November 19, 2017

In the gay ol’ summertime

In The Gay Ol’ Summertime
Gay America has left the closet, and they won’t be going back.
by Michael Spencer

It’s the summer of “Queer Eye For the Straight Guy” and “Boy Meets Boy.” It’s the summer of debating gay marriage in the media and opinionating about newly elected gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church. It’s the summer of no more sodomy laws in Texas and a new gay marriage law in Massachusetts. It’s the summer that cable, Canada and the courts showed up at the gay acceptance party and the rest of us were invited to grab a partner and dance. It’s the summer my son started using the word “gay-dar” and I understood him completely.

It was the Supreme Court’s striking down of a law against sodomy that kicked off the party. Conservatives and traditionalists reacted strongly to the Texas sodomy ruling, but that reaction quickly began to look like the last tantrum before the inevitable incoming tide of gay acceptance. Many conservatives wouldn’t say it, but they agreed with Jonah Goldberg: some kind of compromise on gay issues seems inevitable, because conservatives have not succeeded in reasoning the culture out of accepting gay sex or tolerating gay marriage. At the same time, gays have found ways to be reasonable enough to be partially accepted by mainstream culture, even if their fringe representatives are still pretty offensive to “Bubba” in Texas. Jonah suggested gay marriage was eventually going to be a state-by-state matter, and he was one conservative who could live with it, and actually preferred to live with it rather than fight through an acrimonious and unwinnable culture war. A lot of young conservatives, who spent years watching “Will and Grace” and wondering if they were being uncompassionate for being against gay marriage, nodded in agreement.

Evangelicals, who were used to the amusements of annual pro-homosexual campaigns at the conventions of the mainline denominations, initially had some reasons to think the tide had finally turned their way. Evangelicals in the PCUSA seemed to have won the day on the question of ordaining gay clergy, as changes to the denomination’s constitution were rejected soundly in the presbyteries, and a high-profile gay ordaining pastor was removed from his church. Yet, as I write, the Episcopal church has accepted an openly homosexual as a bishop, and there is a nagging sense that after the inevitable denominational schisms of evangelicals and liberals over the issue of homosexuality, the issue will not be going away. There has been a shift in attitudes on the part of millions of Americans, and while it may not be in the direction of standing and applauding the election of V. Gene Robinson to the miter, it is not in the direction of Fred Phelps or Pat Robertson either.

Americans–including lots of Christians–are making their peace with the issue of homosexuality. Not so much out of conviction as confusion, and just plain weariness. We are tired of this, and from war-weariness, surrender sometimes comes. Or at least, retreat.

Southern Baptists, always unafraid to articulate their views on homosexuality, markedly changed strategy and began talking loudly about ministry to homosexuals. Someone in the main office seems to have realized that the winds of cultural perception have changed, and the SBC was sounding bigoted, even if they were simply being faithful to Biblical truth. The “same old, same old” began to sound more hostile than principled, and new partnerships with ministries to homosexuals like Exodus generated a new tone. Without compromise, the note was now compassion and acceptance, and not just finding a hill to die on in a battle with the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. For every interview with Al Mohler, there was also an invitation for gays to come to church and not just picket outside.

The Supreme court ruling against sodomy laws in Texas surprised and shocked evangelicals. How could a basically conservative leaning court undercut the basis of any law based on what Christians felt was obvious morality? Pundits and preachers proclaimed the eventual demise of laws against incest and other supposed taboos. When the wailing faded, the news of gay marriage becoming legal in Canada and the impending approval of gay unions in Massachusetts remained. Polls showed a momentary spiking in attitudes against gay sex and gay marriage, but gay advocates were not discouraged, and they shouldn’t be. Advocates like Richard Goldstein from the Village Voice wisely counseled that progress made would always be progress threatened. It wasn’t the snapshot that mattered, but the movie, and the movie was going their way.

Even as gay supporters contemplated a backlash, it was apparent to many that the President’s call for a marriage amendment was not a counter-attack as much as a proposal for some kind of peace. Something–civil unions or whatever they may be called–will emerge in a newly gay tolerant America in recognition of the persistence of one side in the face of the anger of the opposition. Pope John Paul II’s reminder that the Roman Catholic Church will always be against homosexual behavior and gay marriage seemed to be more of an announcement of where the line was drawn than a battle cry in an anticipated victory.

