Monday, April 20, 2009

Loving our Neighbors...All of Them

I wrote an article that ran in USA Today this morning entitled "An Evangelical's Plea: Love the Sinner" calling evangelical Christians to begin treating our gay and lesbian neighbors more lovingly. The feedback has been intense with many positive affirmations coming from young adults and a few negative comments and emails from some older Christians.

This is actually the second time in less than a month that I have taken heat over this particular issue. I took a beating behind closed doors for an interview that appeared in an article entitled, "Reduce, Reuse, Religion." When the interview was conducted, I thought it was going to be about environmental stewardship and younger evangelicals, but I soon realized that it was primarily about gay and lesbian issues. The article's lead sentences state:

"Jonathan Merritt doesn’t want to talk about his own views on gay marriage or civil unions -- perhaps for good reason. Merritt is a young evangelical leader, a prominent writer on modern faith, and the son of a former Southern Baptist Convention president. The religious landscape of this country may be changing, but anyone who espouses equality could derail a future leadership role among evangelicals..."

The journalist seems to imply that I play my cards close to my chest because my views on gay marriage or civil unions could get me into trouble. In the sense that he means it, the implication is dead wrong; but in another sense, it is spot on.

My views are not controversial in that I believe a redefinition of marriage, much less the moralization of the homosexual lifestyle, runs in direct opposition to the teachings of scripture. I hold to the historically orthodox position. But, perhaps they are controversial in that I don't elevate homosexual practice above and beyond all the other sins in scripture like many Christians.

Homosexual practice is sin according to scripture, but so is gossip, lying, pride, most divorces and the many other "respectable sins" that run rampant in our church hallways. 33% of pastors say they have viewed pornography in the last year, and in 1996 at Promise Keepers event 50% of men said they had viewed porn in the week preceding the event. Are we speaking about our own sexual sins with the same frequency and veracity? If two people are co-habitating or getting an unbiblical divorce, we often turn a blind eye, but if a gay couple visits the church, they are often treated as if they have some sort of contagious disease. Truth be told, Christian treatment of homosexuals runs contrary to the teachings of love replete in scripture.

I have many gay friends who have suffered at the hands of evangelical Christians who spit venom at the gay community every chance they get. Like many young evangelicals, I am weary of the unloving, unsympathetic, uninformed speech directed at the gay community. It is time those who bear the name of Jesus Christ stand up and call our community back to a posture that reflects the teachings of the One we claim to serve.

What can we do to affirm, rather than undermine, our claims to love our gay and lesbian neighbors?

77 comments:

Mark Russell said...

Jonathan - Awesome post. Like you I am a younger evangelical leader, based in the UK, and have taken a similar line to you on this issue... suggesting we need to love people like Jesus. It would be good to connect

Jenny said...

Thank you for your thoughts! I could not agree more that we, as Christ followers, must obey ALL of Scripture. This means forsaking judgment until we have all of our own sin conquered (i.e. never) and loving even our enemies. We often fail miserably on both counts. I, too am discouraged by the things I hear from gay friends. One who is struggling through HIV and related conditions, told me how when he tried to "fix" his life he was humiliated by some in the church. He was disgusted as he sat in a church listening to a 400 lb. (his words) preacher condemn all sexual sin as a lack of self-control. Why is it that everyone sees our hypocrisy but us? May God grant each of us His eyes, heart, mind, hands and feet to reach this world in a temporally and eternally significant way!

Iam4Jesus said...

Good post Jonathan.

You said it just as I was thinking it...or I guess, I read it on your post just after I started thinking it..."Homosexual practice is sin...just as....is gossip, lying, pride...etc"

I had some very similar thoughts recently that I wrote about. First of all...a misunderstanding we have carried in Christianity from what Jesus said about "heaping burning coals". PLEASE, I wonder if you (or your readers) could read that post. Some of the comments from my other readers came about from the homosexual "argument". I certainly would appreciate your thoughts.

ChrisC said...

I like this post much better than your article today. I do not think that taking comments from two former leaders of the faith out of context demonstrates true Christian principles, especially in a secular forum. But I know your heart and doubt any harm will come to those not in Christ with the reading.

HollieBrooke said...

Johnathan,
I couldn't agree with you more. I have a family member in a homosexual relationship right now. He has turned his back on religion and church out of fear of the wrath of "church people". I have often thought to myself, how am I supposed to speak scripture to him and tell him all of the wonderful things God stands for, if the very people who are standing for him are the first ones to throw the stone. This has been a major issue in my family and difficult. I wish more people would realize that we will never reach people if there is always such hatred and judgment thrown out. Last Sunday your father spoke on these matters as I'm sure you know. Even though I was unable to attend, I am happy to say that my family and my cousins "partner" was there. Because of that sermon he actually has a different outlook on church, and the people who attend. I am glad that you and your father aren't scared to touch these controversial topics! You two are definitely breaking the typical Baptist routine! Thanks so much!

- Hollie

Garet Robinson said...

Evangelicals are way too well known for what we are against rather than what we are for. Thanks for being willing to put yourself out there on some leading edge issues that many of our leadership haven't given a balanced view about.

It occurs to me that not all sins are equal in Scripture. There are greater judgments for certain sins. Perhaps the most confusing part of your post (and article) is the linkage of "well we all sin" with "all sins are equal" to provide an unnecessary apologetic for those in sin. While I don't confess holiness (my 2x4 is certainly larger than others' speck) it does occur to me that, according to the NT, our effort is to live sinless, authentic lives as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In my personal ministry I don't make excuse for the "respectable sins" (a good term btw) or room for heterosexual sin. Personal purity is a hard pursuit, but one worth maintaining.

Also, I am curious about your statement about homosexual orientation. Do you really believe people are born homosexuals? What are the implications that come with that belief?

I, for one, don't believe God creates homosexuals from birth. Being from a family that is predisposed to alcoholism (genetically) I am not disposed to consuming alcohol. While we can have a predilection to a particular sin it is not a justification for sinning.

Just curious on your take. Perhaps a crafty editor has slanted your hand a bit. Merry blessings!

Owen Tew said...

I read your Op-Ed in USA Today and was glad to find a younger person who shared my perspective. As a 44-year-old, I usually end up seeing people older than me have the opinion you were writing against and people younger than me thinking that homosexuality isn't even a sin. Keep up the good work.

(And as a newspaper journalist I'm sorry to hear that your words were skewed by one of my colleagues. I am not, however, surprised.)

God bless.

redemptivetobacco said...

jonathan, fantastic post. my parents go to your church... my dad was finally baptized. your dad is a special guy if he can get through to my dad. :) i started a church in downtown atlanta called midtown about 10 years ago. i'm in nc now. i have said the same thing for 10 years. we lived in a neighborhood that was at least 1/3 gay and had 4-5 lesbian or gay people come through our church. i can't tell you the counseling i had to do. however, i think we handled things very well. we had some who were "environmentally" influenced from childhood trauma and one definite that was born with the "inclination." we had a worship leader that we had to do church discipline with, but it was a very loving 6 month process - that had redemption at its heart. quite frankly the main thing was that she wanted to "experiment" with her husbands blessing and then eventually left him. i still reach out to her - calling just to check in. one lesbian that came through midtown is a dear friend. great family, great upbringing... been through every ministry you can think of...even tried dating guys. she knows it is wrong, she feels that way herself...but she struggles with it just like 2/3 of the sbc pastors struggle with eating twice their weight in twinkies. thanks for your voice. i look forward to meeting you next time i'm in atlanta.

educlaytion said...

Jonathan, I really enjoyed your article in USA Today. As a professor/speaker I've given a lot of thought to the changing attitudes on tough issues in our churches. Great job. I referenced you quite a bit today in an article I wrote for EduClaytion.Wordpress.Com.
Keep up the good work. I'll definitely be back to this site.

Joe White... said...

Jonathan,

I too believe that many times we as Christians come across as hateful and hate filled. However, loving people like Jesus did should also include the admonition to "go and sin no more". This is why I cannot go along with you in the areas where you think we should offer support, such as in workplace discrimination and inheritance claims. An employer should be able to decide what is and is not acceptable behavior, unless you think the drug addict should also be granted our support against workplace discrimination. Remember; we are talking about sin, not the color of skin.

I am all for loving our neighbors, and loving them like Jesus. Jesus was a friend of sinners, but He loved them too much to leave them that way... much less encourage or enable their sin.

Chris Morehouse said...

Mr. Merritt,

Your kinder, gentler tone is refreshing, as it offers the possibility of dialogue based on mutual respect. But you assume a "Christians" vs. "gays" dichotomy that is not helpful. If you are sincere, I'd recommend you begin your dialogue with some Christians who happen to be gay or lesbian, who claim Christ's love just as you do. You will find some at your friendly neighborhood MCC (see www.mccchurch.com).

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

William F. Kish said...

Like Chris C. I appreciated you post more than the article. I felt the tone of the article was a bit compromising of the seriousness of the sin itself. You clarified it quite nicely in the post. I actually found your blog while trying to find a way to email you to take you to task on a couple of points in your article. But after reading your post, I decided to let it go. By the way, I'm 57 and most of my "old" Christian friends and I agree with you and strongly oppose the erroneous position most of the church takes on this
subject. Keep walking in the Way. Keep your eyes on the Path. Look not to the right nor the left.
God Bless You.
God Bless you.

William F. Kish said...

Whether or not a person is "born" homosexual or if they "choose" homosexuality, in either case this falls under the catagory of "the sin that so easily besets us". The recipe for dealing with this is the same as any other besetting sin. Prayer and resistance. It is no difference for the person with homosexual leanings than for the person with sinful heterosexual leanings. Remember, God hates sin. None more or less than another.

chadwick said...

Jonathan,

You stated in the USA article:

"[Gays] often suffer as societal pariahs at the hands of misinformed Christians who believe that gays have chosen their sexual orientation."

The Word of God states:

"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."(Revelation 21:8) NIV

Is unbelieving a choice? Is the act of murder a choice? is sexual immorality (including homosexuality) a choice? is witchcraft a choice? is idolatry a choice? is lying a choice?

According to the Apostle John, all unrepentant "gays" have chosen their sexual orientation and they WILL be thrown in to the lake of fire due to their "choice".

Was the Apostle John "misinformed" when he wrote verse 8?

Blessings,
chadwick

Jonathan Merritt said...

Great posts and insight everyone.

Garet,

Yes, I do belief that many homosexuals are born that way. But, let's remember that scripture never addresses orientation, only practice. While they may never be able to change their desires, they can change two things:

1. Belief
2. Behavior

The interface of those two thing is where God engages man's sin. I totally agree with you: "While we can have a predilection to a particular sin it is not a justification for sinning."

Good word,

Jm

P.S.- Duluth misses you...

Jonathan Merritt said...

Joe White,

I believe that in America, everyone has the right to try to earn a living without unfair discrimination. Remember that being a Christian protects you from unfair discrimination based on your religion. Don't you think we should protect our gay and lesbian neighbors in the same way you are being protected as a Christian?

Blessings,

Jm

P.S.- THERE MUST BE A CLEAR EXEMPTION IN ALL OF THIS FOR RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Chadwick-

Good thoughts. We must be careful not to confuse orientation and practice. Scripture, including the verses you mention, teaches that homosexual PRACTICE is sinful in the eyes of a holy God. No doubt about it.

Blessings,

Jm

chadwick said...

Jonathan,

You stated:
"Yes, I do belief that many homosexuals are born that way."

Could you please elaborate on your "belief"? Are you 100% sure? On what basis do you hold to your "belief"?

Blessings,
chadwick

Chris Morehouse said...

Some thoughts:

One is no less gay for being celibate. Jesus says in multiple contexts that it's what's in your heart that counts. I think that applies here, as well.

Actually, scholars have raised many doubts about the favorite drubbing passages. If you are serious, you owe it to yourselves and your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to investigate this work more carefully. You may still come to a different conclusion, but at least you will have done your homework.

God can be found in surprising places sometimes. I'd recommend Sylvia Pennington's "But Lord, They're Gay."

Also, check out the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts. God's love is manifest in the lives of folks we might not be comfortable with.

