September 25, 2018

Responses to Nicki (1)

smallcon.jpgFirst, here’s the entire comment from Nicki I am going to be writing about over the next few posts.

Michael,

While I do appreciate your progressive attitude towards GLBT people, I still find that it sends a very patronizing and negative message to GLBT persons. “I hate the sin, but love the sinner” is almost as bad as outright hating the sinner. That attitude creates a feeling of self shame for being GLBT, which is who God created them to be. There is no free will or choice in this matter anymore than you chose to be straight.

Gay, Straight, or Transgender sexuality is part of a normal healthy life. If the heterosexuals were completely honest, they would agree and admit that premarital sex is quite common among Christians. Celibacy is not only a challenge, I believe it is unnatural and probably psychologically and physically unhealthy. God created us as social beings and intimacy is a natural consequence. I’m not advocating promiscuity, but we no longer get married at the age of 13 or 14. Personally, I believe it is entirely normal to be sexual in the context of a committed relationship. I know may Christians would crucify me for that but so be it.

Personally, I believe the only way to understand the Bible, is to understand it in the culture and context that it was written in. The world is not flat. Women are allowed to speak and be participants in Church. We eat shrimp and shellfish. We plant more than one type of plant in a field. We wear clothes made of more than one kind of fabric ( ie. polyester). All these things were considered an abomination in the Old Testament. What was considered an abomination several thousand years ago had more to do with preserving the Jewish religion and nation than anything else. Preservation of health without refrigeration, preserving the nation through procreation, preserving ritual purity etc. were of paramount importance and influenced the law and culture.

Since the definition of and term Homosexuality as a psychosexual orientatiom didn’t even exist until the time of Sigmund Freud in the 1800’s, the Bible simply does not discuss homosexuality as an sexual orientation because it simply was not understood any more than nuclear fusion was. The Bible condemns promiscuity, idolotry, but never addresses either Homosexuality or Transexuality.

Interestingly, the examples of same sex love which are shown by Johnathon and David and Ruth and Naomi are held as examples for Christians. Also, in the story of Jesus and the Eunuch. Eunuchs are the closest thing the Bible has comparable to a Transexual. Eunuchs were young boys who were castrated for the concubine of their rich master. Castration kept them feminine and prevented the deveopment of secondary male sexual characteristics. Jesus certainly did not shun the Eunuch. He embraced him.

Until Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender persons are embraced by the Church as another part of God’s wonderful creation, they will not feel welcomed. They are unique and special and have insights and gifts to contribute to the Church.

You asked, “What would Jesus have done?” It’s clear to me that Jesus embraced ALL of God’s creation. He embraced the outcasts as well as everyone else. We are ALL God’s children. That was the central message of Christ. That is what is so liberating and different about Christ’s message and death and resurrection. His blood was shed for all of humanity

I don’t normally do specific responses to commenters here at IM, but I thought Nicki’s comments were well stated and deserved a response, albeit a brief one.

Nicki represents an articulate challenge to all of us as evangelicals to live out the love of Christ and to join her in finding the truth of what it means to be God’s people living out God’s purposes. Obviously, there will be some disagreement, but I want to make what I think are the essential points of reply to such a well stated comment.

That attitude creates a feeling of self shame for being GLBT, which is who God created them to be. There is no free will or choice in this matter anymore than you chose to be straight.

The doctrine of creation is at the core of this discussion. I believe every person has an identity as a person created in the image of God and seen fully in the incarnate person of Jesus.

But I do not believe any of us are created without the continuing effects of the fall, which includes all human beings being born as sexually broken and sinful. I do not attach a sexual label to this. We all fall short of the glory of God that should have been seen in us without the fall. This extends to our sexuality as it does to all of our humanity. It isn’t a matter of choosing a sexual preference. I believe we are all born with fallen sexual identities, distorted sexual appetites and a determination to disobey God sexually.

So I hope I am not condescending at all. I am the worst sexual sinner I know. There is no such thing as “justification by being heterosexual,” just as there is no justification before God for saying “I’ve decided my sexuality is unfallen and good.” It comes from a good creator, but I do not believe any of us are sexually unfallen.

I believe you are articulating a doctrine of creation that is not just unbiblical; it takes away the equally of sinfulness that I believe is essential for us to all recover if we are going to talk about this without condescension. Such a view of universal sinfulness opens the door to God’s grace for all of us. Defending a view of “normal’ that doesn’t take into account the creation-fall-redemption dynamic is to be off on the wrong foot immediately with unfortunate results especially in this area.

You stated that to feel shame over one’s sexuality is a bad thing. I can’t help but point out that shame over their sexuality was exactly what Adam and Eve first felt in God’s presence after they choose disobedience and autonomy.

(To Be Continued.)

Comments

  1. I hope this is not pre-mature as Michael may not want comments until his posting is done.

    Since the beginning of the twentieth century it seems that the enmity, which exists between the Evangelical Church and the GLBT community, has been greater than that between the E. Church and any group save that between the E. Church and devil worshippers (certainly a much more obscure target than the GLBT community). Okay, maybe this enmity has only recently been eclipsed by that between the E. Church and Islamic extremist (of whom the former says is on a mission to overthrow the planet and kill their babies). I believe that the crux the animosity, with the GLBT community, is this issue of their views of creation (which Michael has so well stated).

    As Nicki attest to, the GLBT realizes he/she was born the way they are and says, “I am good because a good God made me the way that I am, and in my state of being (as least when it comes to sexual orientation) I have no choice.”

