“Theology, not morality, is the first business on the church's agenda of reform, and the church, not society, is the first target of divine criticism” Michael Scott Horton
This post is a series of comments that touch on the issue of homosexuality and the church. By the end of the post, I think I will manage to upset just about everyone.
Good Christians support traditional marriage? Really?
I believe the church has communicated the definition of marriage in a most unbiblical fashion. How many times have you heard Christians say that marriage is between one man and one woman? Is this true?
In fact, a true Biblical understanding of marriage goes far beyond a definition of the gender of the individuals. In many Christian wedding ceremonies there is the lighting of two candles and then those two candles lighting one candle meaning that the two shall become as one. How does that happen? The union is completed with the help of the Holy Spirit, which resides in the hearts of the believers.
But, is this the case for those outside the faith? Although many weddings may occur in a church, many of the participants are not Christians in the evangelical sense of the word. God is not central to the marriage and the spiritual union, held together by the Spirit, does not occur as it would for Christians.
None other than CS Lewis recognized this fact. In his book, Mere Christianity, Book 3 Chapter 6 Link
“Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question — how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws.
A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives.
There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.”
So, here is a question. What exactly are we promoting in society when we give the perception that marriage is simply a contract between one man and one woman? Do we truly think that we are promoting a Godly view of marriage or have we cheapened it by our simplistic slogans?
Since Christians seem to be confused about the marriage issue, is it any wonder that those outside the church see things differently? Here is a harder question. The state of North Carolina (and others) gives rights to a partnership between an unmarried man and woman that has lasted for 7 years. There is no church involvement in this statute. What is the difference between that and recognizing, in a similar way, a partnership between two men? What I want here is a Biblical reason why one of these is wrong and one of these is acceptable to Christians? By acceptable, I mean that there do not seem to be Christians protesting unmarried partnerships between a man and woman so there must be some justification of this within churches. Why? Is one sin better than another?
The problem with the “blame the parents that their child is gay” approach.
As many of you know, my daughter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at the age of three. One of the most hurtful comments I received during that time was someone asking me what I may have done during the pregnancy that caused the tumor. Was she aware that parents always blame themselves when something happens to their children? Although I didn’t “do” anything, at least as far as I know, I always worried that I didn’t exercise more or get more rest, and on and on. That busybody had precious little concern for my pain and actually caused me to feel needlessly guilty as I dealt with my daughter’s life threatening illness.
Many people have said similar things to parents of gays. This is not only cruel but exhibits a stupidity about the complexities of sexual orientation. I think it runs even deeper into sin. What such an accuser is saying is “My kid is not gay so I did it right and you did it wrong.” In some subliminal sense it is a morally superior self “pat on the back.” It is also a way of communicating that some sins are worse than other sins. Warning to such people: “You best start looking at the log in your eye for both you and your kids.”
We should be supportive of parents who are struggling to accept their children. These children need to be loved and cared for even if they are not toeing the evangelical line. This is no different than being nice to Uncle Bernie who has divorced Aunt Sally to marry Bertha. Heck, there is a 50% divorce rate in the churches so this has become acceptable to cultured Christians. Such folks get to stay in the churches without much repentance being required. (Side note: I am not pointing fingers at those whose spouses have left them or abused them. I am talking about the serial marriages that I saw in mega Baptist churches in Dallas).
One woman commented the other day that she has a brother who is gay and that her children adore him. She truly loves him, and so do her kids. That is how it should be. But, there seems to be a stigma attached to truly caring for a person who has a different orientation.
Many in the Christian community have never been friends with people who define themselves as GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered)
I had a good friend for 2 years (we were neighbors and continue to exchange Christmas cards) and an uncle who are gay. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of dining with some Christian women. Several of them also had friends and neighbors who are gay. All of them expressed how much they enjoyed these folks.
Some Christians hide behind their churches, attempting to avoid people who are different. Little do they understand that there are people in their churches who are successfully hiding a number of issues, including same sex orientation.
Here is a question. How welcome do you think a gay person would be of he decided to attend a service at your church? Would you spend time talking with him and invite him to lunch with your Sunday school class? Would you give him a call and have a friendly lunch? If not, why not? In fact, have you ever spent time with a person who is gay? If not, why not?
The genetic question and SoulForce
I find it interesting that some Christians fear the possibility that gay sexual orientation will be found to be genetic. Frankly, it doesn’t change anything for those who adhere to Christian teaching.
About 5 years ago I visited Wheaton College and was present when Soul Force came to protest at the school. Here is how they define themselves. Link
“We recognize that oppression is most often rooted in religious belief and ideologies of power in which women, people of color and non-gender conforming (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer) people are subjugated and subjected to the violence of exclusion. You will find us most often in dialogue with religious leaders, denominations and institutions who discriminate in polity, policy or practice. We are committed to decriminalization of sexual minorities by all church and state sanctioned organizations worldwide.”
Wheaton, instead of closing down for the day as Liberty University did in the same situation, embraced the opportunity for dialogue, allowing them to visit classes, the cafeteria and then had a debate between professors and students at the school and members of SoulForce. It was a gracious atmosphere and a standing room only event. My hat's off to Wheaton for its response in this matter.
