On Gay Boy Scouts & My Christian Faith

As the Boy Scouts just decided to allow gay scouts but will still keep the ban on gay scout leaders, first of all, let me just say it takes guts to make a decision that doesn’t fully satisfy the desires of either side.

I know that many of my fellow Christians will immediately begin their ban on Boy Scouts for approving of such blatantly sinful behavior.

But let me say, regardless of your position on the sinfulness of gay sex: until the Boy Scouts of America ban every boy who openly sins, this is the most Christian decision they could have made. That is, if standing for justice and fairness is included in what it means to be Christian. If not, well then, I am not sure I want to be one.

And then there is that nagging question: why does someone sins disallow them to belong to a group?

Ironically, in the same chapter of Leviticus Christians use to show that homosexuality is an “abomination” to God, we have this: “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Lev. 19:33-34)

Even those idol-worshiping (<–that’s a sin condemned hundreds of times throughout the Bible by the way) foreigners were to be loved as though they were God’s chosen people. If you are so convinced that the Boy Scouts are a Christian organization who should live by Christian principles, then perhaps we should acknowledge them as “aliens living with us.” We do not kick them out. We do not go find a new land. We live among them and love them as ourselves.

To be honest, I am typically embarrassed to admit how much time I spent as Boy Scout, doing those, let’s admit it, somewhat dorky things we Scouts did. But today, I am proud to be a Boy Scout and am proud that their Christian foundations led them to this decision.

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3 Christian Arguments Against Gay Marriage & Why They’re Inconsistent

In full disclosure, I am a Christian who supports gay marriage. An evangelical even. I’m also a professor of philosophy & ethics. That means, at least in part, I’d like to think I think pretty logically. So when I hear some of the arguments from Christians as to why they are against gay marriage, I often scratch my head. These are 3 arguments that, if taken to their logical conclusion, end in inconsistency, at best, and hypocrisy, at worst. At least, in my opinion.

1. The “It’s a Sin” Argument

This is probably the most popular. The argument is this:

I believe gay sex/marriage is morally wrong because the Bible is against it.
I do not think the government should allow what I believe to be morally wrong.
Therefore, I do not think the government should allow gay sex/marriage.

The problem with this argument is that it’s hypocritical. How so?

According to this argument, if I am going to be against gay marriage, I should also be against the freedom of religion.

Why? Because the freedom of religion says that anyone can worship any god they choose in this country. And what does the Bible have to say about worshiping other gods? Well, let’s put it this way, there are 11 instances (if we’re really generous) against gay sex and over 250 instances where idolatry is condemned. Oh yeah, and pretty much all of Israel is destroyed because of it. So, you’re okay with allowing our country to endorse something condemned over 250 times in our Bible but not something condemned 11 times? Of course, the main difference is that the former affects you & benefits you while the latter doesn’t. Sounds like textbook hypocrisy.

2. The “The Bible is Clear that Marriage is Between A Man & A Woman” Argument

Many people like to start in Genesis, as though God creating Adam & Eve and telling them they’re perfect for each other, now go have sex (which, interestingly, we aren’t told they do until after they are kicked out of the Garden), is somehow the beginning of the institution of marriage. But if the Old Testament counts as what God had in mind for marriage, gay marriage might be more at home there than in our culture. After all, the most common pictures of marriage we have are

One Husband + Many Wives (Polygamous Marriage) – This list includes Lamech, Abraham, Jacob, Esau, Gideon, Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Elkanah, Ashur, Abijah and Jehoiada. There are a lot more but they were the “bad guys” so I’m assuming they don’t count as much.

One (Dead) Husband + One Widowed Wife + One Brother-In-Law (Levirate Marriage) – the brother-in-law of a deceased husband should impregnate (Ruth & Gen. 38:6–10) the widow so that she has an heir.

One Husband + One Wife + One Slave – Abraham, the Father of our Faith (Gen. 16:1-6) & Jacob, his grandson (Gen. 30:4-5).

One Husband + One (or more) Wife + Some (or hundreds) of Concubines – Nahor (Gen 22:4), Abraham (Gen. 25:5-7), Jacob (Gen. 35:22

Do you notice how many of these are from the same book as Adam & Eve? What gives? Why don’t these count as “foundations for modern marriage”? After all, the Fathers of our Faith practiced almost all of them, with not a word of condemnation from Genesis.

But that’s not all. If we follow the law, which, after all says that gay sex/marriage is an “abomination to God,” then we should also adhere to the following laws regarding marriage.

