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Sexuality and Christian belief (Was: Homosexuality and the Bible)


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Right there with you.

As one of the ministry leaders at SPU prayed this morning during a service for prayer and lament: "Let us only know the godly love that loves our enemies and loves our neighbors."

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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9 hours ago, NBooth said:

I don't know the "right" answer to the problems confronting Christianity and LGBTQ experiences. I know I'm steadfastly unconvinced by well-meaning attempts to read the Bible as if it wasn't pretty strongly anti-gay. Obviously, it is. But that's just not good enough; if I have to choose between God and the Bible, I pick God every time, and my understanding of God is that he suffers with suffering humanity, that he's out there with the forty-nine or fifty murdered LGBTQ persons at Pulse, dying with them, and he's steadfastly not with Franklin Graham or any of the other gay-bashers of the world who hide behind "family values" to justify their hate. 

Thank you for sharing, Nathanael. I'm right with you on this one.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I've mostly avoided this thread--partly because I already know what will be said on both sides of the discussion, since I've lived on both sides of it, and partly for other reasons that aren't really germane. I don't know the "right" answer to the problems confronting Christianity and LGBTQ experiences. I know I'm steadfastly unconvinced by well-meaning attempts to read the Bible as if it wasn't pretty strongly anti-gay. Obviously, it is. But that's just not good enough; if I have to choose between God and the Bible, I pick God every time,

Speaking just for myself, I think it is imperative for those Christians who believe or insist the Bible is anti-gay (i.e. presents willing homosexual contact as a sin), to be scrupulously honest about owning the fact that we are all sinners--which means we are all broken in every way, including sexually. Any attempts to divorce what the Bible has to say about homosexuality from the context of a broader discussion of what it says about *sexuality* is, I think, an evasion. 

Yes, of course, some people live healthier, holier lives than others, and that is manifested in all areas of human behavior. And yes, there have been some strides made by the Church/Christians to wrestle with sexuality apart from this one issue. But (at least in the America I know), we are still far more comfortable talking about homosexuality than about pedophilia, trafficking, objectification, pornography, rape, misogyny, fetish, incest, masturbation, fantasy, lust, divorce (serial monogamy), polygamy (or other open relationships), etc. At the very least, if we can't refrain from saying "you're a sinner," at least frame it as "you're a different kind of sinner than I" rather than "thank God I am not like that one, a sinner."

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Matthew Vine wrote:
: What we need to hear is this: God loves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people unconditionally.

How does that line in Junebug go? God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way. (Which is applicable to many things, of course. But I wonder what that conception of God's love does to a word like "unconditionally".)

: You love us and are committed to making the church the sanctuary it always should have been for us. Sadly, I have never heard a pastor who opposes same-sex marriage give a sermon declaring God’s love for LGBT people without including caveats about his or her opposition to same-sex relationships.

Not sure what Vine means here. If, by "the sanctuary it always should have been for us", he means "you should have been solemnizing our sexually active relationships", then, well...

And to be honest, I'll take the clarity of pastors who say God loves LGBT people but not what they do over the not-clarity of people who want the conversation to end with God loves LGBT people. (I trust it goes without saying that I'll also take the clarity of people who say God loves LGBT people *and* what they do over the not-clarity of people who want the conversation to end with God loves LGBT people. Vine, in this excerpt at least, seems to be wavering between clarity and not-clarity.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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15 hours ago, NBooth said:

I've mostly avoided this thread--partly because I already know what will be said on both sides of the discussion, since I've lived on both sides of it, and partly for other reasons that aren't really germane. I don't know the "right" answer to the problems confronting Christianity and LGBTQ experiences. I know I'm steadfastly unconvinced by well-meaning attempts to read the Bible as if it wasn't pretty strongly anti-gay. Obviously, it is. But that's just not good enough; if I have to choose between God and the Bible, I pick God every time, and my understanding of God is that he suffers with suffering humanity, that he's out there with the forty-nine or fifty murdered LGBTQ persons at Pulse, dying with them, and he's steadfastly not with Franklin Graham or any of the other gay-bashers of the world who hide behind "family values" to justify their hate.

Nathanael, I identify with your sense of sadness, frustration and with the sense of having thoughts on the subject that seem less than rigorous.

Following what Kenneth said, the American church’s teaching on this subject has got to change.  The time for this is now.  It’s time regular people began to stand up in their churches and tell their pastors and teachers that enough is enough, and if they don’t stop, it’s time to remove them from speaking for the church.  Regardless of whether any given local church takes a “pro” or “anti” stance on marriage issues, the extraordinary extra amount of time and effort put into emphasizing the sin (or innocence) of homosexuality has been a waste.  It’s disproportionate, and this disproportionate emphasis sends the wrong message.  It’s just not healthy, spiritually or culturally.

Issues of sexual sin, “sexual orientation”, “gender identity”, marriage and divorce, combined with the newly enhanced enticements of technology, are not being fully or effectively addressed in the vast majority of churches.  The clarity Peter prefers is needed, but much more than that is needed.  Christianity went over a thousand years without the modernized notions of identity that we’re all assuming now (and that motivates much of the targeting of people who are gay), and there is a great deal of theological wealth to be creatively applied in correcting the damage that ideas of modern identity have caused.  We need teaching today that explains how the ancients and medieval believers, who formed and articulated all the fundamentals of orthodox Christian doctrine, would have been incapable of grasping our advanced Gnostic divisions between mind/will and body/biology that is so often automatically assumed now.

God’s unconditional love for all means so much more than just being “accepted” in the pop psychology sense.  It means an active living community of sharing.  It means refusing to exploit tragedy as a means for blaming an opposing group of people.  It means that Providence has placed a great value on each individual soul, a value that is beyond our imagining.  Attacking or denouncing a people group as sinners has not helped us with this issue.  Affirming or attempting to validate a people group as acceptable “just the way they are” has not helped us with this issue.  We need teaching that educates us into understanding that we are more than our emotions, desires or inclinations.  We need teaching that explains how those who disagree with us are not worse than we are - that each person is more than his or her sin - that “they” are not more to blame for the mess we’re in than we are.

There should be a way for opposing sides to communicate with each other and to agree on some things in common.  Each new tragedy in the news, and the subsequent social media firestorm, always makes this hope seem further and further away.

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Just a quick addendum to my last post: while I prefer clarity over the-conversation-ends-here approaches *in general*, I don't believe that *every* situation calls for the full conversation. The immediate aftermath of the Orlando shooting is definitely one situation in which the full conversation would be inappropriate -- and that goes for both sides. Which is why statements like Vine's make me nervous: I can feel an impulse there to launch into a full conversation, albeit one that would exploit the sorrow to keep the conversation one-sided.

