Friday, September 20, 2013

A Few Things I Know About the LGBTQ and Christianity Issue



I want to start off saying this post is my own opinion. These thoughts are something I feel I need to get out there and off my chest. As a pastor of a congregation that tries to welcome everyone who came I feel like I've been thrown into the whole LGBTQ arena. It has caused me both pain and joy. As a trans-local leader and theologian I am struck repeatedly at how this is an issue many leaders and congregants are wrestling with, often with a lot of their own pain and joy. (I want to thank those who have taken the time to be vulnerable with me over the years, I hope this post helps in some small way.)
Personally I've tried to keep out of the debate of what is the right way to approach this issue - I have my views and I'm not convinced that trying to make others agree with me is that fruitful. In fact the more time I spend wrestling with this issue the more I'm convinced that there is no one solution, but that we need to pursue God with boldness and see where we end up. Mistakes are inevitable, but humility must triumph over fear. What I want to do in this post is identify a few issues that I think get in the way of having a fruitful conversation around this important issue.

Homophobia

This is a term that gets thrown around too easily and also disregarded too readily. Much as I try to avoid this term if we are going to use it then it might be helpful if we found some precision for what homophobia actually is. For those who disregard it, it might be helpful to reflect on the fact that homophobia is not just being afraid of queer people or a so-called 'gay agenda'. Homophobia is also being afraid of the effect that your response to queer people will have on your ministry or relationships. Fears play out in the arena of speculation, so when we imagine the worst outcome we are being homophobic (and also allowing the fear of other people's opinions cloud our ability to hear and obey God.) Just because welcoming or accepting a queer person might strain other relationships is never a good reason to not do what you know to be the right thing. We are always accountable for our response to those whom God brings to us and not for how that might make it hard (or easy) to fit in with everyone else.

On the other side, when we just name as homophobia every possible objection raised against including and/or affirming (these are two distinct things) LGBTQ persons and concerns, we are refusing to hear what underlies the objections of others. This is a difficult tension. It is worth hearing the objections of others and actually having the conversation. And not just to find faults in these objections - the underlying foundation for these objections is often rooted in concerns we can all share (such as the concern over faithfully following God). Sharing concerns does not mean we need to always share conclusions, but it is important to not let an issue like this lead us away from the deeper issues. As a result, my queer friends don't get to label everything homophobia. In particular they do not get to discredit arguments based on a blanket statement that might not name what is the real concern. By the same token my queer hesitant friends cannot dismiss their own possible homophobia. Homophobia, if we insist on using the term needs to be used carefully.

Foundations are Painful to Uproot


Which leads to the second thing I know which is basically that there are hard liners on all sides of this issue. Unfortunately hard liners usually just cloud the issues. You can tell them because they refuse to hear and acknowledge the legitimacy of the other side. Hearing the other side does not mean you have to give up your own views. I was talking with a guy I really respect yesterday and he reminded me to the term "mutually transformative" relationships. This should be our goal when engaging in this conversation, we must go into it with the humility that says there is probably good reasons for the views of the others and understanding those reasons might even shift my own views, but also have confidence that we too have good reasons for our own views. When we lose sight of that goal we risk becoming unhelpful in the conversation. I think it is really important for us to have a voice, to speak our minds and hearts. I think it is also just as important for us to hear one another.

The Issues are Complicated

The reality is that you can still be an ally of LGBTQ folk and hold a complicated or even unsettled view of the issue. Jesus really calls us to be an advocate of people. We can affirm people and walk with people as they move towards wholeness, even if their understanding of wholeness differs from our own. Church leaders in particular need to learn to do this better, and I'm encouraged when I encounter those who are trying to do just that. I actually consider myself an LGBTQ ally not because I'm in favour of marriage equity but because I want to be Christ to the people God sends my way and want to see them through God's eyes not through my own biases. I'd be lying if I say that I'm completely settled on the issues. Some of it just puzzles the heck out of me. Where I am settled is that I want to treat every person with dignity and respect, and am willing to walk and pray with them as they follow after God. One size really does not fit all. I will do my best to obey God as I see God leading in every situation trusting in God's leading and faithfulness.