One Husband + One Prisoner of War – Deuteronomy 21:11-14

One Rapist Husband + One Victim Wife – Deuteronomy 22:28-29 describes how an unmarried woman who had been raped must marry her attacker.

Of course, there is also monogamous, heterosexual marriage in the Bible, especially if you like arranged marriages.

3. The “Procreation Argument”

This argument is as follows:

Marriage was intended for procreation (making babies)
Gay sex/marriage can’t produce babies
Therefore, gay marriage is wrong.

Welp, okay then, time to condemn those poor couples who can’t or won’t have children.

What’s my point? I guess it’s that unless we are willing to be an opponent of the freedom of religion, to account for which examples of marriage in Genesis we should still hold to today, or deem illegitimate the couples who cannot have kids, we shouldn’t use these arguments.

Why I Stand for Gay Marriage as a Christian

It’s been a year since I first wrote why I was an Evangelical in support of gay marriage. This week seemed like a good time to reiterate my reasons.

So many Christians will use this time as an opportunity to “stand up for their faith,” while I will use it as an opportunity to stand up for people without rights. We will both have our arguments and our proof-texts. We will likely never agree. And that’s okay. We’re still family. But here are a few reasons why my faith in Jesus compels me to support gay marriage.

Number One: To Love is to Empty Ourselves of Power. We cannot legislate people into the Kingdom of God, we cannot politically strong-arm people into becoming Christians. To think we can is to misunderstand the emptying of God in Jesus Christ, the most powerful one who shows his power in powerlessness, the one who was God in his very nature but didn’t take advantage of that power but instead emptied himself and became a servant (Phil 2), even to his betrayer, even to the point of dying as a traitor to his state. Does love mean legislating a person’s morality according to a worldview they do not share? That does not sound like love, that sounds like a paternalistic power trip.

I would rather show people the love of Jesus by supporting them in their fight for equality, to stand with them, even if they are gay, hell, even if they are my enemies. My main goal as an evangelical Christian is to reflect the resurrected Christ and his Kingdom, not put it into law. It is to invite people in, not force them in against their will.

And while many Christians believe the “Christian” thing to do is to keep Christianity in power, I believe the “Christian” thing to do is empty ourselves of power, to give up our legislating and to take up our cross. I believe Jesus is on the side of those without power and his kingdom is one of equality, where no one is a second-class citizen, whether that be conservative Christian, drug addict, GLBT, atheist, or politician. We all bear God’s image in this story.

Number Two: When in Doubt, Go with Equality. Not many Christians realize that we were, for the most part, on the wrong side of the slave issue and, to a much lesser extent, the civil rights movement. The Bible was used regularly during the Civil War to support slavery as morally acceptable. It was so “obvious” that the Bible supported slavery. . .

And, lest we forget, it was a Christian culture that kept women from being able to vote until only 100 years ago. I am ashamed that a “Christian” culture didn’t support or even acknowledge the equality of women until . . . well, in some Christian circles, they still don’t. By the way, in many circles, the same oppressive structure presents itself with women as with gays. We love you emotionally and even personally, but not enough to actually give up my privileged position as the man/straight in power.

Number Three A: My Bible Compels Me. The way I see the text of the prophets, the life of Jesus, and the trajectory of the New Testament, I would much rather be held accountable to God for fighting for someone to have the same rights I enjoy (sorry God, I assumed I should fight for the rights of those who didn’t have them) than to be held accountable to God for excluding rights from people for the sake of religious rules (sorry God, I thought I was supposed to tell the world how sinful they are and that my government should privilege Christian culture at the expense of other people). For those who are thinking, “Yeah, but the Bible is against gay sex,” keep reading.

Number Three B: Supporting Gay Marriage is not Supporting Sin. I know it is hard to grasp, but this matter has nothing to do with whether or not homosexuality is a sin. If it did, then I still have to question your reasoning since you are very likely being prejudiced and inconsistent considering the fact that there are lots of things that Christians consider “sinful” that they do not legislate against. For instance, if God wants us as a nation to live by his laws, why are we okay supporting the freedom of religion? Shouldn’t we be out trying to ban other religions? If we are okay with freedom of religion,which is a law that basically mandates that our country allow for idolatry (according to the Christian), aren’t we being hypocritical?