    The Evangelical (and I am an ex) errors by standing on the opposite side of the dichotomy, stating, “Creation is totally (in a Dualistic way) decimated by the Fall of Adam and is now only junk. Theologically I am saved from that Junk by Christ but (on a more honest level) I am now good because of the great choices which I’ve made. I am heterosexual and chaste (thus good) because I choose to be (and GLBTs likewise chose to be evil). My kids are good because I am a good father and have trained them well (via wooden spoons across their rumps), I’ve home schooled them, protected from godless teachers that expose them to the evils of evolution, gone to Promise Keepers, done X, Y, and Z discipleship programs . . . all by my great choices. I am a self-made, godly man.” It seems that this kind of thinking is what would make a person in the GLBT community want to throw up.

    In my reading of scripture, Jesus seems to be saying something entirely different from either of those positions, “The good God created a wonderful cosmos which has been tainted (but not decimated) by the Fall of Adam. There is still plenty of God-breathed good still in all creation, but it is far from perfect (including Michael’s statement about the influence of Adam’s sin on our sexual make up). When you are in Me, you are good because when God looks at you he sees My perfection and it has nothing to do with your day to day choices nor your accomplishments.”

  2. I think IM and I are saying the same thing here, just with different words. The objection seems to be based upon viewing homosexuality as a “choice” in light of the scientific evidence indicating a genetic predisposition toward that lifestyle(or “fallen sexual identities,” if you prefer). The thing is, I don’t think genetic predisposition toward a lifestyle eliminates choice, it just makes it more difficult. Physiological predispositions are not the end of the moral inquiry. As a male primate, I am genetically predisposed to be sexually attracted to any reasonably attractive female primate of my species. That predisposition makes it more difficult for me to resist the urge to act on that attraction. But I don’t think my wife would buy that explanation if I were to do so, and with good reason. Besides being a male primate, I am also a human being, a moral agent. I hope we have not come to a place as a society where we are willing to say that acting upon all of our physiological impulses would be morally justified.

    Gargantuanly important topic, though, and thank you for bringing it to the fore.

    Grace and Peace to us all as we struggle with our fallenness, in all its facets, and that of our neighbors, and that which infiltrates the dynamic between the two.

    And, by the way, thanks again for that young Jewish kid who did that thing that inaugurated the putting of all this to rights.

    Raffi Shahinian
    Parables of a Prodigal World

  3. Nikki is a classic example of how the mircurial aspects inherent in language combined with someone gifted in communication can be incredibly persuasive from any point of view. That phenomenon is what poilitcs depends upon as well as the inability for most people to come to a view based upon unbiased reasoning. In short, Nikki (I’m guessing female?) makes some arresting points with uncommon logic and without some of the usual shrillness that so often diverts attention from the real issues, and she does it from the platform of an appeal. I loved and agreed with everything she said and I could see and identify with all of her perpectives and more.

    However, Scripture does not agree and to God’s Word I must bow, even though if I were God I would think differently. Isn’t that the underlying issue about which we are dealing here? With the onslaught of some sins coming openly, and now with accommodating acceptance, into the public square there is also a great challenge to God’s church. The colossal balance between openly and with vulnerability showing God’s love while at the same time remaining faithful to the other aspects of God’s Word is one of the deepest refining aspects of today’s church.

    The issue is far from established in the midst of such curious personal evidence that includes gay people who seem to aggressively espouse all the core doctrines of evangelicalism but have been so conflicted about their own sexuality that they have understandably found a way to ease the tension without jettising Christ. If our hearts are not moved we are something akin to a modern Sanhedrin.

    The discussion contains a myriad of vantage points and comes with such delicate and uncomfortable communication that it usually results in a massive retreat into well worn shelters of entrenched comfort that are painless montras of regurgitated perspectives from days gone by. And those of us who hold to the primacy of Scripture have been placed unwillingly in the center of this kaleidoscope of doctrinal issues that many see as a frontal assault on truth while others see it as a refining process that can and should result in a more clear projection the Living Christ and His gospel.

    I for one do not enjoy being uncertain especially when it involves some area of “settled law” in my own heart. I am much more comfortable in using my past views as precedent rather than re-visiting anything. And so Nikki’s comments open up in myself a room for discussion that travels way too close to the all important question of sin. Without changing the nature of Scripture entirely the ultimate question of sin remains the same, but everything else it seems has been brought forth as a legitimate journey toward truth.

    *If a gay person professes Christ, embraces every core doctrine of the faith, desires to live every other part of his life for Christ, but he views Scripture as does Nikki do we receive him/her into the fellowship because:

    1. We can pray that they will one day change.
    2. They like us do not have all the truth
    3. God’s grace covers sins we haven’t grown to recognize as sin yet
    4. Because of the strength of same sex attraction they may never summon the strength to be free
    5. We love them in spite of the uncomfortableness of their sin

    Or will we one day discover that God’s grace was so powerful that He was willing to recieve sinners who embraced His Son without ever being completely transformed in every area of their lives. Maybe..like us? Oh yea, this is not going away and the street lights on this well lit journey just dimmed.

  4. Well put, Michael. I thought you hit the fundamental essence of the argument well without wasting time shooting at the “straw men.”

  5. Michael A says:

    I think it is important to make a distinction here between justification and sanctification. I am made perfect by the work of Christ. In that sense, God does see me as righteous – even in my (forgiven) over-eating, lusting, greedy ways.

