November 21, 2018

Why I am an Ally – Part 4

A Look at Leviticus 18 and Act 15.

In the last three posts we introduced some of the people I have met in my life journey, discussed Romans 1 & 2, and looked at the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Today we want to take a rather different look at Leviticus 18 and Acts 15. Rather than do an in depth exegetical analysis, we want to look at some of the typical responses to the text.

Leviticus 18:22 bans sex between men among other prohibited sexual practices. The Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15, sets aside much of the Old Testament regulations.

28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

How do we handle this?

There are two responses at either end of the spectrum.

Response 1: The Bible doesn’t matter. It has no meaningful application to my life. Therefore what it says about homosexuality is irrelevant.,

Response 2: This is a sin of significant concern. The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. (And yes I once had an interim Pastor who used to say the latter part of this just about every sermon.)

There are a whole lot of other responses in between these two in which someone who “believes the Bible” might find some concordance.

I will itemize a number of the possibilities here. I do NOT hold to all of these, but they are listed for your rumination. Many of them overlap. Some you will in fact find contradictory. For brevity’s sake I will list them as short summary statements. Readers can elaborate on them, add other ideas, and discuss validity or lack thereof in the comments. I expect lots of “yes, but” and “no, because”, along with some level of agreement. I will discuss my own positions at the end.

Here then are some of the other responses.

Response 3: This is one sin among many. It is usually listed with other sins like greed, envy, and disobedient children. It should not be singled out for special attention.

Response 4: This is not a universal prohibition. The context of Leviticus 18 is narrow. The command is location limited (Canaan), time limited (while living there), race limited (Jews), and gender limited (only males are mentioned.)

Response 5: The tag line: “You will do well to avoid these things” is interesting because it only speaks of positive consequences of following, and does not list negative consequences for not following. Are these to be understood now as guidelines rather than outright prohibitions?

Response 6: Sexual morality is not defined in the Acts passage. Based on other passages, Paul seems to include hair length, and the wearing of jewelry as some of the prohibited things that show that you are sexually immoral. Yet today, Christians in general (with a few exceptions) do not have a problem with either hair length or jewelry.

Response 7: The Holy Spirit allowed believers in Acts 15 to reinterpret Old Testament laws based on new circumstances. The church today could be similarly led.

Response 8: Neither the Old Testament writers nor the New Testament writers had the scientific knowledge available to them that we have today. Had they had that knowledge, the laws would have been different.

Response 9: The sciences of genetics and immunology are both in their infancy. I include both here because we are just starting to learn how big a role the immune system plays in shaping our brain. We are just beginning to gain understanding about how we are wired and why we do the things we do. While our knowledge is not complete, it seems to be heading on a trajectory that says God made me this way.

Response 10: ‘Their writing was based on what they knew of the natural world, and God communicated with them in terms they could understand.

Response 11: The church has frequently reinterpreted scripture based on new scientific knowledge/revelation. The church eventually came to accept the findings of Copernicus and Galileo even though initially they seemed to be clearly contrary to scripture. The Catholic Church’s acceptance of evolution would be another example.

Response 12: Homosexuality is not a choice, it is the way they were made by God. A loving homosexual relationship then, cannot be considered sin, rather it is showing love in the way that God intended.

Response 13: From Romans 1 we see that Paul clearly didn’t understand how someone becomes gay. His admonitions can be rejected based on a faulty premise.

Response 14: Paul’s interactions with homosexuals was in a very different context than we have today. What Paul seems to have been cognisant of is a lustful hedonism.

Response 15: Gay marriage, when people lovingly commit to each other, was not known in Biblical days, and as such the Bible does not speak to it directly.

Response 16: We tend to take our modern idea of marriage and project it back onto the Bible. In reality the church wedding is a rather modern invention and has no real bearing on the discussion.

Response 17: What is deemed acceptable in marriage or sexual relationships changes over time. Polygamy was once deemed acceptable, but no longer is by society. Homosexual sex was deemed unacceptable by society, but now is recognized.

Response 18: Laws are based around revulsion. When we don’t understand something we condemn it, even if it may not be intrinsically wrong. Consider for example how much food practices vary from culture to culture. In various cultures, horse, dog, pigs, rodents, and insects are staples. In other cultures they are condemned.

Response 19: Some things that were considered repulsive are now considered high cuisine. We somehow have managed to sneak rare steak into a list of food that is now acceptable, ever desirable, even though the Council of Jerusalem specifically forbid it. (Blood)

Response 20: Jesus’ new commands are focussed on love. Love for God, love for one another, love for neighbor. If Jesus was telling the story of the good Samaritan (someone despised by the Jews) today, would his example instead include a Transgender person?

Response 21: Jesus’ greatest condemnation was for religious hypocrites. Paul warns in Romans 2 to be careful when you judge because you too will be facing condemnation.

Response 22: Paul in other passages emphasizes that Christians should be above reproach. That is, the outside world should be able to look in and not find fault. Yet this in an area in which the world is reproaching the church and saying that we are not showing love.

Response 23: If we are not sure of our position it is better to err on the side of grace, and err on the side of love.

So where do I stand in all of this?

Up to this point I have not said much beyond the idea that the bibilical texts we have tackled so far have been badly interpreted. Most, but not all, of the responses from 5 through to 23 have some level of resonance and agreement with me. My position has been in flux over the years, and things that I believed 10 years ago I might not hold today, and things I hold today. I might not hold 10 years from now. Response 23 is probably my fall back position. If I am going to err I at least want to err on the side of grace and on the side of love.

Next week I will be publishing my interview with Geoff, and you will see that some of the responses listed here (along with some others) will come up in our discussion.

To keep things fair, and to keep us on topic,I will conclude with an open forum two weeks from now, where you can raise concerns, ask questions of each other, and generally fill in some of the gaps that I have missed.

For now however, your comments and thoughts are welcome. Be remember to be nice, and be generous with one another as you comment.

Comments

  1. The genetics/scientific/”God made me like this” argument seems very weak and open to abuse, to me. (As it could be applied to pretty much any behaviour).

    Number 18 slides from ‘laws’ to ‘practices’, which isn’t – always – exactly the same thing. You can eat horse or rabbit in the UK, even though next to nobody would.

    If “eeuw!” is not a sufficient reason to be against, then culture change isn’t (necessarily) a reason to become pro.

    I think it’s easier to go with grace as an individual in our personal relationships than it is as the leader of a church community. Especially if we’re talking about what we teach, what we expect of our members, the behavioural criteria we apply to those who have responsibilities.

  2. Christiane says:

    I am conscious of people’s discomfort with those who are ‘different’ and that often not knowing how to ‘fix it’ for them or ‘make it right’ for them, how it is that we seem too eager to distance ourselves from them in ways that are not Our Lord’s Ways.
    What there is that makes us ‘human’ is something even more basic than our ‘maleness’ or ‘femaleness’ . . . and that IS a difference that invites us to engage with people who have gender issues on more common ground: our common human origin . . . the very soil from which we were formed and the very life breathed into us.
    I think it important not to be afraid of encounters with those who suffer from differences so many of us cannot understand; or worse, not accept them as having one kind of ‘presenting form’ of that far more basic fallen human condition we all suffer from, each in our OWN way. So maybe ‘Who am I to judge?’ has some merit as a position for Christian leaders, at least for the ones who know they, too, are ‘sinners on whom God has looked’.

  3. Thanks Michael. Good essay.

  4. I suspect that Respone #9 is more significant than many suspect.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Do you mean in terms of the “infancy” of these fields, or something else?

      Personally, I find most Natural Law arguments to ring hollow; the line between Natural “Law” and cultural convention [that which seems/feels sooo very obvious] is like tissue paper in a rain storm.