Now, if this were about gay folks in church leadership or even church membership, we would have to address whether or not gay sex is a sin (which is another issue entirely on its own). But Paul seems to make it very clear that Christians have absolutely no place to judge the behavior of non-Christians:

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral . . . . In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sisterbut is sexually immoral . . . 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. . . .” -1 Corinthians 5:9-13a

Instead of focusing on “judging those inside” and creating a “city on a hill,” evangelicals are very good at making sure people who are not Christians know that they are “breaking the rules” of Christianity. And as such, we have gained the reputation for being judgmental, a moniker well-deserved for the most part. It is God’s place to judge the world, it is our place to love it. And just like the story we find in Adam & Eve, when we put ourselves in God’s place, we make a mess of things.

I might be wrong. We all might be. I am well aware of that and take responsibility for it. But for now that’s a risk I am willing to take for the sake of people knowing that there are Christians who stand with them in their struggle to be seen as equals in the eyes of their government.

If the Church wants to keep marriage between a man and a woman because of their religious convictions, so be it. But I will not support using the government’s power to coerce powerless non-Christians into behaving like Christians. That, to me, seems thoroughly un-Christian. It is the Spirit of God who transforms the heart, not the laws of the powerful.

As always, I welcome all critiques and dissenters. I do ask that you present actual arguments rather than just emotional rants about how wrong I am, but I will read those as well if you feel you must.

Gay Marriage & Our Young People

The numbers are in. The latest poll, conducted by the Washington Press/ABC News, says that 58% of Americans now believe we should legalize gay marriage in this country.

But there is another number.

“Among young adults age 18 to 29, support for gay marriage is overwhelming, hitting a record high of 81 percent  in the new poll,” says the Washington Post.

81%.

For many conservative Evangelicals this points to a failure on the part of the Church to educate our young. It points to biblical illiteracy and being too relaxed about the biblical moral code. It points, in essence, to a problem.

But for me, it points to possibilities. That perhaps God is up to something new and people too young and too idealistic to know any better, are following in God’s wake.

Sometimes God acts in ways that make us uncomfortable, as we see in Acts where it took literally an act of God for the Jewish Christians to see that maybe those unclean & pagan Gentiles could be the beloved of God. It took the Spirit of God working in the hearts of people who followed the letter of the Law to take a detour down the road of grace.

Maybe this is a moment for us to let go of our fear, our need for certainty, and see that there are people in the world who need good news. As I’ve said in the past, allowing gay people to get married doesn’t have to mean you “accept” their behavior, it just means we believe in equality, that we are made in the image of a God who “allows the rain to fall on the just & the unjust,” and that we follow Paul’s advice not to judge the behavior of others outside the church.

So for these 81% I say as Paul did to Timothy:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faithand in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12)

Lead on young people. Bring fresh eyes and open hearts to a nation with a history of oppression and privilege, a nation that claims to follow the God of the stranger, widow, orphan, and foreigner. Do not give up following a God who breaks the rules to create spaces of belonging by giving up his own power and privilege in the person and work of Jesus. Do not give up!

We Should Be Against the Freedom of Religion

I have thought about this for a while, and this seems to be the conclusion we must come to if we are a Christian who is opposed to gay marriage: “We should be against the Freedom of Religion.”

When I ask Christians why they are against gay marriage, the reason most often cited is “because I believe it’s sinful. Why would I advocate for something I find wrong?”

This logic seems to be based on this principle:

“As a Christian, it is wrong to advocate for the government to allow for something I find sinful.”

Okay, so let’s take that principle and apply it to the freedom of religion.

Isn’t that advocating for the government to allow other people to worship other gods?

And isn’t that practice also sinful, what the Bible calls idolatry?

In fact, while homosexuality is a topic that comes up in the Bible a handful of times, idolatry is mentioned thousands of times, univocally pronouncing the worship of other gods a sin, a great wrongdoing to the one true God.

So, if your reason for being against gay marriage is that you do not want to government to allow others to practice something you find sinful, then it stands to reason that you should also be against the freedom of religion in our country.

If you are unwilling to follow your own logic then we might rightly call that mental inconsistency at best, hypocrisy at worst, but in any case, do not expect me to be convinced by it.

 

The Gay Checklist for the Church*

There are many churches who are currently wrestling with what to do about the growing number of LGBTQ in their community. Some of these churches believe that being gay is a choice. Others say it’s not. Some of them believe that being gay is a sin. Other say it’s not. But in my tradition almost all of them agree that gay sex, even within a long-term monogamous relationship**, is sinful.

Okay. Let’s suppose it is. What should our churches do about the gays in their midst?

