Death Penalty for Gays?

Some fundamentalists preachers (e.g., Kevin Swanson of Colorado) stop just barely short of invoking the Bible to justify civil executions of gays.

Swanson, in a recent tirade in Iowa, cited Romans 1:32 as evidence that homosexuals are worthy of death. Here is the passage:

Romans 1:29 – 2:1   29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips,  30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents,  31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die — yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

Paul says that those who practice homosexuality (note: He does not condemn the homosexuals, just the behavior of some) lip into some or all of the sins he lists in verses 29-31. He then concludes that “those who practice such things deserve to die.”

Three questions:

Does the phrase “deserve to die” equal “deserve to be killed”? I think it would be extremely difficult to make such a baseless argument.

Even if we do say such sinners deserve to be killed, who would be the proper people to do the killing? Those who speak with fiery rhetoric such as Swanson stir up ordinary individuals to be the killers. Does he really want to push us back to the days of the vigilantes?

What does the phrase “such things” mean? Surely Swanson can’t be thinking that Paul’s mind is skipping back over verses 29-31 and referring only to Gays. Does Swanson think that the sins listed in 29-31 are death-worthy only in Gays, not in other people.

Look at that list of sins that deserve death, including covetousness, envy, deceit, gossip,haughtiness, foolishness and so on. Paul is describing the range of sins of the human race: Not one of us is guilty of all of them and not one of us is guilty of none of them. We all deserve to die, not at the hands of vigilantes but at the hands of the Just God to whom all humans are accountable. this is spiritual death, not murder of “unrighteous” people by more righteous people.

Think I’m giving too soft an interpretation here? Then read the next two verses in Romans.

Romans 1:32 – 2:1  32 “They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die — yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.  2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

Does Swanson not realize he is calling for his own death sentence?

Fundamentalists such as Swanson need to be more biblical, not less as some would say. They just need to read the context of their favorite verses and be true to all the teaching of Scripture, not just a few selected ideas.

 

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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