November 21, 2018

Why I am an Ally – My View

Well, it has been an interesting few Fridays discussing this topic. After much deliberation I have decided to wrap it up with this post.

Thank you for all the feedback and all the comments. Thank you also to my Pastoral friends who took the time to give me their thoughts. I apologize that I have not been able to adequately summarize the reams of material you sent me.

There were a few interesting submissions that I will use as a launching pad today.

The vast majority of those responding offered celibacy and singleness as an option for the single gay person. To their credit most of them knew individuals in that position and were actively supporting those individuals. Also to their credit, almost no one suggested that the gay individual could be “healed” of their same sex attraction, an idea that has been thoroughly discredited, and is fact now banned in many jurisdictions.

However, one friend wrote:

I did have a student… who was gay and from a conservative Christian family. He was also a sharp Bible student. The question of what we are asking him to do from his perspective was simple: follow Christ and never have genuine romantic intimacy with another human being. The alternative was to walk away from God and have that human intimacy. When he put things in those terms I understood just how personal his dilemma was and all the feelings that went with it. He sincerely did want to follow Jesus but could not bear the prospect of a life without human intimacy. He knew the Bible well enough to see that it really was a binary choice. The prospect of God reforming his sexual attractions to heterosexual was unimaginable to him, I think. So far as I know he has still chosen the latter [option, to walk away].

Almost all of my Pastoral friends also saw this as a binary choice, that following Jesus involves rejecting any intimate same sex relationship. In a nod to those friends, my post last week detailed how we could support those who choose to live celibate single lives.

There are those, like the student above, who in their heart of hearts don’t feel like they have a choice, that they have been created in a certain way, and to deny that is to deny who they are. Many, believing it is a binary choice, and because of the rejection that they receive: from the church, from family, and from friends, are driven to suicide. My heart goes out to them.

Much of what drives me in this topic is the church saying that because you are same sex attracted, and feel that you cannot be celibate, then you cannot be a follower of Jesus. I have seen too many who are no longer followers of Jesus as a result of this thinking who would otherwise still be. I am also seeing a generation of young people who are rejecting the church because while they have come to accept same sex attracted people for who they are, the church has not.

I asked one Pastor who holds a more traditional view, “What if you are wrong? What if you are preventing all these people from being followers of Jesus because of your understanding of same sex attraction?” His response was that if he accepts same sex attraction (and acting upon it) as acceptable, and he is wrong about that, then he is condoning a sinful lifestyle and might be condemning people to hell. I did not respond to him at the time (as I was interested in hearing him out), but I have had a chance to reflect on it further. In both cases he is condemning people to hell. I would want to err on the side of grace, and believe that those who try to follow Jesus will be accepted by him.

What no one realizes up until this point, is that this series, had its genesis, not in Geoff wishing me Happy Birthday, but in me wishing Geoff and his partner “Happy Anniversary” in response to a Facebook post. I pondered my response for several minutes before posting that reply several years ago. What it came down to was this: At that point of time I was unsure of my thoughts on this topic. What I did know is that I was interested in building the friendship, and that while silence might not do any harm, it wouldn’t have built up the friendship either.

Years later, when I look at Geoff and his Partner, I see love, I see caring, I see fidelity. What I do not see is sin. A couple of Pastors mentioned that they would counsel divorce between Geoff and his partner. I do not accept this. Instead I think their marriage is one to be looked up to and admired.

So how do I handle those Bible verses that indicate that same sex relationships are verboten? For me there are two possibilities.

1. There exists the likelihood that neither the author of Leviticus, nor Paul knew of same sex relationships similar to the one that Geoff has with his partner. While these commands might have had relevance and meaning in their time and place (like Paul’s command for women to be silent), they lack insight and knowledge of situations like we have today.

2. I believe in the inerrant Word of God. His name is Jesus. The Bible is not inerrant in and of itself, but points up to the inerrant Jesus. I believe that the Bible gets it wrong when it comes to idea that the sun revolves around the earth. Having that belief would have labelled me heterodox (if not a heretic) for most of the history of the church. I also believe that Bible gets it wrong when it comes to same sex relationships.

If that makes me a heretic, so be it. But I would rather my same sex friends know that they have the option of following Jesus while staying in their committed relationships, than chase them away from Jesus forever.

I have many more thoughts on this topic, many more than I have been able to encapsulate here. I hope that we can have a vigorous, yet respectful discussion in the comments, where we can have a further exchange of ideas. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    “Many, . . . . because of the rejection that they receive: from the church, from family, and from friends, are driven to suicide.”

    For this reason alone, we need to take another look at the whole concept of rejecting people as a ‘Christian’ option.
    Fine to reject behaviors and sins, sure. But people? Not so sure about that at all. Christianity may be more about doing the opposite of ‘rejecting’, in that ‘coming along side’ and being ‘with’ those who are troubled does seem to be an infinitely more Christ-like way to live in this world.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Fine to reject behaviors and sins, sure. But people?

      When those “behaviors” are relationships the distinction between the relationship and the person(s) is tissue paper thin.

    • senecagriggs says:

      Christiane; you being an active Roman Catholic; putting you on the spot [ only if you choose ] do you think God is against homosexual behavior?

      • Mike Bell says:

        Seneca – I will put you on the spot. Do you think God is against heterosexual behaviour?

        • Mike Bell, I’m wrestling with precisely this… if GOD is against heterosexual behavior outside of marriage (or at least that is the traditional stance), how is the homosexual thing any different, in terms of right/wrong. If the bible had it so wrong with homosexual relationships, what assurance do I have that there is anything steadfastly true regarding the other (hetero) ??

