December 15, 2017

A Conversation We Must Have

Exit Sign, Hyatt Moore

By Chaplain Mike

Thanks for a great discussion, everyone. To be continued… Comments are now closed.

I have avoided this for a long time, but at some point, we are going to have to talk about it.

I haven’t wanted to bring it up because, like most hot-button issues, trying to have a conversation about this subject usually only leads to arguing and fighting, with those on the extremes yelling the loudest and drowning out voices that want some space and time to work through their thoughts and feelings. When people are screaming at each other from opposite sides of the room, it’s hard to sit in the middle and discuss something calmly.

What prompts me to bring up this subject? There is a new book that has been getting a lot of press lately. This book discusses the American religious scene, where we’ve come from and where we find ourselves now. It is called, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell. One of its findings was summarized in an article by Anthony B. Robinson with these words:

“Religious Right Drives Young from Churches.”

Based on their research, Putnam and Campbell found that in the past several years there has been a significant decline in religious participation among younger Americans (those who have come of age since 1990). About 30% of them are now classified as “nones”—people claiming no religious affiliation. Folks, these are my children (my youngest was born in 1990), so this finding got my attention immediately.

What lies behind this shift? The research supporting the findings of American Grace led its authors to conclude that the “culture war” approach and conservative political agenda of evangelicalism over the past 30 years has turned young people off and prompted them to walk away from church. And the one issue that has been particularly troublesome for them is the church’s attitude toward homosexuality.

Robinson reports the authors’ findings:

“The association between religion and politics (and especially religion’s intolerance of homosexuality) was the single strongest factor in this portentous shift.”

…this trend is most evident among those coming of age in the 1990s. While some of the twenty-somethings do hold deeply conservative views, as Seattle has seen with the growth of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland and Mars Hill, a majority of the Millennial generation are liberal on most social issues, particularly homosexuality. According to Putnam’s research, the percentage of twentysomethings who said homosexual relations were “always” or “almost always” wrong plummeted from about 75 percent in 1990 to 40 percent in 2008.

This is significant. Our young people are telling us that we have been wrong with regard to homosexuality. Perhaps they are seeing this in the same terms as my generation saw the civil rights movement—when we told our parents and grandparents that they had been wrong to exclude a group of people from full participation in society. Our children, now young, idealistic adults as we once were, are making their dissatisfaction known by the sound of their footsteps walking out the church door. Nearly a third of them—a third of them!—have decided that church and religious practice is not for them.

I’m not here to make any pronouncements today. I’ve just written this to say to all of us, “We’re going to have to learn how to talk about this issue, which is apparently front and center on their radar.” We have to figure out a way to think, pray, and act like Jesus with regard to our homosexual neighbors. I’m not saying we need to come to an answer that will make everyone happy. But I think findings like those recorded in American Grace must get our attention, drive us to our knees, and get us talking with one another.

Frankly, I don’t have an answer that I’m satisfied with right now.

  • The more conservative among us focus on truth, and want to make sure we all understand the issues involved. They are concerned about sin and what they perceive to be the clear teaching of Scripture advocating sexual purity and the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. They see any concession in this matter as moral compromise and disobedience to a holy God. They advocate for the church to be a strong, unyielding prophetic voice of truth and moral sanity in a world (and a church) that they see coming apart at the seams as it denies and transgresses the most fundamental boundaries established by natural and biblical theology.
  • On the other hand, the more progressive among us express a greater concern for love and relational integrity. They emphasize Jesus’ radical attitudes of hospitality and the inclusion of sinners. They point out that the church has mercilessly shunned and condemned homosexuals in the past, and recommend instead that we get to know them as our neighbors and build new bridges of understanding and acceptance. Even those who think the practice of homosexuality is not God’s original design are willing to set that position to the side for the sake of reaching out and befriending those in the GLBT communities. Others have become convinced that the Biblical injunctions were designed to speak against idolatrous or abusive practices only, and not the lifelong monogamous unions that some gays are seeking to establish today.

This issue is dividing churches and entire denominations today. Apparently, the young adults in our midst have much different perspectives and feelings about it than those from older generations. Because “coming out” has been more prevalent over the past twenty years, young people are more likely to have openly gay friends and acquaintances than their parents and grandparents. It’s one thing to have opinions about “the gays.” It’s another thing to think about my friend, ____________, and know how to relate to him or her. And it’s another thing altogether to know how to be the church in a community and serve our GLBT neighbors in both truth and love.

Warning: I’m ready for an avalanche of responses. I will be moderating. If I get busy and have to stay away for a little while, I will come back and clean things up if the discussion gets ugly. If you think I’m letting people get away with murder, just be patient. If your comment gets deleted, don’t even think about protesting. Please check all weapons at the door and keep your contributions civil. This is one time your normally gentle host is going to be very, very intolerant of misbehavior.

Comments

  1. Mike, thanks for your courage to bring this up. I really hope that your warning was a mute point. Surely, we can discuss something so important to the body of Christ (important for several reasons) without resorting to hateful words. If not , . . then that’s certainly a sad commentary.

    There is so much I don’t know about the issue and what I do know is a paradox to me. I am looking forward to what others here have to teach me.

    I do know that I have gay friends who far better persons than I am.

    I do know that gay people have suffered greatly, and often by the hands of those who claim to be Christians. Their pain is real, deep and without provocation..

    I do know that most gay people were wired that way from birth

    I do know (sadly) that gay people have often been used as a fulcrum on which we push down on, in order to boast our own self esteems (at their expense).

    I do know that my gay friends (in general ) are far more honest about everyday life than my Christian friends.

    I do know that God loves gay people with an insatiable love and leaps over them with shouts of joy.

    I also know what the New Testament says about homosexuality. That;s the paradox.

    • To edit my own words . . . I didn’t mean to imply gay friends vs Christian friends (as if they were mutually exclusive), but I should have said “Christian straight friends.”

  2. Sorry, but as a conservative evangelical I cannot agree with any notion that we can budge on this issue of homosexual behavior (notice I did NOT say homosexual orientation). The Scriptures are very clear that homosexual sexual acts are a sin and an abomination before God. It is not only found in the Sodom narrative in generation or the Levitical laws but in the New Testament as well: Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

    I really get annoyed with the way liberals (theological liberals) try to associate the evangelical condemnation of homosexual behavior as equating with racism, sexism, neglect of the poor, and social abuse of the helpless. I am sorry but that push doesn’t work. Is it okay for the church to start allowing people who have pedophile tendencies to have sexual relations with underage kids or for people with sociopathic personalities to start cheating and conning people out of money?

    Homosexuality is no different. Though we don’t condemn people with homosexual orientation because of how they are born, we still have to judge homosexual sex as what it is called in Scripture: sin. I believe that homosexual orientation is a result of the fall. However, that doesn’t mean that people with this orientation should engage in homosexual behavior thinking that it will pass under God’s wrath.

    This isn’t a controversial issue. For me, Scripture settles it and there is always a choice for people born with this condition: celibacy.

    • Mark, well stated position. You fit squarely in “the more conservative” category I wrote about in the post. Your intellectual position is clear.

      The next question is, how do we then function as Jesus-followers and churches in the midst of a society that has taken a different position? In particular, how do we relate to our gay neighbors and love them as ourselves? How do we treat them when they come to our churches? How do we speak about them in public conversations? How do we work and play alongside them in our communities? How do we learn to treat them as full, complex human beings, and not simply define them in terms of their sexual orientation? How do we stand with them and protect them when they experience injustice and cruelty? How do we humble ourselves to learn from them and let them serve us?

      • Mike, this is easy. In the workplace, I will treat them with utmost respect as human beings and co-workers. In the school, I will view them as fellow peers made in God’s image. On the baseball team, I will regard them as teammates who are born with a condition that makes them a certain way.

        However, if I lead a bible study and a person who is a homosexual (and actively involved in the lifestyle) happens to attend one of my studies and we are dealing with a passage like Romans 1:26-27, I will have to tell them in a gentle, respectful, and caring way that God views that kind of behavior as sin worthy of eternal judgment if not repented of and share them the Good News of the gospel that Jesus Christ not only forgives and justifies but also empowers us to overcome our sins (whatever they may be).

        I think we should never confuse the civil and social respect we should give to homosexually oriented people with our religious/spiritual responsibilities of telling them the biblical truth that God condemns that lifestyle and will eventually judge it. Why do so many non-conservative Christians think that sharing the biblical truth to them about their lifestyle is the same as abusing or attacking them like just like unjust people abuse the poor or helpless? I really never understood this immediate linkage between the two.

        • Mark is making some reasonable points here, folks. What about it?

          1. Are we confusing “civil and social respect” with our “religious/spiritual responsibilities”?

          2. If we believe the Bible calls homosexuality sin, are we being abusive if we share that with gays out of concern for their spiritual well being?

          • Chaplain Mike,

            I have been reading quite a bit over at mockingbird ministries and they discuss daily (especially on the podcast The Two Words) the distinction between Law and Gospel. Clearly homosexuality is a sin and deserves God’s wrath along with a whole host of other sins that none of us have kept. That is the law. We deserve eternal punishment. Homosexuals should hear that as well as all of us miserable sinners but but but, we must never stop there because the gospel must be preached to these hearers of the law as well and that gospel is why Christ said he came not to judge the world. Maybe as Christians we need to properly distinguish these two before we engage in conversations with other sinners (like ourselves) about their sin and how to have those sins forgiven. Rod Rosenbladt’s “The Gospel for those Broken By the church” actually talks about this. What are your opinons?

            • That’s a good theological point. My question would be, when is it appropriate to speak law regarding homosexuality, and when the Gospel? There is no Gospel without the Law. On the other hand, an imbalance toward law does tend to “break” people, because it leaves them without hope, condemned.

          • When I said sins we haven’t kept I meant commandments sorry.

          • Mark is making a reasonable point. However, if I may be blunt (hopefully not so blunt as to run afoul of your moderation – my intent is to be blunt but not hostile), extending “civil and social respect” in this context is not behavior I associate with evangelicals. Why is this? Well, it’s been rare, but there have been a few times in my life that I have seen really repulsive viciousness directed at someone who was gay or lesbian, or suspected of being so, and the perpetrator was invariably the one who made sure everybody knew he was a good, bible-believing (read: evangelical/fundamentalist) Christian. I strongly suspect I am not alone in this observation. Now, I am fully aware that extrapolating this behavior to evangelicals in general or Christians in general marries a bad case of selection bias with multiple logical fallacies, however most people run with the data points they have, fair or not. The squeaky wheel makes the whole car sound like it’s falling apart.

            • Matt, IMO, this has been further exacerbated by the public political rhetoric of the “Christian Right.” I think young people are much more tied into media than past generations, and their opinions about what “Christians” stand for have been shaped by hearing the James Dobsons and Pat Robertsons of the world. In my view, the whole culture war strategy, questionable from the start, has backfired and is now imploding the church instead of impacting society in a positive way. The church on the ground must show an entirely different way.

          • As a non-evangelical not in any wilderness, I would submit that the media have worked overtime to create that caricature of the Christian right, and to codify any disapproval of homosex as bigotry.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            The key distinction in the homosexuality debate is whether homosexuality is a condition or a behavior. Traditionally it was treated, at least in theory, as merely a behavior. One could choose to engage is homosexual behavior or not, in the same way that one could choose to steal or kill, or not to steal or kill. This no longer seems plausible. The idea that so many people would choose to be a pariah minority simply so they could switch potential sexual partners just doesn’t hold water when you personally know gay friends and know the pain they have gone through.

            Mark seems to accept this. He carefully distinguishes between being a homosexual and engaging in homosexual behavior. But this won’t work in the long run. We can talk about celibacy, but do we really think that is a solution for most people? We can talk about “curing” gays, but this is just a fall-back: claiming that homosexuality is a disease you have, not who you are. As supposed cures fail, this model fails as badly as the homosexuality-as-behavior model.

            Conservatives regard the gay rights/civil rights comparison as tiresome hyperbole. It is not intended as hyperbole. It is intended as a precise analogy. Once you accept that being gay is what someone is, and not merely what someone does, then the analogy inevitably follows. As does the liberal theological position of Christ’s radical inclusiveness.

            So what is the person who takes scripture seriously to do? How can we reconcile this with 1 Corinthians 6 and Romans 1? The first step is to recognize that perhaps the traditional reading of these passages is wrong, or at least incomplete. Yes, I know the response: I am twisting the text to make it say what I want it to say, not what it says. But you know what? We re-interpret scripture all the time. A century ago there were countless preachers condemning Sunday baseball. Every one of them had scriptural passages to cite, whose clear meaning was universally understood. It all seems very quaint today.

            Here is another one: an essay which is very much on point. The overt discussion is about Biblical passages on usury. The essay is actually about the Christian response to homosexuality:
            http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/05/sex-money-part-1.html

        • One scholar whose paper (published in JTS?) I have somewhere at home argued that the language of Romans 1:26-27 and thereabouts is more likely grammatically and lexically to be a condemnation of non-genital (i.e., oral or anal) sex (also, the Bible seems to be silent about lesbianism).

          • FYI in case anyone is reading this: “The Practices of Romans 1:26: Homosexual or Heterosexual?” by James E. Miller, Madison, WI – Novum Testamentum Volume XXXVII (1995) pp. 1-11

            For a perspective on first-century sexual behavior in Paul’s milieu, read Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time by Sarah Ruden, Pantheon Books (2010), Chapter 3 “No Closet, No Monsters? Paul and Homosexuality”

      • CM, why the distinction for homosexuality? There are 2 groups of people — believers and non-belivers.

        1. How would you treat a believer engaged in sin–adultery, idolatry, murder, theft, gluttony, drunkenss, gossip, slander, homosexuality, etc., etc.?

        2. How would you treat a non-believer engaged in these same sins?

        • I think there is a qualitative difference. We’re not talking about people who have made a lifestyle choice, or who commit acts of sin. We are talking about people whose very identity is bound up with being attracted to the same sex. I for one don’t believe this is something that is simply chosen but deeply (genetically?) ingrained in a person’s nature. Now, one may attribute this to living in a fallen world and our very natures being corrupted by sin. Fine. But I think we have to deal with someone a bit differently when we are talking about a sinfulness that represents who he/she IS as a person rather than just the bad choices he/she might have made.

          • +1 (though I’d probably change the last sentence to read: “But I think we have to deal with someone a bit differently when we are talking about that which represents who he/she IS as a person rather than just the bad choices he/she might have made.”)

      • There’s one of the rubs, Chaplain Mike. It is more often homosexuals who identify themselves by their sexuality (i.e. the “gay community”), rather than the majority identifying them solely by sexuality.

    • Donalbain says:

      And that is why you hear so much about divorce and remarriage.

    • Mark,

      Your reply is the exact kind of conversation-killer that turns young people off. Comparing gay sex to pedophilia is, in the eyes of young people (i.e. people younger than 30), a non-starter. It doesn’t advance the dialog to make this sort of comparison and they will exclude you from further consideration. Why? GLBT sex is consensual among adults. Pedophilia is not. They see this as a fundamental distinction that negates the comparison.

      As for equating it with racism, it is because they are seeing the non-GLBT response to the issues as bigoted, discriminatory, prejudicial, and marginalizing. I can only imagine how shocked my grandparents would have been if they had known that I would live to see the first black president. Their prejudice prevented them from seeing that event as anything but an unmitigated disaster for the country. I imagine if we were told that in our lifetime we would see our first openly gay president, we might feel a similar twinge. In other words, we take a label and immediately discount all the individuals in that group and dismiss them as less fit than we are to fully participate in society. This is why they make it into a civil rights issue. And if we don’t understand that, then we don’t understand their most basic complaint.

