“I’m Not Against Homosexuals–I Love Homosexuals.”
Many thoughtful evangelicals insist that they are not against homosexuals, that they don’t hate homosexuals. For all I know, you may be such a person. If you are, I don’t pretend to know your heart, and I try as much as possible to accept people’s self report. If you say you’re not against homosexuals, I believe it, unless there’s some reason to wonder.
I once interacted with a conservative Nazarene student at Point Loma Nazarene University who said, “I know you think I’m a homophobe, but I’m not. I don’t hate homosexuals. I don’t hate anyone.” I replied, “I’m sure you don’t hate gays and lesbians. I’ve never met a Christian who actually hates them.” He was surprised. I suspect that he’d never interacted with someone like me who didn’t casually use black & white language like “hater” and diagnose people as having a psychiatric pathology called “homophobia.” I must acknowledge that, like it or not, there is political and rhetorical value in this sort of verbal bullying. [No-Brainer Disclaimer: The fact that I haven’t personally met any genuine haters (unless you include counter demonstrators at the Pride parade) doesn’t mean they’re not around, that’s certain. I have, however, met some homophobes, but I still avoid name-calling.]
Decades of Anti-Homosexual Government Policy
I don’t hate anybody. I believe that homosexuals should be treated with the same dignity and respect that anyone else is. I have never spoken to a homosesexual derisively or disrespectfully.
The problem with insisting on one’s own lack of personal malice goes back to 1) a simple case of “Actions speak louder than words,” and 2) “You will be judged by the company you keep.” Nothing extraordinary there, something most people have heard before graduating from elementary school.
You may know gays and lesbians, work side by side with them, and say you feel no personal animosity or dislike whatever. But I’m sure it comes as no surprise that many people don’t believe you. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it is difficult to reconcile “Sorry, you’re a nice person, but you’re going to hell,” with professed feelings of love and regard. Second, in recent history (we’re talking about decades, not years) punitive legal statutes and the coercive levers of power have been used to persecute and prosecute gays and lesbians over and over again. And since the late 1970s, those political persecutions have been led by a coalition of Mormons, Evangelicals, the Unification Church, and Catholics.
I’m not saying that Mormons, Evangelicals, the Unification Church, and Catholics shouldn’t exercise their rights in a democratic republic. That’s foolish. And I admit the word “persecutions” is not as neutral as the word “campaign” might be. What I am saying is that evangelicals shouldn’t be surprised when people describe them as anti-homosexual, despite their own protests. They say, “I’m not against homosexuals,” when the churches to which they belong are leading a decades-long campaign specifically aimed at homosexuals, to remove any protections from arbitrary firings, keep gays and lesbians from having a normal family life, serve openly in the armed forces, and put them in prison if they make love to their partner.
You are free to vote in accordance with your beliefs, whether they are rooted in science, religion, or philosophy. You are free to believe whatever your leaders tell you is necessary to remain a member in good standing in your religious community. You are free to say anything to your neighbors and co-workers that is appropriate in a given setting. Just don’t be surprised if gays and lesbians don’t believe you when you say you’re not against them, that’s all. And don’t be upset when I characterize standard-issue conservative evangelicals as anti-homosexual as I did recently in the case of the Rev. Dr. Frankie L. Perdue, no matter how genuinely concerned and sensitive they are to LGBT folks they know personally.
These waves of anti-gay fervor remind me of several historical episodes. First are the sporadic persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire, instigated at politically opportune times. Second are the old European pogroms whipped up by princes in order to drive out their Jewish neighbors, to whom they were financially indebted. Then there are the apparently territorial purposes of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. In each case political leaders stirred up popular prejudice and gave people an opportunity to satisfy a base human instinct to dominate, even humiliate, a weaker group of people.
Two of my children reminded me, in a kind and gentle fashion, recently of how I sometimes used humiliation to discipline them, which caused me to reacquaint myself with that “dark side” that takes me down a notch, for a while at least. For some of us (me, for example), occasions to impose our wills on others are uncommon, yet provide a rather dark satisfaction.
Jesus, however, told us that we were not to lord it over one another like the gentiles do, he told us to love our neighbors. For some of us, unfortunately, love and servanthood don’t energize the party base. They don’t give us the juice. In a situation of conflict, though, like the conflict Jesus and his disciples entered into with Jewish theologians and pastors who misrepresented God to the people, love and servanthood do give us the juice.
In 1953, three months after his inauguration, President Dwight Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450, forbidding homosexuals to be employed by the federal government. There are people living today who were fired as a result of President Eisenhower’s decision, because they were gay or lesbian. Many people remember the Briggs Initiative (1978), the various state legal struggles over anti-sodomy laws, involuntary psychiatric commitment of gays and lesbians when homosexuality was officially a mental disease, DOMA, DADT, and gay and lesbian adoption, not to mention marriage equality. The long history of anti-homosexual laws, ballot initiatives, and government policies stretches back over sixty years, much of which I remember clearly.
Following the template painstakingly crafted by Republican strategist Paul Weyrich and Baptist minister Jerry Falwell, powerful, well-placed conservative Christians are quite experienced at harnessing the moral energies of their constituencies on behalf of the Party. If they could, they would turn back the clock, stemming the tide of what they term “homosexual acceptance,” and make homosexuals unacceptable again, just like in the old days.
Texas is the second most populous state in the union at over 25 million. In the lead up to the Republican primaries, only eighteen months ago, the following planks were included in the Republican Party platform of Governor Rick Perry’s homestate.
- No homosexual or any individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child.
- Marriage Licenses – We support legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for such.
- Texas Sodomy Statutes – We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.
- Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.
So what do we have? In June 2010 the Texas Republican Party advocates, in the name the fundamental, unchanging truths of God, policies to 1) forbid gays and lesbians to have foster children or to adopt, 2) make it a felony to marry same-sex couples, and 3) recriminalize sodomy in order to put homosexuals in prison. Invoking God, hounding gays and lesbians out of Texas, during a primary season where Gov. Rick Perry was a major contender. That was certainly strategic timing for such purely symbolic party planks.
These policies are against homosexuals. Sounds to me like Christian Republicans in Texas don’t shilly shally around. There’s no need to “demonize, malign, misinform, misconstrue and mislead” anyone regarding the merging of the Christian right and the 2010 Texas Republican Party platform. The Christian Right in Texas says that not only are they against gays and lesbians, but they are willing to use the power of the State apparatus to place what they consider God’s revealed will at the center of Texas anti-homosexual policy. Personally, I suspect that at least one of their goals is simply to drive gays and lesbians out of their state. They are the majority, after all.
Some people say they don’t hate homosexuals, that they’re not against homosexuals, that they love homosexuals. But they don’t want special privileges for them, no special protections. My friend, homosexuals have been specifically, repeatedly targeted for special legal restrictions in every state. My goodness, if they have been targeted with special restrictions, extending to imprisonment, involuntary commitment to state mental hospitals, and dismissal from jobs, then why wouldn’t they want specific protections codified into law? I sure would!
Recriminalize sodomy? Honestly, they can’t be serious. Good grief. My wife and I have committed sodomy, not often, but there it is. Guilty. And the Texas Republican party would put us in jail? Please don’t be offended, but it is odd how “we” can talk about “their” sexual intimacy in some detail, talking about unnatural acts, abominations, using various plumbing and baseball metaphors we learned in the streets, debate criminality and prison sentences and the likelihood of hell fire, but we get all “TMI!” if we talk about the sexuality of straight couples. Don’t kid yourself–all your talking is personal.
Actions speak louder than words. You don’t hate homosexuals? You’re not against homosexuals? That really all depends on your higher-ups, the current political climate, and where you live, my friend. Some years they need a wedge issue to boost voter turnout in Iowa, then it’s California’s turn, and then Colorado. I don’t know where the wedge issue will be needed next. But believe me, when they decide which state and when, you’ll find yourself saying, “I don’t believe in discrimination against homosexuals, but we need to protect our children from danger in the classroom,” or “I’m not against homosexuals, but young children need male and female role models,” or “I have nothing against homosexuals personally, but we must protect Biblical values.”
