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Gay-friendly

10 Nov

91% of outsiders say “homosexual” describes present-day Christianity.

David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons conducted a three year study asking outsiders what they think of evangelical Christianity. They published their study in a book entitled, UnChristian, a must read for anyone interested in reaching twenty-somethings for Christ. What they found in their study is that outsiders think we are very unChrist-like, particularly in our response to homosexuality. Kinnaman writes:

In our research, the perception that Christians are against gays and lesbians—not only objecting to their lifestyles but also harboring irrational fear and unmerited scorn toward them—has reached critical mass. The gay issue has become the “big one,” the negative image most likely to be intertwined with Christianity’s reputation….Outsiders say our hostility toward gays—not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals—has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith.

UnChristian, pg 92

So for on outsider what does it mean to be a follower of Christ? It means you don’t like gay people.

Is this the picture of the Jesus we see in the Scripture?
Is this the picture of the Christians we see in the history of the Church?

Homosexuality is an issue that will not go away. It has become the “big one” for evangelical Christians, because a cultural war has been smoldering for nearly two decades. And in the war, we who are committed followers of Christ have become the bad guys. Homosexual activists say we are to blame for gay-hatred.

Columnist Paul Varnell writes in the Independent Gay Forum:

It can scarcely be doubted that the primary, and perhaps only sources of our culture’s anti-gay hostility are the Christian denominations.When most anti-gay zealots are pushed very hard, they do not come up with sociological or philosophical reasons for their hatred. Instead, they usually retreat to citing Leviticus, or the Epistle to the Romans, or the ancient Palestinian myth of Sodom. As the bumper sticker says, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

— “The Bible Tells Me So,” Independent Gay Forum, November 30, 1999

Shots have certainly been fired by evangelical Christians, In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the late Jerry Falwell commented:

The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this… And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen’.

The 700 Club, September 13, 2001 [source]

The cultural war has been in the news most recently regarding Proposition 8 in California, which is a ban on same-sex marriage in that State. It passed last week along with similar bans in Florida and Arizona. From the SFgate.com the website for the San Francisco Chronicle: After months of caustic and costly fighting between gay rights advocates and Christian supporters of Proposition 8, California’s proposed ban on same-sex marriage appeared headed for victory early Wednesday.

Notice the two teams mentioned in the costly fighting. It was not:

Gay rights advocates and pro-family groups

Gay rights advocates and social conservatives

Gay rights advocates and right-wing fanatics

The two teams at war of same-sex marriage is: “Gay rights advocates and Christian supporters of Proposition 8

Proposition 8 passed in California 52.5% to 47.5%

Andrew Sullivan, columnist, author, and outspoken homosexual advocate writes a response to the passage of Proposition 8 in California:

It cannot be denied that this feels like a punch in the gut. It is. I’m not going to pretend that the wound isn’t deep and personal, like an attack on my own family. It was meant to be. Many Obama supporters voted against our rights, and Obama himself opposes our full civil equality. The religious folk who believe that Jesus stood for the marginalization of minorities, and who believe that my equality somehow threatens their children, will, I pray, see how misguided they have become. And make no mistake: they won this by playing on very deep fears of gay people around kids. They knew the levers to pull. [source]

The “they” in Sullivan’s article are “religious folk who believe in Jesus,” people like me. People who love Jesus and hold to the authority of Scripture.

One group making a lot of noise on university and college campuses is Soul Force, a gay activist group. Their “equality ride” buses young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to both Christian and secular college campus in order to engage students, faculty, and administration in discussion regarding the rights of homosexuals.


Soulforce Mission Statement: The mission of Soulforce is to cut off homophobia at its source — religious bigotry. Soulforce uses a dynamic “take it to the streets” style of activism to connect the dots between anti-gay religious dogma and the resulting attacks on the lives and civil liberties of LGBT Americans. We apply the creative direct action principles taught by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to peacefully resist injustice and demand full equality for LGBT citizens and same-gender families.

Soulforce, co-founder is Mel White an ordained minister with the Metropolitan Community Church and former evangelical. As an evangelical pastor he was a ghost writer for Pat Robertson, Billy Graham and Jerry Fawell…until he came out of the closet as a gay man in the mid 1980s. In his 1994 autobiography he writes:

Old and New Testament texts have been misused to justify excommunication, imprisonment, torture, and death. Millions of innocent lives have been lost through “Christian” crusades, inquisitions, trials, witch-hunts, reformations, and cleansings. Those attitudes continue today. In that same spirit of inquisition honest gay and lesbian Christians are being excluded from membership in the churches of their childhood, ridiculed, rejected, and rebuked by pastors, priests, and laity alike. Sincere Christian leaders have even called for the death of gay and lesbian people. All the hatred trickles down from pulpit and lectern into acts of violence and death.

