I’m not sure you’re preferred title of address so I’ve chosen a formal one. I wish to convey respect and humility in my disagreement. I have a question before I answer yours: Have you ever considered how painful it is for myself (and other advocates of same-sex marriage) to hear Scripture misused by our friends, family, and even pastors to denigrate those we consider equal and included in God’s eyes?
When you, or anyone else, uses the phrase ” I thought the rainbow was God’s sign” it deeply pains me. For the LGBTQ community, the rainbow is a symbol of diversity and inclusion. For Christians, it is a sign that God is committed to humanity, has entered into covenant with all of her constituents (from very diverse backgrounds), and loves them enough to pursue them rather than destroy them even if they are living in sin. Could not this be a powerful message for the LGBTQ community, even if you disapprove of their “lifestyle”? A God who loves and pursues them, not condemns them and calls them abominations, using the context of their own symbol.
Also, I am bothered by your choice of phrasing regarding “flying flags”. You assume because I support same-sex marriage I have chosen to fly a flag other than the “Christian” flag. The reality is, I don’t fly the Christian flag because it represents the absurd notion of Christendom, Christianity as state religion. In fact, I don’t fly flags at all really. A flag is a sign of allegiance to a system of belief or government. Thus, as compelled by the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, I don’t fly a flag, I carry my cross. My choice to advocate for and support same-sex marriage is derived from a deep desire to read and engage Scripture and to make real the radical love and grace of God in the lives of others. The very premise on which you have begun this task seems to be built on the notion that the only possible outcome is your “truth” being proven as the only truth. However, as I hope to be wrong and that this was truly written out of desire for dialogue and not out of sheer hubris, I offer the following response. I hope you will prayerfully consider my thoughts.
If this open letter has reached you, I thank you for graciously taking the time to read it. You said the questions aren’t rhetorical, so I hope I can safely assume you have at least considered my answers and not assumed you are in sole possession of the truth. If you have a rebuttal or any insights to add, I will be willing to humbly consider them.
Grace and Peace to you in Christ,
You will find my answers below.
**As a side note, I will offer some clarification of terms. I assume you are familiar, but as I plan to use some abbreviations and specific terms I want to make sure we are on the same page. (1) Cisgender is someone who adheres to a particular society’s gender norms. It is to be distinguished from straight, which is about sexuality. It is seen as the opposite of transgender. (2) LXX refers to the Septuagint, the Greek language form of the OT. I refer to this often because it has bearing on how NT authors quote the OT, since they had more free access to the Greek text than the Hebrew and Aramaic. (3) LGBTQ is used to mean Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. Queer here means those who are questioning as well as those who do not easily fit along the typically presumed binaries. Among this group might be people who identify as intersex, androgynous, or asexual. (4) Intersex refers to individuals born, in some form, with both male and female reproductive characteristics. This can be mosaic, where the person has both XX and XY chromosomes and needs gender therapy to choose a Sex. It can also present as a child having the outer appearance of a vagina but having internal testicles instead of ovaries. There are many more examples of how this occurs, but the important distinction is that it is an issue of gender and not sexuality.**
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
While I cannot pinpoint a single, watershed moment, my journey began sometime after 2006. Initially, I held the dynamic tension that, whether or not being LGBTQ is a sin, the government ought to recognize their relationships as legitimate and offer them the rights of marriage. This argument arose because I became aware of issues like patient advocacy and rights as next of kin that were being denied to same-sex partners in some states at the time. As I understood it, even if the Church did not recognize these relationships, it is not the job of the Church to police the lives of non-Christians or attempt to dictate matters of state (1 Cor 5:9-13).
This journey has progressed over the years to include the understanding that discussion of biological determinacy vs. choice, male/female gender binaries, self-determination, and the notion of traditionally defined marriage are all deeply rooted in modernist/foundationalist epistemological commitments that I thoroughly reject on a fundamental theological and philosophical level. By beginning with these questions we make two basic assumptions. (1) The human being is essentially an individual and the discussion revolves primarily around issues of rights, personal liberty, and self-determinacy. (2) That issues of Sex, gender, sexuality, and intimacy are tied up entirely in easily definable physical norms that can be reduced to the sum of their parts.
Without putting the cart before the horse, it will do well enough to state here that these types of assumptions do not, in any serious manner, consider the complex web of information that is to be gathered when one considers a wide range of how our concept of “self” is formed according to various academic fields as anthropology, sociology/political science, biology, and neuroscience. The data from these fields strongly suggests that we need to reframe these discussions to consider that any notion of “self -determination” in relation to this (or any) discussion can only be understood in relation to a larger corporate whole. Considering we are all the product of an environment, the way forward is to become conscious of how these environmental factors affect us personally. This provides a way of remaining humble in discussions where we believe others may be affected as well; whether that be by biological/genetic coding or personal choice in response to life experience.
As such, my journey towards celebrating same-sex marital unity -to use your vernacular – has included an enlightening study of the story of Jesus according to Matthew. In the course of this study, two principles emerged which directly related to how I was addressing others I perceived as being in the wrong (including at the time, those of same-sex attraction). (1) In Matthew 7, Jesus tells his audience that it is absurd to try to expose a speck in someone else’s eye when they have a plank in their own. It strikes me that quite often, seeking to expose the sin of others, we end up exposing our own sins in the process. Whether that sin be pride, anger, hate, or simply the failure to extend the radical grace of the cruciform Christ, our attempts to expose the sins of others almost always leave us humbled before God (cf Matt 18:31-35). (2) In Matthew 22, Jesus states the entire law is summarized in the command to love God and love neighbor with our entire person. This is the greatest of all commandments and “the way to heaven” according to the text.
To expand upon these points, our identity, as individuals participating in the community of Christ, must be one of love directed towards and rooted in the person of God as expressed in Christ. This will render us a living embodiment of the death of Christ for others that leads towards transformation in both parties (2 Cor 4). It is a life of humility, emulating the kenotic emptying of self that Christ exemplified as he took up the cause and burdens of the “other” on the cross, as a willing sacrifice to see them reconciled before God (Phil 2).
I am, like most, often woefully imperfect in my practice of these ideas, but they have provided me a basic framework by which I can lay aside myself and seek to engage lovingly the “other” of the LGBTQ community. I can participate in and embrace their narrative towards an understanding of who we are in relation to each other and, more importantly, in relation to Christ. However, even in my admitted imperfections I seek to follow the example set by Paul in 1 Corinthians by striving first and foremost to find and focus on the good news of “Christ and him crucified” (2:2) and allow that focus to lead me where God desires as I practice my faith in relationship with others. That commitment has led me here.
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
This is a rather imprecise question. If the question is “Which Bible verses presented you with propositional statements of absolute moral principles that convinced you God approves of same-sex marriage?”, then I would dare say none. In fact, I would go so far as to assert the Bible does not function as a propositional book of absolute ethical statements that can be quantified and qualified to guarantee we will be on the right side of the ethical aisle on every issue.
