Lust for the Dust

Yet, I am not Ashamed


Who are "they" in Romans Chapter One?



Romans 1 (NAS)

26  For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
27  and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire towards one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
Most gay and lesbian people are ashamed of this passage of scripture.  It is no wonder.  Due to our cultural history and most of the non-literal translations of this passage, nearly everyone who reads it thinks that Paul is talking simply about homosexual intercourse.  The fact that such a limiting, simplistic interpretation has a relatively short history and makes little sense in the context of what Paul is saying is usually overlooked.  Some strange conclusions that would follow from this interpretation include the following:
  1. Homosexuality would be rightly identified as not in the realm of choice, but for the wrong reason.  The "degrading passion" God gave them over to is not the cause of God's anger but rather the consequence God gives them over to.  ("For this reason...")
  2. All people are homosexual.  The intended climax of Paul's argument is Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned..."  The immediate context makes it clear repeatedly (1:14, 18, 20, 2:1) that he is talking about all people, or at the very least all non-Jews (Gentiles).  Romans 2:1 states it succinctly, "you who judge practice the same things" and eliminates the Jewish distinction.
  3. The "natural function" of a woman is to be a vagina.
Paul declares in Romans 1:16 that he is not ashamed of the gospel.  Verses 26 and 27 quoted above are part of the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.  The following is offered as an interpretive translation (actually all translations are to some degree interpretive) from the original language, including the broader context of Paul's good news (Romans 1:18-27, 10:2-11).  Some other passages which provide insight for this translation are Gen. 1:26-27, 2:25, Is. 49:15, and Eph. 5:3-5.  They are quoted at the end for reference purposes.

Lust for the Dust

God's anger is aroused in condemnation against us because we reject the truth, keeping it down through injustice.  The truth is that we know about God because it is written in each of our hearts.  We also know God because of creation; we know God's power and character and have no excuse for our behavior.

Given what we have to start with, we still don't honor God or give thanks, but prefer to follow ingenious speculations which deny God's existence.  These speculations darken our minds such that while we consider ourselves wise, we have demonstrated ourselves as idiots.  We could have been in good standing with the Eternal, but traded that for its reflection, which exists in humans who grow old and die, and in nature which is even further removed from the source of all personhood.

Because we have chosen to love this dust, God has allowed us to be controlled by what we serve, resulting in feelings of shame from our own bodies, reminding us that we're not actually worthy of one another's worship.  In effect we have traded the reality of existence, our dependence upon God, for an illusion of self-sufficiency.  We serve ourselves, one another, and even nature rather than the One who made us, who is the basis of all being forever.

God has not only subjected us to the control of these limited physical bodies, but also our emotional aspirations flow from the root of our idolatry.  Females, who were especially created to reflect the nurturing reality of God's own person, have traded that for this self-serving quest for individual power and independence.  In addition males, having the same character, have abandoned mutuality with females, and are ignited in their desire to conquer each other; males using males to achieve this shame, and receiving it back within themselves as the necessary reward for their error.

Yet I am not Ashamed

Religious zeal tries to establish justice on earth but it's not the same as God's justice.  Christ put an end to rules and regulations for all those who believe.  Even Moses recognized that anyone who tried to live right by following the rules would have to follow all of them completely, all of the time.  But the right standing with God (that comes from dependence on God) does nothing to try to help God to establish itself.  Rather, the correct response, when we see how badly we measure up, is to depend on God's provision for us.  If we align ourselves with that, we will agree that Jesus is God, who died and was raised from the dead by God, so that we also are delivered.  If we believe that Jesus died together with us, our identification is complete in both death and in the life that follows.  When one believes this on the inside, it results in real justice on the inside, and when one confesses it on the outside, it results in deliverance from that which oppresses us on  the outside.  For the scriptures tell us that anyone who throws their dependence upon God will not be put to shame.

"Achieving Shame"

When someone shouts an obscenity such as "Fuck you!" at someone else an indecent act is being committed.  This kind of verbal abuse is an excellent example of the kind of attitude and action being described in Romans chapter one.  It doesn't make sense to attribute the passage from Romans as referring to sexual intercourse between two people who love each other.  But should it be odd that it be expressed by words which can be understood sexually?  The words are not about love but rather about  the intent  and purpose of achieving shame.  Our sexual natures are closely tied to our love [or lust] for this dust.  The contrast that Paul is drawing is not between homosexual/sinner and heterosexual/saint, it is between Creator and creation, God's glory and its reflection as the image in ourselves.  It is between worshiping and giving thanks, and destroying, conquering and consuming.

There are many historical and cultural considerations which should be called into account in trying to obtain a full understanding of any scriptural passage.  In this context, for instance, the philosophy of "natural law" developed more than a thousand years after Paul wrote these words, but it profoundly affects what modern translators and commentators think when they read the Greek words which mean "beyond nature."  And we as readers also have had seven hundred years of cultural conditioning that has led our understanding to blindly and wrongly equate "unnatural" as "homosexual".

To reduce the broad truth of this scripture which applies to everyone to something limited, which only applies to a few, is the mechanics of a lie.  Those who use the passage to bash loving gay and lesbian relationships are in fact demonstrating the type of sinful behavior described.

Words only start the process of communication.  The problem in understanding God's truth is in our hearts, not in our neighbor's bedroom.


Genesis 1:26-27 (NRSV)
Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion ... So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 2:25
And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Isaiah 49:15
Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?  Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Ephesians 5:3-5 (NAS)
But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous one, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Text copyright © 1987,2003 by Clyde Zuber and Martin Fowler.  Copying and reproduction permission is granted as long as the entire text and this copyright notice are included.

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