To be great is to be misunderstood

The Apostle Paul Was Not a Misogynist Homophobe

By , 06/12/2012  7:00 am

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be great is to be misunderstood.” If Emerson was right, then the Apostle Paul might be one of the greatest men to ever live. Few religious leaders have been as grossly misunderstood as Paul. Unlike Jesus, who most people regard as a great moral teacher, Paul is routinely accused of the most egregious sins according to modern sensibilities: misogyny, classism, homophobia, anti-Semitism. The idea that Paul invented Christianity is so fashionable nowadays that many people take it as a given, as if it’s obviously true. The irony in all this unexamined Paul-bashing is that fewer people today are taking the time to ponder the crux of his moral message: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” — a message that both society and the Church need to hear.

Yes, there are passages in Paul’s letters that would seem to paint him as pro-slavery, anti-women and homophobic. But just as Muslim scholars insist that the passages of the Quran that seem out of step with modern ethical norms be read in light of their historical context, the same is true with Paul’s letters. Paul’s advice to slaves (obey your masters) and their masters (treat your slaves well) may seem off-kilter today, but given the historical situation, his advice can hardly be described as unreasonable. It should also be noted that Paul insisted that slaves who could attain their freedom should do so — and that he condemned slave traders.

As far as women are concerned, for all of the passages that seem to consign women to second- class status in the home and the Church — and there are plenty of scholars who insist that those passages teach the exact opposite of that — all of them pail in comparison to Paul’s notion that in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female.” Whether we’re talking about women or slaves, Paul can rightly be considered a progressive in light of the customs, attitudes and social norms of his day.

Which leaves us with the homophobia charge.

The definition of homophobia according to the Encarta World English dictionary is “an irrational hatred, disapproval, or fear of homosexuality, gay and lesbian people, and their culture.” Given that in all of Paul’s letters there’s only one unmistakable reference to same-sex relations (the words translated as homosexual in I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10 are highly ambiguous words in the Greek), Paul can hardly be said to have had “an irrational hatred, disapproval, or fear of homosexuality,” especially when you take into account that in the one clear reference to same sex relations in Paul’s letters (Romans 1:23-17), the relations that Paul is describing are the highly lustful relations that accompanied pagan temple worship in his day.

While it’s not my intention to settle the debate as to whether Paul disapproved of all same-sex relations, even if the traditional view is correct, which is that Paul viewed same sex relations as inherently sinful, whether in the context of monogamous relationships or not, an obsessive inquiry into how Paul felt about same-sex sex misses the forest through the trees. In Paul’s theology, Christian morality isn’t about following a set of ironclad, inflexible rules and regulations. It’s about Spirit-filled followers of Jesus dying to the letter of the Law and rising to a new life in the Spirit (Romans 7:6), a life where the Spirit-indwelt conscience is the new moral compass (Romans 14:22-23, 2 Corinthians 3:6) and the rule of thumb that satisfies all of God’s laws is to love your neighbor as yourself (Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14).

“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” says Paul.

In Paul’s theology, the death and resurrection of Jesus was the historical game-changer that shifted the focus away from the rules and regulations of the Law and towards the Spirit-indwelt conscience as the arbiter for moral decisions in the life of the believer.

Paul insists, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

Yes, freedom.

Paul was the Apostle of human freedom.

How tragic it is that society maligns him.

And the Church misrepresents him.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aaron-taylor/the-apostle-paul-was-not-_b_1579802.html or http://huff.to/OqhKxO

Rembrandt’s painting of Saint Paul, 1630.  http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/rembrandt/st-paul-at-his-writing-desk-1630 or http://bit.ly/M9nhak

Related Posts

Special clearance Muslim Brotherhood Taking Over America, Six Hour FBI Meeting By Victoria Jackson, 12/27/11 08:19 AM ET ... Former "Saturday Night Live" actress...
The well is deep The Means Determine the End By Harry Emerson Fosdick, Living Under Tension, 1941, Harper and Brothers, New York and London, pages 102 – 111. ... ...
See how easy this is? The Muslim Test: How To Expose The Hypocrisy Of The Religious Right By Justin "Filthy Liberal Scum" Rosario, December 27, 2011 ... One of the m...
Smells like TEA Old Ron Paul Video Warns of One-World Religion, UN Dictatorship By Tim Murphy, Tue Dec. 27, 2011 3:05 AM PST ... Rep. Ron Paul's presidential c...
Death via live broadcast On third anniversary of Gaza war, we will remember By Amira Hass, 03:53 02.01.12 ... On the third anniversary of the Cast Lead onslaught, we re...
With us always Why we still can’t talk about slavery By Peter Birkenhead, Tuesday, Dec 27, 2011 12:00 PM 13:11:06 CST ... The menu at the Cabin was long, one ...
Fully entitled to ask Romney’s Mormon Problem By Christopher Hitchens, Monday, Oct. 17, 2011, at 11:05 AM ET ... I have no clear idea whether Pastor Robert Jeffress ...
Religious impulse revealed 2011: when protest turned peaceful By Peter Popham, Saturday 24 December 2011 ... In September, a man nicknamed "Little Gandhi" was buried in h...
These champions of Zion How I became a 'terrorist' By Abdelrahman Al Ahmar, 02:47 23.12.11 ... The first time I was attacked by an Israeli settler, I was 14 years old....
The irony would not have been lost The near-religious zeal that drives the godless By Howard Jacobson, Saturday 24 December 2011 ... May I take this opportunity to wish readers...

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2012/06/14/to-great-misunderstood/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.