I have purposefully waited for a time when there’s no big dust-up consuming the internet to post this, because I don’t want there to be any confusion–I am writing this with every ounce of reason that I can muster. No big emotional event driving this one. I hope you can read it in the same mindset. Before you start making counter-arguments, let me say this:
The point of this blog is not to draw theological lines in the sand. Rather, I simply want to propose we change the place, method, and process in drawing them. It’s an invitation to discuss, but it is more a call for the people of God to stop discussing this issue the way we have been. So many helpful conversations happen privately. I think it’s time to bring that same attitude to the public version of the discussion.
There is not a more divisive issue in the church today than that of homosexuality. There are two very polarized Christian camps (I am limited this discussion to professing Christians): the “Adam & Eve, Not Adam & Steve” ultra-conservative group and the “Jesus Never Mentions It” super-permissive camp.
Never mind that both poles are technically correct (It was Adam and Even and Jesus never does mention it). We know it’s not that simple. There are arguments on both sides and there are a whole lot of people living in the middle of the two extremes.
Take one of my friends, for instance. She would probably lean toward the ultra-conservative side on this issue, both theologically and politically. Her next door neighbor is a lesbian. But she’s not putting her house up for sale or avoiding her neighbor. Instead, they are friendly. She made soup for her one time when she was sick. Her husband helps out around her house when there’s an issue. While she would definitely disagree with the behavior, she’s nowhere close to a hate-monger.
I would consider myself in between the two poles as well. Every time a controversy arises I feel the pull from either extreme and am unsatisfied by those two choices. I’m not fond of the protest culture in the church, but that’s not because I feel like the LGBT community is right about everything. I’m equally un-fond of the protest culture within the LGBT camp, as well as the if-you-disagree-with-our-lifestyle-you-are-a-hater attitude I see all too often. These extreme views are blocking out more productive conversation, discussion we’d all benefit from having. If you want a more comprehensive look at what I personally believe, check it out. I don’t think I’m the only one. I think most believers wish there was another stance that was possible aside from the extreme voices we hear from most often.
In the old days–back when church men still wore dresses and it wasn’t because they were transgender–whenever there was a controversy all the thought leaders would get in a room and they would figure it out. Dozens of theological or practical issues dot the history of the church. Bigger issues than this, really. Stuff like whether or not Jesus was fully God, for instance.
If we can settle that controversy, and among Orthodox Christians we certainly have, don’t you think it’s possible that we can handle this one?
Let’s get all the big wigs in the room. From every tradition and persuasion. The Pope. Billy Graham. Beth Moore. John Piper. But not just folks over 40. Get some young pups in there, too. Get the Red Letter Christians and the young reformed crowd seats at the table. And get some people from the LGBT community in the room, for crying out loud. Let’s at least look each other in the eye like grown ups. Let’s open our Bibles, hear each others stories, and take a little different approach. Arguing as strangers doesn’t seem to be pushing the ball down the field very far. Maybe praying and talking as friends would do the trick.
The only rule is no politicians. They can’t settle anything.
I anticipate two objections. First, that “we’ve” already settled it and no further discussion is needed, just acceptance of the Biblical view. The Bible says no to homosexuality, and that’s that. But this ignores that changing societies require revisiting established conclusions, not because the conclusion should change but because the implications change. For instance, gay marriage has not been a historical implication on this matter because it simply wasn’t a factor in the discussion. There are new implications that must be considered, and the church’s role in addressing these implications is far from settled.
Second, some will say that denominations are settling this one by one. This is true. In the old days, there weren’t six gazillion different autonomous denominations that could decide whatever they wanted on certain topics. There was usually one or two really powerful people that needed an answer and saw to it that they got one. Not so any more. This adds to our challenge, to be sure. But it doesn’t let the universal Church off the hook. Especially those churches which are unaffiliated with a denomination have a responsibility to get together on this and decide how we’re going to interact with the homosexual community. It will be really, really hard work.
Won’t it be worth it? Or shall we keep lobbing verbal grenades at one another online? This isn’t a matter of dividing liberals and conservatives–this is a matter of the entire Christian community being divided over an issue that is defining our time. There’s no denying that. Instead of being reactive, let’s sit around a table and talk things out.
Let me know when and where and I’ll bring the snacks.
Photo credits linked.