jonathan stone's blog

. . . posts on faith and life

my struggle with homosexuality

I have an inordinate amount of friends and family that are homosexual. This has made me sensitive to the way that the church deals with homosexuals. When I was living in San Francisco I once encountered a street evangelism team. They had all kinds of signs that proclaimed the problems of the world and God’s impending judgment upon them. To give you an idea of the basic tenor of the message these guys were proclaiming let me tell you what one of the signs read: “God Hates Faggots (Lev. 20:13).”

How these guys thought that this was even remotely Christian is beyond me. When I asked the leader of the group how he justified such hateful rhetoric he pointed me to an obscure verse in Jude (yes, Jude). This did not even come close to satisfying me, and I was so upset that I really had nothing to say (which is unusual for me).

When I was in college I got really pissed about the way that people talked about homosexuality. I tried to debate individuals on the issue, but to say that it was never fruitful is a huge understatement. So, I began to pray about the issue. I wanted the Lord to help me to understand why we were so incompetent (and yes I include myself on this) to talk about the issue. I eventually found myself reading the first chapter of Romans, which has some very strong statements against homosexuality. I realized something that I had never realized before. Paul’s discourse in the first chapter actually culminates in 2:1 with these words: “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”

Immediately I heard what I perceived to be the Lord to whisper into my heart, “The church will not learn how to deal with homosexuality until it learns to overcome its own homospirituality.” The picture that I got was that the things we are most judgmental about are the very things for which we are guilty. Thus, “for you who judge practice the same things.” It seems that we only want to have ‘intimacy’ with those ‘of the same kind.’ We spend our time with those that think like us, feel like us, experience like us, talk like us, etc. Homosexuality has one issue, the desire to have physical relations with ‘the same kind.’ Yet, we are 3, 4, or 5 times the homospirituals that they are homosexuals. How do we account for that? What is the way forward?

66 comments on “my struggle with homosexuality

  1. Dennis J. ADams
    March 26, 2008

    Jon,

    This is a great post and really necessary for dialogue. As you know, where my ministry is located is the “lesbian” capital of this Nation per capita. Of course along with that is the large population of what people entitle medically “homosexuals”. This issue is not just a Christian one or even a religious one! This issue crosses all boundaries. First and foremost I would like to say that if it was not for churches like the one the Lord has honored me and let me include the great work that Steve Wright started in San Francisco, many of those in subject here would not have learned of the Lord!

    Ii is about love, acceptance, understanding, compassion, care, and yes, embracing the person’s heart! What is the category of sin that we place this in? Oh, I know the ugly, icky, nasty, homophobic category. Surprisingly (not really) I believe that Jesus walks the stress of Santa Cruz, CA, San Francisco, CA, Chicago, IL and Miami and speaks comfort and love into the hearts of the lost! Why does this soil us so much? Honestly, it “strikes” at the heart of our own purist lusts and inner dealings that haunt men and women throughout the world.

    God is appalled at sin not just homosexuality! In the early days of Pentecost all we could do was cast out the “demon” of homosexuality! Yes, I believe that there are demons attached to certain sins, but that is not the only reason for homosexuality in a person’s life. There are medical reasons, psychological reasons, and sociological deterrents that have affected both mean and women. The natural state of man can be bruised and crucially maimed though life may seem to be normal to others around them. Shame to us all that bought that lie and hurt those that are already hurting!

    I certainly believe that God desires us to reach out and love people no matter what! When I look in the mirror of my life and no that God has delivered me darkness that most Christian people have never attended, I know that God can deliver anyone who is willing! People who know my testimony in the COG freak out at what God has done in me and my family!

    Let me conclude, in this first of many statements toward this issue, that I have many people who are my friends, attending the ministry that I have and also who are professionals, such as, renowned doctors and lawyers. Just think if people would stop killing people they do not understand with words how many people would be willing to ask about Jesus and His love. I ma not bragging on knowing important people I am though stating that sin has no boundaries! Neither does judgment, again to our shame!

    Dennis

  2. Christian Jew-Rican
    March 26, 2008

    Hello Jonathan,
    Thanks for inviting me into this conversation. My wife and I have been discussing your post, and we both have some thoughts on the matter. The following are mine, and Tanya’s will follow.

    Needless to say, this is a very sensitive topic for all parties involved and it saddens me when believers do not treat it accordingly. I too have found it exceedingly appalling to learn about the “work” of the fringe extremist group that proclaims that “God Hates Fags” and signs that read “God Hates You” aimed not only at the gay community but also American soldiers and their grieving families. I was frustrated when I was at Lee and there was little openness to any perspective other than the COG’s traditional reading of the Scriptures. On a more personal level, years ago I had had a conversation with a relative who had been “struggling” with homosexuality for some time. He told me that for years he had prayed, fasted, sought intercession – everything that we were always taught to do in order to get God’s attention – all to no avail: he still “struggled” with homosexuality. This among many other factors such as your idea that COG members are only genuinely close to their “same kind” stacked up against one another to the point where I had to step away from the COG and Christianity in general. And it will continue to push people away until it can create a more open dialogue. But honestly my fear is that since the COG reads the Scriptures the way that it does, there is no need to change.

    Of course, I am not saying that the COG must think like I do, but it would be nice to at least be able to honestly discuss this from all perspectives and not simply the COG’s interpretation of what the Scriptures say about it.

  3. Christian Jew-Rican
    March 26, 2008

    And now Tanya’s –

    I think there is a lot in our very own COG tradition that could help us address the anxieties surrounding the question of homosexuality. The COG movement was inspired by the fact that the Spirit is at work in the world and is constantly doing a new thing, reaching far beyond where we our comfortable. This is apparent in the cultural diversity of the early movement at Azusa Street, the COG’s later recognition of women as capable leaders and ministers of God and children as viable conduits for leading people in worship. As we got a larger audience, it seems the COG got embarrassed about its openness to the fringe. We silenced our women and our children, treated the snake handlers and dog barkers like crazy uncles we couldn’t get rid of, over-spiritualized the idea of healing and for all intents and purposes made nice with the evangelical strand of American spirituality.

    The idea of the COG having no future quite possibly stems from the COG’s inability to recognize and recast their radical past. I’m not saying that the COG has to accept homosexuality, but traditionally the COG specifically, and Pentecostals in general, have much more of a track record of seeing God at work in what has been rejected by mainline American Christianity. (ironically, and thankfully, many mainline churches have become open to the different ways the Spirit moves.) This comes from a reliance more on the Spirit and the communion of the saints than this crazy close reading of Scripture we’ve taken on as non-negotiable. From this perspective I think there’s a strong case that we can worship with and be ministered to by our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, recognizing that the difference of their experience and perspective should not be a source of anxiety but as another opportunity to see what God is like and how God works in our midst.

    Obviously that’s just one voice. But maybe that’s the point: there’s no room for that view in the current COG community and having no room for any particular view or voice kind of puts another nail in the coffin of the dynamic and transformative work of the Spirit within the COG.

  4. Louis Morgan
    March 26, 2008

    Jon, your blog post titles certainly get attention! 🙂

    20 years ago a relative of mine died from complications due to HIV, which he contracted in a homosexual relationship. He once was a COG minister who attended Lee and had a good track record as an evangelist. However, he became disillusioned with the political system of the church and eventually left the church. (I do not know if he had homosexual relationships prior to this or not). He moved to another state for work, where he became involved with a man– and perhaps several men (I do not know). However, when he was near death, he returned home.