Nowhere is this cultural shift more obvious than in the arrival of gays on television. It was Billy Crystal who portrayed the first openly gay character on TV, but we had been laughing at Liberace, Rip Taylor and Paul Lynde for years, knowing good and well what was going on. When Tom Selleck kissed Kevin Kline in “In and Out,” I thought the stereotypical portrayal of homosexuals was offensive. Now television revels in such portrayals, giving us flaming gay hosts on HGTV and gay interior decorators on redecorating shows. But nothing can compare to the assertion of a new view of gayness into the American mind than “Queer Eye On The Straight Guy,” a cable show that has nothing whatsoever to do with sex.

“Queer Eye” plays the stereotype of the fashionable gay man to the hilt, letting five hip and funny gay men with various fields of worldly expertise remake a hapless straight square’s world. With the “Queer Eye” Fab Five working their magic on clothes, home decoration, food, personal appearance and manners, the straight guy frequently ends up breaking down in tears of gratitude. (Who knew we were such barbarians?) The show is original, hilarious, interesting, informative, fun to watch and devastating to the typical conservative stereotypes of homosexuality. You want these guys as your friends. You want them to remake your world into theirs. You like them; you really like them. Are they normal? Moral? Who cares? They are cool, happy, witty, caring and having loads of fun.

I can’t help but say, “Evangelical Christian Eye on the Unconverted Guy” won’t be making a debut anywhere in the near future. And we all know why, for reasons good, bad and ugly. Being positively perceived by the culture shouldn’t be all that important to us, but the fact that these gay men actually come in as servants, and change attitudes simply by being helpful, cannot help but impress a Christian. Everything that is wrong with the “we’re in your face” approach of promoting gay causes is set aside on “Queer Eye,” where these guys are likable, hardworking, articulate, bright and successful–and willing to help people improve their lives, and then truly empathize and celebrate with them.

It is not hard for me to see how the new acceptance of gay America is progressing. Working with young people, I can tell you that a certain amount of revulsion and prejudice against gays is still out there in youth culture, particularly among young men. But attitudes are changing rapidly, particularly as most gays work at presenting themselves in ways that have nothing to do with sex. No one cares that Jodie Foster is probably a lesbian, because she never talks about it. Michael Stipe is as popular as ever, because he still sings R.E.M. songs. Did it really matter that Rich on “Survivor” was gay? As gay Americans present themselves as simply people, young men and women accept them, and increasingly say, “I don’t agree with their lifestyle, but I don’t believe they should be discriminated against or mistreated.”

To understand how this new approach both elevates gays and portrays traditionalists as bigots, listen to blogger Andrew Sullivan, writing about the death of Father Mychal Judge on 9-11, the war on terrorism and the opposition of the religious right.

Then there is Father Mychal Judge, an openly gay Catholic priest who served the men and women of New York’s Fire Department. Revered by a macho subculture, fearless and strong, a man of faith and fervor, Father Mychal died in the flames of the World Trade Center doing what he has always done – tending to his flock in need. He is not a gay hero. He is an American hero who was also gay. And when this is over, let those in the Church who have done so much to create pain and hurt among good gay men and women who love their faith and serve their world, let them take stock and change their hearts. May they see that there is no contradiction between being gay and Catholic; in fact, may the Church hierarchy finally see that such people are now and always have been an integral pillar of faith and hope in the world. Father Mychal was a giant among them. We shall remember him as well.

For of all wars, this is surely one in which gay America can take a proud and central part. The men who have launched a war on this country see the freedom that gay people have here as one of the central reasons for their hatred. In their twisted perversion of Islam, these monsters believe that gay men and women deserve to be tortured and executed in hideous fashion. They murder and muzzle women; they despise and murder Jews; they demonize gays. We have rightly seen how Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have destroyed themselves by their hatred in this moment – and we can take solace that America has repudiated their poison. But let us also remember that the men who committed this atrocity make Falwell and Robertson look mild in comparison. They are the Religious Ultra-Right, and they have already murdered us. Given the chance, they would wipe gay people from the face of the earth. To respond to that threat by cautioning peace or surrender or equivocation is to appease men who would destroy every last vestige of gay America if they could. Gay Americans should not merely support this war as a matter of patriotism and pride; they should support it because the enemy sees us as one of their first targets for destruction. These maniacs despise our freedom; they loathe our diversity; they have contempt for our culture. There is no gray here. There is simply a choice: to cower and run in fear of these monsters or to stand up with every other segment of this country–of every race and creed and gender and sexual orientation–and defeat these messengers of hate in the hope of a brighter, integrated day.

