Tag Archives: gay identity

Thoughts on Privilege & Equal Rights

It simply can’t be denied that a great deal of our society, including the church, suffers from an ignorance of history and an inability to utilize logic when discerning truth from error, on all fronts. Just turn on the news (any network) or check your Facebook newsfeed. There is much to cloud our thinking today.

With all of the voices in our head and the messages bombarding us in our world (many of them cynical and angry), it seems that we’re no longer taught to think about things rationally (or from a faith perspective), but strictly from our gut and fickle human emotions.

Even the rationalists aren’t so rational anymore.

British comedian and actor, Ricky Gervais, tweeted this last February:

“Same sex marriage isn’t gay privilege, it’s equal rights. Privilege would be something like gay people not paying taxes, like churches don’t.”

Well, there you go. What’s unfortunate, and should be recognized, is that humor often has the power to slip misinformation by you, perpetuate nonsense, and get you laughing at the comedic rants of an atheist activist on an issue that is emotionally charged, without even stopping to consider if it’s a fair and reasonable assessment.

And notice that the church (the body of Christ) becomes the target.

It’s one thing to disagree and have an opposing opinion. It’s quite another thing to create bogus comparisons in order to get a laugh to stroke your own ego and gain followers to your cause. It’s not OK for any of us to do it.

I can’t help but notice the hyper-sensitivity to all things “privilege” in what is being passed off as a concern for social justice. I’m not denying that certain people or groups are (or have been) unfairly given an advantage over others.

I’m also not denying that some concerns about the so-called privileged are legitimate. I too feel a righteous indignation when a person is being treated unjustly because of race, gender, economic status, or creed.

What I want to challenge is the spirit of pervasive (albeit cryptic) individualism that turns every issue into one of privilege. Like the man who only saw nails to be pounded because all he had in his tool-belt was a hammer, so has become our society, even those “progressive” Christians who are upset about their fundamentalist upbringing and want to make a difference.

Those of us who were formerly conservative fundies, are in danger of becoming progressive fundies, which I’ve noticed is just a Liberal (in the theological sense) with a make-over. We can do better than that.

But still I see scores of Christians, many of whom I know personally and deeply love, leaving fundamentalism for what they believe to be a more authentic Christianity, but it’s really nothing more than ego-centric spirituality.

These folks struggle to envision a revitalized church that still maintains orthodox Christian teaching, so they take cues from the culture and join ranks with the growing mass of individualists who are becoming more self-centered and agenda-driven, even as I type up this blog post.

And in some cases… many have just left the Republican party and joined the Democratic party in their thinking. Hardly the Kingdom revolution that is needed in our personal lives and for a counter-cultural church practice.

So what is so wrong with Ricky Gervais’ comment?

I think Gervais is a funny guy, but I do wonder if Ricky knows anything about the historical reasons for privileging male-female marriage, and then why the church doesn’t pay taxes according to US law. After all, he is British.

It has nothing to do with “privilege” in the popular and polemical sense of the word, as it has been used to demonize those who affirm conjugal marriage.

The real reason is, like the historical institution of marriage, stretching back and affirmed by the ancient Greeks (i.e. Socrates, Plato & Aristotle), who were well aware of same-sex relationships, the church in America was given tax exemption status because it was recognized and affirmed as a private institution that served the public good of a democratic nation.

Therefore, there are historically certain “privileges” that have been afforded male-female marriage and the church because they are (or at least were) thought to be socially advantageous to society (e.g. procreation, broad domestic sharing, holistic human formation, moral & ethical stability, etc.).

That is the historical reasoning behind it, particularly the motivation behind US constitutional law. That’s not my opinion. That’s the fact of the matter. It has nothing to do with bigotry or deprivation of rights.

As far as Western civilization has been concerned in ages past, same-sex “marriage” infringes upon the moral and civic fabric of society and has nothing to do with “equal rights” for individuals (or same-sex attracted couples, threesomes, polygamists, etc.) but instead it’s about the good of the whole society, which means far more than one individual’s idea of personal freedoms and rights. This flies in the face of our self-absorbed culture that wants to believe we’re on the cusp of a great gay liberation, totally oblivious to history.