      These fields of study are endless fascinating however – like how gender in reptilian embryos is so profoundly influenced by **temperature** and may significantly not be about genetics at all – and how we have identified mammals where the fully functional gender of the adult does not correspond to the genetic XY toggle we were all taught with 100% confidence in junior high [and that whole recessive|dominant thing, yeah, gross gross over simplification – so two blue eyed people can have a brown eyed baby]. …. Yet, what does this necessarily have to do with morality of the conduct of an adult sentient being? I have no idea.

      I fall back to #23 as well – it is not like there are not MANY issues which are perfectly clear – we should attend to those.

      • “I find most Natural Law arguments to ring hollow; the line between Natural “Law” and cultural convention [that which seems/feels sooo very obvious] is like tissue paper in a rain storm.”

        The natural world is like the Bible… look hard enough and ignore context enough, and you’re guaranteed to find an example to back up your argument (I’m looking at YOU, Bill Gothard).

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Something I learned reading Steven Jay Gould:
          The natural world (especially the biological/zoological) often does not have hard-and-fast divisions. Speciation can slide smoothly from one to another, without any clear dividing line between the two.

          However, Law is a Boolean profession of exact definitions and cladistic distinctions. Law has to define exactly how many hairs constitute a beard, with all the side effects.

  5. FYI

    Main article: Homosexuality and Roman Catholic priests

    According to the Catholic Church’s moral doctrine, homosexual attraction is disordered, and homosexual acts themselves are sinful. However, the Church does allow the ordination of men who may have, in the past, experienced same-sex attraction, but only on the condition that they have lived without engaging in “homosexual culture” or acts for several years, and that have no “deep-seated homosexual tendencies”.[45] All priests in the Latin Rite are required to take the vow of celibacy and to live by the Church’s moral teachings.

    • Which, of course, raises the question of why “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are so disqualifying as opposed to any of our other deep-seated sin tendencies. And if that “deep-seated tendency” is enough to disqualify a person from ministry, why not the others? And if freedom from “deep-seated tendency to sin” is a requirement for ministry… well, the RCC is going to have even bigger recruitment problems than they already have. :-/

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Yeah.

        And what is a “deep seated” tendency vs. one that is not-“deep seated”? How does one operationalize that distinction?

        And if the goal is celibacy – which BTW is a tradition of the rite which I strongly support – how is the object of attraction relevant? When the answer to attraction is, regardless, a “no”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As one guy said to me many years ago, “the vow of celibacy cuts both ways – Straight and Gay”. That taking such a vow indicated a commitment to abstain from sex regardless of orientation.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        –> “As one guy said to me many years ago, ‘the vow of celibacy cuts both ways – Straight and Gay’. That taking such a vow indicated a commitment to abstain from sex regardless of orientation.”

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure that once you become a priest, sex with ANYTHING is pretty much verboten.

        And anyway…Seneca, as one who believes in “Scriptures uber alles,” why in the heck would you point to what the Catholic Church has written down in their man-made doctrine?

        • Offering the RC perspective. I like to read

        • StuartB says:

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure that once you become a priest, sex with ANYTHING is pretty much verboten.

          Would love a series on why this is. Response to surrounding cultures, ie temple prostitutes? Desire to get away from fertility/God connotations? The rival Israelite religion had sex, so the one that “won” in our scriptures scrubbed it clean?

          It is a distinct oddity it seems to Judaism.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            As I understand it from my catechism, priestly celibacy in the West was a little bit of “Spiritual Good, Physical Baaad” and a bit of practicality: In an age when political power was inherited like any other personal property, celibacy meant NO legitimate heirs for clergy; no passing down Power and Authority both Temporal and Spiritual to your heir and your Dynasty (like you find in IFBs and Megas today).

            Celibacy in the West didn’t get firmly established for a few centuries; before that, we had a period with the same compromise solution used by the EO and today’s permanent deacons: A married man could be ordained, but an ordained man could not marry after ordainment. Even with this, EO bishops are always celibate, usually promoted from the monasteries. (Which in itself is an influence, given monasticism both East and West since the days of the Desert Fathers.)

  6. “Response 7: The Holy Spirit allowed believers in Acts 15 to reinterpret Old Testament laws based on new circumstances. The church today could be similarly led.”

    That is an extremely important point. For all that evangelicals and fundamentalists insist on literal grammatical-historical interpretation of the Bible… if you look at how all (ALL) the NT authors use the OT, literal grammatical-historical methodology isn’t even on their radar.

    • Mike Bell says:

      ” if you look at how all (ALL) the NT authors use the OT, literal grammatical-historical methodology isn’t even on their radar.” – I have done a fair bit of reading on this. There are even whole courses you can take on this subject. it is a fascinating area of study.

    • Wolf Paul says:

      The standard response to this is, “Yeah, perhaps, but they were inspired, and you are not, because the canon is closed.”

      And if one accepts the evangelical position that (a) Scripture alone is normative, and (b) Scripture is now immutable (which I do, btw, that’s why I am not RC) this response actually makes sense.

      • But based on those two criteria, grammatical-historical interpretation is *still* in trouble, precisely because the normative NT uses the normative OT in a very un-grammatical-historical way. If the NT can’t tell us how to interpret the OT, by what authority do our interpreters do so?

  7. Mike, have you ever read the book “The Moral Vision of the New Testament” by Richard Hays? It has a chapter dealing with homosexuality and is quite relevant to the discussion you are having. I believe he is or was a New Testament professor at Duke.

    • Mike Bell says:

      I haven’t, though I did see it got cited by a comment in a previous post. In an earlier draft of my first post in the series I had a story about a course in seminary where I read every single book and journal article I could find (about 50 in all) on the subject of Homosexuality in a Christian context. Was the hardest reading assignment of my life. I continue to read on the topic, but purposely have tried to present this topic through my own look at scripture. This was originally going to be a single post (my interactions with Geoff), It expanded to three, then five, and now probably seven! There is so much material out there that I could probably continue for a year! This however is not my intent. I would however like to maybe revisit this in five or ten years to see what has changed.

  8. Michael Z says:

    Rather than thinking of people as falling on a single spectrum, it may be helpful to recognize that there are several different dimensions:

    1. Traditional (thinking any gay behavior is wrong) vs. affirming (thinking it’s okay under the same constraints applied to straight people).

    2. “Anything goes” permissiveness vs. not even wanting people to kiss before their wedding day.

    3. Totally excluding LGBT people from the community vs. recognizing the pain the church has inflicted and wanting to find ways to accommodate people (with or without a change in ethical stance).

    People can be any combination of the above. But the problem is that we try to reduce each person’s position down to the first spectrum. For example, a person in a traditional church who is deeply disturbed by how their church has hurt LGBT folks may be treated as if they’re attacking the traditional ethical position or advocating for permissive ethics, even if they’re not. Or a person who is loving and accepting LGBT folks may still not be treated as an “ally” if they’re not ready to assent to the affirming ethical position.

    • Mike Bell says:

      Very good point.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Yep. The same kind of this-or-that boolean thinking that besets many issues, where we create – often largely fictitious – “sides”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      A THREE-axis Alignment System?

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Love your comment, Mike Z.

      –> “People can be any combination of the above. But the problem is that we try to reduce each person’s position down to the first spectrum.”

      So true. And I’m guessing that if I answered the question “Do you believe homosexuality is a sin?” with “Perhaps,” I’d have people on both sides of the equation mad at me.

    • Patriciamc says:

      “Or a person who is loving and accepting LGBT folks may still not be treated as an “ally” if they’re not ready to assent to the affirming ethical position.”

      Amen, and this bothers me more than the actual pro vs. anti gay debate (shoot, marry whomever you wish, I don’t care. I know how I’m to treat people in attitude and deed.). If you don’t voice absolute, total acceptance, if you voice any hesitation or point out bad behavior by some (not all, for heaven’s sakes) gay people, then you are silenced and treated as an extreme homophobe – and this has greatly hurt the pro-gay movement.