Of course, I can hear my friends literally falling over with disgust at Sullivan’s mischaracterization of traditional Christian opposition to homosexuality as the moral equivalence of terrorism, but what matters is the effectiveness of Sullivan’s rhetoric in the movement from a 911 hero who just happened to be gay, and the opposition of religious people to gay insistence on rights and freedoms. It is this kind of rhetoric that is making substantial progress in America, and that is putting evangelicals into the fog. Young people may still register poll numbers disapproving of gay sex and gay marriage, but from the death of Matthew Shepherd to the mistreatment of kids they know who are “different,” young people are far more sympathetic than their parents and grandparents to steps like a school for gays in NYC, premised on protecting young gays from mistreatment. While conservatives howl at the hypocrisy and outrageous premises of such a move, young people themselves will be much more supportive of the right of gays to live normal, accepted and unhassled lives. It is interesting that Bravo recently admitted that “Queer Eye’s” advertising was not aimed at gays, but at straight young adult and adult women, the most sympathetic of non-gay audiences

My own response is typical, in many ways, of others of my generation and place in evangelicalism. Growing up, what I heard of homosexuality was predictably anecdotal and ridiculing. The teasing of boys as “gay” always seemed cruel to me, and it was easy for my to identify with kids with were ostracized for no reason other than not being sufficiently “male” in an adolescent jungle. In college, when I actually came to know self-identified gays, I came to have two reactions. One was pity for the troubled young men I knew who were miserable with their desires, and would desperately seek deliverance when Christians glibly promised that a prayer would make one into a new creature. The other was discovering that the two old men who ran the college library and the young men who identified themselves as gay were not dangerous or alien, but much like the rest of us. All the while I was becoming a good conservative evangelical fundamentalist, I was also angered by the particular animosity aimed towards homosexuals themselves.

I had friends who feared homosexuals as predators, but I could never understand such a reaction, because I had never experienced sexual abuse of any kind. As I developed a more mature theology, I could not see the condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible apart from the general condemnations of all kinds of sexual immorality. Isolating texts against homosexual sin from the general teaching of the Bible in Hebrews 13:4 that said all sexual expressions outside of heterosexual marriage or celibacy were sinful seemed wrongheaded and wrong hearted. Paul’s use of homosexuality in Romans 1 as “exhibit A” for human depravity just seemed to be using the most obvious case, not the worst sin in the catalog of human wretchedness. While gay Christian apologists were clueless about rightly interpreting the Bible, I never found their defense of their sin particularly more offensive than any other groups defense of their favorite vice, including building a gym for our kids rather than a church for the poor in India.

In other words, evangelical scapegoating of homosexuals was easy, given the stridency and stupidity of homosexual apologists and advocates, but such scapegoating was just as flawed, and I could find no place in the teaching of Jesus for believing he would view a repentant or unrepentant homosexual any different from any other repentant or unrepentant sexual sinner. Paul seemed to follow the same approach. While many of my evangelical brethren found it easy to say hateful and horrible things about homosexuals, such ugliness always angered me. How can I speak about sin meaningfully when my words were tinged with particular venom for homosexuals, and my own sexual sins were just as rankly offensive to God?

Of course, much that evangelicals have said about homosexuals has been true to scripture and true to reality. Even among those who knew that it was easy to raise money and expand audiences by preaching against homosexuality, there was much said that needed to be said. Ministries such as Exodus and Crossover endured enormous negative press and were classified as abusive cults by many in the secular media and the homosexual community. Strong opponents of homosexuality could also show tremendous love and patience in the face of the worst kinds of hate spewed by militant homosexuals. The evangelical record contained many good points, as well as many failures.

I will also admit that I have some sympathy for the contention that homosexuals–particularly male homosexuals–are “born that way,” or have genetic components to their orientation. My three decades of ministry with teenagers has convinced me that homosexuality may be a simple choice, as in the case of most lesbians, or a very complex matter involving genetic predisposition, psychological damage to a sense of healthy maleness, and strong social forces that promise identity and fulfillment through experiencing the true sexual self. None of these factors have anything to do with the morality of sexual behavior, because all fallen human beings are complex in their makeup and motivations. But my experience of Christian rhetoric against homosexuality features a consistent assumption that homosexuals choose to be the way they are, and while I agree that behavior is chosen, I do not agree that every element in the homosexual orientation is chosen, or that the orientation can be easily changed.

