||redeemer|| #culturalvalues ||part one||
May 29, 2014 0 comments
This #CulturalValues talk is about homosexuality – well, sort of. It’s about the LGBT movement, or the LBQGTITZFOB or whatever they are called now – although, as you’ll see, that’s kind of the point. This talk has two major points. I want to address the present reality (homosexuality) and I want to address the future possibilities, or the future goals of the LGBT movement. A quick word about the very idea of addressing the issue of homosexuality. Most people, when they are in a church and hear a phrase like “this topic is about homosexuality,” after they criticize the poor grammar and phrasing, they think “really? Homosexuality? CAN WE PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS LIKE IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE OF ALL TIME!!!???” And while I think that’s understandable (and have had that thought myself at times) I want to give a quick reminder – assuming that you believe what the Bible says (and we’ll get to that), it’s not as if the church is the one pressing the issue. The social push to normalize homosexuality and to lambast anyone who thinks that it’s wrong as a bigot is what is pressing the issue – if, at some point in the future, society wants to normalize stabbing people in the kidney with forks, I would hope that the church would talk about that issue as well.
Let’s start with Present Reality. The present reality is that gay marriage is here, and it’s almost certainly here to stay. Whether we ever should have been fighting the batter politically or not, the point is that, politically, the fight is essentially over. In the next ten years, gay marriage will not only be legal, it will be legal in every state because it will be mandated to be legal every state as fundamental right guaranteed by the Equal Protection clause. Justice Kennedy’s opinion cannot be interpreted any other way – Justice Scalia’s dissent essentially made that point. If animosity towards homosexuals is the only possible reason to denying the benefits of gay marriage to same-sex couples, than the limits on the holding of Windsor are a product of the factual limits. As soon as they are afforded the opportunity, the Supreme Court will extend the holding to state bans. So, then, why talk about the present reality at all? If the issue is gay marriage, let’s move on to the future goals, right? Not exactly. The present reality is not only about gay marriage; the present reality also contains an active goal of the LGBT movement, and how we respond as a church is to that goal is important. Their goal is not really, or not only, gay marriage – their goal is for homosexuality itself to be accepted as a normal, amoral thing. They don’t want the church and society to support gay marriage. They want the church and society to accept homosexuality. The press for gay marriage is simply a step in the push for the normalization of homosexuality generally. Our response to the church falls into one of two categories –our concern for homosexuality in society and our concern for homosexuality as a thing in itself, i.e. our gospel concern.
First, let’s address the concern and response to the hypothetical effect of homosexuality, and gay marriage in particular, on society. Reasonable minds can differ on this topic – one person might say that the U.S. was founded on Judeo-Christian values and that the country can’t function divorced from those values. Since heterosexuality and heterosexual marriage are normative, Christian values, the U.S. is a fundamentally different country where gay marriage is legal, homosexuality is accepted and all these other pagan practices are rampant. Another person might say that the U.S. was founded on Lockean philosophical values that were decidedly neither Judeo nor Christian, and certain social differences have very little to do with the efficacy and function of a representative government with separation of powers. The whole point is to allow public discourse and debate about political and social values, and for government to represent the will of the people, the majority of whom have made their argument and point clear – gay marriage, and homosexuality generally, is OK. One person might say the breakdown of the nuclear family leads to a breakdown in society eventually, another might say that the empirical data about stable, but non-traditional, families is unclear, and we shouldn’t be presumptuous. As a church, our #CulturalValue is that homosexuality in society is probably not as important – in any case, homosexuals don’t deserve discrimination in their civil rights, and we can have a good debate about gay marriage as a political battle. Should we, as a church, even really have an interest on how the state defines marriage? God has already defined marriage, and I’m not sure that fighting to limit the benefits of marriage to same-sex marriage is some super-important hill we should be willing to die on. But even if you think that it is, I think we can agree that as a church, we should believe that it is far more important to be consistent and in agreement over the biblical issue of homosexuality.
The importance of homosexuality as it relates to the church has two different facets – an inward concern and an outward concern. Let’s start with the more inward concern, i.e. how does it effect evangelicalism itself? How do we interpret what the Bible says about homosexuality and what does that mean for us as a church? There are three possible ways of interpreting what the Bible says about homosexuality – one of them is right, and two of them are dangerous, but to varying degrees.
