RSS

Tag Archives: homosexuality

Rick Warren is Being Disingenuous

Image

I like Rick Warren a lot.

I have a ton of respect for his ministry, integrity and character.

I have learned a ton from him, consider him a mentor-from-a-distance, and will usually defend him against critics.  

My experiences with him have demonstrated that he is genuine, loving, passionate, compassionate, and simply put — the real deal.

That said, in this recent interview about homosexuality and gay marriage, Rick is being disingenuous. In the interview, Warren is quoted as saying:

“I fear the disapproval of God more than I fear your disapproval or the disapproval of society”

in response to a question about his opposition to gay marriage.

It is no surprise and nothing new that Warren believes all homosexual behavior is sinful and that gay marriage is wrong.  While I disagree with Warren on these issues — and believe he is both on the wrong side of history as well as faithful exegesis — I respect him enough to not dismiss him because of this disagreement.

But here is where is gets disingenuous: he implies that his position is the only one that God would approve and that anyone who disagrees or has a different position (a) is outside the bounds of God’s approval and (b) hold their position because they value societal approval more than Gods.

The truth of the matter is that there are faithful, committed, intelligent Christ followers on both sides of this issue — and Rick Warren knows it.  Those who disagree with him do so out of conviction and from their understanding of scripture and Jesus. We can disagree on how to read and apply the scriptures without having to lower ourselves to imply that those who disagree with us are less faithful and less committed to the scriptures and to following Jesus than we are.

The right answer for Warren would be: “I believe X. Many of my brothers and sisters believe -X. As I hope they respect me, I respect them. This is an issue of hermeneutics and exegesis. We all agree that God’s love is for all people and all people are created in the image of God. That is the important stuff…”

I have heard Warren plea for more civility in these kinds of conversations, especially within the church. That cannot and will not happen until leaders like Warren stop mis-characterizing anyone who disagrees with their particular interpretation of a passage as being “less faithful”.  As a church community at-large, we must be humble enough to listen first, seek common ground, and always lead with respect and civility.  

Most of the time, Warren models and leads in this area well.  This time, he failed.

Advertisements
 
10 Comments

Posted by on December 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

A Good Example of Preaching on a Tough Subject

My friend and seminary classmate Pastor Richard J. Lee gave a sermon entitled “FAQ: Is Homosexuality a Sin” at his church this past week.  Richard is a great guy, talented pastor… and more conservative on this issue than I am.  Richard holds a pretty traditionalist position on homosexuality and argues for that position in this sermon.  I disagree with his exegesis, but totally understand and respect where he is coming from.

Given that I disagree with him on the topic, you may be wondering why I am posting it here and why I am recommending it?  It is because I think this is a great example of how traditionalists can preach on this topic with grace, respect and without falling into many of the “anti-gay” traps that are so common (e.g. Louie Giglio’s sermon from 20 years ago that got him uninvited to the Presidential Inauguration) or the more extreme bigotry of people like Lou Engle or Bryan Fischer.  In other words, Richard gets the tone right: pastoral, graceful, but pulls no punches on what he believes.  He addresses the tensions and gives people space to disagree, explore, etc.  As a gay Christian who disagrees with him, I felt totally respected and would be comfortable going to his church, worshiping there, etc. — which means he got it right.

If you are a traditionalist pastor or church-goer, this is a great example of how to tackle this issue in your church.  If you are a progressive on this issue — or a gay seeker or gay believer — I hope you listen to it… and then let me know, while disagreeing with him, did you feel respected?  How would you have felt sitting in the pews listening to this?  Any other thoughts?

Here is the link… check it out:

http://www.bethanywell.com/2013/06/06-23-2013-is-homosexuality-a-sin/

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

The Bigotry Label

Image

I won’t call you a bigot simply because you think homosexuality is wrong for theological reasons. While I totally disagree with your interpretation and application of God’s Word on this topic, I certainly respect your right to disagree with me.

Being a traditionalist Christian on this issue does not make you a hate-filled bigot. And frankly, we will never be able to have civil and productive discussion about the issue from a theological perspective as long as we simply dismiss each other out-of-hand as either bigoted fundamentalists or heretical liberals.

I can respect your theological opinion and expect that you will respect mine.  And together, we will sharpen each other as we journey together.

However, I will call you out on your bigotry…

  • When you use your particular Biblical interpretation to deny me and others their civil rights.
  • When you oppose simple laws to outlaw employment and housing discrimination against LGBT people.
  • When you demonize and insult and attack and dismiss LGBT people.
  • When you stand by in silence when we are attached, ridiculed, bullied and beaten.
  • When you pass along lies about me and other LGBT people based on made up science and pseudo-psychology.
  • When you deny me full participation and membership in your faith community based on orientation, not any kind of behavior.
  • When you use phrases like “gay lifestyle”, “gay agenda” and other code words meant to create fear and anger.
  • When you are silent when people scapegoat the LGBT community for everything from hurricanes and natural disasters to the demise of the family unit and marriage, to the economic collapse.
  • When you stand by as LGBT youth kill themselves in shocking numbers.
  • When you routinely use “gay” or “fag” or “dyke” as an insult or punchline to a joke.