          • Michael Bell says:

            I don’t really see scripture condemning sex outside of marriage. Scripture in fact says very little about marriage, period. Yes, being a “one woman man” is held up as the ideal, but I look at the whole spectrum of verses on the question, I say kind of say “that all you got?”

            There is a circular argument out there that says “the bible condemns sexual immorality, sex outside of marriage is immoral, therefore the bible condemns sex outside of marriage”. I think this is taking an assumption and reading it into the text.

            • Michael Z says:

              I think you could argue that 1 Cor 6:16 says that sex makes you “one flesh” with someone, and Gen 2:24 and Matt 19:6 equate “one flesh” with marriage. You could also argue that the Bible seems to assume that marriage is the proper context for sex, even if it never explicitly spells out what is or isn’t acceptable outside of marriage.

              On the other hand, the Bible condones polygamy, concubinage, and taking sex slaves as spoils of war, all of which we today would consider shockingly immoral. So the task of figuring out which of the Bible’s sexual norms still apply to us today is a complicated one.

              • Michael Bell says:

                There are a number of verses that speak of being “bone and flesh”. I have listed them below. In my mind equating one flesh strictly with marriage is a much narrower definition that the biblical evidence.

                Genesis 2:23
                The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”

                Genesis 29:14
                Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him a month.

                Judges 9:2
                “Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh.”

                2 Samuel 19:13
                “Say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? May God do so to me, and more also, if you will not be commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab.'”

                2 Samuel 5:1
                Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh.

                1 Chronicles 11:1
                Then all Israel gathered to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh.

                2 Samuel 19:12
                ‘You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’

                Genesis 37:27
                “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.

            • There’s a lot of Scripture praising heterosexual sex outside of marriage as being a blessing and reward from God.

        • Burro (Mule) says:

          I’m not Seneca, but I can answer for myself.

          I believe the short answer is ‘Yes’. The long answer would take the rest of my life typing. Maybe I can find a way to edit it, and come up with an abbreviated answer.

          If I do, I’ll put it on my own moribund blog.

      • Christiane says:

        Hello Senecagriggs, no problem:

        As a Catholic, I can say this in good conscience: “Who am I to judge?’

        As a mother of a son with Down Syndrome, I know that even the smallest difference in only one chromosome can make a profound difference in how a person develops. As to gender issues, my own thought is that we don’t know enough yet about how gender issues are caused . . . . we need to know much more.
        At this point, this is what IS KNOWN: that cruel and irresponsible contempt for people with gender issues can lead to suicide . . . .
        sorry to disappoint . . . . but I will leave you with something a wrote once concerning transgender persecution which gives insight into my personal Catholic faith applied to my own fragile human understanding:

        “I am conscious of people’s discomfort with those who are ‘different’ and that often not knowing how to ‘fix it’ for them or ‘make it right’ for them, how it is that we seem too eager to distance ourselves from them in ways that are not Our Lord’s Ways.

        What there is that makes us ‘human’ is something even more basic than our ‘maleness’ or ‘femaleness’ . . . and that IS a difference that invites us to engage with people who have gender issues on more common ground: our common human origin . . . the very soil from which we were formed and the very life breathed into us by God.

        Some in the Church are wanting to surround and care for those who are ‘different’ with great patience over time with gentle care and unremitting hope for their salvation,
        whereas others seem impatient in how quickly they are ready to cast transgender folk out from their midst . . .

        I think it important not to be afraid of encounters with those who suffer from differences so many of us cannot understand;
        or worse, not accept them as having one kind of ‘presenting form’ of that far more basic fallen human condition we all suffer from, each in our OWN way.
        The person who was ‘outed’ as ‘transgender’ IS, first and last, a child of God.
        What could be more important for us to know?”

        • Some in the Church are wanting to surround and care for those who are ‘different’ with great patience over time with gentle care and unremitting hope for their salvation,
          whereas others seem impatient in how quickly they are ready to cast transgender folk out from their midst . . .

          I think it important not to be afraid of encounters with those who suffer from differences so many of us cannot understand;
          or worse, not accept them as having one kind of ‘presenting form’ of that far more basic fallen human condition we all suffer from, each in our OWN way.
          The person who was ‘outed’ as ‘transgender’ IS, first and last, a child of God.
          What could be more important for us to know?”

          I love this… thank you so much. It’s precisely the kind of thing that touches me most deeply, having gender identity issues as I do.

  2. I’m reminded of the (possibly apocryphal) saying of John Wilmot: “Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.”

    I have a developing relationship with a lesbian couple and their daughter. I still don’t know what I ‘believe’ about it, but right now what counts is the friendship. After all, they haven’t asked me to tell them what they should be doing.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > but right now what counts is the friendship.

      Preach

      > After all, they haven’t asked me to tell them what they should be doing.

      This should be the quote of the day.

      I cannot recall the last time anyone asked me to morally endorse their relationship(s).

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.”

      RL experience has a way of doing that.

    • I still don’t know what I ‘believe’ about it, but right now what counts is the friendship.

      Do you believe they all deserve love and support as your neighbors? Do you believe they deserve a livable wage for their work? Do you believe they deserve to have food on their table and a roof over their heads? Do you believe their daughter deserves a decent education? Do you believe they deserve to live free from harrassment and harm?

      That’s what we all should believe. That’s what others want to take away.