You’ll be fed all your lines in advance. It’ll all be scripted ahead of time. They’ll use focus groups to find out what frame works best for which audience. I don’t know when it’ll come or in which state, but if you live there, you’ll probably hear it first from your pastor, then on the radio, then your friends, and eventually you’ll be saying it. “I’m not against homosexuals, but–“
Please know that the legislation is indeed targeted against gays and lesbians, and also be aware that the homosexuals you love so much know that, too, no matter what you say.
Does it cut both ways? Of course it does. I have highlighted the alliance between conservative Christianity and the Republican party because that alliance has, in my opinion, corrupted Christianity more than any other political/religious admixture.
The great Biblical themes that resonate for me most include love, servanthood, suffering with the oppressed, the Spirit, forgivenesss, and reconciliation. Another set of values can also be found in the Bible, and this other set includes values like nationalism, power, might, dominion, control, militarism, and hierarchy.
Both sets of values have considerable Biblical precedent. In my judgment–yes, thank you, I do make judgments–in my judgment the first set of values is more in line with how Jesus lived his life, and Jesus said that when disciples are fully trained they will be like their teacher. Suffering, servanthood, and the other values led Jesus inexorably to a fatal confrontation with groups focused on hierarchy, dominion, status, and power.
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For a list of posts on the Cessation of the Law, go here.
If you want to Demolish the Strongholds of shallow anti-gay slogans, click here.
If you want to respond to the Clobber Passages, click here.
Thank you, Ron. You make the point very well. It is not possible to claim to “love” and respect gay and lesbian people without granting gay and lesbian people the freedom, right and legal protection to enter into intimate, long term, committed relationships with the partners they love. Refusal to grant those freedoms, rights and legal protection ipso facto condemns them, not just to a putative metaphysical hell, but to very concrete and present “hells” that take many forms. They are well known and you have listed some of them. Here are a few more:
Enforced celibacy and the loneliness and socio-psychological disconnection that goes with it
Liaisons that run the risk of being furtive and inherently unstable because they are neither recognized by society nor protected by law, and the anxiety and heartbreak that goes with such liaisons
Gay and lesbian people who have been in agonized heterosexual marriages, produced children and been divorced, now not being allowed to care for their children
Repeated attempts to “turn” or “be turned” by religious quackery, only to be disappointed in the next heterosexual liaison that is attempted…etc.
A well meaning Evangelical, Catholic or Mormon, as nice and kind as may be (and I’m sure there are many) who “loves homosexuals, but…” contributes directly to the ongoing suffering of lesbian and gay people. Perhaps they just don’t know what they are doing.
Which reminds me, on the Cross Jesus prayed for forgiveness for people because they do not know what they were doing.
There are many people, sadly, who do bad things knowing full well that what they are doing is bad. Society and the law have ways and means of dealing with such.
There are many more otherwise “good” people who simply don’t know how bad some of the “good” things they do actually are. Judas, Caiaphas, Ananias, Pilate, Peter, the soldiers at Golgotha all thought they were doing good, prudent, Biblically approved, strategically wise things when they crucified our Lord. Well-intentioned Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons and otherwise uncommitted solid citizens who wouldn’t want to hurt a fly join that dubious company when they say, “I love homosexuals, but…”
Tim, thank you for expanding on the personal effects of an unrestrained anti-homosexual culture on gays and lesbians. I also appreciate you underscoring Jesus’ gracious patience with the people responsible for his execution, people for whom crucifying Jewish messiahs was just standard operating procedure, just a matter of policy. And I’m reminded of the proverb, “The kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”
They’re lucky to have you there in S.A.
If you say you’re not against homosexuals, I believe it, unless there’s some reason to wonder.
The problem with insisting on one’s own lack of personal malice goes back to 1) a simple case of “Actions speak louder than words,” and 2) “You will be judged by the company you keep.”
First, it is difficult to reconcile “Sorry, you’re a nice person, but you’re going to hell,” with professed feelings of love and regard.
What I am saying is that evangelicals shouldn’t be surprised when people describe them as anti-homosexual, despite their own protests. They say, “I’m not against homosexuals,” when the churches to which they belong are leading a decades-long campaign specifically aimed at homosexuals,
And don’t be upset when I characterize standard-issue conservative evangelicals as anti-homosexual, no matter how genuinely concerned and sensitive they are to LGBT folks they know.
Please know that the legislation is indeed targeted against gays and lesbians, and also be aware that the homosexuals you love so much know that, too, no matter what you say.
The great Biblical themes that resonate for me most include love, servanthood, suffering with the oppressed, the Spirit, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
“in my judgment the first set of values is more in line with how Jesus lived his life, and Jesus said that when disciples are fully trained they will be like their teacher.”
(Warning: The words You and You’re will be used extensively)
Ron, your slip is showing. I really didn’t think so before, but after reading this post you’re true feelings are leaking into your blog. On this issue you are every bit as divisive, unloving and generally unfeeling as those you so vehemently oppose. You are not a reconciler. You may cloak or couch your words in ways that would say to others that you strongly desire love and reconciliation, but in practice you are judgmental to the extreme and promote the hatred and prejudice you say that you are defending the LGBT community from. Though you have given me great reason to examine some earlier prejudices and misplaced attitudes, this is a hollow victory for you. No one can take baby steps in your direction. It has to be all or nothing. I just wish you’d really say what was on your mind without hiding it behind innuendo, hyperbole or well-place biblical implications. If this were a debate nothing would be settled because “your measuring stick” can move at a moments notice. You judge others constantly as not being Christ-like. You’re message is filled with the leaven of bitterness. It would be so refreshing to hear what you or politicians really had to say, but the agenda always comes first.
Man up. If you’re going to fill the bottles with gasoline then you should at least have the balls to walk up to the steps of the church, light the wick and throw it without apology damning those huddled inside, live or die. Then finally you’ll be able to chant at the top of your voice the words constantly playing in your head, “Burn baby Burn.”
Noel, I am reading and re-reading your reply. I am weighing it carefully, and will continue to consider it, because any of your criticisms could easily be true. They obviously seem true from your perspective.
Noel, I suppose you would have said the same thing about Isaiah or Jeremiah or Nathan or Martin Luther or Martin Luther King, Jr or Mother Teresa or even Jesus. By all means one cannot in any way state disagreement with the religious establishment, Fundamentalists or Evangelicals without being called judgmental and bitter. That’s the TRUE Christian way according to our conservative preachers and legislators. That’s why Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney have all signed a pledge to investigate LGBT efforts to oppose anti-gay marriage activities of the Christian Right (Remember McCarthyism? Same body, different clothes).
I claim with Mary that with the coming of Christ, the proud (including the religious establishment) will be cast down and the lowly (including us gay people) will be lifted up. What is so interesting to me that God is not having to do the casting down. The religious right is bringing the whole faith to its lowest point since the days of Hitler. Fortunately for those who understand that Christ’s law is love, people like Ron give us hope and a new way to walk in love.
I wish more people would start looking for truth instead of looking to have their worn out theology proved true.
And yes, as a persecuted minority, I AM bitter towards people who claim to love me and would love to see me imprisoned or dead. I am working on getting over this but comments like yours just reopen the wounds.
You seem to concede that those who condemn homosexuality are knowing acting against God’s children, and I think it is great that you recognize this. However, I wonder if you truly believe your own conclusion that rebuking those condemners is also a sin? You see, the homophobe believes that it his duty to carry out God’s punishment here on earth by loudly and angrily condemning the homosexual. The anti-homophobe feels it is his duty not to loudly and angrily rebuke the homophobe, but to quietly and lovingly prevent the homophobe from harming the homosexual. It is not merely the direction of our beliefs that differ, but the intent of our actions, and indeed the acts themselves.
You said: “You judge others constantly as not being Christ-like. You’re message is filled with the leaven of bitterness.”
You have done this to me, Ron.
If I have, I apologize. Do you have an inkling of how gay and lesbian believers feel? Only multiply it by a factor of 100 or so. My remarks would probably not make you despair of life and attempt suicide. The unrelenting anti-gay and anti-lesbian rhetoric of fundamentalist pastors and bloggers does have that effect on young gay and lesbian believers, however. When every voice you respect tells you that your are an abomination, that you have traded the natural for the unnatural, that you are deserving of death, even though you may never have had sex, you despair of life and consider suicide.
