November 21, 2014

IM Book Review: Why Many Are “Torn”

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate
by Justin Lee
Jericho Books (2012)

* * *

What do you say about a man who, by his life experience, demolishes all the categories you have constructed in your mind to explain some aspect of reality? That is the question Christians who hold particular views of homosexuality will have to answer when they read Justin Lee’s remarkable new book, Torn.

By all accounts, Lee does not fit the mold. Raised in a conservative, Southern Baptist family, Lee reports that he had a happy childhood, with loving parents that he has always respected and loved in return. He was never abused. He developed a strong evangelical faith, so much so that other students in his high school called him, “God Boy.” He had good experiences in church and was an honor student at school. He had strong friendships with both males and females. His testimony is that he loved God, was serious about his faith, and had healthy relationships with others.

Then one day he realized he was gay.

Gay.

The word seemed to hold the weight of eternity within its single syllable.

As strange as it may seem, in all the years I had struggled with my sexuality, the idea that I could be gay had simply never crossed my mind. I was a Christian! That was my whole life! And Christians weren’t gay.

 

As a young man who knew evangelical Christian culture intimately and had only negative conceptions of gays, Justin Lee could not conceive of any way he could proceed as both a Christian and a gay. So he tried a number of ways around his dilemma.

He had a serious relationship with a girl, only to realize that he had no sexual attraction to the female form whatsoever. No matter how good their friendship might be, he could not develop the kind of interest that would lead to an intimate life partnership.

He also checked out many “Ex-Gay” ministries, starting with a clandestine “Homosexuals Anonymous” group in his own church, hoping they could help him “go straight.” The experiences he describes are cringe-inducing to read. Not a single theory being pronounced as “the answer” for why people become gay or what they should do to stop being gay fit or rang true to Lee. Furthermore, he discovered that many of these ministries play a shell game with words. They tell people they can stop being “gay,” but they defined that in a specific way that was not helpful.

Most of the men’s stories followed a predictable pattern. Like me, they had developed attractions to other guys at puberty, but unlike me, nearly all of them had decided to act on those feelings at some point. Many had sordid stories of promiscuous, anonymous sex and/or drug and alcohol abuse. In their minds, these addictive and risky behaviors represented what it meant to be gay, and they had found that lifestyle to be woefully unfulfilling. Somewhere along the way, they had become Christians or reignited their faith, prompting them to feel convicted that the lives they were leading were sinful. With the help of ex-gay groups, therapy, and prayer, they had walked away from their past behaviors.

The testimonies were powerful reminders of how God changes lives. It was largely faith in God that enabled them to overcome a history of sexual addiction and substance abuse. Their behaviors had completely changed, and they were happier for it.

But there was one thing missing in all of their testimonies. None of them seemed to be becoming straight. They had changed their behaviors, sometimes in dramatic ways. Some had not had any sexual contact in years. Others had gone so far as to date and marry a member of the opposite sex. But almost universally, when I asked, they confessed that they still had the same kind of same-sex attractions I did.

“Ex-Gay” ministries may have helped some people deal with certain behaviors and disengage from certain cultural attachments. They had nothing to say to someone like Justin Lee.

These and other experiences led him to a point where he concluded that he simply had to follow God, whatever that might entail. He told God that he would put serving him first, and leave decisions about having a life partner or remaining celibate in God’s hands. However, despite the peace he had received personally, he had another dilemma: what to do about church.

Whether it was his parents, his pastor, or friends, negotiating relationships with other Christians proved to be tricky, disappointing, and sad. Hoping to receive understanding from his minister, he only received assurance that he wouldn’t be kicked out of the church as long as he remained celibate. And then there was the friend who thought he might helping him by discreetly giving him a copy of Playboy magazine to awaken his desires for women. Others simply quoted Bible verses at him or pronounced judgment. Even a Christian chat room banned him. His participation in a Christian campus group took a wrong turn when he learned they were bringing in a speaker from one of the “Ex-Gay” ministries he had found so unhelpful. In every Christian setting, Justin Lee found himself the only gay Christian in the room.

And yet, getting to know “the other side” led to another dilemma. Justin Lee had only negative images of gays and gay culture in his mind, and so felt out of place and disoriented among many of the homosexuals he came to know. His recollection of an experience going with friends to a gay bar, for example, is heart-rending.

I had hoped that the outing to the club would help me feel connected to the other gay guys. But instead, it had the opposite effect. I felt more alienated than ever. It seemed like everyone in the gay world spoke the same language, and no one had ever taught me. Worse, their language felt fundamentally at odds with everything I had been taught in the church, everything that made me God Boy, everything that made me me. I wasn’t like the other gay people I had met. I wasn’t having sex. I didn’t want a hookup. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t like to dance. I was just a sheltered Southern Baptist boy who wanted to serve God and couldn’t help being attracted to other guys. I was a freak.

Justin Lee came to understand that both Christians and gays shared the same cultural dynamic. They both saw the world in terms of “Gays vs. Christians.” He realized that, “You had to pick one or the other, and whichever one you didn’t pick had to be squelched or hidden or forgotten.”

How could this dilemma be resolved?

Going to the Bible didn’t help Lee. He looked at the evidence carefully (and some of his insights and questions are quite good), but ultimately he found the evidence inconclusive. “I realized that I could easily make a clear, compelling argument for either position,” he discovered. Torn again.

However, when Justin Lee stepped back from these specific verses and asked the question about what the Bible taught as a whole, in the light of Jesus, he came to a different conclusion. Further study led him to believe that the “law of love” (as in Romans 13:8-10) should guide us, and Lee saw that his church had gotten this issue wrong. Furthermore:

Whether I was right or wrong in my interpretation of Scripture about gay marriage, one thing was clear: We Christians were failing to show grace to the gay community the way Jesus would. At the very least, Christians ought to be listening to their gay friends, seeking to understand them, to know their joys and their struggles. If we couldn’t do that much, how could we hope to be vessels for God’s lavish grace and unconditional love?

This led Justin Lee to a new sense of vocation. The journey that had started with seeking answers for himself now had turned a corner. From this point on, he felt God calling him to help the church learn grace with regard to the gays in her midst. He began an online ministry that encouraged people to tell their stories and was astounded at the response. He had the opportunity to address the Christian campus group in which he had been disappointed before, and this time was received well. This led to other invitations to speak out and tell his story. He was becoming well known, at times a lightning rod, in the ongoing Gay vs. Christian controversy.

Soon Lee launched an internet community called GCN: The Gay Christian Network, which expanded rapidly. People from around the world, united by their love for Jesus and a conviction that the church needed to do a better job of supporting LGBT people, came together to talk online. Those who did were not in universal agreement about such matters as whether gay Christians should stay celibate or could participate in committed, consummated relationships. They developed a way of talking about these differences using the designations “Side A” and “Side B,” which they had seen used successfully on another site.