  3. “have the option of following Jesus while staying in their committed relationships, than chase them away from Jesus forever”

    Hi Mike,

    While I can agree with some of your sentiments & criticism of the church, I think you can come to this conclusion as a “sola scriptura” mindset that can interpret whatever & however one wishes with impunity. Church tradition is mothballed & previous cultural thinking is relegated to “Neanderthal” christianity, as Christianity has now evolved with the wonderful insights of “modern man”.

    Previous contemplative or monastic practises that could help in real transformation. are now offered as platitudes to cultures that are too rationally advanced to require transformation. Mateship is forgotten and relationships are either business oriented (what can i get out of this) or sexual. Not that relationships ever had a “golden age” but the pendulum has swung into unchartered realms.

    Now there’s androgonous individuals, people who want to change their biology and people who want to be cyborgs. Nothin wrong with that ! Might end up in the next Marvel epic ! Heck, thers even acqdemics who are saying paedophilia should be in the same bag with homosexuality. It’s normal for some ! Yep Youtube had some deleting to do.

    We can only know God by revelation. That revelation is the Word but it is also His Body, His sheep knowing His voice. His Spirit bearing witness across the ages. Man may change but the Trinity doesnt. His revelation is complete in the NT & in the Church. If this lifestyle wasnt accepted in the early centuries it shouldnt be now.

    Life isnt just sexuality & hormones. If we accept what you suggest, then lets accept paedophilia, divorce, fornication & multiple partners. As long as we are sincere & deicated of course !

    • Mateship is forgotten and relationships are either business oriented (what can i get out of this) or sexual.

      I see this also, and I’m interested in what you think this “Mateship” kind of a relationship would be like, among adults. Especially among adult American men, who’ve been socialized to believe that all their emotional support should come through the one person they married.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > I see this also

        Nah, I do not see it at all. There is this thing called “Friendship”, very big deal to many many people; older people, younger people, middle aged people, affluent people, poor people,…

        Sometimes Friends mate, often not, sometimes they are of the same gender, sometimes not. Sometimes Friendships are ALSO transactional It is Both/And, not Either/Or. Friendship is complex, and many layered, friendships wax and wane, and sometimes wax again. There is a lot of Context in Friendships.

        Friendship is the greatest and highest and most noble form of Love.

        We do have a slice of the population which has somehow built a diminished view of Friendship. Interestingly, I find that group is the group most prone to harshing about the Decline Of Society & Relationships.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          We do have a slice of the population which has somehow built a diminished view of Friendship. Interestingly, I find that group is the group most prone to harshing about the Decline Of Society & Relationships.

          Sounds like a topic in and of itself.
          Can you elaborate?

  4. Happy belated (I think) Anniversary, Geoff and Partner.

  5. Iain Lovejoy says:

    I would adding a 3rd reason, to supplement 1: we cannot even be sure the Bible says what we think it says on these issues. As an example of this problem, Paul’s instructions for women to “keep silent” may equally be an instruction that the wives of believers should not chat amongst themselves during meetings, and yet it confidently used to declare a sin women in ministry. The Leviticus passages are disputed, and may be read as prohibiting not homosexual sex as such but extramarital relationships with men, saying lying with a man “in the bed of a woman” not “in the manner of a woman”, and what exactly Paul was condemning in the other “clobber” passages is by no means clear.
    I would be cagey (to say the least) about deciding the Bible has got it wrong in its religious and moral teachings on thus issue (assuming if understood correctly it actually deals with it at all), but I do take the view, as you do, that it is Jesus who is the true Word of God. I have come to the position where, not only in this issue but generally, if I cannot see how a passage or teaching reflects God as the love revealed in Jesus then I conclude my understanding of the passage is defective and I cannot rely on it: and that goes for the “clobber” passages as much as anything else.
    It is insufficient to say that we read the Bible as saying homosexuality is wrong. If you are to say you understand what the passages mean and how an individual believer is to apply them in their lives, then you must also be able to say how the teaching will bring them closer in love to God and neighbour. If your understanding makes the Bible an obstacle to faith, then it is wrong. I don’t say that the affirming view is therefore necessarily right, but quoting the Bible passage as an absolute answer doesn’t work.

    • 1: we cannot even be sure the Bible says what we think it says on these issues.

      Agreed. And to illustrate the problem…In 1 Cor. 14 Paul told only one group of people to shut up; prophets, vs. 30. Vss. 34-35 is Paul quoting from the letter he received from the Corinthian church and his response to the assertion that “women should be silent as the law says is…”NO WAY!” Why is it that in 6:12 and 7:1 translators recognize a quotation but fail to see the same action in play in 14:34-35?

      • Translation from a language with no punctuation to a language with punctuation leaves things wide open for the interpreter… so easy to make the text say what you already KNOW it should say…

      • Iain Lovejoy says:

        I don’t see how 1 Cor 14 is a quotation, and if it were Paul doesn’t disagree with it. I did a little article for my wife’s blog a while back which has my full take in this passage, which is here if you are interested:
        https://worldviewsandcurrentnews.wordpress.com/category/faith/

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Why is it that in 6:12 and 7:1 translators recognize a quotation but fail to see the same action in play in 14:34-35?

        Because it’s to their personal advantage/convenience to NOT see it.

    • Mike Bell says:

      Iain – I remember reading your comment on this in another post. I have always been wary of disagreeing where translators all seem to come to the same conclusion. I have some Hebrew (3 years of study) which is just enough to make me incompetent in the area. So I put your thoughts to a friend of mine who is a Hebrew Scholar who I thought could be unbiased in the matter.