      Finally, your last two paragraphs show why a “hate the sin, but love the sinner” approach is not working. We have already rushed to a solution without seeking to understand the problem. This is analogous to the fundy church I was in during the 60’s mocking the classification of alcoholism as a disease, not a sin. It made for great pulpit rhetoric and drew the amens (from an audience of teetotalers), but did nothing to stem the tide of alcohol abuse. The call to celibacy sounds great for pulpit pounding, but addresses neither the causes nor the cures of what evangelicals define as the problem.

      These are the things that our kids see as they struggle with their own identity formation in an evangelical world that wants to squeeze them into its mold. It is the lack of compassion, concern, and abundance of condemnation that kill the conversation for them. They aren’t going to argue with us. They’re just going to leave and let us continue talking to ourselves.

      • Rick,

        We may be inclined to all sorts of things (alchoholism, homosexual orientation) but that doesn’t excuse someone from the act itself which is a choice. And I would be careful to label celibacy as “pulpit pounding” less one wants to condemn St. Paul as a pulpit pounder.

      • Rick P…thanks for your words. You speak directly to the heart of the matter. I don’t know that I will make it through all of these comments today judging from the first few. I am the gay lesbian who frequents this site, and the obstinent stance from many makes this debate here almost impossible. Although I am no longer 30-something, I am more inclined to leave the conversation when the pedophile references begin. As you stated, most assuredly a non-starter.
        BTW, did you know the term “homosexual” did not exist in the time of Paul, and most certainly not in Sodom. I wonder what they were really talking about? I already know the answer, but I wonder why it’s never discussed?

        • Debra, I was hoping you’d join us today. I know some of this must be hard for you to hear, but I hope you will contribute. We need to hear your voice.

          • Thanks for taking this on, CM. After reading most of the comments I have taken a moment to put on the full armor, so I’m good now. Let’s do it!

        • Hi Debra,

          I hope and pray that beyond the “obstinent stance from many “, as you put it, you take the time to read and take in the many responses that demonstrate a loving embrace of the person you are; created in God’s image and loved by Jesus who’s merciful heart led Him to die for you just as much as for WE sinners and for each human being created by God.

      • Well said. Thank you.

      • Rick-
        1) THIS first black president HAS been an unmitigated disaster.
        2) As a physician, I agree with the “fundy church” that alcoholism-as-disease is beyond silly. It’s the only disease whose cure is abstaining from a toxic substance. I might add that abstinence campaigns and “pulpit-pounding” were quite successful in the early and mid 19th century at cutting down on drunkenness.
        3) How do you understand the problem and its causes and cures?

        • Hahaha, yay! Let’s bring back the prohibition!

          And wow, be careful with your first point. Rick’s point was that people feared that the first black president would be a disaster BECAUSE he was black. You’ve just said that he has been a disaster. All well and good if that’s your political persuasion, but you might want to be more careful to make it clear that you don’t think his being black has anything to do with the success of his presidency. The church as the bastion of racism wasn’t all that long ago…

      • In fairness, I think you are misunderstanding Mark’s point.

        I don’t think that he is saying “homosexuality is as bad as pedophilia”. What he’s saying (my interpretation, anyway), is that the argument: “homosexuality can’t be a sin because it’s how the person is wired” is fatally flawed because it could just as easily be applied to pedophiles.

        Discuss…

    • They equate it, because it is the same thing.

    • I have one very severe problem with what you wrote there. You, like so many others, are pretending that “abomination” is something special. It’s not:

      Deut. 14:3 calls non-Kosher food abominable.
      Deut. 24:4 is an interesting one. If a man takes back a wife he has sent away it is an abomination.
      Deut. 17:1 Bringing a blemished sacrifice is an abomination.
      Leviticus 11: The ever popular eating shellfish and insects passage.
      Proverbs 3:32 Devious men are abominations. (Car salesmen really are evil!)
      Proverbs 6:16-18: Several, including lying.

      I’m going to stop there, but here’s a useful wikipedia reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abomination_(Bible)

      The point is that for the most part, we’re all abominations. There is nothing remotely special about the term. To pretend that there there’s something particularly unique about the Bible calling homosexuality an abomination is deceptive, which is itself an abomination.

      We probably shouldn’t rank sins, but very few people really reach that point. Most of us will do it just because it’s human nature. Somehow we always manage to rank our sins the least severe and other’s the most severe. As Christians we should do better and at least try to let the Bible have some say here. Overall the Bible does not seem to place that much emphasis on any of the sexual sins. It seems to be much more concerned about lying, gossip, greed, envy, sloth, caring for the poor and even inhospitality (the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah).

      While I do believe that homosexuality is a sin, I also believe that speeding is a sin. And between the two I’d say speeding is far worse as it shows an intentionally reckless disregard for the well-being of others. Personally, I speed far more often than most homosexuals have sex. Homosexuals are imperfect just like me and I see no reason I need to be terribly concerned with what they are doing. That’s God’s job.

      My main question is why the emphasis on homosexuality? Why do so many believe it’s the most important issue facing us now? I personally don’t beleive the reasons have anything at all to do with Biblical values whatsoever.

      • When I said that the Bible calls homosexual sex an abomination I was NOT minimizing all other sins. I teach the bible occasionally to a group of students at my church. Whenever topics of these sorts come up, I always tell them that God hates EVERY sin.

        Recently, I told some students, and many of them are very young in the faith, that every sin is a terrible thing before God. Whether we murder someone out of bitterness or whether we become envious because someone has a better position than us, both are disgusting before God.

        Thus, the issue I have always tried to point out here is that it is not he type of sin that questions our salvation but the habitual practice of it – whether heterosexual or homosexual, behavioral or emotional, or big or small.

        • ahumanoid says:

          “Thus, the issue I have always tried to point out here is that it is not he type of sin that questions our salvation but the habitual practice of it – whether heterosexual or homosexual, behavioral or emotional, or big or small.”

          Hmm. So, the habitual practice of speeding (i.e. breaking the law) counts, too? That eliminates a lot of Christians I know. That and gluttony.

          • I remembver the pastor of a church we used to attend saying that “The last part of a Christian to get saved (or maybe he said “sanctified”) is their right foot.” 🙂

        • here’s the thing, you say that homosexuality is the same as all sin, but you don’t mean it. (figurative you, I don’t actually know you as an individual)

          You vote against gay marriage, would you vote for a bill that proposed limiting a person’s consumption of food? Obesity and overconsumption are some of the largest problems in our societiy today, would you vote your belief that gluttony is a sin?

          You worry that you have to confront the gay person who comes to your bible study, do you also worry that you have to confront the guy who had a few too many cookies before prayer? What about that rich guy who makes jokes about the way poor people look and insists that his money is his own?

          You joke with your buddies about how gross and shameful gay sex is, probably throwing in a few choice words just so they know how very very very straight you are and would for sure never mistake you for gay. Gay is an insult! If someone happens to hear you and tell you that you’re supposed to love gay people, you insist that you do, that all that joking is because you actually hate sin so much. Just like Jesus! And that of course, homosexuality is no different than other sins. You love them, it’s just that they’re an abomination.

          I’m sorry, after spending years and years with conservative Christians and hearing the way they talk about gay people, all the while insisting that they love the sin and hate the sinner, I don’t believe that line anymore for a second. It’s just a way of rationalizing bigotry.

          No, believing that homosexuality is a sin doesn’t make you a bigot, but I would argue that most Christians who do believe that it is a sin are in fact bigots. It’s just that no one in their inner circle has dared to call them out on it.

        • There’s part of the problem: When homosexuality is compared to other sins, it’s usually compared with the worst of them. Yes, sins are all the same to God, but not to us; our scale is based on the sins’ consequences. And Christians near-automatically compare homosexuality with murder, child molestation, rape, bestiality—with capital crimes. While we argue that we’re doing this to make the point that all sin deserves death, the implication, all the same is that homosexuality in specific deserves death.

          Now, take your young liberal Christians, who look at the consequences of homosexuality that they can see, and see little that they personally can object to: relationships that are no more stable, and not much more sexualized, than heterosexual ones. And then they look at the churches that regularly and consistently appear to be blowing homosexuality out of proportion—claiming it’s undermining civilization—when there are a lot of other things, like unrestrained greed, like injustice to the needy, that seem to be destabilizing civilization a whole lot faster. To them, the fuss doesn’t appear to match the reality. And if they’re going to follow Jesus, it needs to be authentic.

          I admit they may have a skewed perspective of reality—but that’s the perspective we have to work with. And in many ways I don’t think they’re wrong. Considering how little the scriptures speak about homosexuality, compared with how much it speaks about economic and social justice (despite the fact that homosexuality has always existed) indicates that God has quite different priorities than His church does.

  3. “This too, will come to pass”

    I see three ‘issues’ which are at different phases of ‘acceptance’:

    1. Seems to me that a while ago, remarriage of divorcees was the ‘hot’ topic. ‘Plainly forbidden’ by scripture. Anyone who did got the cold shoulder, or at best had to renounce any important role in the church. Now it’s pretty much accepted in most churches.

    2. Unmarried couples. Still officially a ‘no-no’ in some parts, but if you ask church members ‘in private’, you discover that most of them are more open, or have more nuanced attitudes. So this issue is still ‘work in progress’.

    3. Acceptance of homosexuality is still in the future. And, like the other two issues, change will be ‘forced on us’ by changing cultural realities, not from the inside. Like you, I don’t have any answers here either, to be honest.

    //The problem I have with the “Jesus’ inclusion of sinners” view is that he also said “go and sin no more”. I think all but the most radical/crazy Christians are open (at least in theory) to accept homosexual people, but it’s accepting and normalizing ‘deliberate, willing and unrepentant’ homosexual ‘activity’ which is the stumbling block.

    • I think the real issue for churches will be what to do with gay unions. Just as there are heterosexual libertines who practice immoral lifestyles and want nothing to do with Jesus and the church, there will also be a portion of homosexuals who take the same approach. To them, our message is clear. No matter your sexual orientation, the Scriptures commend chastity and sexual purity. Sex is a gift to be shared between lawfully joined couples.

      But the argument of many progressives is that we are dealing with a different kind of homosexual relationship than the immoral, promiscuous variety. What of gay or lesbian couples who are committed to each other? They are not promiscuous, and in their minds at least, they view themselves as “married.” They wish to establish their relationships as legitimate family bonds. Now chastity or faithfulness is no longer the issue, but the very nature of their relationship as same-sex.

      • I’m sorry but the so-called progressive argument doesn’t work either. The bible is clear that ANY homosexual sex activity is sin. Whether it is in the form of rape (e.g., the men of Sodom) or between two so-called loving partners (e.g., like two gay bishops having sex in a mutual relationship) it is still wrong and abominable.

        • No it doesn’t.

        • yeah, the Bible really isn’t as clear as you’re making it out to be. You can make a good case that the Bible says that all homosexual activity is wrong, but you can also make a good case that it doesn’t.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            This is the future of the church. Just as the majority of churches now accept remarried divorced people. Just as effectively all churches accept the charging of interest. These are two topics on which the Bible is far more clear than it is on homosexuality, and the modern understanding of both is on the wrong side of a simple (simplistic?) reading of the text. Yet the church still stands. We like to think that our understanding of scripture is absolute and true, but even a modest study of church history shows it to be far more flexible than that.

            So figure out what is really important. Coming from the Lutheran tradition with its understanding of Law and Gospel and Christ on the cross, this is an easy one. If holding the line on homosexuality is what you think it is about, that is your business. But prepare to be a part of an ever-shrinking, increasingly irrelevant fringe.

      • Chappy (hope you don’t mind that nickname!),

        One thing you said makes me jump: “No matter your sexual orientation, the Scriptures commend chastity and sexual purity. Sex is a gift to be shared between lawfully joined couples.”

        I personally do not believe that Jesus gives a flip about “lawfully joined coupes” because I don’t think Jesus cares about civil unions. Jesus cares about Godly unions.

        The issue of marriage versus civil unions is one about semantics which I think Christians need to take the lead in changing the definitions. If a union if formed in the JP’s office or performed by someone operating solely under the authority of a legal entity, then it is a civil union. God oversees a marriage. (Who performed Jacob’s wedding with Leah? The Bible doesn’t specify any ceremony, only the two spending the night together.)

        How does this apply to the homosexual discussion? Only on the periphery. But when two people say they want to be “lawfully joined,” my church or religion should not have an opinion (I as a person may, however). God worries about what God joins together, regardless of what the state says.

    • Shawn Guenther says:

      Mike,

      I’m glad to see you bring this up. It’s a bit sad you have to post the warning, but to me that need is extremely fundamental in this discussion.

      30 years ago when divorce was the hotbutton issue people had equally strong feelings on the subject, but the difference was a lot of the communication had to go on face-to-face. It’s MUCH harder, as you allude to, to stare someone in the eye and tell them they don’t have the right to do something than it is to rattle off a few sentences, hit submit, and walk away.

      I don’t want to help degenerate your comments section into an argument, so I will suffice it to say that the truth issue it not nearly so clear-cut as some would believe.

      The love issue is complicated because of the tense nature of the argument.

      If you look to racial tensions that went along with the civil rights movement you see that the “black power” demonstrations didn’t start until well into decade after decade of being minimized and belittled. So it is with the LGBT community. Things were nice and civil until we moved from not only looking the other way, but becoming outright hostile toward them.

      Now they have swung to the “we’re here, we’re XXXX…. get used to it” shouting because they want, as we all do deep down, to be heard. So they shout and we shout back. But when you’re shouting you can’t be listening, and you can’t give or receive love without listening.

      We’ve gotten ourselves into a hard row to hoe. The question of sin or not is almost moot because the more fundamental issue of communication isn’t actually being addressed. Sitting someone down to lay some knowledge down on them isn’t communication, it’s condescension.

      Until we can listen to them with open ears and open minds and get the same from them we’re spinning our wheels in deep mud and making the whole escape much more difficult

      • I think this is why folks like Andrew Marin have simply chosen to put the “sin” question to the side and focus on taking the place of a servant, friend, and most of all, learner.

        • Shawn Guenther says:

          I agree. We just have to keep pressing until people like Andrew are the rule and not the exception.

          Back to your main point, kids don’t spend a good deal of time researching their opinions (not that they ever have through history) so all they see is the majority view. Right now that majority view of the evangelical church is one that’s out of touch with reality. It’s a bit of a dangerous slope.

          Not to sound alarmist, but you look at it and you start to see parallels to the Greek faith shortly before it became Greek Mythology…

  4. I think over the last few years I’ve shifted from the very conservative stance on homosexuality to a much more moderate stance. The idea that God built a telos into our gender in Genesis will *always* be an Achilles heal for the LGBT advocates within Christianity. I think some advocates would say, “stop saying that there is a spiritual, metaphysical, sactified, telos that God purposed for human sexuality. That’s heterosexism.” If/when they do, I do not think that such a thing should be sacrificed. I think that there is something “special” about human heterosexuality, and it cannot be dismissed.

    Despite that, though, I think that if we are recommending a policy or practice that ignores “love they neighbor” -espeically if that neighbor is foreign to us, than that policy is wrong. It is not “true.”

  5. Interesting post….

    I lurk here from time to time and read the postings and find them interesting. Let me tell you what led me to leave the Christian faith and figure out what I am and where I will go.

    I’ve dealt with homosexual thoughts for years and when I was an evangelical I kept them to myself. I was afraid of what people would say, or how they would react. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard Christians, even close friends tell me to my face (all the while not knowing of course…) how sick gays are, how perverted, etc.. There have been times I wanted to vomit or just cry to think that this church is supposed to be God’s instrument on the earth.