"Do not call unclean that which God has called holy."

And we would not want to be among those who can only say, "But Lord, when did we see You?" I think we will be called to account for failing to do acts of love and justice when we had the chance.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

Randi said...

Jonathan,

I tried to have coffee with your mom at the Southern Baptist Convention once but did not hear back from her. Your father was holding the office of President at the time. I feel dialog is important and wanted to talk to her as two mothers who loved their children.

I have a beloved gay son. His name is Jacob. He is about your age and is now a student at Harvard Divinity School.

When our son came out, we knew nothing about homosexuality. We had to educate ourselves as parents. We visited with many psychologists and psychiatrists. They all gave us the same message. It is not a choice ... it is simply the sexual orientation a person is given. If that is the truth and I believe it is .... then we must look at celibacy. And to celibacy I will say this ... my relationship to my dear husband is so precious and important to me after 37 years of a beautiful marriage ... I would not deny a loving relationship like ours to any person and that includes the gay community.

My gay son has a heart that loves like yours and he has need to be loved just as you do. We should be encouraging all in the gay community to find a person to love and live out their lives as a family.

You are trying to be open and more loving but I must ask....are you really treating the gay community as you would want to be treated? Unless, you plan on remaining celibate, you don't live out your message.

There is a film you should see ... it is called FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO. You can get it through Netflix or at Blockbuster. It is well done ... premiered at Sundance....and has won many awards. It shares the stories of 5Christian families who have a gay child. It looks at the Biblical passages so often used against the gay community. I hope you take the time to watch it.

Randi Reitan, Eden Prairie, MN

Garet Robinson said...

My brother, thank you for a gracious response. I suppose we have plenty to bring to the table this next week.

On this (and thankfully only a slight few others) we disagree.

Grace and peace to you!

re: P.S. While we deeply miss our friends and spiritual family in Duluth, we don't miss other things. lol you're the best!

Chris Morehouse said...

Hallelujah, Randi! Thank you for such a loving comment, which brought a tear to my eye! Jacob is surely lucky to have you in his life.

All the best,

Chris Morehouse

Iam4Jesus said...

I ask, please....anyone posting here read my post titled "Burning Coals".

It really applies to this, but as well - Christians in response to any "opposition".

Let me know what you think.

JM. I would count it an honor

Thank you.

-chris

Chris Morehouse said...

To Iam4Jesus:

I really loved that post; it was very insightful. Now I have a term for what I've often tried to practice.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

Iam4Jesus said...

Thanks Chris M...and JM.

I am glad you can appreciate it. :)

Dave Miller said...

I heard about this thing from some of the SBC attack-dog blogs who were criticizing you. I read what you wrote and couldn't find anything to disagree with nor anything to justify the silliness of the criticisms you received.

Well reasoned biblically. Well written. Thank you.

Joe White... said...

Jonathan,

You asked... "Don't you think we should protect our gay and lesbian neighbors in the same way you are being protected as a Christian?"

No, I do not. While the right to privacy in this country extends to the right to engage in homosexual practices; we need not grant special rights and privileges to homosexuals as a protected class. Sinful behavior does not make one a "special" minority.

Far more people in this country smoke marijuana than are gay. Should they be protected from job discrimination? After all, many pot smokers are able to do their jobs as well as clean workers. Do they not have a right to earn a living?

Jonathan Merritt said...

Joe,

People who engage in illegal drug use are breaking the law. Making criminals a protected class is a non-sequitor.

Under your logic, they wouldn't even be given the right to privacy would they? Wouldn't that also be a "special right."

Jm

Chris Morehouse said...

You cannot analogize to drug or alcohol users.

It's more like a different ability that has no bearing on one's job. In fact, many gay and lesbian folk excel at their jobs. The data on chronic drug or alcohol users are quite different.

These questions were resolved in the research, oh, about 30 to 40 years ago.

While majorities can be wrong, this view is also significantly out of step with the views of most Americans. While polls find mixed views on marriage and civil unions, Americans overwhelmingly favor nondiscrimination in employment. Yes, even for gay Americans.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

Dave Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Blackmon said...

See here's the thing---I agree with you that the church appears to offer no compassion or sympathy towards homosexuals. It's like "You BETTER get that cleaned up before you come in here". My problem is not with homosexuals, it is with Christians who either (A) don't believe that we should lovingly call homosexuals to repentance and faith and/or (B) don't believe that homosexuality is a sin at all.

I've even had this one kid tell me that if we have fat people in the church we shouldn't confront homosexuals about their sin until we've confronted fat people aboue their sin of gluttony.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that Christians tend to express their obvious distaste towards homosexuals more than they do to liars or gossipers around them. In regard to the defense of your position on gay rights issue however, I want to remind you that:

1. there are different types of people who became homosexuals- 1) a victim of molestation as a child- this one needs healing touch of God
2) one who became a homosexual by hormonal disease-- i don't recall the medical terminology for this and 3) one who simply wants to try different life styles

--- Lumping them all into one category in how to deal with their practice is not a good way to reach out to them even if you intend to show your Christian love to them. If it's anything, it would only be endorsing their behaviors more when God is not-- Like the argument that we should legalize prostitution to protect their legal rights because they deserve equal rights-- well, they become prostitutes b/c they found their identity in the practice itself when they were molested in the past.-- they obviously do not understand why they want to go back to prostitution even if it is hurting them physically or psychologically. They don't know what is best for them.

2. Christian love, I think, would not see your loved ones left astray-- Even God disciplines ones that he loves and the Bible says, I am sure you know this, that faithful are wounds by friends.

Chris Morehouse said...

There are heterosexuals who have suffered molestation, too. Surely they need God's love, too.

The modern scientific consensus, while still evolving, suggests that there are multiple factors--genetic and hormonal as well as psychological (in very early development). These are likely to interact. Additionally, they are likely to be different for different individuals. Ultimately, it seems likely to remain a mystery--and we might add that we don't fully understand the interaction of these factors in causing heterosexuality, either.

Ultimately, it makes no difference. We are all made in God's image, and all are in need of God's love.

In The Good Book, Peter Gomes describes a man who experienced a change of heart, who began to see others as God sees them. It's a wondrous thing, and I've seen it firsthand. I pray we might all grasp the wisdom he wrote about.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Chris,

Receiving God's love is a privilege whether he/she is gay or straight, male or female, young or old.

Joe White... said...

Jonathan,

You wrote... "People who engage in illegal drug use are breaking the law." Up until recently, people who engaged in homosexuality and sodomy were also breaking the law. Man made laws can be changed; one day smoking pot may be legal. My point is not about "criminal" behavior, but rather sinful behavior. Since when does a sinful practice and behavior warrant a civil right?

Jonathan Merritt said...

Joe,

We have a very different view of public policy. I don't think our government should be a theocracy. I don't think that everything that the bible calls "sin" should be punishable by law. I think we should be driven by the principles of scripture to pursue a morally sensitive society that works for the common good.

That is what our founding fathers believe, and they intended to extend certain rights to everyone. One of those rights is "the pursuit of happiness." I think the right to earn a living without being subjected to unfair discrimination is a part of that.

You raise an interesting point when you say "man made law can be changed." You are right. And one day Christianity may be the minority, and I fear that we may be treated as we have chosen to treat others.

Blessings,

Jonathan

Jonathan Merritt said...

Chadwick,

To answer your question, it is mostly for experiential reasons. I have met with many people who spent years in every Christian counseling program around, have been on various medications, and have literally begged God with every fiber of their being to "make them straight." They can remember having felt those desires since puberty and they just want them to go away so they can be what society deems "normal." Yet, today there desires remain unchanged.

Additionally, I believe there is some scientific evidence that seems to support the fact that gays and lesbians are born that way. Much of it centers on hormones as there is little to no conclusive evidence that it is genetic.

Finally, and most importantly, I believe it for theological reasons. In Genesis, humanity fell. And this falleness affected all of our being and all of creation. You know the story here, so I won't bore you with the details.

Am I 100% certain? No. Like all things that scripture leaves open, I hold this believe loosely.

Jonathan

Chris Morehouse said...

[this one's longish, folks]

"For God so loved the world..." No exceptions.

And yet, when some folks don't get that message, protections are indeed sometimes necessary. It is still legal in much of the country to discriminate in housing and employment. So yes, I wholeheartedly support protections in those areas.

Please keep in mind that Christians do differ on these issues. If you are interested in dialogue, please seek them out. Otherwise, you'll have a dialogue among the like-minded, which is ok but which may not be as fruitful as it could be.

God does know our hearts. And I think that's what matters. Acts of exploitation, humiliation, violence, or abuse, whether or not they are expressed in sexual ways, are obvious violations of another's humanity, and are rightly condemned. In fact, many scholars believe that this was the basis for the infamous provision in Leviticus, which may have arisen out of concerns about temple prostitution, rape of prisoners of war, or simply "acting like a woman" (which would have been humiliating). That, plus the people's decision to put their faith in such a code (rather than in God), in order to make things right after events that threatened their existence as a people. Our relationship with God involved, and still involves, a bit of a learning curve.

By contrast, however, a gay or lesbian life characterized by mutual commitment, joy, and gratitude, will bear far different fruit, for the individuals, their families, and their neighbors. Indeed, they have. Look around you.

There are few examples of committed, loving same-sex relationships in Scripture. There just would have been no social space for them in that culture. Nevertheless, we can point to David and Jonathan. They had a love "surpassing the love of women," they embraced and kissed, they cried on parting--to a degree that upset Jonathan's father. Now, we know how the story turned out for David, so he was capable of loving men and women. But their story is quite moving. Golf buddies they were not.

There are also Ruth and Naomi. I'm not saying they were lesbians; there is not the same physicality to their story as in David and Jonathan's, they were of different generations, etc. But I am saying it's what's in the heart that counts. And they found themselves without male protection in a time and place when that was women's only safetynet. So they made the quite radical decision to support each other, with a statement so breathtakingly intimate it is still read at (ahem) weddings: "Whither thou goest, there also will I go, your people will be my people..." And they remind us that love is more than a feeling--it's a commitment to another person.

Even if those passages did not exist, there are abundant other examples that help us understand God's desire for us. One of the most profound passages about love is the famous passage from Corinthians: "Love is patient. Love is kind...." There's no qualifier that says it's for heterosexuals only. In fact, gay and lesbian people are capable of the agape, self-giving love that has long been recognized as an essential part of relationship, including marriage. Get to know gay and lesbian lives in depth and you will find ample examples.

Jesus also spoke about the sexually different, without condemnation. There's a cryptic passage in Matthew where He compassionately urges the disciples to remember the eunuchs, including those "who were born that way" (He adds two other categories: "those who were made that way by men and those who choose it for the sake of the Kingdom of God"). There are those who believe "those who are born that way" refers to queer people generally--intersex as well as gay and lesbian. Remember, there was no generally accepted term for "homosexual" at the time--the English word was coined in the 19th century, and Brother Paul had to come up with some phrases of his own. In any event, eunuchs were sexual outcasts, considered "unclean," and had to sit with the women in temple. They also had a reputation for sexual and affectional relationships with one another. They were "other," "not us," in much the same way that some Christians regard gays and lesbians today. Yet Jesus' words are loving.

Jesus' words are foreshadowed by Isaiah, who prophetically said that these sexual outcasts are dear to God. Quite radical in a society with such an overarching emphasis on reproduction.

A new chapter--one of many--opens in Acts, with the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (who happens to be reading Isaiah). Philip finds no reason why he cannot be baptized. With that simple act, Philip shreds the old definitions of who's "unclean" and who's not, unfolding and expanding the body of Christ in new and radical ways. That unfolding and expanding continues today.

Grace abounds--for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and heterosexual, too.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

Chris Morehouse said...

That's right, Jonathan. Many have prayed--and worked very hard--to become straight. One in particular, after many years of this, was on the point of suicide when he felt God's loving presence. God healed him--but did not change his sexuality. He is now the Rev. Troy Perry. There are many, many others who have traveled the same path as he.

