Clobber Verses in Romans Debunked

One of the clobber verses used against LGBT people could be found in the book of Romans.  These verses were usually quoted by itself, but we will examine the related verses as well.

26  Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions. Even the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts. 27  In the same way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with passion for each other. Men do shameful things with each other, and as a result they bring upon themselves the punishment they deserve for their wrongdoing. (Romans 1:26-27)

If we just read these two verses by themselves we might conclude this as a condemnation against same-sex behaviors.  Not so fast though.  We still need to find out about the underlying cause of the quoted behavior.  The answer is located in verse 21 through 23:

21  They know God, but they do not give him the honor that belongs to him, nor do they thank him. Instead, their thoughts have become complete nonsense, and their empty minds are filled with darkness. 22 They say they are wise, but they are fools; 23 instead of worshiping the immortal God, they worship images made to look like mortals or birds or animals or reptiles.  (Romans 1:21-23)

These verses seem to be saying that you can get same-sex behavior by following a progression starting with idol worshiping.  This was a historically possible progression given the ancient practice of shrine prostitution.

Ancient pagan temples often acquired prostitutes to entice visitors to participate in sexual practices that were said to bring fertility.  If alcohols were involved, the participants and the prostitutes may sunk into a drunken orgy where free-for-all sex occurred, even between people of the same sex.  However, the participants were of the population norm of straight people.  They were condemned by Paul because straight people practiced same-sex behaviors unmatched by their natural inclinations.  These verses were not about relations in a committed and loving same-sex couples.

Verse 29 also brought some additional context to these clobber verses:

They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice.

Apparently not only were the participants sexually depraved, they were also wicked and filled with malice.  Taken all together, this could have painted a picture of alcohol abuse and the destruction it brought.

In fact all of these elements were mentioned in one of Paul’s earlier letters written to the church in Galatia.

What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Taken all together we could see the clobber verses in Roman chapter one were not about same-sex behaviors.  They were about shrine prostitution in ancient times, and alcoholism in modern times.


One thought on “Clobber Verses in Romans Debunked”

  1. Thank you.

    This is exactly what I mean by Metaphoric Fundamentalism.

    Literally, this is a condemnation of specific acts in a specific context: temple prostitution and drunken animal lust.

    Fundamentalists who claim to read this literally are in fact reading it as a metaphor – for homosexuality generally – as much as you or I read it as a metaphor – for abusive sex, and the use of religion as an excuse for sexual abuse. If anything, it is, as you say, a call to loving and committed sex.


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