  9. Richard Hershberger says:

    What is sexual immorality? I have pondered this question quite a bit over the years. I don’t think it is anything as simple as “the only moral sex is that between monogamously married heterosexual spouses.” Response 17 is on point to this. Some would restrict it even more, to “that between monogamously married heterosexual spouses with the intent for the wife to become pregnant.” Most, even conservative Christians, have a de facto standard that is looser. The blushing bride who gives birth six months after the wedding might raise an eyebrow and evoke some snickers, but hardly anyone is genuinely scandalized. So even among traditionalists, the question is more complicated than many like to imagine.

    I have, in my ever-more advanced youth, come to an answer to the question along different lines. Go back to first principles. What is fundamental? This isn’t a trick question. Jesus was asked this and answered: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

    In this light, the general answer is straightforward. Sexual immorality is really no different from any other immorality. It is behavior that is unloving: that is hurtful. Where it gets complicated is that what is and is not hurtful sexual behavior is very culturally specific. It is hurtful for a man to seduce a woman in a culture where this can bring shame to her and her family, and ruin her prospects for a happy life. This is not true in most of modern America. More relevant to modern America, it is hurtful for a person (of either sex) to seduce another person (of either sex) for transitory sexual pleasure, but with the pretense that this is about a deep emotional connection.

    It is hurtful to break a promise. The relationship of marriage is like unto the relationship between humans and God. Breaking a promise such that the marriage is harmed is a sin, as is harming your relationship with God. I am in a thoroughly traditional marriage: monogamous heterosexual, with two kids. It would be immoral for me to have an affair, as I would be breaking my promise to my wife. Other couples have made other promises to one another. I may be skeptical about the practical difficulties of making these relationships work, but some manage it. I am not going to look down my nose at them for it.

    There are aspects of my sexual history that I am ashamed of. That I wasn’t a virgin on my wedding night is not one of them.

    • Mike Bell says:

      Thank you for this unpacking of #6 and #17. My summary statements could hardly do justice to the topic, and further elaborations like this are really helpful to the discussion.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I ;think of it more as an unpacking of #20. I am completely serious about first principles. Jesus was explicit about this being what is important. If we are examining some thorny question and work our way to something incompatible with the Great Commandment, then we have gone astray somewhere. And no, simply declaring what you want to do anyway to be “loving” doesn’t cut it. Go down that road and you end up quite literally torturing people to death, but accompanied by pieties.

    • ‘What is sexual immorality? I have pondered this question quite a bit over the years. I don’t think it is anything as simple as “the only moral sex is that between monogamously married heterosexual spouses.”’

      That is a good question, especially in the context of Acts 15. There have been barrels of ink spilled over what the word ‘porneia’ meant, in its various contexts. Arguments have been made ranging from visiting prostitutes (exclusively) to marriages that were forbidden under Jewish law (Lev. 18, etc.). Nailing down what it meant in biblical times (much less OT or NT) is probably not as simple as saying ‘don’t …’ and it probably isn’t today either.

      • Mike Bell says:

        ” There have been barrels of ink spilled over what the word ‘porneia’ meant, in its various contexts.” – That is why I took a bit of a different tack in this post. Each one of my summary points could in fact very easily been turned into its own post. One of my reasons for going to seminary was that I wanted to properly judge the arguments that were being made about Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible (on a completely different topic – the deity of Christ). The conclusion I came to was there there were good arguments, and flawed arguments, regardless of the position you took. As to this passage at hand, any particular response may not be enough to convince me, but when I start to see how the responses support each other, it allows me to be more sure of my conclusions.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      This is one of the best comments I have ever read in any omment thread.

      As such, unloving marital sex is immmoral. Cold sex, ie sex without a real connection, is immoral.

      The idea that the completion of a document by the State or the Church determines the morality of a sexual act is, when you think aboit it, very bizarre.

      • Mike Bell says:

        Agreed.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        +1

        And while I know that Conservatives very much look down on “liberals” who make such a big deal about Consent being pivotal to Morality – I think the “liberals” in this case are nearer to the truth – because of this First Principles concept.

        I am on the more “conservative” end of the spectrum – – – but largely because I have seen so much disaster in the wake of human sexuality. Being very explicit [no pun intended] about what a relationship is is very important; what is Recreational to one person, has meaning to another, and it is very easy to be confused about these things. And there are easily so many ASSUMED expectations.

        I know I would have had an easier time in the first third of my life if someone had said, clearly, “When people say the same thing, especially about relationships, they do not always MEAN the same things”. This is so true – and not at all exclusive to sexual relationships – and where exactly is the sexual/non-sexual boundary in many relationships [particularly when one is young].

      • Rick Ro. says:

        +1. Bravo, Richard.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      What is sexual immorality?

      All too often it’s “Whatever pelvic issue YOU do THAT I DON’T.”

      In this light, the general answer is straightforward. Sexual immorality is really no different from any other immorality. It is behavior that is unloving: that is hurtful.

      Unfortunately, Christians are tunnel-visioned on Pelvic Issues, especially the Other Guy’s Pelvic Issues. Long ago I figured Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as everyone else, just in a different (and usually opposite) direction.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        –> “Unfortunately, Christians are tunnel-visioned on Pelvic Issues, especially the Other Guy’s Pelvic Issues. Long ago I figured Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as everyone else, just in a different (and usually opposite) direction.”

        Pastor preaching on Sunday: “Homosexuality is a SIN, and if you’re doing it you’re going to BURN IN HELL!”
        (Later that day, pastor scurries off for his weekly liaison with church secretary.)

      • I think you are reducing a complex issue to nothing, something fundamentalists also do ad infinitum. And it doesn’t help discussion very much.

        Of course you are correct when it comes to public morality, or what you do in private.

        It is an entirely different story when it comes to imposing this on the church, which is a group of people who freely associate for worship and friendship. They have a full right to set boundaries for what constitutes their community, as do other civic and cultural organizations.

        • Joe Deutsch says:

          –“They have a full right to set boundaries for what constitutes their community, as do other civic and cultural organizations.”

          If you’re right about that (and I’m not sure you are) then the church is just another civic and cultural organization, like a club. That doesn’t sound like what Jesus founded.

    • Wolf Paul says:

      But why would you (or anyone, for that matter) accept the testimony of Scripture on what Jesus said, and then disregard how Scripture elaborates on that?

      The testimony of the church during almost 2000 years is that that this body of writings is God’s revelation; that is why we accept what it says about Jesus and everything else. What would be the rationale of accepting ANY of it as revelation unless we accept ALL of it?

      In that case, doesn’t the stuff you accept basically constitute a religion of your own devising rather than one based on God’s revelation?

      I am seriously interested in your response to that. Your comment, like many of the points summarized by Michael above reveal a view of the Bible as something less than the supernaturally revealed Word of God, which all differences between Eastern and Western churches, Catholics and Protestants, notwithstanding has been the Christian consensus until relatively recently.

      • Patriciamc says:

        Excellent points, and I believe everyone here, or at least most, do believe scripture as the word of God. The problem is in the interpretation. What is literal vs. what is symbolic (the ancient Hebrews loved hyperbole), what applies only to back then, what still applies today, etc. My view is that if it’s a salvation issue, then take it literally. If it’s not, then it’s open to your interpretation and to mine.

  10. tophergraceless says:

    I think that #16 has an idea that really struck me. We just don’t know what Paul had in mind when he was talking about same-sex interactions nor what marriage was really like for the vast majority of people who lived so long ago. I have read both liberal and conservative interpretations of the various “homosexual” passages in the bible, and what the Greek and Hebrew mean, and neither side has ever been fully convincing because the text is ambiguous and the cultural context it was written in is not fully understood either.