The Church -like Israel- is called to be a “royal priesthood and a chosen nation” (Ex 19, 1 Pet 2). As such, it must learn to “wrestle with God and with men” (Gen 32:28) just as Israel did. Being in relationship with Yahweh means struggling to understand him through his chosen method of self-revelation, and in doing so coming to understand how we ought to relate to our neighbor. The Israelites had the prophets, who spoke to them the direct word of Yahweh and yet they did not understand or heed that word. They failed their calling, which the prophet Micah summarized as a call to live according to the nature of God in love and justice for their neighbors (Micah 6).
Why then do we assume that we can easily categorize the text into systematic propositions when it was not even written to or for us, but speaks to us only through the appropriative and inspirational work of the Spirit? The text, as it is recorded, was inspired for a human author writing about God working in human history, speaking to a human audience, at a particular point in human history. Until we wrestle with the Holy Spirit as it speaks to us through the inspiration of the appropriated text with careful consideration we cannot even begin to claim to have grasped a “clear ethical meaning” of the text.
That having been said, it can be recognized that the ultimate revelation of God occurs not in the text but in the one to whom the text points: the crucified and risen Jesus the Christ. It is only in grasping who he is and who we are because of and in him that we can begin to form a way forward in any so-called ethical dilemma. It is in seeking to know Christ and find my identity in him, and in his body (the Church), that I can cease to be defined against an “other”. Only then can I approach my LGBTQ neighbor with love and humility. Such an approach, the love of all people rooted in the example of the cross of Christ, is deeply rooted in Scripture.
Beside what I have already quoted above, I find the Sermon on the Mount to be especially challenging in this regard. Also the call of Christ to “take up my cross” (Mark 8) comes to mind. It seems to me that turning towards one’s neighbor, in Scripture, is turning towards Christ (Luke 10:25-37).
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
I could take this question in quite a few directions, but two immediate considerations come to mind. First, I would point to a story that many would consider particularly unrelated to the issue. In Luke 8, the story is told of a woman who has hemorrhaged vaginally. Her condition is so severe that, despite the fact that her condition is chronic, she has not been able to find any medical reprieve. Instead, she has been swindled out of her money by dishonest medical professionals.
This woman has heard the stories about Jesus, and determines to sneak into a crowd and touch only the tassels of his garment. This plan came at personal risk, as her condition rendered her ceremonially and thus societally unclean. Anyone she touched would also be made unclean and would have a legal claim against her if she did not give proper verbal warning of her condition. In order to get close to Jesus she had to violate a number of serious laws with potentially severe penalties.
Despite the odds against her, she manages to sneak through the crowd unnoticed and execute her plan; and it works! However, Jesus realizes that someone has been healed and demands they come forward. The terrified woman comes forward and tells Jesus the whole story. Jesus has now, by law, been rendered unclean. The woman has violated every shred of law and common decency. Yet, Jesus does not condemn her. He comforts her, praises her faith and bids her shalom. He then proceeds on his way to where he had been heading all along. He does not proceed to the temple to offer a purity sacrifice, even though by the nature of the woman’s condition he almost certainly should have. Instead, it would seem, in the presence of Christ even those things which we insist that law, nature, and common decency demand we treat as “other” can be redeemed, purified, and included within the radical and transformative purposes of his kingdom.
Next I point to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I assume you have been to Sunday School – you are an ordained minister after all – so let’s be brief here. A man walking along the road to Jericho is jumped, stripped naked, and beaten within an inch of his life. As he lay naked on the road two Jewish religious officials walked by. Both, likely concerned for issues like religious purity or personal safety, passed by without offering help. However, a Samaritan helped.
A Samaritan! A member of the enemy race of the Jews. He represented the long lost northern kingdom of Israel who had been interbred with their Assyrian captors during exile and forcefully opposed the rebuilding of Judah when they returned from Babylonian captivity. He represented an opposing religion that had rewritten the Pentateuch to decentralize the worship of Yahweh from the temple Mount in Jerusalem. Anyone from Israel (Judah) would not even recognize the Israelite heritage of this man, even though Samaria had once been the northern kingdom’s capital. This was the hero, the neighbor that must be emulated in Jesus story.
Again, it would seem that the Jesus of the Lukan narrative would have us embrace those whom we have been told are our enemy, those we have been told have an agenda to end our very means of doing life and worshipping God. In fact, those people are perfectly capable of being more godly than we the “righteous elite” are and perhaps we might learn a lesson about what Christ means by the word “love” if we took him seriously when he says “stop looking for your neighbor and start being one!”
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
I have to confess, I’m a bit confused at this point. It feels like you keep rewording the same question and expecting a different answer. Perhaps you could have saved yourself a couple questions (and me a couple hundred words worth of typing) if you had simply worded a single question more precisely. Then again, you’re a published author and I’m not. C’est la vie, I guess.
Having read the entire “40 Questions” before I began answering them, I would say it’s a reasonable conclusion what you actually mean is “If you actually believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, what do you make of the many passages that refer to humanity as being male and female, marriage as being between man and wife, and same-sex intercourse as sin?”
First, as I stated above in a bit of a different way, the words Inspiration and Inerrancy are not interchangeable. God revealed himself to human authors in a timely (not timeless) manner to help them understand him in ways they could grasp. God contextualized himself. The ultimate revelation of God is Jesus himself, the divine Logos emptied into full humanity and crucified as a criminal. God speaks in human terms, contextualized in historically bound ideas and settings, to speak to historically bound peoples and yet he sends his Spirit to inspire the text to continue to speak to us today through careful study and engagement in our own history and setting. If we lose sight of this, we fail to engage and begin to shape the text to our own whims.
Having said that, if you want to discuss the relevant texts, if you believe this entire discussion solely hinges on them, I will oblige. Let’s start by establishing the texts usually considered “relevant” to the discussion of the LGBTQ community. Typically these texts are Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:24, Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, Matthew 19:4, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:31, and 1 Timothy 1:10.
It seems sensible to begin with Beginnings. Considering the Genesis 1 passage, it must be pointed out that expecting an ancient book to be 100% scientifically accurate in everything it says is fairly unrealistic. According to the order of creation, light proceeded the heavenly bodies and the earth is something else entirely from the sun, moon, and stars. Likewise, the reality of nature is that many creatures, including humans, do not exist in a simple male-female binary despite what Genesis 1 says.