    When he was in the final stages of his life and dying in the hospital, some of the family asked the local COG pastor to visit with him. The pastor refused. Thankfully, my great aunt and uncle when to visit him. They prayed with him, and said that the Holy Spirit’s presence was tremendous. That man made his confession of life in Christ certain. I believe I will see him in heaven.

    I’m not advocating the church should have embraced his lifestyle, but the church should have put their arms around him and let him know that he was loved. (Seems like something similar happened in the story of the prodigal son!) Thankfully that happened through relatives who are part of the church, but not one of his old preaching buddies or even his pastor acknowledged his existence. Sometimes I think about it and wonder how he must have felt to have been treated as if he never existed by those who were once his preaching buddies– telling others about the love of Jesus.

    And today I think, is this not the very reason for our existence as the Church– to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world? Jesus went among the lepers; St. Francis ministered among the lepers. Some say those with AIDS are treated much the same as lepers in the time of Christ. If so, I believe there is an example for us to follow.

    I have friends who are homosexual– some who grew up on COG pews. (I’m sure this raises eye-brows since I’m single, but I’m confident in who I am and have determined I’d rather serve Christ by serving others than miss opportunities from fear of what others think). While I do not agree with their lifestyle, I do not judge them. I love them, try to let them see the love of God through me, and I trust the Holy Spirit to do the work that needs to be done in their life.

    I also agree that we must be willing to. We do not have to accept or agree, but we do need to reflect on other perspectives. This is the main way I have grown in my own spiritual development. Otherwise, it is like spiritually inbreeding.

    Also, David and Tanya it is great to see your pic on here. It has been quite a while!! I hope you are both well.

  5. Louis Morgan
    March 27, 2008

    Sorry… I meant to write in the next to last paragraph in my post above: “I also agree that we must be willing to learn from others and seek out different points of view.”

    This lets you know the pace of my day… 🙂

  6. Jonathan Stone
    March 27, 2008

    Wow, what great comments from everybody! Very helpful! Thank you all for these thoughtful insights, I am VERY grateful! There’s so much that I feel like I should make a post for a response with each one. But for now I’ll try to keep my initial responses grouped together here in this one comment.

    Dennis, yes, those things are to our shame. The stuff that you and Steve have been doing for years has always encouraged me that there is a way to live in ‘The Way’ by loving any and every person that comes into your life with no conditions. I am very thankful to have experienced that through your ministry!

    David, I appreciate what you lifted up as perhaps the central issue revolving around a very rigid hermeneutical structure that seems to be ‘untouchable.’ It is discouraging that there is not at least more openness and genuine interest to have the discussion. I don’t see how someone could not look at LGBT community and look at the CoG community and not see that we are way out of touch here. Nonetheless, I do hope. I think part of my hope is that I have seen at least a little bit of progress. Believe it or not, it was not that long ago that we were taking the “hate the sin, hate the sinner” approach that the “God Hates Fags” people take. By and large we have at least shifted to a “hate the sin, love the sinner” approach. And while that may or may not encourage churches and ministers to ACTUALLY start loving the individuals in the LGBT it is still a step that the church has slowly taken. Back to the hermeneutics, by and large when you start messing with people’s hermeneutics you start freaking people out! It’s a security blanket for a flawed view of scripture that is built on fragile faith. For example, when you show a typical CoG member textual errors that they have never heard of, they tend to flip out. They only know that they were taught something about the “inerrancy” of Scripture and what you’re telling them sounds like a contradiction of that and must be Satan’s latest scheme of deception. In the same way if you say something like “well we have to consider the context in which this was written” that tends to freak people out too! People can change on these types of issues, but it does not happen often. I guess the most recent example would be almost 150 years old–conservatives wrestling with the issue of slavery in the antebellum South. In some ways Scripture ‘appears’ to advocate slavery. Yet, you cannot find many people today who honestly believe that. What happened? They changed their hermeneutical framework. Likewise, many (unfortunately not yet the CoG) conservative faith traditions have made a similar hermeneutical shift in order to end any and all restrictions and inequalities for women in ministry. But if you start talking about things like that in the context of the issue of homosexuality and people get real antsy. I understand that. But I still hope for at least another step or two. I hope that someone can at least establish the middle ground, as precarious as that ground may be.

    Tanya, you shared some things that I think are very helpful, that have potential for providing ways forward. (1) You spoke of our heritage ‘in the margins’ (not exactly how you put it). I would say that we not only got embarrassed to being open to the fringe, but also, and maybe even more so, got embarrassed to realize that we WERE the fringe. So, we left the coal mines, the crab shanties, the swamp huts, and the cotton fields and took up residence in more ‘respectable’ societal locations. We sent our kids to college and they learned to intellectualize our esoteric experiences and then joined the NAE (another great point you made). I think you are exactly right that somewhere along the way we lost our identity in this. But what’s most helpful in my mind is the thought you shared that the way forward may come through a reclamation of our radical beginnings! By the way, this just reminded me of Carlton Pearson. Are you familiar with him? If not google him and check out the wikipedia entry that will come up. (2) The idea that you shared about the lack of room, and that that constricted environment impedes (quenches?) the moving of the Spirit. The fact is that as long as there is ‘no room’ in our homes, churches, and meetings for homosexuals (and I don’t mean that making room requires one to say that homosexuality is not a sin) then there is not room for the full presence of God. I think that pushing for a rediscovery of Christian hospitality (which is literally ‘making room’) is a potential way forward on this issue. So, these things were very helpful to me as I am processing all of this.

    Louis, the story you shared is tragic. And a pastor who would not go see him? That’s just despicable. That’s the kind of stuff that we should be yanking credentials over, not the petty things we tend to turn into controversy. I’m very glad at least the family ‘saw the light.’ What your comments bring to my mind is this: we have made some progress over the years in moving from a ‘hate the sin, hate the sinner’ mentality to a ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ mentality. Perhaps the next step is to call for more ‘equality of sins.’ For example, if we were to consider something like, say habitual masturbation as a sin, how would we talk about such a person who regularly attended church and appeared to be a genuine Christian? Perhaps we would say, the person is justified and regenerated, but not sanctified, not yet ‘set apart’ from his/her sin. We would anticipate that this person, even if s/he never overcame his/her sinful habit, would be joining us around the table at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps they will not have fully lived the life that they could have because they never overcame their sin, but we would all be glad that they were there. I could get away with talking that way about my “straw man” (I could even give him a name–Mister Bates! Ha!), but I could never get away with talking about homosexuality that way. This too could be a very tangible type of change to pursue.

    Wow, this is, by far, the longest comment I have EVER left on ANY blog anywhere! Thanks to all for the great discussion. I’m sure it’s just the beginning of more to come. Feel free to respond to my responses!

  7. m.d. mcmullin
    March 27, 2008

    This is a great topic to post on. I’m not sure what to add except this is a very difficult issue for many churches to address.

    A couple of years ago I went through a season where I had several people come to me for counseling with sexual addictions. Most of them dealt with internet pornography and one was a bisexual guy. I mentioned doing something proactive in our church to meet this need. I had a feeling that the 4 families in a month that I had dealt with were simply the tip of the iceberg. It was met with stunned looks and awkward stuttering by the some of the other pastors. The idea was shot down because it “may offend some people who are not dealing with this issue”. Our church chose a “wait until people come to us before we deal with it” approach.