We developed some basic rules: Both “Side A” and “Side B” people would be welcome at GCN, and within this space, both sides would agree not to try to convert or talk down to one another. GCN was to be a neutral zone, a place for people to put the culture war aside and know they were among friends.

Torn ends with a chapter called, “The Way Forward.” In it, Justin Lee suggests and discusses seven recommendations for where to go from here:

  1. Christians must show more grace, especially in the midst of disagreement.
  2. We must educate Christians.
  3. We must move away from an “ex-gay” approach.
  4. Celibacy must be a viable option.
  5. We must shatter the myth that the Bible is anti-gay.
  6. Openly gay Christians must find their place throughout the church.
  7. We must learn how to effectively dialogue.

Justin Lee points to Tony and Peggy Campolo as shining examples of what the way forward looks like. As a married couple, they disagree on the issue of gay Christians. One is Side A, the other Side B. Yet they are able to talk and even give presentations in public together on the subject.

Read this book. Whether or not you end up agreeing with Justin Lee is not the point. This is the most important book available on the issue of homosexuality and how we can think about it and talk about it as Christians. It’s time for us to grow up and learn to listen to others, even when their stories shatter all our comfortable categories.

To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to be torn, there is a time for mending.” It’s mending time.

* * *

Listen to an interview with Justin Lee that aired yesterday on NPR’s “All Things Considered” HERE.

Justin Lee is the director of The Gay Christian Network (GCN), a nonprofit organization serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians and those who love them. Justin is also the director of Through My Eyes,” a documentary about young gay Christians, and the co-host of GCN Radio, a popular podcast on issues of faith and sexuality. He blogs at Crumbs from the Communion Table.

Comments

  1. Justin Lee should have looked around for a more liberal church. No sense in trying to change the Baptists, best just to shake the dust from one’s sandles and join the UCC or UU or Quakers or whatever.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Shaking the dust from one’s sandals doesn’t move us one bit closer to understanding and eventually accepting one another. Thank God this brave young man didn’t take that advice.

    • What if those groups didn’t match his beliefs? From what I know of Justin, he would not have fit in with one of those groups.

      • I don’t know how one could not fit in with the UUs. You are pretty much free to believe whatever you want as long as you don’t try to fob that off on anyone else.

        • UUs will try accepting but I think an baptist Christian would have trouble finding other baptist Christians there. Same with the Quakers. They are too different unless he wants to change other parts of his religion. In addition in many areas of the country, Quaker and UU groups are extremely rare. I don’t know enough about UCC but that might be a better fit. There ae also accepting churches in the Baptist tradtiion (though not aligned with the Southern Baptists).

        • It’s funny, my old bosses’ wife went to the local UU “church”, and sometimes she drug him along. My boss wasn’t a practicing Christian at the time (he was raised Lutheran), but he hated that church. He said that they were accepting and tolerant of anyone as long as they weren’t a Christian. Actually he said a good part of their gatherings was spent complaining about Christians. I view UU sort of as the anti-matter equivalent of fundamentalists. They’re fundamentalists in their own way.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Perhaps, and in any case choosing to stay and try to change where he is for the better is an honorable decision. But regardless, this blog post (and, I suspect the book as well, but I can’t say for sure as I haven’t read it) suffers from the regular problem of equating “Christian” with “Evangelical Protestant”. At the least, the existence of many large denominations welcoming of gays needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

        • I am not equating Christian with evangelical Protestant — that is simply Justin’s faith and affiliation. I saw no indication in the book that he had any interest in leaving that branch of the church.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            I know you know better. This is something of a personal bete noire. When one writes of what “Christians” do, but actually only discusses what some Christians do, we are presented with a range of possible interpretations. At one end, it may be that “Christian” is shorthand, context makes clear what subset of Christians is under discussion, and there is no need to consider the broader range of Christianity for the particular discussion at hand. At the other end, the writer may consider only the group under discussion to really be Christians, and his use of the term is precise. Between these two extremes is a huge swath of sloppiness: forgiveable, but sloppy nonetheless.

            In the case at hand, we have an extended discussion of the relationship between gays and Christianity without so much as nodding in the direction of the fact that there are branches of Christianity that accept gays without so much as blinking. This is even in the subtitle to the book, with its “gays vs. Christians”. I have no problem with Justin choosing as he did. Quite the contrary, I admire the choice. It is the harder road. But if he took it because he had never heard of Episcopalians, then it not so much admirable as merely ill-informed. For that matter, it could be that he doesn’t consider Episcopalians to be Christians. I don’t know. It might be apparent from the book itself. My point is that this discussion cries out for the broader context, which in turn is pretty much precluded by the shorthand use of the word “Christian”.

        • Hi Richard!

          Rest assured, I do NOT equate “Christian” with “evangelical Protestant.” My organization, The Gay Christian Network, has many members who are mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other groups that certainly wouldn’t identify themselves as evangelical Protestants. We also do have a bunch of evangelical Protestants as well. :)

          The subtitle about “gays vs. Christians” is a reference to the way many in our culture treat this issue as “gays vs. Christians,” when in fact, it isn’t truly gays vs. Christians at all. My original subtitle was “Rescuing the Gospel from a ‘Gays-vs.-Christians’ Mindset,” which may have been a bit clearer. At any rate, I am most definitely aware of the many affirming churches in existence, and my organization partners with a number of them from time to time.

          My general point in the book is that we Christians have frequently been painted (sometimes by our culture, other times by our fellow Christians) as more “anti-gay” than anything else, and that’s something we must be concerned about and work to change, from the most liberal to the most conservative among us.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            Thank you, Justin, for your reply. Your original subtitle would indeed have been much better. As I replied to Chaplain Mike, something of a pet peeve of mine is how “Christian” is so often used to mean “Evangelical Protestant”. In my experience, Evangelical Protestants do this routinely, usually without thinking about it. Evangelical Protestantism is so prominent in modern American culture that the mainstream media picks up on this usage. We see articles about the “Christian” position on some question where it is obvious that it would never occur to the reporter to interview, say, a Methodist leader.

            So I have taken it upon myself to make myself obnoxious by pestering persons such as Chaplain Mike about it. Y’all can feel free to thank me any time…

    • From what I read on this post, many of the mainlines would make a very welcoming home. Except there aren’t very many mainline groups which are both large enough to find a local congregation and Baptist. Perhaps the real problem is infant baptism. If he could change his position on that, finding a home would be so much easier! :P

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Problem is, adult credobaptism IS the core of Baptists’ tribal identity. It’s even in their name.

      • Just to be clear, I’ve long since reconciled my faith and sexuality. The struggles I talk about in the book happened over 15 years ago. But I use a lot of stories from my life as examples of why, especially in conservative Christian circles, this continues to be such a hot-button issue, and what we can all do to make it right.