I don’t think you would do this to people deliberately, Bubleeshaark. But your fellow fundamentalists do, gay and lesbian fundamentalist are disowned by their parents, and teenage Christians have been taking their lives for decades.
Is there anything you have to say to young gay and lesbian believers besides repent? You think they haven’t read Romans 1? I wonder if you have the first clue about the despair and conflict that homosexual Christians experience. You speak so easily about these issues.
By saying, “Ron, you are just as bad as the people you are criticizing and condemning,” Noel is agreeing with your statement that Conservative Christians & Republicans do indeed have an agenda of persecuting homosexuals and are justifying it by quoting scripture. He is not letting you (or me) get away with hypocrisy; but even hypocrites know the truth. Accusing someone else of being a hypocrite does not lessen one’s own guilt of the sin the hypocrite condemned. Although hypocrisy is indeed sinful, it is not the sin being addressed in your original commentary. Even if Ron and I are hypocrites that does not justify the Conservative Christian and Republican’s sin.
James, in a previous post I acknowledged the less noble parallels between politics and religion. I firmly believe that inconsistencies and fudging are unavoidable, especially where groups are in competiton with one another for followers, cash, and influence. That post was as neutral, even-handed–and honest–as I could make it.
This post was not so neutral. I addressed a very common disclaimer that many conservative Christians make regarding their own personal feelings about gays and lesbians. In so doing, I was guided by two things Paul wrote regarding ministry.
First he wrote: We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
Second he wrote: But if all of you are prophesying, and people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.”
As I wrote with a bit less restraint, a little more spontaneity, and a bit more frankness, I believe that what I learned from Paul came bubbling up to the surface more than usual.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
I post this scripture first because I want it to be part of the conversation. We obviously can’t ignore what scripture says if we are to be biblical Christians (even a Bible thumping liberal as I consider myself) about people who are covetous or adulterers or effeminate or homosexuals or theives or drunkards, etc. not inheriting the the kingdom of God, so I am wondering how such explicit references to homosexuality and its consequences enter into your exegesis and, by extension, to your application to our current day? Was Paul wrong here?
One thing I would note that I think is pertinent to arrivinng at an appropriate understanding of these verses is the qualifier in verse 11 “Such *were* some of you” (implying the Corinthian believers in the past HAD BEEN thieves and drunkards and effeminate and homosexual and covetous and adulterers and fornicators, etc.) but rather they “were sanctified” and “justified”. These behaviors appear to be past tense behaviors–things they used to do but were NO LONGER to do–which seems to imply that Paul viewed homosexuality and fornication and drunkeness and covetousness and idolatry, etc as moral and ethical choices to be avoided..Again, was Paul wrong?
I consider myself to be a liberal on matters of social policy and, here in New York, same sex marriage is legal. But it is not the legality that concerns me. As a first and foremost biblical Christian, I have difificulty reconciling this portion of scripture with views endorsing a homosexual lifestyle (or covetous or drunkard, or swindeler, etc.)..
I underdstand your concerns, Ray. As Christians we must heed the warnings and exhhortations. As I sit here, I realize that I could easily write several 2500 word blog posts addressing your questions. I have discussed many of the Clobber Passages this year. You can find them if you look in the banner area for “Clobber Passages.” Also, I am convinced that Jesus expressed his acceptance of gays and lesbians in Luke 17. I have presented the evidence in a series, also found in the banner area: “Gays and Lesbians in Luke.” I’m not putting you off on discussing these questions further, but I do want you to know that I have dealt with the scriptural testimony in some depth already.
This particular post deals with my fellow Christians who accept the traditional, Biblical, anti-homosexual case as commonly taught, and who also accept their leaders’ guidance and direction in terms of the political and legislative action to take against gays and lesbians, action they feel flow naturally and logically from their interpretation of the Clobber Passages. Those are two separate issues: 1) what we believe, and 2) what we do based on that belief.
Let’s assume (which I do not), for the sake of argument, that the popular understanding of Paul is correct, and that homosexual sex is a sin, just as greed (covetousness), drunkenness, adultery, gossip, and fornication are sinful. The current rear-guard action against homosexuals would then justify similar legislative and political battles against those other sins as well. There are American Christians who would institute the death penalty for homosexuals. The death penalty might then be justified for economic crimes (greed and avarice) above, say, the threshold of $1 billion. I’m not being facetious–I have argued for that myself. Gossip? Shutting down the supermarket tabloids, along with the gossip magazines could arguabl y be a justifiable Christian legislative response. Drunkenness? A new prohibition, possibly modified? Prison for fornicators? Death penalty for adultery? That would be Biblical.
Obviously we DO legislate morality, all the time. Virtually every law and ordinance has a moral principal behind it. And in this democracy Christians are as legitimately involved in the political and legislative process as anyone else. I could ask, “If we don’t launch personal campaigns against gossips and adulterers and swindlers (which we do not), then why gays and lesbians? I’ve read people’s arguments why “homosexuality is different from other sin,” but I’ve never heard one that was convincing.
Ray, I’d be happy to pick up the discussion of the Clobber Passages either in previous posts, or in a new post.
I think it also makes sense to deal with the interpretations from one ancient language to another modern language and the polical implications of who was doing the translating and at what point in history to push their own political agenda, either intentionally or intentionally. The bible is nothing if not a political document. Apparently, that chapter can be interpreted in various ways and without using the word homosexual as defined by 21st century Amercans.
I totally agree. The political, historical, linguistic, and philosophical complexities of how we understand and use the Bible are enormous.
One of those problems is the approach to the Bible that says, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me.” They really don’t understand how silly that is, and their leadership doesn’t see the need to disabuse them of this simplistic and unbiblical approach to their Book. Many of the writers who contributed to the Bible certainly understood the complexity of life, religion, and the scriptures.
But there are people who genuinely need to keep it simple and uncomplicated. They can’t tolerate ambiguity or uncertainty. For whatever reason, they really do need to see the world in black and white, right and wrong, with as few shades on the gray scale as possible. Sometimes only old age and lowered testosterone levels are the only things that will mellow them out.
I learned some of that from personal experience.
I think you must have the living breathing church of Christ confused with the extreme political right whoring that takes place in a very small percentage yet highly publicized sect of Christianity. But of course, this is your modus operand. That’s called hate-mongering in my book. Use the extreme to damn everyone else. That’s like calling everyone in China a communist. Nope no middle ground for Ron. If it’s not extreme it can’t be worth publishing. While your at it why not just go ahead and damn anything that has the word “church” in it?
Noel, I may be discussing the extreme political right, but it’s not the very small percentage of Christian extremists you seem to make them out to be. The following religious groups and religious leaders have all supported the anti-homosexual campaign, all within our lifetime, and are all fairly well respected in the evangelical and fundamentalist community. (No, the Unification Church is not well-respected, and the LDS is not considered Christian by many churhes.)
Most recently, as I said in the post, a coalition including the Latter Day Saints, the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical churches (Southern Baptists, a large segment of the United Methodist Church, etc.), and the Unification Church (the “Moonies”), supported Proposition 8 both financially and with volunteers here in California. Focus on the Family and Dr. James Dobson supported this campaign, and others as well.
In decades past the big names pushing the anti-homosexual agenda included Rev. Jerry Falwell–Liberty University (Southern Baptist Convention), Dr. D. James Kennedy–Evangelism Explosion and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America), Dr. Tim LaHaye–Left Behind series and Scott Memorial Baptist Church (Southern Baptist Convention), Beverly LaHaye–founder of Christian Women for America (Southern Baptist Convention), etc.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
It would be nice if it were only independent, unaffiliated little congregations like Westboro Baptist were in view here, but they’re not. It is the heart of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity that we’re talking about.
I haven’t employed hate-mongering, using the extreme to damn everyone else. These good people are mainstream conservatives.
I went to the Clobber Passages as you suggested, but there was no opportunity to comment on the passage above.