    This was around the time I had sent an article to the Evangel on homosexuality. I made the claim as Louis mentioned that many of these people are treated like lepers. To follow Jesus example we should reach out and touch these lepers.

    I received a couple of messages from people responding to the article. (some were not very nice even accusing that I may be a homosexual myself). Bill George (the editor at the time) said he had received more negatives responses to that article than any other he had published. One response I received was from a lady who grew up in a COG pastor’s family whose brother was gay. He was now very sick and depressed and living far from the family. She could not find a local COG who was interested in even speaking with him. I was able to contact her brother and talk with him a bit. I was able to be a bridge between he and his family. His father refused to speak to him but the others wanted very much to reconnect with him. His mother and sisters eventually were invited to visit him and his partner shortly before he passed away.

    I wish I could say this man prayed the sinners prayer on the phone with me and I turned it in on my next minister’s report. He was very hurt emotionally and spiritually. He told me that he prayed every day and when he had become bed-ridden he listened to old gospel music that he had grown up on. (I suspect he had AIDS but would not tell his family)

    He prayed “a million times” that God would make him not gay. It never worked. He asked me if that was God’s way of damning him to hell by making him gay. I told him that God loved him and that he had been made in the image of God and that God had heard his prayers. I would not be surprised if I didn’t see that man in heaven. I’m not sure how to explain that theologically. I may be wrong.

    The church needs to be proactive. We need to model the appropriate way to treat these people with love.

  8. m.d. mcmullin
    March 27, 2008

    So I didn’t even comment on the perhaps the best part of your post which was about “homospirituality”. I’m still kind of stewing on it.

    I heard an analogy recently that I think fits. “the Church of God (he just said the church) is kind of like a person who gets invited to a party and then only talks about themselves the whole night.”

    There is an egocentricism (perhaps an ecclesio-centricism) that exists within our system. Most of the time we are oblivious to what is going on around us. When we do notice something outside our church it’s about 10 years too late and then we scramble to try and create a COG version of it.

    Jon, does this mean that in this context you are “homophobic”?

  9. Don
    March 27, 2008

    Since I spend a good deal of time following things in the Anglican/Episcopal world, I have to say you’ve found an explosive topic.

    As is the case with so many things in our society, I think it’s unfair to say that all of the negative response starts with the church people and ends up with the homosexuals. Last summer, on my blog I got into a debate–if it can be dignified by that word–on same-sex civil marriage with a secular gay man from California. He was without a doubt the most rude, abusive debater I have ever run across.

    Since I’ve spent a good deal of time on this subject, let me reference two posts on my blog.

    The first was my reply to Susan Russell (head of Integrity, the Episcopal Church’s GLBT organisation) on inclusivity and grace. I also link to some of the aforementioned debate from here.

    The second was my comment last year on the Day of Silence. GLBT groups want you to believe that they are unique in experiencing discrimination, but that is not the case.

    I think that the approach that some Christians take to this issue isn’t, well, very Christian. But Evangelical churches in general and our church in particular choose to cave on this issue, we might as well pack it in.

  10. Don
    March 27, 2008

    Quick amendment: “if Evangelical churches…”

  11. Jonathan Stone
    March 27, 2008

    Mike, thanks for chiming in. As far as your Evangel article I know that many, many persons found it very encouraging, by that I mean I personally know people who have told me how encouraged they were by it in light of how discouraged they had been by the church’s response up to this point. And I am sure that most of them did not take the time to drop you a line telling you so. You took some arrows for the rest of us. Thank you for that!

    The response of your church is mind-boggling. It shows a ‘maintenance’ mentality that I firmly believe is a clear ‘injustice’ in the sight of God. I don’t think people take the time to really consider what a very serious sign this is of our current condition!

    As far as the ‘homospirituality’ goes, I asked a member of the LGBT community to read my post and give me some honest feedback about what parts of it would be misunderstood and/or offensive to members of the LGBT. He was gracious, and found the analogy to be intriguing, even helpful. He did raise a question about where that analogy might break down. With that said, I would say that “narcissism” and/or “egocentrism” is a huge underlying problem here, and is another way to talk about what I have called “homospirituality” (but would not say that homosexuality has the same connection to narcissism–thus, would see some of the analogy beginning to break down). I think that the analogy you used about the party guest is very helpful. Our self-obsession gets right down to the root of ‘the disease,’ which gets expressed in the way we obsess over our numbers, and then lose sight of the reason we exist when we start trying to ‘control’ those numbers. Thus, you have churches afraid to minister to real problems because they are afraid to offend any of the members on whom they depend to sustain themselves.

    As far as calling me a homophobic, well, in this case I guess you can call me that…you tricky little devil!

  12. Jonathan Stone
    March 28, 2008

    Don, thanks for pointing out your articles. I especially found your thoughts on the “impracticalities of inclusion” intriguing. I’m glad to know that some of our tribe are actively engaging this issue in various places!

    (1) I agree with your comment about some members of the LBGT community. I have encountered my fair share of ‘militant’ LBGT members who I can only assume were just looking for a fight to pick. I would only add this: I don’t have the same expectations from a ‘secular’ (or unbeliever or pagan) person that I have for an individual who professes to possess the Light of Jesus Christ in his/her soul. So, I would expect some nasty responses from unbelievers, but also expect some very kind and gracious responses from Christians in return. And I’m not talking to you here, as far as I know from your writings you do the balancing act quite well! However, just making the clarification.

    (2) When you speak of Evangelicals “caving in” on this issue I assume you mean no longer considering a homosexual lifestyle (even under certain parameters) to be sinful. This highlights what might be an important point in my interests in this discussion. I want to know if there is any room to have some constructive dialogue between Pentecostals and the LGBT community. I am therefore interested what the ‘conditions’ might have to be for such a conversation to take place, as well as what the potential fruit might be. I would think that such a conversation would only be possible on the Pentecostal side if it was clear that there was, and would continue to be, a firm commitment to the stance that the practice of homosexuality was a sin. What I do not know is whether anyone from the LGBT would be interested in a conversation with that particular condition.

  13. Louis Morgan
    March 28, 2008

    OK… I have little more time this evening, and the historian in me feels it needful to mention the Metropolitan Community Churches.

    To my knowledge, the first homosexual-affirming, Pentecostal denomination is the MCC. We might find it interesting that it was started in 1968 by Troy Perry– a former minister in both the COG and COGOP.

    In the COG there is no restoration process for ministers. For all other issues, a minister can go through a time of restoration/counsel/transformation and return to ministry. With this, my concern is that what we are subconsciously saying is that the Blood of Christ has power to transform everything EXCEPT homosexuality.

  14. Louis Morgan
    March 28, 2008

    I meant to add above that had the COG and COGOP had some restoration process in place for homosexuality, perhaps the MCC would not exist today.

  15. Jonathan Stone
    March 28, 2008

    Louis, I had forgotten about this. It is a VERY significant point in my mind. Thanks for mentioning this. It adds another layer to an agenda that has grown steadily in me over the last two days as I have ‘listened’ to these comments. That agenda is this: exposing our true feelings toward the LGBT.

    One small point/question. You said, “For all other issues, a minister can go through a time of restoration/counsel/transformation and return to ministry.” But do we not exclude pedophilia from that opportunity as well?

  16. Jonathan Stone
    March 28, 2008

    I should add that “exposing our true feelings” is not my primary agenda, but it’s high on the list, and is growing in importance in my mind.