We won’t always agree about how to interpret and apply specific passages of the Bible, nor will we always agree on issues of social ethics and social policy. But we should be able to agree that we can always respect each other, listen to each other, and — as followers of Jesus — love each other.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: ,

What the Bible Says (& Doesn’t Say) About Homosexuality Series

I meant to post this summary a few weeks ago when I wrapped up the series. It is a 12-post series. Also, to really understand the process I went through to study these passages, it is worth reading through this 9-part series on Biblical Hermeneutics here.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS (& DOESN’T SAY ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY

  1. Those 7 References
  2. Asking Questions of the Text
  3. Genesis 19
  4. Judges 19
  5. Leviticus 18 & 20
  6. Romans 1, Part #1
  7. Romans 1, Part #2
  8. Romans 1, Part #3
  9. 1 Cor 6:9 & 1 Tim 1:10
  10. The 8th & 9th Reference
  11. Some Additional Principles & Wisdom to Consider
  12. Conclusions

BONUS Post: When Jesus Confronted Homosexuality in the Gospels

BONUS POST: The Logical Flaw in the Anti-Gay Hermeneutic

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

Conclusions

[Part #12 in a series looking at the what the Bible says about homosexuality.]

I have been praying through and studying in-depth the 7 references to homosexuality in the Bible for the past few months. I have also been looking at what the Bible says beyond those references — about sexuality generally, about marriage, about grace, about sin, etc.

Here are my conclusions as of today… and I say “today”, because they are (as I am) a work in progress and always developing. My goal here is not to lay out a systematic theology of homosexuality or to teach authoritatively on the issue or even to try and convince anyone else that I am right. This is simply a snapshot of my best take on what Jesus is saying to me about these issues…

___________________________________________________________________

I start with an acknowledgement that we are all living in Plan B — that is, we live in a world terribly marred by sin and brokenness. No area of our lives is untouched nor uncorrupted by the reality of sin and brokenness in the world. This includes our sexuality — both for heterosexuals and for homosexuals. There is no one on earth for whom their sexual orientation is not corrupted by sin and brokenness and is not a full reflection of God’s intended purposes for sexuality.

So the challenge for all of us — whether straight or gay — is to live out our sexual orientations with as much integrity and faithfulness as we can.

Marriage and sexuality as we know it are both temporal. Neither exist into eternity. But both are also fundamental to what it means to be human. In sexuality, we have the essence of mutual love and submission, loving service, deep intimacy and connection. We are created for these kinds of relationships.

In the Bible, sexual relationships are primarily about two things: (1) reproduction, and (2) intimacy/connection. This is God’s primary design for sexuality. Also, I think the scriptures are clear that, in God’s primary design, marriage is a life-long, loving, covenanted, committed, mutually submitted heterosexual institution. It is also, I believe, undeniable that there is a strong bias against homosexuality in the Bible. 

So what is the gay or lesbian follower of Jesus to do? What are the viable options?

I see them as potentially three:

A. Marriage

B. Life-long Celibacy

C. Orientation Change

While the scientific evidence is scant on the success of therapeutic change, I don’t think it should be dismissed or belittled entirely. We should neither discount the ability of God to do the miraculous, nor should we discount the fact that sexuality is a continuum and that people who experience same-sex attraction may also experience opposite-sex attraction and be able, with the help of prayer and therapy, live a happy heterosexual life. But while we should not deny this possibility, we should also not force it on anyone or pretend that it is guaranteed. But I do think it is a valid option for some people to pursue.

Celibacy, as taught in the Bible, is a spiritual gift that some people — both gay and straight — have. For those who have this gift, it should be celebrated, supported and valued. It is an important gift within the Body of Christ and one that unfortunately Protestants have ignored or denigrated. Again, I don’t think a gift can be forced on someone or compelled. Nor do I believe that simply being gay means you have the gift.

To be clear, those who have the gift see celibacy as a blessing, not a burden to bear. Celibacy as understood Biblically is not “bearing one’s cross”, but a profoundly deep and beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit. I believe that Protestant churches need to do a much better job of creating environments where people with the gift of celibacy can flourish and live vibrant lives. For gay people with the gift, there are additional challenges. To successfully live a life of celibacy, one must be in a community that affirms and celebrates the gift, provides strong fellowship and community, and is a place where the person can be fully known (including their sexual orientation). I have not experienced or seen very many Protestant churches that do this well. For example, I think that even if I had the gift of celibacy, the community/church I was in was not a healthy community to live out that gift. The gift was often ignored or denigrated (though never by the teaching staff… it was strongly affirmed in things like the SHAPE spiritual gifts class), singles (especially older singles) were considered “projects to marry off” instead of creating an environment of discernment; and it was not a community where one could openly identify as gay, even if celibate.  For celibacy to be a real option, churches need to be proactive in their teaching about and support of celibates.