      Here is what he wrote:

      Lev 18.22. If translating word-for-word: “and with a male, you shall not lie ( ) lying with a woman; an abomination it is.” The difficulty is the phrase “lying with a woman”. Is it a place (the bed of a woman)? Or is in an action “lying (i.e., with) a woman”? Because it lacks a preposition or other modifier, is it “as/ like lying with a woman” (traditional translation), or “in/on the beds of a woman”? Clearly in Judges 21:11-12, Num 31:17, 35 it is the act (although there of a woman “lying with a man”). Ezek 23:17 seems to use it as reference to place. But the normal usage seems to be to the action, thus supporting the traditional interp. Some have suggested that the verse is in the context of incest, thus a man having sex with a close male relative. But that is not the “action” context of vv. 19-23. The identical phrase in Lev 20:13 seems that it should be understood more broadly, as well. Others suggest the context is pagan worship ritual, thus not homosexual activity in general, but only that which occurred in pagan worship. If that is the context then of also v. 23, then having sex with animals is okay as long as not done in the context of pagan worship! Can Lev 18:22 be understood differently than the traditional rendering? “Yes” it can. But given hermeneutical rules of interpreting, “should” it be interpreted differently? I would argue “no”. If this was the only verse about homosexual activity in the whole Bible, then I think we should more cautious about our stance. But since there are other passages that point in the same direction that homosexual activity is wrong, why try to force this verse into saying something other than that? (Again, I would distinguish between behavior and orientation, and this verse only speaks to action.)

      So, while I had considered your option 3, for me I wasn’t willing to go there.

      • Peter Wolfe says:

        Interpretation question: why do we ponder what the text says about this behaviour but then all seem to agree to abandon the no discussion required text stating punishment? No one who quotes these texts goes around saying, stone them. Are we missing something? To me, we need a way of reading the OT that includes both. I think Jesus gave us that way: love God, love people.

        BTW, I ha e arrived at your place of acceptance and support. Thanks for this series.

        • Michael Bell says:

          Good point. The short answer is that conservatives also are selective in what they believe and how they apply the text.

      • Iain Lovejoy says:

        I am not a Hebrew expert, but this seems to be one of these circular things where the meaning of the word in context is derived from the traditional understanding, and the traditional understanding then supported by the same passage that the traditional meaning was used to interpret, which I think reinforces the point that we can’t be as sure exactly what the verse means as we would like to think.
        (I am a bit surprised though at your source’s citing of Judges 21:11-12 and Numbers 31:17 & 35 as not meaning “bed” since in those places what is literally said of a virgin is that she has “not known the bed of a man” and “not known any man to/for/up to the bed of a man” which would seem rather to support the normal meaning of “bed” for the noun, rather than as an action, since it is “knowing” not “bed” which is the verb here.)

        • Michael Bell says:

          “Knowing the bed” is a euphemism for “having sex” with, so I would agree with my source that the action is intended in those verses.

          P.S. The reason why I did not name my source, is because in all my correspondence on this topic I have promised confidentiality unless explicitly given. it is easier just to keep it that way.

  6. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””If that makes me a heretic, so be it. If that makes me a heretic, so be it. . .. “”””

    This.

    The same on the ‘flip side’ for me. If my faith requires that I spend my days telling people they cannot have the relationships they have and that they need to live out their lives through long lonely days – then I’m out, I won’t live my life as the Angry-Shouting-Guy-Who-Has-No-Way-Forward-For-Anytone-But-Himself. That guy is a jerk.

    Also, let’s be honest. In relationships and sexuality: “he who is without sin” makes for an empty room. And the guy who believes he can remain in the room is nearly certainly the worst of all.

    • Phil Dickens says:

      Amen and amen. I am all out of rocks to throw at people.

      • I still have a lot of rocks – rock-throwing is human nature, after all – but I feel Jesus wants me to ALWAYS keep them in my pocket, and when I inevitably pull them out to throw, he tells me to hit myself over the head with them first and then put them back away.

  7. Richard Hershberger says:

    This discussion inevitably comes down to whether homosexuality is something that someone does, or something that someone is.

    Traditionally it has been regarded as something that someone does. In that understanding, it is possible to condemn it and tell these people to stop. The sell-by date on this idea is long past. Only the openly lunatic fringe still holds onto “conversion therapy.” People today know too many gay people, people whom they know and trust and love, who tell them of their experience of homosexuality as who they are.

    Once we accept that homosexuality is what someone is, the game is over. Condemning actions is one thing, but condemning people is another: easily recognizable as bigotry. Enforced celibacy is a rear-guard action, and is not tenable in the long run. Full acceptance is inevitable. And this is a Very Good Thing. We are charged to love our neighbors, not just the straight ones while persecuting our gay neighbors while hemming and hawing about how this is loving persecution. We are charged to make disciples, not to carefully choose just the straight people for discipleship, while telling gay people they aren’t suitable.

    The good news is that the church will adapt, and more easily that people imagine. This isn’t the first hill that the church has declare itself ready to die on, only to quietly retreat from. My standard example is Sabbatarianism. A century or so ago, it was routine sermon fodder to condemn the “desecration” of the Sabbath by any number of activities (yes, including playing baseball). These condemnations were put in very strong terms, and backed up by texts from scripture. What happened? It proved a losing strategy. By the second quarter of the 20th century it was well outside the cultural mainstream: howling by a bunch of weirdos that was routinely ignored. It was Billy Graham who finally gave the signal to Evangelicals that it was OK to drop the issue, to everyone’s relief. Now the idea that professional sports on Sunday is somehow anti-Christian is so weird that when I bring this up, someone will usually deny that it was every really a thing. It most certainly was, but it has been shoved down the memory hole.