While I know some VERY angry gay activists who hate Christians, my overall impression of homosexuals is forever colored not by those angry activists, but by the unhappiness and misery I have seen in many of those I have counseled. Of course, gay advocates say such misery is a result of society’s intolerance, and I do not doubt that some of that analysis is true. But the misery goes deeper. It is a deep-seated wrongness with the basic template of human nature, family and sexuality. No matter how much or how many human beings find ways to embrace their sinful condition, there is always a certain moral revulsion and discomfort that cannot be subdued. While this reaction can be numbed and abused into submission, I have come to believe that most of those who are truly homosexual in inclination know a kind of wretchedness and self-loathing that is particularly terrible. I have been able to find substantial compassion and mercy in my life for my fellow human beings who either struggle with or embrace this particular manifestation of alienation and rebellion against the Creator. As a Christian, it has not been hard to see homosexuals as among those outsiders and untouchables Jesus would care about. “Who condemns you?….Go and sin no more.” says an enormous amount about how I believe Jesus addresses homosexuals today.

So what are evangelicals to do now? Is it inevitable that we must accept homosexual behavior and marriage? Will the culture continue to successfully portray Bible believers as Nazis and monsters who want to kill gays? Are militant homosexuals so bent on the destruction of straight society that we must treat them as enemies and threats to our homes and children? Will efforts to show the compassionate concern of Christians in the Southern Baptist Convention make a difference? Can evangelicals find a way to talk about homosexuality that doesn’t leave millions of their own feeling uncompassionate and hypocritical?

Here are my suggestions for the next chapter of the story. I doubt if anyone will agree with everything I say, but hopefully you will agree that I am trying to find that path of joyful, truthful faithfulness that caused people to come to Jesus, and not just to be offended and turn away. We must continue to be truthful, but we must substantially change in our Christian response to homosexuals.

The Bible’s message on sexuality must be heard in entirety and in its inclusion of all of us in guilt and grace . It appears to me that evangelicals and pro-gay liberals have both isolated texts for their own purposes, rather than see the Bible’s message on sexuality in the biggest possible picture. Sexuality is humanity. God created us as sexual beings and our sexuality reflects both the best about us and, as a result of sin, the worst about our possibilities. Throughout human history, sex has inspired beauty and cruelty, selflessness and selfishness. Therefore the Bible is remarkably frank about sexual matters, and doesn’t hesitate to put the beauty of the sexual relationship in its most elevated language, and also state the ugliness of what we have done with such a gift in a chapter like Leviticus 18.

So we must hear it all. Who we are. Who made us this way. How sexuality reflects God and defines us. How far we all have fallen. No part of the Bible is less adaptable to culture and more universally descriptive than its teaching on sexuality. In scripture, holiness and happiness are not possible if we do not hear and live out passages such as…

Genesis 1:27-28 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…

Ephesians 5:31-32 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Hebrews 13:4 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

That these passages do not endorse homosexuality or homosexual marriage is beyond dispute. Gay advocates know they must resort to serious reinterpretation of the Bible to sustain any semblance of a Biblical case. What seems to be heard so seldom is how these passages call ALL OF US, no matter who we are, to an understanding of sex that is tied to our worship of God. It is the image of God, the mystery of Christ and the holiness of God that are at stake. Not my desires and preferences.

Gay advocates apparently believe that gay sex can be sanctified to fit within this picture, and to be a God-glorifying, God-honoring act. It is impossible. We must never hesitate to plainly, and sadly say this, even as we confess that we are guilty of the same betrayal of the intention of God.

At the same time, it couldn’t be clearer in scripture that all sexual sin violates this intention. Adultery. Lust. Immorality of any kind. There is no such thing as “heterosexual righteousness.” We are idolaters if we insinuate anything of the kind. There is only the righteousness of Christ. Can any passage be more clear about this than Paul’s words to the Corinthians about what the righteousness of Christ had rescued them from:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 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.