Language is the Problem

Unfortunately, we as a species do not like complications. Over and over I hear language used in this conversation that is meant to frame the debate in ways that are easy to dismiss. One that I really dislike is the appeal to 'same sex attraction'. Nice language if you want to imply sexual orientation is a choice and that being queer is ultimately something you can cure. While this may be an important view in the conversation, it is not helpful to make it sound like 'the answer' because we've claimed that homosexuality is just attraction to the same gender. Human sexuality has never been this simple. Sexual orientation is more than just being attracted to someone of the same gender, and when we frame it that way we deny the identity component. Worse, it allows us to belittle the struggles of those who don't fit into the heteronormativity of our society.

Terms like traditional, orthodox, etc., always make appeals to norms that are constructed and highly contextual. I'm grateful that some of the conversations are reflecting a hesitation with these terms that gives me hope. (BTW I moved to the term queer because my queer friends tell me that is the term they prefer to use.) Maybe we should let the others have an equal say in the language we use? That said, I'm just as bad at this as the rest of you - so really just recognizing that language is a problem is helpful.

Love is the Bottom Line

So here is where I end up - ultimately I know I will be judged not on how well I fit in, but on how well I loved. I'm not always the best at this, I think of myself as a learner of love. But my heart is to love because I was loved. What overwhelms me most about God is that even in full understanding of all I've done, do, and will do - God chooses to love me. I'm so grateful for this. So I've made it a mission to try and emulate that love to all who come my way. It is hard. But it is also worth it. I get that some of my queer hesitant friends think the most loving response to my queer friends is to tell them they need to get right with God. In fact I think that if this is your conviction then you should voice it - but at the same time you should listen to God and not expect that their getting right with God will look like you expect. Heck, the reality is that all of us could use some getting right with God. But if all your expression of love is telling people you dislike who they are (and are convinced God also does not like who they are) then you might want to think about that. There has to be more to love than dismissing a person.

I remember my friend James who came out to me (I was a new Pentecostal convert at the time). I remember telling him that I thought God had a problem with him being gay, but I didn't. At the time that was my honest view on the issue. James became a great friend of mine and a genuinely enjoyed hanging out with him. The point is that love is so much more than a warning (no matter how well intentioned) can ever be. Love involved me being there when James was going through hard times, not judging but listening and caring. Love is what we are called to do as Christians, more than anything else love forms and informs our way of being in this world. If we have not love, then we really have nothing.

Conclusion

I'm sure that this will continue to be a complicated issue. I'm sure it will be painful too. I don't have a lot of answers, but these few things are what I do know about the LGBTQ issue. We need to listen more. Find places to be vulnerable (and as leaders create places where people are safe in this vulnerability). We need to be careful about our language. And most of all we need to let love take the lead in all we say and do.

26 comments:

Thesauros said...

That, sir, was a really fine post. I'm a retired marriage and family therapist who still does a fair amount of pro bono work. The same sex couples with whom I've worked, most of whom were not Christians, have forced me to, as a Christian, think long and hard as to how Jesus would relate to this issue and those in the midst of it.

I like that your topic heading moved from, "Language is the issue," to the last sentence, "Language is a issue."

And as long as we're allowing "queers" to define how they're labelled, I think it would be a good idea to allow God to define the norm for how He wants us to use our physical sexual selves, i.e. within the safety boundaries of a male / female, monogamous faithful marriage.

Personally, I've come to view the issue with the descriptor "sexually disoriented." I do this because:
a) whether inherent or chosen, and all sinful tendencies are inherent, our expression of sin is a serious issue in our relationship with Creator God. Being "born this way," is really a non issue, and distracts us from the main issue. If a person is not in a forgiven and healed relationship with Jesus, then how s/he expresses h/herself sexually is the least of that person's problems. Every paedophile with whom I've worked has never known a time when he was not attracted to children. In his mind, he was born that way. My response is, so what? It's wrong, it's harmful and you need to gain mastery and control over your thoughts and actions.

b) all my experience with those who struggle with sexual sin (male or female, hetero or homo) points to their issues having been caused by emotional needs having become sexualized. Again, just because they've never known another way of relating is a non issue.

The main issue, as I see it is, how do I stop making excuses watching tv or reading my Kindle and get off my butt and put people and their well-being ahead of my own desire for an easy life. Or, as you put it so well, How do I love others as Jesus loves me?