I have seen many such formerly entombed lives renewed, redeemed, and revitalized by God's love. In every case that I know, their sexuality was intact, eventually becoming for many an element of a committed, loving relationship with another. God's blessing is abundantly evident in their lives.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

chadwick said...

Jonathan,

Thanks for taking the time for answering my question.

You stated:
"To answer your question, it is mostly for experiential reasons."

Your answer has shed light on the "crux of the issue."

The "crux of the issue" is this:

What is the ultimate determiner of truth?
#1)The subjective experience of the self?
#2)Or God’s objective Word and work?

I choose #2. Which do you choose?

Cordially,
chadwick

Chris Morehouse said...

Traditional hermeneutics has focused on (1) the Bible, (2) Jesus' words that have come down to us over that, and (3) the Holy Spirit over that.

God is still speaking.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

chadwick said...

Chris,

I see that you choose #1. Very interesting!



Sola Scriptura,
chadwick

Chris Morehouse said...

Chadwick,

I think you can see I'm not a literalist. I believe in all 3, plus a lot of prayer!

Peace,

Chris

Jonathan Merritt said...

Chadwick,

#2.

Jm

Chris Morehouse said...

Chadwick,

You seem to be saying there are no human influences in Scripture, when that has long been recognized as not being the case. You may be aware of the prayer of discernment, to know God's words among the human words.

In mentioning traditional hermeneutics, I was merely stating that it's not at all controversial or flukey. That is the accepted methodology, and each element has value in helping us discern God's will for us. (The Jewish tradition of midrash is a good one, too, but let's leave that for another day).

Bibliolatry is also a danger. Historically, it has seriously damaged the Christian cause, not to mention hurt actual human souls (of various kinds).

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

chadwick said...

Chris & Jonathan,

****(I gleaned from Jay Adams with my response.)****

The Bible describes homosexuality and drunkenness as SINS. Most of the "experience-driven" preachers & counselors label them as "sicknesses" or "diseases."

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.(Rom 1:26-27)

Paul's emphasis in Romans 1 is upon the "perversion" of sexuality. According to Paul, homosexuality is is said to be "against nature" (which, incidentally, militates against any genetically/hormonally determined view).

Homosexuality is a sin that comes from a sin nature, not a sin sickness (Brother, there is a big difference between sin nature and sin sickness). Homosexual desires come not from a genetic/hormonal sickness, but a corrupt sin nature. Paul, in Romans, does not mention that homosexuality is a sickness.

Paul's words, "against nature" (V26), plainly teach that labeling homosexuality as a sickness is wrong. Homosexual desires are not the result of some innate (genetical/hormonal/inherited) need; homosexual desires are SECONDARY, LEARNED DRIVES associated with habitual perversion growing out of a sinful way of life.

Verse 27 labels homosexuality as an "error." In all of Scripture, there is only one God-given solution to the problem of sexual desire: "it is better to marry [someone of the opposite sex] than to burn" (1 Cor. 7:9)

Marriage [to someone of the opposite sex] is God's answer to immorality (even homosexuality: "because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband." The old sinful pattern of homosexuality must be broken and replaced by the new Godly one.

The basic goals, ways and means for counseling homosexuals are found in: 1 Cor.7. Cf. also Gen 19:1-10; Lev. 18:22; Judges 19:22-26; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10.

It is just as misleading to speak of "homosexual needs" as it is to speak of "adulterous needs" or "intoxicating needs".

Here is the advice a "experience-based" counselor gives to sodomites:
"You are born gay. You will have to endure homosexuality for the rest of your life. Just don't act upon it."

Dave, is there any hope in that stoic message?

If a sodomite thinks he is born that way, he has NO HOPE. However, if a sodomite believes the Bible teaches that his condition is sinful, he has hope.

The Bible is clear: homosexuality is a sin; it is not a sickness. And that is why there is hope. What hope is there of changing genes? But God is in the business of dealing with sin.


And such WERE some of you [sodomites]: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.(1 Cor 6:11)

Cordially,
chadwick

Chase said...

JM,

I appreciate and affirm your call to examine and reshape our attitudes, assumptions, and behaviors towards our gay neighbors. While I very much support the efforts of groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, I also agree that we have an image problem concerning Christian love. During college, a research project (of my own choosing) about the gay lifestyle challenged some of my own assumptions. Nothing changed in my theology, but I realized my own approach to loving my gay neighbors needed to change.

We have another problem, too. A sexual, silent sin that is ravaging the Church--pornography--primarily among Christian men. I don’t know what the numbers are (the estimates are low, anyway, based on the issue), but I am convinced the enemy has a major stronghold on many men in the Church, which has largely stuck it’s head in the sand on this issue. This is one area where we really need to get our own house in order. This is relevant because the struggle is the same regardless of one’s attraction to the same or opposite sex, but more importantly, sexual sin is given a higher degree of sinfulness than many other sins: "Now the body is not for sexual immorality bur for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Cor. 6:13,18-20). Therefore, getting our own house in order, here, will reveal the chains of sexual sin for what they really are; lead to a better appreciation for what our gay neighbors face and how we can truly love and affirm them in mercy, love and truth (Prov. 3:3), and remove the duplicity in standing against one sexual sin while remaining largely silent on another.

Now, while I agree that God’s design for marriage is limited to one man and one woman, I disagree, with your call to affirm and love our gay neighbors by supporting civil unions. From a theological and policy/legal perspective, I don’t support additional rights or privileges for unmarried heterosexual couples living together and/or having sexual relations, and neither do I support the same for homosexual couples. At its most basic, supporting civil unions legitimizes, among other things, sexual relations outside of marriage and is, in effect, an end run around the only institution where sexual relations are ordained by God. Man-ordained civil unions arbitrarily place more value on group rights above that of God’s holiness and the sacred institution of marriage He ordained. While Jesus certainly modeled love for the “sinner,” poor, outcast, and disenfranchised, when it came to sexual sin, His demonstration of love always upheld the holiness of God and always called for repentance from sin. He called out the sin of the woman at the well who was living with a man who was not her husband; He didn’t condemn the prostitute caught in the act, but he instructed her to “go, and sin no more.” Having already affirmed the biblical institution of marriage between one man and one woman, how can you advocate for something that’s very nature is to subvert, to delegitimize, that which God ordained? I haven’t even touched on the severe implications this poses to couples claiming to be Christians and the local church in which they attend, but this kind of lifestyle is not only not permitted but is required to be confronted by the local church.

- This leads me to wonder:
as Cross Pointe’s college and singles minister, how would you handle two committed heterosexuals in a loving relationship living under the same roof? Is this something your church supports?

- If GA passed civil union legislation (exempting churches), would you perform civil unions if requested (and would you even need to be ordained to do this)? Do you think you would be able to do this as a staff member at Cross Pointe?

- Where does your own church stand in affirming and loving our gay neighbors by supporting civil unions?
- Do you support a federal amendment (or one in GA) defining marriage as one man and one woman?

- How about gay adoption--do you affirm and love your gay neighbors by supporting this, too?

- As for hospital visits and inheritance rights, what are gay couples being denied that unmarried heterosexual couples are being denied? Where’s the discrimination? Inheritance rights, especially, are easily addressed through a will, which even the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups strongly recommend gays and lesbians establish.

Please note an article that HRC has on their site, touting a non-profit’s loss of tax exempt status for refusing to perform/allow a civil union ceremony in NJ, which enacted civil union legislation in 2007 (http://www.hrc.org/issues/marriage/civil_unions.asp). I know you have called for special exemptions for churches (likely to be updated and nullified in future legislation), but there is now clear evidence of the threat of civil union legislation to non-religious non profits.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Chase,

Great post with a lot to chew on. First and foremost, I do not support civil unions.

Answering your questions:

- As Cross Pointe’s college and singles minister, how would you handle two committed heterosexuals in a loving relationship living under the same roof? Is this something your church supports?

We don't support this, and I am currently dealing with this very situation right now. Our approach is to lovingly help anyone who is living in an inappropriate way into a more biblical lifestyle. If this situation involves members, so if this is met with unwillingness, it would unfortunately become a church discipline issue.

- If GA passed civil union legislation (exempting churches), would you perform civil unions if requested (and would you even need to be ordained to do this)? Do you think you would be able to do this as a staff member at Cross Pointe?

No on all counts. My understanding is that proposed civil unions would merely a legal recognition, so this sort of thing would take place at a courthouse. But I am not in support of civil unions regardless, so I my conscience would not allow me to participate in something like that.

- Where does your own church stand in affirming and loving our gay neighbors by supporting civil unions?

We are just now launching a confidential website where those in our community can dialogue with us and even speak directly to the pastor. We have several gay and lesbian couples that attend our church, and we are loving them and allowing them to be included (not members) while explaining the biblical understanding of sex and sexuality. Dad preached an awesome sermon on homosexuality this past Sunday, which may be online.

- Do you support a federal amendment (or one in GA) defining marriage as one man and one woman?

This isn't something I have given much thought to. In principle, I would probably say "yes," but I would have to think constitutionally as to whether or not it is a state's responsibility. I supported Georgia's movement.

- How about gay adoption--do you affirm and love your gay neighbors by supporting this, too?

This is something I am currently thinking through.

- As for hospital visits and inheritance rights, what are gay couples being denied that unmarried heterosexual couples are being denied? Where’s the discrimination? Inheritance rights, especially, are easily addressed through a will, which even the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups strongly recommend gays and lesbians establish.

Wow. Big question. There are several, well documented discrepancies here, and I will probably do a whole post or article on this in the not too distant future, so I'm not going to steal my thunder. Stay tuned.

Great stuff, Chase.

Jm

Jonathan Merritt said...

Chase,

I included some stats about pornography in my post. Thanks for the good word.

Jm

Chase said...

Sounds like some awesome stuff that you have going on at Cross Pointe in relation to all/most of this. Very, very encouraging!!! I meant to include that I would like to see the local church as the safest place for gays and lesbians to come where a loving and redemptive atmosphere awaits them--sounds like y'all are there or at least moving there. God bless you.

As to not supporting civil unions, please forgive me. Not only did you not advocate for them in your article, but you in fact said "God's model is a lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual union." Mea culpa. Now trying to figure out why I came to such a conclusion...think it was the support for hospital visits and inheritance rights, which is usually linked to advocacy for civil unions.

Thanks for the stats, too!!

Chris Morehouse said...

Hello, Chadwick and other posters.

Blessings to you this fine fair morning.

There are many mansions in God's house.

There is more than one way to be a committed Christian.

I was expecting to hear about Paul. I love Paul, because we can relate to his humanity. He is sometimes forthcoming about his limitations. Sometimes he is unaware of them. He was human, after all.

We also need to remember that, in the prescientific world, people didn't have the information that we do now--e.g. "leprosy" referred to any skin disease, and congenital blindness had to be some kind of curse. We know better now. (In fact, Jesus knew better). With knowledge comes responsibility. How do we respond?

As a human, Paul was subject to the biases of his times. In no case do these passages ever refer to loving, committed relationships. Paul was likely unaware of any such relationships. His concerns relate to sexual adventurousness for the sake of it, for example, or "softness" (which may mean "luxury-loving," or in other words, a kind of idolatry and indifference to others). These concerns would have merit for gay or straight people. Also, when referring to those "forsaking their natures," he is describing essentially heterosexual people who forsook their sexuality for idolatrous, unloving conduct. He is not describing people whose nature is basically gay.

Again, he could not have known what we know now.

There are other passages from Paul that many Christians have wrestled with and understood as a product of his humanity and his culture, such as his concerns about women's roles, including women teaching men. There is no reason not to regard these passages in the same light. Again, when in doubt, pray on it and ask what Jesus would do.

Chadwick, you say that you emphasize Scripture. Yet you have imposed your own biases in lumping gay people with the "immoral." It does not say that; you are reading "homosexual" into it. Again, intent is key. Any act intended to coerce, exploit, humiliate, abuse, etc., would indeed be sinful and immoral, regardless of the orientation or gender of the parties involved. If the intent behind the act is loving commitment and mutual respect, that's far different.

You would not be the first to willfully read "homosexual" into places where it isn't. Yet you should know that people have paid very high prices for such willful misreadings. That misses the mark, indeed. There is a better way.