At the end of a debate, they chose about 10 questions from those submitted by the audience. My question, directed at a member of SoulForce, was selected.
“Many claim that same sex orientation is genetic. Does genetic mean that it is desirable? Many diseases are genetic: sickle cell anemia, cancer, schizophrenia, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, and some say even substance abuse has a genetic root. Please explain why a genetic causation would mean that homosexuality is positive.”
I forget the name of the man who answered but I know he was a graduate of Wheaton and was involved in a seminary in San Francisco. He did not appear comfortable with the question. He said that he did not feel that he could address the question since conclusive genetic evidence was not yet available. However, in his initial comments during the debate, he alluded to genetic causation.
Another question for SoulForce and some questions for me.
Later I bumped into a small group of folks from SoulForce. I found them engaging and willing to dialogue. My next question was a bit more difficult and they were kind enough to engage. One of the young women was involved in a committed, long-term relationship. She movingly expressed her deep and abiding love for her partner. She told me that she believed the Bible in all aspects except for the passages on homosexuality, which she believed were misinterpreted.
I asked her if she was sure that the passages on homosexual acts were the only ones with which she disagreed. When she reiterated in the affirmative, I queried, “Do you and the members of your church believe in abstaining from sex prior to marriage?” She was quite uncomfortable and agreed that most GLBT Christians do not adhere to that as well.
But, she countered with the fact that most heterosexual Christians mouth those verses but do not follow them as well. She went onto to point out the divorce rate in the church, accurately pointing out the hypocrisy of some of the Christians attack homosexual behavior.
I told her that she was absolutely, 100% correct about the hypocrisy of many in the church. I also asked her to forgive me for not starting my question with an acknowledgment of the failure of the church in these areas. The church must openly and honestly deal with our own issues as we seek to engage those who think differently. Our hypocrisy speaks loud and clear.
Wade Burleson wrote a deeply moving post about his own encounter with SoulForce. It is must reading. Here is a link to Miliitant Homosexuals: Loving Them to Christ Without Lambasting Then at Church.
Is it fair to condemn homosexuals to a life of celibacy?
Once again, this is an in-house debate. I do not, and cannot, expect that those who do not accept my view of Scripture to comply with it. In fact, without the conviction of Biblical truth and the help of the Holy Sprit, I think it would be pretty darn near impossible.
However, what do we, in the church, do with what we read in the Bible? I think we are not doing a good job at defining to the world and to the membership what life is all about.
Years ago, I dealt with the possibility of the death of my daughter. It caused me to look at the issue of fairness and the purpose of my life. Somehow, in this American culture, we are encouraged to go for the brass ring. We should be rich, happy, and fulfilled.
However, there was this thing called the Fall. Consequently, life is often filled with both pain and sorrow. Look at the lives of the saints in Hebrews 11. All of them suffered hardships. Is this fair of God to let His people go through such trials? How about Job? It appears that suffering is a given for most of God’s beloved.
What, in the eyes of God, is life all about? The Westminster Catechism states, “ What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
Man’s chief end is not to be happy, to have wealth or to even have lots of friends. Man’s chief end, in this life, is to seek after God. And, as one who has confronted terrible pain in her own life, I can say that pain causes one to seek God for the things this life cannot give.
No, it is not fair that my friend’s daughter is confined to a wheelchair. It is not fair that a beautiful, talented woman has never found a man to marry. It is not fair that people are born with genetic flaws which will cause them to have any number of diseases. It is not fair that children are born into abusive homes or into families who are impoverished.
Life is hard for most people and the only consolation we have is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins and the hope of ultimate joy for eternity. This life will always disappoint us and the church must stop presenting Jesus as the ultimate sugar daddy who exists to make us happy. We cheapen the Gospel with such promises.
Instead, the church should be the Fellowship of the Wounded who love and care for one another until that day we go home.
Finally, we need to educate ourselves about the issues surrounding homosexuality
There are a lot of people who think that all one has to do is to accept Jesus and that He will “make” a person become heterosexual. There are far too many people out there who think that God instantly will make things “all better.” He doesn’t. Think of the Apostle Paul who suffered with his unidentified “thorn in his side.”
There are ministries, which work with GLBT people, but it is important to note that many people who claim to be “ex gay” have struggled, fallen and many have returned to the gay lifestyle. Some have successfully changed their orientation but many have not. The church is called to stand alongside these brothers and sisters, offering grace, encouragement, support and understanding.
Exodus International is a Christian group, which is dedicated to helping those who wish to leave their current lifestyles as GLBT. Here is link.
There is another website called Beyond ExGay. This site shares stories of those who tried to become “exgay” through churches and failed. They have rejected the faith and have returned to their former lifestyles. Their stories are sad yet they are helpful in understanding their struggles through their eyes. Here is a link to one such story.
I hope the questions that I raised will spur many of our readers to consider how we should minister to those who consider themselves GLBT. The questions are many and the answers are not easy. I pray for the grace of God in our lives as we minister to and form friendships with those who are GLBT. And may we confront the hypocrisy in our churches before we point out the sins of the world.