    I’ve been to so many churches and can’t handle the thought of going to one more. The tipping point for me happened at my last one. It was a few years back….I was having a drink with a couple of other guys from my adult Bible study. Just then one of the leaders of this chruch, who was an ordained Assembly of God minister started ranting about gay rights and the efforts to repeal, “dont ask don’t tell.” He got very angry and lectured us at the table about how sick gays are. He then started to talk about my line of work and how gays shouldn’t be there, as they are sick. And he went further and told me (all the while not knowing what I’ve dealt with) what they shouldn’t do career wise. Then he turned to me and asked, “Hey you work in “xyz” don’t you agree?” I was so troubled and shocked. I hung out there and went to a few more Bible studies..but for me the damage of trying to be a Christian for most of my life was done.

    There was one point I leanred from all these experiences and that is this….

    People dealing with homosexual thoughts or tendencies don’t belong in the church. They will never find healing, and they will never find grace, and they will never find love. Instead they will be harmed, hurt more, and be wounded more so. It’s bad enough when you hate yourself for these feelings…I didn’t need the church to create an atmosphere that also told me that I was hated as well.

    But there is more….here’s what also ticked me off that also led to me walking away.

    1. Why is it that no one challenges Christian ministers or fundementalsits on what they say? I mean you have tons on leaders in reformed thrology that challenge Brian McLaren, Tony Compello, etc.. But when Jerry Falwell laid September 11th at my feet…no one challenged him!!! No one from the church really called him on the carpet. Instead the ones who challenged him were from outside the church and the secular culture. This has been a reoccurng problem and as gay rights advance I feel as if this has become worse as time goes on.

    2. What are people who deal with homosexuality supposed to do in a culture that makes familes an idol, and worships having kids? That makes it harder…and reminds me of something that I am going to deal with for the rest of my life. Where is the hope or the grace to help me (or others…) move forward until I take my last breath? It doesn’t exist, but what also saddens me is that it reminds me of what I will never have and also how Christians have replaced God with idols of family, children, marriage, etc..

    3. I don’t know what to think of the gay marriage movement. Yet I find it distrubing that evangeliclas have wrapped themself up in it, yet ignore the divorce crisis within the evangelical church. With evangelicals divoring at alarming rates…I ask this; who are they to talk about a healthy Biblical family.

    In closing I don’t have a lot of hope over this. I’m seeking and looking into other belief systems. I felt as if the church, and the hostility has put me in a corner where I had to make a choice to be a Christian or not. There was too much pressure on this issue and even though I hate these feelings and will not be a practicing gay male, I also decided that I won’t be a part of another Christian faith system.

    “Steve”

    • Thanks, “Steve.” I’m so sorry you have experienced such pain from those who represent Jesus. For your information, there are a lot more people out there challenging the status quo and encouraging the church to have a conversation about this. If you go to the sidebar on Internet Monk and click the link for “Andrew Marin” for example, you will be directed to the website of a guy who has devoted his whole Christian life to making friends with folks in the GLBT community and showing them Jesus’ love.

      You can read Michael Spencer’s review of Marin’s book, which he gave his highest recommendation, here: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/my-highest-recommendation-love-is-an-orientation-by-andrew-marin

    • “Steve”, I appreciate this post, and the honesty it displays, and I can’t argue with anything that you say.

      I remember once being at a conference/discussion about homosexuality, when some old guy stood up bursting with impatience and said “homosexuality is an abomination!”. At that point, for the first time, I realised that a homosexual can’t hear that without hearing “you are an abomination”.

      Your second point is also a problem for any unmarried people in the church. I have been involved in organising social events for singles/lonely people in the church; but in my view this was solely because of the complete failure of families in our church to ‘adopt’ single people (for something other than babysitting).

    • “But when Jerry Falwell laid September 11th at my feet…no one challenged him!!! No one from the church really called him on the carpet.”

      I know a LOT of Christians who totally disagreed with JF. But non of us/them had a TV show to speak on. And, yes, to be honest there were a lot of Christians who agreed with him.

      This is due to two problems as I see it. I think the large church / TV church is a dead end in terms of following Jesus. (See other IM posts for 100s of discussions along this line.)

      And I feel that many who claim to be Christian are really members of a social club who hold similar cultural views. As polls tend to show many Christians don’t really understand the theology of their church or what Jesus said about how to live their lives.

    • Steve. God be with you. You should be in a relationship with a person (regardless of gender) that best fits you.
      God doesn’t care, don’t let someone fool you into thinking he does.

    • Steve, I am in agreement with you about the unfairness of worrying about gay marriage but ignoring divorce and cohabitation.

      I don’t have any answers for this.

      I’d be (reluctantly) amenable to civil unions as a matter of natural justice, since I see no reason why straight people should be able to abuse marriage and then turn around and lecture about the sanctity of matrimony. So a secular civil equal state of legal rights for everyone based on a state-regulated registry office marriage system seems equable if it ever comes about.

      I do not agree, however, that church marriages should be equally available. Does that make me a bigot? I have the uncomfortable feeling that it does, but I have to stick on this one.

      As a Catholic, we’re still dealing with divorce-and-remarriage (as in , “No”) and yeah, that involves accusations of heartlessness, prioritising rules over humanity, driving people away from the church, ‘how can you force someone to stay in an abusive relationship/deny someone a chance at happiness?’ and of course “Jesus would have compassion”.

      People are getting married in church, separating, and living in second unions (either with or without the benefit of divorce and civil remarriage) and having children to boot, here in Holy Catholic Ireland.

      Does that mean I think the Church should say “You know what? Okay, let’s give in on this one. Progress has marched on.”

      Definitely no.

      But I can’t speak to gay people about their sins when I’ve got so many of my own.

      • I have to admire the Catholic church (in this matter, that is) for having a firm commitment to the idea that all sexual sin is equal, no matter how icky one finds it.

      • As a Catholic, we’re still dealing with divorce-and-remarriage (as in , “No”) and yeah, that involves accusations of heartlessness, prioritising rules over humanity, driving people away from the church, ‘how can you force someone to stay in an abusive relationship/deny someone a chance at happiness?’ and of course “Jesus would have compassion”.

        And Dr. David Instone-Brewer might argue that the Roman Catholic teaching on divorce and remarriage is faulty due to not understanding the 1st-century Jewish context of Jesus’ teachings about the same: http://www.instonebrewer.com/divorceremarriage/

        • EricW, I’m not going to argue this one with you. Seeing as how it’s the same “Ah, but when the Bible says “No”, what it really means is…”

          And even if we allow exceptions for adultery, how many people are getting divorces for adultery nowadays, as distinct from “I don’t love you anymore”?

          But as I said, I’d support civil unions because it’s not fair to deny gay people a State ceremony when straight people can marry, divorce, re-marry and carry on treating church weddings as an occasion to dress up and have a big celebration, not a sacrament.

          • EricW, I’m not going to argue this one with you. Seeing as how it’s the same “Ah, but when the Bible says “No”, what it really means is…”

            I think that description of his views (if I understand your response correctly) may be to too lightly dismiss Dr. Instone-Brewer’s education in this field and on this subject:

            http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/index.php?page=david-instone-brewer

    • “Steve,” I know there are Episcopal congregations who would not be hostile towards you, but I don’t know if you live in an area where you could be a part of them. And there is always the Unitarian Universalists who have a more open attitude, but I also understand that they do not “focus” on Jesus, but instead invite people of all faiths to join with them, so if someone is looking for a Christian community to worship with, the UU wouldn’t answer that call, I guess. I am sorry that the Christians you have been involved with have made you feel rejected as a human being. 🙁

    • Steve,

      Honestly very sorry about your hurt and pain, but it is a little of an unfair shot yourself to accuse those that value marraige and children and the family unit that God himself ordained or idolotry.

      peace to you

      • It’s really not. Part of the reason conservatives are trying to defend marriage (a religious sacrament) through secular means (constitutional amendments and state laws) is because they feel it’s simply not enough for God to define it; they have to have their hand in things. And whenever we get the attitude that God isn’t enough, that’s idolatry.

  6. People and sins are hard to separate properly. Usually we condemn the sin and the sinner, or, justify both. Homosexuality is a hot button because of the difficulty in getting the sin and sinner separate. Think for a moment about when you were young and a kid would do something and then get branded with a name that usually stuck for a long while. A good example is when a kid picks the nose and then has to live with the name “booger” for years even into adulthood. They may never live that act down. That childlike view of interpersonal relations seems to be a prevalent course of action today. My personal take on the situation is this:

    1. As followers of Christ and believers in the Bible we should not be a part of or stand idly by while someone is abused. (physically, verbally, emotionally, or otherwise)
    2. Homosexuality is a sin
    3. People who do it are sinners, but are still people and need to be treated with decency, respect, and love.
    4. The list of abominations is not a one item list and we all need to check it to see where we need improvement.
    5. Jesus reached out to people in love while not endorsing the sin; He encouraged us to do the same.
    6. Our Church services are for the congregation of believers and should get handled in that way. Non-believers can visit but the they should not have a “say-so” in the liturgy. (I know this seems a little off topic, but, in evangelism the GLBT issue has hit the pulpit.)

    If anyone disagrees with me there isn’t much I could say or do to change your mind so I will close with this:

    I believe the Bible and it says that we should love our neighbors, speak the truth in love, hate all evil, love God, and refrain from certain activities. Homosexuality is ONE OF MANY things we should refrain from doing because it is a abomination.

  7. As a member of the generation in focus, here is my (and quite a few friends) perspective. Please don’t flame me.

    Our ‘generation’ is not leaving because of attitudes to homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, abortion, politics or any other controversy. The exodus is happening because of something far more important and problematic. It is not a new situation and the solution has already been tried and tested.

    Through our eyes (well many of us anyway) what we are seeing is a church of Pharisees and Sadducees. Where is Christ? Seriously, and not to offend, does there need to be any more discussion to define sin and which one is worse? Which position is the most correct or righteous? Who is in and who is out? If Christ was what the Church reflected then who would be able to resist Him? Love is hard. It costs big time. It means putting ourself, our judgements behind us. Love costs death. It has cost death. Death for us. What would happen if the energy that was put into deciding the correct position on a given sin was put into loving the sinner (because the sinner is all of us)? Would the sky fall?

    Jesus solved this and cleaned up this stench thousands of years ago. Why are we still trying to get the rubbish back?

    • Amen. No flaming here – I completely agree. Do those who quote Leviticus keep the Levitical law? There’s just so much picking and choosing going on in this tired old argument.

      What did Jesus say about homosexuality? nothing, friends, nothing.

      • Cedric Klein says:

        Same as He said about bestiality & sorcery.

        • Flamed/

          • Cedric Klein says:

            Jesus said nothing about it because He primarily spoke to fellow Jews for whom same-sex eroticism was not a debatable issue. When the Church went to the Gentiles for whom it was an issue, it was the Apostle to the Gentiles Paul who spoke to that issue. I do note that when Jesus spoke of marriage, He quoted Genesis about it being between a man & a woman. I see no reason to believe that if a committed caring gay couple came to Jesus or the Apostles for counsel, the response would be “God bless you, be happy together & go in peace.”

    • I second everything Melanie has said.

      As someone who is also part of the generation who is making a stage left exit from Christianity, I can tell you what she says is absolutely true. Generations before us have had some sort of context and grounding in which they grew up, “pre-modern”, “modern”, whatever.

      However, we are living in post-modernism. We are told, “There is no absolute” and at the same time “All truths are valid”. We are awash in a sea of confusion, where meaning has lost all meaning, where questions have no answers.

      In our hunger, we search. And when we look to the Church, so often we find hypocrisy. Yes, many may or may not say that they too are a hypocrite. However, we yearn for authenticity. And when we look at Christians, those “little Christs”, we have a hard time seeing that authenticity.

      And, it isn’t just on an individual basis (though that certainly plays a role). The bigger picture comes into mind. The Church is supposed to be the Body of Christ. The Body only acts in accordance with the Head. The Church is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What many see is not Jesus- what many see is a bunch of hypocritical people who rail out against others and not take care for the plank in their own eye, all the while singing “Jesus Loves Me”.

      I do hope I wasn’t ranting. If I have, forgive me.

    • You’ll find that Michael Spencer addressed the whole issue of the “church of Pharisees and Sadducees” in his book when he spoke of church-shaped vs. Jesus-shaped spirituality. So in a very real sense the goal of this blog is to seek Jesus-shaped spirituality, and not be Pharisees and Sadducees ourselves.

      Of course, that can be a difficult journey, and as you can see from the responses so far some are further along on the journey than others. Others apparently don’t even want to make the journey. But that is certainly the goal.

  8. Hi all,

    Another regular lurker (and very occasional commenter) chiming in on the issue…

    Some background: I’m an Australian reformed evangelical, nominally politically right wing (personally conservative), but functionally libertarian (I guess)… I have several close Christian friends who struggle with same sex attraction, and a number of friends and acquaintances from school and university, and my professional life (I’m now at seminary, though previously worked in the tourism marketing industry).

    A few thoughts: 30% leaving still means 70% are staying. I’m not certain about how the US context compares to the Australian scene, but we’re fairly post-Christian, and I’d say certain attrition is a result of a death of nominalism. Which, for the church, and its mission, is actually a good thing – because it gives more clarity in terms of who actually needs to discover (or rediscover) a relationship with Jesus.

    Second – all sin is essentially hard wired – I don’t see genetics as an excuse, I suspect we’re all, as individuals, wired differently, and raised differently, in ways that mean different sins are going to be bigger issues for us. That homosexuality is genetic doesn’t, in anyway, mean that homosexual practice is not sinful. I’m genetically a liar, genetically an adulterer (lust), genetically prone to murder (anger), and I certainly, like most westerners, struggle with greed. Homosexuality is just another sin – a sin that goes right against the created order – but a sin like any other. Those struggling with homosexual temptation are like all other people struggling with temptation – in need of Jesus love, and the support of their brothers and sisters. Those forming their identity on the basis of their sexual orientation are like any other people forming their identity on a basis other than Jesus – in need of a realignment of identity with Jesus as the foundation.

    Sure, this will be an issue the church needs to confront – but its an issue that needs confronting with tolerance and understanding (but not compromise). Homosexual practice is a sin. The Bible is pretty clear on that. There are lots of hurtful and harmful misunderstandings out there that hurt those Christians with same sex attraction. And there are a lot of silly statements being made from the more liberal side of Christianity that try to make homosexuality something less than the Bible does. It’s a hard cross to bear.

    In Australia, and I suspect in the US, the real crunch is going to come in terms of how the church can discriminate (though you have free speech nicely enshrined by law). How can a church say no to conducting gay marriages if they become legal and still be licensed to carry out straight marriages? I’ve had a stab, with a pretty smart guy taking the opposite view, at thrashing out some of the ethical quandry in a recent discussion on my own blog (I don’t want to be a fly by night blog plugger – but it’s an incredibly long discussion that has some worthwhile thoughts (in my opinion)).

    It is a discussion that needs to be had, and one that is starting to be had, the real question is how it can be had in a way that wins people to Christ.

    • Also, I should point out, in terms of context, that I’m 26. So pretty firmly in the demographic in question.

    • You’re making a pretty big error here in assuming that those who have left the church were nominal Christians, have left Jesus as well, and that those who stay are satisfied with the status quo.

      I left the church several years ago but did not leave Jesus, and I know I’m not the only one who would say that

      • Marie,

        I did not mean to give the impression that I thought all those who have left were nominal, and I think you’d be hard pressed to interpret my comment as suggesting that is the case. I just said I’m certain that’s part of the attrition. Which it is. There’s much less cultural pressure to identify as religious in Australia – not sure that’s the case in the US – like I said. But a decrease in nominalism has certainly been a factor, just as the “mere-churchianity” “post-evangelical wilderness” many here are wandering in is a factor.