If intent doesn't help you identify sin, then perhaps effect can help. After all, "you may know it by its fruit." Coercive, exploitative, humiliating, abusive, and violent acts have tragic aftermaths. Loving acts and stable, committed relationships can be a blessing, bearing abundant fruit for God's people--couples as well as their families, neighbors and communities.

Again, I assure you there is hope. God has worked miracles in many hearts, and can do the same for you. I've seen it happen, and it's a wondrous thing. Who can doubt what God can do?

If it's dialogue you want, again, please get to know your gay and lesbian neighbors in depth. Try to see them as God sees them. Knock and the door shall be opened.

If you don't want dialogue, that's okay; God will keep trying. As for your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, the sheep know their Shepherd. God will reach them, with or without your support. You are always welcome to be part of God's work.

Here's a P.S. for Mr. Merritt and others: there are over 1100 conditions and benefits that accrue to marriage in federal law alone. It is impossible to qualify for them by patching together wills and powers of attorney, and they remain unavailable to those in states that have approved same-sex marriage. Experience has shown that separate is not equal: civil unions, while a step in the right direction, don't allow gay and lesbian people to protect themselves and their families on the same basis that marriage does. You don't have to approve. And our country's freedom of religion protects your right not to have such ceremonies in your churches.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

Bill Gnade said...
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Bill Gnade said...
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Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. Merritt,

There is much we have in common, at least theologically, but I found your USA Today article presumptuous. I am just old enough to be your father; I, too, attended a major evangelical college. And I can say that my generation of evangelicals (I no longer define myself this way) loved our gay neighbors the way our Lord would have us love them: we loved them in truth, with grace -- and we listened. We were the ones inspired by the likes of Francis Schaeffer, who urged us to engage with the broader culture on every front: philosophy, art, film, literature, ethics, medicine, politics, law. I do not presume to suggest we were by any means the first to engage this way, nor do I think we were "better Christians" than our predecessors. My intent is merely to point out that you have over-stated your own moral standing and clarity of compassion. There is a compassionate, wise, loving and shrewd phalanx of Christians walking ahead of you who have been "engaged" for decades.

Your essay assumes a lot. It assumes you understand what Christ means when He exhorts us to love our neighbors and our enemies: What does that mean and what does that look like? Should we, like our Lord, make a whip and vandalize a temple? Should we call our neighbors a "brood of vipers" and "whited sepulchers full of dead men's bones"? (And let us not forget that Christ NEVER said that "they will know you are my disciples by your compassion for your neighbors, your sensitivity to social issues, your gentleness of mind and kindness of speech, your systematic theology, your sincerity and earnestness, and your praise bands." He said that "they" will know we are His by our love for each other, which is according to the "new commandment" given Maundy Thursday of Holy Week.)

You wrote in your USA Today piece the following:

The most robust description of love in all of Scripture comes from 1 Corinthians 13, which says, "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged."
If, as the Scriptures say, God is love, then isn't it true that, if love keeps no record of wrongs, God keeps no record of wrongs? If love "does not demand its own way," doesn't this mean God does not demand His own way"? And if God is love and love is kind, then is God being kind when He mocks sinners, calls them "broods of vipers," and brings the Assyrians and Babylonians down upon their heads?

You get the picture (I hope) and it is this: Love is not necessarily what we think it is, nor does it necessarily and exclusively behave in a stereotypically Franciscan way. Love does get angered, it just does not get angered easily. Love does yell. It just doesn't yell without cause, or truth, or circumspection.

It seems you've reluctantly (and perhaps only partly) accepted the premise that homosexuality is inborn, or not chosen. True? I have written about this problem elsewhere, and I ask you to consider it now: Why can't someone choose to be homosexual? What is so morally unusual or even repugnant about homosexuality that a person "born straight" can't choose it?

Let me put this another way. If an act or behavior is perfectly normal, moral, good, beautiful and God-given (as some pro-gay Christians argue), then why can't such an act or behavior be chosen? Can you think of a single morally justifiable act that MUST NOT BE DONE by persons not born a certain way? Can you think of a single moral act that can only be performed by persons with a certain "nature?"

Two things: First, heterosexuality is wildly inclusive whereas homosexuality is undeniably exclusive. Christians who support homosexual unions and marriages believe that only those "born gay" can have morally justifiable sexual relations with a same-sex partner, whereas no one in the heterosexual camp believes that heterosexuality is ONLY moral if it is NOT a choice. Somehow many have come to believe that because homosexuality is irresistibly rooted in genetics it is de facto morally pure. And it is my belief -- as shared elsewhere -- that homophobia is actually rooted in this PRO-gay argument. A father of a gay son (the dad was a local founder of a PFLAG group) said to me (and others have said this, too), "Do you honestly believe anyone would ever choose that?" The THAT to which this father referred is homosexuality. Apparently homosexuality is so grotesque that one can't choose it: you have to be born "that way." But anyone, at least according to pro-heterosexuals (so to speak), can choose heterosexuality.

Second, the Church has always taught that man and woman -- together -- represent the image of God. Not one man, not a thousand men. Not one woman, not a thousand women. A man and woman in union are the image of God.

Hence, homosexuality is NOT on the same level as "gossip" or "lying." After all, not all sins are equal:

"I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is a sin that does not lead to death." (1 Jn. 16-17) [emphasis mine]

All bliss to you, dear soul.

BG

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. Morehouse,

I note that you began one of your comments with a scriptural citation:

'"For God so loved the world..." No exceptions.'

Apparently you think citing John 3:16 adds some gravitas, some import, to your opinions and your hermeneutics. But your exegesis is rather selective. Please, allow me to be selective, too. Here goes:

"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 Jn. 2.15)

Surely you see the problem. In John 3:16 we are told that God loved (agapao) the world (kosmos). In 1 John 2:15 we are told that anyone who loves (agapao) the world (kosmos) does not have the Father's love.

So, let me ask you this: Are you sure there are -- as you so dogmatically put it -- "no exceptions"?

Peace to you,

BG

PS. Are you really "Chris Morehouse"?

Chris Morehouse said...

Greetings to all.

Yes, Mr. Gnade, that's really who I am.

I am well aware of the context. My point is simply that Christ came for all, and died for all. No exceptions.

I am not certain what point you are making exactly, but I'm guessing that you are asserting that all same-sex love is "loving the world." That is un-Scriptural and not borne out by God's presence in the lives of gay and lesbian couples today. Can humans become too attached to worldly things, including, sometimes, even other people? Yes, but that is a risk faced by gay and heterosexual people equally. We can support each other when that happens.

Again, I think there is a risk when we substitute a cultural distaste for gay and lesbian people for God's word. Too often, we have erected idols on which we have been prepared to sacrifice gay and lesbian lives. There is a price to pay for that, and it is paid not only by gay and lesbian people. Thankfully, that era is passing, never to return.

In his sermon this morning, our pastor reminded us that, when Jesus reappeared to the disciples and showed them His hands and feet, and ate some grilled fish offered Him, He reminded them that God's word awaited fulfillment. There is much work yet to be done. God is "I-who-am," present progressive tense, and our relationship with God is a wondrous, life-giving work in progress.

I, too, have heard some great sermons lately. There are clergy, not just in gay churches, who are calling the church to repent of homophobia. A couple weeks ago, I heard a pastor speak of his evolution on this subject, linking it to other impairments acquired from his parents' culture (see "the curse of Ham") and ask for the congregation's forgiveness. I have never seen a pastor do that from the pulpit, and it was the most remarkable sermon I have ever heard, anywhere.

So, fear not. God is found in the most unexpected places, and healing is available to all.

Grace and peace to you,

Chris Morehouse

Chris Morehouse said...

Mr. Gnade,

A postscript to your response to Mr. Merritt.

If you cared to ask, the vast majority of gay and lesbian people do not experience it as a choice.

Personally, if there are any who do experience it as a choice, I would not exclude them from God's love, either. There are other parts of one's identity--one's religion, say--where a degree of choice is possible, but which are such a deep and meaningful part of one's identity that they are essentially a "given." There are also bisexuals, capable of loving men or women.

Your point about the father's views about his son's choice is interesting, but I think you come to the wrong conclusion. It has less to do with the inherent character of a gay or lesbian life, and more to do with the losses gay and lesbian people endured for telling the truth. Until recently, and still, sadly, in some places, gay and lesbian people who disclosed that part of themselves risked losing everything--family, job, home, future, even, in some cases, their freedom. Under the most intense social pressures, this basic part of their identity endured.

Sin--missing the mark--leads away from God and others, and ultimately, from one's self. Yet if you are open to the witness of your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and their families, you will see how, in many ways, their orientation has brought them closer to God, self and others.

May God's blessings pour out on all.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

chadwick said...

Chris,

If I were a "betting" man, I would bet the farm that you do not attend a Southern Baptist church.

Cordially,
chadwick

Chris Morehouse said...

Chadwick,

I bet you are not a betting man!

You're right. Still, my partner grew up in that tradition, and I have been to his parents' church on several occasions. I am familiar with that part of the body of Christ.

When I was growing up, my family belonged to a Presbyterian church. The dear ladies' Sunday School lessons came alive for me as a young adult in the Metropolitan Community Church, however, in which I was active (in 3 churches) for 16 years. Right now, we are raising a son with autism in a small town without an MCC, and participate in another Presbyterian church. There are some wonderful people there.

All the best to you,

Chris Morehouse

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. Morehouse,

I do not know what you mean when you say you are "well aware of the context." What context are we speaking of?

I submitted the text I did solely to point out that Scripture is not as clear as you implied. "No exceptions"? What does that even mean?

If "God so loved the world" is some sort of ideal, then why would John later write that anyone who loves the world does not have the Father's love in him (or her)? That hardly sounds like there are "no exceptions." Please clarify your position here.

Indeed, Scripture is generally not quite as clear as most evangelicals suggest. It is definitely not as clear as most liberal Christians pretend. You've oversimplified nearly everything in your posts so far in this thread, and I've just shown you an instance of this.

What does Christ mean when He tells us to "love"? What does love look and sound like?

The idolatry to which you refer, I am afraid, is almost entirely committed by those who support homosexual marriage. Yes, Christians of all kinds erect idols that are anathema to the "Word of God." But support of gay marriage is not exempt from idolatry, not one whit. Social justice, fairness, kindness, goodness, equality: all of these are idols when divorced from orthodoxy. And that is exactly what you are presenting here.

I am not big on appealing to Scripture to justify -- or condemn -- homosexuality (it smacks of an argumentum ad verecundiam kind of thing). I believe in reason; I am a bit of a Thomist. I believe that if there is a God, He is a reasonable God; I believe He is essentially reasonable, and that He is the guardian of sanity. Therefore, to me, homosexuality is undeniably contra-rational; even if I begin my inquiries as an atheist, I reach this conclusion. Gay marriage represents the undoing of the human mind. It is not a progression. It is a regression.

But if we must return to Scripture, then let us. The imago dei, the image of God, is man and woman in union. Christ and the Church are in many ways archetypes in the flesh; marriage as a sacrament informs us of the profound mysteries in which we live, move, and have our being. In man and woman we find expansion, creation -- the sharing of beauty and art and love through all generations. When our Lord speaks His Word into His Bride's womb -- the eager womb of the faithful Church -- we find new life as well, life that expands beyond itself toward the eternal halls of love, beauty, grace. And a man and woman give us complementarity -- the transcendent and the immanent -- which, when united, are the very soul of beauty.

Homosexuality can never be sacramental. It can never be expansive. And adding the blessing of marriage to homosexuality can never rescue homosexuality from its being contingent on, and derivative and imitative of, heterosexual marriage.

There may be one irrational element to what God has created for us in marriage, and it is this: in marriage 1+1 does NOT equal 2. In heterosexual marriage, 1+1=infinity. In homosexual unions, 1+1=0. All beauty, all life and love and art and music and sexual bliss and poetry and science have come through the union of man and woman. In that wonderfully mysterious fact we see the glorious imago dei. When heterosexuals make love, they literally do so.