Inspired by the ethic of Jesus, who asks us to work on the plank in our own eye before trying to remove the gay speck in that gay dude’s eye, I have created a basic checklist for when it seems legitimate to single out a gay person in your church and tell them they have to repent or leave, thereby making them feel like they don’t belong or are a second-class citizen in your church:

As a church, we have asked every unmarried couple in our congregation if they are having sex. If so, we must ask them to stop. If they refuse, we must subject them to “church discipline” that leads to either repentance or excommunication or they leave on their own as a result of our passive-aggressive behavior toward them as we question whether or not they are even Christian.

As a church, we have looked over every person’s checkbook to see if they are greedy and/or lovers of money. If so, we must ask them to agree to a plan to be more generous. If they refuse, we must subject them to “church discipline” that leads to either repentance or excommunication or they leave on their own as a result of our passive-aggressive behavior toward them as we question whether or not they are even Christian..

As a church, we have looked at every male’s computer to see if they have watched porn in the past month. If they have, we must ask them to agree to accountability and a password protected internet. And give their mothers & wives the password. If they refuse, we must “love the sinner but hate the sin,” that is, subject them to “church discipline” that leads to either repentance or excommunication or they leave on their own as a result of our passive-aggressive behavior toward them as we question whether or not they are even Christian..

As a church, we have looked at every member of the congregation’s schedule to determine what idols are in their lives, the things that are more important than God. If they have even one, we must stone them (sorry, Old Testament) remind them that they “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). If they refuse to repent, we must subject them to “church discipline” that leads to either repentance or excommunication or they leave on their own as a result of our passive-aggressive behavior toward them as we question whether or not they are even Christian..

As a church, we have looked into our own hearts to see if we are being judgmental and hypocritical, discriminating against sins that are “obvious” and/or do not affect us (the speck) while not taking seriously the sins that do (the plank).

If we say every sin is the same, perhaps our churches should start acting like it in the way they treat people.

*This is a revision of a previous post
**Or as we heteros call this type of relationship, “marriage.”

The Gay Checklist

There are many churches who are currently wrestling with what to do about the growing number of “the gays” in their community. Some of them believe that being gay is a choice. Others say it’s not. Some of them believe that being gay is a sin. Other say it’s not. But in my tradition almost all of them agree that gay sex, even within a long-term monogamous relationship, is sinful.*

Okay. Let’s suppose it is. Then based on a Jesus who asks us to work on the plank in our own eye before trying to remove the gay speck in that gay dude’s eye—and assuming you’re not gay—here is a basic checklist for when you get to single out a gay person in your church and tell them they have to repent, thereby making them feel like they don’t belong or are a second-class citizen in your church:

As a church, we have asked every unmarried couple in our congregation if they are having sex. If so, we must ask them to stop. If they refuse, we have to question their Christian faith and perhaps pull out some church discipline on them and eventually kick them out (or the passive-aggressive cold-shoulder-until-you-leave equivalent).

As a church, we have looked over every person’s checkbook to see if they are greedy and/or lovers of money. If so, we must ask them to agree to a plan to be more generous. If they refuse, we have to question their Christian faith and perhaps pull out some church discipline on them and eventually kick them out (or the passive-aggressive cold-shoulder-until-you-leave equivalent).

As a church, we have looked at every male’s computer to see if they have watched porn in the past month. If they have, we must ask them to agree to accountability and a password protected internet. And give their mothers & wives the password. If they refuse, we have to question their Christian faith and perhaps pull out some church discipline on them and eventually kick them out (or the passive-aggressive cold-shoulder-until-you-leave equivalent).

As a church, we have looked at every member of the congregation’s schedule to determine what idols are in their lives, the things that are more important than God. If they have even one, we must stone them (sorry, Old Testament) remind them that they “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10) and if they don’t repent, we have to question their Christian faith and perhaps pull out some church discipline on them and eventually kick them out (or the passive-aggressive cold-shoulder-until-you-leave equivalent).

As a church, we have filled out a survey to determine if our pastors are good teachers. If any fail the test, we must ask them to step down (1 Tim. 3:2) or at least agree to a rigorous process of learning from Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, or Rick Warren (depending on your preference).

As a church, we have looked into our own hearts to see if we are being judgmental and hypocritical, discriminating against sins that are “obvious” and/or do not affect us (the speck) while not taking seriously the sins that do (the plank).

. . . Of course we haven’t even touched anger, bitterness, arrogance, pride, deceit, emotional & physical abuse/violence, selfishness, gluttony, etc. — and whatever you believe is normative from the Old Testament.

*Or as we heteros call this type of relationship, “marriage.”