        This is a book you can give to those conservative relatives or acquaintances who are really struggling with these questions or who need a new perspective on the issue. :)

  2. Allen Puwalski says:

    Then anti-gay agenda of the church is a prototypical example of the many ways the church at large alienates not only people outside the church but also its own members. While more could be said, one thing seems clear: the amount of resources that the church has dedicated to an anti-gay agenda is out of step with God’s heart for people.

    Are their any examples from Christ’s interaction with people where an “anti-any-particular-sin” agenda colored his loving disposition toward them, obstructed His approachability, or stunted people’s expectation to be loved by Him? Maybe an anti-hypocrisy agenda while interacting with religious leaders. That’s about it.

    Lee’s list of seven ways forward seems unassailable from a Biblical perspective. I would add one item to the list: Christians need to entertain (and at least suspend judgment about) the idea that a person could have indeed been born gay.

    The presupposition that gayness itself is a choice seems to galvanize the all-too-typical Christian attitude toward gays. In relation to homosexuality, more than in relation to other areas, we seem to struggle with the notion that God could hold someone responsible for a sin that they were “born to commit.”

    It’s a sticking point that seems to arise from a muddled sense of original sin.

    We struggle much less with the truth that through original sin, all post-fall mankind are born rebels and that that innate rebellious nature will manifest itself in rebellion which will require Christ’s work of redemption to reconcile us to God.

    Our inconsistent disposition toward homosexuality achieves nothing more than to alienate a group of people that Christ came to save no less than the rest of us.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree that the Church has often made too much of this issue while other sins go unaddressed (I’d argue that divorce has already caused more damage to families in and out of the church than the farthest-left gay liberal activists could ever hope to accomplish.) And I agree that we are to show love toward homosexuals, even though our opinions might differ. The real reason, I’m guessing, that homosexuality is such a hot-button topic in the church is the issue of repentance – somebody who struggles with a sin but ultimately recognizes it as such and works to avoid doing it is rightfully accepted in the church, but there’s plenty of precedence in the NT that church members trying to justify sinful behavior need to be disciplined or ejected from the church. That’s what’s really at stake here – but it’s difficult to demarcate the point at which it stops being an in-church affair, and starts being a culture war battle.

    But the central issue is the modern idea of homosexual orientation. This is found nowhere in the Bible, and in ancient Rome, etc. homosexuality was framed in terms of what one did, not one’s natural proclivities. This is the vital distinction. Being gay – as in attraction to people of the same sex – is not in and of itself a sin. Contrary to what some Christians, I suppose, would assert, you can’t really choose what you’re naturally attracted to. What matters is how you act on it – and it’s clear from the Bible that sexuality is something that God has designed and restricted to the context of a man and woman. The rest of us are to remain celibate. It’s really not that complicated. Having homosexual urges no more justifies one in pursuing homosexual activity or relationships than the fact that I’m attracted to girls justifies me having sex outside of marriage.

    • Kyle-

      Discipline has its own problems. Discipline in many groups and organziations is about power and control. Its not about edifying and turning a person around. For many fundagelicals today discipline is about a lust for power. If you’re living in grace I would think discipline would be a last resort. And when I say that I mean a last, last resort. Christinaity doesn’t really provide answers for those dealing with long term issues like homosexuality.

      • If you’re living in grace I would think discipline would be a last resort.

        Amen. When all other avenues are exhausted,

      • I agree with you, Eagle – I think we do need to be careful about discipline, and I hope it’s clear that a Driscoll-style approach isn’t what I have in mind.

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      (I’d argue that divorce has already caused more damage to families in and out of the church than the farthest-left gay liberal activists could ever hope to accomplish.)

      divorce is one of the most devastating relational disruptions that ripples thru the core of families, yet is not addressed in a helpful way most of time. although both religious & secular perspectives agree on its devastating results, little is done to deal with the issue in a way that is more like hand-wringing before a divorce happens, then dealing with the aftermath once it happens. there are good recovery efforts like DivorceCare that help Christians & non-Christians deal with some of the fallout, but i get the feeling divorce is treated more like an ‘oh well, it’s a sad situation’, but how do churches really help those marriages that could be helped? or how do they identify them? divorce is too common. and i understand why God hates it. but how does the church(es) deal with it effectively before it happens? i do not want to create a new stigma for those that are divorced, but other than feeling bad about the sad statistic, can anything be done about it???

      • I totally agree. At the risk of tooting my own denominational horn, it is true that only Catholic churches have consistently held the line against divorce and ALL sexual activity outside of a sacramental MARRIAGE—regardless of the partners involved in said illicit sexual expression.

        I am NOT saying that Catholics do not divorce, but there is no sugar coating about the gravity and sinful nature of a remarriage after divorce [ a reminder than DIVORCE is not a sin, especially if abuse was involved,. Divorced Catholics are required to be celebate until their former spouse dies or a Tribunal can ascertain that a valid sacramental marriage never existed in the first place.]

        And again, the Church does not hate gays or bar them from the sacraments, but it does require that chastity be maintained, just as a single hetrosexual must be chaste. Lots of folks dislike the Church and its teaching on sexuality, but you have to admit that it is CONSISTANT at all times.

        • Which, according to David Instone-Brewer, may be based on an incorrect understanding of what Jesus said and meant.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Many years ago, on our local Counterculture/Socialist FM radio station, one author being interviewed who grew up in Catholic schools had this to say about Catholic sexual morality:

          “Like it or hate it, it never treated sex trivially or casually. Everything about it was that Sex Was Important and what you do with it Was Important.”

  4. Kyle says:

    But the central issue is the modern idea of homosexual orientation. This is found nowhere in the Bible, and in ancient Rome, etc. homosexuality was framed in terms of what one did, not one’s natural proclivities. This is the vital distinction. Being gay – as in attraction to people of the same sex – is not in and of itself a sin. Contrary to what some Christians, I suppose, would assert, you can’t really choose what you’re naturally attracted to. What matters is how you act on it – and it’s clear from the Bible that sexuality is something that God has designed and restricted to the context of a man and woman. The rest of us are to remain celibate. It’s really not that complicated. Having homosexual urges no more justifies one in pursuing homosexual activity or relationships than the fact that I’m attracted to girls justifies me having sex outside of marriage.

    Justin tackles these topics in TORN, including whether or not “it’s clear from the Bible that sexuality is something that God has designed and restricted to the context of a man and woman.” (It may not be as clear as some people think or assume; I’ve read a number of books on the subject over the years, both pro-gay and anti-, and TORN does a good job of discussing the issue.) His book should put to rest for many persons the notions apparently held by many Christians that having same-sex attraction is in itself a sin or is a choice or that so-called “ex-gay” ministries or therapies are very effective in re-orienting persons’ sexual attraction. What TORN does not do and probably cannot do is settle the Side A vs. Side B debate. In fact, that’s kind of where TORN will leave Christians, and I don’t think the Gospel can be successfully rescued from the Side A vs. Side B debate, no matter how you define “the Gospel” – whether it’s God loves you, or Jesus died for your sins, or the Kingdom of God is here now and you are invited to enter it, etc.