The thing that stuck out to me in your comment on these verses is that you seem to equate descriptive language (such as Paul uses) with being judgmental. If that was the case even Paul couldn’t list the behaviors he finds objectionable or to use his word “unrighteous”. That make no sense. At a minimum it empties the content of “righteous” of any meaning. How then can Paul call any of these classes of persons “unrighteous”? If there is nothing which can be adjudged as contrary to God’s law, there is no way to determine what is “righteous” and certainly no way to determine which behavior a personally committed Christian should change in their respective lives to be considered “holy” or “sanctified”. But Paul regularly highlights normative behavioral changes. So what are we to do? particularly in church discipline?
Ray, you are concerned with the outward appearance, with what can be seen. For me, as a Christian, I am not to justify myself and the degree of my sanctification by appeals to scripture. The righteous shall live by faith, not by justifying themselves with appeals to God’s law.
You can live your Christian life by measuring your behavior and belefs by the written code if you wish, constantly determining what is right and wrong based on the Law, if you wish. You are free to focus on behaviors and behavioral changes as you wish. You can adjudge what is contrary to God’s law as much as you want, you can focus on church discipline as much as you want. You are not accountable to me, but to God. If that’s how God made you, who am I to judge another’s servant?
I like what you said here, Ron. Specifically the last parts. Legislating morality is hard. Technically every sin is deserving of death. But it’s not ours to punish. I think the best we that we, as Christians, can deal with morality is to proclaim boldly to all what we know to be right and wrong, as given by the bible, of course. Legislating gossip though? Now that’s kinda silly. (although there is a slander law where hurting someone’s name falsely and knowingly false is punished. Anyways)
Bubleeshaark, you minimize the sin of gossip. Look at Proverbs 6: 16-19. Three of the things that God hates, things that are detestable to God, are integral to the sin of gossip.
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
A gossip often 1) has a lying tongue, 2) devises wicked schemes, 3) is a false witness who pours out lies, and 4) stirs up conflict in the community.
You think gossip is “kinda silly”? That may be! So, if it is, then what’s your beef with people who think that fundamentalist upset with gays and lesbians is “kinda silly”? Where’s the beef?
Wow, the dance that Biblical people have to do in order to reconcile their loving ways with scripture! Wouldn’t it be better to just, finally, admit that scripture is sometimes wrong?
I’m an atheist, so feel free to ignore my comment if you don’t care what I think, but it saddens me when I see good people, good Christians, feel shackled away from believing what they know for independent reasons are right, or else have to do wild dances of re-interpretation to justify themselves. At some point you just need to decide what’s more important… what it says in some book, or what you know to be true! You seem like very good peole… I trust you to figure that out for yourselves.
Thank you Kevin! We Christians need atheists like you to keep us honest, apply common sense, get in touch with real life experience and look for the very obvious but often overlooked or avoided (by Christians) resonance between common justice and everyday compassion and the Scriptures we cherish. Keep talking!
Kevin, Tim, you might check out the post titled, “Everyone Knows God? Even Atheists?” You can find it in the banner area in the page titled “Foundations for a Biblical Mysticism.”
Jesus, Paul, and the Voice of God all had occasion and had the freedom to set aside and ignore variouds scripture according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The writers of scripture also had occasion to misinterpret or use “faulty” translations (e.g. the Septuagint) in their texts. Those occasions are recorded in scripture for our example.
Jesus was in the world, and while he was in the world he had occasion to disregard and ignore various scriptures.
Jesus sent us into the world as his father sent him into the world, and just as Jesus was sent into the world with those understandings, prerogatives, and freedoms, so are we.
Yeah Kevin, it can take a little dancing. Some of us just have to learn the steps, and practice more.
Kevin, it’s why I (and other Mormons) believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. ^_^
Ron, I believe that that Jesus came to the world to fulfill the law of Moses and gave us a higher law to live by otherwise we’d still be doing the eye for an eye kind of thing.
Thanks for sharing your testimony, Ruth.
The problem is “lost in translation”. The “scripture” you quoted has long been known to have been translated incorrectly. Homosexual is a new word expressing a new concept. What the original writer of that scripture meant addresses temple prostitution, by both genders. It has nothing to do with loving relationships, hetero or homo. Paul was not wrong, he was writing in his own language addressing a current problem in that society. His words have been mistranslated and misused to injure innocents in our society.
Minnesota is very clearly the new state for the “wedge” issue, as my fellow Minnesotans will vote next November to determine whether I am capable of loving someone in the same capacity as they can and do, whether I am as human as themselves.
Thanks for the heads up, Whittier, although I’m sure I’m among the last to know!
I find it fascinating that people who call themselves Christians use Paul or Leviticus as their bellwether rather than the words and actions of Jesus Christ in the four gospels. Wouldn’t it be better to call yourself a Paulite or a Leviticite? Or call yourself a Bible-ist if the book itself is your god. But if you’re going to believe the authors of the various books in the Bible over Jesus Christ, at least own it.
Ron nicely pointed out that the Bible has been used, often unfairly, to chasitze and condemn some things but not others, and things often listed with equal weight are often wacked out of scale by modern ‘Christians’ who seem to think others sin are more but theirs are less.
Bart, many Christians have the excuse down pat, and are able to put the words of Moses on the same plane as Jesus’. This is unfortunate. The author of Hebrews (in the Greek scriptures), one Priscilla by name, wrote this:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.
The book of Hebrews is a sustained argument for the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant. But some people insist on putting everything contained in the Bible on an equivalent plane.
The words of God incarnate, Jesus, are superior to the words of Moses. Moses wrote a whole lot more than ten commandments on stone tablets. Genesis through Deuteronomy, and even Deuteronomy is pretty interesting in this regard.
I hope you’ll forgive me if I challenge you on a few points and drag in Church history into the conversation. What you seem to be suggesting is that some parts of scripture are better than others. This cafeteria style approach to the Bible (picking what you like over what you don’t) gets people in trouble. Christians over the centuries have rejected this–starting with the church against Marcion. Marcion, you’ll recall, only viewed some portions of scripture as authoritative and rejected others. The church (I believe rightfully) said this was wrong and he was condemned as a heretic. Surely you are not suggesting that we start parsing which passages are authoritative and which aren’t? Or are you?
Ray, I’m not answering for Bart. He can still reply as he wishes.
What you call the “cafeteria style approach to the Bible” is what I call exercising discernment. All scripture is inspired by God, the incidents it records were written down as an example for us, and I believe that we are to be understanding and wise in how we handle the scripture.
Any individual who buys into one doctrinal system must “pick and choose” because of the simple fact that many scriptures have to be “explained away” in order to make room for those verses that a particular individual or orthodoxy privileges above others.
Easiest example: eternal security folks have to explain away the warnings in Hebrews, and Arminians have to explain away Jesus’ sayings that we he will hold on to us for dear life. Both sides claim to believe the Bible from cover to cover, and each side has to explain away the clear meaning of various passages that are at variance with their belief systems.
And even though individuals who hold to one of those systems will emphasize that they share much more in common than what separates them, there was a day when that doctrinal dispute was fought bitterly.
Another example, dispensationalists claim to believe the Bible from cover to cover, and have a coherent set of verses which explain why the gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer in operation in the church today. This allows them to “pick and choose” which passages in Paul and in Acts that no longer apply to us today.
All the theologians in Christendom “parse which passages are authoritative and which aren’t.” That’s a way of life for us. It’s just that we don’t say this verse or that verse isn’t “authoritative.” Instead we explain why a certain interpretation is wrong.
I think your post very convincingly lays out the very concrete ways in which our legal system is used to hurt LGBT people. Sodomy probations, barriers to child adoption, lack of marriage licences, no worker protections, difficult access to health insurance, and the absence of meaningful education about LGBT people in public schools are just a few of the ways in which state power is used against queer people. Many supporters of this use of state power claim, as you say, to love gay people and to have no anti-gay sentiments.
However, it’s well known that people are frequently unaware of their prejudices. For example, many people believe they are not racists and don’t buy into racial stereotypes, but psychologists have repeatedly found that those very same people can harbor strong racial prejudices. I think it’s very likely the same is true about gay people. Some conservatives do not want gay people to be public school teachers because they believe this will make children more safe, the assumption being that there’s something perverse or dangerous about gay people working with children. Similar things are said about gay pediatricians or pastors. Arguments and evidence for that claim are almost never advanced — it’s just a prejudice.