I say all this as one who went through a profound spiritual crisis 23 years ago partly because I was grappling with the question of how intersexuality can be reconciled with traditional Christian beliefs about sexuality: if there are people in this world who are objectively and biologically (as opposed to subjectively and psychologically) neither male nor female, then what sense do traditional beliefs about sexuality (which *assume* the givenness of maleness or femaleness) make? So I'm sympathetic to J.A.A.'s call for new teaching in these areas.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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20 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

Nathanael, I identify with your sense of sadness, frustration and with the sense of having thoughts on the subject that seem less than rigorous.

Following what Kenneth said, the American church’s teaching on this subject has got to change.  The time for this is now.  It’s time regular people began to stand up in their churches and tell their pastors and teachers that enough is enough, and if they don’t stop, it’s time to remove them from speaking for the church.  Regardless of whether any given local church takes a “pro” or “anti” stance on marriage issues, the extraordinary extra amount of time and effort put into emphasizing the sin (or innocence) of homosexuality has been a waste.  It’s disproportionate, and this disproportionate emphasis sends the wrong message.  It’s just not healthy, spiritually or culturally.

Issues of sexual sin, “sexual orientation”, “gender identity”, marriage and divorce, combined with the newly enhanced enticements of technology, are not being fully or effectively addressed in the vast majority of churches.  The clarity Peter prefers is needed, but much more than that is needed.  Christianity went over a thousand years without the modernized notions of identity that we’re all assuming now (and that motivates much of the targeting of people who are gay), and there is a great deal of theological wealth to be creatively applied in correcting the damage that ideas of modern identity have caused.  We need teaching today that explains how the ancients and medieval believers, who formed and articulated all the fundamentals of orthodox Christian doctrine, would have been incapable of grasping our advanced Gnostic divisions between mind/will and body/biology that is so often automatically assumed now.

God’s unconditional love for all means so much more than just being “accepted” in the pop psychology sense.  It means an active living community of sharing.  It means refusing to exploit tragedy as a means for blaming an opposing group of people.  It means that Providence has placed a great value on each individual soul, a value that is beyond our imagining.  Attacking or denouncing a people group as sinners has not helped us with this issue.  Affirming or attempting to validate a people group as acceptable “just the way they are” has not helped us with this issue.  We need teaching that educates us into understanding that we are more than our emotions, desires or inclinations.  We need teaching that explains how those who disagree with us are not worse than we are - that each person is more than his or her sin - that “they” are not more to blame for the mess we’re in than we are.

There should be a way for opposing sides to communicate with each other and to agree on some things in common.  Each new tragedy in the news, and the subsequent social media firestorm, always makes this hope seem further and further away.

Jeremy, I agree with many of your ideas and sentiment here, especially the need to rediscover our individual and communal identity within the church beyond modernized concepts of identity. And I think I understand the frustration behind your exhortation for people to stand up to pastoral leaders and tell them "enough is enough," even to the point of removing them from leadership. But the problem doesn't lie simply with pastors; this is a whole-church issue, at least for local congregations or parishes. I agree that much of the present-day teaching needs to be evaluated with a critical and discerning mind, but many (not all) of my fellow pastor friends are wholly aware of this and doing their best to shift the conversation and offer more robust theological, historical, and practical teaching regarding human sexuality. I'm not just seeing or hearing pastors make human sexuality and same-sex attraction the hot-button issue of the church--I'm seeing the people in the congregations raising the issue in volatile ways, whether via social media (which is so frustrating as a pastor to witness) or in face-to-face conversations and confrontations. I wish more pastors would say "enough is enough" to their congregants in these moments; it's difficult to discern when and how to exhort and confront in those moments.

When I teach or preach on human sexuality, it's alarming to me how many people still don't want to talk about it, or have such distorted beliefs or views that need serious deconstruction before something healthier can be rebuilt. I suppose I'm ultimately saying this: it's not just the pastors and the teachers, it's the ordinary Christian people who are often unwilling to be taught or rethink what it means to genuinely love their neighbor. In our cultural climate, pastors and theologians have lost much of any sense of authority on human sexuality, at least in Protestant traditions--it's the psychologists, therapists, biologists, and medical doctors who are often seen as having some significant say in anthropology and human sexuality. As a pastor, I feel my role is to shepherd and guide individuals and the community into an awareness of God, and to equip people with mental, social, and theological tools for following Jesus well. This is hard to do when people simply don't want to hear it from me; or they do hear exhortations towards dialogue, humility, and compassionate action, then simply nod and continue in their old habits. The image of a shepherd is helpful; she lovingly and patiently guides the sheep as best she can, but sheep can be fickle and foolhardy. Speaking for pastors, we can try to offer new and healthier teaching, but perhaps the pastoral vocation also needs to be reinvigorated as one with authority on such subjects. I honestly don't know how to regain such an authority or voice, or even if it can or needs to be regained...so I just press on and try to be faithful in the one-on-one conversations and public teachings and in my own life as a model/example for others. And prayer--the longer I am a pastor, the more I recognize the urgency for prayer.

I, too, am shaken and grieving, not only for Orlando, but for our nation and churches as a whole. And I'm thankful for this particular forum to have this dialogue.

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1 hour ago, Joel Mayward said:

... I suppose I'm ultimately saying this: it's not just the pastors and the teachers, it's the ordinary Christian people who are often unwilling to be taught or rethink what it means to genuinely love their neighbor. In our cultural climate, pastors and theologians have lost much of any sense of authority on human sexuality, at least in Protestant traditions--it's the psychologists, therapists, biologists, and medical doctors who are often seen as having some significant say in anthropology and human sexuality. As a pastor, I feel my role is to shepherd and guide individuals and the community into an awareness of God, and to equip people with mental, social, and theological tools for following Jesus well. This is hard to do when people simply don't want to hear it from me; or they do hear exhortations towards dialogue, humility, and compassionate action, then simply nod and continue in their old habits ...

Absolutely.  I don’t doubt the hard and good work you and other pastors do, and I can understand the frustration that must come with feeling as if your work & teaching goes unheeded.  Pastors & teachers take most of the blame because they are the leaders who articulate what is most often quoted - and many of the ordinary members of the congregation are not able to articulate their own beliefs and attitudes, if they are even self-aware of them in the first place.  I also understand that, given how media works, the most extreme and fringe teachers are the often the ones most quoted or given a public spotlight - and this mischaracterizes what a majority of those, who are less given to speaking out of hand, are accomplishing quietly.

Another problem that I try to keep in mind is that, whenever I feel like the vast majority of people around me are uncritical, not self-aware, unmerciful, close-minded and stupid in how they respond to human sin or tragedy, I then imagine everyone else, sitting in their own isolated corners, feeling precisely the same way about everyone else.