No wonder gays and lesbians stay in the closet so long. No wonder we go on trying desperately to be what we are not intended to be. We stay in our closets to protect ourselves and the people we love, to maintain our lives, our vocations, and our ministries, to support and sustain our families and our causes. Then, when we finally get desperate enough, when we just have to love and be loved as God intended, we end up alone and felling desperate in gay bars, bathhouses, or on darkened city streets.

In spite of what television preachers say when they condemn us, we are not driven to these dark, secret places by lust, but by the natural, human need for intimacy that their current homophobic policies deny. We enter into those furtive, usually unfulfilling, and almost always dangerous sexual encounters because we don’t know any other way to meet our basic human needs and at the same time to preserve and protect all that we hold dear.

Mel White, Stranger at the Gate, pgs. 137-138

How should we respond? What does the Bible say?

1) Nowhere does the Bible endorse homosexuality

Some homosexual Christians claim that David had a sexual relationship with Solomon’s son Jonathan. Citing verses like:
2 Samuel 1:26 NIV I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.

I find a homosexual interpretation of this text to be highly offensive. There is no sexual metaphors used in this text. And too assume that two men cannot deeply and affectionately love each other without it being a homosexual relationship is a sign of how over-sexed our culture has become.

2) The Bible clearly places homosexual behavior outside the bounds of God’s design for human sexuality (In other words, it’s a sin.)

In the OT: Leviticus 17:22 NIV Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

And in the NT: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NIV
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders [10] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

And Romans 1:26-28 NIV Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. [27] In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. [28] Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

Homosexual behavior is an example of idolatry (i.e. worshipping the creation over the creator). There is nothing we see in these verses other than a condemning tone with the words: “shameful lusts,” “unnatural,” “inflamed with lust,” indecent acts,” & “perversion.”

In Greek and Roman culture, there were no concepts of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Sex did not imply any kind of social relationship in the Roman Empire, so it was pretty much anything goes. Sharing a meal with someone constituted more of a social relationship than having sex. Roman men were free to have with whoever, including other men.
It was acceptable for an older Roman man to pursue sexual encounters with younger men or even boys. The older man was celebrated as a “man’s man,” because he was the aggressor, but the passive partner who took the position of a woman was openly mocked for being effeminate. Here in Romans 1, the Scripture does not condemn pedophilia in general, but any kind of same-gender sexual contact.

God gives idolaters over to their depraved mind to fulfill their desires although these are things that “ought not to be done.” One argument that homosexual outsiders and homosexual Christians use to justify their lifestyle is the argument of desire.

The reasoning is it feels right, so it must be right. If you tell a child not to eat a cookie before supper and they sneak into the cookie jar and eat a cookie and ask them why and they say, “Because I was hungry…you don’t say, “oh that is alright then…”

Did God create your child with hunger? Yes

Does that hunger give them the right to eat a cookie before supper? No

There are five different evangelical responses to homosexuality.

1) Gay-abhoring
These so-called Christians hate homosexuals. Some are moved to violence and others hold protests and hold up signs that say God hates “gay-people.” (They use a more derogatory term.)
They even protest the funerals of soldiers who were killed in combat with signs like God hates gay-people” and “God hates America.” They presume that because the United States is become more gay-friendly that we have incurred the judgment of God and there he is allowing our soldiers to be killed in battle. In parts to groups like this, Congress passed the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act in May 2006 banning protests within 300 feet of national cemeteries.

2) Gay-antagonistic
These Christians give a stiff-arm to the gay community and say you are not welcome here. They join boycotts of companies that offer anything that appears to be gay-friendly. They add fuel to the cultural war. They make jokes. They use derogatory language. They separate themselves from gay co-workers, classmates, and or teachers.
They use phrases like, “homosexual agenda” to talk about all gay people. They don’t pray for gay people. They don’t walk across the room to befriend gay people.
They see all homosexuals as enemies of the Christian faith.

3) Gay-indifferent
These Christians are clueless. They do not read newspapers. They do not go online. They aren’t offend by Will & Grace on TV, because they don’t watch TV.
They don’t engage culture and they certainly don’t care what outsiders think about them. They are modern day monastic Christians that are completely indifferent. You ask them what they think about homosexuality in our culture and they say, “No comment.”