    I have been thinking about this as I have been reading a book: “Charity and Sylvia:A Same Sex Marriage in Early America” by Rachel Hope Cleves. She is documenting the lives of two women, who got married in revolutionary war era New England and lived their lives together an open secret. They participated in their church and ran a tailor shop. I mention the book because my first instinct is to say, “Of course Paul would have condemned same-sex marriage” but I think that impulse is just as historically blind as to say that he would be affirming. We just don’t know. Just like i would have never thought that a lesbian couple could have lived openly in early New England.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Is it not notable that a clear – categorically stated – standard of sexual ethics is nowhere to be found in Scripture?

      More words are spent on Food than on Sex.

      • StuartB says:

        Each of which were highly important and significant to a tribal ANE bronze aged tribe. Needs become laws become codified. Definitely don’t eat shellfish in the middle of a desert. Mixed fiber clothes won’t last as long. Us priests deserve money and to eat too, even if we don’t ‘work’. And we’re trying to survive here, we can’t have two men in a relationship, that doesn’t settle property issues (plus it squicks me out).

  11. john barry says:

    The issue is never the issue but the agenda is always the agenda. In our secular society it is inevitable and become reasonable argument that the homosexual rights issue has been “won” or settled , whatever term you want to use. The majority of Americans do not really care or do not think it is a major moral or even cultural issue due in part to the massive push to normalize and accept homosexuality as a normal lifestyle choice. I say the above to put the discussion in perspective, well , perspective at least to me.

    The only “holdout” of complete acceptance of homosexual lifestyle is the people of faith. I always find it amusing that many people who have no belief , respect or use for the Bible and its teachings go to it right away to promote their issue, so to speak what would Jesus do. The secular battle has been won by the homosexual community, now it is just a mop up operation , to consolidate their winning position and enforce normalization at every level, on the secular level.

    My question is: Why would a person living the homosexual lifestyle, who believes it natural and normal , want to join a church of any type who believes it to be a sin. I believe the Sabbath can be any day of rest, Sunday, Monday, etc., I would not join a Seventh Day Adventist and ask them to worship on Sunday or to bless the union of two men/women, knowing they do not believe it. I drink a little, I would not go to a fundamentalist church and ask them to accept my drinking as I think it is okay, I would just not go. The secular “law” says it is okay to drink so whether the anti drinking church believes it wrong they believe it wrong for their followers of their faith.

    The Nicolaitans thought it okay to do what they did so should the early Christians accept them?

    I believe the parsing of words, the re interpretation of the Bible, the disregard of the natural law that is the underpinning of Western civilization to be overwhelming . Acceptance of an alternative lifestyle by a secular society is one thing, promotion of it as a viable alternative to the norms of culture is another and that is where we are.

    Surely , you cannot believe the early church fathers and scholars would miss the interpretation of the Bible but how we will get it right? The people of faith will have to struggle being in this world and not of it, I think I have heard that before but maybe the interpretation was wrong.

    Great article that opens up many areas to ponder and I appreciate the thoughtful approach taken. Thanks for the dialogue and the many good , honest comments here.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “Why would a person living the homosexual lifestyle, who believes it natural and normal , want to join a church of any type who believes it to be a sin.”

      Initial reaction would be, “They wouldn’t.” But think about all the people who’ve grown up in the church, who’ve had a relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit for a long time, who love worshipping with a specific body of Christ, who’ve been told all their lives that homosexuality is a sin, but then find they’re attracted to the same sex. There’s no easy answer for them.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Brother Jon,

      Of course they wouldn’t want to join a church that hates homosexuality, and by extension, homosexuals. Even worse, those same churches urge their members to take the fight to the public square where they demand that their view of marriage should to apply to all, regardless. Please tell me where it is written that a secular society must adopt yours and Mr. Griggs’ religious mores.

      As to your invocation of the early church fathers – I doubt that they would approve of, just to mention one area, your ecclesiastical stances on just about everything. And that’s just for starters.

      One final thing for you to ponder, what if you’re wrong about this.

  12. Mike Bell says:

    “My question is: Why would a person living the homosexual lifestyle, who believes it natural and normal , want to join a church of any type who believes it to be a sin.” – Two responses here. If you go back to my first post, it wasn’t about joining. Steve and Bill were already members of faith communities. The question then becomes: “How do faith communities properly respond to those among themselves who are different.” My second response people who want to follow Christ want to be with others who follow Christ.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Exactly. And we were on the same wave-length, Mike B!

    • Steve and Bill were already members of faith communities. The question then becomes: “How do faith communities properly respond to those among themselves who are different.”

      Mike we can push this one a bit from a real life example.

      Gretta Vosper is an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada. Since her ordination many years ago she has changed her convictions and now claims atheism. She seems to think the organization should change its convictions and allow her to practice.
      I find it incredibly self-centred of her to think the her denomination should change just because she has.

      Since she no longer subscribes to the beliefs of her group she should resign, no one would fault her, some might even cheer her on.

      So the question should be more framed thus:

      In the interest of accommodating people various proclivities should a church change its beliefs and practices and ignore both scripture and tradition?

      I am not sure that you have done fair justice to scripture, you have been right in some things (Sodom) but have not given fair weight to the New Testament. And to intimate that the council of Jerusalem’s decision gives wiggle room on homosexuality is an incredible stretch.

      • Mike Bell says:

        I will give others some time to respond to this, I will chime in at the end.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I’m with you on this one, Ken. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t believe exactly as you believe, but I’d still like to worship here,” and quite another to day, “I don’t believe in this anymore, but I’d still like to lead and teach here.”

        The most gracious thing for her to do would be to step down, but remain a member of the church.

        • I faced a similar situation myself.

          I have attended churches that I differed with, And in the end the issues piled up and were significant (for my part). It was a difficult decision, but I had changed and so had they. So I left.

          I made the difficult decision to leave, as I was out of synch with the direction in which they were headed.

          I do not view the lobby by those with alternate sexualities as being any different than Gretta Vosper’s attempt to change things, or for that matter a group of charismatics trying to force a Southern Baptist church to speak in tongues. We are not like some parts of the world where there is no choice.

          I do find the ‘new’ hermeneutic troubling and it amazes me the contortions people will go through to try to declare that the culture is right and Christianity has had it wrong for all these years.

          A note of confession – at one time I attended the Anglican Church of Canada so we went down this road some time ago. I listened to the liberal side and was amazed at their lack of a compelling case. In the end what it seemed to amount to is concern for how people felt and that we couldn’t marginalize people by NOT authorizing same sex marriage.

          • Mike Bell says:

            “I do find the ‘new’ hermeneutic troubling and it amazes me the contortions people will go through to try to declare that the culture is right and Christianity has had it wrong for all these years.” – Strange that you should write this. I did not feel like I was going through any contortions while writing this. Rather the opposite is true. I find I have to go through mental gymnastics to affirm some of the items that the Evangelical church has held for decades. Things like inerrancy, women in ministry, six day creationism, baptism by immersion only. I finally decided that I would not go through these contortions any more. All I have done here is listed a number of reasons why we might want to treat this subject differently. I did not feel I had to go through any contortions to do so. In fact, I don’t think I have gone through any contortions at any point in this series.

            I don’t see you offering up any “yes, but” or “no, because” comments to any of the responses listed. You were invited to do so. Instead you decided to take us on somewhat of a tangent.

            • Is it a tangent Mike?

              Responses 4-22 can all be taken as various arguments for saying homosexuality is normal behaviour. I don’t think you would have to go through contortions to argue them, just do some reading or listening and exegete the culture around you.

              I can sympathize with the struggle with your evangelical past, I left it intellectually in 1982. We must be careful not to conflate issues like scientific creationism with this. The issues are not related.

              The contortions come when you try to impose that grid on the biblical text. I come at this as an Anglican and have seen all kinds of weird interpretations – the one I love the best is hearing a bishop talking about the Roman official that asked Jesus to heal his male servant, and that some Roman officials took their lovers on the road with them, so in doing the healing Jesus was supporting homosexuality.