  17. Don
    March 28, 2008
  18. Louis Morgan
    March 28, 2008

    I hadn’t thought about pedophilia. I suppose that is part of the reason for the background checks today. However, there are a couple of instances in our history where individuals were accused with these acts (some in major leadership positions) and the church leadership looked the other way without an investigation. I know this only from personal testimonies shared with me– but it is not my place to reveal it. That is, after all, history and those individuals are no longer living. I believe it would be the place of the victim to reveal it.

    And, the homosexual issue is not new to us. This has been something our movement has had to deal with for decades. A few of our popular ministers (various time periods) have left the church over this issue. What I would like to know is how we handled those situations? Did we even try to provide any means of ministering to them? I think in most cases it was just easier for us to discontinue our relationship with them and put them out of our mind. However, I cannot imagine Christ doing this. Would he not intervene in their situation and bring deliverance? (Yes, an individual must want deliverance, but I am unaware if we even offer them the opportunity for it).

  19. Jonathan Stone
    March 28, 2008

    Don, thanks for the ‘link love.’ I posted my response on your blog.

  20. Jonathan Stone
    March 28, 2008

    Louis, I’m glad you bring that ‘historical perspective’ to us. In some ways I can understand the response of the church in past decades (though it was no less un-Christlike then!). However, I don’t see how we can not discuss this issue in the 21st century. And I definitely cannot see how we cannot at least make more attempts to at least be more ‘loving’ if not ‘affirming’ of the lifestyle.

    I was privy to the recounting of a recent conversation within a particular department that is trying to tackle certain issues on sexuality. Some idea about a dance was mentioned. That idea was quickly shot down because too many CoG members would be offended at even the appearance of suggesting a church hold a dance (it was father/daughter dance by the way). I wasn’t that hip on the dance either, but for other reason. However, the mindset behind the reason given was deeply disturbing to me. Not what I revealed about this person (I really understand what has to be considered from the perspective of an administrator), but what it revealed about our current spiritual environment.

    Recently there was a study released about American’s concept of sin. 87% of Americans believe in the concept of sin (I thought that was a really high number!). The survey had twenty or so categories/activities that participants were asked to answer on whether or not they thought they were a sin. Guess what was dead last. Dancing. 4% of Americans think that dancing is a sin. And we’re going to make ministry decisions based on the misplaced religious sensibilities of that 4%? To me that is very disconcerting. How relevant to our culture can we be with this mindset? But the more disturbing question is this. How healthy can our spiritual atmosphere be with this level of fear? Not to mention over such a tiny section of our culture’s demographic!

  21. Jenn
    March 28, 2008

    Jon,

    This is awesome. Thank you so much for sharing! I will definitely pass this on.

  22. Christian Jew-Rican
    March 28, 2008

    I know the conversation is probably winding down, but I (tanya) wanted to add just one more thing:

    I think we get closer to the issue when we begin to discuss what people think sin is. As much as we want to assume that sins are somehow fixed for all eternity, many times they’re actually contingent on the cultural norms of the day. The first time I noticed this was in my youth group. I grew up a black girl in a white COG church (I’m 26 years old; it wasn’t that long ago ☺). I remember my youth pastor telling our youth group interracial dating was wrong. He gave us some scriptures and as we all know, had a good foundation traditionally. I was pretty disturbed because I’d just been reading scriptures that I thought said quite the opposite. When I asked him about them, he hemmed and hawed and was unable to resolve the differing perspectives in the texts. While today I know he would never come up with a sermon like that, it’s not because his scriptures have changed; instead his perspective has.

    Experiences like these make me suspicious of any denunciation of a person for a particular trait s/he has. Much of our Christian tradition has followed the practice of the Stepford community: seeking to manufacture a particular community’s idea of perfection by removing all difference and critical thought from the ‘dangerous’ other. Isn’t that what we’re kind of doing with the idea of conditions on homosexual practice. Essentially we’re saying, ‘You can’t be in the club unless you have sex like we do; if you really want we can train to have our kind of sex. Otherwise, you don’t get to have any. Ever. At all.’ This is our stance even though the biblical resources regarding this issue aren’t as fixed as we like to assume and our larger Christian tradition oscillates on the issue as well. Maybe there isn’t room for a middle ground, but perhaps there could be more room for conversation if we admitted that it’s not just the Bible we use to construct Christian norms. We’d have to acknowledge that there are a lot of variables involved as well, and because of that there is no hope of certitude only the hope that we are all in this together willing to work out our salvation with love, trust and commitment to uplifting those in and out of our community.

  23. Jonathan Stone
    March 28, 2008

    Jenn, thanks for passing it along. I too have been encouraged by the very insightful comments, and even more by the willingness of these few here to seriously discuss it. It’s quite an encouragement to me!

  24. Jonathan Stone
    March 28, 2008

    Tanya, once again you’ve brought some very helpful thoughts, and from some very personal experiences. I too can remember when this ‘mindset’ about interracial relationships was fairly common, though I cannot imagine what it would ‘feel’ like to hear that conversation as one of the only black girls in an otherwise white CoG. Thankfully, immigration and globalization have forced change upon this issue in even small, rural towns. And thankfully, a lot of people (unfortunately I assume not all people) have been willing to change.

    You’re cutting deep into the issue by bringing up the ‘club’ mentality of the ‘insiders’ and the ‘outsiders.’ I received a very intriguing email from a member of the LGBT in response to my post. He talked a lot about the book of Romans, and his insights were extremely helpful. He mentioned an ironic “works righteousness” mentality in regards to the way we talk about homosexuality and subsequently treat homosexuals. That we might want to examine ourselves to see if we are in danger of ‘justifying ourselves by our heterosexuality’ rather than our faith. That we seemed to have, again ironically, fallen into the very type of ‘boasting’ that Paul is confronting in Romans by taking on the issue of ‘circumcision’ and other attempts to ‘Judaize’ early Christians.

    Could homosexuality be the ‘new circumcision’? I don’t know. It’s an intriguing question. The treatment of circumcision and the treatment of homosexuality are very different in the bible. The latter requires more serious, more advanced, and more bending ‘hermeneutical gymnastics’ than does the former.

    You also touched on that. I think that there is already room, or at least the potential to make room, in our hermeneutics for at least the dialogue. In the CoG we approach theology from an Armenian perspective, as oppose to the Reformed perspective that some of our Pentecostal brothers and sisters launch from. Many in the CoG are familiar with the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral that Albert Outler coined. And of course that framework recognizes the role of experience, tradition, and reason (along with Scripture, which still held a sort of ‘pride of place’ in Wesley’s model) in forming Christian norms of belief. So, I think that there is at least the potential to find enough room to explore the variances and multiplicities of such a complex issue. Of course, like I said before, there is still the problem of people freaking out when you mess with their hermeneutical framework, but I still hold out hope nonetheless.

    But let me return to this deeper issue of sin. I think that we are largely out of touch with our sin condition. We are largely out of touch with how it pervades our lives. We are largely out of touch with how desperate this makes our situation. And we are largely out of touch with how effective the blood of Christ is in dealing with that sin. I think that the ‘Christianese’ that we speak in my circles is probably despicable in the sight of God. I would estimate that as much as 90% of the crap we speak about in church, and in talking to hurting people who do not know our Lord, would be considered reprehensible and shameful to speak at the foot of cross while looking into the eyes of the crucified God (thank you Moltmann!).