Importance for evangelicalism – 3 responses
Misinterpretation of the Bible
The first possible response is wrong and dangerous, but less dangerous than the next response. It misinterprets the Bible – it says that homosexuality is not wrong because the Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong, or at least it doesn’t say it’s wrong for us. The Bible was mistranslated – where it talks about the sin of homosexuality in the Bible, it should have been translated as something else – masturbation or something of that sort. Or, if it did say that homosexuality is sinful, it was because homosexuality is malum prohibitum (wrong because God said it was wrong at that time) and not malum in se, or wrong in and of itself. And God said some things were wrong for some people at specific times – woman shouldn’t wear jewelry, or people shouldn’t eat shrimp, or people shouldn’t be gay, because it was wrong for those people at those times for specific reasons that don’t apply to us. As a church, we reject this response because we are 99% sure it’s a misinterpretation of the Bible – it might not be dangerous for our souls, but it’s probably dangerous for our intelligence, and it might be dangerous for others who we should be witnessing to, but are instead encouraging in their sin.
Devaluing of the Bible
The second response is more dangerous, I think, because rather than misinterpreting the Bible, it devalues the Bible. It says that homosexuality isn’t wrong, because we as a society have decided it’s not wrong. The Bible did say that homosexuality was wrong, and it meant it. But the Bible has guidelines more than it has actual rules – you have to contextualize the Bible (and not in a good sort of way, like Paul and Eric Garrett contextualize the gospel, but in a bad sort of way) and find what’s applicable to you. The Bible doesn’t stand on itself. This is more dangerous, because it’s not only dangerous to our minds and probably to others – it’s dangerous to our souls, which is why, as a church, we strenuously reject this response. This response means that we don’t see the Bible as the inspired Word of God. We conform the Bible to what society wants – and if we decide the Bible isn’t relevant on this topic, how do we decide when it is relevant or true? Fundamentally, this response makes what we think about the Bible more important than what the Bible says. And that’s not a slippery slope – that’s the edge of a cliff.
The third response is our #CulturalValue – the lens through which we view homosexuality is the lens that Scripture dictates. We value the Word of God, which means that we don’t conform the Bible to our own social and cultural values – we conform our social and cultural values to the Bible. As a church, we think that what God has said about a topic is wiser, more helpful, and more important than what we think about a topic.
Importance to sinners – 1 Corinthians 6
The second important issue as it pertains to homosexuality and the Bible is outward focus – the issue isn’t our own view of homosexuality, the issue is how we treat and how we speak to homosexuals. (Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). We have three possible responses when it comes to how we view and we treat homosexuals. Through our words and our actions, we can say “You are wrong,” or we can say “You are loved,” or we can say “You are wrong, and you are loved.” (Most of this is taken directly from a Desiring God blog post. See http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/why-homosexuality-is-not-like-other-sins)
You are wrong
The first option is to say, through words and actions, “You are wrong.” And that’s it. All bad news, no good news. The problem, of course, is that this is less about pointing sinners to the cross of Christ and more about pointing at people different than us and saying “You are outcasts.” This is wrong primarily because, as 1 Corinthians said, “such were some of us” – we were outcasts, we were wrong, and yet God didn’t choose to reject and humiliate us; instead, He chose to forgive us.
You are loved
The second option is to say “You are loved,” and nothing else. This is wrong because it ignores the severity of sin altogether. It takes acceptance and inclusiveness, which are pieces of a procedure of salvation and pretends that they are the goal themselves. It’s also wrong because it usually reflects the fact that we value the positive impressions of the world around us more than we value the commands of Scripture. It reflects that we love the opinions of sinners more than we love sinners. It ultimately is wrong because it is evidence that we fear man more than we fear God.
You are wrong and you are loved
The third option is to say the beautiful words that God said to us: “You are wrong AND you are loved.” Through our words and our actions, we can truly love sinners by not ignoring their sin and cheapening grace, but also by not pretending that they are somehow worse than us. “Such were some of us” and yet God showed us by the law that we are wrong and by grace that we are loved. To do the same thing to the LGBT community is one of the privileges of being redeemed.
Future Possibility (Complete self-conception)
In studying LGBT scholarship, I have found that LGBT academics are very, very clever, and they are always a couple of years ahead of the ground-floor advocacy groups. First instance, in the past they thought it would be a good idea to rhetorically and practically separate the homosexual community from the transgendered community. Society would never accept homosexuality as a normal thing if they were constantly seen in conjunction with the transgendered community. Thus, LGBT academics thought it preferable to divorce the two communities for a time, in order to be able to more effectively normalize homosexuality. Once advocacy groups caught up to the academic perspective, they were extremely effective.