    Additionally, I am being perfected. Certainly this work will not be completed before I die, but it is ongoing. I want to accept Jesus’ invitation to self-denial, cross-bearing and obedience because I know that my Good (capitalization intentional) lies in those things. This means I am learning to hate my sin more than I love it. I have begun to see sin as the thing that is depriving me of a fuller experience of God’s work.

    Evangelicals, if I may paint with a broad brush, get the two mixed up. They offer sanctification in place of or in addition to the cross as their perfection. This leads directly to the enmity between them and whomever the target group of “sinners” are. How could Michael be saved, he’s a _______?

    That said, part of the joy of salvation in the here and now is the realization of the nature of sin and desiring to put it off (and put on those things Paul talks about). So, sin has become, to me, a sad thing in which I still choose to put myself in God’s place and dictate the course of my life according to my own standards. I assume the same would be true if my lust were directed at other men as it is when directed at women.

  6. Sorry to hoard the comments here, but another (rather long) thought occurred to me as I was reading J.Michael’s comment.

    A strange aspect about Jesus’ ministry that I recently began to notice is how tough He was on the “insiders” but how kind He was to “outsiders.” He repeatedly berated the guardians of the faith, the priests, the scribes, even His own disciples, but was gentle, loving, and kind to the sinners and outcasts, to the prostitutes, tax collectors, and the like.

    There was, I think, a very good reason for that. God had called Israel to be the people through whom the whole world would be blessed. That aspect of God’s plan was still in effect. Jesus came not because the plan was flawed, but because the people called to implement that plan had and were failing. They had fundamentally misunderstood the plan. They had come to believe that God’s blessing, God’s act of choosing them, was for their benefit. They had hoarded the light rather than emitting it to the rest of the world. God had made of them a lamp, and they had put a bowl over the lamp rather than setting it on a lamp stand. Jesus came to do two things: to remove the bowl and to place the lamp on the stand so that it would light the whole house. That dual task involved confronting those responsible for setting the lamp under the bowl, and dealing tenderly with those who, through little fault of their own, were denied the light of the lamp because of it.

    The light of God through Jesus has now been given to us, His people, the Church, the ecclesia, those called out to be bearers of the light. Our task, therefore, must be to confront those who try to hoard the light, those who say and act as if to say, “We are saved and, ha-ha, you sinners, you fornicators, you homosexuals, you baby-killers, you liberals, you’re all going to hell.” Jesus didn’t tell sinners they were going to hell. He didn’t tell sinners they couldn’t inherit the kingdom. He told the priests that. He had dinner with the sinners. The Gospels contain few words of condemnation spoken by Jesus toward sinners. Rebuke was saved for those to whom the light was given.

    “As the father sent me, so I send you.”

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi Shahinian
    Parables of a Prodigal World

  7. Our inclinations, including sexual attraction, are part of our personality.

    Our inclinations don’t determine the sinfulness or rightness of an action.

    Our inclinations don’t pre-determine what we must do, and can be overridden.

    That’s it in a nutshell, for me. Saying any aspect of ourselves is uncontrollable takes us places we don’t want to go—we’re not free moral agents, or the Bible isn’t authoritative on sin, or so on. We can’t treat our sexuality as a special case where the normal rules don’t apply.

    As for whether the Bible condemns homosexuality or not, I don’t think I’m going to change anyone’s mind once it’s made up; so I’ll leave that alone (although it’s really the heart of the entire issue).

  8. I believe the main problem here, as with much of our attitudes toward sin is defining sin. The Reformational view seems to be the best IMO as it defines sin as who you are and what you do comes out of who you are. Therefore, the church must understand how to cooperate with God in changing people through the Blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Sadly, the gay community understands this definition of sin more than most evangelicals. They keep yelling at us, “This isn’t just what we do; it’s who we are!” Yes, they have a better theology of sin than we do at times. Also, sadly, the American evangelicals have adopted the [false] “holiness” model that says, “Just stop sinning and you will be OK.” And that is exactly what the Christian Right is based upon. But it falls apart and really doesn’t end up helping anyone.

    I live in Los Angeles County in Southern Calfiornia and it is dfficult here not to know someone who is gay, lesbian or trans gendered (unelss you are homebound). Therefore, Christians here have had to make some decisions as to how to act toward this group of people. I see that most of us here really like them but hope they would accept Christ AND His life changing work, just as we hope our heterosexual neighbor, who brings a different guy home each week, would too.

  9. I would like to know just who coined the acronym “GLBT” and set up a meeting in a dark alley. Not only does it have the catchall vibe of “BATF”, any attempt to pronounce it sounds like John Denver Being Strangled.

  10. Going from my experience, and many things posted on the thread from which this spun off, I take exception to an unstated assumption.

    It is fine to group things together as “fallen sexual identities” or otherwise recognize the disconnect between human experience and Divine perfection.

    But homosexuality gets grouped together with variations of flawed experience of heterosexuality. We get lists like “adultery, promiscuity, addition to pornography, homosexual activities, pederasty, and so on.”

    And so the discussion, at least on the non-gay side, ends up being “we don’t approve of other sexual sins, this is no different” – often with a very smug tone.

    People seem very confused when gay people try to explain that our sexual orientation is indeed natural. Raffi above, for example states that he doesn’t believe a predisposition eliminates choice. But that is a meaningless comment unless you believe that gay people are saying that anything goes.