    The same will happen with homosexuality. People will discover what some of us have been saying all along, that the scriptural argument against homosexuality is not nearly so clear or so strong as is often imagined. The tipping point is rapidly approaching when suddenly this will be an issue just for weirdos, like those King James Bible-only sects.

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      Protestants maybe.

      It’ll just make you guys schism, though. It’s what you guys do.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Rome deals with embarrassing history differently, but with similar result. I don’t know enough about the Orthodox churches to say.

        • Burro (Mule) says:

          Both Rome and the East have a long history of keeping the rules tight, but administering them with a relatively lax hand; sin, confess, do the penance and get on with your life.

          Prots move the goalposts all over the field

          • –> “Both Rome and the East have a long history of keeping the rules tight, but administering them with a relatively lax hand…”

            Yeah, and that’s worked really well, too. (Notes all the hideous things done and covered up by Catholic priests and authorities.)

            • Burro (Mule) says:

              The Catholic sexual scandals are endemic in all churches, as well as in Congress, business, the entertainment industry, etc, etc.

              The only two ways to deal with sin are repentance or defining it away. That’s why I say that homosexuality can only be good in the abstract.

              • Fair enough. We are all pretty darn sinful when you get right down to it then.

              • “The Catholic sexual scandals are endemic in all churches…”

                Everybody does it? Nonsense. The Roman Catholic Church is guilty of premeditated systemic institutional abuse and corruption. That’s not the same as the choir director running off with the piano player in the local Baptist Church. Nothing will change as long as the faithful serve as enablers by denial.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Probably because “Rome and the East” have a long historical trace; lotsa time to find out — the hard way — what works and what doesn’t. As one SF reviewer contact (mellow atheist with a lot of respect for Christianity) put it, “Christianity is a meme that has been gradually debugged for twenty centuries.”

            Unfortunately, Prots (especially their Evangelical splinters) have this “Year Zero Syndrome” which results in them booting up the Release 1.0 Beta version as The Only True Way. Over and Over and Over.

            • Richard Hershberger says:

              More accurately, what they choose to believe was the Year Zero church. Actual evidence on the topic is pretty much irrelevant here.

              Also, the discussion during the Reformation was that all Protestants adopted Sola Scriptura, but in two distinct forms. As a first approximation, the Lutheran version was to look at Catholic practices and abolish those held to be contrary to Scripture. The Reformed version was to look at Catholic practices and abolish those held not to be mandated by Scripture. Evangelicalism mostly derives, however indirectly, from the Reformed tradition, and inherited some of its baggage.

              • Michael Bell says:

                Very interesting. I did not know that.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                More accurately, what they choose to believe was the Year Zero church.

                Which somehow was always Exactly Like Us(TM).
                (I remember Calvary Chapel and its clones using that drill.)

                As a first approximation, the Lutheran version was to look at Catholic practices and abolish those held to be contrary to Scripture. The Reformed version was to look at Catholic practices and abolish those held not to be mandated by Scripture.

                i.e.
                Lutheran = Whatever is not actually forbidden is permissible, but may not be a good idea given the person or situation.
                Reformed = Whatever is not specifically permitted is Strictly Forbidden. (And in practice, whatever IS Specifically Permitted becomes Absolutely Compulsory.)

    • –> “A century or so ago, it was routine sermon fodder to condemn the “desecration” of the Sabbath by any number of activities (yes, including playing baseball). These condemnations were put in very strong terms, and backed up by texts from scripture…”

      Interesting point! So in other words, plunk all of us living NOW (we who now “do stuff” on Sundays) down under the rules of 100 years ago and BINGO…we’re all going to hell!

      So…are we going to hell or aren’t we, we who have moved away from that “strong belief” of 100 years ago?

      My guess is this issue will be similar. 100 years from now believers will say, “Wow, are we going to hell for not condemning homosexuality just because Christians had a ‘strong belief’ about it 100 years ago?”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Only the openly lunatic fringe still holds onto “conversion therapy.”

      Which these days means Conversion Therapy is Salvation-level Dogma direct from SCRIPTURE.

      We’re in an Age of Extremes, and in an Age of Extremes the lunatic fringe is who defines Reality. Especially if they can scream louder than the other lunatic fringes.

    • I certainly don’t have an answer when it comes to whether or not homosexuality as who someone is, or what they do, is immoral.

      However, I do have an issue when people use the argument that because something is “natural” or how people are born for justification of something. Some people are more naturally prone to anger and impatience due to various chemical imbalances and whatnot — that certainly doesn’t justify such behavior (and the list goes on of essentially any trait defining a person, and whether you want to deem them right or wrong).

      To me the whole discussion of whether homosexuality is what someone is, is entirely moot, and doesn’t provide me any additional insight.

      • There’s a useful distinction that I first ran across in Catholic moral theology: sin vs. fault. Sin is what you do (or fail to do) that’s wrong. A fault is a feature of your character or your situation that is an occasion of sin. Same sex desire might be such a thing. It’s not going away, but whether you act on it or not is a matter of great personal discretion and choice.

        Sin, what you do, can be avoided and forgiven. Faults, who you are, often cannot (but have to be worked on or lived with).