    I’ve followed Justin for quite some time at his Tumblr blog site, and his book is just as kind and compassionate and witty and thoughtful and respectful and Jesus-affirming as he is in his other writings.

  5. I read this in the midst of the upheaval in my diocese (SC) that has a component of human sexuality in addition to the myriad of issues facing our denominational life. Many of our friends are in academia and are devastated by the position that has been taken on gender issues. They come to church and listen to people who may know one gay person in their social world spout their beliefs – which boil down to “well they must really want to be gay deep down inside.” Then my professor friends go to work and are eviscerated by colleagues for being part of a homophobic belief group – Christians.

    I was so glad to read a book that didn’t say, “If you just do this, then it will all be better.” It like much of the gospel is simple yet messy.

    The church secretary has it now. Let’s see what questions it raises.

  6. Being gay is not a sin. Acting upon it is.

    “Well, I was born this way.”

    Well, I was born a liar. But it’s still a sin to lie and we should not feel that lying is ok, not an active gay lifestyle.

    The church is not in the business of advocating sinful behavior.

    Gays are welcome in our church, but they are not welcome to use our church as a platform to advance their sin or justify their sin or exhibit their sin. And neither is anyone else allowed to do that with whatever their nagging sins happen to be.

    • Well said Steve. Your statement is what it boils down to. What if we took the book Torn and substituted any other sin in the place of homosexual activity? The end game goal is to have the church affirm as not-sinful what actually is sinful.

      I have lot’s of naturally occurring sinful desires. But I’m not out writing books demanding that the church be more open to the sins that I am drawn to.

      • Actually, Austin (and Steve), I think you might be surprised by the book. The book’s aim isn’t to change anyone’s mind on whether or not same-sex behavior is sinful; it’s all about how the church can better support those who have same-sex attractions. Throughout the book, I don’t engage in any sexual behavior; I only wrestle with the issue of how the church treats same-sex-attracted people differently from other folks, including those who do struggle with various sins as you suggest.

        Toward the end, I do explore the biblical arguments for and against same-sex relationships, but only in the context of the larger question about how Christians can continue to love one another if we disagree on that question.

        I’d love for you to give the book a read, and if you still have the same objections, I’d be happy to hear them. I honestly think you’d be surprised.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      What if you’re wrong? What if two people living in a committed, monogamous relationship (marriage, if it’s allowed) is not a sin?

      • Then the Bible is wrong, and you shouldn’t base your faith upon its claims.

        • Sin is sin. It does not matter which sin you want to talk about. Justifying the gay agenda by pointing out other sins will not get you where you want to go. The issue nobody wants to discuss is the reverse condemnation and hate out there. I belong to a liberal church which supports the gay agenda. They claim to be inclusive and tolerant. I believe homosexuality is indeed a sin. I do not tell anyone they are going to hell, I don’t call anyone names, I am always willing to discuss the issues in a calm rational way. I am constantly being called names such as racist, homophobe, ect. As soon as they know I will not be converted the tolerance and inclusion goes out the window. I was struck by one thing the author stated about how he could find in the bible enough to argue the issue both ways. That is really saying that God gives out two different answers to the same issue. I don’t believe that is true.Why is it we have come to believe that the only requirment is a committed relationship. I can think of many ways a relationship would be wrong built on those assumptions. But itching ears will always hear what they want if it advances their agenda. Even at the exclusion of Gods.

          • I don’t find your language of “agenda” very helpful here. I fail to see that Justin is advancing any agenda other than trying to get people to talk and understand one another.

          • Chaplin Mike, Agenda should not have been used. I was only pointing out in many of the responses that comparing sins against each other is also not helpful here.

          • I agree. The problem is, though God has clearly spoken on a plethora of issues, there has very rarely been a ton of consensus amongst those who consider the Bible to be authoritative. While I also think those who see monogamous gay relationships as permitted by scripture are standing the texts on their head, as long as they are willing to submit to the text when it disagrees with the, we need to have polite, respectful ways of resolving our differences in interpretation. I don’t agree with Wesleyans or Charismatics on many things, but I don’t therefore conclude that they don’t care about the Bible. We all approach God’s word with colored lenses seeking objectivity, and those who succeed become confessional Lutherans. :P

        • Clay Crouch says:

          I hope you really don’t think it’s that simple.

          • I don’t think the church has been wrong on this for 2000 years, if you want my opinion. “Committed, monogamous relationship” as a criteria for sexual union did not exist until very recently. I don’t think the author of scripture would have overlooked something that significant. I understand that some are genuinely convinced the Bible allows for it. …and I’m genuinely convinced they’re taking crazy pills, God bless ‘em. :P

            But seriously, it all depends on how you approach and interpret scripture. The type of hermeneutic that allows these kind of progressive ideas to find divine sanction in scripture would not defend the divinity or resurrection of Christ (a.k.a. orthodoxy), and history proves me right. I’m not arguing a slippery slope or saying that those who see gay sex as biblical are apostate. I’m just saying take a good look at the mainlines and tell me that historic, creedal truth claims are still a requirement for Christian ministry. They don’t seem think so, even though there’s a ton of great folks among their ranks from whom I have benefitted immensely.

          • Not sure where this will land in the discussion lineup, but in response to Miguel, it is entirely true that the concept of a “commited sexual union” outside of marriage is a new construct to place sin in a pretty and modern package, that strips away all the boring stuff about rules and licenses and making a public committment to each other that is legally binding as well.

            It is no coincidence that the western world focused for the last several years on hetrosexual unions and the idea that as long as one was” in love”, that living together, having sex, having babies, and all the other trappings of marriage could exist quite happily without the “meaningles piece of paper”. The the idea morphed even further into the normalization of homosexual unions—no longer just the bath house and rest room culture of casual hookups, but a committed relationship. And the se.cular world thought that all was good. Now we have arrived at the almost schizophrenic state where homosexual “couples” are working furiously for the right to get married, while their heterosexual friends insist that they do NOT need a marriage license to prove their committment.

            This all has an “Alice through the Lookin Glass” aura about it, whcih would be funny if it was not so sad and wasn’t hurting children all over the board (and killing them on the hetrosexual side when children are inconvenient). For we Christians, it is pretty clear that the plan offered by Christ for personal joy and the best set up for society has been shown to be right, after all. Gee, the “Guy” that made us has an idea about how we work best? Amazing!

    • MariaTheresa says:

      If churches took that same attitude toward other sins — let’s pick two favorites that the Bible mentions frequently: pride and unloving behavior — I can’t even imagine how much of the congregation they’d lose. “You’re welcome in our church, as long as you don’t use it as a platform for your pride!” “You’re welcome in our church as long as you don’t use it as an opportunity to exhibit how little love you have for others!” You’d better hang up that sign right in front of the revolving door.