I am sure all kinds of people, including homosexuals, experience all kinds of things in life that they do not perceive as a choice (as you say). Does that condition necessitate that the things we can't resist are morally acceptable or normal?

Either homosexuality is a choice or it isn't. If it is not immoral to choose it, then there is no reason to talk about its origins: it is irrelevant whether one is born gay if homosexuality is moral. But are you suggesting that sexuality of all kinds is NOT chosen? Really?

Lastly, what evidence is there that homophobia is a choice? Can no rational argument be made that homophobia is actually rooted in genetics? And if it is rooted in genetics, then what?

Blessings,

BG

Dave said...

Jonathan, thanks for your thoughts. It is so refreshing to hear your Christian viewpoints. I totally agree, sin is sin. As a gay Christian, I am so often dismayed when I hear gay people speak about how much they dislike Christians, and have no respect for God or any church---there has been so much hatred spread in the name of God, it's had a negative impact to many. (BTW, it's not just gay people that turn their back on God, as you all know). The point is that if gays heard a little more of "I may not condone what you do sexually, but you are a child of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and have the protections others do", they may be more receptive to God's message.

I've said for a long time, sin is sin. I really appreciate how you pointed that out. I was brought up in a very conservative home, with my father being an elder in the Church of Christ. I thank God everyday that' how I was brought up. When people I know speak of their poor feelings towards Christians I do speak up, as I do understand there is a lot of misunderstanding out there and all gays easily get lumped into one sinful category. The sad thing is, the world has a history of lumping people into categories and claiming everyone in that category is bad (or good). Many gays lump all Christians into automatic gay-haters, and I know that's not true.

I try to live me life that way God would have me to, to the best of my ability. I've always believed God will judge me on the entirely of my being, and not just one aspect.

I don't blog about anything very much, so I apoligize for the rambling. And I could write a lot about this whole issue, but will keep it short and wish God gives you many blessings. To all the Christians out there, may God bless you as well.

Ruhlmann said...

I find it condescending to be called a sinner by someone who is younger than some of my sweaters. I have been dealing with christian hatred longer than you have been alive Jonathan (gift of god). The homosexual community will achieve its goal of universal equality without the evangelical's consent simply because our societies are becoming more and more reason based. The christian sun is setting and with it will go it's hatefull influence. One day christianity will be a small corner in a museum display about man's savage and destructive superstitions. Only then will homo sapien have truly become an enobled species. Our sun will rise without you.

saintrage said...

" As for hospital visits and inheritance rights, what are gay couples being denied that unmarried heterosexual couples are being denied? Where’s the discrimination? Inheritance rights, especially, are easily addressed through a will, which even the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups strongly recommend gays and lesbians establish."

The discrimination lies in the fact that the heterosexual couple has the right to marry in order to address these issues, the gay couple does not.
Inheritance rights are addressed through a will, but the married couple can pass property (the roof over their heads) without creating a tax burden on their survivor the gay couple cannot. A will does not dictate the fair distribution of community property in the case of a breakup, a divorce court oversees a just resolution. Civil unions or marriage is a way for gay couples to take responsible care of each other in any eventuality.
Don't forget that freedom of religion is a first ammendment protected right. There are several mainstream Christian denominations (as well as Unitarians) who want to marry their gay and lesbian members. Do their rights to free religious expression not count because they are different from yours?
Why not allow the government to issue civil marriage and allow individual churches to decide whether or not to bless the union? The government can't force unwilling churches to do so. The government recognizes divorce. The Catholic Church does not. The government doesn't force priests to marry the divorced as it will not force any church to marry any couple who do not meet the individual church's criteria for marriage. This arrangement would be a textbook example of the separation of church and state.

Dave said...

Well put saintrage, one thing that everyone must remember is that the government issues marriage licenses, not churches, so marriage/civil union should be a government granted right while churches can perform a religious ceremony, which I totally respect. People must also understand that is sounds "simple" that we all have the same rights in hosptials, etc. I live No. Virginia, a progressive area, and when my partner underwent surgery, the doctor totally ignored my rights although he had copies of all the legal papers that so many seemingly believe solve the problem. If I had been in a hetero marriage, I would immediately be respected and wouldn't even have to show any papers to prove my role in the matter.


Ruhlman, don't be so vile. We are all sinners. And, who cares if you have a sweater older than Jonathan. Age has nothing to do with it. It's not possible for any human being to live to every letter of the entire Bible. Jonathan points that out and advocates for a compassionate discussion on these issues which we all have different views on. It's not necessary to be ugly with every person that sees things different from you.

Ruhlmann said...

Age has something to do with most things in life it has been my experience. "Vile"? You overstate the spirit of my comment and assume my intent to be rude. I stated my beliefs as has everyone who has posted here. My comment is dispassionate and matter of fact. Your response is reactionary and personal and I might add familiar.I take umbrage with Christians who define human behavioural impulses as sin which is strictly a "people of the book" concept. I believe in good and bad, healthy behaviour and unhealthy behaviour personally and socially irregardless of religious belief. Human sexuality is and has always been the favoured anxiety with Christians and seems to be the favoured method of their downfall. "There is a devil of that theres no doubt, but is he trying to get in us or trying to get out". Sexuality is the small change in life it has nothing to do with the business of life. Being homosexual is no more a sin than being Christian is a guarantee of virtue. There then lies the rub I believe. Christianity assumes me a sinner and I assume Christianity to be superstition. Are we both "vile" or "ugly" in our assumptions, our comments, our beliefs or are we merely two social groups with no more importance imparted to either? The latter affords us all a measure of dignity with no regard for assumptions.

redemptivetobacco said...

Most of these comments should be their own blog posts! Here is a quick question Jonathan. I have a lesbian couple that lives down the street that have a son named Jake. They actually met at Gardner Web. They have been together for 16 years and have a son. How do we as the church deal with a situation like that? What will that do to the child. I'm not "condoning" it, I'm just saying I really struggle with it. From planting in Midtown, I've got a lot of friends that are gay or were gay. Interested in your answer. I really appreaciate you asking and tackling the tough questions.

Chris Morehouse said...

redemptivetobacco,

Gay and lesbian families have been extensively studied, and with a consistency that is rare in social research, the studies find that the kids turn out just fine. And they are no more likely to be gay or lesbian than the general population--another clue that we may be talking about something that is hard-wired. There is one difference--they tend to be more tolerant.

Peace,

Chris Morehouse

Chris Morehouse said...

Mr. Gnade,

Greetings. Thank you for the provocative comments.

What do I mean? Simply that Christ was the manifestation of God's love for all, and came to redeem all. As you point out from the other passage you quoted from John, not all will hear the message. But I doubt that salvation is contingent on one's orientation.

What is love? My, my. Well, Christian tradition has held that marriage is based on three kinds of love: agape, or self-giving love; philia, or friendship (a radical notion at one time); and eros, or physical love. Gays and lesbians are just as capable of all three as heterosexuals.

Yes, love, and its physical aspect, are to some degree mysterious. But as you point out, love offers a glimpse of the great mystery. That is not closed to gay people; far from it.

It may be difficult for you to understand, but I suggest there are those among us who experience their bliss, their joy, their beauty differently from you. Committed love draws us out of ourselves and requires a sharing of joys and a bearing of each other's burdens. In our limited human condition, the self-giving that love requires offers a glimpse of the divine. As Father John McNeill pointed out about 40 years ago, if for some portion of the population, a same-sex relationship offers the best or the only chance of that kind of love, it would be wrong to thwart it.

But orthodoxy ("right teaching") can be an idol, too. And it can be profoundly, grievously wrong. "Right teaching" was wrong when it taught about slavery and race. "Right teaching" was wrong when it taught about women's subjugation. It is but one (evolving) guide for us, and ultimately subject to the authority of our Teacher. He proved willing to challenge the religious orthodoxies of His day.

I have no doubt that the religious authorities would have delighted in explaining to the woman at the well all the ways she was beyond the pale. But Jesus did not do this. And in her response, she showed the transforming power of pure love.

I would caution you against sweeping statements about what homosexuality can "never" be. If you took the time to really learn about gay and lesbian lives, you would find abundant examples of God's blessings in such relationships. Miracles abound. Do not call unclean that which God has called holy.

I have seen self-giving love among gay people, and I've also known people with profoundly disordered lives who happened to be heterosexual.

As for choice, again, I don't have all the answers, but the vast majority of gay and lesbian people do not experience it as a choice, any more than heterosexuals experience their sexuality as a choice. Even bisexuals experience their sexuality as a "given:" like anyone else, they can choose the individual they commit to, but they cannot suppress or avoid their feelings of attraction to members of both sexes. If there are any who do experience a degree of choice in their sexuality, and I've never met any, I would still not place them outside the pale of God's love for that reason. It's not the orientation, it's what you do with it (the intent and the effect). Most are right-handed, some are lefties, and a few are ambidextrous. Either hand may inflict a wound--or bind it up. It doesn't matter which hand--it's what one does with the hands that God has given us.

Did not God know us from our mother's womb? I discern divine intent in the fact that some of God's people are gay or lesbian. I don't fully comprehend the mystery, but I believe that God intends our existential differences to serve as "teachable moments."

Yet the existential differences mask our essential unity in Christ. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free..." I think God wants us to understand that.

You seem to set great store by "complementarity." (And yes, we are all made in God's image). Fine, though I think we can put too much worldly weight on this. But complementarity can be achieved within same-sex couples, too. Same-sex does not mean identical, and God sees to it that the partners in a same-sex relationship will have compensating strengths, as well as differences to work out. I do perceive divine intent in this, as God's way to our hearts by opening them to another.

No, I do not believe that homophobia is genetically caused; there is no evidence for that. As the great lyricist said, "You've got to be carefully taught." And I know it can be healed. I've seen it many times. God's power to mend a wounded heart is absolutely real, as is our ability to forgive each other.

And no, I do not believe that justice can ever be an idol, but rather, it is the result of right relationship with God, self, and others.

As I'm sure you know, the "phobia" in homophobia stands for fear. And perfect love casts out fear.

Yes, I'm still on my path. There are many who are wiser than I am. I'm sure I still have a lot to learn. But I am doing my best with what God has given me. And I'm at peace about that.

Blessings to all,

Chris Morehouse

Bill Gnade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. Morehouse,

Peace to you. Thanks for the thorough reply.

____________

ON LOVING ONE'S NEIGHBOR
There is much to cover in your comments. I promise to do my best. But the first thing I note is that we have lost our way: We are NOT discussing whether homosexuals can "love" each other with agapic, erotic or philial love (as you defended). We are discussing -- are we not? -- what it means for Christians to love their neighbors. I have simply asked from my first comments in this thread what LOVE means in Christian theology vis-รก-vis one's neighbor.

It seems that some people believe that loving one's neighbor is to tolerate them. To others, loving one's neighbor means to accept them in total. Another might argue that to love one's neighbors a person must fight for their rights, or to procure equality for them or perform some other noble deed.

Someone else might aver that to love one's neighbor is to confront that neighbor when the neighbor is in the wrong. Love, to some, is to criticize and correct, even to thwart those neighbors whose actions are detrimental or morally wrong. Love confronts; it takes account.

No doubt love need not be an either/or sort of thing. Sadly, though, it too often is.

This is the topic at hand: What does Jesus mean when he repeats the commandment, love your neighbor as yourself?

It is interesting that Jesus never actually teaches the "Golden Rule" (as it is known): he merely reiterates what is considered the second great commandment as passed down through Jewish tradition. But that does not mean Jesus does not command love. In fact, Christians celebrate Jesus' "new commandment" on Maundy (mandate) Thursday. Surely you are familiar with Jesus' moral imperative, which clearly supersedes the old law: "Love each other as I have loved you." Why would he give us a new commandment regarding love?

Simple, really. The old law -- love your neighbor as you would want to be loved -- makes YOU the standard in how you love your neighbor. How YOU want to be loved determines what love is, which is, obviously, a rather tenuous and ephemeral standard. And such a standard breeds moral difficulties: the addict in the heroin den shares his needle with his friend who does not have a needle; sharing is the loving thing to do because that is how he would like to be loved if he was without a needle. Surely you see the problem: the way people like to be loved is often corrupted by their condition. Hence, "love your neighbor as yourself" falls rather short.