4) Gay-friendly
These Christians have straight friends and gay friends. They remain faithful to the Scriptures teaching and so they do not condone the homosexual lifestyle of their gay friends, but neither do they condemn their gay friends.
They love and care for gay people and gently look for ways to show them the truth and grace available in Christ.

5) Gay-affirming
These Christians affirm homosexuals in their sexual orientation. They communicate the love of Christ by accepting loving, monogamous, conceptual homosexual relationships. They accept homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle for followers of Christ.

So how should we life if we want to change the perceptions of outsiders and be a better representative of Jesus in the world? For me it is to become gay-friendly. Each of the other options do not fit with biblical guidelines. It is Christ-like to be gay-friendly, because Jesus himself was called a friend of sinners.

Luke 6:34 NIV The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘

Jesus was a friend of sinners. And we quickly say, “Yeah I wanna be a friend of sinners too…I just want to pick and chose which sinners I am friendly with. Without doing in harm to the spirit of the text, you could remove the words “tax collectors and sinners” with “gay and lesbians.” To gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people, I want to say, “I am sorry. Will you forgive us for being so unchrist like? I don’t have any gay friends, but I am interested in making new friends.”

We as evangelical Christians need to confess and repent and become gay-friendly.

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11 Comments

Posted by on November 10, 2008 in Ministry, Theology

 

Tags: , ,

11 responses to “Gay-friendly

  1. Chris Bowers

    November 11, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Thanks Derek. I agree with your approach. My sister has a lot gay friends who are up in arms right now in Arizona and California. I have read several of their blogs recently and can tell you that they do not intend to lay down for these constitutional revisions. I agree that without the approach that, if we all really study, pray and think about, Christ himself took, and would take today, that of friend to the sinner, we have no chance at bringing these people to Christ. After all, that is, and if it is not, it should be, all of our intents, right?

     
  2. Raycol

    November 11, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    I admire the moderate tone of your blog but I think you have misinterpreted the relevant Bible verses. I invite you and your readers to visit the “Gay and Christian” site (www.gaysandslaves.com) to see a different interpretation.

     
  3. Derek Vreeland

    November 11, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Raycol,
    Thanks for the link. I think it is good for gay-friendly Christians to read multiple interpretations of biblical texts in order to understand the spirit of the text, in order to understand what God is communicating to us today through his “God-breathed” Scripture.

    I have read over some of the material on the link you posted above. There is a lot that I would like to dialogue with, but let me briefly respond to the claim that “The Bible accepts same-sex attraction and orientation” because it deals with the relationship between David and Jonathan, which I referenced in my post.
    The claim is that David and Jonathan where sexually attracted to each other, because the Bible says: that the soul of Jonathan was knit together and that Jonathan’s love surpassed the love of women.

    First, I believe you would find it difficult to find any Jewish or Christian biblical commentary which would verify such an interpretation. In my reading of Jewish sources, homosexuality was considered taboo in Jewish culture. It was condemn in the Levitical law for Jews and if the love between David and Jonathan was sexual in nature, then it would seem to follow that the texts would added some kind of disclaimer noting that they did not “lie together” or something in that regard. My assumption would be that the only scholastic Bible commentator who would see same sex-attraction in this passage would be commentators who already have a gay-affirming opinion. This then would be a classic case of eisegesis, whereby the interpreter is reading into the text something that God did not intended.

    Second, to claim that David and Jonathan had a same-sex attraction seems to imply that two men cannot have a deep, loving, affection for one another without it becoming sexual. As a straight man, I find that a bit offensive. There are men in my life that I love deeply. There are men that I have an authentic appreciation and affection for, but this does not mean that I desire any kind of sexual contact with them. It is completely reasonable given the cultural understanding of preChristian Judaism that men could love each other deeply without it implying sexual love.

    I welcome in responses.

    Derek

     
  4. Derek Vreeland

    November 11, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Raycol,
    Thanks for the link. I think it is good for gay-friendly Christians to read multiple interpretations of biblical texts in order to understand the spirit of the text, in order to understand what God is communicating to us today through his “God-breathed” Scripture.

    I have read over some of the material on the link you posted above. There is a lot that I would like to dialogue with, but let me briefly respond to the claim that “The Bible accepts same-sex attraction and orientation” because it deals with the relationship between David and Jonathan, which I referenced in my post.
    The claim is that David and Jonathan where sexually attracted to each other, because the Bible says: that the soul of Jonathan was knit together and that Jonathan’s love surpassed the love of women.