      • This is why reformed theology fails so miserably. While many reformed hammer away on lust and homosexuality they have embraced pride, arrogance and so many other sins. And they have made that perfectly acceptable. If the Pipers and the Chandlers and the Drisoclls of the world really felt repentant about pride they’d bow out, get off the stage and never give another sermon again.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          1) We often hammer away on those sins we have absolutely NO chance of ever committing. But our own favorites? That’s different.

          2) Christians also have a tunnel-vision on SEXUAL sins to the exclusion of all others. It’s the funhouse-mirror reflection of the outside society’s obsession with sex.

          • The reason for #2 lies in the truth that righteous indignation is often nothing more than jealousy with a halo.

          • And, in contrast to your #1, many will hammer away on those sins which they are secretly committing themselves; just think of failings of various public individuals. I think how people regard others’ sins vs. one’s own sin is different for everyone.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Like “How Dare THEY Get Some When I’m Not Allowed To!”?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            (Note: the above comment was regarding Miguel and #2. The one below is re Josh and #1.)

            And, in contrast to your #1, many will hammer away on those sins which they are secretly committing themselves; just think of failings of various public individuals.

            In that case, you have someone who is trying to self-medicate and self-treat without anyone finding out. I’ve heard that a lot of psychiatrists get into the profession because they’re crazy and are trying to self-treat in secret. Another example was Rush Limbaugh as Number-One Fan of the War on Drugs while fighting a secret Oxycontin addiction. And the original Internet Monk wrote about Baptists, alcohol, and the “secret sip”.

            And for a public figure or CELEBRITY Pastor or CELEBRITY Christian figure, it’s even worse. They have to be the Perfect Holy Christian all the time, and don’t dare go to anyone with their problem or secret sin. So they hide it as deep as they can, try to self-medicate and self-treat, and one day (like Ted Haggard) everything just blows sky-high.

        • I’m not sure it has anything to do with being reformed. Plenty of non-calvinists hammer away at certain taboo sins, and plenty of their leaders have ego issues. I think it’s just a human tendency, and it makes a good case for the doctrine of human depravity.

          BTW, what’d Chandler do to get lumped in with the other two? He seems a bit more mature to me (dying of brain cancer can have that effect), but I don’t really keep up with those circles anymore.

          • Miguel-

            I have a freind who’se given me Chandler’s material. In reading his sermon I really see some hypocrisy in what he says. Talk is cheap and he can be more mature BUT…he still credits individuals as being influences who I think have quite a bit maturing to do, or are very insecure in their claim to have all the answers.

            When I was in a mega church years ago, I did a mission and my mission leader said that Chandler modeled the way Christian should deal with suffering. So one gets hammered on that issue, and one can’t ask questions. However, my thoughts on him have gone south after watching and dealing with my father’s brain tumor over 2012. Can’t Christians just empathize…or does there have to be an answer for everything? What helps during suffering is saying “I don’t know” and having a shoulder to cry on. In retrospect if he did more of that when he had his brain tumor who knows how many people could have been comforted. Recently in the Christian Post I read his wife’s take on the MRI scans after surgery, and I empathized becuase each one my father went thorugh was an emotional rollar coaster. But I wish there was more empathy and I don’t know from Chandler.

            So I know for many reformed folk Chanlder is one of the many they bow down and worship – he’s their Golden Calf. And I think he should be called on the carpet just as Piper should be called out as well.

          • FWIW, Matt Chandler’s church is just over a mile from our house.

      • You lost me with the phrase “don’t use it as a platform….”
        Is there a demographic out there of gay people using conservative evangelical churches as places to find a hookup?
        Prideful, unloving people are welcome in any Christian church, imo, right next to gays. But sin is still sin, and Christians of all people should at least make the first step of admitting our problem and confessing it, rather than denying it and trying to justify ourselves.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Is there a demographic out there of gay people using conservative evangelical churches as places to find a hookup?

          Probably. If you can say it, somebody’s probably done it. Somewhere, somewhen.

          “The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.”
          — attr to Mark Twain

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “Gays are welcome in our church, but they are not welcome to use our church as a platform to advance their sin or justify their sin or exhibit their sin. And neither is anyone else allowed to do that with whatever their nagging sins happen to be.”

      Really? So if, for example, an obese person blatantly flaunts his gluttony by taking a second helping at a church supper, the church would discipline this person? Really?

      • Richard McNeeley says:

        +1

      • Clay Crouch says:

        Only if he’s gay.

      • So if, for example, an obese person blatantly flaunts his gluttony by taking a second helping at a church supper, the church would discipline this person?

        Sadly, this is actually quite possible in a hyper-puritan environment. Out of curiosity, how do you think church should respond generally to sin? Should there be no practice of discipline whatsoever, or should all sins be treated equally?

        I suggest that sexual sin to gluttony is not apples to apples. Most evangelical congregations I have encountered respond to a practicing homosexual the same they would to heterosexual promiscuity/adultery. Suggesting that homosexuals are singled out because fat people get away is kinda silly, imo. One is much more black and white while the other has shades of grey. God has not said “thou shalt not be fat,” and how would we ever determine at what point somebody had gotten too rotund? Adultery is a different beast, kinda like being pregnant; there is no kinda.

        • Even Paul, the preacher of grace and the self-called worst of sinners, distinguishes sexual sins from other sins. In 1 Corinthians 5 he expresses outrage about a particular sexual relationship that not even Gentiles do. In the next chapter he says that, and explains why, sexual immorality/sex with prostitutes is worse than other sins of the body. I think it’s hard to argue from the Scriptures that sexual sins can be equated with or regarded as no worse or different than some other sins because, after all, “sin(s) is(are) sin(s).”

  7. What I appreciate most is the willingness in recent years for some to simply consider the possibility of being both gay and Christian. Having first come into my faith in the rabidly anti-gay early 90s, my own journey to seeing the shades of grey in the debate has frequently left me without discussion partners. I am so grateful for those who are willing to contribute to the conversation.

  8. I have so many books to read, I mean I’m reading through Philip Yancey on “Prayer” and Greg Boyd’s “Letters to a Skeptic” and that doesn’t include the history books I like to read.

    I’ve read about Justin over at Wartburg a month or two ago. I was absolutely intrigued to know which campus ministry he was involved in while in college. There are two things I am most interested in this discussion.
    1. I wonder what many in the reformed crowd will do to this book. I mean when Tim Keller has his wife doing his dirty work in going after Rachel Held Evans, what will The Gospel Coalition, Driscoll, Piper and the rest of the crowd in Fundamentalism 2.0 do in response to this book? Justin due to his faith can’t be painted as being Rob Bell or Brian McLaren by John Piper.
    2. I think the reason why Justin is going to make some waves is because of his style and what he says is really convicting. His approach shows why many fundagelicals have made marriage and kids (vintage 1950’s style…) an idol in modern evangelicalism. Evangelicalism has many idols today and the James Dobson crowd especially have deified the institution.