Anyhow, very good post. I pray that God will continue to bless the mission that He has given to you. May He encourage you, strengthen you and give you wisdom and peace.

God bless
See you There!

Michael Samson said...

You know Frank, my brother, I truly appreciate this post. I admire greatly your courage and willingness to enter into the struggle itself that this "issue," (and please forgive my crass language, we are talking about people) raises.

I myself have been wrestling with this for a long time as well. A few years ago one of my wife's cousins "came out" and is in a same-sex relationship. They know that I am an Orthodox Christian, and they know also that I am unwilling to do two things. I will not lay down who I am, and I refuse to treat them with any less dignity or honor than I would give to any other persons. It's a tension for me and them for sure, but it's one that I feel I must engage.

I won't wax on about any of my particular thoughts here, I'll just say this. I don't know what God would say if we could get His thoughts on this directly, but I'm sure it would shock and stun us all...

One of Freedom said...

I love the word tension Mike. I think it is helpful in moving forward on this issue. Plus I love your heart.

Thanks for the encouragement Thesauros!

Thesauros said...

Michael - "I don't know what God would say if we could get His thoughts on this directly,"

You mean, besides these?

"Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin." Leviticus 18:22

“If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act." Leviticus 20:13

"And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved." Romans 1:27

"That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they become one." Genesis 2:24

Jesus answered, “Haven’t you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh—no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by separating the marriage bond.” Matthew 19:4-6

"Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1st Corinthians 6:9-11

"Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body." 1 Corinthians 6:18

Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another." Romans 13:8

"But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another." 1st Thessalonians 4:9

"This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another." 1st John 3:11

"Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God." 1st John 4:7

"Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning." 2nd John 1:6

"But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!? Matthew 5:44

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!" Luke 6:32

"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

"This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you." John 15:12

One of Freedom said...

Thesauros I think the issue my friend Michael is getting at is that all of these require interpretation, in fact the texts you cite are translations read in a contemporary context. One of the more helpful areas I've found is how some Biblical Scholars are letting us understand the role we play in interpreting texts, such as why we chose some texts to read literally and yet not others. Michael is right in that while we have texts to work with we do not have unmediated revelation. Probably one of the better examples of this tension is how Pope Francis has been trying to talk about this issue - holding the tension of judge and judge-not. It is not easy and I get nervous when either side wants to make the assumption that there are clear lines that can be drawn. God, once again, enters into the messiness of life and redemptively creates something beautiful - usually blowing our preconceptions away at the same time.

Thesauros said...

“I think the issue my friend Michael is getting at is that all of these require interpretation,”

Ah, you think that's what he means, do you? Well, being the clever lad that I am, I was able to intuit what both of you have been saying right from the get-go.

But my issue, you see, is that, human nature being what it is:
. We find it all to easy to understand exactly what Jesus says about divorce and remarriage until we want out of our present marriage in order to marry someone else. Then Scripture becomes unusually vague.

. We know exactly what fornication is until, well, until “Anything that feels this right can't be wrong,” so maybe God's commands aren't quite as clear as we'd first thought.

. We know what God meant, we know EXACTLY what God meant by, “Do not steal,” until we only need a little thing from a very large company. Then, well, who knows if the interpreters and translators got that one even close to correct.

. And, human nature being what it is, we know exactly what "Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin," means until we have a brother-in-law, (who's a good person by the way) who is in a relationship with another man – who is also a good person by the way.

I'm 62 years old. I've been a follower of Jesus for 32 of those years. There is not one category of sin of which I am not guilty of committing.

So, yes, I know what you and Michael mean. What you mean is, when we really want to explore the boundaries of good and evil, “Did God really say that?” becomes the operative line of thinking – even to the point of making ourselves believe that sin / disobedience and “something beautiful” are no longer mutually exclusive.

Personally, I don't think either of you are experiencing nearly enough tension between judging and not judging, or "Loving the sinner but not the sin. In fact, I think you're desperately looking for a way to ease the tension, but hey, that's just me.

One of Freedom said...

You might be right about us not experiencing the tension enough. Although you could extend your examples into areas that seem quite ridiculous to us today: wearing mixed fabrics, eating shellfish, etc. Both sides of this issue deal with all the so-called clobber verses, and often deal with them well. What is clear to me is that it will take more than a few proof texts to settle this.

