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  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.  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.  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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.