In fact, the occurrence of detected intersex genitalia in humans at birth is more common than is recognized. Approximately 1/2000 children each year is born with genitalia that are not easily recognizable as being either male or female and require the consultation of a Sex differentiation specialist, according to the Intersex Society of North America From this statistic alone, it is more common to be intersex than to have cystic fibrosis. Yet this statistic does not include persons whose anatomy appears to fit a gender binary, but upon hitting puberty, or at some later point in adulthood, as a result of complications is revealed to be, in fact, intersex. A prominent recent example of this occurred in 2009 when up-and-coming female track star Caster Semaya failed a so-called “gender” test and was revealed to have internal male anatomy despite the fact that she was externally female.
This being noted, if nature is quite capable of producing individuals who do not fit the antiquated notion of a neat and tidy gender binary, why do we suppose that it will produce people who are biologically wired for only one form of sexuality by default? Are we really so arrogant as to assume that choice, and not any other myriad of factors beyond the realm of conscious and intentional rejection of heterosexuality (self-determinacy as the outworking of insistence on individual liberty) is at play? Surely nature, and its sustainer and creator Yahweh, has proven to us that we don’t make the rules on such things. As Christ told Peter in Acts 11, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” (v. 9). Perhaps it is time we set aside our hubris and began trying to understand how we can humbly engage our neighbor in light of these realities, instead of denigrating them based on rather narrow interpretations of a living, Spirit appropriated text.
That having been said, the question is begged, What are we to do with Genesis 1? We can start by taking it seriously, literarily, but not literally. We don’t need to do strange apologetic gymnastics with the text. Instead, we must recognize that the Israelites told their creation story like an ancient society, in many ways resembling the stories of their ancient Mesopotamian neighbors. Their notion of science was based on their ability to interact with the observable world. God revealed himself to them as such without overriding their ability to comprehend. The ancient Israelites had no means by which to understand that earthworms are naturally hermaphroditic or that there are organisms that have no anatomical Sex at all and simply divide, reproducing asexually; thus they categorized all living non-plant based species as “male and female”. This doesn’t mean the Bible is untrue, it means it isn’t a science text and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Once we allow ourselves to recognize genre and context, to treat the Bible as literature that points us towards God by way of his self-limiting revelations, we can get past these hurdles and move towards the theological point(s) of the text. That is, as prominent, conservative OT scholar John Walton has made his career pointing out, we can discover that God in creation sought to establish the earth as his dwelling place and fill it with his presence – an image which mirrors the Shekinah glory filling the tabernacle/temple (Ex 40:34-35; 2 Chron 5, 7).
Thus, in Genesis 1, God is establishing the whole earth as his temple and chooses humanity to be his royal priesthood – bearing the royal symbol of the king who has appointed them as ambassadors just as he would later choose Israel to represent him before the nations (Ex 19:5-6) and later the Church (1 Pet 2:9) before the world. This is the imagery depicted by the imago dei verses, foreshadowing God’s purposes from the beginning of creation and raising serious concerns about how Genesis 1:27 is used against the LGBTQ community.
Consider: if you interpret this passage in a strict inerrantist sense (as defined by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy) as saying that the male/female binary is God’s appointed natural order for creation and all else is the result of the Fall, then essentially you have denied the inherent imago dei of intersex individuals and declared them accidents. They are unnatural products of sin, an argument which either intentionally or unintentionally implies they are lesser as humans. However, if we go to this argument must we also argue that a child born out of wedlock or as the result of rape is the same? Is sin sin? Is it particularly horrendous to be born in such a fashion that you cannot be easily categorized on a gender binary thus making questions of sexuality exceedingly difficult to engage in terms of choice? Or should we instead recognize that the point of the text is not to delineate what counts as “God’s people” but to include all of humanity, as Israel on their ancient understanding was able to conceive it?
I would point you to Galatians 3:23-29 (cf. Col 3:10-11). Here Paul reminds the Galatians churches, which were divided amongst themselves by issues of race – arguments over who was “chosen by God” as his people – to put subvert all divisive notions in Christ. When one chooses to identify herself in the body of Christ, she cannot then try to delineate or denigrate its members according to such ridiculous notions as how one was born: Jew/Gentile; slave/free; male/female. Such animosity and disunity, based upon the ways by which we divide ourselves, determine the “other” to be “outside” and excluded and ourselves to be “included”, are transformed in Christ and all are included in the “one flesh” of the body of Christ (Eph 5:31).
Likewise, in Romans 8 we are told that all of creation is being redeemed before God. Why then should we use this verse, describing a “natural” order according to an ancient society, more concerned with describing their God’s character and who they are in him than as a precise prescription of the scientific mechanisms of their world, to exclude some people from anything, including the sacrament of marriage? If God seeks to transform creation for his kingdom at its most fundamental level, certainly there is room for those who embody his character in their love regardless of who they demonstrate it too.
Moving on to Genesis 2, we have the story of the archetypal couple, Adam and Eve whose names literally translate to human and mother. Their story is intended to represent the story of humanity. Further, as Israel envisioned themselves as God’s chosen and the nation through which God’s redemption of all would come (cf Isa 2) the story of Adam and Eve becomes the prelude to the story of Israel, a foreshadowing of events.
Just as Israel entered into covenant with Yahweh, so Adam and Eve in the garden. Likewise in both cases, the violation of that covenant meant expulsion from the presence of Yahweh and his paradise (cf Deut 28-29). In Israel’s case, Yahweh’s presence was represented within the inner sanctum of the temple/tabernacle. His paradise was the promised land, “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Adam and Eve failed and were cast from the Garden to toil and sweat without the protection and provision of Yahweh. Likewise, Israel was unfaithful and exiled, the ark of the covenant was carried off as spoil of war, and they were forced to rebuild their nation always under the watchful eye of foreign invaders and overseers. Given these clear parallels, to truly grasp the theological bent of the Genesis 2 passage, we must understand it within the larger narrative of the Israelite nation.
Before the monarchy, Israel was an ancient agrarian society, where great priority was given progeny as the continuance of family name and legacy, the idea of a committed same-sex marriage arrangement would have been decidedly foreign in Israelite society. Like their surroundings neighbors, the Israelite system of worship was based around a festal calendar and had fertility imagery built into its temple worship (e.g. Ex 23:14-19; 34:18-26).
For example, the Israelites gave the first fruits of their crops and firstborn of their livestock as a sacrifice to Yahweh, an act in faith that he would respond faithfully in kind by providing bountifully. Likewise with firstborn children, a representative offering was made either by proxy or by monetary donation. In this latter tradition, Israel was clearly distinguished from the sacrificial practices of its Canaanite neighbors.
The Canaanites were known for their child sacrifices to appease their gods and secure fertility for themselves, their crops, and their livestock. The gods of early Mesopotamian societies – including Canaanite cults- did not value human life and only maintained it if a certain quid pro quo was maintained.