Michael Samson said...

Thesauros, I greet you my brother in the Name of Christ our God.

Thesauros, I wrote that I am an Orthodox Christian, and I profess the Ancient Faith handed down from the Holy Apostles and Fathers of the Church. As such, I do have a conscience that has been and is being shaped and formed by the Holy Tradition of the Church.

Please do not be to quick to dismiss the point that Frank raises. You may be guilty of anachronism in your objections. Holy Scripture is difficult for us to faithfully interpret, being separated as we are by centuries of time, language, culture and so forth. We don't blink about wearing clothes of mixed fibres, or eating shellfish. And thankfully we don't stone fornicators or adulterers to death any more. In my hometown of Ottawa Ontario, we have many Indian restaurants, and I LOVE Indian food! And although I do see Christians protesting against homosexuality in Ottawa, I don't see any Christians protesting the fact that Indian restaurants are decorated with Hindu Gods in the form of Statues, a clear violation of the very first commandment!

Now having said that, I do have strong convictions about homosexual acts themselves. I do believe that the Marital act itself, between a man and a woman, reveals something of the Mystery of God the Holy Trinity and the Mystery of man made in the Image of God male and female. I am concerned that homosexual acts themselves may exchange the truth of God for a lie. BUT! That does not mean that LGBT people are rejected by God, nor will I reject them, or reduce them to theological categories. People are not ideas or concepts, they are people. The Father sends His Son not to condemn the world, or draw battle lines in the sand, but to seek and to save that which is lost.

Repentance, genuine Metanoia, and the judging of others do not mix my brother...

Len Hjalmarson said...

Frank, good to read this today. YOu mirror some of my own process. I wish I could say I have clear conclusions but mostly in process, and wanting to err, where and when I do, on the side of grace.

Len Hjalmarson said...

Frank, good to read this today. YOu mirror some of my own process. I wish I could say I have clear conclusions but mostly in process, and wanting to err, where and when I do, on the side of grace.

Thesauros said...

I'm not sure what to make of your references to the Law of Moses with its injunctions against shellfish and mixed materials. Till now, I've only heard atheists use these codes to mock Creator God and those who attempt to heed His message.

Of course, there was a code handed down in Eden to Adam and Eve.
. There was a coded handed down to Noah.
. There was a code handed down to Abraham.
. There was a code handed down to Moses, and
. There was a code handed down to us by Jesus.
The Law or Code of Jesus which is found throughout the New Testament completely overrides the earlier codes in their entirety.
. The Law or Code of Jesus contains some of the old guidelines: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet and so forth; all summed up with, “Love your neighbour as you already love yourself.” (Romans 13:9).
. The Law or Code of Jesus contains some new guidelines: “For everything God created is good, and no food is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” 1st Timothy 4:4.
. And “A new command I give you, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Notice that it is no longer just, love others as you love yourself, but “love others as I have loved you.” Again, the food restrictions have been completely removed.

I wrongly assumed that you gentlemen would know this.

Any command of Moses that appears in Jesus' Code should not be seen as a continuation of those earlier commands, but is specifically part of Jesus' Law or Code. The Laws of Jesus that were also part of Moses' law are binding on modern followers of Jesus. The Laws that were part of Moses Law that Jesus did not include in His Law or Code are not binding on modern followers of Jesus. As an example, sexual intimacy only within a male / female marriage is still binding while dietary laws are not. In other words, every Law of Moses has been ended unless is has been included in Jesus' Law Code, a set of guidelines that is found throughout the New Testament.
=====
“That does not mean that LGBT people are rejected by God, nor will I reject them, or reduce them to theological categories.”

I would never suggest that God would reject them. Nor would I reject any other human regardless of the sin in their lives, just as I would expect that they wouldn't reject me because of the sin in my life. I don't know what you mean by “theological category.”
=====
“The Father sends His Son not to condemn the world, but to seek and to save that which is lost.”

I agree, but I wonder what you think Jesus means by “lost.”
=====

“Repentance, genuine Metanoia, and the judging of others do not mix my brother...”