So how do we change this?  How do we enliven things with loving, energetic, engaging and historically-informed teaching?  How do we combat a culture where the greatest powers & influences shaping how one thinks, feels and engages in public discourse are social media, pop culture, entertainment, music, TV, film?  How do we give pastors like you a greater authority and voice?  How do we restore the everyday practicality of the thousand year old orthodox Christian ontology, teleology, liturgy and ecclesiology that we lost with modernity and the rise of evangelicalism?

And then, how do we set these ancient things in the midst of our crazy technological mass-media world of shrill public discourse, trivialized tragedy and less-than-24-hour news cycles? These are questions that I, and my closest friends, are growing more and more passionate about.  We feel, when we try to talk about these things in the church, that everyone else around is uncomprehending, as if we spoke a different language.  It seems like we aren’t communicating well.  (Yes, it’s true.  I still need to read more Alasdair MacIntyre.)

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42 minutes ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

Absolutely.  I don’t doubt the hard and good work you and other pastors do, and I can understand the frustration that must come with feeling as if your work & teaching goes unheeded.  Pastors & teachers take most of the blame because they are the leaders who articulate what is most often quoted - and many of the ordinary members of the congregation are not able to articulate their own beliefs and attitudes, if they are even self-aware of them in the first place.  I also understand that, given how media works, the most extreme and fringe teachers are the often the ones most quoted or given a public spotlight - and this mischaracterizes what a majority of those, who are less given to speaking out of hand, are accomplishing quietly.

Another problem that I try to keep in mind is that, whenever I feel like the vast majority of people around me are uncritical, not self-aware, unmerciful, close-minded and stupid in how they respond to human sin or tragedy, I then imagine everyone else, sitting in their own isolated corners, feeling precisely the same way about everyone else.

So how do we change this?  How do we enliven things with loving, energetic, engaging and historically-informed teaching?  How do we combat a culture where the greatest powers & influences shaping how one thinks, feels and engages in public discourse are social media, pop culture, entertainment, music, TV, film?  How do we give pastors like you a greater authority and voice?  How do we restore the everyday practicality of the thousand year old orthodox Christian ontology, teleology, liturgy and ecclesiology that we lost with modernity and the rise of evangelicalism?

And then, how do we set these ancient things in the midst of our crazy technological mass-media world of shrill public discourse, trivialized tragedy and less-than-24-hour news cycles? These are questions that I, and my closest friends, are growing more and more passionate about.  We feel, when we try to talk about these things in the church, that everyone else around is uncomprehending, as if we spoke a different language.  It seems like we aren’t communicating well.  (Yes, it’s true.  I still need to read more Alasdair MacIntyre.)

Oh my goodness. Thanks for this, as it very encouraging, on so many levels, but mostly in a sense of "I'm not alone in this." The questions you raise are significant, necessary, and hopeful. So keep having those conversations in your church context. I think offering an alternative dialogue, one which attempts to transcend the shrill, polarizing, hot-take ethos of our climate--at least the one seen on social media--is vital for local church communities. One thing I think I can attempt to do as a pastor is foster more face-to-face conversations and interactions around these issues; it's one thing to tweet or link about sexuality, it's something entirely different to have an honest and humble conversation with someone over coffee or beer or a meal.

And regarding MacIntyre, I just finished reading After Virtue. MacIntyre and teleological ethics is shaping a lot of my thinking these days. :) 

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I hope my comments will be heard, despite being an ex-Christian.  But living in the Bible Belt, the evangelical/fundamentalist perspective on LGBT issues dominates the conversation here.

I suspect that the evangelical stance on LGBT issues of this time period will be that which most embarrasses all Christians 20-50 years from now.  Just as Christians in the 1800s began opposing slavery (it took longer for the Southern Baptists to catch up), despite clear biblical support for this institution, I think a re-evaluation of the Bible's teachings on homosexuality is long overdue.  

For starters, I'm convinced that lumping LGBT identity into the category of "just another sexual sin like adultery" is indefensibly wrong-headed.  Adultery is a behavior, being gay or transgender is a matter of identity.  Behavior morphs over time (and in the case of adultery, typically seems committed due to immaturity and/or a desperate effort to avoid being alone when a marriage is tanking), whereas identity is a much more fixed thing.  Telling a gay person that a core part of their identity is sinful - that's incredibly damaging, and I would argue, immoral.  I won't mince words here:  much of the blame for the higher depression and suicide rates among LGBT individuals must be laid at the feet of organized religion.  There is blood on Franklin Graham and company's hands.

I'll leave it to be biblical exegetes to figure out how the scriptural reinterpretation would work:  it's been done with slavery and (to some degree) misogyny, so it can be done here, too.  I've seen some instances of contextualizing the behaviors that Paul condemned in Romans as more a matter of prostitution and idolatry.  That might be a great place to start.   

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Andrew,

If you don’t mind my jumping in here, in response to your last paragraph -- I’d suggest Borg and Crossan’s book The First Paul as one study that specifically covers this point (among others). They emphasize throughout that Paul’s position on several issues was “revised” by later writers, from radical to conservative to reactionary, in a number of instances. Not trying to start a debate, but in case anyone's interested here's what I gleaned from the book on this subject --

The bible does not provide a basis for condemning healthy, monogamous relationships between same sex partners.

There are relatively very few references to homosexuality in scriptures.

It’s not in the Ten Commandments.

The Sodom & Gomorrha story is about homosexual rape, not consensual sex between adults.

The Leviticus “purity codes” are in the context of setting Jews apart from Gentiles.

All the Old Testament prophets are silent on same sex relationships.

It is likely that David and Jonathan, Daniel and Ashpenaz, and Ruth and Naomi were intimate couples.

Jesus doesn’t refer to homosexuality, and many scholars think at least one disciple may have been gay. Jesus constantly went out of his way to include the marginalized, and taught us not to be judgmental.
Paul’s alleged negativity toward homosexuality was only against pederasty, male prostitution and other abusive practices that were common in the Graeco-Roman world of that time. I feel certain he, like Jesus, would have had no problem with the loving egalitarian relationships between gays that exist now. 
 

 

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3 hours ago, Andrew said:

I hope my comments will be heard, despite being an ex-Christian.  But living in the Bible Belt, the evangelical/fundamentalist perspective on LGBT issues dominates the conversation here.

I suspect that the evangelical stance on LGBT issues of this time period will be that which most embarrasses all Christians 20-50 years from now.  Just as Christians in the 1800s began opposing slavery (it took longer for the Southern Baptists to catch up), despite clear biblical support for this institution, I think a re-evaluation of the Bible's teachings on homosexuality is long overdue.  