For me, this very telling: these are not fact or evidence based policies. If it’s not truth and love that’s motivating them, then it is very likely they come from some of the other values (or should I say anti-values?) you mention, like “hierarchy, dominion, status, and power.” So, I would say that the oppression of gay people is homophobic and hateful. That’s not the premise of the argument, but it is the conclusion.
Self-knowledge is not fun, especially the more honest you are with yourself. Self-deception takes many forms: defense mehanisms, wishful thinking, scapegoating, groupthink, the blame game, etc.
Regarding the words homophobic and hateful. I have no objection to their use. In our diversity each of us is different (duh!), and we all have our little quirks and what-not. My kind of self-scrutiny obliges me to be fairly rigid in applying the same standards to myself as I apply to others, at least to the best of my ability. I guess that makes me kind of intellectually anal, I’m not sure.
I still shake my head and sigh when it comes to our apparently compulsive need to oppress someone, to demonstrate our superiority. When I see myself practicing my own version of “proving I’m superior” I have to pause for a moment, do some introspection, and try to intuit what’s going on inside me.
My wife and I have a typical bit of banter. One of us says about someone, “What an idiot!” And the other replies, “Yeah, we all take turns.”
You’re right, Ron, that it is an elementary moral principle that we should apply to ourselves the same standards that we apply to others. If we are morally serious, then we ought to hold ourselves to higher standards than we demand of others. That’s not an “intellectually anal” thing; it’s important and imperative. It is hard for us to see ourselves realistically, so it is easy for us to fall into the trap of assuming we are decent, easy for us to become hypocrites.
For my part, I certainly don’t relish condemning the ongoing oppression of LGBT people by state power as hateful and homophobic. I feel compelled to use words like ‘oppression,’ ‘hateful,’ and ‘homophobic’ because these policies are neither evidence-based nor respectful of the liberty of gay people. It is frightening and troubling that these policies exist and have real, daily consequences for gay people.
Writing about the place of Jews in German society during the 1930’s, Mortiz Goldstein wrote that,
“We can easily reduce our detractors to absurdity and show them that their hostility is groundless. But what does this prove? That their hatred is real. When every slander has been rebutted, every misconception cleared up, every false opinion about us overcome, intolerance itself will remain finally irrefutable.”
Those people who appeal to the Scriptures to justify their irrational hatred of gay people can’t be refuted by an analysis of the text. Even a careful and historically informed interpretation of Scripture will not change what they see in the Bible, because they have read it into the Bible in advance. But, every time they clobber gay people with the Bible they conceal to themselves and others the authentic face of God.
The situation and factors that made the Holocaust possible are major “constants” in my political, social, and moral equation. Their centrality likely goes back to my discovery of Leon Uris in the junior high school library.
It is significant to me that R.J. Rushdoony, the brains behind Christian Dominionism, would have reinstated capital punishment for homosexuals had it been within his power. I suspect it was uncompromising enforcement of the O.T. civil code that caused people like D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell to distance themselves from him.
One of the things that is always in the background of my writing is to prevent people from resting comfortably with their shallow, unreflective bits of rhetoric and think for themselves.
The core of your comment seems to be in your second paragraph. I heartily concur with you.
Ron, the type of systematic change that you are asking for is all a very good thing. However, it also implies a standard. My question is this: “What is that standard?” Will it be an exclusively monogamous marriage between two homosexuals? This would be acceptable from a Christian social ethic. It maintains the distinction that marriage is between two people and deal with the issue that concern many Christians regarding orgiastic homosexual sexual relationships. I merely question how many people would personally obey this clause. Just as adultery is frowned upon by the Church, a simple monogamous relationship would easily fit into this traditional understanding, as well as easing this change into modern culture.
Absolutely correct! The ethics of relationship are exactly the same for same-sex as well as heterosexual partnerships.
Orgiastic sexual behaviour is not the preserve of same-sex oriented people (Duh…!). The recently much publicized heterosexual shenanigans of a couple of prominent European politicians refers. Does that mean that all heterosexually oriented people are to be legislated against, excluded, regarded with dark suspicion, ostracized and banned from marrying each other? Good grief! Why don’t we all just ban sexual orientation of any type?
Ed, there is a tiny sliver of public opinion that would abolish the institution of marriage were it within their power. Fortunately, it is not. The overwhelming majority of people have more sense than that. And that tiny sliver will probably do what they want, anyway.
I personally don’t know anyone who would open up marriage to include threesomes with pets. That’s silly. Anything done this century would undoubtedly be on the current pattern of two people, which is nearly universal. I say nearly universal because there are some societies where polygamy is still legal, just as it was a legitimate practice in Old Testament times.
There are some hard-core socialists who believe that marriage is inherently unequal, exploitative, and patriarchal. Some literal socialists would abolish marriage if they could, but fortunately they are not too close to winning any elections. And even in socialist countries, marriage is still between two people, not three or four.
I believe that there are different levels, or rings, of heaven. Homosexuals who live the homosexual lifestyle will not be in the innermost ring, but they will be in heaven in one of the outer rings which is still in heaven. I believe that when Christ talks about inheriting the Kingdom of God that it is this inner ring that he speaks of.
Example: If you went to a calculus class without learning and practicing and doing the areas of math that are the foundation of calculus you would be miserable in that class. You would be happier in another math class say Algebra because you know your basic math. I believe that heaven works much the same way.
What bothers me about this article is that it feels like you’re saying that even though I voted no on prop 8 I am discriminatory by virtue of the fact that I am a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka: Mormon). Gee. Thanks. We don’t tell people they’re going to hell, because they’re not, but there are certain standards God has set and you do your best to live them. We have practicing gay Mormons, why? Because they believe in the doctrine of the church. We have one such guy here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/01/mitch-mayne-gay-mormon-leader_n_945542.html
I agree that there are a lot of legal issues that need to be addressed so that homosexuals aren’t harmed under the law. It’s why I voted no on 8, but there’s no way I am going to try change the standards God has set.
Ruth, my main point was that evangelicals (and by extension, other folks whose churches are “notorious” for being anti-homosexual, whch includes the LDS, Roman Catholics, etc.) should not be surprised when people don’t believe them when they say they insist that they are not against homosexuals. Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and Mormons were the major contributors of money and volunteers in the Prop 8 campaign.
The LDS has failed to instruct stakes on how to deal with gay and lesbian members, but I know two parents with a gay son who were virtually frozen out of fellowship when their son’s orientation became known. The casual, persistent barrage of anti-homosexual comments from elders took a toll, as well. The suicide of Bryan Egnew this year (September 10, 2011) is just an example of what has happened to uncounted thousands of gay and lesbian Mormons over the years.
The following article is from PrideinUtah. [http://prideinutah.com/?p=11093]
Gay Mormon Excommunicated From His Church, Commits Suicide
North Carolina – 40 year old Bryan Michael Egnew spent the last decades of his life building up the courage to come out to his family and Mormon church. Once he did his life, family and religion were stripped away from him, and he committed suicide within a matter of weeks.
Growing up in the Mormon (aka LDS) Church as a gay man isn’t easy. The pain and guilt pile-on as for years you are hammered with lessons telling you that unless you live a perfect heterosexual life, marry in a Mormon Temple, and follow the Church’s laws perfectly, you run the risk of never seeing your family again after death. It’s a deep hole that many never escape from.
Unfortunately, we have lost another beautiful person to the man-made hell of depression, created when he tried to be honest about himself.
Bryan Michael Egnew went on a Mormon Mission when he was 19, was married in a Mormon Temple to his wife Amy and had 5 children. He served within his local Mormon congregation for years, and outwardly was everything a Mormon man was expected to be. But inside, Bryan fought a constant struggle over whether to continue pretending, or to be honest about himself.
One of Bryan’s friends, Jahn Curran, tells us that he has known Bryan since they attended college together at BYU. and like Bryan, Jahn was also hiding the fact that he was gay. Years later, Jahn would find the courage to come out of the closet, but Bryan was too afraid of what the consequences would be.