In contrast, from the beginning, Yahweh valued all life in his creation and existed as its sustainer, with human life being his favorite and sharing a special relationship as stewards of his creation. A comparison between Atrahasis, Gilgamesh, and the biblical flood narrative of Genesis 6-9 is quite revealing in this regard. According to the prior myths, a deluge was sent by the pagan deities because humanity was too troublesome to maintain. They were too loud and ate too much and the gods had more important things to do than tend to them. One god, however, saw that they still needed humanity to serve them their food via sacrifice and preserved a single human for this purpose, against the will of the divine court.
In the biblical narrative, the deluge is sent not because Yahweh is capricious but because man is destructive and wicked. They have become obsessed with evil and their evil is consuming the whole of creation. In order to reset creation, Yahweh, out of grief (not wrath) chooses to return the world to its initial state of watery chaos and recreate it using representative groups of each species of creature. For humanity he chooses Noah and his family, because Noah was the last righteous man of his generation. Often missed in this narrative is that the wind which causes the waters to recede is, in Hebrew, precisely the same as the “Spirit of God” (literally wind or breath) that moved over the waters in Genesis 1:2. God cared deeply about the people he had preserved for himself and swore an oath to Noah that, regardless of future circumstances, he would not destroy in this fashion again. He was invested in the future of humanity and swore to ensure the future of his creation. Whatever we make of these stories, and the potentially troubling theological questions they sometimes raise, we can see that they demonstrate precisely how the Genesis narrative (especially in chapters 1-11) is indicative of the time and place it was written and should only be read or interpreted outside that context with incredibly care.
Returning to the Adam and Eve narrative, it is important to develop our interpretation against such an ancient backdrop. In this narrative, Yahweh creates the human representative male, Adam, and gives him the role of overseer. However, perceiving that the man needed a helper, he created a suitable mate according to his type as the other animals had. He created this mate by splitting Adam’s torso almost literally in half. The Hebrew so often rendered “rib” more accurately means something akin to the human equivalent of a side of beef. Eve, the representative mother of humanity, is created from Adam’s side. Literally, the two are of the same flesh and bone, thus Adam’s poem. This literal occurrence provides a power metaphor for the intimacy of marriage,often mistaken for a purely sexual reference. The reality is the notion of being one flesh means profoundly more than sexual intercourse, it means to be one in being at the very core of relational existence, as if hewn from the same fibers. This transcends ideas of romanticism and eroticism and reaches to the very essence of human marriage. Per the narrative, such a deep intimacy can only be truly achieved in relation to God.
God cared deeply that the man and woman, and thus everyone they represent, would have companionship of such a nature. All ought to be able to say that they have someone with whom they connect on a level that resonates at the very core of their being, as designed by Yahweh himself. And yet, we are told by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 that there is something sacred in celibacy. In fact, it was his opinion that one ought to be focused first on the Lord and his affairs above else, yet he also preached a level of intimacy among the members of the Church that mirrored the relationship between the parts of a body, one flesh with each other and with Christ as a husband is with his wife (Eph 5:25-33). This level of “one flesh” intimacy can already, then, exist outside of romantic love or same-sex marriage, between individuals of the same gender.
Let us also look, briefly, at how Jesus quotes these texts from Genesis in Matthew 19. In an attempt to trip Jesus up, the Pharisees ask him about divorce. In response, he replies that God “made them male and female” and said “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. Jesus then states that what God has joined, man cannot separate. They press him regarding the Mosaic Law and Jesus goes so far as to say that, at least in this case, the law exists as a compromise for the stubbornness of men, to reign in their wickedness not to reveal the full will of God.
According to Matthew 19, God does not recognize divorce except in the case of unfaithfulness. Thus, Jesus purpose is to discuss divorce, and the sacred state of marriage before God, not to assert biological imperative of a male/female gender binary. He may very well be discussing the Sex of them (male/female) but this is not the same as discussing gender (masculine/feminine) or sexuality. In erasing these distinctions, we turn a non-issue in the text to a focal point for denigrating others based on concepts foreign to the text. As I see it, Jesus’ intent seems fairly intuitive when read in context.
So, the buck is passed to Leviticus 18 & 20. On the surface, these passages seem to offer by far the strongest prohibition against male homosexuality. Both state – if read flatly – that for a man to have sexual relations with a man, as with a woman, is considered abhorrent, an abomination. Chapter 20 suggests such people ought to be put to death.
However, it is first important to note that neither passage actually lists male homosexual behavior as a sin. What is actually being discussed are the sins of sexual immorality and idolatry, specifically cultic worship of the the god Molech, defined together through participation in Egyptian/Canaanite culture, with same-sex acts as a caveat of the larger discussion.
To flesh this out, consider the LXX. The word used to render the overarching category of sexual immorality – central to both Leviticus passages as well as the Pauline passages in question – is pornea. Pornea, encompassing all the sins listed in these passages, is not to be tolerated in the community of God. As a whole, pornea is an abomination before God (18:26). Pornea itself is a concept that is here connected to participation in pagan cultures and their cultic practices (18:3). 20:23 directly states that the nations being driven from Canaan are abhorred by God for the sexual sins just listed in verses 10-21 and verses 4-5 promise the Israelites that if they participate in the listed practice, in worship of the pagan fertility deity Molech, they will also be driven from the land and cut off from God (cf 18:21).
In ancient Canaanite fertility rituals, Molech (and other fertility deities) was worshipped by participation in practices which included the sacrifice of firstborn children, temple prostitution, orgies, and bestiality. Since, according to Israelite law, pornea is connected to participation in the sexual practices of Canaanite culture it is, by definition, an abomination before Yahweh. It is tantamount to idolatry.
However, lest one take the notion of “abominations” too far, it is important to remember that the same word is used elsewhere to describe violations of dietary law, such as eating shellfish (Lev 11:9-1. The LXX uses the word akarthasia (often translated detestable), which is central to the Pauline discussion as well and best understood as unclean and thus unacceptable in Yahweh’s presence. As such, issues like sex with a menstruating wife and male-male sex are not what is at stake here, but participation in a cultural orientation away from a covenant relationship with Yahweh.
We can further understand the importance of this covenant identity by considering the incident which occurs at Sinai beginning at Exodus 19. As God’s presence rested on the mountain, a new nation was created. This nation was born from the chaos of Egypt, out of the waters of the Red Sea they emerged as God’s people. Like Adam and Eve before them, God presented them with a covenant relationship with him by which they may live in his presence, represent his kingdom, and live in his land – he will be their God and they his “treasured possession out of all the peoples… a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (vv. 5-6). This covenant is foreshadowed in Genesis by God’s covenant with Israel’s forefather Abraham, who is chosen by God and promised that his descendants will become a great nation by which all other nations will be blessed (Gen 12:1-9).