    There are no requirements for justification accept faith. All sin is equal and equally dealt with by the effective blood of Jesus Christ. There are of course questions about what happens to a person after this justification. How should s/he be expected to live her/his life? Are there any parameters at all? Are there any boundaries at which we would have to concede that someone is either ‘in’ or ‘out’? I think we all have these boundaries in our mind whether we want to admit it or not. Even the most ‘inclusive’ persons have certain boundaries. It would be interesting to see what would happen if someone who hated homosexuals accepted an ivitation to live on a commune where everyone else was homosexual. Would s/he be tolerated? I suspect some lines would be drawn somewhere. I am digressing a bit.

    Anyway, what you help me meditate on is this, why are we so preoccupied with those later questions, when we still have not recognized the depth of our own sin? And why can’t we embrace the fact that every single living person is no more and no less trapped by this sin-condition than we? And that the blood of Christ is as potentially effective in every person’s life as it is in our own? If we really understood these things I suspect that we would all spend a lot more time with each other, with those ‘dangerous’ others. And in so doing we would probably recognize that we are all queer (strange), and yet all the very much the same.

    Perhaps it’s time for another revolution. In the ’60’s and 70’s there was the so-called Jesus Movement. Jesus became a ‘groovy’ in the minds of hippies. After all, he was always hanging out at parties in his sandals and stuff. Everyone wanted to get high with Jesus. A lot of churches ‘capitalized’ on this and a lot of naive hippies encountered a loving God. But in other ways it was just another man made movement. We have not had a true movement yet with our generation. Perhaps the movement that our generation needs is not the cool, hippie-like Jesus challenging the religious institutions with his Sermon on the Mount. But rather the appalling figure of the crucified God hanging on the cross at Calvary, abused by us, abused by the disease that has haunted us all.

  25. Claire
    March 29, 2008

    can we talk about this in class sometime? i like this…

  26. Jonathan Stone
    March 29, 2008

    Hey Claire! Thanks for dropping in!

    It’s hard for me to imagine where we would fit it into the course as a planned discussion at this point. But you know me, I’m VERY easily sidetracked! 🙂 So, just bring it up and we’ll see how the class responds.

  27. Nate/Diana
    March 30, 2008

    This is Tanya again. My friend is letting me use her blog to post.

    Jonathan, thanks for your response to my comments. I’m not sure if I was being clear. I’m curious about what you think about homosexuality as a sin in general. Why is it important for us to think of it as sinful, when we already recognize that the Bible isn’t the only tool we use to construct Christian norms. On what real basis are we judging this as sinful? I think the transition I saw in my church about considering interracial dating sinful and then not sinful is a perfect example of the constructed nature of sin. Sometimes we use our religious labels to negatively identify actions our culture considers taboo. I think homosexuality (and any transgression of norms of gender/or sexuality) fall into that category – behaviors that cause such anxiety that we use our religious terms to label them negatively. Do you, or anyone in the blogworld, have thoughts on this?

  28. Jonathan Stone
    March 30, 2008

    Tanya, I’m glad you’re tugging here. I’m tempted to answer with a Hauerwas statement along the lines of “well, the problem with that question is…” and then never get around to answering your question. But since I’m no Hauerwas I’ll not try to answer like him. Ha! However, I do agree with him, that we will likely never take a significant step on the issue until we lose our need to start with the question of ‘when you boil it all down where do you stand on calling this sin or not.’

    At the same time, I recognize more than that in your question. I’ll start with what I hear as your ‘bottom line’ question. Do I recognize the ‘constructed nature’ of sin? Yes. But I only recognize it because it is biblical. The Apostle Paul is the one who taught me that, for in Romans 14-15 he teaches that one thing can be a sin for one person and not a sin for another person. And he does not suggest that the person for who it is a sin (whom he calls ‘the weak’) is ONLY thinking s/he is sinning b/c s/he is not yet liberated into ‘strong faith,’ but RATHER that it is for that person an ACTUAL sin. I would say it does not get much more relative than that. And if sin can be ‘individually constructed’ then there is no doubt in my mind that it can also be ‘socially constructed.’

    However, I would challenge you to consider two things. (1) Paul has some pretty strong words about how the ‘strong’ are to respond. And I would answer my very close LGBT friend (I suspect you know who he is :)) that while those conservatives (the weak in faith) might be in danger of boasting about their ‘works-righteousness of heterosexuality,’ those liberals (the strong) might also be in danger of boasting in their ‘works-righteousness of liberty.’ Paul ends the argument by saying can I do these things (though he’s more often referring to meat sacrificed to idols and other ‘socially constructed sins’ of his day)? Of course I can! Do I do them? Of course not! Why? Because I don’t live my life for the good of myself, but for the good of others. Two qualifiers: I recognize that meat sacrificed to idols and homosexuality are two VERY different things, given the ontological depth of homosexuality against the shallow social waters of choosing which meat to eat. I also recognize that not everyone puts a lot of weight into what the Apostle Paul said, as they would understand him as merely doing his job of wrestling with understanding the revelation of Jesus Christ (who never directly spoke about homosexuality) within his particular context, filled with its own socially constructed norms, and not as ‘God-breathed’ dogma meant to be taken so literally. And that leads me to me second challenge for you to consider.

    (2) While Pentecostals should have never ‘jumped in bed’ with the NAE, they have still always held to what we might call a conservative hermeneutical framework. That is why I mentioned that I only recognize the ‘socially constructed nature of sin’ because I see it as being a biblical concept. In the end I suspect the area of trying to line things up with Scripture would be one of my personal ‘boundaries.’ And I definitely think that it will continue to be such a boundary for the majority of Pentecostals. My question for my ‘stronger’ brothers and sisters who do not have such sensibilities is whether or not, in light of my boundaries, they desire to have the conversation with me, desire to fellowship with me, to know me. I know that my very close friend does, but I don’t know about everyone else. So, I’m trying to reverse the field a little bit here, and I’m genuinely asking the LGBT, “Are you going to embrace me with my flawed faith? Or are you going to exclude me?” After all, that is what they are asking me.

    There is another element to your question that I should mention as well. You have made the comparison of ‘the shift’ that your youth pastor, and hopefully the ‘conservative’ end of the church in general, has made in regards to that really stupid stuff they use to say about interracial relationships. However, while I appreciate how your personal experience has enabled you to empathize and/or identify with the current rejection of the LGBT community by both Evangelicals and Pentecostals (as well as Fundamentalists and conservative mainliners), I see these two things very differently. The rejection is the same. And the pain from that rejection is the same. The hypocrisy that is interwoven with the rejection is also the same. And all of those are sins for which those persons and traditions (or generations to use a good ‘Jesus’ term) will be held accountable. Evidently it’s going to suck real bad for them ‘on that day.’ But the hermeneutics required to shift the teaching on interracial relationships and the hermeneutics required to shift the teaching on homosexuality are VERY different. It’s MUCH easier for a Pentecostal to recognize the former as a socially constructed taboo that has been labeled negatively with religious rhetoric than it is to do that with the latter. Why? Because the ‘line in the sand’ that Scripture draws on the latter is so much more forceful and clear.

    Is it conceivable, even with the much more significant hermeneutical leap required, that Pentecostals could make this shift as well? I’m not saying it’s impossible. (By the way, I’ve tried to pin some of my other LGBT friends down about where to draw the line next if that ever happens. For example, what about a lifelong, exclusive relationship of fidelity? And so far they have always rejected that idea. The only line they have been willing to draw is ‘just don’t hurt others.’) However, I don’t think we will ever get there unless conservatives (and I guess I have to ‘fess up to still falling into that category, though I hate being identified BY that category) are told ‘But even if you don’t, we still love you. You are welcome here just as you are.’ Which, once again, is exactly what ‘they’ are asking ‘us.’