The ancient world understood this much better than we do today. And the church of the New Testament operated out of this collectivist mindset—putting the interest of the whole before individual “rights” to personal fulfillment.

This is what has been lost in the church discussion, as individualism and an obsession with personal freedoms, especially when it comes to sexual expression, has trumped the greater good. As the apostle Paul said, “I’m free to do anything, but not everything is beneficial” (1 Cor 6:12) for himself or for the whole of any group, especially those who belong to Christ.

In this case, and cases like it, I submit that “privilege” and “privileges” are not the same thing. Western society and culture has largely lost the ability to discern the difference between the two, as it has championed individual “rights” over and against the good of the collective whole.

It is my observation that this pervasive individualism, and the “personal freedoms” mentality, is currently the greatest threat and obstacle to churches in America maintaining New Testament Christianity. It is a battle between the Bill of Rights and the Christ of the Gospels—America vs. the Kingdom.

In the end we know who wins. So the question is… what side are you on?

Are we for Christ or against him? For the Kingdom or culture? I know… I know. That sort of language isn’t always right or helpful. But that’s now where we’re at in our churches. Let’s not forget that it’s the rhetoric of Jesus (Lk 11:23).

There is a growing segment of society that is deaf to this logic and moral reasoning. Nevertheless, we need to know that this goes far beyond the teachings of Christ and the beauty of the Christian faith.

I highly recommend reading What is Marriage?: Man & Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George.

The book was first published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. It is a formidable defense of traditional marriage that is based purely on reason, offering a philosophical and historical case for conjugal marriage.

The follower of Christ ought to be aware of Scripture—from Moses, Jesus, to Paul (e.g. Gen 2:18-24; Matt 19:1-11; Eph 5:25-31)—and the historic Christian tradition on marriage, but it’s also helpful to hear what reason and experience have to say—including the experiences of those who haven’t embraced the gay identity in order to remain faithful to their belief in Christ and the Scriptures. Those voices have been drowned out by the noise of LGBT activists.

As Paul said, walk as the wise in this dark world, not as the unwise (Eph 5:15-17). Brothers and sisters, rise above the culture and its use of words like “privilege” and “equal rights” to distort the truth. Instead, speak the language of Christ and the Kingdom and join a different movement that doesn’t shift the blame, point fingers, and use shame to get its way in the world.

We’ve not been appointed as moral guardians of society, but we are called to be moral guides by way of our example.

May the world look to our local congregations and see the difference, and hear real liberating language as we bless the poor of all races, the outcasts of every group, and those who demean us, even persecuting us for our faith.

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

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The Kingdom Effect On Human Sexuality

A couple weeks ago I began preaching through a 9-week sermon series entitled, The Kingdom Effect: How Christ & the Kingdom Changes Everything.

The series is building off the idea of the butterfly effect, and the mustard seed as Jesus taught about in Matthew 13:31-32. The point being that something small and seemingly insignificant can make a huge impact and have lasting effects. The intent of the series is to survey the sweeping impact Christ and the Kingdom makes on us and the world.

Here is an outline of the series:

The Kingdom Effect…

  1. On the Individual
  2. On Human Sexuality
  3. On Marriage (One Flesh Unions)
  4. On Family
  5. On the Church, pt1
  6. On the Church, pt2
  7. On Society & Culture
  8. On Worldly Powers
  9. On the Future (of Heaven & Earth)

The first sermon addressed the new identity that believers receive upon repentance. The flesh or “sinful nature” is a lie that has been hurled upon us as a result of the Fall. I discussed this in my last post, Farewell to the Flesh.

As Paul wrote, the “pattern of the world” seeks to conform us to an identity of flesh and a distorted way of living in the world. But Christ has the power to transform us by changing the way we see and think about ourselves as “new creation” living in the present evil age. The Kingdom Effect begins with you!