But they must be faithful to him alone,and not be tempted by the culture and cultic practices of their neighbors. An excellent example of what is forbidden is found in the Exodus 32 “golden calf” incident. Here the people of Israel, while Moses is receiving God’s instructions on Sinai, build an idol of Yahweh and worship it by orgy and drunken behavior. What is at stake here is not the formation of another god to worship, but instead the attempt to limit/confine the presence of Yahweh by worshipping him through the image of a created creature like Canaanites and Egyptians. In fact, the calf – more accurately a young male cow – was a pagan symbol of fertility. Thus, afraid Yahweh had abandoned them, they decided to try to invoke him by way of worshipping him through the practices of their neighboring cultures. This is why Yahweh forbids the worship of other gods and the building of graven images, and also why the commands are given in Leviticus 18 and 20 exist. The Israelites exist in a culture to which they must serve as God’s counter-presence, drawing the nations to him (Isa 2)
This mission required they model their corporate lives after Yahweh’s holiness (Lev 11:44). It is helpful to skip forward to the prophets, written at roughly the same time the early drafts of the Pentateuch were being compiled, to see how Israel’s understood this responsibility. One especially helpful passage occurs in Isaiah 2, where Israel is depicted as the House of God, with Yahweh seated on his throne (the ark) in Jerusalem (the temple) on his mountain (Mt. Zion, the temple mount) in the House of Jacob (Israel). As such, Israel shall be the beacon by which all the nations are called to worship God and walk in his ways. All wars shall cease, as everyone will beat their “swords into ploughshares” and their “spears into pruning hooks”. (vv. 1-4). Here, as is often the case in prophetic tradition, the realization of the Abraham covenant – Israel as blessing to the nations – comes through Israel fulfilling their calling as a nation of royal priests, through whom God ushers in an era of peace and new creation (Isa 11:1-9). This legacy, however, was tied to Israel’s distinctiveness. They needed to be different, to present a counter-presense which exposed the violence and oppression of the other nations and call them to return to worship of Yahweh as true creator. Inasmuch as they chose to worship the false gods of their neighbors they failed this calling.
One more example, from later in the Pentateuch, will also help to demonstrate the connection between the sexual prohibitions and pagan fertility cults of the surrounding nations. In Numbers 22, Balak king of Moab realizes that his people cannot defeat Israel in battle as long as Yahweh defends them. He hires the prophet Balaam to attempt to sway the favor of the gods towards Moab.
However through Yahweh’s intervention, Balaam realizes that he cannot call a curse upon Israel. He instead blesses them, but instructs the king to have their women seduce the Israelites to spare Moab (Num 31). As the men of Israel are seduced, they begin to also participate in all facets of Moabite society which included worship of the Baal of Peor (Num 25). They were unfaithful before Yahweh, and it cost them dearly; those who participated on such behavior among Israel were put to death by order of Moses. Yet, when Israel later met Moab in battle, God still provided victory because of Israel’s repentance and those who conspired against them fell in battle (Numbers 31, cf. Micah 6).
Through these passages, we can see the pattern emerge: participation in pagan culture and their sexual practices is concomitant with participation in their cultic practices. The covenant with Yahweh at Sinai requires absolute faithfulness and in return, Yahweh himself will also remain faithful to Israel in their time of need. In the above instances, Yahweh proved himself to be righteous – faithful to his covenant- and holy, thus calling his covenant people to be equally righteous and holy before their God. As the prophet Hosea emphasized so strongly, Israel was the bride of Yahweh and he pursued her jealously, continuously calling her to remain faithful to him.
Leviticus, as the third of five books, represents Israel’s (Judah’s) own post-exilic reflection on its failures and what it means to be “God’s chosen people” in the wake of utter destruction as a nation. This caused them to reflect on their own beginnings and work into the story a narrative that gave meaning to their present reality. As such, the warnings of Leviticus 18 and 20 about participating in the cultic practices of foreign fertility cults are poignant to a post-exilic audience because such practices plagued Israel during its monarchy and eventually led to the exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to Assyria and the Southern Kingdom of Judah to Babylon. They are looking at their failures, studying their history, and trying to decide how to move forward to form a God centered identity in the present. It only seems appropriate we respect the heart of their endeavor and do the same.
We cannot truly engage the text, with the guidance of the Spirit, for our time by reading it flatly. Neither can we wholly disregard it, as it is deeply influential on the way Paul forms his argument in 1 Corinthians 1, which in turn points towards how we ought to consider the brief reference in 1 Timothy. At the very least, we must take seriously the indication of the text that sin is located not in individual action, but in the tendency of the individual to act in such a manner as to identify one’s self with a participation in a group whose existence violates our covenant status with Yahweh on Christ.
The question becomes can same-sex committed relationships demonstrate the love of Christ and identity within the Christian community (the body of Christ) towards presenting an effective witness to the world through the sacrament of marriage? Above, by considering the idea of intimacy as “one flesh” through celibacy in the body of Christ, I demonstrated that marriage does not preclude the presentation of this love. Marriage is a sacrament which points to it, but likewise celibacy, practiced in the intimate community of the body of Christ, also ought to be. Same-sex relationships would not seem to be precluded, unless some standing stipulation in the NT states the contrary. Let us consider, thus, the following texts.
In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Paul presents a brief excursus on worship Christ in one’s entire being. Paul reminds his audience that they may have a great deal of personal liberties, that does not mean they ought to exercise them. As such, they ought not to become obsessed with “spiritual worship” while behaving in body according to personal liberty or “lawfulness”. Despite the notion that ” food is for the body and the body for food” (v. 13) Paul points out that God desires we practice self-control in all aspects of our being. Paul then turns to what he really means to talk about: pornea (sexual immorality).
Paul argues that the body is not meant for pornea, but for worship of the Lord. In fact, pornea and worship of the Lord are incompatible. If they have been joined to Christ as one flesh, a member of his body, how can they then also join to a prostitute? They cannot forsake the intimacy of the Christian body for the mistaken intimacy of “one flesh” through sex with a prostitute. What is invoked in word “prostitute” is the temple prostitution of Roman cultic practices, especially fertility cults. These cults had priests and priestesses who would commit sex acts with worshippers as a means of securing the favor of the gods. One such practice involved a castrated male priest having anal sex with a male worshipper and receiving a “seed offering” to secure fertility for his crops, his cattle, and his wife.
These verses are what directly follow the controversial verses in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and provide important context.. Paul’s explanation of who will not be inheritors of God’s kingdom cannot be separated from the verses that follow. Among those who have no place in God’s kingdom are those who engage in pornea, idolaters, adulterers, malakoi, arsenokoitai, thieves, greedy persons, drunkards, those who speak hatefully, and robbers. The issue of same-sex relations comes to bear on the words malakoi and arsenokoitai.
The first of these words, malakoi, is from a Greek word meaning soft, but was used euphemistically for young pubescent (hairless) boys who were in a pederast relationship. These boys were of the lower classes and were adopted by older males who acted as mentors, while simultaneously using their position of influence to make these boys act feminine and engage in same-sex genital acts.