That is why Jesus makes himself the standard of how Christians are to love each other. How did Jesus love his disciples? Did he love them without condition? Did he not confront them? Did he not tell them they were wrong when they were in fact wrong? Was he not at times impatient with them? Did he not rebuke Simon Peter? Did he not make a whip and vandalize a temple? Did he not ridicule the "orthodoxy" of the Pharisees?

Indeed, he DID do these things, and much more. Hence that is why I have said your comments about love in this thread have thus far been simplifications. How are we supposed to love? Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and that we should do good to those who spitefully use us. Were the Pharisees Jesus' enemies? Did he not chide them? Did he not fight them? Did he not say he came to bring -- not peace -- but a sword?

The fact is that Jesus is NOT about acceptance of all people. He is about acceptance of all people on HIS terms; HIS orthodoxy. And his terms are rather confrontational. To suggest otherwise is heresy.

_____________

MORE REGARDING LOVE (OR THE SILENCE OF SCRIPTURE)
Let me continue this with a fairly common polemic I've often heard in Christian debates about homosexuality in the church. It goes something like this:

If homosexuality was such an egregious sin, then one would think Jesus would have said something -- anything -- about it. Alas, we find no such thing mentioned anywhere in all of Jesus' words. Therefore it is safe to conclude that Jesus' silence on the matter suggests he has no qualms with homosexuality.Surely you've heard this argument, or some variant of it, before. If you have not, then, well, either you've not been paying attention or I have been paying too much. But there is something rather dumb about the argument, for it fails to note that Jesus didn't mention a lot of things. And one of the things that Jesus NEVER mentions is that LOVE is the primary prerequisite for marriage. There is no mention of it anywhere; I'd like someone to find a reference to LOVE anywhere in the New Testament that explicitly indicates that LOVE is the prerequisite of ANY marriage.

Odd that Jesus is so silent on such an important matter, don't you think? Should we infer from this that love in marriage is not essential to marriage because Jesus is "curiously silent" on the issue?

________________

ON "SWEEPING STATEMENTS"
Please, do not suggest that I am making "sweeping" statements about what homosexual unions cannot ever be. They CANNOT be sacramental; I have shown this elsewhere, but not without the guidance of the catechism and teaching authority of the Catholic Church: homosexual relations are not capable of being a sacrament, either of the image of God (and NO, we are not EACH made in the image of God), or of the deep and abiding mystery of Christ and His Bride.

If you will be so kind, please demonstrate either theologically or scripturally how male and female -- together -- are NOT the image of God. I dare say you cannot do it. If we know anything about God it is that he is profligate in his creation; fecundity is the very force of life. Male and female -- together -- are the very foundation of all that we see and know as humans; this will ALWAYS be the case. Tell me, please, how this is a sweeping generalization when it is demonstrably true.

________________

ON ORTHODOXY
You said that "'right teaching' can be an idol, too." But that's not true: orthodoxy can only be an idol if it is NOT orthodoxy; by definition, orthodoxy cannot be an idol. Idols are false teaching, and orthodoxy obliterates idolatry. Jesus the Iconoclast surely showed the "orthodox" Pharisees of his day that they simply were not orthodox. His orthodoxy trumped everything else.

The fact is rather clear that you are committed to an orthodoxy yourself, namely, that homosexuality is entirely normal. You believe it to be, no doubt, even a gift from God. Hence, if it is a gift from God, I repeat what I asked in my first comment here: If homosexuality is normal, lovely; if it is a gift from God; if it is morally acceptable, then why can't it be chosen? Can you name one moral act that can ONLY be committed by those born a certain way?

As I've said elsewhere, the homosexuality-is-not-a-choice argument is dead. It is utterly irrelevant to the issue.

_______________

MORE ON SEXUAL CHOICES AND HOMOPHOBIA
Actually, Mr. Morehouse, I believe choice plays a tremendous role in sexual "orientation." Right now millions of people are choosing not to have sex. Right now, millions of people are confronted with sexual choices -- and making choices to withstand certain temptations.

When I was a young man, I recall making choices about who I would have relationships with; I chose who I would even fantasize about. While I had several childhood friends who were experimenting with homosexuality (never without anxiety, guilt and/or shame); while some of those friends would later come out as gay, and while others are happily married heteros today, I chose not to participate in behaviors I found uninteresting, grotesque or self-indulgent. And I continue to make sexual choices.

I am not, therefore, as beholden to the idea as you are that fate or the irresistibility of something somehow justifies or sanctifies it. Just because a thing can't be chosen does not mean it is somehow normal or even God-given. Is cancer normal because no one chooses it? Is Down Syndrome normal because it is in-born? You get the picture.

But I have to add to this the rather startling and seemingly contradictory fact that I do NOT recall ever being taught to recoil from fire when it got near my skin. I do not recall being taught to wretch at the smell of a rotting corpse. No one taught me to use extra caution at the edge of a cliff. No one taught me to use my arms to break a fall. These I do reflexively and instinctively because they protect me from things that threaten my very DNA, my life.

Although it is really more metaphor than hard science, atheist-cum-biologist Richard Dawkins' idea of the "selfish gene" carries some ontological import: our reproductive organs, at the very least, indicate we as humans are about reproducing, just like every cell on the planet. We are, indeed, animals. As such, we have a selfish interest in ensuring our DNA survives; the birds outside my window right now are selfishly at work ensuring that their DNA, too, expands into the future.

Why talk of the selfish gene here? Because I can assure you of this one thing: No one has taught me to be homophobic. My homophobia IS not a choice; as I recoil from the threatening flames of a fire, I recoil at the idea of a behavior that results in the death of my DNA. And I recoil (though not as selfishly, so to speak) when I see others choose to participate in such behaviors. Sorry.

So, if my "homophobia" is not a result of conditioning but is actually the result of evolution, what do we do now? If homosexuality is to be justified -- as countless activists assert -- because it is not a choice, why is homophobia not also "wonderful, normal and God-given" if it, too, is not chosen? And why do we balk at hemophilia, Turner's syndrome, or Spondylo-epiphyseal Dysplasia, when these are not chosen?

But, my gosh, Mr. Morehouse. Your conflation of "phobia" and "perfect love casts out all fear/phobia" is preposterous. Does a woman, filled with perfect love, not fear the attacker intent on raping her? You just said that perfect love casts out all fear, right? So does the boy on a street corner who drops to the ground in fear of a drive-by shooter not possess perfect love? Was Jesus sweating blood and asking for the cup to pass on the night of his arrest devoid of love's perfection?

_______________

THE "DIVINE INTENT"
Maybe, when you say you "discern divine intent in the fact that some of God's people are gay or lesbian," we ARE seeing a gift from God, though one lost in the heterodoxy of our day. Perhaps those who are born with "same-sex attraction" are actually chosen by God to be celibate so to better serve his people. Since they have no apparent interest in procreating, their gift is to serve in a very different capacity. And perhaps because heterodoxy (mostly Protestant) has replaced orthodoxy (largely Catholic) in much of western society, those endowed by God with the gift of celibacy no longer have a venue in which to work meaningfully: they've been led to believe that the Holy Church has no need for their gift. Perhaps the more open practice of homosexuality has actually resulted in the decline in the number of vocations to the priesthood we are witnessing today.

Perhaps. (By the way, I am not a Catholic.)

Again, I bid you peace.

BG

Ruhlmann said...

Guilt was never my experience in my discovery of my homosexual preference and I have met many who have felt the same. I was sexually active when I was fourteen and until I was twenty-one exclusively with girls my age and a few older women. I enjoyed their sexuallity and their company but mainly I enjoyed the post coital physical intimacy. I was functional sexually with them and I felt a fondness for one that I thought might be love, but I could never get beyond a certainty that I would never commit to a single partner. It didn't seem as intense or as irrisistable as my buddies seemed to describe and if it came down to sex or fishing I'd take fishing.

I was working in northern Alberta when I was twenty-one and drinking and sleeping around. One day a nineteen year old guy in a real nice suit came to my door selling religion. Ordinarily I would have politely declined salvation and closed the door but I found something compelling about his demeaner so I asked him in. He went on for about an hour of heaven and hell and the rest of us and I barely heard a word he said. I felt an attraction to him that was beyond sexual although that was definately there as well. I went over and sat real close to him and put my arm across his back and leaned in to kiss him and he bolted for the door. I felt a little guilty that I had frightened him so but I never for a moment felt guilty that I sexually responded to him and it had never happened before. I sensed guilt on his part because he was aroused by my affection for him and uncomfortable about his own arousal.

He came back for his bible and pamphlets two days later and we were together for fourteen years. I stopped drinking and smoking pot and started showering and shaving every day. I got him to stop feeling guilty. My parents would introduce him to people as their adopted son. His parents damned us to hell as if it were possible for them to do that. He died of a congenital heart defect eighteen years ago and I style pyne for him. I am alone and chaste since and miss his sweetness.

Sexual guilt is not a natural impulse. It is something foisted onto people by others who believe they fall short of some ethic that they adhere to. They create guilt like a natural by-product of their faith. I rejected Christianity and it's guilt very young and am as certain of my opinions today as I was then. A god who would damn me for the only meaningful love I will ever have is not a god I could respect. Guilt is for people who believe they have done something wrong. Love is never wrong.

saintrage said...

In my first post, I asked a question that is pertinant to this discussion and no one has attempted to answer it, so I'll ask it again. I would love to hear from everyone on this and not just Jonathan...
Free religious expression is a first ammendment protected right. There are several mainstream Christian denominations (as well as Unitarians) who want to marry their gay and lesbian members. Do their rights to free religious expression not count because they are different from yours?

Chris Morehouse said...

Mr. Gnade and others,

Grace and peace to all.

Your post is thought-provoking, Mr. Gnade, but it falls short. I did find your discussion of loving one's neighbor thought-provoking.

However, I think you are badly mistaken in analogizing to addiction (the heroin den? really?). References to rape are equally unwise and ill-informed.

How would one love others as one loves oneself, or as Jesus called us to love? The prayer we shared in church last week suggests a place to start: "that all should know the fullness of God's love." Anyone who has experienced that would want that for others, regardless of the particulars of one's life.

If homosexuality is a sin, then it ought to be possible to point to some dire consequence. But you can't. If it is sin, then it must lead inexorably away from God, self, and others. But it doesn't, not by itself. Surely, a gay life, like a straight one, may have temptations and afflictions that lead one to miss the mark (a life of promiscuity, gay or straight, is likely to miss the mark by a long shot). But homosexuality per se is just a different way of being in the world. It is seen in virtually all cultures (and even among other species, though I don't mean that animals are necessarily examples for humans!).

Yes, we are all made in the image of God. There are many who do not read this as narrowly as you. Yes, heterosexuality can be fertile; there's no denying that. But heterosexual sex is not the only way to be fruitful in the world ("Do not say, 'I am a dried-up old tree'"). I also find it curious to load so much meaning on to heterosexual sex. It risks putting more weight on it than it can bear; such an approach would find a welcome home in some branches of ancient Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism.

Given the ubiquity of homosexuality, it is at least possible that God intends variety. Or at least God has a sense of humor.

When my partner's late mother and his father attended my church, their 45th anniversary was approaching. During the sharing of joys and concerns, two gentlemen announced the celebration of their 45th anniversary. I think God smiled that day.

One may read Genesis and conclude that heterosexuality is mandatory, or one may read it and conclude that God decided it was not good for "humanity" (the meaning of "adam") to be alone, and by extension, that all need companionship.

Most are heterosexual, but some are not. Properly channeled, both conditions can be an occasion for God's grace.

Oh, yes, and absolutely sacramental. I have seen abundant miracles in the lives of gay and lesbian couples and families. One man nurtures his partner after a stroke; today, that partner has returned to health, a cherished relationship, and a life-giving vocation. Gay and lesbian couples nurture lively, intelligent, and caring children. Such blessings I would sincerely wish for anyone, straight, gay, or in-between.