Last Sunday I extended the first message to include human sexuality.

In the following post, I will touch on a few points from the sermon “On Human Sexuality” and elaborate on others.

Sexual Confusion Meets New Identity

Contrary to some of the cultural messages we receive today, we are not neutered souls residing in bodies that are inconsequential to personhood. We are a union of spirit/soul and body (Gen 2:7), and God made us male and female (Gen 1:27). The “real you” can only be discovered by first recognizing this union in God’s created order, even in our brokenness.

We seriously need to recognize this today. While we have been made in God’s image, we are broken and not as we should be. Christ and the Kingdom’s effect is to dispel the lies and deceptive voices that would have us root our identity in anything other than the person of Christ—the perfect image of God.

In coming to know Christ we discover that he is Lord of spirit, soul, and body. We are not our own, we were bought at a price. Our bodies belong to him for they are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:18-20).

It’s clear in the Old and New Testaments that sex is good within a monogamous marriage between male and female. While biblical characters often deviated from this pattern, the design is there, and it’s affirmed by Jesus.

In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus says a man is to “cleave” or to be united with his wife as one flesh, referring back to Genesis 2:18-24. Paul also references this passage in Ephesians 5:25-31. This is the divine design: Sex is good and to be enjoyed between a husband and wife for life.

Neuroscience has been confirming this for several years now. Chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters & hormones) are produced in us to “bond” us to one sexual partner, even producing a sense of fidelity. When a person defiles the body through pornography (detached from bodily union) and promiscuous sex (bonding & de-bonding), or other sexually deviant behavior, the brain and body are utterly shocked by the experience. I explain further in my sermon.

So this isn’t antiquated Hebrew religion talking. No, the idea of sex being between a man and woman in marriage is built into God’s design for human sexuality. Therefore, everything else is in time destructive to individuals and society at large for it goes against the natural order of things (Rom 1:18-32).

[Watch this TED talk on the terrible consequences of viewing pornography.]

This dysfunction ultimately leads to addictions, mental and emotional instability, and even more unhealthy thinking and behavior. And the physical side of this sexual confusion and chaos is putting oneself at risk for STDs.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”  Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:12-14 NIV

Paul says the body isn’t meant for sexual immorality (Gk: “porneia”). Paul uses porneia in his letters as an umbrella term to speak of all sexually deviant behavior outside of the one flesh union of husband and wife (1 Cor 7:1-16,39). The culture may think “casual sex” or having “the right” to do whatever sexually is liberating, but the Scripture teaches that it’s quite the opposite.

We may not claim as a “right” what God has not given to us.

I submit to you that I think a good bit of the culture’s sex-drive is only symptomatic of a deep longing and desire for real intimacy. Seen from this perspective, the church’s response should be different than years past.

God’s design isn’t meant to harm us or to keep us from human wholeness. But this has become difficult for folks, even in the church, to hear and to heed. Sexual fulfillment has become an idol in the culture and the church.

“The idol of sexual fulfillment has two faces: One face says that each person has the right to be sexually satisfied and that having sex is a necessary part of happy, mature adulthood (or even adolescence). The second face is a Christian one that says the reward for premarital sexual virtue is great marital sex.” Jenell William Paris, The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are

As strange as it may sound in our hyper-sexualized culture, sexual experience isn’t necessary for human wholeness, but being in covenant relationship with others in the church is vital to our health as image-bearers who have embraced a new identity in Christ. We don’t need marriage or sex to be happy.

Will we idolize sexual fulfillment, finding our identity in our sexual impulses and attractions, or will we let Christ and the Kingdom have their effect on us?

Marriage, Sex & Singleness

Jesus radically “redefined” marriage by placing it within the mission and purpose of the church and the Kingdom, but not by undermining Genesis 2:18-24. Instead, where the OT command was to marry and make babies, the NT command is to pledge to the Kingdom and make disciples (spiritual babies).