              What triggered me in particular was the implication that somehow the council in Jerusalem had superseded Levitical prohibitions. If you honestly exegete scripture I don’t think you can support homosexual lifestyles. I want to be careful to say that there is a whole waft of other behaviours you cannot support either and I would agree with you that you can’t single this out over the others.

              And there is a much larger part of the church in the world Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican (outside UK and North America) who do agree on this issue.

              Is it hard to hold to this position – you had better believe it! I recognize that people struggle with this and there are no easy answers. But the response is not to agree that it is okay with either scripture or tradition.

              • Michael Bell says:

                Ken, you accuse me of doing several things here that are not true.

                1. Exegeting culture and applying that grid to the bilblical text. In all of my posts I have tried to remain true to the biblical text and not try to make it says something different to what it says. I have largely come to my views because of the biblical text, not despite them. For the most part I agree that the biblical text in Leviticus speaks of homosexuality. I could have mentioned all kinds of different responses where this is understood differently, but I chose not too, largely because this is the way it has been translated. Although I have done 3 years of Hebrew studies, if I were to put my knowledge of the Hebrew language up against the translators I would lose, every single time. In all my posts I have been faithful to what the text says. I think I could argue reasonably well from my previous posts that the people who contort those scriptures are those who single out homosexuality as being special sins.

                2. “What triggered me in particular was the implication that somehow the council in Jerusalem had superseded Levitical prohibitions.” Did you read that anywhere? I certainly didn’t write it and certainly don’t believe it. That is why I asked the question: How do we handle this? This will come up in my conversation with Geoff next week.

                • So Mike – what did you mean by paragraph 3 in your article?

                  Leviticus 18:22 bans sex between men among other prohibited sexual practices. The Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15, sets aside much of the Old Testament regulations.
                  Just juxtaposing those two says something. Or am I reading something that you did not intend to say?

                  Your list of responses is exegeting the culture, not the biblical text. Although what the culture has to say is worth considering, really we are talking about the church here.

                  The ship has sailed on this one – the culture says sexuality is whatever we want it to be provided we are not hurting anyone else. So my response has nothing to do with what the culture says. As Pierre Trudeau once said ‘the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation’ and I agree with him.

                  But really, your entire series here is for the church, and that is the context. Since the church accepts scripture and tradition as authoritative those become the domains for discussion.

                  Again for the sake of all I want to be clear that I am not singling out homosexuality as a special sin, or that gays are set apart for special condemnation.

                  But I have to remain true to the text and tradition that points out that we are all fallen and in need of redemption, and that people everywhere are to turn from selfishness and moral brokenness.

                  • Mike Bell says:

                    Yup, you were definitely reading into it. Or to put it another way. You took what you believed from your culture, and applied it to my text. 😀 Or, maybe I just wasn’t clear enough. 😀 😀
                    .
                    The whole point of my post is to say. We have these prohibitions from Leviticus, and while the Council at Jerusalem, did away with a whole lot of Leviticus prohibitions it kept a number of them in place which I then listed. (Including sexual immorality).

                    So, that being the case, what are our options for responses?

                    I then listed a whole gamut of responses from the most conservative to the most liberal.

                    But as a state a number of times in posts 2 and 3, I always try to start with what does the text actually say, without trying to bring any presuppositions to the text.

      • Richard says:

        I’m sitting in the corner, listening.

        Elsewhere (comment to part 1 of this series) I introduced myself: genderfluid, once married to a woman who was bi but decided she’s a lesbian, so categorically excluded from my own marriage: marriage vows became vows of celibacy at the sole option of the other party. My church community was unable to sit with the damage, with the grief, or to help in any substantive way.

        I wonder if I shall ever darken the door of another church community. I listen here, hoping to hear the murmurings in the hearts of the people in the pews.

        I hear here that excluding queer folk is as much a part of your doctrine as believing in God. I realize this was a reductio ad absurdum, but even admitting that it’s on the same continuum is… astonishing.

        Be aware, as you ponder, as you discuss, that people to whom your words apply are here in the room, listening. Wondering what this “love your neighbor as yourself” thing looks like in practice. And whether it differs in kind from “Please go away; the God we worship has no love for you.” Am I your neighbor?

        • Mike Bell says:

          “Be aware, as you ponder, as you discuss, that people to whom your words apply are here in the room, listening.” – I had intended to remind people of this at the start of the post. My apologies for not doing so.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          –> “I hear here that excluding queer folk is as much a part of your doctrine as believing in God. I realize this was a reductio ad absurdum, but even admitting that it’s on the same continuum is… astonishing.
          Be aware, as you ponder, as you discuss, that people to whom your words apply are here in the room, listening. Wondering what this ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ thing looks like in practice. And whether it differs in kind from ‘Please go away; the God we worship has no love for you.’ Am I your neighbor?”

          My guess is that ~75% of iMonkers are very supportive of the LBGTQ community, and to those 75%, you are our neighbor. Is that not coming across in today’s comments?

          • Mike Bell says:

            If you look at the nesting, Richard was responding to Ken’s comment specifically.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            Also, there are are any number of churches that wouldn’t so much as blink at LGBTQ members or clergy. Most of them don’t fall under the rubric of “Evangelical,” but so what? Christendom extends far beyond Evangelicalism, though you wouldn’t know it from the marketing materials.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              Fundagelicals have redefined “Christian” without any modifiers to mean Fundagelical and Fundagelical alone.

              I have seen the same dynamic repeat many times in Furry Fandom, where some sexual kink faction goes to the media as Furry, redefining Furry to mean their kink and their kink alone.

              With the same effects on the reputation of the whole.

          • Richard says:

            Thanks, Rick Ro… Yes, it’s clear that most folks here are at least grudgingly tolerant of queer people. And it’s appreciated, but it’s not enough to get me back in the door. Not so far, at least.

            • Rick Ro. says:

              –> “…but it’s not enough to get me back in the door.”

              Oh, yes… I understand that aspect of your struggle. That gets around to the question of “why join a church where you know you’re not accepted?” No easy answers, I’m sure. And while you might find a church extremely tolerant of LGBTQ people, there might be other aspects of that church that turn you off.

              Here’s something I told my sister: “All I know is that God wants to have a relationship with you.”

              I hope you end up finding a community of believers where you feel comfortable doing that!

        • Clay Crouch says:

          Richard, I’d love to hear a response to your comment from a couple of the usual suspects. I’m not holding my breath.

        • Richard:

          If you were to walk into a church and say to the leaders what you have said in your note – what would be a satisfactory response in your mind?
          What are your expectations?

          • Richard says:

            I have a lot of trouble imagining how that could turn out well. Grief support in general is hard, ongoing, never-ending work. Being open to unconventional griefs like mine is already an exceptional thing. All that and stretching the envelope to accept real people whose natures are unusual, for the leadership to offer the love of God to us, as crumbs to the dogs… that’s Christ-like. And I don’t really expect anybody can do it.

            Dorothy Day, quoting I think St Teresa of Avila, said that Christ has no hands on this earth but yours. In a very real sense, the Church is the body of Christ, being the physical presence of Christ on this earth.

            But the disconnect hurts me, in the most vulnerable parts of my life. It does not feel like love, from this side.

        • Patriciamc says:

          We walk a fine line here. Yes, we all must be kind, but stifling honest and civil conversation does not help the pro-gay cause.

  13. Dana Ames says:

    Once again, everything comes down to interpretation. That includes our ideas about the pertinence of genetics, psychology, Biblical Theology, etc. My thoughts keep going back to the earliest Christians, along with the teaching of Christianity that was in place before all our modern theories about anything.