        • Oh, and I’d define “nominal Christians” as those who called themselves Christians without ever actually being connected to Jesus – so those who left the church from that camp weren’t in a position to not leave Jesus. There would be some who never had Jesus to begin with who now no longer attend church.

    • Donalbain says:

      The church can perform whatever wedding ceremonies it likes. A marriage between two Muslims is perfectly legal, and yet a Church can turn around and say that it will not perform the ceremony. Marriage between two divorcees is legal, but a Church can refuse to hold the ceremony.

      • Not necessarily the case in Australia where the government gives the church its license to conduct legally recognised marriages. Might be true in the US. But in most countries the government defines what marriage is and licenses people to perform and register them.

        • Although, I must ask, who would want to be married by a minister who hates them? I cannot see anyone demanding a marriage ceremony from a place where they know they are reviled and despised.

        • So are the churches in these countries required to marry non-members of their religion? Are Catholic churches required to marry divorced people? It may be a problem for an established church but that is more a problem of establishment.

        • Donalbain says:

          Are you claiming that if a divorced person wanted to marry in a Catholic Church in Australia, the Church would not be allowed to deny them that service? Or a Muslim couple?
          Because I call shenanigans on that!

    • question:
      How can you say Homosexuality is genetic & against the created order? that seems like saying something is natural & artifiical.

      • The same way suicidal tendencies are genetic and against the created order. We are broken in our totality: body, mind, and soul.

      • Paul Timo says:

        The fact that any particular aspect of human form or development might be genetic in its root cause does not mean that it is consistent with the created order. Cystic fibrosis and some forms of cancer have a genetic component.

        Is it certain and abolutely determined that homosexuality has a genetic component? I don’t think that is the case but if it is, that would not be proof that “God created homosexual attractions”.

  9. I am haunted by what happens to my conservative impulse on the homosexual question when I substitute other sins into the equation. Pride, lust, materialism, gluttony, despair, etc. Pride is essentially the original sin, so why are we not more worked up about it than homosexuality? Why are our churches FILLED with proud, haughty, materialistic gluttons (e.g. me) but if someone is gay, well, that’s where we draw the line.

    May God have mercy on us all.

    • Donalbain says:

      Because judging others is easier than judging ourselves. And that extends to groups as well.. it is easier to pick a thing that lies outside your group and rail against that than o fix the group.

    • Generally, but not always, its a question of repentance. I know lots of unrepentant proud, haughty, materialistic gluttons who aren’t repentant, but most of them, confronted on the issues, would acknowledge that those actions are sinful. I don’t think that’s always the case for the homosexual lobby within the church.

      • I’m not so concerned about the “homosexual lobby.” I’m concerned about the person with whom I work, the kid others tease, the neighbor people avoid, the young man or woman who comes to church, the person who has only heard condemnation from the pulpit, and those who have sincerely different views on the matter but who aren’t interested in making a political issue out of them—they just want to be accepted and respected as human beings.

        • Chaplain Mike,

          Too piggy back on your statement. One problem with our pulpits today, and this touches all “sin” preaching, is that there is too much law and not enough gospel. The gospel, with it’s story of redeeming love, touches us all.

        • I’m concerned about the person with whom I work, the kid others tease, the neighbor people avoid, the young man or woman who comes to church, the person who has only heard condemnation from the pulpit,

          This October 12, 2010, video of Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns went viral on the Internet:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax96cghOnY4

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            You don’t need to be homosexual per se to be branded The School Fag. Only different in any way. A late bloomer who has little interest in girls until a couple years later. A geeky kid who isn’t the Football Jock Fanboy. Anything that makes you the Omega of the pack.

      • I know lots of unrepentant proud haughty rich people who would not think of repenting their greed or call the obscene accumulation of money in the face of starving, sick people a sin. The Free Market lobby in the church is the most powerful lobby of all. Our “greed is good” economic system is a beam so large as to fit in Noah’s Ark compared to the splinter of homosexuality.

        If we’re looking at Christianity and society through the eyes of children, children do not suffer and / or die for lack of proper health care because of homosexuality, but because we tolerate a society in which your income determines your health care. 25% of the children in this state do not go hungry because of homosexuality, but because we tolerate a society in which the minimum wage is less than the poverty level. Children do not end up living in homeless shelters because of homosexuality, but because that’s just the way the market made it happen.

    • foundmercy says:

      Totally agree.

    • Like I said above, ANY sin practiced habitually without a sense of repentance or remorse reveals that one is not truly regenerate. This applies to anyone – homosexual or heterosexual.

      • Mark, let’s not move past sound thinking to rhetoric. Habitual sin does not “reveal that one is not truly regenerate.” It may end up revealing that, and we should graciously challenge one caught in such sin toward repentance, but only time will tell the final story. Don’t mistake a snapshot for the whole movie.

    • Come on, JB. We’re so worked up about homosexuality because homosexuals are trying to move it from the category of sin to that of liturgy. We talk a lot about big changes, not about banal stuff that is the same for 2000 years.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        We’re so worked up about homosexuality because homosexuals are trying to move it from the category of sin to that of liturgy.

        Humans have a REALLY bad track record when mixing the Sacred and the Erotic, PERIOD.

        That alone should tell you why that is a really really BAD idea.

  10. I wouldn’t say this issue was the reason I left the church several years ago, but I would say it is a symptom of why I left.

    I’m at the point where I don’t know if I believe homosexuality is a sin or not. I don’t think the Bible is as clear on this as many insist, but I’m not convinced it’s ideal either. I really just don’t know.

    I used to feel really troubled about how I would deal with gay Christians, was it my responsibility to be clear that I thought it might be a sin? All I wanted to do was show love, but I worried that lying was not loving at all. I eventually realized that there was a guy in the military in my small group (I am a pacifist, I know most here aren’t) who I had no trouble fellowshipping with, who I really respected, and did not feel compelled at all to try & talk to about non-violence. Even at the time I was much more convinced that killing was a sin than I was homosexuality was, so I figured that if I could interact easily with this guy & not feel the need to confront him about his lifestyle choise but instead let him live by his own convictions, why couldn’t I do that with homosexuals as well?

    I stopped worrying so much about interacting with my gay friends after that…it was such a relief to be able to just see them as people to be loved and not feel guilty about needing to warn them of sin.

    • cermak_rd says:

      That was also my reaction. What a relief to no longer have the requirement that I engage in the spiritual act of “mercy” of admonishing sinners.

  11. Buford Hollis says:

    There is usually a drop-off in religious participation among young people of college age, and then a rise as soon as they start having kids. They might gravitate to different churches or religions, though. (In Australia, a lot of liberal parents have chosen for their kids to receive RE from Buddhists or Baha’is because they see these religions as closer to their values.)

    • Jonathan Hunnicutt says:

      This is the old paradigm. Some people do come back to church when they have kids, but not in the numbers that they did before. We can no longer count on kids to bring adults back to church.

  12. Okay, I often don’t post on here because I’m twenty and know little of life compared to the wiser folks around here, but since this post was talking about my generation I decided to throw in my two cents.

    I’ve puzzled over this issue a lot over the last few years. As a 20-year-old in the military, I spend most of my time with members of this same Millenial Generation. The overwhelming majority of them do think that “homophobia” is at best sillly and at worst an evil on par with Hitler and slavery. Yes, there are many who are fiercely and violently opposed to repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” but they tend to be from parts of the country where homosexuality is less accepted, i.e. the South and parts of the Midwest. It’s more common to be sympathetic toward gays and lesbians, and resentful of “religion” for oppressing them. (By the way, there are lots of fairly-openly homosexual people in the military; they just don’t put it in their official biographies, but they still live with their boyfriends, hang out with their girlfriends off duty, et cetera. Usually an issue isn’t made of it as long as they do their job and are discreet.)

    I’ve found myself at a loss for a response. On a purely logical basis (for speaking to people who aren’t swayed by faith or Bible or Church magisterium), what ARE the reasons against legalizing homosexuality? Pretty much all of them have been discredited. I myself wasn’t in doubt, based on historical perspective; virtually all cultures have held the nuclear family to be the foundation of a healthy society, plus, I refuse to believe that all the Christians, Jews, and others up to this point in time were wrong about the issue. It still seems phenomenally arrogant to think that we know better than everyone who came before us, that we are now so “enlightened” that we can dispense with the laws that most of our cultural, biological, and intellectual ancestors never even questioned.

    Recently I read a combination of books and articles that answered that question in its logical sense, although it wasn’t an answer likely to be any more acceptable to my generation. The issueof birth control has to be dealt with before any discussion of homosexuality. As a nation, we decided decades ago that birth control was okay. The battle was decided so long ago that my generation pretty much has no idea it was ever fought – heck, most of them had birth control pressed on them by their parents.

    So where’s the sense in saying that homosexuality is wrong? We’ve already decided that a loving relationship between two consenting adults is good – no family required. We’ve already decided that sex and babies can be separated. So what’s the difference between two couples who choose to get married because they love each other and want the pleasures and benefits of being married and committed to each other? One couple is straight, the other is gay, but the situation is the same.

    So I’m not sure that homosexuality can be addressed as an isolated issue. As other posters have said before, it has to fit into the Church’s larger . . . I was going to say standards of morality, but why not say vision of love? I feel like one of the reasons I’ve never been significantly tempted to deviate from what my parents taught me is because my family’s way of doing things was always more attractive than the disillusioned, dysfunctional lifestyles of other people my age. Christianity ought to be the same way; gay people ought to be looking at Christian families and realizing how much they’re missing out on!

    As to how I feel about it personally, I think most people have had the experience of being tormented by desire. Everybody (except for a few fortunate and – to me – inexplicable people!) has to deal with it. Some people may only have to do so for a few years; others may have to struggle with it for their entire life. They have my deepest sympathies. I have hope that I’ll become happily married in a few years, but not all people will. It sucks.

    BUT . . . I don’t think that absolves us of our obligations to follow the Bible and the Church’s teachings.

    • I think you’ve hit on something important by suggesting that the homosexuality issue can’t be separated from other issues related to reproduction.

      – Should sexual relations be only for procreation?

      – Should married heterosexual couples be allowed to engage in non-genital sex with each other?

      – Should heterosexual persons, of whom it is known that one or both of them cannot have children (e.g., the woman has had a hysterectomy or uterectomy or ovarectomy; the man has a sperm count of zero, has lost his testicles due to testicular cancer; etc.), be allowed to get married and have sexual relations with each other, whether genital or non-genital?

      • Paul Timo says:

        Some early Christian writers would agree that sexual relations should only be for procreation.

        That seems overly restrictive since healthy human females normally have monthly infertile periods and, as they get age, normally become infertile, yet are still able to enjoy the “unitive” aspects of their sexuality.

    • Paul Timo says:

      Yup.

      Or in Catholic-speak, once we “separate the procreative aspects of sexuality from the unitive”, all bets are off and we are playing a different ball game.

      Many Christians, myself included, have been playing a new game but trying to apply old rules for almost a century now.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Though I’ve always thought of that as not DELIBERATELY separating the two. For instance, if someone is medically infertile, they’re not separating the two, their medical condition is.

        How I’ve heard it preached is that the marriage is to “remain open to the transmission of life”, you are just to let it happen and take it in stride, not that you’re commanded to drop a new baby Catholic every nine months like some form of Quiverfull breeding stock. (I once knew some Catholics who were Quiverfulls — with the accompanying “Woman, Submit!” attitudes — in all but name. It wasn’t pretty.)

    • Kate-
      1) Homosexual married couples also end up raising children. Latest evidence shows huge increase in homosexuality in their kids – so much for “I was born that way”.
      2) The evidence is so overwhelming that even sociologists now acknowledge that, statistically speaking, children raised in households with father and mother who are married do best. Traditional marriage is, frankly, good for society, and anything that devalues it (including cohabitation, divorce, and homosexual marriage) harms us.
      3) Most male homosexual marriages do not result in monogamy, i.e. the commitment is qualitatively different.
      4) Much of the campaign for homosexual marriage is directed against traditional marriage, not in favor of anything. Once homosexual marriage passes, the demand for it is underwhelming, in part because gays have already relegated it to the dustbin of history of the patriarchy. Or whatever.

      • Donalbain says:

        1) Homosexual married couples also end up raising children. Latest evidence shows huge increase in homosexuality in their kids – so much for “I was born that way”.

        Cites, or it didnt happen!

        http://www.healthyminds.org/More-Info-For/GayLesbianBisexuals.aspx

        2)he evidence is so overwhelming that even sociologists now acknowledge that, statistically speaking, children raised in households with father and mother who are married do best. Traditional marriage is, frankly, good for society, and anything that devalues it (including cohabitation, divorce, and homosexual marriage) harms us.

        Nope. Again, wrong. The evidence is that having two parents is better than having one, but all the longitudinal studies I have seen show no difference as regards the gender of those parents.

        http://www.stanford.edu/~mrosenfe/Rosenfeld_Nontraditional_Families_Demography.pdf

        3) Most male homosexual marriages do not result in monogamy, i.e. the commitment is qualitatively different.

        I really dont think that male homosexual marriage has been going on long enough for you to make that claim with any confidence

        4) Much of the campaign for homosexual marriage is directed against traditional marriage, not in favor of anything. Once homosexual marriage passes, the demand for it is underwhelming, in part because gays have already relegated it to the dustbin of history of the patriarchy. Or whatever.

        Sorry, how is it against anything? Last I checked, in nations where gay people could marry, there was no move to prevent “traditional” marriage. And as for the “underwhelming” nature of the demand, I would again like to see some statistics for that before I believe it, but lets imagine it is true. Does that matter?

      • Paul Timo says:

        I would really like to read the evidence you mention.

        I don’t doubt that it exists – I just want to be informed.

        • 1) Walter Schumm, Journal of Biosocial Science. This has been subjected to some harsh methodological critique.
          2) I don’t have anything to refute Donalbain, although his citation only addresses flunking grades in school.
          3)Granted that homosexual marriage hasn’t been around long enough. Bell and Weinberg found 43% of male homosexuals had >500 sex partners. From “The Male Couple”, a citation of a study of 156 males in homosexual relationships. Only 7 were monogamous, all having lasted <5 years.
          4) Can't find the stats online. Have seen quotes by gay marriage advocates stating they seek to destroy marriage itself, can't find them now.

          • Kozak, is it possible that homosexual promiscuity might also be linked to the fact that its practice has been forbidden, deemed socially unacceptable, and forced underground? Nothing like the “law” to stir up sin and increase its power, according to Paul.

          • Donalbain says:

            Oh. OK.. you have “seen some quotes”.. well, that is me convinced.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Have seen quotes by gay marriage advocates stating they seek to destroy marriage itself, can’t find them now.”

            I call shenanigans. I’m not saying you haven’t seen or heard such quotes. But I question their authenticity.

            This is very much like the debate the last election cycle over the California proposal to allow gay marriages. A common talking point among opponents was that churches would be forced to marry gay couples. This is, to be blunt, bearing false witness: “lying for Jesus” (speaking of abominations). Churches routinely choose who they are and are not willing to marry. Civil marriage laws have never forced them to perform any ceremonies, and nothing in the California proposal suggested otherwise. The kindest interpretation possible is that many of those making this argument were ignorant, repeating lies they had been told and which they hadn’t actually given much thought to.

            I have precisely the same reaction to the claim of “quotes by gay marriage advocates stating they seek to destroy marriage itself”. For this to make sense you have to mindlessly demonize those who disagree with you. Adam and Steve getting a marriage license in no way threatens my marriage or yours, or any future heterosexual couples who wish to marry.

