No, 'New York Times,' Romans 1 Doesn't Call for the Execution of Gays

This past week, The New York Times, unfortunately America's newspaper of record, claimed that "a Bible verse from Romans" actually "calls for the execution of gays." No, I am not making this up. The article is right here. To be fair to the hapless Times, it was merely repeating baseless accusations previously reported by The Hill and Roll Call, but even so, this claim is beyond the pale.

Just to be clear: neither Romans chapter 1, nor orthodox Christianity in general, calls for the execution of gay people. Christianity is about loving others, not ruling over them. The religion also does not have a political platform or a set of rules it wishes to enshrine in law.

That said, the Bible does designate homosexual practice as a sin, but it also says "all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The Apostle Paul -- who wrote much of the New Testament -- calls himself the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Christianity is about redemption from sin, and because Christians themselves understand the gravity of their own sins and the marvelous gift of forgiveness from God, they should not consider themselves better than other sinners in any way.

This context is very important to remember whenever you hear that Christians consider homosexual practice to be a sin. This is one sin among many, and all Christians are themselves guilty of sin. Furthermore, Christians should see much of the love in a homosexual relationship as still good. The sexual acts are wrong, but when any man or woman cares for and serves another, that is love.

What does Romans 1 actually say? It says that homosexual sex is a result of the sinfulness of mankind, and while it does say that these actions are sinful, it lists them with a long account of all sins which, under God's perfect moral law, would deserve death. But the whole point of the passage -- and the point of Christianity in general -- is that God does not kill us, despite our sins, but offers repentant believers eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son.

Here is the passage (Romans 1:21-23, 26-32):

Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. ...

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 lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Next Page: What these verses mean, and why they do not call for the execution of gay people.