The second word, arsenokoitai, literally translates “man bed”. However, more importantly, it is derivative of the LXX translation of Leviticus 18 and 20 where it is forbidden for a man to bed another man as he would a woman. The words for man and bed in the Greek OT are combined by Paul to form this compound word. Equally telling is the use of pornea as well as the existence of idolatry and adultery in the beginning of the list that contains these terms. These key words, and the ideas associated with them, indicate Paul is here developing similar ideas to those of Leviticus. You cannot assume an identity couched in pagan culture and cultic practices and claim to live in covenant with God. This is why, as discussed above, the text moves into a discussion of prostitution in verses 12-20.
This reading enhances our understanding of 1 Timothy, which hinges on 1 Corinthians for an interpretation of the term arsenokoitai. Lastly, to show how Paul’s thought formed on this issue and his intention, Romans 1 provides further enlightenment.
In this passage, Paul begins in verse 18 by noting that the wrath of God is revealed against those who reject Yahweh as creator and instead worship his creation, gods represented by created images. This description invokes images of pagan fertility cults, who worshipped nature and used its images as representative of their gods. As discussed above, sexual cultic practice was part and parcel of these cults.
Rather than destroy them, Yahweh gave them up to this ignorance, by which their bodies are degraded and their societies fell into wickedness. This wickedness, described in verses 28-31, sounds very similar to the latter half of the list of traits that cannot inherit God’s kingdom in 1 Corinthians 6. In case the similarity isn’t strong enough, consider the description of sexually immoral practices.
In verses 26-27, a mere two verse footnote in a 13 verse excursus, Paul states that the women have given up natural intercourse for unnatural sex acts and the men have begun to engage in sex acts with one another. These acts are directly tied to the acts of idolatry listed in the above verses, and are tied to adultery, as they have abandoned their marriage bed (natural intercourse) to commit them. These are considered debased acts committed in defiance of Yahweh as participation in pagan cultic practices: sounds a lot like pornea is implied to me.
In other words, Paul is saying Yahweh has already shown his wrath by allowing these societies to fall into degrading passions and chaotic and wicked social conditions. However, as the rest of Romans indicates, the cross of Christ is the way forward. In this cross all are chosen to reenter relationship with God and engage as one people in him.
Returning to Ephesians 5, we can see that the marriage metaphor allows for intimate, committed one-flesh love to reflect the cross of Christ and his nature. It is a revelation of his relationship to his body, how the members of the body are one-flesh with one another and with Christ in his cross. Inasmuch as same-sex couples are able to root their relationships in this sort of love, and aren’t engaging in the “cultic” practices of American (or any other culture’s) pagan concepts of love they can participate in the Church’s definition of marriage. If they are married outside the Church, it is our job not to police their union, but to offer faithful witness to the one-flesh intimacy available only in relationship with Christ and his body, the Church. If the Church and its members fail to practice this amongst themselves, any attempt to critique society’s “speck” of sexual immorality only exposes the “plank” of our own.
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
Per the outline of my above answers, Yes.
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
The point you emphasize is superfluous to the passage at hand (Matthew 19:1-12) at best. See #4. You dodge the fact that he also discusses being both a literal and a metaphorical eunuch for God in 12, further supporting that marriage is not the only way to practice the “one flesh” intimacy of the body of Christ.
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
I have discussed porneia in depth above. See #4.
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
I answered this in #4 as well. This is a bit redundant at this point.
Why such a radically individualistic assumption that God’s purpose is to redeem individuals and not to conquer the system by which all people are held captive? God has offered people a new kingdom, a kingdom of freedom and deliverance, to align themselves with and establish a new corporate identity. A kingdom built not on systems of guilt and condemnation, but radical grace (cf Romans 8).
I find it interesting you focus only on the sexual sins in these verses, or ignore other passages with much more extensive lists. For instance, 1 Corinthians 13 says that individual gifts are completely useless unless oriented in love towards the good of the community. It is not godly to abuse or denigrate your neighbor in the name of holiness. Likewise Jesus parable of “The Least of These” in Matthew 25 reminds us that failure to operate charitably towards the “other” in our midst is failure to know Christ altogether and be excluded from the kingdom. Likewise 1 John 3-4 tells us love is the ultimate expression of who we are in Christ. If we do not show love, we do not know God.
In Matthew 5 we are told that lust and hatred are the same as adultery and murder. In Romans 3 we are reminded that everyone, both Jew and Gentile are guilty before God. The metaphor of the plank and speck seems appropriate here. We can try to point out the sins of others, deciding who is in or out; that only reveals that we ourselves are not living in the radical grace of Christ crucified and risen- forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation for all in the inbreaking Kingdom of God. We can force everyone to live in guilt, or we can promote radical costly grace, I’m a fan of the latter. I’ll let God decide who gets in, I’m worried about following Christ and inviting others to do the same.
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
Again, why do you focus on sexual sin as if it is something specially set apart by God in the “annuls of sin”? I see no Scriptural evidence for your fascination with condemning sexual sin while ignoring a myriad of other issues. What about war (Matt 5:9), greed (Luke 18:18-30), poverty, disease, and slavery (Luke 4:16-21)? Are you sure you have your priorities straight?
11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
Augustine assumed Christ was sinless because he, falsely, believed human reproduction involved the male implanting the seed and the female being an empty receptacle where it grew. He used this incredibly faulty notion to explain how Christ was born sinless. Also from this idea was born the notion of Original Sin, transmitted via the father’s semen due to an unfortunate misreading of Romans 5.
These men are not infallible. They ought to be studied, they are a light along the path, but their teachings are not absolute or binding.
12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
You’re very premise is faulty. We are not free ranging individuals operating beyond culture; we are culturally conditioned beings. We can recognize this, we can critique our culture, present a counter-presence. But even such an act is by definition “conditioned” by the context in which it is formed. The biblical text itself is written in culturally conditioned ways to communicate the divinely inspired message to a culturally conditioned audience. Revelation makes more sense read through the lens of Jewish Apocalyptic than it does dispensationalism because the latter conditioned to a post-Enlightenment modernist epistemology foreign to the historical period of the author or original audience. As such, we are always in dialogue, always functioning in community even with our own sacred texts. The goal is not to avoid this, but to be aware of it and to allow Christ to be the driving influence that forms our cultural perspective. It is pure hubris to assume otherwise.
13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
This is a non sequitur. You operate on the blatantly flawed assumption that everything is black and white: humans are only male or female/masculine or feminine, politics is left or right, theology is liberal/progressive or conservative/Evangelical, etc. Such narrow categories are completely irrelevant to the discussion of whether the self-revelation of Christ in his cross compels me to accept the LGBTQ community, and with them their form of expressing romantic love.