    • yea, eagle you are so right, stable homes with two opposite gender parents and kids postponed to after marriage is so “yesterday”-we will all be so much better off when all of those repressive folks who feel that that is the best and proper way to raise children and give society a strong foundation, (not even mentioning the church) just crawl off under a rock somewhere and die, who needs those neanderthals

      geeze

      • I’m sorry Austin I misunderstood John 3:16 James Dobson translation…

        For God so loved the world that he desired every person to be married so that whoever is married shall not parrish but be saved by marriage and thereby have eternal life.

        This is where you get into triple predestination…when your marriage is predestined of course…

        And for people like Justin it’s a sucks to be you theology…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Never mind Justin, for people like Eagle or me it’s a Sucks to be You theology.

        • Eagle, celibacy outside of marriage and faithfulness in it is the biblical standard, and the Bible heartily supports celibacy for those called to it, the Bible doesn’t support homosexual activity

          • Clay Crouch says:

            Yes, the Bible demanded that those who practice homosexuality be put to death. Do you subscribe to that as well? And marriage customs and laws in the Bible, please, do you really want to go there?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Re “marriage customs and laws in the Bible”:

            Welcome to the world of Bronze Age Semitic Tribal Warfare.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Actually, the standard for marriage in the Bible can be any of the following: one man and one woman; one man and SEVERAL woman; one man, one woman, and her female slaves; one man and his rape victim; one man and his brother’s wife (but not his father’s wife; etc.

          • The key is not that these various relationships are IN the Bible but rather in how we READ the Bible. That is where the real issue lies.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            So, maybe step one in resolving this debate is to accept that, as we read Scripture, we inherently interpret it through our personal experiences, identity, and values?

          • That’s part of it. But I also believe we can read it with some understanding of the purposes for which these texts were written and gathered together. Descriptions of historical practices and customs must be read and considered in that light.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            There’s the rub, CM. I start suggesting that we ought to put Scripture in historical and cultural context, and folks start warming up the stake to purge me of my heresy. Such is life…

      • I didn’t get that vibe from Eagle’s lament. I think what Eagle means by making marriage and family an idol, is that like the LDS faith, family has become so sacrosanct in Evangelicalism that there is little room for the confirmed bachelors, for the 20 and 30 something singles or for the DINKs. It’s a bit like the vintage Christianity in the 70s that had no room for mothers who worked outside the home unless they were destitute. Most young people nowdays live an extended period of time on their own without a family while they’re trying to get established in their career or even figure out what their career will be. They may or might not marry in their late 20s or 30s. Church services geared exclusively for intact couples with their children and that idolize that reality won’t resonate with such a crowd.

    • Hey Eagle: Hope you can receive this in the spirit in which I write this, but I’m wondering, Is it possible that Tim Kellers wife (Kathy) chose to write her review of Rachel’s book on her own decision? Kathy is a well educated woman in her own right and perhaps (I don’t know) chose to respond to the book as a “woman” reviewing another womans perspective and writing. I know she was pretty harsh in her review, I know some of us will disagree very emphatically…I’m just saying. Okay, in full disclosure, I don’t know Kathy but I do like Tim’s writings on church and missional stuff…but I’m not writing this in defense of his wife just because of that, I don’t think.

    • I’ve always said that the main problem with Focus on the Family is that they have the wrong focus. Fundagelicalism does have a strong tendency to preach the gospel of traditional family values. I think healthy families are a good thing (as opposed to highly dysfunctional families and NOT as opposed to remaining single), but any directions geared toward family life in Scripture are an expression of law and not gospel. The problem with fundamentalism is that it is always one-upping God’s law. What God gives as a general idea they feel the need to spell out in culturally determined specifics which alienate people from more progressive circles. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is not enough, we need 5 principles to ensure your children grow up obedient/believers/straight/FotF customers.

      There’s always a substantive disagreement too, but too much of it boils down to a culture war. It is always difficult to be articulate in expressing the faith. To the extent that this book is an exercise in that, I applaud his effort.

  9. David Cornwell says:

    “We must learn how to effectively dialogue.”

    This in many ways is the most difficult part. Luke Timothy Johnson has suggested ways for this to go forward, respecting scripture, while at the same time hearing the stories that share the narratives of other believers, be they straight or gay. He wrote an article for Commonwealth Magazine which in many ways provides a framework for this dialogue. I hesitate to pull out one paragraph, but will. I hesitate because sometimes doing this results in out-of-context confusion. But here it is:

    “I suggest, therefore, that the New Testament provides impressive support for our reliance on the experience of God in human lives—not in its commands, but in its narratives and in the very process by which it came into existence. In what way are we to take seriously the authority of Scripture? What I find most important of all is not the authority found in specific commands, which are fallible, conflicting, and often culturally conditioned, but rather the way Scripture creates the mind of Christ in its readers, authorizing them to reinterpret written texts in light of God’s Holy Spirit active in human lives. When read within the perspective of a Scripture that speaks everywhere of a God disclosing Godself through human experience, our stories become the medium of God’s very revelation.”

    Usually these days I avoid this conversation rather than join in it, because the course of the talk is so predictable. And today I have no intention of getting into an intense argument on this subject.

    If interested, the magazine also gives another article, providing a countervailing point of view. Both articles can be found online, together.

    • Interesting. It’s interesting you mention avoiding the conversation. I know a lot of gay people and just about all either have left faith all together, thus have no interest in the conversation or have joined an MCC church or an independent Catholic group, and have their own Christian sub-community with no real interest in engaging the greater Christian community in dialogue as they pretty much know what will be said by whom so why bother.

  10. Unfortunately, many of the very people who would likely most benefit from reading TORN probably won’t do so because they have already decided what the Bible says on the issue, or that the Gospel doesn’t need to be rescued from any sort of Gays vs. Christians debate.

    *sigh*

    • True…remember this will also be the crowd that clings to Piper’s every word, as he is God himself…including YES…his teaching that a woman endures physical abuse for a night and emotional abuse for a “season” However you define that…

    • David Cornwell says:

      And have decided a gay person has no authority, no standing, and is without knowledge.

      Let me tell you, it is not so.

  11. We have gay people in our church, today. And we have had them in our congregation in the past, as well.

    The only time we had a problem was when one fellow wanted us to affirm his sin. We wouldn’t and said he’d better go elsewhere for that.

    And we wouldn’t affirm people who are proud, or lustful, or arrogant, either. All sinners are welcome. But do not expect us to say that whatever you’ve got going on that is sinful is alright. We read the Scriptures each week and when there are law passages against certain sinful behavior, we let that stand and hopefully the sinner will hear and be brought to the realization that he/she doesn’t stand a chance without the grace and mercy of God.

    • Please elaborate.
      I’m curious how this “one fellow wanted us to affirm his sin.” I suspect what you mean is, he wanted to acknowledge that he was gay and wanted others in the congregation to accept that fact about him. Was he actually advocating sexual intercourse? Did he suggest that gays should be allowed to marry? Did he show up at a service with a gay friend?