    If, instead, as most gay people do, rather than lumping homosexuality, regardless of its expression, with specific forms of heterosexual sin, you lump it in with heterosexuality as a morally neutral variation of human experience (like left-handedness), then absolutely all the other restrictions on heterosexual expression apply.

    There is no support whatsoever for the idea that seeing homosexuality as natural means all expressions of it are equally good or permissible. Raffi, for example compares all expressions of homosexuality with the temptation towards women not his wife. That’s a false comparison. The actual comparison would be a gay man in a committed faithful relationship being tempted towards other men not his partner as similar to a straight man’s temptation to other women.

    Christians often, by issuing continual and sweeping condemnations of homosexuality as such, seem to be incapable of even recognizing that there are parallels of faithfulness, chastity, honor, commitment, and appropriate expressions of it by gay people.

    And, ironically, you don’t even have to approve of any of it to be willing and able to recognize aand discuss these differences. And it shows a staggering lack of charity to do otherwise.

    You can believe that premarital sex and brutal rape are both sins without having to claim that they are the same thing. You don’t have to approve of either to discuss them or treat them differently.

    The “but all sin is sin” rhetoric, somehow, in all cases but heterosexuality, is used (I think appropriately) to remind people to take care with being judgemental. “Yes, he is an adulterer, but I am also a sinner, and all sin is sin, so I have to be careful what stones I throw.” But somehow, when the topic shifts to gay people, it reverses and becomes, “All sin is sin, so since none is excusable, all must be condemned equally.”

    In essence, all too often, instead of being “remove the plank from your own eye before trying to remove the mote in your brother’s eye” it turns into “Use the plank in your own eye to beat your brother – it makes a handy club.”

    It seems that very many Christians are so desperately fighting to ensure that their condemnation isn’t tinged with the barest hint of approval that they become incapable of even discussing it.

    And this isn’t about some fine turn of theological nuance. This is about the lives and lived experience of millions of your brothers and sisters.

    Michael, I invite you, in particular to be open to the possibility that the fallenness in gay and lesbian people’s sexuality is not the same-sex attraction, but like heterosexuality, it is in its expression.

    The Bible is utterly silent on the sexual orientation of Adam and Eve’s children. Clearly some of them must have been heterosexual. And even recognizing that their fall would have colored their own sexual lives and those of their children, there is simply no indication one way or another that, had they not fallen, Adam and Eve would have had no gay children.

    People often try to use the creation account to claim that since God made one male and one female (who appear to have been heterosexual), therefore, the plan for all humanity must be heterosexuality.

    However, when Jesus fed the multitudes, He gave them bread and fish. He taught us to pray for our daily bread, and promised God would not give a stone when asked for bread. From that, we can say that God approves of bread. We cannot claim that God disapproves of leafy green vegetables or chocolatey desserts.

    Yes, there are other places where the Bible speaks that need to be addressed. But homosexuality as purely the result of the fall is not inherent in the Creation account.

  11. Hi Michael,

    I think it is unfair for j. Michael Jones to take an extreme view of evangelicals and position it as middle of the road evangelicalism. Most evangelicals I know (at least up here in Canada) would be much closer to the third view that he proposes.

    Mike Bell
    http://dundasbell.blogspot.com

  12. Mike Bell (man, too many Michaels around here. Reminds me when I lived in Cairo and all the neighborhood kids were named Mohammed).

    I have to say that you are correct in both accounts (maybe all three). What I said was unfair, to paint evangelicals with such a broad brush and that the view, which I expressed, is certainly the extreme view. I apologize for that. In making an argument sometimes I set the boundaries on the extreme to make the contrast. In my attempts to keep the post short, I did not expound on my personal beliefs that there are many, many who consider themselves Evangelical who indeed do, view the world in the third tone . . . with a deep humility of dependency on Christ.

    j.Michael

  13. Peter’s argument makes the assumption that homosexual acts (and homosexual attraction) are somehow an intended part of God’s design for sexuality (or at minimum, compatible with that design). But that assumption is precisely what is at issue here: the traditional Christian view has always been that homosexual acts (and homosexual dispositions) are incompatible with that design. Hence, from the perspective of traditional Christian belief on these matters, it makes perfect sense to lump homosexual activity in with other sexual sin. Moreover, it makes perfect sense to lump dispositions to engage in such activity under the category of dispositions which result from human fallenness. One should read Paul’s take in Romans 1; there he clearly indicates that (at least he thinks) homosexual activity is a result of human fallenness.

    The inference that Nikki makes is a fallacious one: if I am disposed to act a certain way, then it is permissible for me to act in that way. There are obvious counterexamples to this inference.

    On a different note, I think that something Nikki says in her comment suggests a very radical way to look at this issue. She notes that the concept of homosexuality doesn’t even enter into Western thought until the late 19th century. This comment reminds me of a paper I read as an undergraduate in my anthropology class. This paper was written by a homosexual who essentially argued that the category of homosexual is a modern construct: it actually doesn’t pick out anything in the world. The binary opposition of hetero- and homo- needs to be replaced with a more graded conception of human sexuality. The upshot of his argument is that it really makes no sense to put people in these iron boxes from which no escape (or re-categorization) is possible: human sexuality is far more complex than the usual hetero-/homo- dichotomy represents it as.