But last month, Bryan found that courage and came out to his family and his church. The results were tragic. According to Curran, his wife Amy immediately packed up their children and drove them out of state to Tennessee, refusing to let Bryan see them. His parents and family withdrew, and his Church immediately excommunicated him because he refused to denounce his sexual orientation.
PRIDEinUtah readers may remember our interview with Mitch Mayne, an openly gay man who currently serves in the bishopric of his local Mormon ward (as long as he remains celibate). His local church leaders are actually supportive of him speaking openly about the fact that he’s gay, and encourage his story to be told. Contrast that with the unfeeling heartlessness of Bryan’s leaders…. it’s a stark difference.
You see, despite the thousands of reported suicides among LGBT Mormons the Mormon high-leadership still refuse to put into place any official guidelines or provide training to local leaders on what to do when a person chooses to be honest about themselves. The result is the long trail of suicides of individuals who were left to face the wrath of local prejudices.
Bryan Egnew’s case is made worse by the fact that his family has tried to suppress and hide what happened and who Bryan was since the suicide on September 10th, 2011. His obituary made no reference to the fact that he was gay or the horror that his Church put him through in the last weeks of his life. His Facebook page was scrubbed of any mention of the truth and family members blocked anyone who might tell Bryan’s story.
How long will the Mormon Church continue to let their members die before they decide that LGBT people are worth being treated as equals?
Calls to the Mormon Church for comment have not been returned.
Ruth, voting is a good place to start, but if you want to do more, you might consider looking up Affirmation and investigate what you can do to influence your church.
Affirmation has a memorial page for suicides of LDS members. Over forty known suicides are listed at http://affirmation.org/suicides/
I like what I’ve seen of your blog, Ruth, how you share from your life with honesty, even painful honesty. Peace and long life.
-Jimmy Creech, former senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church, in Omaha, Nebraska has concluded that: “…there was no understanding of sexual orientation in the culture and time when scripture was written. There was not even a word for ‘homosexuality’ or ‘homosexual’ in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, the original languages of scripture. There are biblical references that condemn same-sex sexual behavior, but they are all within contexts related to violence, idolatry, promiscuity and exploitation. Careful reading within the historical setting reveals that it is the violence, idolatry, promiscuity and exploitation that is condemned, not the same-sex sexual behavior. The same condemnation is given to opposite-sex sexual behavior that is violent, idolatrous, promiscuous and exploitative.”
Yes. People need to know that translation is rarely a matter of a one-to-one correspondence.
From college onward I read that being a Christian did not require checking your brains at the door of the church upon entering. That is certainly true, but it is equally true that some denominations and some pastors can really only tolerate a small amount of independent thinking.
That’s where I always fall afoul of the Authorities–too much thinking.
I think by now you know my stance which is- God loves homosexuals. Hell, God loves everyone. Does that mean it’s auto-pilot to heaven? Doubtful, many, including atheists want nothing to do with a God inspired heaven and God certainly wouldn’t force anyone to spend eternity with Him. Since the fall, we live in an imperfect world that was originally designed to be perfect. As a result, the imperfect flourishes. I believe that Homosexuality is imperfect and like any every other “sin” is missing the mark- (Less than the perfect design God intended) “I strongly believe in the power of God to restore those who wish to hit the mark.” I believe it’s wrong to give comfort to others to remain in the imperfect when God not only desires, but has the power to transform humankind. I think the greatest challenge is to preach the power of this transformation in truth- faith. Lets take a wild leap, I wonder how many of your readers (IF, they believed God wanted it for them), would believe that God could actually perform it? (To change what we believe we were born as.) And remember the bible makes clear that all of us are born with a sin nature and act on it daily. For some, to believe that God really does have this power would take some serious soul searching. Especially if one were to act on this knowledge. Is homosexuality a choice? I am not a mind reader, psychiatrist, or one who calls up spirits for guidance, but “if” I believe that God is a just and loving God, I believe that He would not purposely create and then judge for Hell those who are by no fault of their own gay- Just as I don’t believe he would sent an infant to hell. That said, since I interpret the scripture as saying that “unrepentant” gay acts are sin (as are many other things) then God would be both unjust and schizophrenic, if homosexuality could remain a sin in ones life and yet give no notice to another, such as gossip. Will gays go to hell? As I’ve said before, thank God neither you nor I can make that decision. God doesn’t grade on the curve or in groups. His judgement is based on what He knows to be true about our hearts. The question remains- do we exercise faith or do we throw up our hands in defeat? Does believing these things make me unloving? Uncaring? Ungodly? Apparently so. Another thing I believe, is that we rob others of seeing and discovering God in their trials, by using means (including the bible), to assure them of something that we cannot personally shoulder the responsibility for, “especially if we are wrong.” The Word says that Gods laws are written on mans heart. As a confirmed sinner myself, my personal belief is that mine and the homosexuals heaviest struggle is mainly a soul issue, and not a societal one. So then if one were to take the leap and believe that homosexuality is not Gods perfect choice, then what are we left to do? Struggle. Struggle is what we are to do. We are to hate our sin. Despise our flesh. We are to desire the perfect and pray for the perfection of our flesh. Our Spirits constantly battle the flesh. I believe the real sin is to give into the sin, desiring the comfort of a life in the status quo. All of us Christians struggle and fall only to go onto struggling and falling for our entire lives. That is what the bible calls it “working out our salvation”. But there is no struggle if there is nothing to struggle against- that’s what the world has effectively done to itself. It’s convinced itself, that it’s feces smell great while walking around in a full diaper. I believe that every person who struggles-hates their sin and has entrusted their lives to Jesus is a person who is truly saved. It may seem the opposite but Struggle itself is the fruit of a believers life. Victory is just a breather before the next struggle. These things may not be your experience but they are mine and they and the Word of God are all that I have to go on. I would like to leave you with this scripture in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 (the key verse is 11) 9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Your remarks here seem to be somewhat tangent to the point Ron is making in his original post, or at least the point I think he’s trying to make. Ron described a variety of ways in which state power is used to harm, punish, discriminate against, or otherwise marginal gay people. These special laws targeting gay people do not protect people from harm and really are reaching beyond what it is appropriate for civil and criminal law to restrict. That can’t be considered a loving thing. That shows much purported “love” for gay people on the part of people who support these policies is not really love at all.
You claim that that the Scriptures teach us that gay sex is immoral and sinful. That might be true, but there is also a lot of evidence against that view. The point, really, is that this consideration is altogether irrelevant here. It is not appropriate use the apparatus of the state to regulate any kind of behavior we might consider immoral.
I would go further, though. It would be rash and unloving not to carefully consider whether or not it is true that gay sex warrants eternal damnation. Are you sure that this is the correct interpretation of the Scriptures? Have you studied carefully different views that people have taken on this subject? Have you weighed their arguments? Have you reflected on gay people and gay relationships? Have you listened their testimony about their lives and experiences? Can you articulate in a clear, intelligible, and persuasive fashion why gay sex is morally wrong and sinful? In detail, what about it hurts people and what alienates people from God about it? Or, could it be that sexual intimacy between same sex partners can be good and valuable thing? Before these questions have been considered, it is going too far to condemn gay people for their alleged wickedness.
As a gay man, it does not matter to me if any particular denomination does not want me. I have chosen to believe that there is no mediator between God and me but Christ. I do not depend on Michelle Bachman for my salvation, or Billy Graham or Rush Limbaugh or the Westboro Baptist Church or even the most liberal of theologians. I have to get up every morning and look at myself in the mirror. I have to live with the choices I make. I have to know who and what I am and determine how that will play out in terms of faith. I expect others to grapple with these things in their hearts. I expect none of us really “knows” what God thinks about any of this or if, indeed, God thinks about us at all. But we make choices about what we will believe and how we will apply the principles of our faith and/or philosophy to daily life. Those of us who prefer not to trust God to be a loving God, tend to try to curry his favor through strict legalism. Those of us who accept Christ’s idea that such a way of living is unproductive and harmful tend to believe that God is loving and, by the logic of love, we are all redeemed. All of you theologians can parse the Aramaic and the English translations of the Bible to your hearts’ content, but in the end, it is only how you live your own life in relationship to others that makes your experience on earth bearable or intolerable.