    First, I believe you would find it difficult to find any Jewish or Christian biblical commentary which would verify such an interpretation. In my reading of Jewish sources, homosexuality was considered taboo in Jewish culture. It was condemn in the Levitical law for Jews and if the love between David and Jonathan was sexual in nature, then it would seem to follow that the texts would added some kind of disclaimer noting that they did not “lie together” or something in that regard. My assumption would be that the only scholastic Bible commentator who would see same sex-attraction in this passage would be commentators who already have a gay-affirming opinion. This then would be a classic case of eisegesis, whereby the interpreter is reading into the text something that God did not intended.

    Second, to claim that David and Jonathan had a same-sex attraction seems to imply that two men cannot have a deep, loving, affection for one another without it becoming sexual. As a straight man, I find that a bit offensive. There are men in my life that I love deeply. There are men that I have an authentic appreciation and affection for, but this does not mean that I desire any kind of sexual contact with them. It is completely reasonable given the cultural understanding of preChristian Judaism that men could love each other deeply without it implying sexual love.

    I welcome in responses.

    Derek

     
  5. Jamie McDaniel

    November 11, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    As a gay Christian, I can pause to breathe a sigh of relief over conservative Christians moving to the point of rejecting pastors who call us “abominations” from the pulpit. However, conservative Christians are going to have a very hard time framing themselves as “gay-friendly.” If a person hates the idea of gay and lesbian people gaining equality, I submit that they hate gay and lesbian people on some level. You can’t deny civil rights to another person and claim you are friendly to them. If a white Christian in the 50’s claimed he or she were friendly to blacks but supported segregation laws, I think it would not be true kindness, but rather something false, a way of making the white Christian feel better about themselves, allowing such self-praise as, “I’m not like those people on the White Citizen’s council.”

    I realize that after years of anti-gay sermons and hearing gay people called sodomites, conservative Christians are going to wrestle with their understanding of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. It just seems most aren’t struggling with their prejudice, but rather continuing to justify it with scripture.

    Gay people may be the issue today, but Christians in the past wrestled with circumcision, gentile diets, slavery, equality for women, segregation, interracial marriage, and more. In all of these, those who fought against the Spirit quoted scripture. Even Peter essentially quoted Leviticus to God on the rooftop, saying No Way Lord, haven’t you read the Bible? God, however, commanded Peter to treat Cornelius as an equal.

     
  6. Jeff Vreeland

    November 12, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Jamie,

    I think you are painting Christian ‘s with to wide of a brush in your analogy of struggles that have played out over the last century.

    While Christians might have struggled with ‘slavery, equality for women, segregation, interracial marriage’ it does not mean all Christians struggled with them. If you Look at the scriptures that were quoted during that time, there was an obvious bias interpretation.

    For me, I constantly walk to become more like Jesus, and through his teachings I am taught to love the sinner but not the sin.

    On regular occasions I disagree with those that I call friends or family but continue to love them. To say that I cannot continue to love and befriend someone because I disagree with one aspect of their life is just insulting.

    For example, I have a close friend who is an atheist. He has never believed in an higher being but while I completely disagree with his way of life I continue to socialize with him, pray for him, and love him as Christ would.

    While I understand that as a Christian we are seen in the media as “Gay Bashers,” I think I have to agree with Derek that we need to change that point of view and start becoming more friendly with those that choose this lifestyle, but continuing to pray for them.

     
  7. Derek Vreeland

    November 12, 2008 at 2:14 am

    Jamie,

    I am truly sorry for the way people in the name of Christ have treated the gay community. The anti-homosexual hostility from certain Christians is certainly shameful and not at accurate representation of Christ. I agree with you that it will be difficult for evangelicals to come across as “gay-friendly” if they have not dealt with their own prejudges and homophobia. And I understand that it is difficult for people in the GLBT community to see our love from them even though we do not support their desire for “civil equality.”

    The issue for me is a theological one. I have listened to (and read) gay interpretations of the key texts related to homosexuality / same-sex relationships and I have found most of the arguments to be a bit contrived. I understand that Christians have used the Scripture to justify segregation, slavery, and the suppression of women, but based on the priority of the New Testament we can see why such justifications were misplaced. The NT does not claim that interracial marriages are sin. The NT does not endorse slavery. The NT does not suppress the dignity or worth of women. The NT does place homosexual behaviors outside the bounds for human sexuality.

    On this issue, I know we will disagree, but it is good for us to dialogue and keep the conversation open for discussion.