      • As I recall from the court cases here, the organization that led the charge to create an amendment banning gays from adopting children was unable to produce any evidence that traditional households are better. All they had were statements like yours, claiming overwhelming evidence without actually producing any evidence at all.

  13. The Gay Christian Network is a nonprofit ministry serving Christians who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and those who care about them.

    Click here to learn all about who we are and what we’re doing as well as some of the top things we recommend checking out on our website!

    http://www.gaychristian.net/

    • It looks like they’re discussing this very topic on their most recent Internet radio show:

      Current episode:
      October 22, 2010
      Ashamed of Christianity. Are you ashamed of Christianity? Listeners respond to Juliet’s comment from last week’s show about being agnostic in the face of Christian bigotry. Also, Justin and Matt comment on news from the Boy Scouts and a church losing thousands of members because of its stance on gay issues. Find out why this week!

      http://www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio/

  14. VolAlongTheWatchTower says:

    What he said:
    “It made for great pulpit rhetoric and drew the amens (from an audience of teetotalers), but did nothing to stem the tide of alcohol abuse. The call to celibacy sounds great for pulpit pounding, but addresses neither the causes nor the cures of what evangelicals define as the problem. “

  15. “The more conservative among us focus on truth, and want to make sure we all understand the issues involved. They are concerned about sin and what they perceive to be the clear teaching of Scripture advocating sexual purity and the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. They see any concession in this matter as moral compromise and disobedience to a holy God. ….On the other hand, the more progressive among us express a greater concern for love and relational integrity. They emphasize Jesus’ radical attitudes of hospitality and the inclusion of sinners.”

    It should be a both/and, not an either/or. Truth and love.

  16. Leanne Payne has had a wonderful ministry to homosexuals for several decades, without compromising the gospel even an inch. She seems have the Godly balance of loving the sinner w/great compassion (and actually helping them ) and hating the sin that’s destroying their soul. What’s astonishing is how the evangelical world has totally ignored her and her ministry/ books (which are excellent). Some of her books include: Healing Homosexuality, The Broken Image, Restoring the Christian Soul (my favorite), and Crisis in Masculinity. Her message is very hopeful, though not easy. Maybe worth checking out. She ministers to other issues, too, which is what helped me, but her message concerning the church’s role in helping homosexuals is very pertinent today! Jesus and His church really do have an answer to this difficult dilemma!

    • She’s a woman, a divorcee, somewhat of a mystic, teaches a form of inner healing, and quotes from Catholics and other non-Evangelical Protestants. So she’s by definition a no-no. [/sarcasm]

      I’ve enjoyed the several books of hers I’ve read.

  17. Dan Crawford says:

    I am always troubled by the suggestion that truth and love are in conflict. The apostle Paul never understood such a conflict. Part of the truth the Church needs to speak about human sexuality is that the “morality” of our times, the “hooking up” culture, the sexualization of pre-teen boys and girls, the “gay” culture – all these things end up hurting people emotionally and subjecting them to a kind of de-humanization which debases them personally. Loving concern, it seems to me, requires that the church maintain the divine vision of human sexuality and relationships while at the same compassionately dealing with all of us in our sinfulness.

  18. I’m really glad we’re having this discussion because about 90% of the actual problem is that one side is trying to dominate it. It’s a complext topic…I know it’s contentious and difficult but let’s at least have the dicussion.

    I’m a biblically conservative pastor with lots of gay friends, and I’m not at all convinced that the issue is scripturally as cut and dried as Mark thinks it is. Not by a long shot. When I say “biblically conservative”, I want to be clear what I mean by that: I mean that I believe that the bible is our final authority for faith and pratice, and so I place great importance on understanding it properly and not in a simplistic, woodenly literal way.

    1.) The bible really doesn’t envision the modern notion of comitted gay relationships. To approach the issue with that level of simplicity is profoundly anachronistic. The notion the bible has in view is closer to modern pederasty than anything else, which wasn’t particularly acceptable in the Greco-Roman culture of that era either. One was expected to be discreet or else face some pretty serious consequences. Paul takes that cultural norm and goes in a stricter direction with it, but he’s not thinking about what we’re thinking about. Neither is the OT.

    2.) In a related issue, when I have discussions like this one, I hear all the time, “I just read the bible and do what it says.” No you don’t. No one does. We’re all very specific about what we prioritize and the priorities have changed consistently and radically over the ages. There is a ban on homosexuality in the OT (assuming its referring to what we’re referring to, which is an awfully big assumption), but there are hundreds of laws, LIFE OR DEATH laws that we utterly ignore now. Why? Why be particular? Shouldn’t we follow all the rest? Why not? The NT is a different kettle of fish to some degree, but the question still remains (see #1) whether we’re talking about the same thing or not.

    3.) If anyone can point out any meaningful difference between homosexuality and gossip or, indeed, gluttony, AS THE BIBLE SEES IT, I’d be glad to reconsider my position.

    4.) There’s an issue of justice here. Here’s two things Greg Boyd points out: first, isn’t it funny that all the people Christianity has historically hated have been the vast minority demographically? Is that a coincidence, or are we just assuming that God hates all the people we hate? That’s pretty convenient isnt’ it? Secondly, though gluttony is pointed out as a death-producing sin many more times than homosexuality is, no one plants churches for fat people do they? No one brings up skinny people to give a testimony about how they used to be fat until they were changed by God. Why not?

    5.) What about gossip, drunkenness, envy or anger, each of which is pointed out more in scripture than homosexuality is? What about the issue of justice, which is mentioned over 2,100 times in the bible versus a grand total of *FOUR* for homosexuality? When Jesus judges us, my reading of the gospels indicates to me that he will judge on the basis of MERCY and how we understood it. That comes out of Jesus’ own mouth at least six times that I can think of off the top of my head. Homosexuality? Zero.

    6.) Most of the people with the biggest problem with homosexuality, at least as I’ve known them, have no gay friends. It’s an abstract issue of sin to them, just like drunkenness or idolatry. Most of them don’t have any friends who were or are addicts either. For me the issue has dozens of faces and names attached to it. You know what? Being gay in America sucks, especially if you’re a Christian. Nobody *chooses* it because it’s fun, so proferring simplistic solutions like “stop practicing homosexual behavior” is uniquely unhelpful. That’s a solution for YOU, not for THEM.

    To me the issue is about love. Yes, as a pastor I urge people toward repentance. We must all kneel at the cross of Christ in faith and humility and be saved. We must let him re-create us as new human beings, whatever that means. Then we bring the Kingdom into the world. How is that Kingdom to be characterized? As the gospels put it, the hallmark of that new humanity is radical, life-giving, self-denying, sacrificial love. Jesus message always *includes* and never *excludes*. Of course that places us in the uncomfortable position of having to encounter all the places where we ALL don’t measure up, as Paul puts it in Romans, we’re ALL in the same boat.

    We could take this whole group of human beings, children whom God loves and the Holy Spirit advocates for, and bundle them up like firewood for hell. That would be lame, but we could do it. OR, we could stay connected and engaged, trusting that Jesus will judge justly no matter what we think. It’s easy to ditch someone we don’t understand or agree with isn’t it? It’s must harder to build relationship in love and work toward understanding.

    I’m going to continue to love and welcome the gay community. When Jesus judges me at the end, I want the issues to be because I loved too much, not because I didn’t love enough.

    • SearchingAnglican says:

      Amen. You articulate my position so perfectly that I don’t need to post my own response. I have a feeling I’d like to go to your church.

      I say all the time that when I stand before Jesus at the end, I will probably discover that I have been wrong about a great many things (sinned) throughout my life. But I will choose love and inclusion over the opposite any day. And that doesn’t apply go my gay friends.

      Now I need to go repent about my attitudes towards the very critical senior, senior citizen in my congregation who irritates the crap out of me (because I’m senior warden and hear it all). I need to love him more.

    • You seem to have covered all the bases here. My eldest brother was homosexual. He died an agonizing, slow death, along with the ever-present knowledge that he was an embarrassing moral failure to our father, who was clerk of session. Josephus recites the revulsion to pederasty in Jewish culture contemporary to Paul’s. The crime committed by the Sodomites was the attempt to commit male rape. These are the sorts of immoral homosexual acts condemned as sin. There is Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 to disassociate with Christians who persist in all manner of immorality. I often wonder why God chose to “lose” Paul’s severe letter to the Corinthians. Was it a lot of Dobson-style homophobic finger-wagging? Perhaps not; we will never know. What I do know is that many are turned off by the religious right’s toxic obsession with other people’s bedrooms. I also disagree with Gene Robinson’s take that God loves you the way you are and God doesn’t want you to change. God has precisely everything to do with our sexuality. But we hear from many talking heads is simply reaction one way or another to our supercharged sexual culture. What has been lacking is a Jesus-based theology of human sexuality; we need more than merely choosing up sides between anti-gay or pro-gay. King David would have a good candidate to begin an honest discussion. I don’t see anyone else comfortable enough to disrobe in church and dance half-naked in celebration before the Lord.

    • Frank…you were sent by God today to make this case here! Thank you Jesus!!
      I have begged God, pleaded for months and years (years ago) for Him to remove this “sin” from my life. He replied over and over to me…”You were knitted in your mother’s womb….fearfully and wonderfully made…” He has found SO many ways to tell me He loves me, Just As I Am, and I will never cease praising His name! I have walked in peace with Him for several years now, and I am humbled and so grateful that He reached out through space and time to bring me back to Him. I spent more years living with the “knowledge” that I would never be in Heaven as long as I felt these things. I had to remove myself from church influences to finally hear Him on the subject. Instead of dying by my own hands, I now live in peace knowing He has my back at every turn. There really is nothing man (humankind) can do to me.

    • Frank’s argument is a breath of fresh air.

  19. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    For the sake of context, I graduated high school in ’97, so I’m one of the older folks of those who “came of age” in the 90’s. I’m also a ministry student whose goal is ordination in the Anglican Church in North America.

    The discipleship to which Jesus calls his followers is pretty radical in that it both demands extreme holiness and extreme love with the realization that we’re never going to completely live up to either of those ideals. It’s a discipleship of counter-cultural inclusion, but also of counter-cultural moral standards.

    I completely affirm the Church’s call to be a counter-cultural prophetic voice, including the call to uphold biblical standards of sexual morality. But the Church also has a call to be a counter-cultural priestly voice that offers God’s healing and God’s love to those who have been damaged by the mainstream culture’s deceptions.

    It seems to me that our stance toward homosexuals has tended to be less counter-cultural than old-guard-keep-the-culture-how-we-remember-it. That is, our disposition and attitude has tended more toward “keeping America Christian” than about really being both prophetic and priestly ambassadors of Christ.

    We have to be both prophets and priests. We have to be messengers of the truth to sinners as well as those through whom the sinner can be ministered to by God.

    A couple of additional thoughts:
    1) 1st Century Rome was just as poly-amorous as we are (if not more so). We ought to look to how the early church dealt with their culture for a model to how we should deal with our culture.
    2) Sin R Us. I guarantee that the majority of our parishioners are struggling with some sort of sexual sin that is accepted in the mainstream culture. We need to minister to the homosexuals in our midst as well as the porn-addicts, the “serial-monogamous,” those who are prone to “hook-ups” etc. We can’t pretend that this is an us/them issue. It’s an us/us issue.

    • “It’s a discipleship of counter-cultural inclusion, but also of counter-cultural moral standards.”

      Great post. I completely agree that we’re called to a radical kind of holiness. I’m not saying that we should throw out Kingdom standards for sexual purity, I’m just asking to level the playing field and not single one group out over another. I also want to be sure to welcome sinners – any sinner – into loving, inclusive community. That’s the only way people change anyway. What we’re largely doing now is keeping the gay community out on the periphery, insisting that they change before they can come and be real, functioning members of the Christian community.

  20. I often ponder how to deal with social and moral issues that are new to our generation. For example, the modern Western concept of not getting married until late 20’s or 30’s is new to our generation. Generations before usually got married shortly after puberty. This led to a whole new group of moral issues.

    In previous generations (e.g., Martin Luther’s generation) violence against differing religious beliefs was acceptable, now most in the western world considers it un-acceptable.

    I have spent my whole life where everything was clear cut, right or wrong. Now, I realize there are some things about grace too wonderful for me to understand.

    • The young marriage thing is not actually true, at least for western civilization. Most of the pubescent marriages you may read out historically are elite/royal families marrying heirs for treaties or land or whatever. However, the majority population of western europe had an average age of first marriage in the mid-20s (24 for women, 26 for men).

  21. I have not read all the comments in depth, so I’m sorry if I’m repeating anyone here, but I think one big reason younger people are more likely to have a different attitude and approach towards homosexuality simply has to do with the fact that they are probably just a lot more likely to have personal interactions with an openly gay person than older people. If those interactions with gay people show them that these people aren’t all monsters looking to prey on little children, and the church tells them that, oh, yes, they do – well what church is saying isn’t matching up with their reality. And guess what, the reality of someone’s experience will eventually win out I’ve found.

    Now I’m not saying I don’t think the Bible condemn homosexual sex. I think it does. However, the Bible condemns a lot of things that Christians have no problem showing mercy towards. So, again, unless a church is intentional in the way it approaches homosexuals, the disconnect will remain. The issue I see is that churches say again and again they hate the sin but love the sinner, but our actions simply don’t say that. We support political initiatives that gay people say as intentionally hurtful. We question the character of gay people more than we do drug addicts.

    It seems to me that until we get the primary Kingdom directive of unconditionally loving people right, it doesn’t matter if we get anything else right. We can be right about the sins we condemn, but miss the more important matters. Indeed, we are little less than modern Pharisees when it comes to this issue a lot of the time.

  22. Thanks, CM, for addressing one of the great issues of our time. And thanks to all of the above posters for well-thought out, civil responses.

    The issue of human sexuality has done much to divide the church…just ask TEC. I would take the discussion a step farther, though, and say that it’s not just conservative theology that pushes young adults away from the church, but the politicazation of the church in general. Every major political candidate orchestrates photo ops at their respective churches in order to harness Christian votes. I sat down with a young couple in youth ministry lately who were extremely disheartened at the steady stream of political candidates, local, state, and federal, who have occupied the pulpit of their church over the past few months; very few of whom have anything to say about Jesus, except that they support the values of the congregation that they are addressing. This couple is considering leaving the church altogether as a result, and ministering in a parachurch organization. It’s not even that they don’t like the candidates…It’s just that when they go to church, they want to worship!

    My personal perception is that young adults have grown weary of seeing candidates stump from the pulpit; jockey to see who can appear more Christian; battle over whether the Ten Commandments can hang in courthouses; and generally imflame the emotions of Christians. A lot of folks are just tired of the hollow rhetoric.

    Bonhoeffer described himself as “apolitical”. Now, if you look at his life and the great sacrifice he made, he definitely loved the culture he lived in. I vote, and I am theologically conservative. However, I will not allow political beliefs to hinder my ability to be a witness. If I choose to divide along political lines, then I automatically set myself at odds with someone who may need Christ, but can’t agree with my politics.

    As far as the issue of human sexuality, I believe that scripture is clear that homosexuality is sin, and Paul is clear that sexual sin is a special kind of sin…a sin against God and our own selves. This includes homosexuality, adultery, pornography, etc. I’ve heard pastors rail against homosexuality, but won’t touch the issues of adultery and pornography from the pulpit. Why? They would offend at least half of the males in their congregations on the adultery issue, and per an old Barna study, about 85% of the males in their pews on the porn issue.