  14. PA Merritt says:

    Ken, I can only assume that this

    I would like to know just who coined the acronym “GLBT” and set up a meeting in a dark alley. Not only does it have the catchall vibe of “BATF”, any attempt to pronounce it sounds like John Denver Being Strangled.

    is an attempt at humor and not the threadjack it appears to be.
    In any case, the term LGBT is an umbrella acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered that has been in use for at least 30 YEARS if not longer.
    Of course, if you do not like using a name that was purposely created as a self-defining concept, I would respectfully direct you to the term Act-UP used in the early 1980s: queer.
    My apologies, IMonk, if I have overstepped a boundary. Obviously, your discussion topic, while greatly appreciated, as is your thoughtful and thought-provoking perspective, has left me somewhat heated in my response. My thanks again to Peter for his words.

  15. Kevin Montgomery says:

    I’d like to try a new approach in discussing this issue. Instead of responding to the question of whether a same-sex orientation or its expression is wrong or right, I hope people won’t mind if I share some of my experiences of grace that I’ve experienced in my process of coming out and living as a gay Christian.

    Was sin involved? Yes, but I don’t mean it in the common way of referring to certain moral infractions but instead to a state of being separated from God and being in wrong relation with God, other people, and oneself. As for the cause of my being attracted to other men, I really can’t say. All I know is that I am sexually, romantically, etc. attracted to other men. (That’s not to say that I might find all of that with a woman, but it’s very, very, very unlikely.)

    Before I came out, there was a deep sense of shame about the way I felt. “God, why did you make me this way? Did I do something wrong? I hate you God for what you’ve done to me.” In many ways, I’d consider it the other side of what we normally consider “sin,” much closer to the Korean concept of han. The Korean minjung theologian Suh Nam-dong describes it as “a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one’s guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong — all these combined.”

    Eventually, I came to realize that God loved me for who I was — broken, stubborn, arrogant, resentful, etc — and that through Christ’s Incarnation, death, and resurrection, all that was human was taken up into God and transformed. ALL of who I was! That included my sexuality, which is deeply involved with not just the genitals but the whole way I interact with people. In many ways, God’s love is erotic in the same passionate way as with a lover.

    I don’t know if I’m called to celibacy or a committed, monogamous life-partnership with someone. (I hope it’s the latter.) But I don’t see that as something to struggle with but to sit with and regard with patience and compassion. As I have come to accept myself as a beloved child of God, the term “amazing grace” has taken on such a greater meaning for me. Through that love, my heart has been opened up to loving others and to loving God in return. First and foremost, my identity is as a Christian, but I live that out through my all the aspects that go into making me a distinct person, including my sexuality in its deepest and most profound sense.

    Sorry for such a long comment, but I wanted to share that with you.

  16. I think the root of this disagreement is in the understanding of those texts traditionally understood to condemn homosexuality. We can say, “homosexuality is a part of God’s design,” or “homosexuality is against God’s design,” all day, but its of little value if we do not back our words and beliefs with God’s word.

    Nicki said, “The Bible condemns promiscuity, idolotry, but never addresses either Homosexuality or Transexuality.”

    There are certainly texts that have traditionally been understood to address homosexuality.

    The point that I’m trying to make is that when you make a claim such as Nicki made, it needs to be backed up. When you claim that David and Johnathon were homosexuals, you need to substantiate that claim.

    On the other hand, if there are legitimate questions as to whether or not homosexual acts are sinful, we need to answer them. And if we come to the conclusion that God’s word says that they are, we need to show why.

  17. I guess the question for all of us is this: is this a PR problem or a problem of doctrine. I’m all for us being welcoming, being non judgmental, being Christ like. Where I have a problem is where we twist ourselves in to pretzels trying to say that it is okay to be sexually active with members of the same sex. There is a place between me finding a woman not my wife attractive and having unclean thoughts about her where I begin to sin. Similarly, there is a place on between same sex attraction and sexual activity where sin happens. I am not sure where it is, but there has to be a line somewhere, and I do not understand how you can say that sex outside of marriage could ever be biblically endorsed.

    There is a difference between judgment and discernment. I feel that in our rush to avoid the former we are jettisoning the latter. “God made me this way” just sounds like an excuse to me, whether we are talking about extramarital sex or over-eating.

    Kevin: I appreciate you having the guts to share your story.

    Peter: with due respect, what does the smug tone of human beings have to do with whether something is sinful or not? Why can’t we just say “If you are not in a biblical marriage, sex is sinful?” Forget about how that makes people feel, the public policy implications, etc. What does God say about sex outside of biblical marriage?

  18. what does the smug tone of human beings have to do with whether something is sinful or not? Why can’t we just say “If you are not in a biblical marriage, sex is sinful?”

    Speaking as a heterosexual person who supports lifetime monogamous gay marriages, I do think that there is something in ‘this smug attitude’ although it is hard to articulate why I object to it so much.

    The fact is that the church doesn’t view either homosexual acts or homosexuality as simply sinful. We do act as if it’s a super sin. I hear gay people denigrated on a regular basis in churches. A friend recently told me of their adult child being thrown out of a supposedly mainstream congregation after coming out.

    I knew an elderly lesbian couple – sadly one of them died several years ago – who were together and monogamous for decades. How do I think that the church views their relationship? As ethically and morally extremely, extremely, extremely serious.

    I’m convinced that many of us view serious fraud, heterosexual adultery and possibly even spousal abuse as lessor ‘sins’ than gay monogamy.