    Thanks for the comments.

    Derek

     
  8. Jamie McDaniel

    November 12, 2008 at 3:20 am

    Jeff wrote: “While Christians might have struggled with ‘slavery, equality for women, segregation, interracial marriage’ it does not mean all Christians struggled with them.”

    Yes, I agree with you. However it is correct to say the majority were on the wrong side, while the minority (or the church within the church) pushed for positive change and fought the status quo. Dr. King, for example, is an example of a Christian fighting against the majority. And now the United States has a day set aside to honor this Baptist minister.

    Jeff wrote: “To say that I cannot continue to love and befriend someone because I disagree with one aspect of their life is just insulting. “

    There are opinions and then there is oppression. Christians who want to oppress LGBT people can’t just frame it as “just their opinion.” Was it was just the Pharisee’s “opinion” that the Gentiles should be circumcised and conform to Jewish dietary laws lest they not be welcome? Or more recently, that it was just the Southern Baptist Convention’s “opinion” that Ephesians 6:5 was biblical justification for slavery.

    What I would very much like for you to see is that when conservative Christians vote against my civil marriage, we are way past just having a disagreement among friends.

    Jeff wrote: “…we need to change that point of view and start becoming more friendly with those that choose this lifestyle…”

    Well, you’ll need to watch what words you use if you are serious about getting to know gay people in real life. Words like “choose” and “lifestyle” will immediately cause any self-respecting gay person’s antennas to raise.

    Derek wrote: “The issue for me is a theological one. … I understand that Christians have used the Scripture to justify segregation, slavery, and the suppression of women, but based on the priority of the New Testament we can see why such justifications were misplaced. The NT does not claim that interracial marriages are sin. The NT does not endorse slavery. The NT does not suppress the dignity or worth of women.”

    Have you seen the new show, Life on Mars? It is about a cop who gets hit by a car and finds himself back in 1973. We, the viewers, are left to figure out what is going on along with the main character.

    Anyway, if you were sent back in time to when those issues you mention were “the issue” of the day, you would be in the minority. And you would have found the biblically-based arguments for slavery, segregation, and men voting for their household to have all been “crystal clear” to the majority of the Christians during that time. Your argument that slavery is un-Christian, that segregation is wrong, that women can participate at all levels of the church, these would have met with huge resistance.

     
  9. faithworshiplife

    November 13, 2008 at 5:58 am

    Derek,

    I truly appreciate the approach that you are attempting to take, though it can be fraught with misinterpretation (either unintended or purposeful). I truly hope that you are able to succeed. Unfortunately you have several obstacles to navigate.

    1. Many people on the left are not satisfied with simply taking a different tone towards them. Rather those of which I speak (many on the left but not all)will not be satisfied or happy with us until we have fully accepted … and endorsed their lifestyles and political choices. Anything short of full acceptance and endorsement, for this segment of which I speak, will be described in terms of phobia … no matter the particular topic.

    2. The homosexual agenda in American politics is vastly different from other political agendas … like say term limits. For center-right Christians in the West, this topic … fair or un-fair … hits raw emotional buttons. I appreciate your attempts to underscore you are not endorsing the lifestyle. However, it must be understood … again fair or unfair … that discussions of changing our approach to the homosexual community will be heard as endorsement. Make sure you attend to this emotional aspect and you will make great strides in your largely center-right audiences, who have been the targets of a powerful political agenda, aimed at deep and distinct cultural change.

    Derek, if you target these two obstacles, I believe you will be vastly successful in organizing a ministerial outreach to the homosexual community by your largely center-right members.

    Cheering you on,

    William

     
  10. Derek Vreeland

    November 15, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    So I find myself in the mysterious middle, upsetting the established right and failing to please the progressive left. It seems a bit Christ-like to me. You are right on both points. As Jamie, noted above, “If a person hates the idea of gay and lesbian people gaining equality, I submit that they hate gay and lesbian people on some level.” So LGBT people who are pushing for “civil equality” will never accept me as a friend, because I do not agree with their political aspirations. My responsibility is to continue to love them and work towards understanding, a difficult (if not impossible) task I know. And I agree that right-winged-evangelicals will see my call for friendship with the gay community as an endorsement of gay politics. I will work to change their perception.

    Thanks for the comments!
    Derek

     
  11. Jeff Vreeland

    November 17, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Jamie – let me ask you what you propose a person in my situation do. As God has asked me to love those that have sinned and to embrace them with love.

    From you statement above this is impossible to do, correct?

     

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