    What was our scripture this past Sunday? Oh, yeah…”Thank God I am not a sinner like that guy! I might look at porn and cheat on my wife, but at least I’m not gay!” When we stand in negative goodness, we are only half-spiritual beings. We can’t just base our faith on the things we don’t do.
    Another reason young people are leaving the church…They want to see a faith that is actively lived out in the daily lives of its adherents. it’s not just what we don’t do, it’s also the things we do to reach out to the hurting, the poor, and the hopeless, and how we conduct ourselves in our own relationships and homes.

    In short, young people are looking for something transparent, something with substance, and something real.

  23. Politicization. And if Christians like me could spell better, young people wouldn’t be leaving the church.

  24. Are any of you aware of a blogsite called “More Musings on Christianity, Homosexuality and the Bible”? Misty Irons writes on many of these issues in a very informed way, in my opinion. She and her husband were in ministry in the denomination I was formerly ordained in. After publicly expressing her views on same sex marriage, a firestorm ensued. Later, in seems because of this issue, her husband was investigated on some other matter and excommunicated from the denomination and ministry. CM, is okay to put a plug in for her site here? If not, just delete this.

  25. To me, the real issue among people leaving the church or faulting it isn’t homosexuality in and of itself. Rather, it’s a contemporary church that has tried to make itself look like the world around it, creating a culture among its youngest adherents in particular of thinking that the church ought to be no different from the world. Sure, the church *says* it’s different but when people come to church without any thought of reverence, but instead of self-indulgence, and an American Idol entertainment mentality, the real message is that God and His teachings don’t really matter as much as being popular with people—if the world around us embraces homosexuality and it’s hip and popular, the church should take the same position. I don’t really mean for this to sound so harsh, but my point is that I think it’s no accident that a contemporary (evangelical, not liberal!) church which focuses on popularity with the world would create people who want to embrace homosexuality, which is very popular with the world.

  26. My attitude has been really shaped by the gays I know who are devout Christians, teachers and people in church leadership positions.

    It’s a lot like women in pastoral leadership to me. Once you have seen with your own eyes and felt with your own heart the Spirit working through one of these “sinners,” you’re not likely to pick up the Bible and tell them they’re excluded.

    My teenager really likes church and faith seems to be a large part of her life (as much as I can tell, since we’re in the ‘my parents are idiots’ stage). She has been around gays and lesbians her entire life and there’s absolutely no stigma there. I would never see her joining a church that treated gay people any differently than, say, rich people.

    On a broader note, it’s ironic that the lack of civil marriage for gays and lesbians means that those who want to make a lifetime commitment to each other must find a receptive Christian church.

  27. OK, I’m a casual reader of this blog and this is my first posting. If some of this has already been said, sorry.

    I don’t know how the church should relate to homosexual people. I really don’t.

    BUT, it appears to me that the Bible is clear that approval of homosexual activity falls outside of Christian morality. To those who say Jesus said nothing about it, I point to Matthew 19:4-6. There Jesus says that God’s differentiating us as either male or female is the reason for (heterosexual) marriage. Also, in Matthew 5:17-19 Jesus upholds the OT law. While he never explicitly condemns homosexuality, as some will point out, I submit that here he does so implicitly. His silence on the issue doesn’t count as approval. It reflects the fact that it wasn’t a contentious issue at the time. Jesus was all for calling out wrong applications of what was then the complete Scriptures.

    Moving to Paul, there’s the obvious Roman 1. But 7:14-25 paints a vivid picture.

    I agree that Christians shouldn’t elevate homosexual behaviour in comparison to other sins. But to those who argue for it’s acceptance based on the theory that some are just born that way, at the risk of sounding flippant, I say so what? Take that train of thought to it’s logical conclusion, and I see no need for spiritual salvation. I may not have been born with homosexual inclinations, but I sure have other ones for which I need atonement. Sinful from conception, Jeremiah laments. But if homosexuality is OK because it’s natural, then who will tell me my sinful nature should be a problem? And there you have it. A theology that finds flexibilty in sexual ethics must, if honest, find it elsewhere as well, and I guarantee you will find a watered-down gospel message. I need to be saved from myself. I am not OK. The way I was born was not OK. The way I am built, from my conception, I was messed up. On my own I am a slave to my desires. “Who will save me from this body of death”?

    I’m rambling, but my point is that I am at a loss to understand a biblical theology that has room for something so apparently unbiblical. I’m also at a loss as to how to relate to homosexuals in a culture won over to sexual identity politics. But we need to find consensus within before we can be salt and light.

    • Jaime,

      I am in a similar situation regarding how accepting the church should be with regard to homosexuality. I, too, see plenty of “evidence” against homosexuality in the Bible.

      But how do I temper that with the “Love” that is demanded of me?

      I think, though, you proffer the solution in your own questions. “I’m also at a loss as to how to relate to homosexuals in a culture won over to sexual identity politics.” For me, this has to be the solution. We must operate outside the culture of “sexual identity politics.”

      I love my friends who are slaves to the sin of greed. I love my family members who are slaves to the sin of thievery, greed, covetousness, and addiction. I hope that others love me, a slave to the sins of the flesh (among others). I do this because I know that God loves all of us; my love should be no less inclusive. I do not make my relationships about the definitions that sin or culture would make of me and others. We are “Children of God,” and that is all the definition that we, as Christians, should need.

      Of course, this relates to our relationships outside the church. Relationships inside the church are more complicated (more on that later…).

      • We can be crystal clear about unashamedly calling sin what it is—those who practice things that are sinful are enemies of God. But then we’re called to “love our enemies.” If we weren’t clear about calling sin sin, we’d only be showing a weak, watered-down, gooey love to everyone around us, rather than practicing the very difficult task of loving those who we absolutely believe are wrong and are enemies of ours and of God’s. To me, the clearest evidence of being transformed into Christ’s image is not refraining from ever passing judgment or speaking truth, but rather practicing love and grace towards those who hate you or who seem (in our view) unworthy of such grace or love.

        • “If we weren’t clear about calling sin sin, we’d only be showing a weak, watered-down, gooey love to everyone around us”

          Honestly, after seeing how rare it is to find love among people who call themselves Christians, this “weak, watered-down gooey love” is really not the worst thing that could happen to us. I always hear Christians (usually conservative) spending so much time criticizing the love of others that I wonder how much time they have had to develop their own, apparently superior, version of love.

          I for one, will take weak love over no love at all.

        • “We can be crystal clear about unashamedly calling sin what it is—those who practice things that are sinful are enemies of God.”

          So, to play devil’s advocate, you are calling yourself and enemy of God? I would certainly fall under that classification based upon your statement.

          But I would like to think that God and I are on the same team. Admittedly, I am an imperfect player on that team, but a team member none the less.

          Yes, call sin “sin.” But be careful not to cast out the sinner at the same time, because we are then casting out ourselves.

  28. MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

    Yeah – I’m really stuck on this issue too because I do know gay persons who are wonderful human beings and this is something they so clearly can’t control.

    Yet, I believe the Bible. If it was just two references from Paul, I could possibly get past it, but it’s not just Paul. It’s throughout scripture. If it’s suddenly okay to be gay is it also okay to commit fornication and adultery, covetousness, idolotry, drunkenness, etc? Granted judging by the behavior of some in the church, you would that that was the case, but as far as I can tell it is not the case. And that is where I get hung up – where do we draw the line between loving the sinner, acknowledging that we are all sinners, and celebrating the sin and calling bad good and good bad?

    • Eddie Scizzard says:

      ” where do we draw the line between loving the sinner, acknowledging that we are all sinners, and celebrating the sin and calling bad good and good bad?”

      I draw it right here: my ever having been a Christian was a colossal mistake.

      • Eddie, I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you can see from this discussion that there are a number of serious Christians who are interested in thinking and talking about important matters and who really care about other people. In the traditional liturgy of the church, we begin every service by saying, “Kyrie Eleison” (Lord, have mercy). We fail regularly and badly. But many of us are trying to live in God’s grace and learn how to extend it to our neighbors.

      • Eddie, I see you are still here. God won’t reject you and neither will I. Accepting Jesus is never a mistake, please stay tunned.

  29. David Cornwell says:

    Over time I’ve almost reversed my position on homosexuality. Back in the early 1980’s I was seeking some answers and attended a seminar on Christianity and homosexuality. This seminar was during a minister’s conference in a conservative seminary with strong Methodist leanings. The seminar leader was a professor of Hebrew and Greek. Rather than affirming my prejudices and positions, he worked his way through the bible and one by one shot them down. This was an eye opening event for me. It changed my whole attitude and eventually some deeply held beliefs.

    A few years ago I came across Jack Rogers’ book “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality.” He reflects much the same journey I have been on.

    In my last pastorate I became close friends with three gay persons within the church. They all made themselves known to me because they considered me safe. One was the lay leader of the church, one the choir director, and the other the organist. One is my best friend to this day, whom I dearly love and respect.

    There are still voices in my head that speak to me from time to time and try make the other arguments. Voices like James Dobson and others who are so sure of their position and do not hesitate to judge those who are different. But these voices no longer convince me.

    I will stop here, except to say that Marge (my wife) and I have made some radical decisions about hospitality and the way we try to live out our lives based on what we have learned. I won’t say more at this point.

    Chaplain Mike, thanks for being brave enough to tackle this issue. If nothing else, perhaps we can learn to listen.

  30. I’m just older than the generation the author refers to – born in 1985. Raised in a rural conservative Mennonite community that didn’t permit divorce, much less remarriage. No exposure to any LGBT folks at all. Now I live in Philly, mixing with welfare-class and yuppie/hipster folks where all this is commonplace.

    Are we going to find solutions to this mess at the same level as the mess itself? Marriage breakdown/divorce/remarriage, promiscuity, and LGBT relationships all show that we’re wired for deep relationship and will go to incredible lengths to find it.

    Won’t we be much more credible in calling out sin if we have better relationships to offer to offer?

    What if we focused on building strong relationships in our families, extended families, and communities? This is the way God made us to live, after all.

  31. I posted above and want to communicate some additional thoughts. The biggest difficulty in discussing this issue I would suggest is that too often evangelical Christians are in this black and white mindset. That doesn’t allow for discussion, nor does it allow for a lot of critical thinking. And the results of that line of thinking (especially in a gray world…) can bring more harm than they realize.

    How…let me illustrate.

    Above I wrote about how I dealt with same sex thoughts and how frustrated I am over dealing with this in my life. When I was in Christianity I spent time reading and looking into what ministries such as Focus on the Family, Exodus International ,etc.. would say about this. Over the course of time I became so dissillussioned over what I read. For example one of the stronger explanations I read is that homosexuality is the result of a “Father wound…” and how their Father raised them.

    I’m sure many of you can say the same thing about your parents…but I love my Mother and Father. They have been nothing but good, and I fear that day when I will lose my parents in death. From the time I was young until today my Father has always been there for me. He loves, he supports (he also doesn’t know that I deal with this at times…) and I couldn’t have been more lucky to have my Dad as my father.

    So maybe you can understand my anger and frustartion to read evangelical material or listen to evangelical leaders, or ministries that then say being homosexual is the result of being poorly raised by their father and of some type of Father-wound taking place.

    Why would I subject my father to that? How insulting is it to him and my Mom? How insulting is it toward the rest of my family? I just don’t understand how someone could say this? What angers me is to know the consequences of such a claim that would hang over my parents, especially my Dad for the rest of his life. And that claim is that he was not a good father becuase his son deals with homosexuality but it must be true because Focus on the Family or some other Christian ministry states that claim.

    To tie it to my above point it’s a perverse example of black and white thinking and the harm it does, in this case to my parents.

    Sorry I didn’t clean up my earlier post well before I posted it earlier.

    “Steve”

    • Steve…now that you know what James Dobson and Exodus think, try another point of view. A book simply titled “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality” and a documentary titled “For the Bible Tells Me So”. God created us to love others as we love ourselves. I hope and pray that for you, Steve. Find a way to love yourself as you were created. God does.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Over the course of time I became so dissillussioned over what I read. For example one of the stronger explanations I read is that homosexuality is the result of a “Father wound…” and how their Father raised them.

      Maybe in some cases, that’s is the reason (or at least *a* reason). But not in your case.

      Has anybody considered that the cause (and intensity) varies from individual to individual? With some, it might actually be “I was born that way”. With some, they weren’t born that way but the orientation originated so early and so strong they might as well have been. With still others, it might have been an “overlay” of behavior and self-identity imprinted by a traumatic experience (like molestation or rape), again with a strength varying from individual to individual. (I am convinced that the much-paraded cases of “Ex-Homosexuals being cured” are those INIDIVDUALS whose same-sex attraction was an overlay over a core hetero personality, and the “cure” was just the removal of this overlay.) And then you get the types who are “BI” just because it lets them score sexually with more two-legged masturbation aids (the first self-described non-straight I knew was this type of sexual predator, and he tried to pressure me into “Everybody’s Doing It”; don’t ask about the resulting impression.)

  32. When I run into people who make a distinction about homosexuality, I always wonder if they make the same distinction for remarriage. From my understanding of the Bible, abandonment by an unbelieving partner and adultery are the only reasons allowed for the divorced to remarry.

    I know that to many young people, and to most of the people I know (in our 20s), this strikes us as hypocrisy on the part of the church. That one sexual sin is treated as differently than another bothers me immensely.

    I know there has been some talk here and there in the evangelical community about divorce. But as long as people who have remarried and were not abandoned by an unbeliever, widowed, or the victim of spousal adultery attend churches in good faith, there will be accusations of hypocrisy.

    For a while, every time I encountered something in the news concerning religion and homosexuality, I would wonder if it would show up here. I eventually figured that to a.)avoid a contentious atmosphere and b.)avoid becoming a blog about christianity and homosexuality, there would be very few mentions of this.

    I’ve rewritten this paragraph five times now, hopefully this will be the last. The reason why this is seen as a civil rights struggle is because it contains many of the same elements as the last one. The number of states where one can be fired for simply being gay is huge. Same for denied housing. Same for being denied your partners medical insurance. Same for being denied deathbed visitation for a loved one. I could go on here, but I hope you get the point. The opposition to fixing all of these is from the religious right. As long as that opposition continues, all the rhetoric about hate the sin, love the sinner, will be lost in the tide of hate that these represent.

    Recently the It Gets Better Project is a series of Youtube videos of queer folk talking about how things get better after high school. It was launched in the face of yet another gay teen suicide (I forget which one). I would hope that those here would take a look and see the faces of those that are harmed.

    • I think the church has confused things by getting involved in the political side of this issue. That has been one of the big turn-offs for many. Why can’t someone hold conservative theological views about homosexuality and yet at the same time advocate for full respect and inclusion in society? In my view, Christians should not be about denying basic human rights or dignity to any group.

  33. we can live without sex. we can’t live without love. too often the church denies Homosexuals sex & love. because they struggle with a sexual sin that is a minority sin they become the “evil other” that must be thrown out to burn. Most churches I’ve seen do not seem to believe in Chastity. Everyone must marry. Homosexuals must be reprogramed to marry women so they will not sin. everyone marries to avoid any sin, than they divorce. is divorce still a sin? 😉
    we must be willing to walk with every single person (Gay or straight). they will still sin & SO WILL WE. Jesus calls every person to be chaste to some extent & we all fall short to some extent.
    we can not as a church let sex divide us. we must unite with what we have in common.
    Sin & Jesus.—–Jesus frees us from our sin. peace.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Most churches I’ve seen do not seem to believe in Chastity. Everyone must marry.

      It’s called “Salvation Through Marriage”, and it doesn’t kick just homosexuals in the nuts, but anyone who for whatever reason or situation has never married. (With me, it was because I was just too geeky to ever be attractive to a woman.)

      This extends to the place of singles in general within a church environment, AKA “The Christian Singles Mess.” (Which should make a good subject if Chaplain Mike runs short.)

