While many progressives and liberals feign incredulity, the conservative Christian objection to same-gender sex is not difficult to understand.
It is rooted in the way Christians tend to approach moral issues generally speaking — by referring to the sources of the faith and then to the traditions that followed. Traditionally, same-gender sex has been considered a sin. Why is this? (1.) Because it has generally been assumed that Jesus was pointing us to a standard of marriage that is heterosexual, monogamous, and permanent for the lifetime of the partners. If Jesus hadn’t referred back to the Genesis story of Adam and Eve in Matthew 19:3-12, Christians might not have turned to that story for a standard of sexual behavior. But, he did and we do. The traditional marriage ceremony reflects this. “The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation….” (Book of Common Prayer). It has been generally believed that marriage conforms to some purpose and plan in the mind of God. It therefore reflects the notion that there can be a meaning and structure to life to which we may aspire — something has been communicated to us about God’s plan and purpose for us. Christians see the notion of marriage as resonating with Scripture in other ways as well: “…and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.” (Book of Common Prayer). Sexual behaviors outside of this standard of marriage have always been seen by Christians as being either wrong or, at least, suspicious. (2.) There are several specific condemnations of same-gender sex in the Bible. These are found both in the Old and New Testaments. Several of them appear in passages where context doesn’t seem to be a factor — isolated laws or lists of vices. While these (like anything else) could be related to specific practices of the time in which the Bible was written, (a.) they don’t seem to be, and (b.) they fit very well with notion of marriage as a paradigm for sexual behavior. And, then (3.) the early Christian tradition has often outspokenly condemned same-gender sex. (Though, we all recognize that Christian tradition is diverse and it can be wrong — and in need to correction in the light of new information.)
So, the conservative case is simple and seems air-tight. Conclusions have been drawn from all this to further elucidate what marriage is all about: “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.” (Book of Common Prayer)
So, if that is the case, what’s the problem? (more…)
Recently I mentioned that back in June, Richard Peck and Tim Tanton contacted me by email, asking if I would write a brief personal essay about my own perspective on sexuality issues. They said they were collecting such essays to be a part of an online forum of sexuality issues which would be hosted on UMC.org.
Well, the Forum is up and it is located here: Sharing in Faith: A Forum on Sexuality and the Church.
At the site it says:
Welcome to “Sharing in Faith,” where United Methodists can share perspectives on human sexuality and better understand one another’s journeys on this issue.
The perspectives are offered in the first person, not with the intent of persuading or dissuading but of helping people understand one another as persons of faith dealing with a challenging issue.
People are invited to share their own experiences on the forum. Some simple suggestions are given.
This is an opportunity to listen and learn from one another.
I always have several books going all at the same time. Some I plow through quickly. Some I never finish. Some I lay aside to pick up later.
Tim Otto writes about the significance of the controversy in the Church over same-gender sex: “The conflict around same-sex relationships can either cause further division within the church, or, by faith, we can see the struggle as our teacher. By bringing up questions about family, social relations, church unity, and politics, this debate can help us think well and live more deeply into the dream God has for us and the world. It can help us, as God’s little flock, receive the kingdom that God is offering with so much pleasure. And if that happens, it will mean more gospel, more good news for everyone.” From: Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships.
Michael J. Quicke on preaching: “Preaching’s awesome task is about evoking an alternative community that lives for a different agenda — for God, for the wider community, and for the world. Preaching needs to be experienced as prophetic, transformational, incarnational, and diverse. Catalytic, life-changing preaching accomplishes deep outcomes in God’s purposes.” From: 360-Degree Preaching: Hearing, Speaking, and Living the Word.
This week I attended a forum held here in Grand Rapids for discussing sexuality issues. It was nice to actually meet in person some people I know only from the Internet. And several of the presenters had interesting things to say — as people who strongly disagree about the morality of same-gender sex interacted with each others ideas and experiences.
This issue has been tearing the United Methodist Church apart. During all the recent talk about denominational schism I have kept quiet here. I am on the sidelines now. If the church wishes to split (which I don’t imagine it does), so be it. It seems to me that the current position on gay and lesbian issues in the United Methodist Book of Discipline does not allow for a “Third Way” (agree to disagree) of any sort. Any proposal for one would be allowing for limited, regional violations of the Discipline. Surely that won’t pass Judicial Council muster — and it shouldn’t. Does the United Methodist Church have a way forward? I don’t know. I really can’t imagine that the God we know through Jesus Christ is much concerned with the survival and fate of our various human denominational institutions. The apostle Paul had a bit to say about the factions humans create within the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 — and he wasn’t in favor of it. (more…)
Some Things Christians Could Agree Upon Even If They End Up Having To Agree to Disagree (About Gay & Lesbian Issues)
The controversy in the Church over the morality of same gender sex has flared up again lately with the appearance of a new wave of books on the subject. Now evangelical and (otherwise) conservative authors are advocating the moral acceptance of same gender sex — for those who are so inclined. (This includes one book that I find rather interesting myself.) And, there has been a strong and angry reaction against this — causing one publisher to be removed from the National Religious Broadcasters. While the controversy has entered a new stage, it still appears that Christians are bitterly opposed on this issue. In the United Methodist Church, there has been talk of schism over the issue — though I personally doubt that that will happen. All in all, Christians seem no closer to being able to agree with one another about the morality of same gender sex than they ever were.