Again, since Jesus goes to great lengths on how we should judge properly, versus hypocritically, I'm not sure exactly what you mean. Maybe we just disagree on what Jesus means when says, “The one who loves Me is the one who obeys Me.”
For example, I feel certain that Jesus would be clear on how to obey Him, and thus how to show our love for Him, while perhaps you think Jesus leaves that up to each individual interpretation of obedience and love?

Michael Samson said...

Thesauros, the Law comes through Moses, as a gift and means by which God will mediate a covenant with His people. It is Grace and Truth that comes through Jesus Christ.

The language of the New Testament is not one of superseding, but of fulfilment. In his letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul reminds the churches that the Gospel is not the superseding of the Law, but the fulfilment of the Promise made to Abraham.

There is no need my brother for us to enter into controversy with one another, nor to proof text. The Holy Scriptures are the inspired accounts of those who bear witness to the Word of God, they do not eclipse Christ our God.

Let us be careful to give first place to charity and humility, giving honor to God and each other, and safeguard our discussion from descending into little more than quarrelling...

Curtis Healy said...

Mr. Thesauros, I'm confused, first you extol the author for making an incredibly challenging and enlightening post... and the next you're elevating a whole sleuth of procedurals, over the need for reflection, patience, love and even mercy- which the article wishes we would all demonstrate, as, well more than mere demonstration- as something more than a posture, but a whole comprehensive being, which extends to the dilemma at hand and into every aspect of our lives.

Second, your tirade, or sorts, puts a whole commentary upon god attributing things to him speaking, which when he was here the first time, in person, he never said... so frankly I can't see him switching thesis second time around, singling people out who are simply struggling, courageously I might at, to be worthy lovers in times as dangerous as they've always been. People who are challenging our whole society to think about and describe what things like marriage and sexuality really are instead of just resting wholly on the ignorance of our traditions- which Jesus often points to as impeding god, and Voltaire speaks of as betraying us.

I often wonder here, at times like these, what exactly are these reactionary christian people so up in arms about- as it is said 'they shall know YOU are christians by YOUR love', the responsibility rests on you. Marriage is no different, in fact, a better scripture to focus on rather than how homosexuality is like a campfire horror story, is to focus on how husbands and wives are to love one another, each at their moments of strengths becoming Christ to their spouses, and each in their moments of weakness becoming churches to each other. Otherwise I am forced to conclude that what these people who call themselves followers of the great forgiver- who died a death of ostricion, not unlike what many homosexuals go through, and real martyrs go through- for whom they chose, or choose to love- as Jesus died because he chose to love you- so the story goes, that just as one of my favourite authors, Hedges says, 'Regimes hate any form of unconditional love, because it is something they have no control over', and I con only conclude that this is what the church is afraid of, that god will not obey them, and they will lose their prestige.

But the loss of prestige is the thing that is almost, already beyond repair for Christ followers these days- I can't Identify with Christians because of people like you, who, though I don't know you personally, are ultimately unrighteous and unjust in the things you say to others. You are unChistian. Especially on this issue. I sense the smack that you unloaded scripture, putting it in the mouth of god because you felt safe, as though you would teach us all a good lesson, while speaking of being challenged at heart, and then doing an about face. How about this call to the mind of god- 'When I was hungry you fed me, naked clothed me, sick or in prison, you visited me. Oh where did we do those things? You did it to the least of these you took the time to notice.' Ultimately, we are called to love all people, even the created things around us as the theophany- from strangers to enemies, to friends, family, and even lovers- that means you see god in someone and if that includes the gender of the same sex, then, so be it, for it's time that we realised that 'awe' is the woesome fear of the presence of god- and the history books tells us that monogamous homosexual relationships are unprecedented before now, it's literally a ground breaking thing, so pay some damned close attention to what's happening right in front of you, taste and see, don't bury your face in a book- for, ironically, 'God is Love', and to love someone 'is to see the face of god.'

Thesauros said...

Part of me wants to just walk away and say, “Good luck with that.” Another part says, “No, the man who wrote this post is a reasonable person, i.e. he can be reasoned with.” I at first sang praises of the post because I thought that when the author spoke of the tension he experienced between judging and not judging, he was speaking of loving, as Jesus loves us, someone who was living in opposition to God's guidelines. I did not understand until later that he was attempting to resolve this tension by reducing a clear command regarding our sexuality to a gross misunderstanding or error in translation.