      • He came to the pastor and told him that he was in a relationship with someone and wanted to be able to tell people in the congregation about him and to have him come to worship with him. The pastor said, “no”.

        The pastor knew that this man was gay, already. But he never made an issue of it before. The man read the Scriptures during worship, and was on the church council. He left the congregation.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Not to sound overly negative, but shouldn’t we be inferring something from a congregation who feels threatened by the presence of someone in an “actively sinful lifestyle”? And should we ask whether or not they would have the same reaction to an admitted alcoholic who decides to bring his drinking buddies to church? Seems to me that, if homosexuality is really a sin, then church would be the best place for these folks. Worst case scenario: the church community has to admit that, in the eyes of God, they are no better than a gay man.

    • + 1. Ditto.

  12. I saw the picture and thought, “Oh my gosh, its Chris Rosenbaum!” (Lex Luthor in the Smallville series). Its the little things in life.

  13. One thing I found most powerful about _Torn_ was that it’s written by someone who approached Scripture _wanting_ to submit to whatever it would tell him about how to live his life, and who I think really _expected_ the answer to be, “you have to be celibate,” but who found that Scripture itself when read faithfully (and not just treated as if it were God’s “answer book”) leaves room for ambiguity. If you haven’t read the book, the chapter where he traces his own struggle with Scripture, and with how to distinguish between which norms in Scripture are cultural vs. universal, is very honest and thorough – he doesn’t gloss over anything, and his conclusion is, “I could argue for either side,” not “I’m certainly right and you’re wrong.”

    The book is not a pro-gay polemic. (Have any of you who are posting against it actually read it?) What it _is_ is an appeal to people on both sides of the debate to at least acknowledge that it is possible to be Christian and to think differently on this issue, just as we seem to be able to on others.

    For example, while there are some churches who would refuse communion to a member of the military and others that may even glorify people in violent professions, most of us in the middle would not question someone’s salvation just because they’re connected to the military or picket a church just because it advocates pacifism. If we can accept that someone might take a non-literal reading of the Sermon on the Mount and still be a Christian, why do we question someone’s faith or accuse them of having an “agenda” just for having a different understanding of how to read Paul’s letters in their cultural context? How are we able to leave space for disagreement on something as serious as who a Christian is allowed to kill, yet not for the comparatively less serious issue of who a Christian is allowed to marry? (Just trying to pick an example that’ll help you folks on the conservative end experience the Bible-bashing from the side of the bash-ee instead of the bash-er. *grin*)

    My personal hope for this book is that it will help the evangelical world get to the point where we stop pretending that the Bible is so straightforward and human sexuality is so simple that it’s possible for us to have easy, black and white answers and to be so sure that we’re right that we don’t even have to listen to those on the other side (whichever side we might be on). My other hope is that it will help dispel some of the misunderstandings (like that people “choose” to be gay or that they can be “fixed” or that being gay implies a promiscuous lifestyle) that have hurt so many people and driven them away from the church.

    • +1 Bravo! TORN can potentially move the goal posts of the discussion for those who have – or want to have – ears to hear what the Spirit might be saying to the churches.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Michael Z:

      Excellent points. It seems to me that the greater sin is from the “believer” toward the so-called non-believer. Judgement, harsh words, pointing, dislike, etc. dig a ditch, a grave, from which the “other” cannot escape. I hope TORN can move us forward, but after so many years worry that it will not be so.

      But change comes slowly sometimes, then the Spirit moves hearts.

      Chaplain Mike, your work here is excellent. Keep up your spirits.

  14. Randy Thompson says:

    I appreciated this post very much.
    Having been a conservative in a very liberal context, I early on saw that culture war politics didn’t work, especially not within the church. The issue, for me, was always how to disagree with people on this issue face to face, while honoring our Lord’s command to love our neighbor. Tricky business, that. Believe me, as a traditionalist, you can be just as unpopular in a liberal setting as you can be as a gay person in a (very) conservative setting. I’m trying to figure out how to love your gay neighbor, genuinely, while disagreeing with my gay neighbor. This post was helpful on that front. My experience, so far, with the love-my-gay-neighbor-while-disagreeing-with-my-gay-neighbor approach has been discouraging and painful, on both sides. But, loving people usually entails pain, doesn’t it?

    • But, loving people usually entails pain, doesn’t it?

      Despite efforts to show love, most churches do it as a secondary item. We condemn the sin first, then we say ‘but the sinner is loved’ here. Involved in this is a definite level of legalism, a pre-determined list of sins that are unforgivable.

      I think what scares me is the anger/hate/fear expressed towards a group (glbt) from my church community. Convincing yourself it is ‘the sin and not the sinner’ isn’t going to cut it when in a personal situation. We create an artificial distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’, if ‘they’ only behave a certain way then they can become part of ‘us'; seems the early church required someone to work their way out of the community.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Involved in this is a definite level of legalism, a pre-determined list of sins that are unforgivable.

        Which are NEVER the favorite or commonplace sins of the Pastor or Congregation.

  15. Steve, that is the A-Side vs. B-Side debate that is described above. I tend towards the view that either all remarried people (divorced, not widow(er)s) are unrepentant sinners and hellbound or that there is some room for committed monogamous same-sex couples. Steve/Austin- are there any remarried members of your churches?

    Beyond this, what has caused my gay friends to view Christianity with suspicion at best and hostility at worst is not the beliefs, but the attempt to legislate morality. They tend not to care if there are people who think they are going to hell, but they do care that they can be fired for being gay or cannot visit their partners/spouses in the hospital when they are injured/dying. I believe that if the evangelical community maintained its beliefs about homosexuality but stopped trying to codify discrimination into law, most of the Gay/Christian animosity would go away. (It would also help if the crazies who talk about rounding up homosexuals to keep them away from everyone else were fewer, but you can’t have everything.)

    • David Cornwell says:

      “(It would also help if the crazies who talk about rounding up homosexuals to keep them away from everyone else were fewer, but you can’t have everything.)”

      Or supporting the governments of countries like Uganda who want legalize the execution of gay persons.

    • I had no idea that gay people could not visit their partners in hospital. I believe they ought be able to, absolutely.

      I’m all for nondiscrimination of gays, but sin must never be advocated in the church. Even my sins (which are many). But we cannot have gay people in our church, holding to the notion that their ‘behavior’ (sex) is not sinful. The Scriptures clearly say that it is, and in more than one place. It is a particularly difficult sin to have as one of your own, but it is still sin.

      Right now we have two people in our congregation that are gay. But they never make an issue of it, flaunt it, or advocate it…or ask us to.

      • Professor Failure says:

        How often do the heteros in your church “flaunt” their heterosexuality?

        Your word choice stinks.