For starters, I'm convinced that lumping LGBT identity into the category of "just another sexual sin like adultery" is indefensibly wrong-headed.  Adultery is a behavior, being gay or transgender is a matter of identity.  Behavior morphs over time (and in the case of adultery, typically seems committed due to immaturity and/or a desperate effort to avoid being alone when a marriage is tanking), whereas identity is a much more fixed thing.  Telling a gay person that a core part of their identity is sinful - that's incredibly damaging, and I would argue, immoral.  I won't mince words here:  much of the blame for the higher depression and suicide rates among LGBT individuals must be laid at the feet of organized religion.  There is blood on Franklin Graham and company's hands.

I'll leave it to be biblical exegetes to figure out how the scriptural reinterpretation would work:  it's been done with slavery and (to some degree) misogyny, so it can be done here, too.  I've seen some instances of contextualizing the behaviors that Paul condemned in Romans as more a matter of prostitution and idolatry.  That might be a great place to start.   

Your comments are certainly heard, and valid. I do wonder if Christians' responses to LGBTQ people is partly due to both geography and generation. Living in Portland, OR--where Matthew Vines gave a presentation last evening at a local church--I imagine my experience with the local church is quite different from yours, Andrew, on so many levels. I wonder if post-Christian or liberal contexts are having different types of conversations regarding sexuality than in more conservative, Bible Belt cultures. Regarding generational differences, as a pastor who serves primarily with teens and young adults, the LGBTQ issue is simply a non-issue for the majority of them. Their posture is this: we have gay friends, and we love them, and Jesus loves them, so why are the old people freaking out? I know there are plenty in the older generations on all sides of the debate, but the teens I know--even those in more conservative homes--are more likely to defend their gay friends in the name of Jesus than defend a biblical text or church tradition.

In terms of biblical exegesis, there are hints, or even strong correctives, about shifting views on slaves and patriarchy throughout the Bible. You can see this in Paul's writings, where he'll talk about how women can't teach men, then goes on to list a bunch of respected female church leaders in Romans 16. But the very few passages directly addressing same-sex behaviors are consistent in their approach--in God's design of human sexuality, same-sex sexual behavior isn't part of God's intention. With slavery and patriarchy, there are enough passages defending both positions that one has to discern which passages are stronger or need more emphasis, or are more in alignment with the trajectory of the biblical narrative. With LGBTQ questions, there aren't many passages to begin with, and the ones we have are all prohibitive. From the books I've read and the people I know promoting God's inclusion of same-sex attraction in God's design for human sexuality, it seems like eventually one must go *outside* of the Bible to human reasoning, tradition, and communal discernment, and state that these passages are constructs of their Greco-Roman or ancient Near East era and are not prescriptive for people today (i.e. Paul is condemning the pederasty and prostitution of the Roman empire, not committed same-sex relationships). And there isn't a prohibitive or a permissive passage for monogamous same-sex relationships in our modern construct of gay marriage. So, the argument from the Bible for monogamous same-sex relationships ends up based on speculation or silence. That doesn't mean the argument is invalid or unworthy of consideration; it simply means it's really difficult, if not impossible, to make an argument for same-sex relationships based primarily on the given text within Bible. Which is why many evangelicals holding onto a "The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it" paradigm cannot even imagine an alternative. As the American evangelical church is essentially text-based, propositional, and quite individualistic in its theological approach, there's often a lack of communal discernment and recognizing present-day contextual issues. Sadly, those same folks often seem to miss many of the Bible's clear teachings about doing justice, practicing mercy, love for neighbor, humble service, and compassion for the marginalized in the LGBTQ conversation. The appeal to the Bible for practicing justice for the marginalized is a much stronger argument for affirming LGBTQ marriage, IMO.

All this to say, as a pastor and a student of theology, I still continue to wrestle with both the biblical story and my present-day context and community regarding human sexuality. I suspect the evangelical church will be embarrassed by its often vitriolic tone in the public arena (or at least I *hope* it's embarrassed and repentant!), but I also have great hope in the smaller circles of pastors and congregants I know who are compassionately trying to do justice and enact mercy.

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Andrew wrote:
: Telling a gay person that a core part of their identity is sinful - that's incredibly damaging, and I would argue, immoral.  

I'd say "broken" rather than "sinful". But then, we're all "broken" in different ways. The question is how we live with the brokenness.

For what it's worth, in the latter stages of my own evangelicalism -- when I was being slammed by some of my fellow believers for giving gay Christians a voice in the Christian newspaper that I wrote for, and when I pointed to Tony and Peggy Campolo as examples of evangelicals who could agree to disagree on this issue -- I was never able to shake off the belief that same-sex orientation is a mark of fallenness on some level. God created the world a certain way, and now the world is a different way -- and this is one of those ways that the world is different from what God intended. I don't think I can take seriously any Christian argument that says God *intended* for people to be gay or transgender or whatever; to people who say "God doesn't make mistakes", I ask what about all the physical defects that people are born with. (Or do we no longer call them "defects"?)

Which, in turn, takes me back to the question of intersexuality, the discovery of which is what sparked the big spiritual crisis that I went through in the mid-1990s to begin with. It did not seem right to me that we should ask a person born with ambiguous genitalia (a much more objective, and thus indisputable, phenomenon than one's subjective gender identity) to be celibate for life; but intersexuality is so rare (about 0.2% of the population; transgendered people make up about 0.3%) that, if we were going to say that that person could have a relationship with someone else, then odds were the partner they'd have would *not* be intersex, and would have to be open to something other than a strict opposite-sex relationship... and then there are implications that follow from *that*, of course.

This is something that virtually no one in the church circles I know has ever talked about. They weren't talking about it 20 years ago, and they're barely talking about it now. And matters aren't helped by Biola and other Christian colleges declaring that a "biblical" standard of sexuality dictates how people who are "genetically male" and "genetically female" relate to each other. The Bible doesn't say *anything* about genetics. No one knew about X chromosomes or Y chromsomes when my parents were born. And now that we *do* know about them, we know that some men don't have Y chromosomes and some women do (where "men" and "women" are defined based on how we would classify them if we simply had their anatomy to go by). There are a lot of assumptions going around that people haven't done any real thinking about.

: I've seen some instances of contextualizing the behaviors that Paul condemned in Romans as more a matter of prostitution and idolatry.  That might be a great place to start.   

I find those arguments unpersuasive. But I also think people tend to misconstrue the rhetorical thrust of what Paul says in Romans 1:26-27 when they look at those verses outside of the context of that chapter as a whole (to say nothing of when they look at that chapter outside of the context of the chapter that follows it). Paul, in Romans 1, says same-sex attraction is the *punishment* for *other* sins. Like a good first-century Jew (and *unlike* the Greco-Roman pagans, who could be aggressively bisexual!), he takes it for granted that sexual activity between two people of the same sex is Not A Good Thing. But, as per the point I made above, he focuses on how that activity is symptomatic of a broken world -- and on how we Jewish Christians shouldn't feel so smug about how much better we are than those decadent Gentiles over there.

phlox wrote:
: It is likely that David and Jonathan, Daniel and Ashpenaz, and Ruth and Naomi were intimate couples.