    So I think that my answer is that the smug attitude matters because we excuse very damaging sins that we ourselves would commit and say ‘I thank you Lord that I am not like that elderly gay couple over there. I have a heterosexual marriage. I have children.’ If this attitude didn’t matter, then why is the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee in the bible?

    And if, as the church, we don’t think we’ve got our moral and ethical reasoning about homosexuality totally out of line then by gum, we’d better stand up and do something loving for a change.

  19. The hypocrisy of the evangelical world is legion, but that isn’t the issue. When a man leaves his wife, moves in with his mistress, and after divorcing his wife and marrying his mistress he returns to another church and joins the choir he and his new wife are welcomed. That happens by the thousands in the evangelical community.

    I believe the discussion is just beginning on how expansive God’s grace is when it pertains to professing Christians who continue in their gay lifestyle. It cannot be reconciled Scripturally but how do we address them and is there any room for waiting within the church for the Spirit to do His ministry?

  20. First–yes, another gay Kevin here.

    Second- many shouts of joy for a somewhat intelligent conversation here.

    Third—a question.

    How is a homosexual relationship in any way connected to ‘cheating on a wife’?
    Isn’t this a completely apples to oranges argument? If I was in a monogamous homosexual relationship and I cheated (with a man or a woman), yes, the argument would work, but not the way it was presented in the earlier argument.

  21. Charley says:

    We place “biblical roles” on each gender and assign different tasks/callings in the church accordingly.

    Those “roles,” “tasks” and “callings” are not merely assigned based on one’s particular sexual organ. They come from a deeper place; a recognition that gender differences carry a significance beyond outward appearance. Even castrated males are still “males” and could presumably preach in the SBC.

    We speak of creation as only two molds: the man and the woman. However, some people are born with all or part of both sets of sexual organs. Where do they fit in? Are these physical manifestations as much a consequence of original sin as their mental counterparts? If so, should these individuals remain celibate? What if they were born 90% woman, 10% man, and feel in their heart they are a woman? Since our roles as men and women are not purely based on sexual organs, shouldn’t the person’s mental orientation matter?

    When we examine an action for sin, we must see it in context. Usually there is a general rule stated as a biblical absolute: “thou shalt not kill.” But we all recognize exceptions: 1) God tells you to kill, 2) self defense, etc. Perhaps there is an exception to the general prohibition on homosexual behavior. (i.e. when that behavior is not lust, but love).

    I can’t imagine someone telling me I could not marry my wife. If a GLBT person feels love towards a person of the same sex, the way I love my wife, then who am I to tell them no? What if their feelings are not lust, or some sinful craving, but deep abiding love?

    This is the one instance where I believe a certain way on a moral issue purely because the Bible tells me to. (Yes, there are natural law arguments, and a gut level uncomfortable feeling regarding the subject, but I can get past those). I simply can’t reconcile Romans 1:26 with anything other than stating same sex relations are sinful.

    So, I guess I agree with everything Michael has said. It’s just that I have a much harder time reaching his conclusions because I don’t want to. And therein lies my sin.

  22. It seems that the real question we are struggling with is whether we can be in communion, in fellowship with GLTB persons. Let me be blunt, can we accept into our community of faith someone who is openly and unashamedly engaged in acts that we believe to be sinful? I think that the answer is painfully obvious. We accept people who are sinful in a myriad of ways: greedy, indifferent to the poor, violent, judgmental… Actually, I think these are the qualifications for being elders in some churches.

    All the talk of “hating the sin and loving the sinner” is irrelevant. It really boils down to whether we’re prepared to sit down at the same table with another person, to carry their burdens if they have need and if we have ability, to hear their stories as Jesus would have. If we cannot do so we fail to live up to the challenge that Jesus laid before us.

  23. Tim Young says:

    “The objection seems to be based upon viewing homosexuality as a “choice” in light of the scientific evidence indicating a genetic predisposition toward that lifestyle(or “fallen sexual identities,” if you prefer).”

    And what evidence might this be?

  24. Wolf Paul says:

    I don’t usually get into this topic because I know too little about it, but some reactions to comments above call for expression.

    * Human Smugness and the Sinfulness of a Behaviour:

    Jesse’s point was not that the smugness is justified or o.k., but that it does not — objectively — affect whether a behaviour is sinful.

    * Comparing Homosexual Activity (for lack of a better term) with Adultery and other Heterosexual Sin:

    Of course, that is premised on the understanding that marriage, in the biblical sense, is a permanent union between one man and one woman, “as long as they both shall live”. IFF that premise is correct, then all sexual activity except between a man and a woman thus married is sinful, whether it be with a member of the same or of the opposite sex, whether it be with ONE person or with many.

    * The Intensity with which many Evangelicals react to Homosexuality:

    I can think of at least two reasons for this:

    (a) to many heterosexuals the very thought of same-sex genital contact is repugnant on a very deep level. It is always easier to condemn something you find repugnant than something you might be tempted to engage in yourself.

    (b) Evangelicals who accept the traditional view that homosexual attraction is a result of the fall and acting on it is thus sinful see that view (and thus themselves) under attack. There is a certain parallel here with, for example, abortion: While we would have little trouble expressing love and acceptance to a woman who had had an abortion and expresses remorse over that fact most conservative Christians have a problem when that act is presented as an o.k. moral choice and a “human right”. (Note that I am not setting up a moral equivalence between abortion and homosexual activity, just pointing to a parallel in the dynamics of acceptance and defensiveness). And unfortunately the intense lobbying for the societal mainstreaming of homosexuality puts Evangelicals into a permanent mode of defensiveness about it which then frequently results in what they in theory decry: the rejection of the sinner along with his or her sin.