    The first Christians were ridiculed mainly for holding to teaching that had much to do with bodies: the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, sexual continence (no genital sexual expression except with one’s other-sex spouse), and taking care of the physical needs (food, shelter, nursing during sickness) of those who were not related to them. Did every baptized Christian fulfill these teachings perfectly? Of course not; there are many stories. At the same time, they all knew what the teaching was. Alongside that, there is no evidence that I have ever found that they sought to impose Christian teaching upon those who had not been baptized.

    As an Orthodox Christian, I am enjoined first of all not to judge others, but attend to my own life. As I do that, I need to take into account how **I** am going to live out the teaching of the Church with regard to my own behavior. That means that I am going to make every attempt to be sexually continent. It’s very difficult when you’re young and have lots of hormones coursing through your system. I’ve only had 2 sexual partners in my life; I do regret that number 2. My husband and I did not wait for marriage; I wish I hadn’t convinced myself of certain things in the context of college in the ’70s that undercut my original desire to remain a virgin. In the difficulties of marriage, I had one trustworthy Christian friend in whom I could confide. In another bad spell, I went to a secular counselor for help, a person who respected my faith. All that is to say that being told “don’t do it” was not enough in my youth, and in the first couple of decades of my marriage, there was very little help from my Evangelical churches as I dealt with difficulties. I do believe there is more support available in EO (and among traditional monastics in RC) because of the view of sin stemming from weakness and delusion/sickness and fear of death rather than simply forsaking some kind of moralistic path.

    Underneath all the doctrine, Christianity is about God’s project of making human beings. The questions about sexual expression all have to do with what it means to be a human being. This is what Christians have to address, and we have not done it very well much – maybe most – of the time. Every responsible Orthodox teacher I know (bishop, priest, layperson) would never tell a same-sex attracted person that they are not human, or that there is anything more “wrong” with them than with anyone else. There’s actually quite a lot of pastoral sensitivity out there among Orthodox clergy. And there are plenty of same-sex-attracted people who are trying to live according to Christian teaching, whatever their orientation, and they need our support and care – which involves actually including them in our lives as brothers/sisters and friends.

    I think we need to be able to talk about this better than we have been doing. I very much appreciate Mike’s efforts toward this. I think approaching it from “what’s in the Bible” alone is problematic; see the length of the response list. I think that, among other things, we also need to factor in the reality that neither Jesus the human man nor Mary his human mother relied on sexual expression as the ultimate marker of either their humanity or their being male and female. The whole question is so very much deeper than whether or not or under what conditions people “do it.”

    Dana

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > The questions about sexual expression all have to do with
      > what it means to be a human being

      I recognize that many people assert the above – and that with that comes a great host of conundrums regarding this issue – and often an extremely Reproduction oriented, aka “Family Values” sexual ethic.

      I’ve turned off into a different direction in my thinking, that: No, sexuality is just about the least uniquely human part of being human. Sexuality is even less unique than having a mouth to eat food.

      Like, what has almost devolved into a trope: What about all the “good” homosexuals in committed relationships who contribute to their community?

      Perhaps this notion of this being a principle identifier is ONLY relevant because of our cultural norms? Maybe, it is not about “what it means to be a human being” at all.

      Perhaps their relationships, their kindness, their words, their art, their work, their courage, and their creativity is “what it means to be a human being”.

      Perhaps their pelvis is something they inherited from the ancestors from which we were brought up from? And to the degree is|is-not deviant|disordered|atypical is no more morally distinct than the ration of gray to white brain matter.

      Nobody says “issues of digestion all have to do with
      what it means to be a human being” or “sensitivity to sounds below 18kHz are what it means to be a human being”.

      • Dana Ames says:

        “sexuality is just about the least uniquely human part of being human”

        Well, that’s interesting; in terms of our commonality with the animal kingdom with regard to our physical bodies, I suppose it’s true. But we aren’t simply bodies, and we’re not the same as animals.

        “their relationships, their kindness, their words, their art, their work, their courage, and their creativity is “what it means to be a human being””

        Of course. That’s part of what I’m saying. I don’t know of any Christian with even a modicum of kindness who would deny such a thing.

        As for the rest of your comment, Finn, again I say: we are not simply bodies. We are [embodied spiritual] beings. We have the capacity for communion at various levels; that’s the thing that relationships of all kinds are meant to support. Again, I’m not for imposing Christian teaching on people who are not professing Christians, or for imposing the values of my Church on other Christians. I do think, as Ken above, that if one is going to be a Christian one must take Christian teaching seriously and grapple with it.

        Part of our problem is that we focus so narrowly on the pelvic issues, to the extent that it’s all we’re known for. If we led the way in caring for the sick and the poor and the homeless and the mentally ill, the way early Christians tried to do – and the way we in our consumerism and comfort fail to grapple with – perhaps people would be more willing to tolerate Christians trying to live according to Christian teaching on this matter.

        Dana

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > But we aren’t simply bodies, and we’re not the same as animals.

          Exactly. And Sexuality is a bodies thing.

          Matthew 22:30 “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

          I am interested in why this Sexuality-is-Humanity discussion rarely, if ever, encompasses that verse. It seems that this is an aspect of Humanity **intended** to fall away; and which Paul advised being rid of if possible (1st Cor 7:8). Marriage is an accommodation, there does not appear to be a ringing endorsement of Human Sexuality anywhere in the New Testament.

          “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Gal 3:28 – whose context may be somewhat out of scope – but also not holding gender in a terribly high regard.

          As you say “We are [embodied spiritual] beings”, yes, our Sexuality is a Legacy of what we also are: Animals (and Mammals specifically).

          “Part of our problem is that we focus so narrowly on the pelvic issues,” – YES! – and the best escape from that is to recognize the subordinate and lesser role of sexuality in what we are. A undefinitional aspect which will pass away.

        • If sex isn’t important then it isn’t important and you should stop worry about what other people do.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Perhaps their relationships, their kindness, their words, their art, their work, their courage, and their creativity is “what it means to be a human being”.

        For what it’s worth, Mormon SF author Orson Scott Card said in a long-ago magazine interview that being “made in the image of God” refers to the ability to create, that “We were meant to be creators”.

  14. Iain Lovejoy says:

    I, too, had a problem with just ignoring or explaining away Leviticus 18:22, although, like you, my actual experience with homosexual people, and the knowledge of how homosexuality actually works meant I thought that there had to be a way affirming homosexuality was compatible with the Bible. It still bothered me though.
    A little while ago, however, I read a short article that basically blew my mind on this issue. It is so startling that every time I see a reference to Leviticus 18:22 I have to check again because I start doubting my own sanity. What the writer pointed out is that Leviticus 18:22 doesn’t actually say “lies with a man as with a woman”. What it says is (and as I say I keep having to check the Hebrew again myself from time to time, because I still have difficulty believing it) “lies with a man *in the beds of* a woman”. Feel free to check, there are plenty of on-line resources. I checked again myself just before writing this. All the standard translations just ignore it, or assume some kind of error in the text, or variant form, so that it reads something other than what it says.
    What the verse, read as written, prohibits is seducing a wife’s husband or cheating on one’s wife with another man.

  15. On a sarcastic note, in the SouthernUnited States, lots of people would still say anything less that medium well is a sin 🙂

    On a serious note, I don’t believe 1 as it is worded, but a variance of it. I no longer believe the purpose of the Bible is to define two columns, one right and one wrong. That responsibility is much different and is a merging of ethics, philosophy, and societal standards. As such, it evolves over time, and I am OK with that.

    But that is a thought I keep only to myself and in forums where my last name is not mentioned. If I dare utter it, it scares people more than someone who is an Atheist. Evangelicals understand Atheist, but they freak out that I don’t believe the Bible lists two columns but I still believe in the Triune God and the historical creeds.

    • “Evangelicals understand Atheist, but they freak out that I don’t believe the Bible lists two columns but I still believe in the Triune God and the historical creeds.”