  29. Jonathan Stone
    March 30, 2008

    Tanya, one more very important thing that I did not address in your question. As far as ‘the other sources’ go in constructing Christian norms, even for Pentecostals the Bible still almost always trumps the other three. However, there are two biblical examples of the the others trumping Scripture. (1) The prophetess Hulda confirming the written word by the Charismatic word to King Josiah. (2) Acts 15. Those are highly unusual circumstances. Revolution type stuff. Could it happen? Of course! But only by the hand of the Lord. And if He moves in that way. The extreme ends of the theological spectrum will find themselves hugging and snotting on each other and professing their unconditional love for one another. And that brings me back to the belief that the way forward is not in the ‘bottom line’ questions.

  30. Don
    March 30, 2008

    I am inclined to agree with Jon’s statement that “But the hermeneutics required to shift the teaching on interracial relationships and the hermeneutics required to shift the teaching on homosexuality are VERY different. It’s MUCH easier for a Pentecostal to recognize the former as a socially constructed taboo that has been labeled negatively with religious rhetoric than it is to do that with the latter. Why? Because the ‘line in the sand’ that Scripture draws on the latter is so much more forceful and clear.” In fact, as I mentioned in my post, I’ll go a step further: the attempt to prohibit interracial dating and marriage amongst Christians on a Biblical basis is patently absurd.

    Homosexuality’s prohibition is one of those things that is done in the Old Testament and repeated in the New, which is a strong case. However, I think that Tanya’s question of “why?” is something that needs better treatment. Keeping my ear to the ground on what the Anglicans and Catholics do, I hear things such as natural law, the fact that homosexuals cannot have children, etc. All of these things are true but they don’t tell the whole story.

    I am inclined to think that the answer to this question is rooted in the integrity of the family and the concomitant integrity of the Christian sexual ethic. That is a carryforward from Judaism; the Jews actually went to war with the Greeks in part over things like this, as I describe here.

    Concerning the argument about committed relationships, I think that’s on the level of the interracial dating business. In a society that, on the heterosexual side, has slid from really committed relationships to serial monogamy to cohabitation, I just don’t see the homosexuals raising the current bar on this, same-sex civil marriage notwithstanding. Christians churches would do well to concentrate on making Holy Matrimony both.

    As far as Jon’s dislike of the term “conservatives,” perhaps you should investigate Kendall Harmon’s terminology of “reasserters” and “reappraisers” in place of conservatives and liberals, respectively.

  31. Jonathan Stone
    March 30, 2008

    Don, thanks for tipping me off to Harmon’s terms. I will check that out.

  32. Anonymous
    March 31, 2008

    Hi Jonathan. I’m Nate, a friend of Tanya’s (which is how I ended up here :)). I’m generally fairly shy when it comes to posting, but I thought I’d respond to a few of your questions with my own, because you seem so genuinely glad to hear from people and to get a chance to mull over their responses. I also wanted to say first that I do really appreciate the care you are taking to affirm each of the posters, and to ‘make room’ in the context of this conversation.

    So, I’m a member of the LGBT community (I tend to sometimes use the word ‘queer’ – I hope that doesn’t stress you out), and I’m also Christian (UCC/DoC). I’m an odd one — I was raised Jewish, converted to Christianity (after coming out), and am now in seminary. I definitely come to the conversation with a different way of turning to the Bible than you do, but I think we might still find common ground in our understanding of the importance of acknowledging personal and collective sin, and of the effectiveness of God’s grace (although I would argue — usually with different language — that Christ’s blood covers all people, not just “believers”).

    I guess I have a number of different thoughts and questions for you. One first thought (and I think you may have already considered this) is that I think that the “constructive dialogue between Pentecostals and the LGBT community” and the work of “exposing our true feelings toward the LGBT community” need to be really separate processes. Just as there are conversations that can be useful for white people to have, about their own racism / struggles with white privilege and white supremacy (getting-it-all-out-into-the-open types of conversations) which people of color would probably not want to hear or have sticking around in their heads, and which are really not their responsibility to be dealing with, I can imagine that there are conversations which could be useful for people in the CoG community to have about their own understanding of homosexuality and relationship to the LGBT community which would not be conversations that individual queer people would want to hear, or conversations which would necessarily be healthy for individual queer people to hear. Does that make any sense?

    So then, my main question, I guess, is (in terms of your desire for a constructive dialogue between LGBT people and (straight) Pentecostals), what kinds of conversation would you be hoping for? Were you thinking that homosexuality would be the topic, or were you thinking more about thinking and working together on other issues where there might be more common ground? I have to admit that it’s much easier for me to imagine the latter, mainly because of what I said above – I’m not sure what individual queer people would get out of it if the discussion centered on sexuality: that just seems awfully stressful, and like people might hear things which would just not be healthy to have sticking around in their heads. Personally, in terms of relationships between individual LGBT people and the Church, I would rather see LGBT people talking about sexuality in communities which understand their sexuality as positive (as, for instance, one of God’s gifts). That just seems more conducive to their relationship with God and with their church, and to their relationship to their own sexuality. What kinds of conversations were you envisioning, and what were you hoping might be a result of them? As you can tell, I’m interested in the idea of a conversation, if a little wary.

    In terms of your question about the LGBT community ‘embracing you with your flawed faith / not excluding you’, I’m curious what you’re referring to. Is there something in particular that you feel like you’re being excluded from? I guess, on my own end, I don’t care as much about if individuals think that homosexuality is a sin (although I have to admit that it sometimes scares me, because I feel like I might be called upon to defend myself / am disliked), but it would get much more complicated if I was being kept from being ordained to what I felt I was being called because people saw the way I lived out my sexuality or gender identity as sinful. Does that make sense? But I also have to say that my level of ease with people seeing homosexuality as sinful is probably due in part to the fact that I’ve never had to deal with much homophobia from my family or friends or community. I am potentially less protective/defensive because I have not had anything to protect or defend myself from. And I think that it will be impossible to have this conversation without acknowledging the sometimes extreme levels of fear and risk-taking for all involved. It can be somewhat terrifying to try to have a conversation with people if you’re afraid that they hate you (regardless of if they actually do). (And I think there are some people who will never feel safe enough to be part of a conversation like that, and I don’t think they should be seen as less open-hearted, or less hospitable, as a result.)

    Oh – I was also wondering if you were thinking about conversations with LGBT communities in general, or with a Christian queer community, or with one with roots particularly in Pentecostal Christianity.

    Huh. I did not realize I had so many things to say. Feel free to respond to whatever tugs on you.

  33. Jonathan Stone
    March 31, 2008

    Hey Nate, thanks so much for taking the time to chime in, and for introducing yourself a bit. Your thoughts are actually very helpful in a few different ways, but especially in ‘teasing out’ a little further the complexities involved here! I’m glad you ‘hear’ my genuine appreciation in my responses to comments. Your post really does help me take another step in thinking this through!

    I find your analogy about white people dealing with their own racism (whatever that might mean for each of them individually) to be a very good one. I can see that you’re right about dealing with certain aspects (especially our own inner fears, confessions, hopes, etc.) ‘behind closed doors’ so to speak. I have sort of thrown the whole lump out on the table here, so this, again, is very helpful in separating the issues in order to identify what might be the most productive/constructive things to focus on. So, yes, it makes a lot of sense!