The term celibacy is often confused with the term chastity. I have written about this elsewhere, so will not do so here again. But I believe that every follower Jesus — gay or straight, married or single — is called to a life of chastity, which is sexual purity.  This kind of sexual purity is a commitment to sexual integrity and faithfulness to Jesus in our sexuality. Celibacy is a life-long positive commitment to not be sexually active (though are still sexual). These are very different.

Some churches offer as the only real option for gays and lesbians a lifetime of single chastity — this is the “Cross to bear” approach to the issue. While some have found success in this (generally those with lower libidos or libidos diminished by age) many have found this formula one that reinforces shame, hiddenness and emotional/relational stagnation.

So what about marriage? Or what I have come to refer to as life-long, loving, covenanted relationships?

It is my belief that such a covenanted relationship is for many gay and lesbian Christ-followers the best available option. If change is not possible or likely and one does not have the gift of celibacy, then the pursuit of a committed and covenanted relationship may be the best answer and the one that most glorifies Christ and leads to a flourishing life. While a gay marriage will never be able to reproduce (one part of God’s design for sexuality), it can fulfill the other part of God’s design in terms of relationship/intimacy/connection.

I don’t think that gay marriage is necessarily the same as heterosexual marriage — but I do believe that it can be the best available option for many people. It is certainly a better option than hiding and pretending or depression or promiscuity or suicide or any other number of options that sadly are very prevalent among gay men and women. 

I know that in many respects this conclusion will be disappointing to “both sides” of the discussion. Many traditionalists will feel like any conclusion that permits any same-sex erotic behavior is sinful and wrong. And I fully expect that many of these traditionalists will send me nasty emails and tell me I am going to hell or have walked away from the faith or have lost my salvation, etc. Of those who have chosen to stay in contact with me, many will stop. For them, the entire integrity of the Gospel rests on rejecting all homosexuality and homosexuals. And therefore, this conclusion will be a disappointment to them.

On the other hand, many from the affirming camp will be disappointed that I have not gone further and affirmed gay marriage as an equal institution to heterosexual marriage. And they will conclude that this leaves gays and lesbians as second-class citizens.

First let me say that I think the discussion of gay marriage needs to be a bit more nuanced that it usually is. What I am talking about here is a Christ-centered covenanted relationship recognized and celebrated by the gathered faithful community. This has nothing to do with civil marriage. I think it is p
ossible to affirm the equality of civil marriages without doing so in the church. To me, these are fundamentally different issues (and, for the record, I fully support civil marriage equality and always have — both publicly and privately.)  

Second, I simply don’t think there is a way to say that gay marriage (as a religious institution) is fully the same as heterosexual marriage. I think the Biblical texts do not allow this. That said, I believe that it often is the best available option for gays and lesbians and that as such God blesses and honors those commitments and families. As we all navigate through a Plan-B world, I don’t think that any of us are living the perfect option as God designed and that we all must do the best we can with what we have. I don’t think this makes gays and lesbians second-class members of the community. 

So now that I have managed to offend everyone… where does that leave me?

Oddly, pretty much exactly where I have been.

I am a gay follower of Jesus Christ. While I have been through some reparative therapy, I do not believe that change is likely for me. (And the counselors I have worked with generally agree). I also do not sense that I have the gift of celibacy.

But I am a single gay follower of Jesus Christ… so I embrace chastity as I would encourage all followers of Jesus to do. And if I was in a dating relationship, I think the same standards would apply to me as would apply to a straight couple in terms of sexual integrity and wisdom.

And in terms of the future, what will it hold? I honestly don’t know and I am comfortable completely surrendering that to God. I believe that all marriage is vocation and based on God’s calling… so it is his deal, his timing, his decision… and I am 100% okay with that.

For people who want me to be more specific, what does this mean in terms of things like dating and pursuing relationships?

I am not currently dating nor actively pursuing relationships. To be honest, I don’t think I am very dateable at the moment.

I have been on a pretty hellish 9 month journey that comes after a 17 year journey of hiding and pretending about who I am. One of the consequences of that hiding and pretending is that my emotional self got pretty much shut down — mostly out of necessity. And that “shut down” allowed me to do things that I shouldn’t have done, that were contrary to my own values, and contrary to Jesus’ call on my life. While emotionally and sexually I am in a healthier place than I have ever been before, I still have some work to do — or more precisely, God still has a lot of work to do in me. And until that stuff happens, I would be a lousy boyfriend/partner — though I am a fabulous dinner date! (I’m just saying…)

One of the things I have always taught — and has been reinforced for me by some important mentors in my life — is that, within the church, healthy dating happens in community. That can’t happen until I am really in a community that knows me, loves me, values me, and is okay with who I am. In that context, there can be honest and real accountability, feedback, etc. 

So, in short…

– I am fully surrendered to Jesus Christ in every area of my life — including my sexuality.

– I think that options A, B & C (from above) are all valid and viable for followers of Jesus.

– For me, I don’t see option B or C as being realistic nor where I am called.

– That said, there is certainly no guarantee that God will ever call me into marriage — and married or not, I am called to a life of purity and integrity (chastity).

– In all things, Jesus is first and foremost in my life… he is Lord of Lords and King of Kings… and I follow Him no matter the cost nor consequence.

So that is where I am today…

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: