Week 32; Psalm 70 – 87; Acts 28:11 – Romans 4
When I was growing up, “queer” was what we called the effeminate boys who always got picked last during the pick-up football game during recess on the dirt lot out behind school. In my lifetime and in my vernacular queer has always been used pejoratively. I cannot think of even one exception to this rule. And it makes good sense because queer, by definition, is a word that is used to describe something that is a bit off kilter. If you look it up in the dictionary you will find it means strange or odd. Synonyms listed are: odd, strange, unusual, funny, peculiar, curious, bizarre, weird, uncanny, freakish, eerie, unnatural; unconventional, unorthodox, unexpected, unfamiliar, abnormal, anomalous, atypical, untypical, out of the ordinary, incongruous, irregular; puzzling, perplexing, baffling, unaccountable, fishy, spooky, bizarre, freaky. You get the point.
Humanity went astray and its departure from God is seen in sexual deviation
But that was like so last generation. Words are fluid; which is to say their meanings often morph and take on new layers and textures and even change altogether. That’s just the way language works. Language isn’t static. In many ways it’s alive – shifting, growing, developing – for better and for worse. All of that to say, queer doesn’t mean – at least to some people – what you and your schoolboy pals used to think it meant. To this point, I was struck by something I had never seen before when I looked up the word queer on dictionary.com. There was above the definition a “Usage Alert” with a lengthy statement about the way in which the word used to be used and how it is currently being used today. In other words, the dictionary was warning me. “Be careful” it was saying. And it was warning me because queer, in a strange twist of etymological fate, has been picked up by the very community it has been used pejoratively against all of these years and re-tooled to be used approvingly by them. There used to be L and G. Then came B. Next T. And now to LGBT has been added (and this is where I am going with all of this), Q. Q is like the sexual junk drawer. According to the Urban Dictionary (yep, I really did refer to the Urban Dictionary) it’s where you put everything except for conventional sex and sexual orientation.
And for some this is unsettling. For people like me it’s unsettling etymologically. For most, however, it’s unsettling culturally. The values of the 50s and 60s seem to be unraveling. This is the worst it has ever been, we are told. Not really. Sexually it’s always been weird and distorted and bad. Really, if you think about it, LGBTQ is pretty tame compared to Lot’s daughters and Noah’s son; to David and Solomon’s countless wives and harems; to the temple prostitutes of the first century; and to the pedophilia of the Romans, to name just a few examples.
I say all of this because in our reading this week we have come to the book of Romans and in the first chapter Paul highlights human depravity by highlighting sexual perversion. Humanity went astray and its departure from God is seen in sexual deviation: Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another…Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lusts for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men… (Rom. 1:24; 26-27).
So, at least two take-aways. First, as I already mentioned, it’s not as bad as it has ever been. It’s the same just different. And second, who we are sexually often manifests who we are spiritually. Sex is really, really important for our Christian lives which is why Jesus and Paul spend so much time talking about it. Like in today’s sermon text: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature (Col. 3:5). And we’re like, “OK, like what?” And first out of the gate is: sexual immorality (Col. 3:5).
Passages like this and cultural shifts invite us to think critically, deeply and Christianly about the topics at hand. The topic of the day is sex.
Next Week’s Reading: Psalm 88 – 105; Romans 5 – 10