A woman was in my office two days ago. I've worked with her for close to six months now. A better reproduction of the Samaritan woman at the Well could not be found. When I wondered aloud if perhaps relationships with men have become the centre of worship instead of God, if being with men was perhaps the source of her sense of security, and belonging and value – instead of God – she replied, “But when Adam was in the garden, God Himself said, “It is not good for you to be alone.”

Priceless, huh? It's what we do with the Word when we want what we want. We want what we want and we'll conjure up errors and mistranslations (while still calling it Holy Scripture when it suits) to get what we want.

And then there is love. What a beautiful thing. It's from God, don't you know? I can't tell you how many men and women – Christian men and women – who have justified to me that leaving this marriage and these children in order to move in with another is okay in God's eyes because love is involved. “But I love her.” Never mind that there were previous promises of monogamy (apparently and new thing in the homosexual community Curtis?) to God. This time it'll be the real deal, so everything's cool.

By the way Curtis, trying to be a “worthy lover” where one should not be a lover at all is a similar situation to, "But we love each other."

Look, you guys are going to do what you want to do. You'll find a way to justify what you want to justify. Just this summer a young married man with three young children told me that his parents were praying that he would meet a good Christian woman. They were praying for this because he was, while married and still living with his family, actively looking on-line for someone new. When I questioned if someone who is willing to date a married man would be any better than the Christian woman he was already married to (and had recently become pregnant by another man), he replied with the same shock and horror that you display, Curtis, “You don't think God would want me to be alone for the rest of my life, do you?”

Of the over 3,000 couples with whom I've worked, dozens and dozens have been same-sex couples. I've helped them to restore and repair broken relationships where possible and helped them to move on with the least damage possible when it won't work out. The same with hetero common-law couples. Every one of these people knew my beliefs going into the counselling relationship, but they came anyway because they knew by word of mouth that being treated with love and respect and compassion is not determined by having to agree with beliefs and behaviours.

If people want an intimate, healed and forgiven relationship with Jesus, then that's what I work with. If, like you men, they want a relationship built on fantasy, then that's fine too. It's not my job to change you or anyone else. It's just that, whether it's me or someone else, I think it's pitiful when we put ourselves through all kinds of mental contortions in order to finds ways to convince ourselves that what the Bible clearly says, “Doesn't apply to me and my situation.”

So, ya, go in peace and good luck with that.

One of Freedom said...

Thesauros, the only comment I'll make is that I wish the issue was as clear cut to me as it seems to be to you. I'm talking about hermeneutics here. This is where I am at and I'd appreciate prayers that God will continue to shape my views and interpretation of the Scriptures. I am willing to be found wrong here, the problem is I don't think that I am.

blessings,
Frank

Michael Samson said...

Curtis and Thesauros, why don't we all simply put down the stones we keep throwing at one another, and instead of monologuing at one another, try and have dialogue instead.

I find myself sympathetic to both of your views, as well a finding difficulty in both of your views.

What does it matter Curtis if monogamy is part of the homosexual world today. ( Forgive my crass language), What if in terms of our human sexuality we are in the process of exchanging the truth of God for a lie? What if this isn't progress or a good thing, but rather a sign of the times...???

Thesaurus, what do we say to people who are queer, ( oh boy Frank, I hope that's a cool term as you say! LOL!) who struggle, and have prayed to be "delivered" and aren't? I'm not suggesting that all queer people struggle with their sexual identities, but some do. I've read and heard first hand some of the horror stories. Do we throw Bible verses at them and tell them to simply smarten up? I almost get the sense that you are making an idol of the Bible. In our Faith, the Word is made flesh, not paper and ink.

I think Frank has opened up an opportunity here for dialogue and reflection. Let's be humble and out do one another in kindness, and a fruitful conversation can be enjoyed by all.

Michael Samson said...

...or not.

Thesauros said...

"or not"
That's funny :-)
======

“it's literally a ground breaking thing, so pay some damned close attention to what's happening right in front of you.”