There are two opposing views. I call them Side A & Side B. “To put the difference in simple, perhaps overly simple terms: SideB believes that gay/homosexual sex is immoral. SideA by contrast believes that gay/homosexual sex is morally equal to heterosexual sex.”
And, one might wonder, in the face of a disagreement so bitter, divisive and deep, whether there could possibly be any common cause among the disputants. Are there, in fact, some things Christians could agree upon, even if they find they disagree on the morality of same gender sex?
Well, yes. As a matter of fact, I think there are. (more…)
Molly Worthen: “There’s a problem with the hyper-individualization of Millennial religion. The advantage of an institution is that it forces you into conversation with people you might not agree with. It forces you to grapple with a tradition that includes hard ideas. It forces you to have, for at least part of your life, a respect for authority that inculcates the sense that you have something to learn, that you’re not reinventing the wheel, but that millennia have come before you. The structure of institutions, for all their evils, facilitates that. And we may be losing that.” Quoted by Conor Friedersdorf here: The Case Against Mix-and-Match Spirituality. (more…)
Carl Trueman on Christian liberalism: “That liberalism, political or theological, is not enjoying good health is obvious to even the most causal observer. The rise of religious extremism, particularly that of Islam, has present the Left with a series of choices which have pushed it towards incoherence. Theologically, the picture is little different: liberal Christianity is in decline as it does little more than offer a vaguely religious vocabulary for expressing ideas that are, to be frank, more compelling when stated in secular terms.” Here: Liberalism Reinvented.
Lauren Porter on prayer: “In essence, what I hear [Richard] Foster saying is this: We will never be holy enough to start praying. So, don’t wait till you feel holy to pray. Pray because you need the God who can make you holy. We don’t pray because we feel holy or spiritual. It’s as we pray that we become holy and spiritual.” Here: Just Pray. (more…)
Since I’m posting lengthy videos lately, I will now add these. The presentations below are very similar to the ones I posted previously here: Transforming the Christian Conversation on Homosexuality. These are also videos that feature Justin Lee and Ron Belgau. The previously posted videos record their presentations at Pepperdine University in 2012. The ones I am posting today are the record of their more recent presentations at Seattle Pacific University and at Pepperdine in April of this year. The content is similar but it is presented a little differently.
The presentations are different enough that many people may want to watch them all.
Again, the goal is not necessarily to convince anyone of anything — it is not propaganda presented to change anyone’s mind. The goal of these presentations is to deepen our understanding of one another and to deepen our understanding of the issue. Or, to put it another way: the goal of these presentations is to build bridges between people who disagree on the morality of same-gender sex. (more…)
Well, I guess I should say something about the latest brouhaha over homosexuality and church trials and the United Methodist Church. I’m really not highly motivated to comment on all this, but I’d hate to give you the impression that I’ve got my head buried in the sand. I am aware of what’s happening and of the posts flying back and forth about it. (more…)
Let me draw your attention to two particularly excellent — and very personal — posts by William Birch over at his new blog, the further. William Birch has been blogging for a long time about classical Arminian theology. But, at his new blog he is addressing issues related to Christian sexual ethics. And, he has reason to: he is himself a same-gender attracted person. He writes:
Often, Christian sexual ethics is at variance with the given surrounding culture. My goal is to challenge the Church to treat the LGBTQ community with dignity, honor, and respect; yet to do so and not compromise their varied, respective, biblical beliefs.
It is especially difficult to write about these issues in the church. So much of the church is caught up in the American Culture War, that it is often hard to hear what some people are actually saying. (more…)
I’m reblogging this from the Spiritual Friendship site. Concerning this site: “Spiritual Friendship was created by Ron Belgau and Wesley Hill out of frustration with the prevailing narratives about homosexuality in orthodox Christian circles, which focused either on political issues, or on reparative therapy in one form or another. Neither of these approaches, we believe, represents an adequate pastoral response to LGBT Christians.”
The author, Ron Belgau, is completing a PhD in Philosophy, and teaches medical ethics, philosophy of the human person, ethics, and philosophy of religion.
Here Ron writes about the need for the Church to be honest and truthful about the prospects of (what we generally call) sexual orientation change — they are not good. He says: “Young Christians struggling with same-sex attraction deserve to receive honest answers to their questions from Christian leaders.” And: “Young Christians in their late teens or early twenties who realize they’re attracted to their own sex face a difficult and often lonely process of discerning God’s calling. It’s important that we communicate honestly with them.” (more…)