homosexuality truly lie, and it has nothing whatever to do with Scripture.
Matthias has hit the nail dead center. I would almost think he'd grown up in my house, as well as he's put it.
Well, I liked this post. Especially the line "it's precisely because I think that sex is important that I'm reluctant to call homosexuality a sin." I'm with Jennifer, in not believing there is a self separate from the body.
My feeling on Scripture and homosexuality is this: I don't believe that every part of Scripture is inerrant. So, believing that committed same-sex relationships can be OK only requires me to believe that a law which sits alongside restrictions against wearing clothing of mixed fibers or approaching a woman during her menstrual period might be no more universally intended than those rules, that a couple of passages in Paul's epistles might either (as Boswell has it) refer to something other than homosexuality, or (if I take a reading closer to the traditional one) refer to active and passive roles in a specific sort of man-youth relationship that was promoted in Greek culture.
In return for seeing these few passages as culture-bound, I get to believe something that matches my actual experience and observation, in which homosexuality isn't especially bad or especially different from heterosexuality, and in which people in general (with the exception of a few who are called otherwise) are better off living with the person they're in love with and committing to each other than living celibate.
On the other hand, if I say that sex itself isn't all that important, I'd have to go against, not just a couple of passages that could plausibly be seen as tied to a particular time and place, but rather pretty much everything Scripture has to say about sex, including things Jesus himself says about marriage. As well as going against my own experience. Bodies matter, what we do with them matters, and a God who doesn't care what we do with our bodies (whether it's what we're doing in bed or what we're doing with our pocketbooks) would be an awfully disengaged God.
Living with someone you love, or else living celebate is not an exhaustive list of the choices pertaining to human sexuality within a religious context. A couple can live and love together, but not use their sexuality as a form of entertainment, but only for purposes of following the commandment to be fruitful. From this choice, which may be the one closest to most scripture pertaining to sexuality, homosexual couples would be excluded by nature. (I don't personally advocate this, btw.)
That said, any sexuality, inside or outside of marriage, gay or straight, that tends to focus the direction of a life away from God--away from the attempt, as Jesus put it, to be perfect, like your Father in Heaven--would be wrong within the context of the Christian religion, as I understand it from my reading of the Gospels. An obsession with sexuality is no different, in this sense, from any other obsession, be it money, food, pride, envy, in being a spiritual stumbling block. Such obsession may be more of a risk for homosexuals, simply due to the pressure and isolation that social stigma has placed on that behavior, which tends to put too much emphasis on sexuality in those lives. (I don't insist that this is the case, but see it as a possibility.)
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