Monday, August 6

Eric has a very touching entry about being a gay Eagle Scout. You should read this if you want to know how a gay man, and probably many other homosexuals, feel about the Boy Scouts these days.

Which side do I stand on this issue, as an orthodox, Evangelical, historically connected Christian pastor? Neither. Am I for Eric and other gays and homosexuals or am I for ‘the truth’? Yes.

Usually these kinds of debates polarize into two variously named sides: liberal and conservatives, sinners and saints, lovers and haters.

When I’m thinking clearly, I frame the debate differently.

Jesus came 'full of grace and truth (John 1)'. Paul told us to 'speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4.15)'. Usually those of us on the conservative side are for the truth. And those of us on the liberal side are for love. But the truth without loves sounds a lot like hate. And love without truth looks like licentiousness.

I want to try to hold these two values in tension: grace/love and truth.

We see a good example of the need for this in parenting. Parents love their children. But sometimes this means disciplining them. An overly permissive parent will ultimately allow harm to come to her child which she could have prevented.

Hopefully some Christians can stake out a place in the middle of this issue between love that allows anything, even that which contradicts God's revealed truth, and truth without loves that smacks of hate.

I haven’t followed the Boy Scout debate closely enough to know how the conservatives there have fought. Maybe they’ve taken the high ground. Maybe they are speaking the truth in love. I hope so.

If not, they are poorly representing ‘the truth’. Jesus was a lot harder on people who prosecuted the truth in the wrong spirit (eg, the Pharisees) than He was on people who allowed everything (eg, the tax collectors and ‘sinners’).

Having laid out my conceptual framework, I can give you my specific views on this issue.

My faith and tradition and community going back 4000 years view sex as moral only in loving marriage. Anything else - extramarital sex including premarital sex and homosexuality and also, I think, sex in a marriage where there isn't mutual submission and where the husband doesn't love his wife as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5.21-33) - is immoral.

I think part of the problem here is that we conservatives often argue for standards of morality that are less than the full Biblical standard. It makes us into de facto hypocrites when we argue against homosexuality but don't speak up for loving marriages. It’s like we’re saying all sex in marriage is moral. And that’s not true. And it can also sound like we think we’re righteous since we’re not homosexuals, and that’s not true either.

Of course, maybe the biggest part of the problem is our typical conservative failing to love the person whose 'sin' we decry. We are all sinners, even if you just look at the Ephesians passage above. This passage shows that any of us who lives out sexuality and sexual behavior outside of a loving marriage relationship sins. Jesus taught the same thing when He said in the Sermon on the Mount that those who lust commit adultery in their hearts. If we point without love to homosexuals as sinners we sin ourselves.

Additionally, in my tradition, we believe that we sin because we are sinners, born and raised outside of God’s plan A for the world. We aren’t sinners because we sin, as if anyone who could keep from sinning would keep from becoming a sinner. No, we are sinners by nature (original sin), therefore, we sin. Therefore, it’s no surprise that we’re sinners. The trouble comes when we try to avoid that moniker through denial (There is no such thing as sin.) or ‘righteousness’ (I don’t sin.).

Another position that is often advocated here is that homosexuality is not immoral because it can be innate. I have innate feelings that are promiscuous and lustful and could lead toward really bad behavior if I left them unchecked. I have innate feelings that are violent and could lead to really bad behavior if left unchecked. Natural feelings don’t make for moral or amoral behavior. And feelings in themselves aren’t bad. It’s not bad to be tempted to do wrong things, to feel like doing them. It’s only bad to do them.

So what would I say to homosexuals about this issue, if asked? I’d say God loves you. That’s the main thing to come to terms with. And for our good God has directed us with certain laws/commands. If we don’t agree on those presuppositions, we’re going to have a hard time agreeing on the morality of sex. But I hope we can be friends. And I will strive to love you as I strive to love everyone around me.
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