14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
I think children do best with loving parents. A child in a single parent home, statistically is afforded far less opportunities than a child with two parents. An orphaned or fostered child is offered even less opportunity in life. The child of a family that sticks together is better off, typically, than the child of divorce. A child who does not suffer abuse is better off than an abused child. Are you aware of the connections between abuse, the foster care system, juvenile homelessness, and sex trafficking? Again, you prove a bit near-sighted. There is a real opportunity for Christian couples with the means to show children who have never been shown love the love of Christ. Why exclude those Christians in the LGBTQ community? Do you believe those kids are better off in their situation?
15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
The Washington Post put out an article in July 2014. Also, the Regnerus Study, previously hailed as evidence same-sex parenting is harmful, has had its data analysis methods critiqued and found wanting. Also, if you look at the many reports the Polaris Project puts out on homelessness, foster care, child abuse and human trafficking you might have a better picture of the situation.
16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
The Church is in the business of connecting people to the love of God wherever it exists. If that is in a straight, cisgender family, so be it. If that is in a LGBTQ family, the love of Christ can still be made manifest.
17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
Yes, of course. Rather than rehash my answers, I encourage you to reread #4 if you do not understand my position. The failure to operate as “one flesh”, and not the moral decay of our society, is why 1/3 of all Christian marriages end in divorce.
18. How would you define marriage?
Marriage, as practiced by the Church, can be nothing less than a sacrament which points towards the mystery of the cross of Christ and the unity of Christ with his body. It is a relationship of deep intimacy which leads two people to seek to be of “one flesh”, one essential communal organism in Christ. They seek to be one with each other as Christ is one with his body and to sacrifice for one another as Christ sacrificed himself for his body. Only in doing this can they find themselves individually, as a couple, and as a functioning member of the body of Christ.
19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
Again, a non sequitur. This has nothing to do with the issue of same-sex marriage, except in a context where the recognized frame of discussion is one of sexual gratification as personal liberty realized through self-expression or determination. However, if we stop legitimizing such a framework as Christians and instead focus on Christ as our expression of love, something else emerges. Acceptable romantic love stands as a metaphor for Christ’s love of his Church (Eph 5) and expresses the character of God (1 John 3-4). Love that is based on abuse, exploitation, or the mistaking of sexual gratification and intimacy is the perversion of this.
It should be noted that there are several prominent examples of relatives marrying throughout Scripture. These occur, even though the witness of Scripture is that these relationships are forbidden. Moses’ parents were nephew and aunt. Abraham and Sarah were half siblings. Isaac, Jacob, and Esau married cousins. Even in Scripture there is a cultural aspect to how these things occur. The Israelites could have white-washed their scriptures to eliminate these things, but instead focused on how God used these people.
Lastly, I would point out there are today societies where people still marry relatives that we would consider “close” by Western standards. We have to reckon with the differences in societal standards and not assume that West is always best. Do you think we should pass judgment on those individuals and force them to divorce if they come to Christ? Should they be banned from having children?
20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
Again you ask a black and white question regarding a complex issue. Typically, my answer would be yes for reasons of practicality as well as morality. However, cultural contexts must be considered. I would not tell a man in a plural marriage to divorce some of his wives simply because he became a Christian. The reality is, complicated issues require complicated and prayerful treatment. These are contextual issues and must be handled by those who exist in dialogue with that context. There is no clear-cut answer; the Church has to be flexible enough to wrestle with these issues from within society, not pass judgment from without or above.
21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
I’m not entirely convinced you are operating from an accurate definition of consent. By the very nature of consent, there is no reason to condemn a consensual relationship.
Consent cannot occur where there is exploitation, abuse, or power imbalance. It must be enthusiastic and freely given. As such, as a person who cares about consent, I must exclude certain types of relationships.
I oppose marriage where love is practiced in an abusive, exploitative, manipulative, or oppressive way. I am opposed to any marriage where one partner involved dominates their partner, demands their sexual needs be met above the needs of their partners, or insists they have final say in all decisions. I would also oppose a marriage where one partner insists they are in all issues head of the household, and the other partner is a “weaker sex” and must be in some way subservient by natural design. I would especially oppose this if these persons used a warped reading of Scripture to promote this idea.
22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
Again, is everything monochromatic? Perhaps you should focus less on slippery slope questions and more on the very real issue of child brides in places like Somalia where genital mutilation is performed on young girls to ensure they remain virgins. Then, sometimes as early as 8 years old, they are sold to adult men to be married, then forced live a life of rape and domination.
Or take Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries, where young boys are sold by their families to wealthy men. These men keep the young boys as sex slaves and dress them up as girls, complete with make-up. American troops have seen this, known it was happening, but were ordered to stand down because these boys were not a “primary objective”.
In Thailand, families sell their young daughters to brothels, which use them to meet the demand of Western tourists (especially men) taking advantage of the country’s world renowned sex-tourism. All of these issues trace back not to the LGBTQ community but to issues like greed, lust,and exploitation, and extreme poverty.
I think it might be time to realize the world you fear the SCOTUS decision will create already exists, you’ve just been ignoring it in your gated community of individualistic Evangelical white privilege. Christ came to set the captives free, it’s time to stop going after strawmen and start setting them free.
23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
Should people be able to marry dogs and sex-dolls. No. Again with the slippery slopes.
24. If not, why not?
Because bestiality and sex with inanimate objects is only a meaningful relationship in a society based on the notions of self-determination and the worship of personal liberty. In reality, these things are a sign that a person is disconnected from their community and acting out to gratify themselves with something incapable of returning that affection, it is about control. A healthy community engagement that meets one’s need for love and fulfilment, especially within the proper practice of the body of Christ ought to negate such things.
Also, an animal cannot consent to sex with a human being. By the nature of power imbalance, all bestiality is rape.
25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
No. Christ promised all who attempt to follow him they would be hated and persecuted for doing so. If you honestly feel your belief is consistent with Christ’s teachings you have no reasonable right in Christ to expect freedom from punishment, retribution,or coercion. In fact, you have no expectation of rights or personal liberty at all. The belief otherwise is American nationalism and Constitutionalism not Christianity. Ask a Christian living in Iraq or Syria what their expectations are. They will tell you their only expectation is the faithfulness of God to his body, the Church.
26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?
If the issue is simply because a pastor doesn’t perform same-sex marriages, yes. If it is blatant antagonism, no. I will also stand up against antagonism from any source. I will not stand up for people who suffer for being bigots, there is no defense deserved for suffering for wrongdoing (1 Pet 2:20).
27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
Bullying is bullying. Christ opposed subjugating or denigrating others, I follow that example.