God's blessings in the lives of gay and lesbian people are abundantly evident if you take the time to look.

No, as saintrage points out, shame and guilt are not universal among gay and lesbian people. Maybe "delight" and "joy." Try asking a few.

No, orthodoxy can indeed be an idol, in the sense that we can sacrifice to it blindly--and sometimes those sacrifices are people. "The law is made for people, not people for the law." When in doubt about orthodoxy, the ultimate test is Jesus. And in the totality of what He says and does, I trust Him utterly.

Jesus does confront those who have not love but something else in their hearts ("whited sepulchres"), and reminds us that those who live in love are in God. That is something we would all do well to remember.

You seem willing to reduce gay people to sex only ("irresistible"?? addicts??), while waxing most eloquent about heterosexuality. That may be neat rhetorically, (if it's even intended in good faith), but it doesn't correspond to reality.

The next time you feel the impulse to describe gay people in these terms, I recommend you resist it. Compare like to like: gay and straight people who have found their joy in family, compassion and service, and gay and straight people who are stumbling and missing the mark.

The deepest joys in love come from serving others (where we sometimes encounter God). For most of us, those "others" will be family (we shouldn't stop there, of course--the community needs us, too). So none of us really has the right to deny others the right to form their own families. Moreover, any such effort is futile. It is God who blesses gay, lesbian, and straight families, and we would be unlikely to change that.

You may have overlooked the point that I think choice is irrelevant, too. Almost all (straight people included) do not experience choice, but those few who do are not beyond the pale. There is nothing--nothing--that can separate us from God's love.

I am not saying all same-sex acts are good, no more than all heterosexual acts are. Most victims of sexual violence have an opposite-sex attacker; that does not make all heterosexuality suspect. How do we know what is good? Look at the intent and the effect.

I did not say I thought you were homophobic. While we're on the topic, though, there are rational fears and irrational ones. And I do believe God can help here. (And gay people are likely to leave your DNA intact).

Yes, there are conditions that are not chosen that are best controlled, for the sake of the individual and sometimes for that of society. You might have made your argument stronger by giving as an example something like sociopathic personality disorder, for example. It appears deep-seated (whether for physical or psychological reasons, or some interplay of both) and is highly resistant to change. But the difference--and it's a big one--is to consider intent and effect. The sociopath is utterly uninterested in others except as means, and he bears no "fruit"--the effect on self and others is invariably harmful, often devastating. Neither condition applies to gay people.

Down's syndrome? I need no lecture here. I have people with different kinds of differences in my immediate and extended family. I don't know why. But they are also "normal" in that their conditions occur consistently in human beings, in a small percentage of people--they're just "givens." They're within the bell curve of human traits. Again, I think God intends variety--for its own sake, and like a good parent, as a "teaching moment" for us.

Gay people can and do make choices every day, sir. We can commit to a partner and learn what God would have us learn in the relatonship, or we can live fruitful lives as single people--options equally available to our straight brothers and sisters, by the way.

There's this notion behind your words that gay people are just inherently reckless (if I'm reading too much into what you're saying, just let me know). I'm amazed that some people think gay people are just capable of anything. Years ago, when I came out to my brother, someone asked him if he was afraid I would "attack" him.

There's a historical parallel here. It wasn't that long ago in historical time that women were thought of as incomplete men at best (and by some whom the church thought worthy to canonize), and as inherently unstable, childish, and just possibly demonic. Similar beliefs, informed by ignorance and fear, attached themselves to other groups. Isn't epilepsy possession? Some are killing albinos in Africa now because, you know, they're obviously witches. No--just normal variations of humanity.

No, it is not preposterous to pray that we might learn to love and cast aside our fears. I think it is what God expects of us. Do not cling to ignorance and fear.

It might be that "those who choose it for the sake of the kingdom of God" are the celibate, but it appears that the vast majority of gay and lesbian people, just like the vast majority of heterosexuals, are not called to celibacy.

I sense in your words a lack of familiarity with flesh-and-blood gay and lesbian people (you "recoil" from them, you say). I encourage you to get to know a few. You may be entertaining angels unawares.

If not, that's fine, too. Gay and lesbian Christians will continue to receive God's blessings, and share them with others.

May all know the fullness of God's love,

Chris Morehouse

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. Morehouse,

All peace to you.

It's a bit sad to read your comments here. There is presumption, even condescension, in your words. In what ways was the analogy used "unwise" and "ill-formed", Mr. Morehouse? And how can such an analogy as you've described, one that is central to the argument on love presented in my post, be at the same time "thought-provoking"? Please, explain and show. Don't just damn. That's easy -- and nearly always fallacious.

___________

REGARDING YOUR ARGUMENT FROM SIN

You wrote:

If homosexuality is a sin, then it ought to be possible to point to some dire consequence. But you can't. If it is sin, then it must lead inexorably away from God, self, and others. But it doesn't, not by itself.

This definition of sin is really rather anemic; it lacks any real vitality. If an adulterous affair is kept hidden, what is the dire consequence in adultery? If a man steals a lemon and no one else knows of his misdeed, what is the dire consequence in the purloining of a mere lemon? If a child lies about her whereabouts, what is the harm in that if no one but she knows it to be a lie?

The "dire consequence" of sin is not something other than the sin itself. Sin is its own dire consequence; the punishment of sin is to commit the sin. Raskolnikov stared at this fact with eyes wide open in Crime and Punishment; the bloody ax in his hand pointed out one eternal fact: he could NEVER say he was not a murderer. The dire consequence is not an accident, it is not even really a consequence: the wage of sin is death, the death of innocence, of NOT BEING a certain way. One becomes a sinner not as a dire consequence; it is coincidental with the act of sin.

This is an utterly Christian way of looking at sin. St. Paul decisively describes this in his epistle to the Romans; God "gives them over" to their sin. Those who have exchanged the natural for the unnatural, God surrenders to their condition, to their state of BEING. He does not bring some pox on them other than the pox of BEING what they are -- sinners.

In a very real way, sin is an inversion of Adam's creative powers in the Garden of Eden, where he walks about finishing God's work: Adam named things -- he gave creation its nouns -- and whatsoever he named them, that is what they were. Sin is to name things that should not be named; the act of sin undoes the creation -- and the sinner becomes whatever he names himself in the moment of sin.

Sin is not merely about act and consequence; it is about being and non-being. It is about undoing the created order; of rewriting it. The dire consequence is the act of sin and the sinner in consort; the person has sinned and thus is a sinner -- and this is a fact that is eternal. Nothing can remove this fact. It's Raskolnikov's revelation (in part).

And please note one thing. I have not once asserted that homosexuality is a sin.

____________

ON YOUR EQUIVOCAL USE OF "SACRAMENTAL"

Please explain how a homosexual union is sacramental. What spiritual (and corporeal) reality does it symbolize that cannot be fully understood without it? (Egads, you list such things as care-giving, nurturing, sensitivity, as if these are somehow passed along to us through the sacrament of gay unions you've witnessed. But yes, even the lower animals show such "virtues.")

You have accused me of interpreting the "image of God" too narrowly. Really? I should think that your definition of the image of God is far narrower; I fear claustrophobia when I consider it. My definition is born of nature, scripture (including, by the way, the majority of scriptures other than the Jewish/Christian texts), and Judeo-Christian tradition: humanity consists of male AND female. Adam is NOT defined as the image of God in early Jewish writings, nor is Eve. The two -- together -- represent his image.

So, again, if a man is not the totality of the image of God, what does TWO men in "marital union" represent since the image of God is not presented? What is the sacrament in that?

I once confronted an Episcopalian apologist for gay marriage who, during his defense of the then-pending consecration of Gene Robinson, referred to the church's honoring of a "sacrament of relationship." I asked him about this stunning bit of vapidity; every entity on the planet is in "relationship." Surprised by my challenge, he first argued that he had not said what he in fact said; he then insisted that he did not mean what he meant; finally, he admitted he misspoke. Indeed.

Again, please point out the great sacramental blessing, the deep spiritual mystery given us in flesh-and-blood corporeality, that homosexual unions present. And what is the great grace given in participation of that blessed sacrament? And why does two men in union confer this blessing while three men in union is anathema to your alleged sacrament?

(By the way, where does the idea of coupling come from in homosexual unions other than in imitation of, and derivation from, heterosexual unions? Why "two"? Where did you ever get that idea? Is a person alone -- masturbating, or adoring himself in the mirror, or caring for himself fastidiously -- sacramental? Apparently not. But if two people -- of any gender combination -- are in a sense MORE sacramental than one person alone, then why would orgies not be even more sacred? Curiously, this is precisely the sort of pagan-influenced reasoning St. Paul was confronting in Rome and especially Corinth. But seriously: Please, explain the magic number 2.)

Lastly on this point, you should know that in 2003 I discussed sacramental marriage with my priest during lunch. What did he do? He called Gene Robinson (they're good friends) to show his support but urged (then) bishop-elect Robinson to "never suggest that homosexual unions can ever be sacramental." And I discussed this all in a face-to-face private two-hour discussion with Gene Robinson himself; notice that the Episcopal Church has YET to manufacture ANYTHING like a sacrament of "gay" marriage since Mr. Robinson's consecration.

____________

YOU ARE A DISHONEST INTERLOCUTOR

Perhaps you recoil from the description of you as dishonest. But when you misconstrue my words solely in order to play your puerile "you must not know any gay people" card, I can only conclude you are dishonest. Moreover, I consider your remarks foolish, as you know NOTHING ABOUT ME. Amazingly, you claim that I must be ignorant of real gay people; if I knew any gays, you aver, I might draw different conclusions other than those drawn here. And yet you draw conclusions about me from your own profound ignorance; you have no evidence of who I am or who I know. Stunning.

What did I write? I wrote this:

No one has taught me to be homophobic. My homophobia IS not a choice; as I recoil from the threatening flames of a fire, I recoil at the idea of a behavior that results in the death of my DNA. And I recoil (though not as selfishly, so to speak) when I see others choose to participate in such behaviors.

And how do you mangle my words so you could insert the old "you should get to know some gays and lesbians" trope? Here's how:

I sense in your words a lack of familiarity with flesh-and-blood gay and lesbian people (you "recoil" from them, you say). I encourage you to get to know a few. You may be entertaining angels unawares.

Alas, sir, how do you know I am not an angel? Not only that, but my own words speak against you, as I said nothing about recoiling from real people. I recoil from participation in behaviors I do not find one whit attractive or beneficial -- to me, to my DNA.

___________

Please take note of something here. You have talked about sin when I have not. I have merely responded to your bringing up that topic. You have several times misrepresented my words, even presenting counter-arguments to arguments I never even posited. But I have not once misrepresented your words or positions, nor have I drawn conclusions about you from things I CANNOT know. Your courteous manner strikes me as entirely superficial; a courtesy of depth would not attribute to me thoughts or facts I've neither articulated nor shared.

Yes, indeed: "May all know the fullness of God's love." But since we've yet to make one step closer to understanding what LOVE is or what God means when he urges us to love as he has loved us, I wonder if such an exhortation is just more emptiness.

What is love, and what does it mean to love one's neighbor?

Bliss!

Bill Gnade

Chris Morehouse said...

Mr. Gnade,

Grace and peace to all this morning.

I did find some parts of your post engaging; I meant that sincerely. It is worthwhile to consider what is meant by "loving one's neighbor."

But I found the references to addicts and rapists uncalled for, and felt it necessary to say so firmly. It's unwise, ill-informed, and just not true.

Others on this post have mentioned sin, and that is indeed part of the context for the discussion. No, I did not infer that you have mentioned this explicitly, but you do argue from "nature," and from Paul's comments, which provide part of the context for the discussion of missing the mark.

Paul's comments, which I have already addressed, assume that heterosexuality is universal, and that same-sex attractions are idolatrous and therefore sinful. Today we know that some small percentage of the population, 5-10 percent, are *by nature* homosexual, in that their same-sex attractions are a consistent and enduring part of their makeup. We are indeed part of the created order; I don't know why. Paul did not know what we know now. Some things (such as women's role) he just got wrong. And the ultimate authority is Jesus.