    In terms of your ‘main question,’ I’m not sure exactly what I envision, as this is still very much in process in my mind, and in an early stage at that. So, I’m kind of thinking out loud here as I type. You’re probably right that a Queer/(straight)Pentecostal Dialogue would need to focus on other ‘talking points’ besides sexuality. I’m not exactly sure what the focus would be. Perhaps a starting point would be questions around the ‘big question’ of ‘Is there anything that we want/need to talk about? Is there some common ground that we could occupy together in order to spend time with one another, encourage one another, etc. This leads me to think about all of the various ‘behind closed doors’ conversations that would likely need to happen on both sides to even arrive at that conversation. But I suspect that there could be some positive relationship/alliance around something. Perhaps it could be missional in focus? Say, fighting certain global issues? Then again, we may not need a formal dialogue to get involved in those things, as there are already plenty of opportunities to plug in and join a diverse group of others in such causes. Then again, there’s always more to be done. So, I guess I’m still not clear yet. Do you have any ideas?

    (Also, as an aside. I’m glad you added the qualifier (straight) to Pentecostal. It helps recognize the Queer Pentecostal community that already exists, something I had failed to do. And that’s another example of ‘teasing out the layers’ that your comment has helped me with!)

    In terms of ‘being embraced,’ I guess this once again hits on certain personal ‘fears’ and ‘anxieties’ that belong to me (and to ‘mine’) mostly. I had mentioned to Don some ‘militant’ LGBT individuals that I had encountered. However, that has been limited to public ‘spaces.’ In fact, every personal encounter that I have ever had (by personal I mean friends and not just a random encounter with a stranger) has been extremely gracious, with plenty of room to be myself and share openly and honestly. However, I guess I struggle to know how much is just the give of love and grace in my friends, who in turn give me plenty of room to wrestle and process these things, and what ‘other’ attitudes I might encounter if I wade on out into deeper waters of the wider LGBT community. So, I guess I’m testing the waters a bit with those questions/thoughts. And the question of the wider LGBT community brings me to your last question.

    Perhaps I have in mind, or should get in my mind, the Queer Christian community as a potential dialogue partner, as oppose to the larger LGBT community. And perhaps within the broad Queer Christian community there are specific talking/gathering points to be held with the more specific Queer Pentecostal community. There is a Society for Pentecostal Studies. I wonder if they would ever consider ‘making room’ for the latter? I had not thought about that, but that’s potentially a very good idea!

    Well, I’m all out of time here as work is about to start. But I’m sure there’s more to come. I hope you can see that your thoughts and questions are very helpful for me. I look forward to seeing where they go from here. Thanks again! And let me know if you have and thoughts/questions/responses so far!

  34. Don
    March 31, 2008

    Nate’s comment as follows got my interest:

    “I guess, on my own end, I don’t care as much about if individuals think that homosexuality is a sin (although I have to admit that it sometimes scares me, because I feel like I might be called upon to defend myself / am disliked), but it would get much more complicated if I was being kept from being ordained to what I felt I was being called because people saw the way I lived out my sexuality or gender identity as sinful.”

    Leaving out the issues of doctrine, practice, etc., from a purely personal standpoint, this is the one thing that grates on me the hardest in this whole debate.

    I recently was a commenter on a lively debate on Kendall Harmon’s blog on bullying. As I mentioned earlier, things have gotten combative there, but this issue–unrelated to the agony the Anglican/Episcopal world is going through–really hit a raw nerve with many people, me included.

    I’ve spent a good deal of my life being unpopular. Getting past growing up didn’t cure the problem. My family went absolutely postal when I joined the Church of God, starting a multi-year campaign that only ended when their plan for life didn’t work out as advertised.

    But being unpopular–and taking the flak that goes with it–teaches one that defending yourself is a part of life. Today, we have an idea that this shouldn’t be necessary. But we still live in a country where shared values still hold it together. These two are in contradiction one to another. When push comes to shove, and the perceived survival of the group (or the parts of the group that have the upper hand in society) is at stake, those who are different suffer the consequences.

    That was the point in my commentary last year on the Day of Silence entitled What it Takes to Experience Discrimination.

    Now the church, in this country at least, is a voluntary association, and a very diverse one at that. Each one of them represents some kind of value system. The business about shared values in the country applies even more strongly in a church or denomination. But one doesn’t have to belong to a particular church. Leaving the church you’re at isn’t painless, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. That was the choice I was faced with the Episcopal Church while in high school. I made my choice, and that choice has turned out for the best. There wasn’t enough of me to do anything about where the church was going, and as it turns out in the long run people banding together (albeit too late) hasn’t changed much either.

    To my mind, the best thing would be for churches who embrace LGBT people and lifestyle to compete with those who don’t, and we can see for ourselves who, as Leon Trotsky would put it, ends up on the “asheap of history.”

    But no one wants to find out who’s on the downside of that.

  35. Jonathan Stone
    March 31, 2008

    Don, I understand you to be advocating a clear separation between those who ‘affirm’ the said lifestyle and those who ‘reject’ it. You have approached it in a good, practical way (talking about the impracticalities, etc. on your blog). I also hear Nate’s questions (even anxieties) about where such a conversation might lose its ability to be constructive, if it ever even had that ability to begin with. For myself, I am also weighing these questions in my mind, which is part of the reason for the discussion, but I am yet undecided.

    Now, for clarification, are you decided that there is no possibility in your mind for any dialogue? In other words, do you feel like you have looked at every angle, separated the multiple layers and issues, and have concluded that it’s best not even to talk? Or do you think that it’s possible for a very specific group of persons to ‘share’ a very specific conversation that very specifically sought some small understood relationship without an attempt to ‘change’ current doctrinal positions?

    Those are not ‘loaded’ questions by the way. I’m just trying to clarify in my mind where you currently stand. And I value understanding that because, as you are aware I’m sure, there is not a lot of CoG folks who have the perspectives and history engaging this issue that you do (especially as it relates to your interest in the Anglican discussions).

  36. Anonymous
    March 31, 2008

    You are being deceived my friend; yes God loves you, but when you give your life to the Lord you will know how wrong you are; Yes, God loves you, but you are on your way to hell … ministry?? You either serve God or satan .. not both.

  37. Jonathan Stone
    March 31, 2008

    “Anonymous” thank you for illustrating Nate’s point. It’s kind of difficult to have a constructive conversation when the environment is not kept safe. And your comment takes us to the dangerous ledge. And as both Don and Nate have so keenly pointed out, the debate over whether or not homosexuality is a sin is overspent in other arenas. I have no hope for that conversation at this point. However, I do struggle to know whether or not then we just ‘walk away from each other’ or if we are willing to risk ‘knowing each other’ with some of our differences set aside. I am not calling for individuals to compromise their personal convictions about sin, but I am challenging individuals to change how they relate to ‘others.’

    I struggled as to whether or not just delete your comment, as it sort of breaks the ‘rules of engagement’ for this discussion (i.e. the premise was set up that we do not all see this issue the same in regards to sin, etc., but lets put that aside for a minute in order to explore whether there is anything else for us to talk about). However, I have decided to risk a lot of things here, and I do that for the sake of knowing people who do not think like me. And my desire to know people would extend just as far in your direction as it does the other direction. So, I’m leaving the post. I would encourage you to ‘come out of the closet’ in terms of anonymous posting, and direct your points to specific issues in a way that demonstrates that you have a critical understanding of the conversation so far. I believe that is a reasonable amount of ‘Nettiguette’ to ask for on my own blog.