Oh please. You mean Borg and Crossan have been peddling *that* nonsense, too?

Honestly, I'm much more open to John Shelby Spong's idea that Paul was a self-hating gay (as Spong would put it) than I am to this idea that close friendships must always have been sexual in nature. (And there's not even any evidence to suggest that Daniel and Ashpenaz were particularly close friends!)

: Jesus doesn’t refer to homosexuality . . .

Depending on what you make of the reference (in John's gospel I think) to people who were "born eunuchs".

Joel Mayward wrote:
: As the American evangelical church is essentially text-based, propositional, and quite individualistic in its theological approach, there's often a lack of communal discernment and recognizing present-day contextual issues. 

Ah, but that same text-based, propositional and individualistic approach leads to competing interpretations, too (hence the Tony and Peggy Campolo example I cited above). In the latter days of my own evangelicalism, I used to say that there was no strong reason to oppose same-sex relationships on a purely "sola scriptura" basis, and I did notice how a lot of evangelicals began appealing to "two thousand years of traditional interpretation", which I thought was funny in light of how Protestantism is *by definition* all about rejecting traditional interpretations and authority structures (though not always to the same degree; hence there are Reformers and there are Radical Reformers, etc).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Delayed reaction here, but this bit has been nagging at me...

Joel Mayward wrote:
: Regarding generational differences, as a pastor who serves primarily with teens and young adults, the LGBTQ issue is simply a non-issue for the majority of them. Their posture is this: we have gay friends, and we love them, and Jesus loves them, so why are the old people freaking out? I know there are plenty in the older generations on all sides of the debate, but the teens I know--even those in more conservative homes--are more likely to defend their gay friends in the name of Jesus than defend a biblical text or church tradition.

Just wondering, Joel: where do these teens and young adults fit on the belief continuum when it comes to sex outside of marriage?

In the 20+ years that I have wrestled with this issue and discussed it with people on all sides, I have *never* lost my belief that sex is meant to happen only within marriage, and I have also *never* heard any of the pro-gay advocates discuss what it would mean for a gay Christian to abstain from sex until... whatever (call it marriage, call it a rite of blessing, call it whatever was available at any given point in time within the past 20+ years).

Back when I was covering the Anglican schism (about 15 years ago), a conservative vicar told me he wondered how much of the support for gay Anglicans was coming from straight people who wanted their non-marital sexually active relationships validated by association, and I've wondered that from time to time too.

I'm frankly not sure which would be worse: that young Christians advocate a double standard where heterosexuals have to wait until marriage but gays don't, or that young Christians simply abandon the concept of waiting until marriage altogether.

(One obvious complication here is that some people don't *know* whether they are gay or straight at first -- they might be bisexual with gay or straight leanings, for example -- and thus people wrestling with their sexuality might feel that they need to "experiment" a bit before committing to one side or the other. But Christian sexual morality doesn't really allow for "experimenting" with multiple partners before settling on one.)

phlox:
: Jesus constantly went out of his way to include the marginalized, and taught us not to be judgmental.

Jesus was very accepting of the Samaritan woman, who had been married and divorced multiple times. He was also very clear that divorce and remarriage, in almost all cases, is a form of adultery and Not Good. Whether he was being "judgmental" when he said that, I couldn't say. But he did say that. Let's not pretend he was all *that* laissez-faire.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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2 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Just wondering, Joel: where do these teens and young adults fit on the belief continuum when it comes to sex outside of marriage?

Good question. I've heard a pro-gay stance from teens/young adults who otherwise hold conservative sexual views, (i.e. waiting until marriage for sexual intercourse), but I've also encountered young people with fairly liberal sexual mores advocating for same-sex marriage, though with very different motives. The former argument is more about justice and emphasizes the importance of marriage and inclusion; the latter is mostly akin to "if two people are in love, why wait?" In hearing their arguments, and without discounting them, I have to recognize that many of these teens and young adults are still in the stage of life where exploration and uncertainty about their entire identities--sexual, ethical, spiritual, social (if one could even somehow parse these!)--are all being both constructed and deconstructed.

Peter wrote: 

Quote

"I'm frankly not sure which would be worse: that young Christians advocate a double standard where heterosexuals have to wait until marriage but gays don't, or that young Christians simply abandon the concept of waiting until marriage altogether."

The sad truth is that many (not all) young Christians *have* abandoned the concept of waiting until marriage altogether. As puberty hits earlier (10.5 in girls, and getting younger), and the average age for marrying increases in Western cultures (27 for women, 29 for men), it's proving difficult for young people to wait 10, 15, 20 years to not have sex, particularly in a culture where sexual norms and ethics have shifted due to all sorts of factors (birth control, sexual revolution, economy, marketing, porn, Internet, etc.). I think it's absolutely possible and beneficial for young people to wait until marriage for sex, but I also have to acknowledge that contemporary Western culture is very different than when the Bible was written. As someone in a Christian pastoral role who still advocates that God's design for human sexuality is best and most fully expressed in the context of marriage, this cultural shift is making my job increasingly complex, especially when young people's parents also don't seem to mind if their teens have sex. (I've actually written a book on sexuality for parents of teens, fwiw.)

To be clear: I am not advocating in my statements above for a more lax, liberal stance on sexuality, or abandoning marriage. I'm only observing--in sweeping terms, I admit--that there are some generational differences I've encountered regarding LGBTQ responses.

Tim Otto's book Oriented to Faith addresses this issue in saying that both sides of the same-sex marriage argument have one thing in common: they're all pro-marriage, and hold marriage in the highest esteem. He points out that often both sides often elevate the "traditional family" to a point of idolatry:

Quote

Ironically, the traditional and affirming churches are mirror images of each other, with the traditional side worrying that same-sex marriages will erode the "traditional family" and the affirming side demanding that gays and lesbians have access to the "traditional family." Both sides are assuming our culture's vision of family rather than inviting the conflict to help us think about Jesus' kingdom vision of family.

 

Edited by Joel Mayward
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Related: Pope Francis made some interesting comments about marriage, especially about cohabitation.

Quote

A layman asked about the “crisis of marriage” and how Catholics can help educate youth in love, help them learn about sacramental marriage, and help them overcome “their resistance, delusions and fears.”

The Pope answered from his own experience.

“I heard a bishop say some months ago that he met a boy that had finished his university studies, and said ‘I want to become a priest, but only for 10 years.’ It’s the culture of the provisional. And this happens everywhere, also in priestly life, in religious life,” he said.