This is the United States of America and we currently enjoy freedom of assembly. All of you who believe that homosexuals are going to Hell have every right to join together in a church and worship all you like. Our constitution grants you that right.
But as U.S. Citizens, we are also guaranteed that each of us can pursue happiness and that we all enjoy the same civil rights. That this guarantee is not enforced when it comes to my civil rights is a reflection of a society torn between whether it accepts the U.S. Constitution as the law of its land or discounts that document in favor of popular opinion. We see that more and more, the courts are understanding the conflict here and ultimately the battle for equal rights for any group of people will be established and/or guaranteed by the courts.
There are some people in this nation who have chosen to place their religious denomination ABOVE the common law of the land as established in that Constitution. They claim that God’s law trumps human law. While they are free to practice that behavior in their own lives, when they try to FORCE me to believe as they do, when they try to make their religious beliefs the law of the land, then they are being a TRAITOR to our nation and its freedoms.
In a breath-taking act of hypocrisy, they claim that they are “saving” our nation and its principles by denying me my freedoms. And they do this in the name of God. Suddenly we have gone from a nation where freedom of religion was a jewel in the crown of Liberty to being a theocracy where Conservative Evangelical law rules.
On a whole you believe as the vast majority of Christians do, as well as most tea-party people as far as your political and constitutional beliefs (I’m sure you’re overjoyed)- minus at least one. It’s unfortunate that you miss the part about “context”. There was a common consensus about what marriage was when the constitution was founded. It didn’t need or warrant a separate subject line. It was strictly between a man and woman and the thought of, less even an open discourse in public, would have been anathema to our founding fathers. That is “context”. And that context was the context of America for centuries. Now that America is changing this whole subject is now open to thoughtful debate and public opinion. That is the beauty of the constitution.
But to expect that your views on marriage should be commonly “accepted at a moments notice” is “not reasonable or logical” especially within the “context” of where America was, as it heads to where America is going. Just as sodomy laws have fallen by the way-side. Equal employment, housing opportunities and so forth, you will have your victory, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
On another subject you said–“Those of us who accept Christ’s idea that such a way of living is unproductive and harmful tend to believe that God is loving and, by the logic of love, we are all redeemed.” You are speaking of universal salvation which was neither taught or even really hinted at unless, it is a severe twist the scriptures. Based on scripture, it is not a logical belief. It may be an Eastern religious philosophy, but certainly not a theme of something of so important a biblical truth, if it were to be true. Yes “Christ came to save the world and gave His life for it”. But remember that the world rejected Him. I do not believe that forced salvation or salvation by proximity- (because you are a son of Abraham) is taught anywhere in the bible. Can we at least agree on this? That it would not be called salvation if there was nothing to save someone from?
If I may say something here–Noel, I think you have overstated your case, here. There are scriptures which suggest the possibility of universal salvation, and it doesn’t take “a severe twist” to see it. Is salvation universal? That metaphysical knowledge is beyond me in any absolute sense. But I do take the following scriptures seriously. I believe that you have overstated your argument when you suggest that there is no hint of the idea of universal salvation.
For as in Adam all died, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but for the sins of all the world.
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah….
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Sin is not taken into account when there is no Law…. Law brings wrath, and where there is no Law there is no transgression…. Apart from the Law sin is dead…. You are not under Law, but under grace.
These verses are not conclusive, but there is adequate scriptural support for some Christians to believe in universal salvation.
Universal Salvation is not hinted at, it is a pie in your face misinterpretation of the scripture.
Yes, you’re correct there are a couple that minus a biblical understanding of context that would bring into doubt ones need to rely on Christ. It is a fools folly to rely on them. Question? Is this what you are saying? That Christ’s death was the vain attempt of a loving God and that all will be saved no matter?
For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(Seems like this is 2-part instruction is pretty clear. That and Christ’s instruction to Nicodemus that one must be born again.
The day’s are coming verse you quoted is hinted strongly in Jeremiah 31 as well as this verse is Hebrew, which in context clearly is speaking of End times Israel who will look upon the Son they crucified. Not for the unbeliever to carry as an E-ticket in his back pocket.
“The knee shall bow verses” clearly are directed to the judgement day as it speaks of those “under the earth.” Willingly or not every knee will indeed bow, and every tongue (atheists included) will confess that Jesus is Lord.
Since you quoted verses, let me quote this one.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Just who will be thrown into the lake of fire? Books and Book. Books (plural) will opened recording the deeds of ones names who were (not) mentioned in the book (singular) of life. Verse 15 is pretty self explanatory.)
Thank you for that beautifully stated article. I get so tired of church people who allow themselves to sound like they really love gay people when their churches show just the opposite. Of course since they are talking in generalities no one is at fault for the message that comes through underneath their “loving” words. Thank you for telling it like it is. Keep up the good work.
If a person genuinely believes that a practicing homosexual is going to hell (which many “Evangelicals” do), is it more loving to say “I think you are a nice person but you are going to hell” or to simply stand by and do nothing? I personally am not sure on this issue – I am a sinful person and do not claim to know the mind of God. It distresses me to consider the possibility that the homosexuals I know and love who consider themselves part of God’s kingdom are going to burn in hell. It equally distresses me if the evangelicals I know and love are condemning them wrongly. Either way, it isn’t loving to just stand back and let God decide. The result significantly impacts how I love my brothers and sisters. What distresses me most is that I find few people on either side genuinely willing to consider the views of people on the other side of this issue or to consider that their position might be flawed by their sinfulness. Both sides can’t be right on this issue and there really isn’t much room for compromise!
The problem with a pluralistic society is that you have to leave room for people to genuinely believe that what somebody else is doing is wrong (and talk about it), but let them do it anyway. Anything less than that is intolerant either to the beliefs of the person who believes the behaviour wrong or the rights of the person engaged in that behaviour. The first amendment right protects the people I disagree with as much as the people I agree with.
I think that saying, “I think you are a nice person, but you are going to Hell,” to a fellow Christian is a grievous insult to the power of Christ’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. Considering the diversity of theological positions in Christianity today and throughout history, the odds that I am significantly wrong, that you are significantly wrong, that Ron here is significantly wrong, are rather high. But we aren’t called to be right, we’re called to be God’s children, fellow-siblings with Christ, laboring under the law of love, not the law of death. We are covered by Christ’s grace and are all working out our salvation and studying to make ourselves acceptable. We still sin, still stumble, still make sometimes egregious errors in judgment, but Christ’s blood covers us. So, in this and many other instances, you need to do what you were called– love and bear witness– and leave the rest to the working of the Holy Spirit.
What I saw with my son was a quick, pre-emptive strike. Jonathan was told he couldn’t be involved in the church music program as soon as he came out to the pastor, and the advisor of his high school Bible club (of which he was president) again immediately suggested that he step down from leadership “for the good of the club.” Both authority figures acted to keep other people’s opportunities for discussion with Jonathan to a minimum.
And God dealt graciously with all involved: the pastor, the Bible club advisor, and Jonathan, who survived subsequent suicide attempts.
Evangelicals will continue to fight against gay rights only as long as they believe the Apostle Paul commands them to. It’s great that historical discoveries are now revealing that even Paul accepted homosexuals. After all, this is the only thing that will change their minds.
Evangelcal pastors tell their parishoners what the Bible says, and most evangelicals and fundamentalists just go along wth what they’re taught. Tens of thousands of pastors are not going to jeopardize their careers and their flocks because they hear of some new interpretation of Paul. Unfortunately, most won’t even investigate new understandings — they’ve already been innoculated by warnings about all the clever and diabolical Bible re-interpretation done by “pro-homosexual Christians.”
Ozvaldo, while individual pastors and parishoners can and do change their minds, the major thing that will significant shift the evangelical church toward love, justice, and acceptance regarding gays and lesbians is demographic. Statistics show that anti-homosexual sentiment decreases the younger people are.
I’ve got wonderful news for you. I know Michael Wood personally. I also know that his historical findings (not theological) were shared with pastors in Bowling Green, OH during their 2010 election season. Two anti-discrimination measures were up for vote. The pastors of the community formed a coalition to support the anti-discrimination measures, which were passed by the way!