    * Homosexuality in the Bible:

    Nikki tries a two-pronged approach by pointing on the one hand to things the Bible commands or endorses which Evangelicals today do not feel bound by, while on the other hand claiming that the Bible does not address homosexuality. It is not logical to argue both ways: if the Bible does not address the subject, then it is irrelevant whether there are Biblical injunctions in other areas we no longer obey.

    But what really strikes me as “over the top” is the assertion that David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi represent homosexual relationships. As someone has pointed out, no-one ever offers any evidence for this, it is just asserted; in the case of Ruth and Naomi it is plain that this is a case of a mother/daughter relationship and claiming it to be homosexual does not serve any good purpose.

  25. If Naomi and Ruth were lovers then Ruth committed adultery with Boaz!

  26. Ron said “It really boils down to whether we’re prepared to sit down at the same table… If we cannot do so we fail to live up to the challenge that Jesus laid before us.”

    How does your statement reconcile with 1 Cor 5:11, which states “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”

    If it weren’t for this verse, I would happily sit down with any self-confessed GLTB Christian and discuss these issues until the cows came home.

  27. Would Jesus eat with a gay person who wanted to be his follower? Not being snarky. I’m serious.

  28. “Would Jesus eat with a gay person who wanted to be his follower?”

    Of course. The question is would he allow that gay person to follow Him if he wasn’t ready yet to leave his gay lifestyle but he believed Jesus was the Son of God?

  29. I agree. But “following Jesus” can take a lot of forms.

  30. MS, Absolutely he would eat with him. I also believe he would call that person to leave their sinful past behind and follow him. Jesus calls us just as we are, but he calls us so that we would not be as we were.

    1 Cor 5:11 is one of my least favorite verses in the bible. Paul is calling us to tough love. He is saying that sometimes fighting for a brother’s sanctification is more important than remaining friendly with him. How much grace is allowed before a brother is shunned for unrepentance? I don’t know — I would like to dole it out forever. But there is the verse, and I cannot just ignore it.

  31. I guess what I am asking is can a gay person get converted, born again, saved, before he is ready to set aside his gay lifestyle? And if not, what sins must everyone completely abandon before they can get saved as well? Since only the Holy Spirit can guide us into truth, can an unconverted sinner without the indwelling of the Spirit of truth be expected to Biblically recognize specific sins and abandon them before he can be saved?

  32. So am I violating I Cor 5:11 by having a conversation on this blog that does not denounce the participating gays as unbelievers? Again, not being snarky.

    I want to be clear that I view sexual sin as a matter of repentance, and that all of us are under Hebrews 13:4 as God’s standard.

    But I believe I Cor 5:11 speaks to a situation within a fellowship, described by I Cor 5:1ff, and doesn’t mean (again not being snarky) that I have to cut off all relationships or sit in personal judgement on things I don’t know about a person.

  33. The man in Corinth was ALREADY a professing believer and a member of the church. That is different than a gay sinner who desires salvation through Jesus who doesn’t as of yet understand the Biblical perspective of his undeniable same sex attractions.

    Apples and oranges.

  34. Yes, I would agree that the context of 1 Cor 5:11 is a local church situation, or even a personal relationship. My understanding of the verse is that breaking fellowship is meant to place the unrepentant party under such duress that their eyes are opened to the seriousness of their sin and they are brought to a place of repentance. The hope being that the breaking of fellowship is merely temporary.

    I suppose I was taking Ron’s “sit down at the table” remark a tad too literal. In a sense this blog is bringing all parties to the table. As few posters here share any true fellowship (I’m assuming, you all aren’t getting to gether for drinks after this with out me, are you?) and don’t see how invoking 1 Cor 5:11 would be of any benefit.

  35. Wolf Paul says:

    Ron says,

    > Let me be blunt, can we accept into our community
    > of faith someone who is openly and unashamedly
    > engaged in acts that we believe to be sinful?
    > I think that the answer is painfully obvious.
    > We accept people who are sinful in a myriad of
    > ways: greedy, indifferent to the poor, violent,
    > judgmental… Actually, I think these are the
    > qualifications for being elders in some churches.

    I have just recently had a very painful experience with elders of a church who engaged in a campaign of character assassination against a pastor they wanted to get rid of, so I am not at all starry-eyed about the saintlyness of elders, but as a generalization I believe that last sentence quoted to be unfair.

    It is also my experience that we are not normally affirming of these sins you enumerate, nor do most folks engage in them “openly and unashamedly”; we tolerate them in others as long as they are not too obvious, and in that we may often fail our brothers and sisters by not calling them to repentance; or we tolerate them in ourselves by finding for ourselves extenuating circumstances–all the while knowing full well that we fall short of the glory of God in this regard.

    AS I mentioned in my previous comment, the problem I have in this current debate, and I believe I am not alone in this, is the fact that in general, the GLBT community does not just want the church to tolerate them in their sexual orientation and the actions which result from it, but they want the church to affirm these things as good and pleasing to God.

    When you have greedy people in the church, or adulterers, or those quick to judge everyone else, when the pastor preaches on these topics and denounces adultery or judgmentalism or greed from the pulpit, those guilty of these things do not normally complain to the press, or start a campaign for these sins to be affirmed as virtues.