“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say “yes, for the rest of my life!” but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”

 

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Just a couple of things in response:

- I've not read Borg and Crossan's book, but some of their arguments are familiar from other contexts - i.e., David and Jonathan's relationship from a recent book on the history vs. propaganda for the life of David.

- Joel, I don't have the broad experience of working with Christian youth that you do, but what you describe meshes very strongly with my almost 17 year old daughter's narrative.  She takes her Christian faith very seriously (devotions, church attendance, self-identity), but also takes an affirming stance towards the LGBTQ community, to the point of belonging to her school's gay-straight alliance, going to LGBTQ rallies of support, and public Facebook postings.

- I don't see that shifting the terminology from 'sinful' to 'broken' does any practical good.  I would propose a role-reversal:  imagine that you heard Bible teaching that routinely said your heterosexual monogamy was evidence of your brokenness, not to mention heard/read lots of hate speech condemning that orientation and endured family members who condemned your orientation.  (I had a severely depressed patient in my office this week who was in tears over such issues, by the way.)  To be told that your deepest yearnings and attractions are immoral is incredibly damaging and destructive.  I think until this tone shifts, the church will still be answerable for the high rates of depression and suicide in the LGBTQ community.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
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1 hour ago, Andrew said:

- I don't see that shifting the terminology from 'sinful' to 'broken' does any practical good.  I would propose a role-reversal:  imagine that you heard Bible teaching that routinely said your heterosexual monogamy was evidence of your brokenness, not to mention heard/read lots of hate speech condemning that orientation and endured family members who condemned your orientation.  (I had a severely depressed patient in my office this week who was in tears over such issues, by the way.)  To be told that your deepest yearnings and attractions are immoral is incredibly damaging and destructive.  I think until this tone shifts, the church will still be answerable for the high rates of depression and suicide in the LGBTQ community.

I know I backed off from posting in this thread, but can I just stick my head in to offer my agreement with this paragraph? It seems to me that one of the biggest faults in the way the church--the American Protestant church, in particular--deals with LGBTQ people is that it doesn't listen to the lived experiences of LGBTQ persons (I'm not talking about people in this thread; I'm talking more generally) and so winds up not accurately dealing with the actual issues raised. And, often, the tone winds up being "Well, what do we (implicitly straight) people do about them (gay people, bi people, trans people)?" Saying "You're not sinful, you're just broken" sounds a lot better to people who aren't told every single day that they're sinful/broken. Making the further move toward saying "...and so am I" might help matters some, but I'm not sure it helps all that much if it means that, structurally, nothing changes (and, yes, I'm talking ultimately about solemnizing same-sex unions). [As a side note, at least one of the victims in Orlando,  Joel Rayon Paniagua, is described as "a humble, cheerful, religious person." Though not all of the victims that night were LGBTQ, the bulk of them where, and it's important to keep in mind that there were probably Christians among them. The boundary between the two communities is much more permeable than it's often portrayed in the discourse] 

The problem with all of this--and one of the other reasons I avoided this thread, for the most part, until my rant the other day--is that the whole discussion presupposes the primacy of straight people to determine the legitimacy of LGBTQ people, and that's even if the ultimate "standard" is the Bible (which is, as pointed out above, actually spectacularly unhelpful in dealing with on-the-ground issues facing LGBTQ persons today).* I'm still enough of a Baptist to believe in some form of soul competency, which means that I think that LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people alone are responsible for discerning how an LGBTQ orientation aligns with whatever metaphysical/theological framework.**

Then again, I'm a Leftist Anarcho-Protestant, so my perspective is likely to be substantially different from most other people on this board.

[As a side note, Peter, in what might be an ironic twist, your own prior accounts, years ago, of your inquiries into intersexuality etc etc etc actually helped me solidify my own views on all of this, so thank you for that]

[Further note: Like Peter, I don't buy most of the attempts to re-read the "clobber texts" as gay-affirming, though I think there's a lot to be said for the LGBTQ tradition of reading, for instance, David and Jonathan as a gay couple; iirc, that's been a story gay people have latched onto for a long time precisely because it presents an elastic boundary of possibilities. On the other hand, I'm very sympathetic to the idea that the centurion's servant was also his lover, and it's a reading that makes sense in the context of Roman culture, where some form of bisexuality was at least tacitly accepted, within certain parameters.]

____

*I actually think the Catholics and [probably] Orthodox churches are on firmer ground here than the Protestants, because they have a developed theological/philosophical system to argue with. I think it's an incorrect and harmful system, but at least it's a system.

**Though see note above.

Edited by NBooth
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phlox wrote:
“I’d suggest Borg and Crossan’s book The First Paul as one study that specifically covers this point (among others). They emphasize throughout that Paul’s position on several issues was “revised” by later writers ... It is likely that David and Jonathan, Daniel and Ashpenaz, and Ruth and Naomi were intimate couples.”

Over the years, Borg & Crossan’s shoddy scholarship has been pretty effectively debunked.  Even Marilynne Robinson, who is sympathetic to various progressive positions, has seriously criticized their credibility.

Joel wrote:
“Regarding generational differences, as a pastor who serves primarily with teens and young adults, the LGBTQ issue is simply a non-issue for the majority of them. Their posture is this: we have gay friends, and we love them, and Jesus loves them, so why are the old people freaking out? ... But the very few passages directly addressing same-sex behaviors are consistent in their approach – in God's design of human sexuality, same-sex sexual behavior isn't part of God's intention ... The appeal to the Bible for practicing justice for the marginalized is a much stronger argument for affirming LGBTQ marriage, IMO.”

Based upon some of the statistical evidence collected by sociologists like Christian Smith, the extent to which the last couple generations have done a complete 180 on this issue is a little astonishing.  The standard evangelical position on gay marriage has lost.  There is no way around this fact, at least for now.  The political arguments the Christian right has been making for the last 3-4 decades are now essentially defunct.  The fundamentalist churches are going to keep repeating themselves, but no one is listening and the surrounding culture has moved on.

Peter wrote:
“This is something that virtually no one in the church circles I know has ever talked about. They weren't talking about it 20 years ago, and they're barely talking about it now. And matters aren't helped by Biola and other Christian colleges declaring that a ‘biblical’ standard of sexuality dictates how people who are ‘genetically male’ and ‘genetically female’ relate to each other. The Bible doesn't say *anything* about genetics. No one knew about X chromosomes or Y chromsomes when my parents were born. And now that we *do* know about them, we know that some men don't have Y chromosomes and some women do (where ‘men’ and ‘women’ are defined based on how we would classify them if we simply had their anatomy to go by). There are a lot of assumptions going around that people haven't done any real thinking about.”