We must move beyond the cynicism that older conservatives are somehow unreachable, unintelligent human beings. Just because they didn’t respond to old theological arguments doesn’t mean they don’t have the capacity to respond to documented historical reality. Thank God this isn’t the case!
The discovery isn’t based a new interpretation of Paul. It’s based on the convergence of two historical discoveries. One is the discovery of how the ancient Jewish nation divided the commandments of their law. The second is the discovery of how the Greek phrase ‘dikaiomata tou nomou’ was used in the first century. The convergence of these two verifiable findings empirically shows the church has misunderstood Paul for the last 2,000 years. A paradigm shift in Christianity could quite likely result from all of this because of the objective nature of the discovery. Certainly time will tell!
If you are wondering about all these paradoxes written in the Bible, I kindly suggest you read some of Chestertons greatest works. You can start with Orthodoxy. If you don`t know Chesterton yet, then mister you don`t know how much you are missing as a philosopher and general thinker.
Great article though, to some extent.
Cheers from Slovenija.
I have not immersed myself in G.K. Chesterton, but I have taken a dip, and he’s interesting. I also like what I’ve read of George Santayana, but my favorite philosopher-theologian-prophets are Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Soren Kierkegaard, John Dewey, Paolo Freire, and Friedrich Nietzche.
I just found this interesting Chesterton quote: “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”
Today I just thought… “let’s clearly speak here.” So I am going to do it.
Jesus and the Bible is against homosexuals and also against their sin, which is pure rebellion. He is against me, as I am homosexual, liar, slanderer, and a serial killer! The very “thought” is sin to Him! So, I am all that… ME MYSELF …and you dear reader too.
But I gauge my log out of my eye with HIS BLOOD and then I see your speck. Yes, your sin is a “speck” at His eyes. It is not that important. But sin is a LOG in my eye that will not let me see a thing in front of me. If you live in sin, you do not belong to God (that’s in John’s epistles, folks).
So, you get the log out of your eye through His blood!! He says to us all… “I died so that you do not longer live slave to sin, but alive in My freedom.”
Let’s not get back from this holy command. The unrighteous and evil will not inherit the Kingdom becouse it is self-sufficiency! Your sin permeates you in slavery and blindness. Your Bible and Jesus is clear about this, and it is a shame you twist this Salvation to get your way.
Love to you all in Jesus Christ,
Thank you for your loving concern, Samuel. I know that you are very concerned about our spiritual welfare, and that is a sign that God is working in your life.
Sam, if I am understanding you correctly, you just told us that you are a homosexual, a liar, a slanderer, and a serial killer. If this is literally true, then you are dealing with many difficult things. Please clarify it you are speaking literally, or are speaking spiritually and figuratively.
I think you are speaking figuratively and spiritually, however, because you say that all of us are homosexuals, liars, slanderers, and serial killers–in the eyes of God.
Sam, the sin you speak of permeates our flesh, period. The flesh (the carnal nature) cannot please God. Yes, we are to mortify the works of the flesh, but the flesh itself will only be completely destroyed when we die. It seems to me that you need to accept the fact that your life does not, and never will, seem perfect to you. Your flesh will cause you to stumble until the day you die. And God will, in the end, destroy the flesh.
You need to understand this, that your flesh will eventually be destroyed. But you are not your flesh. Look at these words of Paul, words that he emphasizes by writing them twice:
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Paul understood that sin as something separate from your actual self. It has an independent existence apart from you yourself. It is like a parasite, like a tapeworm. The flesh, that is, sin, can not please God. Never could, never will.
It is because sin within me is condemned, but not me myself, that Paul could say:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Samuel, even though this is one of Paul’s basic teachings, most people don’t understand it. Let me suggest that you work on this for a while, at least a year or two, before you start trying to figure out how it works in the lives of other people.
Until you’ve applied this basic spiritual truth to your own life for a long while, you really don’t know how to apply basic spiritual truths to other people’s lives.
Sam, let me suggest that you read the testimony of Ed Kelly, which I just posted. Also read the testimonies of Monique Lopez, LaNeece White, and Ted Hayes. Please read all of them before commenting on any of them. You need to listen to what actual gay and lesbian believers say about how God has worked in their lives before writing much more.
Um….. why do you call yourself “Bible Thumping”? Does that mean you actually just hit it? :0) Okay the reason I ask is that you go to all this trouble to write this well-written article, but you simply do not at all stick to the Bible. So what’s with that? Why don’t you call yourself “Bible Dissecting & Discarding” or something like that? Just asking. I”m not angry. I’m just wondering why you aren’t being factual. If you’re interested in what GOD has to say about homosexuality you can look at I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy I:10. Both of those are in the New Testament and God is making it very clear homosexuality is not okay. We are under grace, but that doesn’t mean God wants us to pursue doing those things He says are sin. He loves us all, but He wants to save us and then He’ll help us heal of whatever we need healing of. And yes, people need HEALING of homosexuality. Right here is where the rubber hits the road again…. cause if you’re not going to accept that God says homosexuality is sin then gee… why in the world would a gay need healing? I’m not into arguing so I’ll just finish what I have to say…. take a look at youtube by putting in the words – healed of homosexuality. You’ll find some testimonies. These kinds of stories are heavily suppressed by the media. Heavily.
My hope for you is that you’ll realize the Bible isn’t something we can pick and choose from. WE don’t get to decide who God is and what is what. He gave us free will to choose Him or not… we do make choices. But to follow God we lay down our lives and we live in Christ Jesus. It’s a choice.
I asked God years ago when I was much younger WHY homosexuality was wrong. I didn’t agree with people just hating people or suppressing people (for any reason) just because they were different. I actually got a quick answer… God showed me He could have created 3 sexes. He could have created one or 49 or 3,022. I mean come on… He’s God! The man/woman thing is His plan and He doesn’t want it perverted. Soooooooooooooo many people keep going on and on about how it’s wrong to not accept everything and how homophobic it is to say being gay (or rather living that lifestyle – they can be healed) is sin. Let’s just lay down our views and say “God, we belong to You, what would you like us to do and follow?”. God first.
And God wants us to love people, hate the sin. We don’t have to keep shoving it in people’s faces that it’s sin…. we need to let the Holy Spirit lead. Does this ring any kind of bell to anyone? Blessings, A in IL
Ali, you’ve written so much, it would take pages to give you an adequate reply.
Let me focus on your final lines. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is not a Biblical slogan.
Hate your own sin if you want, although I would hope that your experience of God’s grace would help you not wallow in crippling guilt.
The overwhelming testimony of the Greek scriptures is to love people, and to forgive them of their sins. Click the following links:
The Authority to Forgive Sins
Old Slogan: Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
Hi Ron. :0) No, I’m not wallowing in crippling guilt. Not even close. I’m free of condemnation and when I blow it… God helps me deal.
Love the sinner, hate the sin is a generalization of what the Word of God teaches.
Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Jude 1:23
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9
There are many other verses that teach a similar message. God doesn’t want His people wallowing in guilt…. He sets us free! Jesus paid for our sins, not only that, if you study sozo you know He paid for our wholeness.
God is full of love we can’t even imagine with our current limits…. and He loves those that don’t know Jesus yet, and yes, those who practice homosexuality. The Bible is simply clear that homosexuality is not God’s plan. There are some great testimonies at youtube of people being set free of it. I wish more people knew there is healing.
Should we love someone less because they are currently a practicing homosexual? How about a thief? Or a gossip? Or a rapist? Or someone full of pride? No. It’s really not all about the sin is it… it’s about JESUS. We need Him. We need salvation. Homosexuality, stealing, gossiping etc. are things He doesn’t want us to do… but He doesn’t say…. “Clean yourself up then come to Me.”. He just says “I am the Door. I love you. Come!”. The other stuff will get worked out in time.
There is a problem if people make up their own religion and don’t stick to the Bible. They they become their own god. But in reality… they cannot save themselves. I know there is a Satan… an enemy. We do need a Savior because the enemy introduced sin and death to mankind. I know God is real and I am HIs creation… His beloved daughter. I pray you and your family know the Lord too. He loves your socks off. Ali
You go for it, Ali–lots of agreement here. What we differ on, I’m not interested in debating. God’s best for you.