      Because they can only see that there two sides to the coin – full blown evangelicalism, or full blown atheism. That there are actually gradations between the two sides makes no sense to either them or the atheists.

  16. john barry says:

    Either a church/faith changes it beliefs and teachings to approve a homosexual lifestyle that has been a sin from the beginning or the homosexual individual can change their lifestyle to approve the beliefs and teachings of the faith. As previously noted by several there are many mainline churches who not only accept but advocate for inclusion of the homosexual lifestyle.

    So as I stated in my original and some say brilliant , well only me says brilliant and I waiver on that believe , first post the issue is sometimes not the issue. There are many people on this site who have left their church faith in which they were raised, who left a faith because they did not agree with certain issues, who thought the teachings and foundation of the church misguided and a host of other reasons. My point is they left their previous church and found a home somewhere else or forgo corporate worship. Certainly a viable option to anyone in the USA but perhaps not somewhere like Iran, so we do have freedom of movement on our religious travels.

    The conservative leaning people of faith have accepted the secular society judgment on the law, they will accept it n the public sector. Again , why the insistence to have the churched who teachings and foundations truly believe that homosexuality is a sin against the natural law by asking them to accept a homosexual lifestyle who without reservation admits honestly and with deep sincerity that they will not change and the church must change.

    Does not the old hate the sin, love the sinner axiom apply. Could not a priest or minster tell the homosexual our beliefs will not allow you as someone who follows a homosexual lifestyle to be a part of our church but if you do care to change your lifestyle and follow our beliefs of course you are welcome. Again someone will change their beliefs, either the church or the individual.

    How for the homosexual there are mainline churches that they can worship and find true fellowship. The sad saga of Gene Robinson concerns me as it seems he put his personal lifestyle, choice, desires and wants above his “natural” family and his church. Did he advance his cause, the church and help advance understanding of a small but complex issue or did he do what was best for G. Robinson.

    Forgive me Headless U Guy but I am going to reference the last verse in the Book of Judges In those days there was no King in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

    Or as Cole Porter wrote anything goes.

    Allen, I live in the Southern USA and we want to hear Well Done not medium well , so you misspeak for the stereotypical Southern. We do pray for the Northern USA and ask that “forgive them they know not what they do” until they move to the South and then tell everyone this is not how we did it up North, that I left from , because it was a mess.

    • Robert F says:

      Many people who frequent this site are struggling through changes in their own beliefs regarding this subject. That’s why this article and the previous ones in the series were posted: to show how one person has thoughtfully undergone and undertaken change, and to support others who are going through a similar process. I don’t think the primary aim that Mike has in mind is to get denominations or churches to change their minds or teaching, although that would be a natural enough development to support if enough minds and hearts are changed first. He is trying to help those already struggling, and give a signal of hope that people (and ultimately institutions) can change to those who are excluded as a result of current teaching in many churches.

    • Robert F says:

      And you should be aware, JB, that just because the official teaching of some mainline denominations accepts queer people (is that term okay to use? If not, please correct me, I’m happy to use non-offensive terminology when I know it) doesn’t mean that the parishes and congregations in those denominations are actually welcoming — many, perhaps most, are not really welcoming.

      • Clay Crouch says:

        I can assure you that they are welcome in my southern, small town Episcopal church.

        • Robert F says:

          Maybe being here in conservative to reactionary Lancaster PA, where I know a large number of my fellow ELCA parishoners voted for Trump, skews my sense of how welcoming mainline parishes and congregations are elsewhere. I hope most are like yours, Clay, but I’m not sure about mine.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            More important, Lancaster and the surrounding PA Dutch country are mostly RURAL.

            My writing partner next door in Adams County said on Election Day he knew Trump would win because of the heavy turnout in his rural area. He had never seen such a turnout; and if you check the 2016 election maps when broken down by county (instead of by state), you will see islands of blue (corresponding to major cities) in an ocean of red. A clean Urban-vs-Rural divide.

  17. senecagriggs says:

    Editor’s note: Content removed. WAY off topic.

  18. Burro (Mule) says:

    One thing I am wondering is who are all these horrible people causing all this pain and anguish? I am the chief of sinners, and am so sexually bolloxed up that I doubt I will depart this life with any resolution of my twistedness. The fact that it is a heterosexually oriented twistedness matters little. Make that Not At All. So, I am the last person who needs to be throwing shade on anybody for their sexual practices.

    Does this mean that I think all churches should change their polities and start marrying same sex couples? Don’t be crazy. As far as ‘love’ is concerned, I think I have experienced disinterested self-sacrificial love maybe twice in my life. This kind of love is so uncommon that for anybody to tell me that they are basing their hermeneutic on ‘love’ I have to call bullshit and bullshit in extremis. This whole issue of homosexuality in our culture is so politicized that what is going on here is a desperate scramble to get on what appears to be the winning side as quickly as possible, now that Oceania is at war with Eastasia and always has been.

    Sorry if I can’t be as irenic as Dana, but I’m not in a good place right now.

    • Mike Bell says:

      Maybe I could remind you of the first paragraph from my first post and the primary reason why I started this series.

      In the last number of years I have seen an increasing rise of hate on social media aimed towards homosexuals and other marginalized people. This hate has come primarily from Christians. If there is a post against bathroom legislation for transgender people, I will have multiple Christian friends share it. If there is a post extolling reparative (conversion) therapy, no matter how dubious the source, it will be shared by several Christian friends. A negative article about refugees? It will be popping up in my Facebook feed. This series of posts is both a message to other Christians that there is a better way, as well as a message to my marginalized friends that there are some who are willing to listen and act. To say silent is at least in my mind to stand with the oppressors.

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        We must know different Christians, and I don’t think your way is “better”. Despite the obvious work you’ve put into this and the emotional wear and tear it has cost you, I think it’s too capitulating to the modern phronema and it disturbs me that it is promoted in the name of Christianity.

        I guess it boils down to whether you think our age needs a hug or it needs a slap. No need to belabor which side I’m on.

        • Mike Bell says:

          I, for one, have appreciated your restraint.

        • Robert F says:

          Your assumption that the whole age needs one thing is wrong. It may be that you need a slap, but there are others who have gotten slapped their entire lives; for them, more slapping is at best redundant. One Law for the Lion & Ox is Oppression…

  19. Wolf Paul says:

    But why would you (or anyone, for that matter) accept the testimony of Scripture on what Jesus said, and then disregard how Scripture elaborates on that?

    The testimony of the church during almost 2000 years is that that this body of writings is God’s revelation; that is why we accept what it says about Jesus and everything else. What would be the rationale of accepting ANY of it as revelation unless we accept ALL of it?

    In that case, doesn’t the stuff you accept basically constitute a religion of your own devising rather than one based on God’s revelation?

    I am seriously interested in your response to that. Your comment, like many of the points summarized by Michael above reveal a view of the Bible as something less than the supernaturally revealed Word of God, which all differences between Eastern and Western churches, Catholics and Protestants, notwithstanding has been the Christian consensus until relatively recently.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      .What would be the rationale of accepting ANY of it as revelation unless we accept ALL of it?

      Well, one would be that with All-or-Nothing comes Fragility. If one cracks in any way, ALL is swept away as False. We’ve seen that with YEC Uber Alles.

    • Michael Bell says:

      Well, Wolf, assuming you are not a flat earther – how do you respond to Response 11 above? Assuming you haven’t stoned any homosexuals, how can you say you believe the Bible.

  20. Mike Bell, why would you not be an ally to Sabastian?

    It wasn’t really off topic at all, but you weren’t comfortable with looking at the next step down the road.
    _____

    Surely the comment was against the narrative, I’ll readily concede that.