28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
Wait, since the evangelical church sucks at marriage what steps am I taking to make sure the gays get it right? Why are you delineating between same-sex and heterosexual marriage? Should you really place the “other side” in a position of inferiority if you don’t have your side down? That is, already, an indication of where problems will start as we have told them that, in Christ, they are lesser. Their love, their marriage, needs a special set of additional rules.
Instead of focusing on division, let’s embrace our particularity towards mutuality in Christ. This can begin by reinstituting the notion of sacraments into the evangelical church. Sacraments, properly practiced, instill community based in the cross of Christ, operating as his embodiment to the world. Then, make marriage a sacrament, thus rooted in the community and the cross of Christ as well. Point people to this rich metaphor instead of books on Biblical “(wo)manhood.”
Also, do away entirely with the inane bull crap that is evangelical modesty/purity culture. That tripe breeds myopic, guilt-ridden, sex-focused adults who ultimately are ill-prepared for marriage. Lastly, drop all complementarian teachings. It is unbiblical and destroys the intimacy God intends between man and wife in marriage.
29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
Depends what you mean by open relationship. If you mean “not closeted”, no more than a straight couple. Do you subject straight couples to discipline in your church very often? Start from there.
If you mean a non-monogamous, non-committed relationship that’s a horse of a different color. But again, if you would discipline a straight couple, discipline a gay couple. But be sure your discipline is of God and not simply a Pharisaical power play or shaming technique. Much of church discipline these days is rooted in power struggles instead of in the love and restoration of the cross of the Christ.
30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
Is sex outside of marriage a sin? Perhaps. Is it a capital offense worse than cheating on a algebra exam? No. Should we spend so much time burdening people with guilt over it? No. We need to reevaluate how we approach sex as a whole and stop holding people in guilt-ridden, sexual purgatories.
31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
I imagine the same thing they’ve always done. Again, you assume somehow that refusing to denigrate against a love consistent with the person and nature of God will prevent me from presenting a counter-presence to my society. Christ spoke against Israel by accepting Samaritans, lepers, prostitutes, and tax-collectors at his table and as his disciples. He even took female apostles (cf Acts 1:14; Rom 16) and chose women to be the first witnesses of his resurrection. All of these were scandalous for a Jew, especially for a rabbi claiming to be the Messiah. Yet he offered a profound counter-presence to a religious elite whom he accused of devouring the houses of widows (Mark 12:40) and believing the sabbath was for obedience and not relief (Mark 2:23-28). He even spoke in prophetic defiance of Herod (Luke 13:31-35) and the entire Gospel narrative was shaped as a counter-claim against Caesar. Embracing the radical love and grace modeled by the deeply kenotic act of the cross of Christ is, by its very nature, a prophetic witness against any and all forms of evil in this world.
32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
The cross of Christ, the death of the divine, is love winning. What greater example of love, than to lay aside one’s own life for another, friend or enemy (Matt 5:38-48; John 13:12-13).
33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
1 Corinthians 13 describes love modeled after the love of Christ and is directly related to the incidents related in chapters 11-12. In Corinth, individuals were more interested in satisfying personal appetites and practicing personal liberties than in seeing to the needs of others in the community. Because of their selfishness some were going hungry and even starving. They were using “spiritual gifts” to make power plays. Paul advocates love as self-sacrificing, unselfish, and rooted firmly in the cross of Christ.
34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
How should love of God shape our obedience to his commands? You put the cart before the horse there. We cannot love God, but that he first loved us in Christ. Our love manifests in obedience, our obedience does not manifest or shape our love. But the cross comes first, by which we are called to love God and others and this manifests itself in obedience to God through the example of Christ and his commands. This is 1 John in a nutshell.
35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
Of course it is. Love, as modeled in Christ, is unconditional, humble, self-sacrificing, and self-limiting. Regardless of disagreements, that must not be overlooked.
36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
Faith is a journey, many things change over time. I have accepted that Penal Substitution is a poor way of explaining the Scriptural witness of the atonement and certainly not the only way to explain it. I have abandoned notions of purity and modesty. I have rejected complementarianism and dispensationalism because, like many of the beliefs of evangelicalism, they are based on rather narrow and shallow readings of Scripture. Lastly, I have chosen to reject Inerrancy as a product of modernist/foundationalist epistemology foreign to Scripture, committing extreme violence to many texts.
37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
I began to move away from what you call “traditional” evangelical distinctives before I supported gay marriage. The Evangelical notion of being born again is highly individualistic, as is the way they present substitutionary atonement via Penal Substitution. Evangelicalism often confuses truth with universals and absolute knowledge, per modernist epistemological influences.
Also, the method of evangelism promoted by broader evangelical culture is built on a system of hierarchy that considers the “soul” more important than the “body”. Often times, the physical need is neglected while focusing primarily or even solely on ” spiritual” need. I am a monist in that I do not believe the “soul” to be seperable from the “body”. It is a single organism, and must be treated as such. Physical and spiritual needs are often one and the same. Likewise individual identity and need are tied into corporate concepts. We can’t ignore these dynamics and build an effective witness.
Specifically in regards to being ” born again” I’d like to point out a striking irony. I have heard/read several influential Christians recently who have expressed that most of the gay people they know have a past history of abuse or sexual hurt and they believe this led to their choice. I wonder where, in all of that line of logic, have we arrived at the idea that a choice born of personal tragedy or pain is inherently sinful? The cross of Christ was an event of great personal tragedy and pain, the moment when the creator of the universe himself became the embodiment of sin (2 Cor 5:21)! We choose Christ because he chose us, because he bears our lain in his death and in him our pain is transformed into something new and beautiful.
I know many, many Christians whose stories reflect this. I also know non-Christians who have endured personal tragedy to emerge a better and more balanced person, someone with a vision of who they are. Why do we accept these people’s stories, write books about them, and make movies extolling their virtues if we are going to say that the same circumstances make being LGBTQ inherently evil? Choosing to embrace who you are biologically and in relation to other people is not inherently sinful, it is how you relate to Christ and his body, reflecting the nature of God as you embrace difficult changes that defines sin.
We are all broken individuals seeking to find our “self” in the midst of our community influences, personal history, and various biological influencers (to name just a few things). Being broken in Christ is recognizing that you have a glaring plank in your eye, attempting to expose another’s speck is pointless if your vision is impaired.
38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
What ones would you point to where they aren’t? The American Baptist church. Certain Lutheran churches. The Presbyterians, the Episcopaleans, the Methodists. They all promote repentance, have missionaries, and gain converts.
39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
Am I actually a practicing, devout Christian? Yes. Do you assume I haven’t been until now? It seems that you’re implying – as you reach the end – that I should be defeated and committed to getting the Bible right from here on out. I assure you, I study earnestly and strive to be committed to Christ with my whole being. I, like everyone, fall short of this, but I do desire improvement always.
40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?
Given the progression here, could this be more out of left field? See #4.