In fact, as much as I’ve looked for it, this is something that virtually no one is talking about at all.  The entire current transgender debate seems premised on the assumption that biology or genetics does not determine one’s gender - that one’s gender is entirely a matter of personal autonomy - in other words, that one’s gender is determined by one’s mental state, feelings, intellect, will.  From what I’ve heard, the minority of biologically transgender people, not to mention the minority of people whose chromosomes are not typical, deal with some real problems and issues that the rest of us simply do not deal with.  I’ve heard one of them declare that the very idea that their genetic and/or anatomical abnormalities do not determine their gender is an idea that only someone who doesn’t possess such physical abnormalities would say.

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Andrew wrote:
“I hope my comments will be heard, despite being an ex-Christian.  But living in the Bible Belt, the evangelical/fundamentalist perspective on LGBT issues dominates the conversation here ... Adultery is a behavior, being gay or transgender is a matter of identity.  Behavior morphs over time ... whereas identity is a much more fixed thing.  Telling a gay person that a core part of their identity is sinful - that's incredibly damaging, and I would argue, immoral.  I won't mince words here:  much of the blame for the higher depression and suicide rates among LGBT individuals must be laid at the feet of organized religion.”  

Not only are you heard here, Andrew, but your calling yourself an ex-Christian is an additional reason for reasonable people to listen to you.  I identify with how strongly you feel about this, especially in reaction to the “evangelical/fundamentalist perspective.”  Honestly, I’ve given up any further conversation with that perspective.  At its best, it is uncritical, closed to any real dialogue, contradictory and incapable of comprehending the modern roots of its own assumptions.  Their treatment of this issue has been inexcusable for decades now, and they are on their way out.  Mainstream evangelicalism has been disintegrating for years, and the evidence seems to point to their having essentially lost both Generation X and the Millennials.

As far as “gender identity” or “sexual orientation” goes, I do think there is room for questioning whether, as modern concepts, they are right, useful or healthy.  I am not sure that telling someone that their feelings and desires constitute their identity and makes them who they are is healthy.  Even outside Christianity, I doubt that Plato, Aristotle, Cicero or Seneca would agree that one’s physical desires or appetites form one’s “core identity,” nor would they accept that one could possess some subjective, purely mental “identity” that could be entirely separate from one’s physical, bodily existence.  For that matter, Buddha and Confucius certainly wouldn’t, given their teaching on restraining desire and appetite.  I’ve been reading some Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre and Thomas Pfau recently, and it seems that modernity has adopted a great deal of Enlightenment/Cartesian assumptions that may actually be damaging on their own.  To a great extent, the LGBT position seems have adopted many of these assumptions.

I am curious what you'd think of this.  Note: I know that, because of your experience in your profession, you understand far more about "identity" and the complexity of related psychological and emotional issues than I ever will.  In your profession, I'm not sure how often the sensibility of Seneca or classical ethical philosophy comes into play.  Does it ever?  Just so you are aware, there is a growing number of theologians and Christian thinkers who have begun to the question the very idea of “sexual orientation,” and they have begun to ask whether the idea of “heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” really fits into the older classical and/or Christian virtue ethics. (Of course, it seems little late now after so many churches have taught about how sinful a wrong "sexual orientation" is.  But, there are still some theologians how have consistently questioned things over the entire spans of their careers.) For example:

Michael W. Hannon, “Against Heterosexuality,” First Things, March 2014:
“Alasdair MacIntyre once quipped that ‘facts, like telescopes and wigs for gentlemen, were a seventeenth-century invention.’ Something similar can be said about sexual orientation: Heterosexuals, like typewriters and urinals (also, obviously, for gentlemen), were an invention of the 1860s. Contrary to our cultural preconceptions and the lies of what has come to be called ‘orientation essentialism,’ ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ are not ageless absolutes. Sexual orientation is a conceptual scheme with a history, and a dark one at that. It is a history that began far more recently than most people know, and it is one that will likely end much sooner than most people think ...

First of all, within orientation essentialism, the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality is a construct that is dishonest about its identity as a construct. These classifications masquerade as natural categories, applicable to all people in all times and places according to the typical objects of their sexual desires (albeit with perhaps a few more options on offer for the more politically correct categorizers). Claiming to be not simply an accidental nineteenth-century invention but a timeless truth about human sexual nature, this framework puts on airs, deceiving those who adopt its labels into believing that such distinctions are worth far more than they really are.

A second reason to doubt whether this schema is one that we Christians should readily use is that its introduction into our sexual discourse has not noticeably increased the virtues — intellectual or moral — of those who employ its concepts. On the contrary, it has bred both intellectual obscurity and moral disarray.

As to the former, orientation essentialism has made ethical philosophy in this realm all but impossible: It has displaced the old marital-procreative principles of chastity without offering any alternative that is not entirely arbitrary. The older teleological view measured morality against man’s rational-animal nature; in the sexual realm, this meant evaluating sex acts by reference to the common good of marriage, which integrated spousal union and the bearing and rearing of children. The newer heteronormative system, on the other hand, cannot account for the wickedness of same-sex sodomy by reference to anything but a conditioned and unprincipled gag reflex, and one which, left unjustified, has weakened considerably over time.

As to the latter result, moral disarray, the orientation takeover has counterproductively shifted our everyday attention from objective purposes to subjective passions. Young people, for instance, now regularly find themselves agonizing over their sexual identity, navel-gazing in an attempt to discern their place in this allegedly natural Venn diagram of orientations. Such obsessions generate far more heat than light, and focus already sexually excited adolescents on discerning extraneous dimensions of their own sexual makeup ...”

Now, I’m unsure if I’m entirely comfortable with all of Hannon’s rhetoric and conclusions, but he is asking questions I’m not used to hearing conservatives ask.  Do we really need a “sexual identity” any more than we need a “culinary identity”?

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: I've heard a pro-gay stance from teens/young adults who otherwise hold conservative sexual views, (i.e. waiting until marriage for sexual intercourse) . . .

So do they think gay people should wait for marriage too, then?

: The former argument is more about justice and emphasizes the importance of marriage and inclusion; the latter is mostly akin to "if two people are in love, why wait?"

I have no problem with "why wait?" if the thing they don't want to wait for is marriage. :)

: As puberty hits earlier (10.5 in girls, and getting younger), and the average age for marrying increases in Western cultures (27 for women, 29 for men) . . .

Puberty is biological, marriage is cultural. Should the church -- which is essentially counter-cultural on some levels -- be encouraging people to put off marriage like that?

: Tim Otto's book Oriented to Faith addresses this issue in saying that both sides of the same-sex marriage argument have one thing in common: they're all pro-marriage, and hold marriage in the highest esteem. He points out that often both sides often elevate the "traditional family" to a point of idolatry . . .

Well, on the pro-same-sex marriage side, you do get people like Dan Savage, who say that gay marriages are intrinsically looser or more flexible than the typical straight marriage, and that one of the benefits (as he sees it) of the acceptance of gay marriage is that straight couples can learn to be looser and more flexible (when it comes to having the occasional fling with someone outside the marriage, etc.). How typical that view is, or where it leaves the "traditional family" and its erosion and/or idolization, I don't know.

Andrew wrote:
: - I've not read Borg and Crossan's book, but some of their arguments are familiar from other contexts - i.e., David and Jonathan's relationship from a recent book on the history vs. propaganda for the life of David.

David did a whole lot of shitty stuff (relationship-wise and otherwise), so why anyone thinks a sexual relationship between himself and Jonathan would be an argument for *anything* is beyond me. But yes, the insinuation that David and Jonathan had a sexual relationship is a hoary old chestnut and predates Borg and Crossan by decades.

: - I don't see that shifting the terminology from 'sinful' to 'broken' does any practical good.  I would propose a role-reversal:  imagine that you heard Bible teaching that routinely said your heterosexual monogamy was evidence of your brokenness . . .

Heh. In Eastern Orthodox circles, marriage is often referred to as a form of "martyrdom" because it is a way of teaching the husband and wife to die to themselves. It is *assumed* that marriage will force us to face our brokenness in ways that remaining single would not.

: To be told that your deepest yearnings and attractions are immoral is incredibly damaging and destructive.

But this is why I prefer the "broken" idea to the "sinful" idea. People keep making the mistake of thinking that homosexuality is an issue of *morality* when it actually goes much deeper than that. Maybe it doesn't help much to say that deep yearnings and attractions are "unnatural" or "contrary to God's intentions when he created the world" or whatever, but of course, we all recognize that at least some deep yearnings and attractions *do* fit those labels. We're just arguing over which ones.

NBooth wrote:
: I'm still enough of a Baptist to believe in some form of soul competency, which means that I think that LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people alone are responsible for discerning how an LGBTQ orientation aligns with whatever metaphysical/theological framework.

Ye-ah, the idea that individuals or isolated groups can figure out how Christianity applies to them without reference to the Church as a whole certainly wouldn't fly in churches with a stronger ecclesiology.

The Orthodox, for example, believe very strongly in conciliar decision-making, and the primary example we often point to is the Council of Jerusalem, which dealt with the question of Gentiles becoming Christian without first becoming Jewish. (Although it does take a while for the results of these councils to settle in, sometimes. There are some interesting arguments about how to reconcile Acts 15 with Galatians 1 and 2 on this score; some people think Paul's confrontation with Peter and the "men from James" came before the Council of Jerusalem, some think it came afterwards.)

The idea that the Gentiles could have just figured out how the "good news" applied to them without caring one whit what the Jewish Christians had to say about it simply wouldn't fly, for us -- and it doesn't seem to have flown for the apostles. (Interestingly, the very-very short list of requirements that the Council arrived at in Acts 15 does include a prohibition against fornication, or however one translates the Greek word there.)

Side note: I sometimes wonder how the early church would have approached the sex and marriage question when it came to believers who were slaves. Slaves had no right to their bodies, and I assume no one could hold it against them if their masters raped them every now and then. (Indeed, Robert Jewett has supposed that the harsh anti-homosexual rhetoric in Paul's letters is, on some level, a way of giving voice to the anger of slaves over their treatment at the hands of their masters -- though I don't think Paul's rhetoric can be *limited* to that.) But slaves also had no right to marry -- not according to secular Roman law, at any rate. So did the early church allow for *any* sort of consensual sexual relationship among slaves? As far as I can tell, this issue never comes up in the New Testament, but I wonder if it was ever addressed elsewhere.

: [As a side note, Peter, in what might be an ironic twist, your own prior accounts, years ago, of your inquiries into intersexuality etc etc etc actually helped me solidify my own views on all of this, so thank you for that]

Yer welcome! Sincerely.

: On the other hand, I'm very sympathetic to the idea that the centurion's servant was also his lover, and it's a reading that makes sense in the context of Roman culture, where some form of bisexuality was at least tacitly accepted, within certain parameters.

I'm *open* to that, but I wouldn't make any argument that assumed that that was necessarily the correct interpretation.

: *I actually think the Catholics and [probably] Orthodox churches are on firmer ground here than the Protestants, because they have a developed theological/philosophical system to argue with. I think it's an incorrect and harmful system, but at least it's a system.

Sorry. Couldn't help myself. :)

J.A.A. Purves wrote:
: The entire current transgender debate seems premised on the assumption that biology or genetics does not determine one’s gender - that one’s gender is entirely a matter of personal autonomy - in other words, that one’s gender is determined by one’s mental state, feelings, intellect, will.  

One Facebook friend did propose that even transgenderism might have a biological basis -- something to do with neurological scans or whatever. But I think the political movement around transgenderism wouldn't care one whit about that; as you say, it's come down to a matter of "personal autonomy". I choose it, therefore it is.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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4 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

 

: To be told that your deepest yearnings and attractions are immoral is incredibly damaging and destructive.

But this is why I prefer the "broken" idea to the "sinful" idea. People keep making the mistake of thinking that homosexuality is an issue of *morality* when it actually goes much deeper than that. Maybe it doesn't help much to say that deep yearnings and attractions are "unnatural" or "contrary to God's intentions when he created the world" or whatever, but of course, we all recognize that at least some deep yearnings and attractions *do* fit those labels. We're just arguing over which ones.

 

Not to deny the especial vitriol addressed towards LBGTQ people, but hasn't every Evangelical American teenager been told that?

I remember one school chapel presentation (not my current university) that said men, particularly, had to be scrupulous in cultivating *any* desire because they were "hard wired for sin." I happened to Google that phrase today

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kenmorefield wrote:
: Not to deny the especial vitriol addressed towards LBGTQ people, but hasn't every Evangelical American teenager been told that?

I'm not sure what the pronoun "that" refers to here. (Admittedly, I grew up evangelical Canadian, not American... but youth-oriented evangelical pop culture is dominated by American product up here, so we got all the same music and books that people south of the border got. One of my biggest gripes with Canadian Christian bookstore chains was how they would put books like Oliver North's Under Fire: An American Story on display when there was no compelling reason for Canadians to care about American stories... but I digress.)

: I remember one school chapel presentation (not my current university) that said men, particularly, had to be scrupulous in cultivating *any* desire because they were "hard wired for sin." I happened to Google that phrase today

I'm not familiar with that phrase, FWIW, but I think I get the underlying concept.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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14 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

kenmorefield wrote:
: Not to deny the especial vitriol addressed towards LBGTQ people, but hasn't every Evangelical American teenager been told that?

I'm not sure what the pronoun "that" refers to here.

That "your deepest yearnings and attractions are immoral."

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