  21. I’m rather behind the conversation, but appreciate the comment section is still open. I don’t usually speak up—-just quietly sit in the back.
    My church formed after a split following a vote to decide this matter. Interestingly, folks on both sides of the issue split both ways. Some left as soon as the discussion began, as if merely entertaining the ideas was contagious sin and must be fled from. More left after the vote. It was ugly.
    I think God was (is) working in all these people, on all the sides.
    So, the remnant I worship with has become a church full of those that left somewhere else. We have a variety of beliefs. A variety of wounds. I struggle with some of their beliefs. I suspect they disagree with some of mine. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong.
    But they let me speak. Preach even. Lead worship. Teach Adult Sunday School. Lead prayer. At first, it was as a “we need to have a woman as part of leadership” a token. But I don’t feel tokenized. Tilting off much further left than many, yes.
    And last Sunday my homeschooling, YEC neighbor called me her mentor.
    I’m thinking that we are benefitting from wrestling with this issue and many of us will be in a different place in 10 years. I hope so. It’s not wrong to be where we are, but surely to love each other, and to grow more like Christ is a good thing.

    • Mike Bell says:

      “I’m thinking that we are benefitting from wrestling with this issue and many of us will be in a different place in 10 years. I hope so. It’s not wrong to be where we are, but surely to love each other, and to grow more like Christ is a good thing.”

      Love this comment. Thank you so much for contributing.

  22. Radagast says:

    Late to the party here….

    I am uncomfortable with a number of folks here re-interpreting what has been the intent of some scripture passages for over 2000 years plus. My words here have nothing to do with current state of affairs on this subject or my opinions about homosexuality.

    Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 have a lot to do with sexual relations with others. Some of it may have something to do with the procreative part of love and sex and insuring large families at the time. My point though is that Genesis focused on Man and Woman, Leviticus further defined that by excluding other than that, and became more specific with what not to do with those within one’s bloodline. This was understood by those who followed Yahweh and to re-interpret what was part of the old Testament foundation is revisionist history.

    As stated in my response to the last article, both Jesus and Paul lived in a world influenced by Greek thought and tradition. It would have been rather easy to adopt or lessen focus on prominence of man/woman sexuality (just as it was on other points in Mosaic law). If this did occur it was not explicitly recorded and as we moved forward in time there was no movement to change this thought in both eastern and western churches even as their thought began to grow in different directions in some areas.

    When we talk about what was written against natural law, or say Leviticus no longer holds any water in the area of morality, that it was part of Mosaic law to be discarded, then where do we draw the line? What do we say about incest as addressed in Leviticus? Why is incest OK or not OK if Leviticus is now irrelevant?

    Again, this has nothing to do with my feelings on homosexuality. It has more to do with changing the meaning of words through wordplay.

    My thoughts….

    • Genesis seems to say incest is fine.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > ntent of some scripture passages for over 2000 years plus

      Has it? It is that I am skeptical about. It has certainly been clear in the New International Version, and KJV, … which is not nearly 2,000 years.

      Lev 18:22 is not that straight forward a text. That is why we have seminaries – to create a class of people who can read the text and not just our – sometimes lousy – translations. Study is not “wordplay”.

      Also, 2,000 years of tradition also defended slavery and female bondage – – and while Evangelicals clearly STILL support these things, they even say so at national press conferences this week – – – these things have been resoundingly rejected by mainstream Christianity.

      • Radagast says:

        Adam,

        I am not saying some views in Mosaic Law don’t change over time. What I am saying is that the words, intent, etc of what was stated at the time should not be changed when read by 21st century eyes just because views are different today. It says what it says is my point. What we do with it is a different conversation.

        • Michael Bell says:

          “It says what it says is my point. What we do with it is a different conversation.” – Which is pretty much what this post was all about. It says what it says. So what do we do with it.

    • Michael Bell says:

      We will see some who are so deranged, not only in religion but who in all things reveal their monstrous nature, that they will say that the sun does not move, and that it is the earth which shifts and turns. When we see such minds we must indeed confess that the devil posses them, and that God sets them before us as mirrors, in order to keep us in his fear.

      —John Calvin, “Sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:19-24”, Calvini Opera Selecta, Corpus Refomatorum,Vol 49, 677, trans. by Robert White in “Calvin and Copernicus: the Problem Reconsidered”, Calvin Theological Journal 15 (1980), p233-243, at 236-237

      • Radagast says:

        Mike – And your point is?

        • Michael Bell says:

          Your comment “I am uncomfortable with a number of folks here re-interpreting what has been the intent of some scripture passages for over 2000 years plus” reminded me of John Calvin’s comment. You spoke of Natural Law, he spoke (in his extended passage) of Natural Order.

          I was recently talking to a medical professor at a University. He made the comment that when he went to medical school they knew nothing about immunology. And that was just 40 years ago. My point is that our knowledge is changing so rapidly that to be dogmatic about something because it has been believed for 2000 years isn’t always going to be the right answer.

          John Calvin was wrong, even though he believed something where the plain intent of scripture has be clear for 2000 years.

          • Radagast says:

            So Michael I will be perfectly blunt then. You wait for the older generation, which is less accepting, to age out and die away. As I have been saying I have kids ranging from 27 down to 12. All have been brought up knowing Catholic doctrine. They have been active in the Church. I teach religious education. The older children tolerate, the younger children accept – no issue at all in their minds.

            Over the last 10 years and especially 5 years they have seen through media, through television, through school that Homosexuality is OK. No amount of what Church or what I and my wife believe is going to influence them like they are being influenced everyday of their lives though this media. So… What do we do with it? Nothing. We wait…..

        • Clay Crouch says:

          Perhaps the point is we should leave science to scientist, not to preachers?

    • Mike Bell says:

      Radagast and Wolf Paul.

      I may very well be wrong in my opinion. I do believe that this in an area of study that is going to develop a lot in the next 20, 30, or 40 years.

      It took 144 years for the church to accept Copernicus. The theories of evolution have been around for a similar length of time, and it is only that the evidence is irrefutable that it is starting to gain acceptance in the church.

      When it comes to the topic of homosexuality, we are still in the early Copernicus stages. I think the evidence is such that we can start to move.

      I cannot be sure that I am right or wrong on this, but as I said in my final response I do want to err on the side of grace and love.

  23. Radagast says:

    One last thought Mike,

    In my own view of rules origins in scripture I tended to tie the development of divine law with the mundane. For example – prohibition against eating unclean animals, especially pig being tied to diseases affecting humans, laws governing sexual activity tied to the procreation of the species and growth of one’s tribe. So on this particular look at scripture and homosexuality we can do a couple of things:

    – Accept scripture for what it says and interpret that for those at that moment in history that rule was needed for the benefit of society at the time and may not be as important now

    – Re-interpret scripture to mean something different, and as part of that acknowledge that our view of homosexuality today is different from back then (an identity versus an act based on the scant information we have).

    – Hold up scripture as the Divine Word of God, never changing and to be obeyed.

    Post script – I want to believe I have love and respect for all. I am not a big fan of determining a person’s whole identity based on sexual orientation or who they want to have sex with… there is so much more to us than that. I admit that when a person or group is singularly focused on this issue to try to get me to “see” I tend to be pushed in the other direction. And, in my view, as we have evolved and have accepted the by product is that many offshoots now cry-out for legitimacy, again singularly focused on sexual identity and/or activity. I just believe there is so much more to a person than that.

    • The prohibition about eating certain animals had nothing to do with them being actually unclean. The ancient Hebrews had no idea what caused disease. If you want to avoid foodborne pathogens, beef is way better to avoid than pork. Trichinosis is a bad cold that kills 3 percent of the people that get it; Kreutzfeld-Jacob (the human form of mad cow disease) is a brain-eating prion that kills 100% of people afflicted.

      The laws of kashrut were about setting a certain people apart from others, making them both look and feel ‘distinctive’.

      And as for your scruples about people’s identity, well it’s like Dan Savage says: Either sex is important or it isn’t. If sex isn’t important then you should stop bothering yourself with it.