For those called to this biblical marriage, you and your family are to now serve the Kingdom, not your own interests. And for those persons who, for whatever reason, don’t enter marriage, Jesus has exalted singleness.

Jesus said that some should choose to “live like eunuchs for the kingdom” and be single (Matt 19:11-12). He’s not only making an argument for the legitimacy of his own celibate life, he is encouraging others in the same way.

The Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus has brought about a new relational and familial dynamic to the world through the Body of Christ. It declares that no one is destined to live a life of “singleness” apart from fulfilling relationships.

“The church is composed of the single and the married. Both are called to a life of faithfulness. All are called to be friends, defying the loneliness that threatens anyone not married.” Stanley Hauerwas

Singleness isn’t a disease that needs a cure. Some, like Jesus, may choose to live as eunuchs for the Kingdom, for one reason or another. The church needs to quit idolizing sex and marriage, along with the biblically confused in the church who press for political changes. It’s not the Kingdom way.

Sex is good within the context of a marriage that Christ affirms, but it will not bring fulfillment when there is desire for intimacy that runs deeper than sexual release. Sex only works as relational glue in a Christ-centered marriage.

Church, let us rise up and create communities where our deepest desire for intimacy with the divine and others (male and female) is being met within the family of God. It’s all a part of the Kingdom effect.

Both the married life and the single life are hard. Remember this: neither married life or sexual licentiousness guarantees intimacy. We are broken and only Christ offers living water that quenches the thirst (Jn 4:13-14).

Let this Water be found in our local churches, overflowing our lives in grace, among the married and those who are eunuchs for the Kingdom. This is our counter-cultural response to a sex-crazed and intimacy-deficient world.

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

 


Letter From a Wounded Disciple

The other day I received a letter from a woman I met several years ago. I was so blown away by her honesty and moved by her suffering that I asked her if it would be OK to share the letter with you. She was very willing to share her own struggles with you. Please open your heart to her pain.

I have kept her real identity concealed for obvious reasons. We can just call her a wounded disciple. May the Holy Spirit move us to change.

Hello, I have followed your blog for a while. I believe that I met you and your wife years ago at a house church gathering. Since then I have divorced (he was abusive and committed adultery), and I’m raising my two sons on my own. I’m writing this to confide in a fellow believer, leader, and respected minister…anonymously… that I have bi-sexual tendencies. I have never acted on them because I really LOVE the Lord. I feel a great deal of conviction when I seriously consider seeking out a relationship with a female. I make a conscious decision to deny myself and be obedient. But the thoughts do exist, and they don’t stay away after I push them from my mind. Anyway, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and convictions regarding the support or lack of support for gay marriage. I really wish that church was a safe place to seek guidance and encouragement without fear of rejection, being gossiped about or changing the way people love you. I shouldn’t have to be writing an email to someone I think I met years ago who lives far away now, and I will likely never see again about a struggle I deal with when I have a local congregation I am active in. I don’t trust my church to love me if I were to be honest with them. Thanks for your ministry, loving heart and openness.   Sincerely, Wounded Disciple

How many others feel like this wounded disciple? How can the church be more intentional in the way we embrace those who suffer from physical abuse and inner strife? What are you doing to make your local fellowship a place of safety and acceptance for outcasts? Think about it.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Why I Do Not Support or Oppose Gay Marriage

A few weeks ago I posted Support Us or You’re a Bigot? here at the blog. I received a steady wave of feedback. It was mostly civil. I learned this much, if you want to boost your blog traffic just express your views on homosexuality or gay marriage.

The primary point of Support Us or You’re a Bigot? was to voice my concerns over the name-calling and the vitriol that is so common when we allow extremists to set the stage of any debate. It’s wrong, unfair, and dishonest. A person can disagree with “gay marriage” and still love their gay neighbor, just as they do their Muslim, Wiccan, and white supremacist neighbor. I’m pleased to say that my post resonated with gay folks I know who also don’t approve of the way both progressives and fundamentalists have handled the debate.