        • Burro (Mule) says:

          I believe it was St. Theophan the Recluse who said “Accept the podvig (ascetic struggle) of being yourself.”

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “Some people are more naturally prone to anger and impatience due to various chemical imbalances and whatnot…”

        This essentially is the “homosexuality as disorder to be cured” approach. It has been tried often. It has never gone well. That ship has sailed.

    • Michael Bell says:

      This discussion inevitably comes down to whether homosexuality is something that someone does, or something that someone is.

      Traditionally it has been regarded as something that someone does. In that understanding, it is possible to condemn it and tell these people to stop. The sell-by date on this idea is long past. Only the openly lunatic fringe still holds onto “conversion therapy.” People today know too many gay people, people whom they know and trust and love, who tell them of their experience of homosexuality as who they are.

      Once we accept that homosexuality is what someone is, the game is over. Condemning actions is one thing, but condemning people is another: easily recognizable as bigotry. Enforced celibacy is a rear-guard action, and is not tenable in the long run. Full acceptance is inevitable. And this is a Very Good Thing. We are charged to love our neighbors, not just the straight ones while persecuting our gay neighbors while hemming and hawing about how this is loving persecution. We are charged to make disciples, not to carefully choose just the straight people for discipleship, while telling gay people they aren’t suitable.

      I remember when I first realized this, when doing an intense study into the question back in 1993. That was probably the tipping point for me. It has taken 25 years to get me to this point from there.

      • Venn Diagram between “love your neighbor is the second greatest commandment” and “how often should I forgive them, 77 times 7?”

        Christians DO NOT have the option to abandon either of those. So, lifestyle or hereditary, choice or genetics, who cares. Believers have these two guiding principles.

        Forget the rest.

  8. Several years ago, Rachel Held Evans wrote a blog post reminding us of Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn. Huck had to face a decision, turn his friend Jim (a slave) in, or go to hell. He decided ““All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”. I have never got that thought out of my mind. I decided ““All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Yep.

    • Very poignant.

    • Christiane says:

      and so for Huck, turning his friend in would be worse than ‘going to hell’

      maybe for those of us who will not abandon rejected people, it is the same kind of thing: fundamentalist-evangelicals will tell us we are ‘going to hell’ unless we join them in throwing stones

      so, I guess in our world, some things ARE worse than ‘going to hell’ for some of us,
      and it is a great relief to know it

      A Story:
      http://brosia.com/inspiration/mandog.html

  9. Some fundamentalists want to pick this hill to die on. Some pick the creationist hill to die on. So be it. It really doesn’t matter which hill they die on. They’ll be just as dead.

  10. john bary says:

    Mike Bell, So Geoff and his partner did not seek your approval, input or any way ask your opinion of their marriage other than their Facebook post to the public that they have an anniversary.. Do they care what you think? or what the church, which ever church thinks? Do they seek any counseling or question on whether they can attend church services? It seems that are comfortable and secure in their lifestyle and need no validation.

    So I guess the answer to the issue is to accelerate what is happening. There are many mainstream churches that accept, condone and some promote homosexuality as a natural , non sinful lifestyle. That is fine . That affords homosexuals a church to follow their faith if they so chose. That is freedom of religion and free speech. That Christianity as it has been taught for 2000 years is on the wrong side of history is evident to many.

    Then there is the shrinking minority of people of faith that believe homosexuality activity is sinful and not to be condoned in the church . The secular battle is over. Homosexuality has won the legal, culture and social acceptance battle. The last battlefield is the people of various faiths who , according to their beliefs based on their understanding of the Bible or the Koran or whatever is the cornerstone of their belief, that homosexual activity is sinful and against the teaching of the Bible. They are not advocating for punitive actions or repeal of legally validated secular rights of homosexuals , just that their beliefs and the expression of their beliefs be protected and honored under the law. Is hat okay? What would you have the people of faith, who disagree with you on this issue do?

    To sum up my beliefs, in the secular and society we live in the issue has been settled. Just like many issues I accept the law of the land. Live and let live, I am Ok, we are all ok. Equal protection under the law, etc.
    So now a person comes to a place of worship where it is preached that homosexual activity is sinful as is adultery , have more than one wife, being a sexual predator and living an immoral lifestyle. The person who is a practicing homosexual wants to join the church but does not want to acknowledge this behavior is a sin. I would say this is what we believe but there is a welcoming church down the road that will be glad you want to join them.
    Is that ok?

    If a person in a leadership position in a church feels as you do, they should announce their beliefs to their congregation and proclaim what they believe. Again the influence of organized religion is not a major factor in everyday life that it is almost a moot point.

    I do appreciate and am grateful for the fine series that you have presented and the thoughtful presentation. Again, I know I am on the wrong side of history and I just do not understand what Jesus really meant, it just took us 2000 years to get it right.

    • John, what about those LGBTQ folks who grew up in that church, who are loved by the members of that church, and who struggle with who they are in the light of that church’s teaching? Should they be forced to turn their backs to a place where they have been loved and groomed but that will reject them because of who they are?

      • john barry says:

        WayneC. I think for some reason that this is an old Catholic saying Hate the sin, love the sinner, but it seems to apply.. If a LGBTQ person absolutely feels that the main, overwhelming , insurmountable issue in their life is their sexual orientation and they cannot or do not want to change their lifestyle or act upon their sexual desires in violation of the teaching of the church they grew , what should they do. As noted very well by someone in the comments is it who we are or what we do, that is the issue.

