25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created thing rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1)
Apognophos: I appreciate your comments about Romans 1:26, 27, because I used to have a difficult time explaining it ... until I had my own self-realization that I am gay. Now when I read it, there are several red flags that stand out to me.
First of all, what did Paul mean by "exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones"? For gay people, it's natural to have have relations with the same sex, it's something they can't change. Researchers have also found that same-sex bonding occurs naturally in animals. Even many plants are bisexual. But it's not natural for heterosexuals, so that appears to be whom Paul is referring to. Yes, Paul does say they are inflamed with "lust," but notice he doesn't use the word "love." A man may have relations with a prostitute, but that doesn't mean he loves her. I personally know about a dozen self-described God-fearing married, straight people (men and women) who at one time or another have had relations with someone of the same sex. They did so out of lust, not love. Today, they all self-identify as straight.
Why would those in the Roman congregation do this? Paul answers that question in the beginning of verse 26 when he says, "Because of this." Because of what? Verse 25 explains: Because some members of the Roman congregation stopped worshiping God and went back to vernerating man-made idols. Those idol oftentimes required same-sex relations with temple prostitutes, both male and female. (By the way, drugs and other hallucinogens were sometimes used in worshiping idols; spiritism and druggery were closely related. This may have contributed to the "inflamed" "lust.")
Remember, the stabilizing influence of the Jewish founding fathers on the congregation in Rome was gone. Emperor Claudius had expelled them (circa AD 49) along with all the rest of the Jews from Rome because of their constant fighting with the gentiles who lived there (see Acts 18:2). His edict remained in effect until Claudius' death in AD 54, which was sometime before Paul penned his letter to the Romans about AD 55. That means that the only members of the Roman congregation during that time were former worshipers of pagan idols. The expulsion could be one of the reasons Paul was unable to visit the congregation sooner. With the Jewish Christians gone, it's likely some of the gentile Christians (perhaps due to family pressure or lack of faith) returned to worshiping their old gods (remember the Israelites?), many of which required some form of sexual activity as a part of their worship.
Romans 1:26, 27 makes much more sense when read in historical context. If the verse were referring to homosexuals, it would raise the question, "Why were there homosexuals in the congregation in the first place if God disproved of them?" Also, gay people having heterosexual relations would not be natural. After knowing what we do today about plants and animals, would homosexuality and bisexuality also be "unnatural" for them, after Paul glowingly describes creation at Romans 1:20? This entire passage falls apart if we try to view it as fundamentalists (including the Witnesses) view it today, because homosexuality was not viewed in the same way in the first century. It appears, from historical writings, that love and sex were viewed in a more tolerable manner. Infidelity and idolatry (for Christians), however, were strongly condemned. So it's important to consider ancient writings as they were viewed then, and not as misguided churches (including the Jehovah's Witnesses) try to apply them now.