Humanity consists of male, female, and yes, some in-between folks (including the intersex and those whose orientation and gender identity differ from the norm--in Jesus' mysterious words that many do claim as our own, those who are born that way, made that way, or choose it).

I sincerely apologize for any offense; I did not mean to be hurtful, and did not imagine that my words could be. No, I cannot know everything about you, and you'll recall I did ask you to correct me if I assumed too much. At the same time, we have both been engaged in abstractions to some extent, and I do suggest that gay and lesbian couples have much to offer the church.

FYI: My former church has a sacrament for "Holy Union" for same-sex couples and one for "Holy Matrimony" for opposite-sex couples.

Sin may be sin if no one knows, but the effect even in that case is the corrosion--and isolation--of the soul, which may be manifest to others over time. That's what we mean when we say someone is "lost" to sin.

If God would turn away from gay and lesbian couples, as you seem to read in Paul, surely there would be some sign of that. Instead, there are manifold blessings. You'll know us by our fruits!

I am not surprised by the reference to plural marriage, just that it took so long to come up. Those who believe they are called to that may defend that. I believe that it is hard enough to foster the reciprocity, mutuality, and concern for the other that we are called to live out in a couple, and just don't see how it would be possible with more. Based on what I've read, plural marriage disadvantages young men, puts women in insecure and competitive positions at best (and involves abuse at worst) and treats them as vessels, and is rooted in a patriarchal vision of society. Might it work among consenting, loving adults? Might it be sacramental, even? Maybe; I wouldn't say never. But there's reason to be skeptical.

For your information, I have never come across a same-sex plural marriage in my life. It seems pretty much a heterosexual phenomenon.

On rereading your post, I do find that you said you "recoil" from behavior (but do you find it an easy matter to separate your feelings about behavior from your feelings about individual people?). But I am somewhat astonished at the implication--no one is asking you to engage in same-sex acts!

I am sorry you are saddened. I am saddened that you took action to thwart your church's blessing of gay and lesbian couples. But it's God's blessing to give, not yours. What we do in church is simply acknowledge what God has done in knitting two hearts together.

What are the blessings, you ask? Well, speaking just for myself, as a child of God who claims all of who I am, I can respond to others, male, female, and in-between, from my deepest self. As someone who has experienced joy, I can experience that for others, and want that for others. As someone who has experienced pain, I can experience empathy, and believe in the God who suffers with us. In my relationship with my partner (19 years in September), we have helped each other through ups and downs, and I can honestly say I'm a better person than when I first met him. We have a son who is a blessing to us every day and who is our hero (honor roll this spring despite some challenges!). I honestly can't imagine I could be any happier, or that, imperfect as I am, that I could deserve to be. I can't look into the souls of my married straight friends, but when I talk with them about their joys and concerns, their lives seem to me to be not all that different.

As for my gay and lesbian friends, I am astonished at what they have been able to achieve, in circumstances that others might find daunting at best.

And while data are hard to come by, it's almost certainly true that far more gay and lesbian people have given heterosexuality a good-faith try than the other way around. They know what "completes" them. It may not be what completes you or others, but it is not inherently wrong.

You may call me whatever you like; I've been through worse, and will not respond in kind.

You may indeed be an angel; all the best to you on your path!

As for me and my household, I know Whom I have believed, and place my trust in Him.

May all know the fullness of God's love,

Chris Morehouse

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Mr. Morehouse,

All grace to you this day. May all be well in your world.

___________

REGARDING MY OWN ANALOGIES

In every instance here, when I've used an analogy, I have done so in response to something you've written. In one instance, you made sweepingly inclusive remarks about love; of loving one's neighbors -- "no exceptions" (your words) -- as oneself. In another instance, you argued that homophobia could be remedied by love because "perfect love casts out all fear/phobia." My response to these comments was to show them for what they are -- inanities. In addressing your first gross over-simplification, I wrote:

The old law -- love your neighbor as you would want to be loved -- makes YOU the standard in how you love your neighbor. How YOU want to be loved determines what love is, which is, obviously, a rather tenuous and ephemeral standard. And such a standard breeds moral difficulties: the addict in the heroin den shares his needle with his friend who does not have a needle; sharing is the loving thing to do because that is how he would like to be loved if he was without a needle. Surely you see the problem: the way people like to be loved is often corrupted by their condition. Hence, "love your neighbor as yourself" falls rather short.

Seemingly out of nowhere, you take umbrage with this analogy. Of course, you do not explain why. You merely take offense. Of course, you do not address the truth to which my entire paragraph points, namely, that Jesus Christ replaced the old commandment with a new one, the "new commandment" celebrated by the Church on Maundy Thursday. Incapable of either mounting a counter-argument or injecting a whole host of valid analogies that might not offend your sensibilities, you turn instead to the old activists' tactic of what I call the New Puritanism: you are offended by something utterly innocuous. This puritanism, this umbrage, is utterly common among gay activists who look for key words like rape, addiction, murder, incest, simply so they can impugn their interlocutor: How dare you compare gay marriage to something so, so offensive!

In the second analogy, in which I showed that your comment about perfect love was simply preposterous, you find offense in the analogue, rape. How pitiful. And how predictable. I wrote:

Your conflation of "phobia" and "perfect love casts out all fear/phobia" is preposterous. Does a woman, filled with perfect love, not fear the attacker intent on raping her? You just said that perfect love casts out all fear, right? So does the boy on a street corner who drops to the ground in fear of a drive-by shooter not possess perfect love? Was Jesus sweating blood and asking for the cup to pass on the night of his arrest devoid of love's perfection?


One wonders why you stumble over rape and not over the drive-by shooter or Jesus's own very real fears. Surely you could have addressed the point instead of plugging your ears with moral fussiness over alleged improprieties. What of Jesus's fears? Did his tears and sweat and pleas indicate he was imperfect in love?

Here's how you respond to my analogies in two of your posts:


I think you are badly mistaken in analogizing to addiction (the heroin den? really?). References to rape are equally unwise and ill-informed.…

But I found the references to addicts and rapists uncalled for, and felt it necessary to say so firmly. It's unwise, ill-informed, and just not true.

That's all you wrote; that's the extent of your umbrage. Note that you make no effort to discuss the points addressed by each offending analogy, nor do you make any effort to show how they were "unwise, ill-informed, and untrue." Unwise? Really? Prove it. Ill-informed? Are you sure? Show it. Untrue? Yeah, right.

The New Puritanism has reared its head. It's offended.
_____________

ON "PLURAL" MARRIAGE

In reply to my query how gay activists come by the idea of "coupling," you wrote:

I am not surprised by the reference to plural marriage, just that it took so long to come up.

Allow me to announce that I am not at all surprised by your response, as it is typical of gay activists to play the reductionistic "I've-been-wondering-when-this-would-come-up" device. Your use of it here intimates to readers a sort of mastery over the subject: you've heard this all before. Of course, this is actually used to avoid the question I've asked, and avoid it you do.

I have not introduced "plural marriage", as you put it. I've asked quite a number of things, all of which are related to the idea of marriage as a sacrament. I have asked you flat out about coupling. In this question there is the implied reference to tripling and quadrupling (and so on); but there is also the direct reference to singling, to auto-eroticism. In other words, I have not just asked about marital pluralities but also about marital singularities. Why can't a person marry his reflection? Why can't a schizophrenic -- a person born with a certain neurological propensity -- marry one of his alternative personalities (the man, after all, was born this way and has a right to love another the way he loves himself)? Recently there was a very public news story about the man who loves having sex with cars; having had sex with over 1,000 cars, he was heading to a conference to hob-nob with other "auto"-erotic enthusiasts. Should he have a right to marry his car? Is his love any less sacramental than yours, or mine? Who is to say? After all, he takes care of his beloved car and uses it to shuttle ill folks to the local clinic: the love he shares with his car yields so much good, so much beauty and service and joy. So what if he asks the state to take care of his car/wife after he dies: it's the Christian path he feels most blessed to travel. Maybe if you got to know more people who loved their alternative personalities or who had sex with cars you'd be more sensitive to their unique contributions to this planet...

Of course, I am sure you will now take umbrage with the analogies presented here, even if these are innocently presented as comparisons that do not make logic squeamish.

And yet you ARE concerned about the difficulty of relationships built on something other than the number 2. You wrote:

I believe that it is hard enough to foster the reciprocity, mutuality, and concern for the other that we are called to live out in a couple, and just don't see how it would be possible with more.

Please, Mr. Morehouse, what do reciprocity and mutuality have to do with coupling, let alone love? Where did you get these ideas? What of pure agapic love; you mentioned earlier in this thread that gays can love their partners with agapic love as well as anyone else. But love does not seek its own; love does not seek reciprocity, don't you know? It says so in 1 Corinthians 13.

____________


ON "BLESSINGS"

Here's your reply to something I asked of you:

What are the blessings [of same sex unions], you ask? Well, speaking just for myself, as a child of God who claims all of who I am, I can respond to others, male, female, and in-between, from my deepest self.

But please note the question I asked you (again) about the alleged "sacrament" of gay marriage to which your are ostensibly replying:

Again, please point out the great sacramental blessing, the deep spiritual mystery given us in flesh-and-blood corporeality, that homosexual unions present. And what is the great grace given in participation of that blessed sacrament? And why does two men in union confer this blessing while three men in union is anathema to your alleged sacrament?

Mr. Morehouse, once again you've reduced my words to meanings convenient for you. I did not ask about "blessings," I asked you about the "deep spiritual mystery given us in flesh-and-blood corporeality" that is revealed in the union of two gay men or two gay women. I do not care about blessings; I have no doubt that you could list many. And I am not asking about the sort of blessings -- such as the ones you list -- that can easily be found in all sorts of relationships, ones that have nothing to do with marriage (or even humanity, as all sorts of animals are caring, sensitive, nurturing, playful, empathic, etc.).

In short, this part of our exchange is another example of you misrepresenting what I've actually written.

Also, when you describe yourself "as a child of God who claims all of who" you are, and that God's claim on you enables you to "respond to others" from your "deepest self," I implore you: what does this even mean? Your "deepest self?" Really? Are you suggesting you know who and what your deepest self is? I thought sin and death and a fallen world have estranged all of us from who and what we really are; I am under the distinct impression that it is impossible to actually know oneself and that it is the goal of Christ's work in our lives to finally introduce us to our true and deepest selves in heaven. (See my "Letter to Christopher Hitchens" to gain a better understanding about our "deepest selves." Note, too, that if you can't really know yourself you can't love your neighbor as yourself, which is another reason for Christ's new commandment.)

I appreciate your fervor, your earnestness and sincerity. But I doubt very much that you are actually in touch with your deepest self. Sorry. That is just how I feel. But I also doubt that what you've said is particularly helpful, since it is utterly personal and subjective. How do your feelings about your deepest self help others to love their neighbors? And that is the point of this whole discussion. Not only that, it has been the question I keep asking here: I've been trying to stay on topic since my first comment in this thread.

It seems we've drawn no closer to any real answer about love other than something deeply subjective. And we keep going in this ridiculous circle: you said that "the ultimate authority is Jesus." OK. Fine. But we are right back to the beginning of my conversation here. You've gone nowhere. If Jesus is the ultimate authority on morality, doctrine, orthodoxy and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, love, then what is his love like? How does he love his neighbors? I have averred that he is not universally accepting; you imply that he is (recall "no exceptions").

This Lord and Savior, this lover of all mankind, exhorted his followers not to be judgmental, and yet moments later told these same non-judgmental folks to love their neighbors by not throwing their "pearls before swine." That sounds awfully exclusive to me. How about you? It's a bit hard to be non-judgmental and yet descry what are pearls and who are swine. Christ also said, "Do not give what is sacred to the dogs .. they may tear you to pieces." Where's the love in such a proscription? I thought we were supposed to do good to those who spitefully use us? Surely giving everyone that which is sacred is one of love's requirements, no? Who am I to choose between those who are swine and those who are not? Who am I to choose between those who are dangerous dogs and those who will not tear me to pieces?

As I said earlier, your arguments in this thread are fraught with over-simplifications.

Bliss.

Bill Gnade