Here, standing in the same place before God’s truth, are homosexual sinners and straight sinners, homosexuals and the greedy, homosexuals and the rebellious, homosexuals and the dishonest. If we ever imply, for any reason, that homosexuals are more sinful than we are, we are lying. If we ever imply that homosexual behavior is not sinful, we are also lying. I appreciate those pro-gay scholars who have pointed out the sins of Sodom in Ezekiel 16:49-50 “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” Now, if I can see that these people were sinful for greed and pride, like I am, can my homosexual friends honestly admit what “did an abomination” means in this context?

I have absolutely no problem with any person coming to Christ saying, “I am a sinner, and I need a great Savior,” when one of those sins is homosexual behavior. If he credibly professes faith in Christ, and desires to be a part of the church that he might follow Christ as his disciple, I would receive him. If his intention was to live a life of celibacy, I would rejoice and assist him. If he asked for acceptance of himself as a person who struggled imperfectly in this area, I would pray for him and ask him to pray for me as the same. I would not hesitate to call such a person a fellow Christian and he would in no way be disqualified from serving Christ in ministry, if the church chose to call that person to ministry.

But if that person openly refused to acknowledge the truthfulness of God’s word about sin and sexuality, I would not receive him, and though I cannot put myself in the place of God to announce he has no saving faith, I would warn him that the Word of the Lord cannot be cast aside for ANY reason, including prevailing views of compassion or social justice or that idol called “progress.” Just as I must live under the constant grace of God as a sexual sinner, called to marriage or celibacy, so must they, if they are to follow Christ. We are all the same, and there is no righteousness in either homosexuality or heterosexuality when sinners are involved. When pro-homosexual Christians place themselves in a special category of victims who are somehow exonerated from the holiness and obedience God commands from all those who belong to Christ, they make a terrible mistake, for it appears that in the case of many pro-homosexual activists in the church, they are living out the situation Paul addressed in Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” Their insistence on coming to Christ and holding onto their sin simply cannot square with Biblical faith.

Then what about homosexuality in the culture? Here I will contend that American Christians have repeated a strategic error that has plagued their history: the tendency to get involved in moralistic crusades that drown out the clarity and the universality of the Gospel and distort Christians themselves.

Cultural conservatives rightly point out that agenda homosexuals are out to remake society and recruit children. They must be fought. No doubt. I agree, but in much the same spirit I have put forward elsewhere regarding Islam, I would urge my fellow evangelicals to remember that those radicals are a distinct minority. I know these people well, and though they are dedicated zealots, they cannot win. I agree they must be challenged and fought in the public arena when they seek special status or to influence public morals and education. As far as public policy goes, they must be defeated as a social and political force.

At the same time, we need to realize that scripture does not picture the church opposing public immorality primarily through political means. In our system of elected government and constant campaigning, we tend to forget that the early Christians lived in a highly immoral society where they did not have access to the controls of power and public policy other than through conversion. The early Christians did not picket or protest. They witnessed, prayed, worshiped, and lived holy lives. Some of that witness influenced society, but in general, society went its Godless way. If there were to be a large-scale alteration of public morals, it would be through the power of the Holy Spirit, not by an imperial edict or judicial ruling.

The question tends to become something like this: What would Jesus do? Would he, if he could have influenced laws and elections, have devoted significant energies to political means of improving public morals? My answer is simple. I think Jesus would have done what any person could do within his time and place to provide safety, security and morality. But I do not think Jesus would have taken on political causes, because they do not promote what changes hearts and lives eternally or individually.

I have an old friend who is a liberal activist. He once said that if Jesus were here today, he (Jesus) would be organizing to raise the minimum wage. With all due respect, such a view of Christ takes the truth of justice taught in the Bible and uses it to promote whatever the agenda of the moment might be and identifies the Kingdom of God with the talking points of politicians. It is like Hillary Clinton saying the parable of the good Samaritan was an endorsement of her health care plan. I do not believe Jesus was a political organizer, and scripture is well aware that there were many who wanted him to be. That does not mean he approved of the status quo. It simply means that the way of Christ is not identical with the way of the political activist.

I think that Jesus’ view of society would grow out of his view of our individual alienation from God. An ethic of love might demand a diversity of responses to that alienation, but can there be any doubt that Jesus would not mistake ANY aspect of our lost condition–sexual depravity, poverty, war, ignorance–from the root cause and remedy of that alienation?