  34. Lori Pollard says:

    “They advocate for the church to be a strong, unyielding prophetic voice of truth and moral sanity in a world (and a church) that they see coming apart at the seams as it denies and transgresses the most fundamental boundaries established by natural and biblical theology.” AND “Even those who think the practice of homosexuality is not God’s original design are willing to set that position to the side for the sake of reaching out and befriending those in the GLBT communities.”

    I hold both points of view. To say it’s been a struggle to harmonize these views is an understatement. As a conservative biblical literalist, I want to uphold and adhere to the Scripture, yet my personal experience creates a reality that makes this extremely difficult.

    Many of my friends from my college days are gay. My closest personal friend at that time- a professing Christian, converted to Christianity around the same time as I- fought for survival within the religious fundamentalism of the discipleship movement. I watched as a baby Christian, in horror, as the church ripped him apart- a year-long process of excommunication. Several years later, my friend died (alone, with HIV, having rejected all things Christian- including me) unable to reconcile himself to his identity in Christ or the world. Since that time (27 years ago), I have been unable, or rather, unwilling, to judge anyone in this arena.

    Yes, Mike, it becomes much more difficult to ‘opine’ on homosexuality and/or the veracity of the Word, when you have nothing ‘invested’ and it becomes theory rather than the blood and guts of daily living, loving and dying. God’s grace and mercy must be so much much more than we can comprehend.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My closest personal friend at that time- a professing Christian, converted to Christianity around the same time as I- fought for survival within the religious fundamentalism of the discipleship movement.

      Two words, Lori: DISCIPLESHIP MOVEMENT.

      Those two words have been used for the justification of monstrous control-freak behavior and Party Line doubleplusgoodthink that can only be compared to 1984 Oceania or today’s RL North Korea. And all in the name of “God Saith”.

      I got mixed up in the fringes of Discipleship/Shepherding in the Seventies. When someone says “Praise the LORD!”, I still have a hard time hearing anything other than “Long Live Big Brother!”

  35. The Bible is not inerrant.

    Controversy solved!

    Seriously — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul; they all had encounters with God and wrote books and letters that God inspired. But the same is true of Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Bonhoeffer, Lewis, Mother Theresa, Dobson and McLaren. They were all inspired by God in different ways. They all wrote about it. They all got some parts right and some parts wrong.

    The original authors of the Biblical books had encounters with the true and living God, fully revealed in Jesus. We know this because we have had encounters with the same God, the same Jesus, via the Holy Spirit. We know this by faith — that’s the only way we *can* know it.

    So because the original Bible authors had these real encounters, we give them a special ear, we learn from them as primary sources. But that doesn’t make them infallible. They can still get things wrong. Even “All scripture is God-breathed” is a statement capable of containing error if we think the Spirit of God (which was in Adam and is in us) makes anyone inerrant as soon as they set pen to paper.

    If God is real — if Jesus is real, and in our hearts — then it’s OK to have a Bible that isn’t perfect, because Jesus is *real* and giving us *actual* guidance. (If Jesus is just imaginary, then yes, I suppose we do need a perfect Bible to make up for the lack.)

    Is that dangerous and troublesome, because so many Christians will hear the voice of Jesus differently and follow in different — sometimes conflicting — ways? Yes it is. Congratulations. Welcome to Christianity. You’ll note that this conflict is present even among people who believe in an inerrant Bible — there’s no getting away from it until Jesus comes again. But until then, let us remember that we follow a Spirit, a man, a God — not a book.

    Now go, love and serve some gay people, and see what that Spirit tells you.

    • But it is the same Spirit that breathed into Scripture, so He will not contradict what He has instructed there. Apparently that is how He (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has decided to primarily share His message. Innerant, infallible, or errant but highly authoritative (however one sees it) it still is truth.

    • Ok, that’s going to be a minority view of Scripture, except maybe in ELCA or TEC.

  36. Basically, I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin and that Christians should not engage in it. That being said, I think the church makes far too much fuss about the issue, especially to the neglect of other areas of sin. Jesus, for example, says that he *hates* divorce, but never mentions homosexuality! How’s that for priorities? I do not think that the church should endorse homosexual behavior but it should be open and welcoming to people who identify themselves as homosexuals instead of driving them away because they disagree with one’s beliefs on the subject. If one needed to have all of their theology correct to enter a church, I think we’d all be disqualified!

    Really, how homosexual impulses arise isn’t all that important. I think the church gets too sidetracked with whether it’s present from birth, psychologically developed from childhood, or whatever. I just don’t think it’s that important. The important thing is not how one feels by default, but how one chooses to behave according to God’s word.

    I have had several homosexual friends over the years, all of whom have been quite aware of my beliefs and were quite relieved when I didn’t start spewing about how evil they were, as they might expect a Christian to do. At least one of them has experienced severe emotional trauma from turbulent relationships, substance abuse, and other difficulties despite his brilliant mind. Others I’ve known haven’t really pursued a lifestyle of homosexual behavior and seem to be much healthier as a result, at least at present. A family friend who works in a hospital in Houston has mentioned many homosexual men who’ve come in for treatment from awful physical injuries resulting from their lifestyle. From my observation it seems evident that a homosexual lifestyle is often a turbulent and self-destructive one, and that healthy, monogamous couples are the exception rather than the rule. As a Christian I think that homosexuals deserve compassion rather than contempt, and offered the renewing power of Christ to deliver them from a destructive lifestyle, if they choose.

    That being said, I simply can’t get on board with so-called gay rights issues. First, I don’t believe that marriage is a “right” to begin with. Second, I believe gay rights issues are overblown by the media and special interest groups. Gays in fact have the same rights to vote, hold jobs, own private property, and do almost anything else a straight person can do. Like heterosexuals, homosexuals can get married to a person of the opposite sex. However, I do not endorse discrimination or hateful behavior against gay people and think it’s a tragedy when suicides/murders/etc. occur. But I feel that at least some instances are hijacked by the media, and uncovering the truth behind whether some such incidents are hate-based or not can be a challenging task.

    • “First, I don’t believe that marriage is a “right” to begin with.”

      So you would be OK if the government made all marriages illegal?

      No, in our society some people have the de facto right to marry the person they love (assuming that person is over the age of consent) while others do not, and that de facto right is based on a person’s sexual identity that they’re born with.

      Why don’t we make it illegal for short people to get married? Or ugly people. I can think of all kinds of genetic engineering our society could accomplish if we run with the idea that your rights are based upon your DNA.

      Any differentiation by government based on a person’s genetic background repulses me.

      • It is also a right specifically named and protected for people with disabilities by international treaty with the vast majority of the world’s nations, along with the right to not have our fertility taken away by force, etc.

      • Anyone should have the right to marry. 2 dudes or 2 women don’t constitute “marriage”.

  37. Just today I read on a friend’s blog the following comment on a post:

    In this connection I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis’s autobiography Surprised by Joy. In writing of his school years, he makes mention of the rampant homosexuality of the boarding school. He says he was never interested (“tempted” is the word he uses) in that and never got involved in it, but that in his view he became subject to what he, as an adult, viewed as a far worse spiritual condition–that of being a self-righteous prig. No one could ever say, based on his writings, that he was against orthodox teachings on sexuality–but he didn’t see the need to blow such issues out of proportion, as is commonly done today, either.

    Exactly. To understand this issue, we’d have to understand the obsession with sexual matters in the church today – from fundamentalist baptists to neo-Catholics. Someone on the same thread made the following connections:

    More existential sins such as pride, sloth, judgmentalism, anger are often far more subtle – and so not as obviously defined by actions, even if they are often far more devastating to charity.

    and:

    I also think that abortion and homosexuality – being sins that many of us feel immune to – are perfect for deflecting our consciences away from our own failures and weaknesses. They give many cheap cause for feeling virtuous. We pro-lifers are on God’s side, we are good, the abortionist is evil.

    These quotes are from here: http://arturovasquez.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/100-catholic/#comments

    I think there is a lot of truth here. Personally, coming from the third world, I have noticed that there is no such attention paid to the EXTREMELY OBVIOUS sins of the people here: Greed, gluttony, narcissism etc. Therefore it is easier to rail against the things you do not have a temptation to do – as in the Lewis quote above.

    Unfortunately, the “sexual morality” issue was taken up by the politicians of the right, and they have clearly succeeded in duping the Christians to vote for them ON THAT BASIS, without ever really doing much about it in the 37 years since Roe vs Wade.

    In the end, I would argue that all this is the result of the latent pelagianism so prevalent amongst the faithful since the advent of that hell-hound Finney, and that the chickens have come home to roost.

    • Singular Observer,
      I’m glad you brought the subject of abortion up. I’m still wondering why it’s okay to kill babies, children, women, etc. in the Old Testament, (which a lot of folks are quoting here), and not to kill them in the New Testament. Isn’t infanticide in any form murder? God sanctioned or not?

      So much of this stuff is not our place to judge anyway. If we believe God will have his day of judgement, it will all be taken care of then.

      Doesn’t worrying about what goes on with our fellow humans in their private lives make us a bit voyeuristic? And isn’t that a bit of a perversion?

      We all need to examine the logs in our own eyes before we tell others about the specks in theirs.

      • One of the interesting findings of the book, as I understand from reviews, is that many young people are actually more conservative when it comes to their views about abortion, even though in general they take more “liberal” positions on many other social issues.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Probably because abortion is more obviously a (literally) life-and-death issue.

  38. I’m 19 and in college and it seems that there is more than 30% of my generation leaving the church. I go to one of the most “Christian” public colleges in the South but even here most church youth abandon their faith when they hit campus. I disagree that this is because of the Church’s stance on homosexuality. In our youth groups and churches, young adults are constantly given morality and the law as our saviors instead of Christ. My life was shipwrecked because of my reliance on morality instead of Christ and I almost left the faith. Young people are dissatisfied with the Church because they are finding that it preaches a false savior that doesn’t fulfill like Christ can.

    That being said, I don’t think any of the posts yet have tackled the issue of homosexuality from a Gospel based perspective (I may be wrong, I skimmed some of the posts). I think the Church argues too much from the stance that homosexuality is wrong (pretty clearly stated in the Bible) instead of the stance that marriage between a man and woman is an amazing covenant picturing the Gospel. Marriage in the Bible is a beautiful representation of God’s covenant with His people. The biblical frame for marriage is 1. It is a covenant for God’s glory 2. It reflects God’s plan for fruitfulness 3. It is a covenant that reflects God’s laws and 4. it reflects headship and submission (these four points taken from Jared Wilson). Proverbs 18:22 says something along the lines of “A man who finds a wife finds a good thing and finds favor from the Lord.” I am confident saying that according to Jesus and His Word, marriage between a man and woman is a blessing from our Father and is a picture of our spiritual union with Jesus. So therefore I would say Scripture is not in any way giving approval for homosexual unions (or sexual activity but that is laid out pretty clearly) because unions between two people of the same gender do not glorify the Father.

    As a follower of Christ, I struggle with loving my neighbors who have homosexual desires. I am just as broken sexually as they are and I continually have to come before my Father and ask for the grace to love all my neighbors more. I don’t think the Church should tolerate same sex sexual activity any more than I think it should gloss over pornography or any other sin. I think most of the Church at large is guilty of condemning homosexuality without explaining why God hates it. Just like the pornography that I have and sometimes still struggle with, homosexuality demeans humans. Men and women were made to bring glory to God through the union of marriage. Homosexual unions won’t satisfy our God given needs, both physical and emotional, no more than pornography will satisfy a person’s desire for sex.

    Sorry if this post doesn’t make sense I just woke up. But to sum up my view, we as the Church should love homosexuals with self-sacrificial love without condoning it and marriage between a man and woman is meant to glorify Christ and that cannot happen between in a same sex union.

    • Eddie Scizzard says:

      ” Homosexual unions won’t satisfy our God given needs, both physical and emotional, no more than pornography will satisfy a person’s desire for sex.”

      It’s comments like this that make me so glad I’m leaving my former Christianity in a ditch. The committed love I observe in friends homosexual relationships is not the equivalent of a dirty magazine. It is not the equivalent and there is nothing ANYONE here can say to change my mind.

      Frankly, if God himself were to materialize and say the same, I’d tell him he’s wrong, and that he should take this idea and shove it.

      • cermak_rd says:

        And you’d be in good company. Abraham and Job both argued with the almighty as did the gentile woman in the Christian scriptures. And Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Almighty.

    • I agree with you completely, Nate. Thank you.

  39. So much going on here. It’s such a difficult topic to talk about in generalities. Is there a specific, top-priority question that we could try to address? What is it?

    • At this point, it is a wide-ranging conversation, Sean. However, the main thing that got my attention was that the culture war, Christian political approach to the faith, particularly when it comes to issues like homosexuality, has turned young people off and caused them to brand Christians as intolerant bigots. So 30% of those young people have opted out of religion entirely, and the number is growing all the time.

      How do we have a conversation about this in the church, particularly about our relationships with our GLBT neighbors, without blowing up the building?

      • Thanks for clarifying.

        I think the first thing to do is to bridge the gap between the younger and older generation of Christians with this conversation. I’m 27, a-political, and have never been interested in the culture war since I came to Christ in my late teens.

        In my church experience so far, I’ve always been in the middle of the crown age-wise… not quite as young as the youth, but certainly not quite as old as the grown-ups. I’ve been able to facilitate a lot of questions about the younger generation for the older folks, about why we/they think/do/believe the way we do, and the things that motivate us. But this topic is not one I’ve ever had a conversation about in that context.

        Do you think there is this kind dialogue happening within the church at all? I haven’t seen it. Likely that it just becomes another us-them fragmentation. It would be cool if we could at least hear *why* the other end believes what it believes, without the shouting from the political side and without the smugness from the younger side.

      • Maybe the beginnings of an answer to your last question would be this: I am NOT going to make any believers answer to these questions reason to divide over, if it is at all possible. I am going to strive to my utmost to keep this conversation, awkward as it is, going, and agree to disagree , charitably, when necessary. I’ll try to listen to those whose views are radically different than mine, and find whatever good in them (the ideas AND the people) I can, and emphasize that.

        That’s a start, for me. Lot’s of passion in these posts, Chap. Mike, this is indeed a topic that we cannot ignore.

        GregR

  40. The best thing that ever happened to our family is when a lesbian couple bought the house across the street from us. We had our Prop 22 sign in our front yard (CA’s marriage proposition) before we knew they were purchasing the house.
    They saw the sign, moved in, all their friends helping them.

    But, BSF had had a challenging question about a month before: Is there an empty house in your neightborhood? Can you welcome them? Etc etc.. and I made a committment to God that I would welcome whoever moved in with cookies, etc .

    God has such a great sense of humor. We found out who was moving in…kinda took as aback at first; then realized, God has a plan here.

    His plan was to change my (our) heart(s). Took cookies over, on a plate that was ‘fancy’ and they would HAVE to return to our home! Took my kids, welcomed them. They were shocked (cuz of our Prop 22 sign, i’m sure!)

    Nevertheless, they came over, came in, returned the plate WITH COOKIES and a friendship started.
    They knew what we believed, but, you know, we were the ones they trusted with a key to their house, when they would leave on vacation, mail, etc…my daughter babysat for their kids (eventually they had four between them–another learning story from God on my heart) and vice versa. Best neighbors in the neighborhood, but guess what? The other neighbors barely spoke to them!

    Not patting ourselves on the back, just saying…sometimes it’s more about my (our) hearts…great lesson for our kids on how we handled this over the years. They moved, sadly, about a year ago, we miss them immensely, miss their kids.

    Did we ever condemn them? no. Condone? no. We just loved them, because that is what Jesus has asked us to do…love my neighbor as myself–but, seriously, couldn’t do it, unless I love Him first!