Let me be clear. I don’t support or oppose gay marriage. And for good reason. It is for me a conviction rooted in Christ and his ability to creatively navigate cultural situations and contexts for the sake of the Kingdom.

I wonder if you have recognized that we can’t hear a third way of dealing with this in the culture because the matter is truly unlike most issues involving civil rights. It’s not a race issue, it’s a moral issue. And some folks are legitimately concerned that if “gay marriage” is sanctioned (based on the feelings one person has for another), then what is to stop polygamy, or something even more detestable? Are you going to deny their “rights” too?

You can’t easily brush this question aside if you’re an honest, thinking person. Why should “rights” stop with gay couples? It shouldn’t according to the logic of the LGBT folks and supporters I’ve heard. But what sort of world would we be inviting? It’s a question for the church and the state.

There you have it, folks—one more reminder why politics, and the rules it must operate by, will never be able to bring the full measure of peace, freedom, and justice we long for in the world. You have to draw the line somewhere, but it will require that we reach beyond utilitarian logic itself to a divine, transcending order in the universe.

Something, oddly enough, even America’s deist founders understood.

No pragmatic politics or ethics will do. Without moral boundaries given from above, i.e. built into creation and divinely revealed, we must make it up as we go. “Do what thou wilt” shall be the whole of the law.

In case you missed it, I’ve been upfront that I don’t believe homosexuality (or even faithful “monogamous” homosexual relationships) is God’s best for humanity. And I believe this should be lovingly addressed in the church, right after we address the problem of divorce and adultery among heterosexuals. So, I believe it’s at this point an “in-house” issue.

The real problem I see here is what happens to the issue when it enters the ambiguous, complex, and nasty realm of politics. As an Anabaptist thinker and practitioner, this is where I bow out with a purpose.

While I don’t believe in a complete, unilateral withdrawal from politics, I’m convinced that a political response from evangelicals is not helpful at this point. All of this is happening because the church has failed to display the beauty of the covenant relationship between a man and woman, and because of her unwillingness to love neighbor and enemy alike.

In other words, the acceptance of homosexuality and a “gay identity” in our culture is symptomatic of a much bigger problem.

The way I see it the church’s engagement with politics should (on most occasions) be a creative indirect engagement with the state.

Our faithfulness to Christ in community, seen by the way we conduct ourselves in the church, is the primary means by which we persuade the State to conform to the Kingdom.

Every day that goes by (in this so-called “democracy”) makes it more difficult to maintain our witness for Christ and also involve ourselves with the business and conundrums of the state.

It’s just unfortunate to me that most evangelicals never question the methods of politics. Jesus distanced himself from worldly kingdom power and taught his followers to do the same. He refused to enter into pointless, hot-button debates by choosing sides. And that’s why I have chosen neither to support or oppose what’s going on within politics on this issue.

With that being said, because of the nature of this debate, I do think that this whole thing wouldn’t be such an uproar if the state would deal only with civil unions, and leave “marriage” to the local church.

The church should concern herself with the church and let the state do what the state’s gonna do at this point. 53 percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriage, including many Christians. I suspect that number will continue to rise. It’s the world we now live in folks. Entering into the political debate is doing more harm than good for the Gospel of Christ.

I think it might be different (allowing the church to speak out on the issue) if she had been faithfully following Jesus in the first place. But how can we speak up when we’ve made a bloody mess of the institution of marriage ourselves. We’ve failed to protect marriage and our gay neighbor made in God’s image, therefore we’ve lost the right to speak.

Speaking from a political platform only perpetuates the problem—-as well as thinking that buying Chic-Fil-A in an organized boycott-retaliation helps the cause of Christ and communicates love for our neighbor. We must stop allowing the world to shape us into its mold, and give up on the American “let’s-police-the-world” approach to issues that concern us.

This hostile and down-right belligerent defense is nothing more than sanctified bullying and coercion done in Jesus’ name. And we’re reaping the consequences for it all in our now “post-Christian” society.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


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