I'll tell you what's happening right in front of us all. The fulfilment of prophecy that as history winds down there will be a huge exodus from the Church. This exodus will take place in concert with a huge rise in atheism which will coincide with a huge increase in homosexuality. That's what I'm paying attention to. And I find it breathtaking that people who self-identify as Christians are jumping on this groundbreaking wave as though it's something wonderful. People truly are gathering around themselves Pastors who tell them exactly what they want to hear.
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As we're talking hermeneutics, I think that a hermeneutic principle of some importance here is the law of “first mention.” The first time that a subject, law or doctrine is mentioned in the Bible is of particular importance. When something is mentioned over and over again, especially when Jesus brings it up in both the Old and the Newer Testaments, that really should get our attention. Perhaps more importantly I think the question here is one of exegesis or eisegesis. That is, should Biblical understanding flow from the Bible or should Biblical understanding be aided by secular 'discovery' which is then read into the Bible? You see, it is one thing to say that secular theorists have made discoveries about human nature (Ecclesiastes 6:10; 1:9,10). It is quite another to be so naive as to suggest that the interpretation and the corresponding application of these “discoveries” have been made through an uncorrupted lens.
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Michael - “and have prayed to be "delivered" and aren't?”

That's a very important point. My concern is mostly with those people who are both self-identify as Christians and who, at the same time justify or claim that the sin in their lives is not sin, i.e. they are not really a follower of Jesus and are in grave danger of hearing, "Get away from Me. I never knew you."

If someone is not in a forgiven and healed relationship with Jesus, then being sexually disoriented is the least of their problems.

As to delivery, who of us has been delivered from sin? The power of sin? On a good day, perhaps. But the sin itself? I certainly don't know anyone. For the sake of context, let me say that I was sexually abused for several years as a child - by a female. Those events set up decades of confusion and sexual acting out. Plus decades of unanswered prayer for delivery, most of the time without really knowing if I even wanted delivery. While today I am at peace with who I am, this I know. Declaring my sin to not be sin, simply because it's the only way I'd ever known or always been, would not have been a theologically rational solution to my problem. Certainly not as someone who claims to love my Saviour and my Lord.
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“I almost get the sense that you are making an idol of the Bible.”

About eight years ago, I was sitting in my office with a Pastor who was about to end his third marriage. His wife was appealing to Jesus' comment in Malachi, “I hate divorce.” Like you, this man accused his wife of placing the Bible above Jesus' love and mercy because He is – you know, as Curtis states – “the great forgiver.” And so, this Pastor said to his soon to be ex wife, “You don't think Jesus will forgive this?” I have no doubt that this Pastor was convinced that Jesus' comment, “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” simply meant something other than what it seems to mean. You know, poor translation and all.

I've experienced men hold in high esteem a graduate degree in clinical psychology. To me, that is neither here nor there; simply a means to an end. But to be accused of holding the Bible in high esteem, higher than any other guide to human relationships, I see THAT as a huge compliment. Thank you.

Michael Samson said...

And with that I concede. You have won the day Thesauros...

Thesauros said...

Sadly, no one has won anything. It just breaks my heart that we're willing to be deliberately unfaithful to Jesus, simply because we know that He'll forgive us. Surely we don't do that to anyone else that we claim to love. It's just tragic.

One of Freedom said...

You are mistaken Thesauros when you assume you understand my motivations. I'm actually trying my best to be faithful to Jesus and the people Jesus has called me to love and embrace. It's actually quite offensive that you think you can know the motives of my heart and would think I would be so shallow as to just do whatever I please because I know I can get away with it. I've made my choices because after prayer, study, conversation, and much fear and trembling I knew them to be the right things to do. But you might get that if you didn't assume I'm simply playing with the grace of God.

Thesauros said...

Actually, I wasn't thinking of you when I wrote that. If I understand your post correctly, you are struggling with knowing how to show love to our homosexual brothers and sisters. And, if I understand you correctly, you've arrived at a point of love and acceptance, in part because you've come to agree that what the Bible seems to say about how we use our sexuality isn't really what it says.

This would be a really good time to correct me where I'm wrong in what you are / were trying to say.

My last comment was referring more to those of us whose sins are ones of commission versus omission or even ignorance.

One of Freedom said...

