What to do with a Traditionalist?

07 Mar

One of the #1 questions I am asked by progressive evangelicals I know — whether LGBT or simply supportive of LGBT folks — is “what to do with a traditionalist” in their lives?

First, what is a “traditionalist”? I use the term to describe people who hold to a traditionalist anti-gay view. Some simply refer to these folks as fundamentalists, but I don’t think that is fair. Fundamentalism is a very specific flavor, and most of the “traditionalists” I know are not fundamentalists.  Some from the “traditionalist” stream like to just say that they are “literalists” or “recognize the authority of scripture” or affirm “inerrancy”, “infallibility” etc.  But this is not fair either.  Many progressive evangelicals, including myself, affirm the centrality and authority of scripture, believe that scripture should be taken at its word, and affirm the doctrine of infallibility. The difference is not that one group takes scripture seriously and the other doesn’t.  The difference is that we interpret the texts differently.

In general, I find, “traditionalists” hold their anti-gay position based on tradition and deep-seeded cultural conviction — not simply Biblical exegesis.  In fact, they tend to read the Biblical texts through the lense of cultural tradition as opposed to understanding cultural tradition through the lense of the Bible.

Using a different topic, here is an example of how this works.  During a period of our history as a nation, many Christians believed strongly that inter-racial marriage was sinful and wrong.  For a “traditionalist”, they take their deeply held cultural convictions (based in a long cultural tradition) and twist the Bible to support that view using proof-texting and eisegetic (not exegetic) approaches.  Progressive Christians, on the other hand,  start with the Bible and can see the brokenness of the cultural tradition through the lense of the Bible and a Biblical worldview.  The traditionalist will pick verses to support their already-held cultural view; the progressive will allow the prophetic word of scripture to shape their view of culturally-assumed presumptions.

 But here is the question: if you are a LGBT Christian or simply a progressive Christian is is supportive of LGBT folks, how do you handle traditionalists in your life?

These folks are often hurtful in their words and actions towards gay people.  They help support and sustain institutions that are anti-gay.  It is not simply a case of having bad theology, it is actually a bad theology that hurts people.

So what do you do? 

Do you cut them out of your life?

Do you argue with them?

How do you deal with these people in your life?

In the extreme, sometimes you may need to cut them out of your life.  The emotional damage they inflict on people can be overwhelming.  But, in the ideal, my counsel is to EXTEND GRACE AND LOVE — the same kind of GRACE AND LOVE that we would like to receive.

Cultural-based bigotry is something that is evil, sinful and hurts the cause of God.  But it is no greater sin than any other — and we shouldn’t treat it as if it is a worse sin than others.

So we extend both LOVE and GRACE.  And we PRAY for these folks in our lives.  And we trust that GOD can transform and change them through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We recognize that they don’t CHOOSE to be the way they are… it is a complex set of experiences that create this kind of culturally-based bigotry: outside influences, personal hang ups, bad experiences, etc etc.

So we extend LOVE and GRACE.  And we PRAY.

And finally, I think we SHARE AND LISTEN.

We share our own stories.  We listen to theirs.

There is something deeply powerful about personal narrative and story. Sometimes personal story can penetrate a hardened heart in ways nothing else can.  I believe the Holy Spirit uses our stories and experiences to be transformative catalysts in people’s lives. And we listen to their stories — because stories give context and context allows us to love people as people as opposed to simply dismiss them as problems.


That is my advise.

What has worked for you? What suggestions do you have to share?


Posted by on March 7, 2013 in Uncategorized


10 responses to “What to do with a Traditionalist?

  1. David

    March 7, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Do you ever write anything that doesn’t have some reference to homosexuality? Aside from your terrible exegesis to cater to your own lustful pursuits and your insistence on “traditionalists” not basing their beliefs on exegesis but on “deep-seeded cultural conviction” (which is not true) it just seems like you are always trying to add it in wherever you can. This is a great blog on “love and grace” and I agree that we should be loving and graceful when we deal with one another, and part of loving someone and extending grace to them is telling them the truth in love about their sins the same way we would hope they would do to ours. However, I just don’t see why you wanted to throw in the paragraph that you refer to them as anti-gay…I am not anti-gay I am anti-sin and don’t want my sin struggles, yours or anyone else to be reduced and thus cheapen what Christ endured for our sins so we can extend that love and grace to one another that you are referring to here. I just think by adding that paragraph it made this into something that reeked of a hidden agenda. Sorry if that is offensive but that is the way it made me feel when I read it….


    • Ben Dubow

      March 7, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      David, if you have read my other blogs, then you know the answer is yes. This blog, by design, is pretty much focused on that issue. Right now, my food blog and spiritual growth blog are both dormant, but I may start them up again. This blog is really focused on my journey dealing with sexual orientation from a faith perspective. Once in a while, I will post something else here… but I try to keep it focused. My Facebook postings are definitely more diverse…


    • Ben Dubow

      March 7, 2013 at 11:02 pm

      For the record David, just like you are “not anti-gay, but anti-sin”, I am not anti-bigot, just anti the sin of bigotry. You know, hate the sin, love the sinner.

      I certainly don’t want someones’s bigotry and justification for it to cheapen the cross — and out of love, I am obligated to call them out on their bigotry.

      (To be clear, this post and response are a bit ironic on purpose… your discomfort and offense is exactly what LGBT folks feel when traditionalists talk about them.)

      The answer? We all need to extend LOVE, GRACE, and PRAYER — and SHARE, LISTEN.

      What’s your story?


      • David

        March 8, 2013 at 6:16 am

        Thanks for clarifying. I was just asking really… It is your blog and you can certainly write on whatever you want…even if it is with an agenda (Not saying that it is just saying if) 🙂 Anyways…I am with you on the bigotry and I hate it when professing Christians act like bigots towards any group of people. But calling the practice of homosexuality the sin that it is in a loving way towards someone in practice of it, is not bigotry but loving honesty rooted in deep love for God, His Word and the person they are loving that person enough to speak that into their lives. If correcting someone for bad interpretation either from bad teaching or just bad theology altogether on the practice of homosexuality or a rebuke to someone who professes Christ but still chooses to engage in that lifestyle is not done in and totally motivated by the love of Jesus for that person it is empty, dead, and a poor representation of God’s Love. At the same time to not say anything would be equally as unloving. As i am typing this I am reminded of Paul’s charge to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love.” We need to say the truth in love and love enough to say the truth.


  2. John

    March 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    I don’t like the traditionalist view. But I can accept it as theirs. What I can not accept is their willingness to blame God for it. This is a red flag that the very foundation of their discipleship program is in sand. If only they would simply claim this view as their own bias or hatred, people might overlook their meanness and see Jesus, even in them.


  3. Nancy

    March 8, 2013 at 3:03 am

    I agree with John. The problem is the foundation. Truth is Person.


  4. Nancy

    March 8, 2013 at 3:04 am

    A Person. I am clearly not inerrant : )


  5. Bruce

    March 18, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    “So we extend both LOVE and GRACE. And we PRAY for these folks in our lives. And we trust that GOD can transform and change them through the power of the Holy Spirit. We recognize that they don’t CHOOSE to be the way they are…”

    Ben… don’t you accept the fact that we were born this way and can’t choose otherwise? What?? Are you going to make us undergo reparative therapy?

    This is such a flipping the world on it’s head, it is so hard to keep a “straight” face!

    Tell me this is satire… please!!



    • Ben Dubow

      March 19, 2013 at 12:25 am

      lol, Bruce… tongue-in-cheek, to make the point. Thanks for picking up on it.




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