        So I would say to the person in this position, you know what we believe, can you or will you change your actions to confirm with what this church believes. If the answer is no, then why would the person want to be a member of a church they do not agree with or will not follow the teachings of that faith.

        So like many people do, go to gay affirming church and worship. They have decided they cannot change their behavior and actions and the church has decided they cannot change. It is not the end of the world. People leave the church they grew up in other many issues, music, politics and whatever all the time.

  11. Tom Shaw, a man I knew slightly and admire immensely, has inspiring things to say about this. He has a wikipedia page under Tom_Shaw_(bishop). He was an Episcopal priest and a monk in a celibate order within the Episcopal church. The Society of St John the Evangelist (SSJE) is a celibate order for men; they’ve done great work among the poor and disenfranchised, including a ministry to AIDS patients when nobody else would touch them. Tom did a term as Superior of the order, which is based nowadays in Cambridge, MA in the USA. He was elected Bishop of Massachusetts and served with distinction and humility in turbulent times. And he was gay, something he never talked about very much.

    When the subject of expanding access and recognition of gay people within the Episcopal church came up, he gave a little talk in the House of Bishops to the effect that voluntary celibacy, such as his own, was a grace that some people are given; a gift to be given freely to God. Celibacy imposed is a completely different thing, and it’s oppressive. I think on the strength of his arguments, his brother Bishops voted for the resolution.

    I miss this guy… He died of brain cancer a few years back, not long after his successor was elected. But he walked into the consecration on his own two feet, and handed over the tokens of office to the next guy.

    Thanks to Mike Bell and everyone else who has contributed thoughts to this series. It’s a thing that needs discussing sometimes, as we get to know ourselves and each other, in the context of the Gospel, and in other ways.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Very much this. Pointing to Christianity’s tradition of celebrating celibacy is no answer at all for the gay person who lacks this gift.

  12. Burro (Mule) says:

    There was a woman who used to comment here. I haven’t seen her in a while, as she probably got tired of the RobertF-Finn-Eeyore-Robert Ro. echo chamber and decamped.

    All her life she wanted to be a wife and a mother, and she kept the traditional Christian teaching regarding chastity. However, no man ever chose her, and she went through menopause. She continues to keep herself chaste. My question is; is her celibacy voluntary or imposed? If voluntary, why was she so depressed about it? If imposed, is she being oppressed? Should she have been a little more libertine, like an acquaintance o hers who got tired of waiting for Mr Right and accepted Mr Right Now, and ended up with a beautiful daughter?

  13. senecagriggs says:

    Mike Bell, what you support an active lesbian pastoring your church?

    • Put the rock down and step away from the car…

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Can she give a good sermon?

    • As opposed to active perjurers, active plagarists, active embezzlers, active gluttons, active gossips, active bigots…

    • Yeah, I would. You probably expected me to say that. I had a lot of trouble with women in the priesthood when that was brought in. Having loved a lesbian myself, I’ve completely changed my mind in favor of inclusion.

      Besides that, I would have much greater confidence going to her for pastoral counseling, given at least obliquely shared experience of being outside the main stream of society (opposite end of the LGBT acronym).

  14. Quick question…

    As followers of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit in us, are we allowed to trot out the God line, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion”?

    In other words, are we free to tell Christians who DO NOT feel like showing mercy and compassion to the LBGTQ community that we will have mercy on whom we feel led to have mercy and compassion on whom we feel led to have compassion?

  15. senecagriggs says:

    As an Evangelical, I share with the 2000 year history of the church fathers that sex is, as seen in Scripture from Adam and Eve on, reserved for a husband and a wife.

    • Michael Bell says:

      sex is, as seen in Scripture from Adam and Eve on, reserved for a husband and a wife.

      I think you are projecting your beliefs and ideals on to the Bible here. Ideal, yes, reserved, no.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      No, you don’t. Sorry.

  16. Dana Ames says:

    Here are my thoughts. For reference, there are four gay men who are my friends. Two of them are close friends, both celibate, one lifelong (68 years). Two are not as close, but I’ve known them for many years; one is celibate and one is married to his partner of ~15 years (he had other partners before that, all long-term). The ones who are celibate are active in their church settings (2 EO, 1 independent Ev Prot); the married one was active in the ELCA (so, an “affirming” church) but hasn’t been for 10 years or so.

    I don’t want to know the details of anyone’s sex life, just as I don’t share the details of mine. I would never presume to tell anyone else how they should conduct themselves wrt sexual expression, even other Christians, unless I were asked in the context of close friendship.

    I believe Jesus wants me to love everyone and not condemn anyone (except for myself for my own sins), and I believe persecution of LGBT+ persons is completely wrong. I believe Christians should be standing against such persecution.

    I believe that sex and/or romantic love is not the same thing as intimacy; intimacy is a prerequisite for healthy sex and other romantic expressions, but the other way around not so much; AND people can be intimate without having sex.

    I believe our culture – including Evangelical Christian culture – is fixated on romantic love as the ultimate value that will make everyone happy. I believe this is a false ideal. I agree with Finn: ” Friendship is complex, and many layered, friendships wax and wane, and sometimes wax again. There is a lot of Context in Friendships. Friendship is the greatest and highest and most noble form of Love. We do have a slice of the population which has somehow built a diminished view of Friendship. Interestingly, I find that group is the group most prone to harshing about the Decline Of Society & Relationships.” In most churches of my acquaintance, people do a terrible job of relating in friendship of varying degrees of intimacy, especially with those in the church who are not married (whether gay or straight, young or old).