I've come to a point of love and welcome because that is what I read in the Scriptures when I read it as a whole and not just assume a few translated prooftexts say everything that needs to be said on the subject (or even address the reality of human sexuality/identity formation in our current cultural milieu). Like I tried to express in the post, I respect the complexity of both the texts and the contexts in which these conversations are occurring. If love is not the bottom line then we are no better than the Pharisees who turned Scripture into a tool of oppression earning the criticism and anger of Jesus.

Thesauros said...

Ah me, it's come to this, has it? I quote 9 verses about loving others, 7 verses about human sexuality and here it is. I'm not just an Idol worshipper, but a Pharisee.

You know, we have seven adopted children, all of them special needs, not one of them has an IQ above 65. Ours is a small congregation so our one son, who is in reality a 4 year-old in the body of a 13-year-old attends my Sunday School class with me; a class of students grades 10-12. At the beginning of the year I asked them to write out two questions / topics each that they want us to cover this year. Last Sunday I pulled out one paper and the “homosexual issue” was the topic of the morning. So I asked, “How do we show love to those who believe and think differently than us?”

“I don't know.”
“I don't know.”
“I don't know.”
came the less than enthusiastic responses.

So I turned to my son who is about as different from these “normal” kids as anyone can be and asked,

“Riley, how do you, personally, show love to someone who is different?”

He thought for a moment and then said, “I just do what Jesus said, dad. I be kind to them.”

No need to pretend the Bible isn't clear in what it says. No need to, as atheists do, demean the authors of the Bible as bronze-age camel herders who don't understand modern culture. Just a simple Biblical command to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It saddens me that you think one needs a PhD to properly understand what any of my intellectually retarded children can accept and live by quite easily. They see no need to change their beliefs based on the ebb and flow of societal norms. Just a simple trust in God's word.

I am blessed.

So if you don't mind, I'll leave you gentlemen and this conversation with a bit a humour that tickled my mind this morning.

“Forever is a long time. Especially that last bit near the end.”
Woody Allen

Anonymous said...

Thanks for quoting God's word. It is unambigious and not complicated at all. God loves the sinner so much that He gave his only Son. But He abhorred sin so much that it pleased him to crush his only Son.

The most important thing in this debate is to define the problem. There is no difference between my sinful, depraved nature and that of a gay person. There is no difference between my actual sexual sin and that of a gay person. God hates both with the same holy fury. God has emptied his holy wrath against both on his Son when he crushed him like a bug.

Part of the defition of sin is anyting that hurts your neighbor. If God says sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is sin it is because such activity is destructive. God does not ban sin because he is a party pooper. God does not ban sin simply to "test" us. God does not ban sin to prevent us from being happy or fulfilled.

He bans sin because it destroys ourselves, our victims (all sin has victims) and our relationship with him.

The monent we deny the absolute destructive nature of sexual or any other sin we call God a liar. We imply that God is evil for banning that which would make us happy and fulfilled.

Consider this. Intimate partner abandonment is, scienifically proven, equal in the trauma it causes to violent rape. Parental divorce have similar long term sequelae than childhood sexual abuse.

While our society would sensure rape and pedophilia it applauds adultery and divorce. What absolute bigotry! How dare someone support divorce and not pedophilia?

As far as homosexual practises are concerned. I have never commited that sin so I do not know how it destroys lices. But I have committed every other sin in the book and I have seen and felt its destruction first hand.

If God bans a certian behaviour it is because it destroys people. And I have learnt from bitter experience that he is always right.

So if God says homosex is sin it is because it is destructive. As I said, denying it is calling God a liar.

Here is the bottom line.
We tell adulterous people in our congregation that Christ has died for their adultery because it is destructive and he wants them to stop doing it so badly that he died for it.

We do the same for gay people.

If we say we love people but we do not show them the way out of their sin or condone their sin we are damnable liars and we say that God is a liar.

Love your adulterous gay and hetero congregants enough to tell them the truth about their sin and God's solution for it, or find another job.

One of Freedom said...

Actually the most important thing in the debate is the people. That gets missed too easily. Also to say that all homosexual acts are not sin and not destructive is not to call God a liar, but to call the one making the claim a narrow interpreter of scripture. Often such a claim reveals more about the reader's biases than the heart of God. I'm surprised that you claim to have committed every sin in the book - because if that were true you probably should be in jail right now! Yikes.