Picking up from last week: The rest of the alleged New Testament injunctions against swinging from the other side:
1 Corinthians 6: 9-10. The bigger picture in Verses 1-11, subtitled “Lawsuits before Pagans:”
How can anyone with a case against another dare bring it for judgment to the wicked and not to God’s holy people? Do you not know that the believers will judge the world? If the judgment of the world is to be yours, are you to be thought unworthy of judging in minor matters? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? Surely, then, we are up to deciding everyday matters. If you have such matters to decide, do you accept as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this in an attempt to shame you. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a case between one member of the church and another? Must brother drag brother into court, and before unbelievers at that? Why, the very fact that you have lawsuits against one another is disastrous for you. Why not put up with injustice, and let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves injure and cheat your very own brothers. Can you not realize that the unholy will not fall heir to the kingdom of God? Do not deceive yourselves: no fornicators, idolaters, or adulterers, no sexual perverts, thieves, misers, or drunkards, no slanderers or robbers will inherit God’s kingdom.” And such were some of you; but you have been washed, consecrated, justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor. 1-11.
The apostle expressed his dismay that the image of mutual charity among Christians is being tarnished by their lawsuits in Roman courts. This is all the more deplorable since Christians are to share with Christ the judgment of the world, and ought therefore to be capable of settling one another’s minor cases within the society of believers.
For the love of God; how does a minor rant on post-Judaic tort reform get transformed into a screed supporting condemnation of gays?
1 Timothy 1: 10. Beginning at the beginning in Verse 3 (after Paul’s shout-out and felicitations to ol’ Tim)—subtitled “On Holding Fast to Sound Doctrine:”
I repeat the directions I gave you when I was on my way to Macedonia: stay on in Ephesus in order to warn certain people there against teaching false doctrines and busying themselves with interminable myths and genealogies, which promote idle speculations rather than that training in faith which God requires. What we are aiming at in this warning is the love that springs from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have neglected these and instead have turned to meaningless talk, wanting to be teachers of the law but actually not understanding the words they are using, much less the matters they discuss with such assurance. We know that the law is good, provided one uses it in the way law is supposed to be used – that is, with the understanding that it is aimed, not at good men but at the lawless and unruly, the irreligious and the sinful, the wicked and the godless, men who kill their fathers and mothers, murderers, fornicators, sexual perverts, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and those who in other ways flout the sound teaching that pertains to the glorious gospel of God – blessed be He – with which I have been entrusted. 1 Tim. 3-11.
As an aside, sounds like Paul and Tim were pushing against contemporary Robertsons and Falwells – when your friendly neighborhood disciples weren’t in the hoosegow for causing a public ruckus. But, Krikey! The true believers can’t even lift a complete sentence here; how in God’s name did murderers and parent-killers get left out of the honor roll of the damned? Doesn’t serve the instant purpose, I suppose.
Let’s go to the bottom of the page:
Those responsible for the empty surmises which are to be suppressed by Timothy do not present the Old Testament from the Christian viewpoint. The Christian values the Old Testament, not as a system of law, but as the first stage in God’s revelation of his saving plan, which is brought to fulfillment in the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
What, ho! There is life after Lot leaves town!
Jude 1: 7. Finally, on to the epistle of Jude, brother of James, who took out after the libertines of the day who, he thought, threatening the hegemony of fledgling Christianity with their free thinking. From Verse 3 onward, entitled “Exhortation to Steadfastness:”
I was already fully intent on writing you, beloved, about the salvation we share. But now I feel obliged to write and encourage you to fight hard for the faith delivered once for all to the saints. Certain individuals have recently wormed their way into your midst, godless types, long ago destined for the condemnation I shall describe. They pervert the gracious gift of our God to sexual excess and deny Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord. I wish to remind you of certain things, even though you may already be very well aware of them. The Lord first rescued his people from the land of Egypt but later destroyed those who refused to believe. There were angels, too, who did not keep to their own domain, who deserted their dwelling place. These the Lord has kept in perpetual bondage, shrouded in murky darkness against the judgment of the great day. Sodom, Gomorrah, and the towns thereabout indulged in lust, just as those angels did; they practiced unnatural vice. They are set before us to dissuade us, as they undergo a punishment of unnatural fire. Jude 5-7.
Footnote (omitting scriptural cross-references):
’The salvation we share:’ the teachings of the Christian faith delivered once for all to the saints: i.e., handed down in their entirety and accepted by the Christian community. They are not to be perverted by heterodoxy…’Certain individuals…destined for the condemnation:’ false teachers within the community who deny Christ as Lord and Savior and seduce the people by advocating sexual lawlessness. Their punishment is already foreshadowed in Old Testament examples of unfaithful ones among the angels and among God’s people. There is also reference here to the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which was highly regarded in the early centuries of the Christian era.
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’Sodom, Gomorrah:’ frequently used in the Scriptures as examples of sin and punishment.
See the pattern? The first, Old Testament passage for the prosecution is the fable of the destruction of the Two Sinful Cities, wherein a just Lord heeds Lot’s case for mercy and torches Sodom and Gomorrah only after a mob threatens two of His angels with rape. All of the succeeding references hark back to the same, recurring metaphor for a simple notion: The Wages of Sin is Death – under the Old Law, a rain of sulphorous fire. Under the New Covenant, in which faith, hope, and love will bring salvation to the Earth, the penalty is defeat of the Kingdom and a surrender to death, in ourselves and in others. To find in all this an unequivocal Christian condemnation (pardon the Hellacious oxymoron) of another of God’s creatures for being in the way in which they are made is just the kind of monstrous perversion that got Enoch riled up in the first place.
Allow me to put this question to the true believers: Suppose a married man and woman have consensual anal intercourse? Is their “sin so grave” as to warrant being bituminously barbecued? Is this single act an Old-Timey “abomination?” Is it a “disgraceful passion, “unnatural intercourse,” or “perversity?” Are they “fornicators” or “sexual perverts?” What would Jesus say? I suggest they consult the parable of the prostitute in Matthew, which involved the “just” throwing rocks at the sinful. Look it up.
Recently, on replenishment of the empty Netflix queue I decided to treat Red and me – okay, me, mostly – to a reprise of Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, three hours of magical interviews by Bill Moyers in 1988. (If you have any doubt about the need for the comfort of belief and the dependability of rite in our lives, old Joe is the place to go. For you young ‘uns, he posits that Episodes IV-VI of Star Wars is a serviceable enough myth upon which to hang a belief system. In fact, his 12 stages of the “hero’s search” was the basis for those screenplays and practically every other movie worth a damn since. Imagine that – a faith endorsed by Hollywood and Gomorrah! Idolatry! Blasphemy! Burn them, Lord!) Fasten your seat belt, though; his readings, lectures, and conversations are high-speed, averaging about 60 insights per minute. In the third hour, “The Message of the Myth,” Campbell speaks the perfect endnote to the peril of judgment over forgiveness that this Old Law, hateful homophobia represents:
All religions are true for their time. If you can find what the truth is and separate it from its temporal inflection – just bring your same old religion into a new set of metaphors – you’ve got it!
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My notion of the real horror is today what you see in Beirut [Lebanon], where you have the three great Western religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The three of them have a different name for the same biblical God, and can’t get together. They’re stuck with their metaphor and don’t realize its reference. Each needs it own myth, all the way: ‘Love thy enemy. Open up. Don’t judge.’