  16. I’m curious, from his 7 points at the end, what is meant by point #5:

    We must shatter the myth that the Bible is anti-gay.

    Is the myth he is referring to that the Bible is homophobic and hateful to gay people or that the Bible considers gay sex to be adultery?

    • The myth that the Bible is anti people who have same-sex attraction and/or anti same-sex attraction – versus the fact that the Bible is anti certain kinds of (or maybe all, depending on your interpretation) same-sex sexual actions, IIRC.

    • His youtube videos would point to the former, particularly the one on whether homosexuality is an abomination. After discussing the levitical passages, the point he drives home is that whichever way you come to approach them, they aren’t saying gay people are abominable by nature.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      I think the myth to which he refers is the myth that the Bible recognizes homosexuality as a sin. I don’t believe this is a myth; this was specifically categorized as a sin. However, so was picking up sticks on the Sabbath.

      • Justin differentiates between homosexuality = same-sex attraction, and homosexuality = committing same-sex genital acts. I.e., between what one has or is as a part of one’s physical and mental and emotional being, and what one does. Unless you make that differentiation, you could end up saying that the Bible specifically categorized homosexuality = same-sex attraction as a sin, when it does not.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Justin uses the same differentiaton as the RCC: Same-sex attraction is not a sin per se, but acting out on it is.

  17. A few passages of Scripture that may be variously interpreted condemn homosexuality; many passages of Scripture plainly accept slavery as a legitimate institution, even though some passages regulate certain aspects of it. Christians who supported and condoned the institution of slavery based on its compatibility with Scripture were morally wrong; Christians who, on the basis of a very natural reading of Scripture, condemn homosexuality and seek to keep homosexuals (and by extension LBT people) from full inclusion in all aspects of the church’s life are morally wrong. I don’t need Scriptural prooftexting to know this and hold this position. I’ve perceived the dignity and human value of GLBT people directly, just as I know directly that slavery is wrong. Having had this perception, having made this discovery, as sociologist Peter Berger would put it, I cannot pretend that I haven’t. It’s that simple for me.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      It’s always fun to vehemently disagree with people on one post and then vehemently agree with them on another. Such is life…

      Let me piggy-back off of Robert F’s comment: In my experience, when confronted with the passages of Scripture that explicitly condone slavery, folks who wish to exclude the LGBT community from their church immediately go into contextualization mode. Sure, slavery is condoned in both the Old and New Testament, but that was written to specific congregation or people, struggling with specific issues at a specific period in their collective relationship with, and understanding of, God and His will. Likewise, when it comes to abortion, and the anti-abortion crowd is confronted with passages in Exodus and Leviticus that clearly place less value on the unborn, that is contexualized as well.

      Here’s the thing: the anti-slavery and the anti-abortion people are right to do so. We have to understand that Scripture was not given to us in 2012 straight from God to us, but that it went through the experiences of other people in other cultures who were struggling to understand who God really is. Assuming that just because the Scripture regarding homosexuality was explicit, it does not need this contexualization is a little like reading the parable of the sower and the four soils, then going to Congress to that all farming be done by a man walking down “good earth” and throwing seed on the ground. We need to start asking these questions when we encounter what appear to be explicit instructions in the Bible:

      Who was the immediate audience for this text?
      What is the overall theme in which this text plays a role? For example, if we are reading Leviticus, what is the overall theme that God is trying to get the immediate audience to understand?
      Were there any important historical events or cultural norms that would have guided the understanding of the immediate audience?
      If we accept this Scripture as unfiltered, would we then find ourselves at the wrong end of the scientific method, saying, “I don’t know why, but God says it’s true, so your research will be inherently invalid?” This last one seems most important; it is a very pathetic show to see folks reject valid, accepted scientific theory just because it conflicts with their interpretation of Scripture. Logic is not the enemy to Scripture; the same God who inspired the Word can inspire a sociologist or a psychologist.

      Anyhoo, here’s hoping that Justin Lee’s book a) gets into my library sometime soon, and b) gets people to understand how we need to interpret and apply Scripture.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        If we accept this Scripture as unfiltered, would we then find ourselves at the wrong end of the scientific method, saying, “I don’t know why, but God says it’s true, so your research will be inherently invalid?”

        There is precedent for this in the Ken Ham set in the Creation-vs-Evolution wars.

  18. Has anyone here read Gene Robinson’s book “God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage?” He intends apparently, to attempt a biblical defense of gay marriage. It would be worth a review I think. Given its author it will likely become a hinge pin of the B side of the conversation.

  19. I was in a used media store recently, you know the kind wth old vinyl, movie posters, etc. In the back of the store I found a collection of old “men’s” magazines. I bought one that day called Vice Squad because the top headline on the front cover screamed in all caps, “15,000,000 LESBIANS ON THE LOOSE!” I just had to know more!!
    If anyone needs a reminder of how far we have come away from the small-minded thinking days of old, just pick up one of these mags. This particular one is from 1961, just a few years before I was born, and they use terms like “female fag”, Greenwich Village is called the “running sore in the heart of NYC.” It really is fascinating. Ah, the good old glory days of the 50’s and 60’s, when self-righteouness ruled the day.
    God gave us the brains required to make it in this world, to evolve, to reason. Why do so many feel the need to stay stuck in the world of 2000 yrs ago in these arguments? It seems a big slap to the face of God to remain fixed with feet stuck in the mud, refusing to move.
    Chaplain Mike, thanks for this post on this subject, once again. I love you.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “15,000,000 LESBIANS ON THE LOOSE!”

      Now THAT’s a tabloid headline! (Made you look, didn’t it?)

      Reminds me of one Dr Demento classic that never made it to YouTube:
      “We are the Leaping Les-Bi-Ans
      WE ARE THE LES-BI-ANS!”

  20. Well, now, THIS should be interesting:

    http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/12/11/scientists-may-have-finally-unlocked-puzzle-of-why-people-are-gay

    Evolutionarily speaking, if homosexuality was solely a genetic trait, scientists would expect the trait to eventually disappear because homosexuals wouldn’t be expected to reproduce. But because these epi-marks provide an evolutionary advantage for the parents of homosexuals: They protect fathers of homosexuals from underexposure to testosterone and mothers of homosexuals from overexposure to testosterone while they are in gestation.

    “These epi-marks protect fathers and mothers from excess or underexposure to testosterone — when they carry over to opposite-sex offspring, it can cause the masculinization of females or the feminization of males,” Rice says, which can lead to a child becoming gay. Rice notes that these markers are “highly variable” and that only strong epi-marks will result in a homosexual offspring.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Epi-marks”?
      It’s in the epigenome?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “These epi-marks protect fathers and mothers from excess or underexposure to testosterone — when they carry over to opposite-sex offspring, it can cause the masculinization of females or the feminization of males,”

      Is that anything like sickle-cell genetics, a recessive that when received from both parents causes fatal sickle-cell anemia, but when received from only one parent gives the advantage of high resistance to malaria?