I think it is very significant that Jesus lived his life surrounded by social problems and ministered to those problems, yet he never held out any hope for the substantial eradication of those problems apart from the Kingdom of God. It was Jesus who said the expensive ointment was best spent on honoring him rather than on the poor, who would be in the world “always.” This is the same Jesus who commanded we treat the poor as if they were Christ, and who called a rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Throughout the New Testament, Christians exemplify radical kinds of love and service, but not as political activists. It is always in witness to Christ and his Kingdom. So there seems to be a difference in the way Jesus views the actions of a believer and the possibilities for a political utopia.

Including conservative utopias where the homosexual agenda is never heard from again.

I think this puts moralizing crusades into a very negative light. It appears to me to commit the church to a course of action that it knows must ultimately fail. While there may be some perceived and real short-term benefits to seeking to pass laws that restrict some behaviors of homosexuals, the ultimate effect may be to impede the hearing of the Gospel by those who need it. This really matters to Christians, or should matter. In other words, we cannot preach Good News to people if they perceive us primarily as their political and personal enemies. Clearly, whether it is rhetoric or reality, many homosexuals believe that Christians want to imprison or harm them. This may be ludicrous, but it is not baseless. Many Christians are crassly political and hostile in their opposition to the gay agenda, and to gays as individuals.

I am even more concerned, however, by the effect of these crusades on Christians themselves. Allowing or excusing virtually unchecked hostility toward homosexuals as a group has created what can only be called genuine evil among some Christians. I am constantly surprised at how many Christians will speak of homosexuals in the most hateful and prejudicial manner, and feel they are being “Christian” in doing so. I’ve experienced Christians being shocked when I asked them to not speak about “shooting fags.” I have heard many defenses of the killing of Matthew Shepherd as “he deserved it.” This is, of course, not a majority of Christians by any means, but it is an indication of a kind of ugly, group-thinking prejudice that is unleashed on those we perceive as opposing us. Jesus’ words on loving our enemies and the power of a witness who is willing to be kind rather than vengeful, seems very far away, indeed.

Therefore, I would suggest that we take no more interest in what homosexuals do in their private lives than in what any other sinner does, and that we not distinguish ourselves by obsessing on the various homosexual agendas.1 As voters, we must do what we think is best by Biblical standards. As parents, we must counter what our kids hear and see on television or at school. As people living in a Godless culture, we must teach the meaning and reality of Romans 1. But homosexuals are no worse sinners than ourselves. Homosexuality has not outpaced heterosexuality in the depravity department. That homosexuals have developed political skills and know how to win the propaganda battle means we must respond, but we can’t afford to become “haters” when our Savior so clearly sends us out to love these very people. The fact that they are on TV is a fact to be dealt with. It is not any more corrupting than a commercial for a credit card. Shouting matches are not our calling. I can’t help but think our response as Christians must include much, much more love, and apparently, a willingness to suffer from the wounds of our own kind, if we are going to genuinely accept and include our gay friends and family.

What about the issues of the day? We must oppose gay marriage, and that is clear because marriage is a picture of Christ. But I do not oppose some form of civil unions or secular recognition of partners, and in fact, I would welcome any measure that says society would be benefited if gays would embrace a more open, responsible and public monogamy. I am one of those conservatives who thinks this works against the agenda of the radicals, and not for it as some have suggested. Our principled opposition to gay marriage ought to be one form of confessing how unworthily we as Christians have treated marriage itself. As it is, our own shabby example of marital fidelity makes us unlikely defenders of something some gays have carried through better than many Christians.

We must also oppose gay ordinations, not because Christ doesn’t receive or ordain sinners, but because marriage and celibacy are beautiful pictures of Christ, and a practicing homosexual cannot present that picture any more than I can, unless he or she is willing to submit to Christ in all things–including the Bible’s clear and repeated words on homosexuality.

Some have suggested that the current “in your face” approach of gay activists will produce a backlash in public opinion and opposition. That is certainly possible, but Christians cannot afford any more emotional responses. We must finally settle down to a Biblical, Spirit-controlled and Christlike response to these difficult issues. We must thoroughly abandon the idea that we are right with God because we oppose any person’s sexuality. We must find a way to be one beggar telling another beggar where there is bread. Our deep disagreements with those who seek to establish an identity by way of sexual expression must bring about a response that shows who we know ourselves to be–truly repulsive to God now and always–but that also shows the wider mercy of a God who loves such people at the greatest cost to himself.