We did the book of Romans, Paul's letter to the Romans, in the Disciples Bible study class on Monday night. Now, being bisexual and a long-time defender of sexual orientation not being a qualifier for the loaded terms of "redemption", "salvation", or whatever the terms one might use, I've always narrowly focused on Romans as "the book where homosexuality is made the root of all evil."
It turns out that it's actually only one chapter in a book with sixteen chapters, and the very next one says that one shouldn't judged those people that do those things at a risk of being condemned yourself. But even that misses badly, and is at the very level that the folks I fought kept the poor book at all the time. There's a lot more when one looks one or even two conceptual levels up, and I ended up actually *loving* several portions of the book.
First, the whole study has been done, to this point, with the idea that each book that we read was written in a certain historical context and with certain political agendas by the folks that were writing it. Also, that the Truth behind the stories were far more important than whether or not any particular thing, action, or event actually happened. These were teaching stories, a way of conveying experiences, concepts, and testifying to their own experiences with God.
It kind of makes moot the whole "everything in the Bible is *exactly* factual and always right" attitude.
I'd never approached Romans that way before in the first place. Then the video tape of the Biblical Scholar said that while the accepted theme for the book was "Grace through Faith", that if one looks a level higher, it's really about whether or not God is trustworthy or faithful. Paul actually asks that question several times, and uses all his powers of reasoning and persuasion to say that it is so, even when it seems that all the Jewish Laws are being thrown out by the Gentile Christians who are all starting to say that they have the same kind of grace that the old Chosen Ones used to have. So much thought about how arbitrary and fickle God may seem.
*blink* Wow. You mean they thought that THEN, too?!? There's so much of that kind of discovery as I go through every book, chapter, and verse. Psalms was especially that way, but... wow.
There is terrible stuff in that book. My teacher said there's no use denying it. There's stuff that can't be tolerated now. Including support of slavery and obedience to authority, along with the chapter that was supposed to differentiate the early Christians from the Romans and Greeks by their approach to homosexuality. Within that context, it's a lot like John trying to differentiate Christians from Jews by really pounding on the Word Made Flesh aspect that was so new to them, his deal with limiting salvation to being only through the Christian incarnation of God had a lot to do with the fact that it made Christianity different from the Jewish faith that was getting more enclosed, trying to shut out or kill those that were different. There's so much stuff that just makes more sense when I understand the full context, as poorly as I may have written it down here.
But there's some really astonishingly beautiful stuff, too. The whole concept of faith as being so important. Not faith in particular beliefs (which only came after Augustine); but just general faith and hope in life, in people, in God, and the possibility that things may work out well, if not painlessly, was particularly useful for me.
Romans 5:3-5 takes suffering and says it makes for endurance, and from endurance springs character, and, finally, from character comes hope.
I think that might be the core of pretty much everything I've wanted to write. *laughter* Character-driven ways to save whatever part of of the world is right there in front of them.
And it doesn't say how MUCH faith you have to have, and even says stuff about how those who are weak in faith need to be encouraged as well. That even my little bit might be "enough" bemuses me.
Anyway... it as cool to see it in a completely different light and find something to hope from even that book that I'd hated for so long.