Romans 1-2 in the minds of most evangelicals…
(As told by a recovering evangelical of 35 years).
Paul, an apostle, called by Jesus, to the church in Rome [and by extension, to all you 21st century evangelicals]: Grace and Peace to you from me and from God. You should feel pretty good about yourselves, because you’ve figured out and accepted the truth about God. God has made it clear and obvious in all of creation, so really nobody has any excuse. And you guys have accepted what is so obvious, so God is happy with you!
But God is revealing his wrath against our culture. And do you know why? It’s because of the evil people in society who aren’t part of your church, since they refuse to accept what is so plainly true about God. The truth is that they did know about God at one time, but then they decide to reject Him and His truth. Therefore God gave up on them, and allow them to descend into wickedness. And that’s why we have gay men and lesbians in our society! They are the ultimate evil and have obviously been rejected by God! And so they have become filled with every kind of wickedness – envy, murder, strife, etc.; but the worst of of all is obviously homosexuality.
But you guys on the other hand should be proud – God didn’t make you gay, which clearly shows that you are right and they are wrong. (After all, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, am I right?!) OK, so to summarize, you all are good, and you understand and have accepted the obvious truth about God, and so he has blessed you! But people who aren’t part of your church are clearly evil because they have rejected the truth about God, as evidenced by the fact that He made them gay!
Therefore, make sure you pass judgment on them! Tell them, frequently and forcefully, how wrong they are, because after all, you’re not guilty of being gay, and that’s worse than anything you could be accused of. And telling them is the only real loving response, right? I mean, if a building was on fire, then it wouldn’t be very loving if you DIDN’T tell the people inside! Also, don’t let them contaminate you and your church, because every church, every society, that has ever accepted gay people has collapsed because of their wickedness! So make sure you reject them and harangue and harass them, letting them know how disappointed God is with them, and that they are going to hell if they don’t renounce their choice to be gay. I mean, come on! That’s gross, right? But do it in a loving way, by promising them that if they have faith, God will reward them by making them straight.
OK, so if you want to know what Romans REALLY says, then read it yourself. And if your understanding of Romans has been influenced by teachings similar to what is above, read A Clobber Passage That Should Lose Its Wallop or Introduction to Romans 1:26-27. The point is that there isn’t just one single interpretation that is demanded by the text. Readers have to consider historical and cultural context as well as who was writing and to whom it was written. There are plenty of comparable passages that deal harshly with Jews and women and children and slaves that one could argue say things in an “obvious” way; yet evangelicals have been willing to consider a much broader context in understanding these passages, rather than taking them at face value. So why the demand for literalism when it comes to the Romans 1 passage? I think, perhaps, the answer may simply be that they’ve been able get away with it. As David Gushee pointed out in his recent address to the Reformation Project, this isn’t the first time the church has been ‘united’ in a point of view that was later uniformly rejected. I hope this hateful posture of the church toward gay people is soon abandoned and condemned by all.