Currently, they are making it clear that the idea that it is unfair to deny privileges and rights to homosexuals because “baby, we were born this way” is not even what they really believe. They roll their eyes and allow this argument to go forward because it seems to be effective, but they don’t agree with it at all. And, when you think about it, it’s pretty paternalistic and condescending. “C’mon guys! These poor people can’t help the way they were made! Just because 97% of people, let’s call them the ‘normals,’ are born, well, normal, and the other 3% are, well, weird, doesn’t mean we should treat them different!” Their goal now is the same as their goal all along, which is complete self-conception. Their ideal is for a baby to be born, and to be able to choose what their gender is, what their sex is, what their sexual orientation is, and so on and so forth. They believe this self-conception will most likely be a continuously fluid definition. They look around and see a world that is unequal and unfair, and the world is unequal and unfair because we define people by their race, gender, sexual orientation etc., and then make value judgments about people and their relative worth and abilities based on their definitions. But what if that was impossible? If, say, men are valued higher than woman, than perhaps the way to rectify that would be for woman to simply define themselves as men. In other words, the response to inequality is not to seek as a community to learn to find value in diversity, but to deny that diversity exists altogether.
This perspective is beginning to take effect. Universities across the country are beginning to eliminate gendered bathrooms, and some states (specifically California) have passed laws disallowing public entities (including public schools) from treating children as gendered. You want to give rewards for good behavior? Fine, but don’t give Ironman toys to the boys and Pretty, Pretty Princess toys to the girls. I’m not the type to think society is going to hell in a hand-basket (after all, I enjoy most of the media outlets and entertainment that most people believe is the reason society is going to hell in a hand-basket), but I also think this is a dangerous perspective – perhaps it is the job of another blog post to delineate the reasons this perspective is dangerous, but I also think most reasonable people can imagine the reasons by themselves ïŠ.
The proper response
So what’s the proper response? Well, first it’s to acknowledge that the problem with this perspective isn’t that the LGBT community and academics want equality, because we should also want equality, and should be fighting hard to rid ourselves and our church of any vestiges of racism, chauvinism, feminism, sexism or any other discriminatory ism. Their problem isn’t that they want to rid society of the perceived fundamental notions of patriarchy and a self-perpetuating value system that unfairly values and props up some people at the expense of others, because to some degree, their concerns are valid. Their problem is that they look at people and say, “…has God really said?” They look at people and tell them “You can be like God. You can be the one that determines your own gender, your own sex, your own orientation, your own self-conceptions.” Their problem is that they read Genesis 1-3 and they agree with the Devil, or at least with his articulated opinions.
And what is our response? Our response is not to blame Hollywood, or liberalism, or the capitulation of the church – our response is not to hide our wives and hid our kids and retreat to our “rapture bunkers” in the middle of nowhere. Our response to them is our response to everything – we remind ourselves of what we know and what we are called to do. And what we know is that our God is greater, and our God is stronger, and our God is not surprised by individual or social sins. Our God’s response to sin was to send a flood and was to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but ultimately His response to sin was to provide a Savior, who was greater than death, greater than the Devil, and greater than our sin. What we know is that “such were some of us.” And thus we remind ourselves of what we are called to do – because “such were some of us” we are not called to say “Thank you God that I am not like that sinner”; instead we are called to say “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” We are called to remember “such were some of us” and God’s response was not to send us to Hell as would have been just; His response was to tell us “You are wrong, and you are loved. Let me show you what is right that you may be saved.” And we are called to say the same thing – not to say “You are wrong, and you are creepy and weird, go burn in Hello.” And it’s not to say “You are loved, dude! No worries! Now give me your accolades and your respect and your acceptance and let’s all be friends. Imagine all the people…” We are called to say “You are wrong, and you are loved. Now let me tell you what’s right, that the powerful, just, loving God of the universe may save your soul.” Because what is our goal? Our goal is not to be predominantly concerned with creating a safe and perfect little 50s-throwback society where we can sit in our little pink houses with little white fences watching “I love Lucy” with sinners that are safe, not gay or transgendered or sexually confused, and non-threatening and incidentally bound for Hell. Our goal is not that they be safe – our goal is that they be saved. Our goal is to sit around in Heaven with redeemed saints, glorifying God that who we were is not who we are – that our identity is not self-conceived, but is in being the results of God’s conception of what would ultimately bring Him the most glory.
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