    And it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand up for the traditional Christian and Biblical view of human sexuality without being called names such as “homophobe” or worse, or being accused of being a repressed closet homosexual yourself. I have have yet to come across a greedy person in the church, who being challenged on it, turns around and says, “Ah, you’re just jealous because you’re repressing your own lust of money”, or the promiscuous person who meets a call for repentance and amendment of life with “Oh, you just want a piece of the action yourself but are afraid to admit it.” And if there are such, I cannot imagine most of the evangelical churches I know tolerating this any more than they will tolerate this current campaign to get homosexual activity affirmed as a good and accepted way to express one’s sexuality.

    So there will be a definite difference between how we accept a person with same-sex attraction who wants to follow Christ and is willing to submit his or her sexual orientation to the judgment of God’s word, and how we deal with a person who considers his or her sexual orientation to be above judgement by anyone or even expects it to be affirmed.

  36. ” I simply can’t reconcile Romans 1:26 with anything other than stating same sex relations are sinful.”

    If you read the rest of the paragraph rather than just the verse, it is clear that in the specific situation discussed there, the sexual situation under discussion was a) a punishment from God for immoral behavior having nothing to do with sexuality, and b) a situation where the people involved are clearly described as heterosexual to start with – the same sex passions were a change for them, and something contrary to their nature.

    The Bible mentions people struck deaf, dumb or blind as a punishment from God. Does it follow that all handicapped people are sinners to be shunned, and that blindness is in all cases a sin to be repented? Floods? Locusts? The death of a child?

    Similarly, there are times when God heals people, sometimes as a clear result of their faith or their good works. Does it follow that anyone who isn’t healed is therefore in all cases someone whose faith isn’t good enough?

    This verse has nothing to say about naturally homosexual people. And, I grant that it doesn’t say anything positive about gay people, but it’s being misapplied.

  37. Of course, that is premised on the understanding that marriage, in the biblical sense, is a permanent union between one man and one woman, “as long as they both shall live”. IFF that premise is correct, then all sexual activity except between a man and a woman thus married is sinful, whether it be with a member of the same or of the opposite sex, whether it be with ONE person or with many.

    I know my view is considered ‘not biblical’ in a hermeneutic which only allows contextualisation to go so far.

    But the moral and ethical problem I have is that lifetime gay monogamy is the only alleged ‘sin’ that doesn’t hurt anyone. Well, only if one sees ‘being in a gay relationship’ as ‘being harmed’. I have also seen gay people obviously growing in love for God and others in a way that people don’t grow in holiness if they are engaging in on-going unethical practice.

    I’m tired of the idolatry of ‘family values’. We don’t know how or why the Jewish religion became monogamous but it’s quite clear to me that even in its prescriptions of the ‘godly’ use of sex and marriage that the Old Testament treats women as property and as instruments of breeding; the nature of the OT marriage relationship is very different from anything a Christian would recognise today. Insofar as ‘the family’ was a tool of his society to keep people enslaved in the entrenched power-base, Jesus warned against the family. I know others will disagree with me but it seems to me that the one uttering we have from Jesus on divorce was on justice grounds – a divorced woman was a social pariah (as she still is in some very orthodox Jewish communities today).

    We have a handful of verses that talk about homosexual acts. Even if we could be 100% confident that they applied to lifetime monogamous gay relationships in the 21st century, it’s also true that both the Old and New Testament spend much more effort in asking us to be devoted to what we would call The Kingdom of God.

    Isn’t justice for people starving in Zimbabwe at the hands of a ruthless leader – for example – more important than whether there is a ‘practising homosexual’ in my congregation? Biblically, I think that the answer is clear: absolutely yes.

  38. So are we left with just three options? Affirming, ignoring, or shunning homosexuality?

    I don’t see a way we can affirm homosexuality as a good thing, regardless of context, and stay true to the clear teaching of the Bible.

    I don’t believe that pretending ignorance is the right way to handle *any* sin. In my experience, it *is* the typical response to any sin with a low “icky” factor.

    I think we long ago lost the credibility to shun practicing homosexuals, given that we routinely ignore public sins like greed, anger, materialism, or whatever. Picking and choosing those to shun gives homosexuals (and others) every right to pull out the mote-vs.-beam argument and smack us upside the head with it.

    Is there a middle road? I’m thinking something along the lines of this progression, something that could apply to any sin.

    1) I develop a friendship with someone.
    2) I become aware that my friend practices a sin.
    3) Depending on how serious the situation is, I may make a point to bring it up, or may wait for an opportunity to crop up.
    4) When the topic is broached, I openly communicate my thoughts.
    5) Understanding that I am not the Holy Spirit and my friend is not responsible to me for his soul, I commend him to the care of the Holy Spirit and pray as I see fit.
    6) My friend accepts that my disagreement is not an attempt to control his life, but is motivated by concern for his spiritual and personal well-being. He prayerfully considers my perspective, but is bound by his conscience, not mine.
    7) If my friend agrees a change is necessary, great. If not, I still don’t nag him and he doesn’t rub his sin in my face or nag me to change my mind about it. Every attempt is made to preserve the relationship without minimizing either individual’s responsibility.

    I realize that there are situations where more aggressive intervention may be necessary, when an individual may not be fully capable of making a choice (physical addiction, for example). However, I think every effort needs to be made to respect each other’s personal responsibility.