    I believe Christianity has taught for 2000 years (and Judaism before that) that the appropriate relationship for genital sexual activity is marriage between one man and one woman, and that Jesus himself delineated this – it’s either marriage or celibacy for his followers – as recorded in Matt 19.3-12. (Divorce is another – related – question.) I believe people who want to follow Jesus – no matter to whom they are sexually attracted – have to grapple with this teaching. It’s not easy and can be very painful. It was just as difficult for people in the ancient world; Christians were seen as nuts, in no small way because they taught this strict sexual ethic, and it seems most of them tried to abide by it.

    This is a very difficult pastoral issue for professing Christians, not a matter of a crusade upon our culture. I think many hallmarks of American culture, especially consumerism and the drive for personal comfort, have much too big an influence on professing Christians. We Christians ought to be examining **ourselves** in light of Matt 25.34 ff. If we lived like those folks on the Lord’s right hand, our sexual ethic would be at least tolerated and not ridiculed.

    Dana

  17. Mike, would it be possible to edit the original post with links back to the other posts in this series? If you’d like, I can go collect them and provide the html.

    • Michael Bell says:

      In essence I did that with the link in the line “It has been an interesting few Fridays” which links to the search of “Why I am an Ally”. Any particular reason why you wan’t more than that?

  18. I think that you are correct in saying that the Bible gets it wrong when it says the sun revolves around the earth. That is one facet of the thing. Call it the language error. In my mind there is another facet that is hinted at in the phrase, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke….”. We know that He is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” However, that doesn’t mean what some want it to mean. Namely that He is a stuffy King James Calvinist and you can take that to the bank and you better behave accordingly. It probably means that you can count on Him to do exactly what He has done through the millennia. That is to do the completely unpredictable thing and be antithetical to every prediction. The only truly predictable thing is that whatever move He makes in the course of this game will be utterly infused and overflowing with grace and it will be an offense to the guardians of the letter. Perhaps He is making a move today in one such diverse manner.

  19. senecagriggs says:

    Mike Bell, once again, would you support an active lesbian as pastor of your church? [ There are no rocks, there is a question. ]

  20. senecagriggs says:

    Rick Ro, I would ask you the same question. I think you attend a Nazarene Church?
    Would you support an active Lesbian for pastor?

    • I would have no problem. 90% of the congregation might, though.

      • senecagriggs says:

        Yeah, I’m thinking the Nazarene Denomination is pretty much anchored to the words of Scripture. Theologically I would describe them as conservative Armenians.

        • Definitely. And not only would 90% of them have a problem with a lesbian pastor, approximately 75% would have a problem if our pastor shared that he drank a periodic beer or told the congregation he went dancing every Friday night.

          • In other words, they THINK they’re anchored in the scripture, but they’re really not.

            • To call into question the historical interpretation of Scripture agreed upon through the centuries & denigrate the unity of the Church has been a great “low” for Internetmonk & for Western Christianity in general. If this is the best that Western Christianised religion can come up with, then let it die !
              This is denying Christ rose & that the power of His resurrection is in those who believe. If His power isnt in us, then I may as well become a Buddhist.

              Cultures will rise & fall along with their beliefs. If encounter &

              • senecagriggs says:

                Dennisb, it is the ongoing decline of the old mainline denominations. The more they insist the Words of Scripture are not God’s plan, the faster they die. They have denied, “the old paths.”

                Internet Monk really does appear to represent in its commenters the thinking of the progressive mainline denominations.

              • Clay Crouch says:

                Yes, Dennisb, let’s bring back American Christianity from the good old days. You remember those good old days? When blacks where bound in bible-sanctioned chattel slavery until freed by the bloodiest war America has ever fought. Let’s bring back biblical segregation. Let’s disenfranchise all woman because the Bible tells us so. Please, please let’s reinstate anti-miscegenation laws because that’s what scriptures teach. Three cheers for historical interpretation of scripture agreed upon through the centuries!!!

                • Christians really came up with a lot of evil ideas and practices from what they took to be the consensual historical interpretation of the Bible, didn’t they? Why, it’s almost as if they were merelyhttp://www.internetmonk.com/archive/why-i-am-an-ally-my-view?replytocom=1119267#respond using the Bible to proof text support for evil social structures and practices that they’d decided they wanted beforehand, isn’t it? Yeah, let’s go back to that, why don’t we! Why would anyone question it? MCGA! Make Christianity Great Again!

                  • Clay Crouch says:

                    How is your wife’s recovery progressing?

                    • It’s going well. She hasn’t regained all her energy, but recovery is a little slower with her than other people because she has Lupus. Thanks for asking, Clay. Hope all is well with you.

                    • Christiane says:

                      thanks for the update, Robert

              • Michael Bell says:

                Has any writer on this site EVER denied the resurrection? Not to my knowledge.

                • If the Resurrection isnt the transformational “same power in us which caused Christ to rise”, by the Holy Spirit, its just an academic “tick of the box”. That’s how it’s being denied.

                  Also for other folks, Im not a Yank & I dont support that good “oldtime religion”.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              Because their SCRIPTURE(TM) and their God agrees 110% with them.

        • Christiane says:

          I think the Nazarenes have a good reputation as a denomination, yes.

  21. senecagriggs says:

    Mike, I don’t blame you for not wanting to answer the question – would you support an active lesbian to be the senior pastor of your church. You might not want to go there but on what basis would you say no?

    • Michael Bell says:

      I answered your question with a qualifying question of my own which I am still waiting for you to answer.