In yesterday’s post, I gave a brief response to Dr. David Gushee’s recent shift regarding homosexuality. My blog was passed around fairly broadly and elicited various Facebook discussions, which I did not anticipate. Some of the discussions were quite helpful, including the interchange between Dr. Robert Gagnon and Matthew Vines on my own Facebook page, along with many helpful comments by other friends, both gay and straight, who chimed in. As I trolled other Facebook posts—something I rarely do, and for good reason—I encountered some other, rather unintended, responses that can be summarizes as: “Ya boy! You go get ‘em!” And that was not the intention of my blog.
In fact, while I disagree with Gushee’s conclusion, I actually agree with his pastoral heart and I resonate very much with his loving posture toward LGBT people. More than that, I too want to join the crusade in ending hateful, judgmental, dehumanizing, and damning rhetoric that’s been lobbed like grenades across the island, blowing up the “others.”
I concur with David when he says: “I will henceforth oppose any form of discrimination against you. I will seek to stand in solidarity with you who have suffered the lash of countless Christian rejections.” His words are scandalously close to Jesus’s posture with the woman caught in adultery, who by law should have been stoned. Jesus, quite literally, stood in solidarity with the woman, fresh off her adulterous affair.
Jesus didn’t affirm her sin, but He affirmed her humanity. And that’s where many on the evangelical right need to grow.
We need to be more like Jesus. We need to repent from our unchristian rhetoric, our tone, our posture. We need to recognize that unloving speech spackled over with a thin veneer of truth is a religious charade. Truth without love is no truth at all. If Jesus fronted truth over love, he would have stoned the women caught in adultery. And He would have been just in doing so.
However, I don’t agree with Gushee that it’s always “traditionalist Christian teaching” that “produces despair in just about every gay or lesbian person who must endure it.” I’ve had this same discussion with some of my gay friends; some agree with Gushee while others don't. It’s nearly impossible, of course, to determine the exact cause of despair. But in my experience, it’s not so much the “teaching” as it is the teachers that have caused the most damage.
I’ve heard testimony after testimony from LGBT people who have left the church, sometimes running for their lives. And their primary reason is that they were dehumanized, demeaned, mocked, verbally and sometimes physically abused. They were viewed as monsters because they struggled with same-sex attraction. They were isolated, alone, depressed, and scared; they were ripped to shreds by pastors talking about “the gays,” the “gay agenda,” and “those abominations” who are damned to hell.
None of this is inherent to “traditionalists teaching,” but inherent to sinful people who hold to that teaching.
In fact, I would say that such rhetoric has been a significant cause in pushing many Christians to abandon a traditional, non-affirming view of homosexuality. Maybe not the cause, but a cause. Listen to the testimonies. Hear their stories. Not always, but often enough, it’s the dehumanization toward same-sex attracted people that has salted the oats, leading the person to find refreshing compassion at the well of the affirming view.
One gay Christian I know, who holds to a traditional view, told me that if she ever changed her view and joined the affirming camp, it will have been because of the scathing, belittling, uninformed hate-speech lobbed at LGBT people—including herself. A celibate same-sex attracted Christ-follower. She can handle the traditional teaching. She’s well versed in it and agrees with it. But the traditionalist’s rhetoric has got to go.
Obviously I’m not saying that the rhetoric is fully to blame. But it’s played a role, oftentimes a significant role, in nudging LGBT people to the edge of the cliff—sometimes quite literally.
Eric James Borges was a same-sex attracted youth who grew up in a Christian home. Throughout his childhood, he was bullied, verbally abused, spit upon, mocked, and dehumanized in every way imaginable, sometimes with a teacher present. He was called a “faggot,” “disgusting,” “perverted,” and “damned to hell”—by his "Christian" parents. When he finally came out, he was kicked out of his house.
I would encourage you to grab a box of Kleenex and watch Eric’s alarming testimony HERE. It was filmed just one month before Eric killed himself.
After much research on homosexuality, I have arrived at a non-affirming view. I didn’t scramble around trying to defend a traditional view. Yes, I have cultural baggage that I bring to the text. Everyone does. But I have genuinely tried to treat the Bible as fairly as I consciously can, since the Bible, and not tradition, is my authority. And I do not believe the Bible sanctions same-sex marriage.
The Bible also does not sanction tax-collecting. But I seriously doubt that the tax-collectors and sinners who were “drawing near to Jesus” (Luke 15:1) walked away wanting to kill themselves.