Tag Archives: addressing homosexuality: a third way

Support Us or You’re a Bigot?

If you read my blog much you know that I’m far from a right-wing Christian fundamentalist, but I also don’t espouse Liberal theology, nor am I a card-carrying member of the increasingly “progressive” branch of Christianity. I never liked cards anyway.

I see the whole of fundamentalism and “progressive” Christianity as two extremes—both missing the mark. Let me explain.

I grew up within a mild form of Fundamentalist Christianity, and I’m still surrounded by it here in Texas. It is known for being dogmatic, legalistic, obsessed with biblical inerrancy, militant in defending creationism, escapist in eschatology, and committed to nationalism and the Republican party.

For all its flaws, I do think that fundamentalism has been very forthright about the person and saving work of Jesus, even if that message is often a bit muddled with poor atonement theories and hell-fire, pulpit-pounding.

Nevertheless, a clarity about the person and work of Jesus is refreshing after you’ve been bombarded by many competing voices in the culture that wish to turn Jesus into a gnostic guru, a civil rights leader, or reduce him down to a social revolutionary, and nothing more. Liberalism at its finest.

Liberal Christianity today is really just a post-enlightenment version of Thomas Jefferson’s sanitized Jesus—a Jesus stripped of his divinity, his miracle-making, and muzzled from making exclusive truth claims.

If a person comes to believe in such things, they shouldn’t even call themselves a “Christian” anymore. If you can’t affirm Christ’s divinity, his saving power by the cross, and his literal resurrection… you’re not a Christian in any historical sense of the term. If you want to start the Church of Jefferson, fine. But please leave historic Christianity to us Christians.

Progressive Christianity has much to say in response to pop-culture evangelicalism. Progressives like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, and many others need to be heard.

I can see and hear Jesus in these guys. I’ve benefited from them.

For example, I agree that the teachings of Jesus have been neglected and that doctrine (orthodoxy) has been emphasized over Christ-like living (orthopraxy). I believe that salvation begins in the here and now, that social justice is integral to discipleship, and that evangelicalism needs a more responsible biblical interpretive method.

I’m passionate about those things!

But I must say that I particularly take issue with how “progressives” have created a synthetic fog over a handful of biblical passages dealing with homosexuality, and seem to be using a “join-us-or-you’re-a-bigot” approach to responding to evangelicalism’s overall failure to love our gay neighbors.

Progressives appear to want nothing less than full support of the LGBT community, meaning that you agree that homosexuality is an acceptable way of being human, and that Jesus would approve of gay “marriage” (going beyond civil unions to the church blessing the relationship), or you’re “homophobic” and an enemy of all that’s good.

Let’s be honest. If this is the way progressives are going to frame the issue, reflecting the typical polarities of hot-button issues within politics, they are only going to perpetuate the vitriolic climate in society—a climate they say that they lament. But I do wonder if they’re not being just as divisive and dishonest as the folks over at Westboro Baptist.

Is it “bigotry” to disagree with someone on a moral/religious issue? Is it “hate” to believe another person’s life choices are destructive to that person and to society? Is it “homophobic” to believe that homosexuality is a sin like adultery, greed, or idolatry, and oppose elevating it to normal human behavior, as if it were an obvious evolution of mankind? Is it “intolerant” to want to maintain laws (church & state) that support a historical, time-tested institution (heterosexual monogamous marriage) for the good of society?

As many of you know, all of this has been leveled at those who disagree in any way with the LGBT community and her “progressive” supporters. I see a constant stream of this stuff on social networking and online magazines, especially in light of Rob Bell’s recent affirmation of gay marriage.

This is the message I’m getting: You’re either a supporter of LGBT or you’re likely an intolerant bigot who hates gay people.

I think this is unfair and dishonest. It leaves no room for a third way of responding to the LGBT community and those in our local communities that have embraced a gay identity. It claims that in order to love your gay neighbor you must accept their lifestyle.

Why must this be the case? Do I have to accept the violence, greed, and idolatry of my neighbor and enemies in order to love them? Of course not. So why should it be any different with gay folks in our communities? One extreme (fundamentalism) doesn’t justify another (liberalism).

If you consider yourself a “progressive” Christian, I want to encourage you to consider how LGBT supporters can be more honest and fair in their treatment toward those of us who disagree with you, but at the same time want to love their gay neighbor and accept them as created in God’s image.

Listen to Tim Keller represent a third way with grace and truth.

What do you think? Do you believe there is a third way that’s being overlooked? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

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Addressing Homosexuality: A Third Way

I think both fundamentalists and “progressives” have abused, misused, and distorted the consistent biblical message of human relationships and homosexuality. And they’re making it impossible to reach a peaceful resolve.

The fundies have singled out homosexuality as the “abominable sin” and not loved like Christ. They have neglected what the Scripture says about divorce, and the most oft-mentioned sins of greed and idolatry. It’s a sin in and of itself, and it should be repented of now.

Greg Boyd addressed this here and here.

And others who believe themselves to be more loving and tolerant (believers proudly promoting LGBT community) have created a synthetic fog over something that I think couldn’t be more clearly written in Scripture (Gen 19: 4-29; Lev 18:22; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:8-11; Rom 1:26-27, etc.). They are trying to “love” their neighbor while disregarding truth.

Yes, I expect some backlash from those who think any claim to something being “clear” in Scripture is presumptuous, even wreckless. Nevertheless, I think some things are clear. I won’t apologize for that.

I suppose that those who want to claim this isn’t clear in the text would try to use that as reason to advance their cause. I think even if a person became convinced that the Scripture is unclear on this, it still doesn’t give them the go-ahead. It doesn’t make it acceptable behavior.

There is much in the Scripture that is open to interpretation, no doubt. Have you read Christian Smith’s book? We do have an issue with interpretive pluralism. There are many issues of theology that ought to be left open and discussed frequently. But I just don’t think this is one of those issues.

Honestly, there is a part of me that simply can’t believe we’re even having this discussion. Maybe it’s because the church has failed to love like Christ that it has even become what it is in our culture.

OK… OK… back to what I was saying about our dilemma.

One group singles out the sin (fundies), the other group imagines it’s not a sin (progressives). Both are wrong, and are only adding to the confusion–perpetuating the venomous cycle of hate speech toward those who disagree with them. Is this the best we can do?

The insistence that since Jesus is silent on the issue is very misleading. In the first place, this wasn’t an issue among first century Palestinian Jews. Why would Jesus speak directly to something that wasn’t even being debated? Even then there is no guarantee Jesus would enter the debate if there had been one. Instead, he would offer another way of confronting the issue. So, while Jesus doesn’t speak about it directly, he does mention it indirectly as he discusses the divine design of human relationships (Matt 19:4-6).

Secondly, Jesus also never says, “Thou shalt not smoke pot and have group sex.” So, what? You can’t build a case off of silence from Jesus. Besides, we serve a living Lord, not a book filled with arbitrary rules. Can we please stop treating the Bible like an operator’s manual?

If Christ truly resides within you, and you’re seeking to live out your faith in community, ask yourself: “Does Jesus and the universal church approve of my behavior?” That’s much different than doing what feels right or good, or even squabbling over what some feel are ambiguities in an inspired ancient text. It goes beyond the text to the living Jesus alive in a living church.

Not only does Jesus speak about the intentions of our God-given humanness, the creation testifies to the plain truth of intentional design for human relationships. But it will not stop people from exchanging the truth of God for a lie; even ignoring what is “clearly seen” in creation (Rom 1:18-32). There are some things that are not part of our God-given humanness, no matter how much we feel it, that should be forsworn.

Listen to N.T. Wright discuss this here.

So, while I think the biblical text is clear about human relationships—from Genesis to Jesus, from Paul to Revelation—I would propose that both may be assuming that divine revelation (Scripture) is enough or can by itself settle the issue. While I think the OT, as well as Jesus & Paul, are plain enough (even after doing historical-grammatical exegesis)… let’s allow for further revelation beyond the biblical text.

For me, what ought to settle the issue is a combination of divine revelation, natural revelation, historic Christian traditions, human reason and experience, and the present consensus of the church. All of these must align, in my opinion. And I see that they all (in the end) testify to a very clear expression of the divinely created order of human relationships.

Now, how should we respond as Christ followers? I think there is a way for those of us who believe in loving like Christ to do just that without affirming any sinful lifestyle that is destructive to mankind. That means we must discover a third way that looks like the love of Christ, and not some sappy sentimentality that rambles on about tolerance with no moral boundaries. Being judgmental and lax about sin (any sin) both miss the mark.

Let me be clear. There does in fact come a time to say with Jesus, “Go and sin no more.” But not before coming alongside others with a co-suffering love and seeing yourself in their own sin.

We must see sin as a misuse of our human energies. It’s a sickness… for all of us. It’s a distortion in our soul. It’s resurrection life hitting a snag. When we can see that, even in ourselves, then we can offer others a way out.

Let’s discover a third way, brothers and sisters. Lord, lead us.

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


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