    • That’s awesome! They’ll take that experience with them wherever they go, with hearts much more receptive to the Gospel. So encouraging.

    • Charlie, you did the right thing. time to forget the culture wars, and just do the right thing – Love God, and love your neighbour, because by these two hang the whole law and the prophets. The religious right somehow miss that verse in their Bibles.

    • Love God and neighbor – way to go.

      I don’t see any differences at all in the children of gay couples vs. children of straight couples. It’s interesting to me that gay couples seem to want to have kids with the same propensity as straight couples. Because it can be a LOT harder for them.

    • Great story, Charlie. Real progress lies in small acts of kindness like yours.

    • Your response just radiates Christ’s love. Like I said previously, who could resist the body of Christ dressed in His love. Far more attractive than the body of Christ checking itself out in the mirror!

  41. Michael Dee S. says:

    If we try to answer this question in a way that is bound to the “truth” side of the equation, we will likely be looking for an answer that is absolute and binding in all places, times, and situations. No matter how much we desire to be compassionate and loving concerning our final response to the question, the fact will be that we will end by dehumanizing the person we apply the “truth” to. This is the lesson Jesus repeatedly sought to demonstrate to the religious leaders of his day. “Truth” in our hands will always kill.

    Every time I have personally struggled with an issue concerning another and sought to find a “Biblical answer”, one that came down on one side of the line, and then rendered judgement, I always later came to see I had failed to love the person. Objective truth ends with turning the other into an object. I ended by failing to love the other because I had not begun with love to begin with.

    This always left me in a very uncomfortable place. Surely truth is important. But every single time I sought to apply truth to a human situation, I failed to love. In the end, I was left with not being able to give the kind of answer I felt I should be able to give. However, when I remained steady in loving another person in a difficult situation, just ever so often I found myself saying something to them that was a sort of judgement of their behavior but didn’t hurt and wound them but miraculously came to be a moment of healing for them. This is what Jesus did with the woman at the well when he told her to bring her husband. He let her know that he knew about her darkest secret sin but that he was still with and beside her. This was a judgement that freed and healed her. Only God can do this. The truth will truly set us free, but we are not competent to handle the truth in our own prescribed time. I think Pacino said something or other about that in some movie, didn’t he?

    I started this by saying if we started from the truth side of the equation, we will end by dehumanizing the other. The other starting point is in solidarity with the other while realizing we have no advantage over them other than that we have come to know the one who is life and whose desire it is to bring healing to everyone and everything in all creation. This is huge. But it means we will have to learn to be patient as we learn to love the other and wait upon the Spirit who alone will decide where, how, and when the healing will begin. It may well turn out it is us He wished to heal, and not the other we think God plans to heal through us.

  42. cermak_rd says:

    I’m old for this conversation. In my mid 40’s now. However, I have to wonder. Is the younger crowd really being driven away from Christianity by people who believe they are going to Hell? How often is that even preached on? I can’t imagine a church where that is a subject more than once or twice a year! And it’s not like the First Christian Church of Anywhere is the only Christian church around. If I discover that bread from Hammerschmidt’s bakery is awful, I don’t stop eating bread, I simply take my business to Katzenberg’s instead.

    I wonder if the divide over homosexuality is more about the politicization of the issue with “Christians” being seen as intentionally trying to take away rights from gay people or arguing against hate crimes laws or equal employment laws. Perhaps if the media would when they show an anti-gay snippet from these folk would also show a religious community that doesn’t agree with that viewpoint. At least it would equalize the noise a bit.

    But I am hopeful in the leaving of youth from Christianity. I think having less numbers will force Christianity to accept that it is not the only religion in America. It will make it both more pure and more humble and that I think will be better for everyone.

    • cemark-rd – I’ve been in churches (grew up in one, in fact), where this kind of stuff was preached on 95% of the time! And I know of others who had the same experience. It was all LAW, Law, Law (old laws, new laws, imaginary laws, laws that fitted the preachers’ taste)- with little/no grace. It came to the point where church was where you were berated for your sins, and ones that you didn’t know about were pointed out to you – and if that failed, the sins of others were preached upon – and hell was more present than heaven.

      You’ve just been jolly lucky (i mean blessed) – thank God for it! (I mean it!).

  43. Lisa Hayward says:

    I have always been very concerned about what made Jesus angry. I am afraid of standing before him someday, and being a disappointment to him because I did not try to follow his examples. I think some of the most passionate examples of the heart of Christ, is when he is angered. If you will study every passage about his anger, it will always be in regards to when someone is stripped of their dignity, belittled, thrown away by another, held down and disregarded by another for any reason at all.

    “He was angered by their indifference to human need.” Mark 3:5-6. After studying more closely those attitudes and behaviors that angered Jesus, I have strived to use that lens in every situation. It helps SO much as a guide. I want so much to learn and mold my heart to be like His. I mess up every day and I fail every day. But, this revelation has given me much wisdom.

    While I may be repulsed by homosexual sex, I can not be hurtful, snubbing, or throw away those that are wired differently from me. When I do, I am not caring enough about those things that Jesus cared about. The higher law…love. Passionate about human need. Extending kindness, grace, a smile, a comforting word, making time for another, listening to them, crying with them, laughing with them, CONNECTING !!

    EVERYONE needs these gifts from each other. THAT is the church of Jesus Christ. Lift the other UP!

    HE was angered by indifference to human need.

    Nothing more needs to be said.

    I too no longer attend church. Church has lost sight of human need.

  44. Hi all,

    Just wanted to share a few things here, because I guess I happen to have the “honour” of falling into the categories of what this topic’s about – I’m both around the correct age range (25), I’ve been a Christian since I was in my early teens, and I’ve been struggling with homosexuality since I was in my teens as well.

    I’ve been following this thread with much interest and been reading all the posts. Granted, I’m not the most theologically accurate person around, and therefore I shan’t claim to be, but I’ll share a bit about my own perspective on things and my own struggles.

    First off, I guess I have to make it clear that I’m not from America; rather, I’m from an Asian country. Nevertheless, my culture doesn’t necessarily encourage homosexuality, and as far as I know, it’s not something that most people will be willing to admit to or talk about freely. At this point in my life, there’s only one other person who fully knows the extent of my struggles – a spiritual mentor who has thankfully, has been nothing but encouraging about my situation and been absolutely trustworthy so far.

    The thing that bugs me the most is really what to make of the whole situation. I do think there’s some point to arguing about what we make of it, what the Bible talks and teaches about it, etc… because it really does shape your decisions and actions. A lot of folks here have shared about how their opinions about homosexuality affect/will affect the way they treat the GLBT community that they come into contact with. But for me, what I think about this issue determines the way that I will deal with it and lead the rest of my life. Do I learn to “get over it” and lead a heterosexual lifestyle, getting married eventually and having children? Do I find fulfillment in a same-sex relationship? Or do I take the middle road and choose to remain celibate instead?

    Honestly, not knowing where I’m going or ending up with this scares me. A lot. And the debates and opinions surrounding this issue are so dense and convoluted that I have no idea what to believe in anymore. This doesn’t matter so much if you’re not suffering from it; it matters more if it’s something that will profoundly affect the way that you relate to others for the rest of your life.

    Having said that, I attend a conservative Baptist church, and have heard people expressing negative views about homosexuality, both over the pulpit as well as in my conversations with them. And honestly, it disgusts me how some can deride homosexuals so easily and make it seem like the most evil thing around. I agree with some of the posters here; it’s easier to point a finger at someone else’s sin, as long as you’re not reminded of your own.

    But, if struggling with homosexuality has taught me anything, it’s taught me that judging people is easy to do, but also the least loving option possible. Although i still do judge others because of my fallen nature, I’m more keenly aware of the need to look past their facade and learn to extend love as my first response. I guess that’s probably a bright spot in the midst of all this madness.

    (PS: Sorry for the long and slightly disjointed post, but it’s really late here, and I just wanted to get this off my chest before I went to bed… I think this is probably the most honest I’ve ever been about my situation ever, so thanks to CM for starting the post in the first place)

    • “This doesn’t matter so much if you’re not suffering from it; it matters more if it’s something that will profoundly affect the way that you relate to others for the rest of your life.”

      For this reason, I highly recommend getting alone with God on this subject. No one who is not struggling will listen as intently as you or I about what is the will of God. I am the daughter of a southern Baptist preacher, so I know what you are hearing from the pulpit. (For the record, I adore my father, he passed many years ago, and he and I never discussed this issue). It amazes me how two-faced they can be about this subject. “The bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” mantra is so worn and old. What about the scriptures about women being silent in church, they should wait until they are home to ask their husbands about anything they don’t understand? That’s just one of a thousand “what abouts” that could be mentioned as an argument to the cherry picking that goes on in churches.
      In my experience, God spoke to my heart, and He used the bible and other people to confirm those things I thought I was hearing from Him. He is the One True Thing you can count on in this world, and He will be patient with you as you find your way. Remember, He says when we seek Him with all of our hearts, He will be found. He’s not hiding from you, but rather waiting for you to begin to seek Him. Drown out all the other voices and just focus on His. He will show you the truth, and you will be set free.
      Peace and love to you TC.

  45. Matt Hoverter says:

    The Church should never compromise its self as to say that it is OK with any sin. The Church must always have a firm, strong stand that sin, any sin is wrong and if we know Jesus then we should be taking steps to eliminate this sin from our lives to the best of our ability. The best of our ability unfortunately is a very small effort. God knew the nature of us, he knows that no matter how hard we try we will always fall well short of even a fraction of what Jesus is.
    All that being said, the Church must take a stand against sin, but the Church must open its arms and hearts to people. Not just somewhat good people but ALL PEOPLE. I will not say that I agree with someone being gay, but I can promise you to the best of my ability I will love that person.
    My walk with Jesus has been one of 11 years so far, I gave my life to Christ at Oneida Baptist led by Michael Spencer in my prayer. The first 10 years of my walk with Jesus, he molded me into a man who was seeking a better relationship with him, really having a hear to heart relationship with him daily.
    A year ago I prayed to God (as a Hillsong lyric says) for him to “break my heart for what breaks yours” Ever since then Jesus has torn me in half with the heartache and love I have for people. He is constantly putting me in situations to love people who a year ago I would have turned away from. This includes homosexuals, Jesus isn’t here for us who know him, he is here seeking the seekers. He is after the ones who know nothing of him. I am not afraid of god being mad at me for not doing something, i know all he wants is for me to open my heart to him for him to live in and to carry on a daily true relationship with. It just so happens that part of that relationship is accepting a broken heart for the same things that break his. The Church needs to realize that it is more than just a body of people who know God or who are seeking him, it is a body of sinners.

    • It is the big paradox isn’t it? God’s love breaks us to heal.

      • Matt Hoverter says:

        It really is, I can remember when I was challenged to pray for Jesus to break my heart. At the time I didn’t really understand what it meant, but Jesus did it anyway, and I can tell you that is was a life changing prayer. I have never been the same.

  46. I’m looking for practical advice here.

    How can I love my GLBT neighbors? (neighbors broadly speaking, not necessarily next door)

    I believe sex outside a permanent monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is sin, and I don’t want to sin by endorsing sin. However, I don’t want that to get in the way of loving others as Jesus does.

    What should I do and say? What should we (the church) do and say?

    The old “hate the sin and love the sinner” rhetoric isn’t working for me. The “hate the sin” part is getting in the way of loving the person.

    I’ll admit that I don’t have any GLBT friends (yet) …

    • Reaching out to someone as a friend and neighbor is not at all the same as endorsing everything about that person. I don’t endorse everything about my best friend/husband. I’ll go a step further. I don’t endorse everything about myself.

      Simply get to know the person. I don’t know how we can even answer that question until we see things through the other person’s experiences.

  47. In the end there are 3 things that last…the GREATEST of these IS LOVE – GOD IS LOVE – real authentic true love IS GOD – LOVE thy neighbor as thyself is part of the GREATEST commandment – thou shall not commit adultery or sexual sin is not part of the greatest commandment it is part of the 10..Jesus said :” I give you a new commandment”.. summing up the ten,,,, “LOVE God & LOVE your neighbor” – Jesus didn’t say our neighbor was a christian who believed and lived the way we believe God wants us to live – he gave the example of the good samaritan – someone who was despised and frowned upon – Jesus’ life example was befriending, associating with, spending time with, believing in the good within who – within sinners of all kinds. Jesus said – Do not judge – He did not say Judge thy neighbor and tell your neighbor what his/her sins are according to you – Jesus did say, ‘why do you seek to remove the “speck” in your neighbors eye when you avoid the “plank” in YOUR OWN eye….Of all the biblical words chosen to support one’s position on today’s topic none of the above are found. at least before I wrote this

    .The bible does not say:
    : It is your job to inform others how sinful they are
    : it is your job to save others from hell
    : it is your job to proclaim the bad news of condemnation to sinners
    :it is your job to slander others by talking about their sinfulness

    The Bible does tell us : God ALONE saves ; Jesus is the one and only savior ; God ALONE knows the heart of each person ; God ALONE gives the Grace to understand His ways to change the heart of man(woman).

    It does tell us : Thou shall not Kill. The spoken word by any one of us has the ability to give life or to kill. Even the words of Scripture – if spoken from an attitude of “it is my job” to inform you of your sinful behavior and how you’ll go to hell, can cause deep abiding wounds that can and do kill. If we are not 100% sure that it is the Holy Spirit leading us to inform another person of their sinful status and how they need to change…then we should be silent , love them, and LEAVE THE SAVING TO GOD. Why?? Because if the Spirit of God – WHO IS LOVE – is not behind our spoken words then we do not have the grace to speak in the way God ALONE knows is necessary for that individual soul/person to hear and understand what is being said. If God is not behind it then the person to whom we speak does not have the grace of God at that moment to receive and understand. Why do human beings think they know how to best reach a heart and save it? They want to play god…

    Prayer is powerful tool and too few christians know or believe just how powerful.
    Love is the ultimate weapon – when we ask God to love another person THROUGH us- then we are giving this person God without their even knowing it- and in this atmosphere God can and does transform all sinners regardless of what the sin is. The bible further says human beings are made in His image – that’s all human beings ever conceived and born. Are we humble enough to know we are amongst the sinful and broken ( we sinners, yes christians sin and are broken) who are being invited daily to surrender to the transforming Fire of Divine Love.

  48. First, it strikes me that in both the case of young people leaving and in the case of the alienation of the GLBT community, we are essentially delaing with failures to recognize and treat these as cross cultural mission efforts, which depend for their effectiveness on our willingness to live incarnationally with and among those we’re ministering to, contextualize the gospel for their situation, and find and work from common ground.

    I saw myself and my older teenage kids in the post’s and some of the younger commenters’ descriptions of why people leave. The culture war, raging intolerance, hypocrisy, a lack of charity, sin-management and self-help as “ministry,” shallow teaching, thoughtless prayers, politics and mere moralism seen as spirituality, and a host of other real, serious, systemic blunders (these aren’t one-off occurences; we’ve experienced them regularly and across multiple congregations), have all left us wandering in the post-evangelical wilderness despairing of ever finding a church home where we remotely fit. In short, it doesn’t look a lot like Jesus.

  49. I believe that much of the anger and fear generated by some segments of the evangelical community to homosexuality come out of an interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrah story in the Old Testament. According to this common evangelical interpretation, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God because of their many abominable sins, including homosexuality. Thus, so the interpretation goes, if we allow homosexuality to exisit in our culture, we too will be destroyed by God. Therefore, the fear and anger toward homosexuals–you and your sin will destroy us if we allow you to practice your sin. That is the only reason I can see why many evangelicals take the homosexual practice of others so personally. They see it as something that will hurt them