  38. tanya
    March 31, 2008

    Tanya again –

    Nate, thanks for posting. I know how intimidating it can be to be honest and vulnerable in a community that may not share the same ideas you do. Fortunately most people have been gracious in return. Many thanks to all of you committed to open conversation.

    I wanted to respond to Jonathan’s earlier quote that says, “… the hermeneutics required to shift the teaching on interracial relationships and the hermeneutics required to shift the teaching on homosexuality are VERY different. It’s MUCH easier for a Pentecostal to recognize the former as a socially constructed taboo that has been labeled negatively with religious rhetoric than it is to do that with the latter. Why? Because the ‘line in the sand’ that Scripture draws on the latter is so much more forceful and clear.”

    I think the truth of this statement is that the hermeneutical approaches are very different. While the argument against homosexuality is contained in 3 instances (Leviticus, Romans, and a shaky case in Genesis) the promotion of racism and slavery is supported by many voices and texts within the First and Second testaments (‘the curse of Ham’ from Genesis, Ezra-Nehemiah’s purity marriages, the ‘God ordained’ genocides of whole peoples ethnically different from the Israelites, Jesus’ questionable treatment of the Syro Phoenecian woman, Paul’s encouraging slaves to return to their masters in Philemon, etc … I could go on). Historically, American abolitionists had a very difficult time using the Bible as an ‘anti-slavery’ text because in many cases, it just isn’t. Our predecessors didn’t have to say, “in spite of the biblical witness I’m an advocate for slavery and racism”; in many cases, it was “because of” the biblical witness that many people understood these practices not only to be culturally okay, but also God ordained. (See J. Albert Harrill’s Slaves in the New Testament final chapter although the whole book is amazing ☺). I have family members very wary of Christianity today because of what they see as the inherent racism and oppression in the text.

    I think the hermeneutical tools needed to have a broader understanding of acceptable sexual practices are available to us. I also believe that there are less hermeneutical gymnastics to perform in finding different readings of Scripture that are currently stumbling blocks for some than there were to say ‘we should be nice to one another though we’re ethnically different.’ So why don’t we? I think we can sometimes be afraid to use them because it would show the fluidity of our faith. Such changes can cause anxiety in communities because ‘if this, then what next?’

  39. Christian Jew-Rican
    March 31, 2008

    Hello all once again. (This is David this time). Louis, it’s great to “see” you once again:) We should meet up next time we’re in the Cleveland/Chattanooga area.

    Jon, did you have any idea you would have 40+ comments on this blog?!?!?!! Look at the can of worms you opened up! 😉 My thanks and applauds to you.

    So, this whole thing has been mostly good – I appreciate the differing perspectives and respect most everyone has been showing.

    By now it is quite clear that debating/exploring the “bottom line” issue of whether it is sin or not is not helpful to our discussion, as we all have our own convictions/opinions on the matter. So rather than making that the talking point of this posting, I affirm the idea of seeing what there is to glean from our various perspectives and convictions.

    Nate, you’re totally right that some of that conversation needs to happen within the COG circle (and thank you for contributing, really). I don’t think I can be really contribute much there – while the Church of God has been a vital part of my upbringing, I have not been active for quite some time now (save this blog, if that counts;)). But I would like to be a part in any way that I could. In a way, I felt that there was no place for me in the COG given my personal theology (which, just to clarify, is still generally within “orthodox Christianity” but, I would say, without COG doctrine).

    So what would dialogue look like between LGBTQ Christianity and COG Christianity? Jon, you’re right that it would probably not be as constructive to make that the main focus of such a gathering.

    I would propose some sort of collaboration activity. Just as going to a different country helps people understand & appreciate different cultures, so would the Christian GLBTQ and COG community benefit one another from occupying the same space in working for a common goal. I don’t really know what the circumstances would be that would make such a meeting possible let alone feasible, but perhaps some of the ground rules could include not talking theology/doctrine at all and simply coming with an open heart and mind to serve and to learn. Then at some point after they’ve had time to reflect, the different groups could eat together and discuss what has been learned.

    Having been a part of the COG community long enough, I am well aware that many would have to be willing to shake off those misinterpreted scriptures to be “set apart” (which has come to mean ‘segregate’ from anyone else who is of a different kind). The fact is that we are all human beings and we are all in this together, regardless of our faith or convictions. We must rid ourselves of this crazy us vs. them mentality given to us from previous generations and most recently the idea of “culture wars.”

    The only discriminations Christ made were against those who professed to know God and set themselves apart from the ‘sinners’ (and thusly, everyone not like them).

    I know this can be real crazy and intimidating and maybe even a little scary to some. But Christ is our example, and he tells us not to fear and that he is with us always.

    I earnestly hope that such a gathering could occur.

  40. Don
    March 31, 2008

    Evidently I need to respond more quickly; this post has a life of it’s own.

    Let me state the obvious first: you’ve already got dialogue going on, just look at what’s in front of you. I had dialogue last summer when my secular gay disputant ploughed into me last summer over same-sex civil marriage. So that’s happening already.

    The issue, as I see it, is whether an official (or semi-official) dialogue between conservative Pentecostals and members of the LGBT community would be productive.

    Since I’m the “old geezer” in the COG blogosphere, my view of this is coloured by my exposure to liberal/reappraiser people on issues which didn’t dirctly involve LGBT issues, our country’s unproductive attempt to end the Cold War by negotiation with an entity that didn’t see the need for concession, twenty years in the corporate world (with negotiations such as this, and of course the Anglican/Episcopal world. I distilled some of that experience into my blog piece The Problem with Americans Negotiating.

    As a general rule, most LGBT leadership (and I emphasise leadership) go into a “dialogue” with denominations with the objective of full acceptance of their people in the life of the church, and that includes all ranks of the clergy.

    Most conservative Christians go into such hoping to see a speedy run to the altar of repentance by their LGBT counterparts.

    Irrespective of the merits of either (and I think my preference on this is clear,) the possibility of a “win-win” result is very remote. Capitualtion (or expulsion) of one side with acrimony all along is the most probable result.

    I’m not afraid of dialoguing with those who disagree with me. As I noted earlier, I’m one of those people who believe that you’ve got to be prepared to defend who you are, what you believe and why you believe it. But the kind of dialogue that I think you’re considering is, at best, premature.

    Let me address Tanya’s issue of racism and slavery. Unlike the experience of the Western Hemisphere, slavery in the Roman Empire wasn’t a race-based institution. The races who ended up as slaves were as varied as the people the Romans conquered, and a quick look at the map will show that this could vary from Celtic Britons and Gauls to Arabs. The Romans weren’t a racist people, even though they were cruel and their system was driven from top to bottom by patronage (but that issue is for another post!)

    So, when we see the New Testament accepting the institution of slavery, we shouldn’t automatically equate that with the acceptance of racism, even though both need to go. As I note on another of my sites, “…that social dynamics change from generation to generation and that it is unwise to rigidly interpret the past solely in terms of our own experience and values.”

    One important aspect of the Anglican/Episcopal experience that certainly impacts us in the COG is the emergence of the Africans in the vanguard of the reasserters in North American Anglicanism. Christianity is becoming a Third World religion, but the Third World people don’t always conform to our racial/political constructs. If such a dialogue were to take place, the blowback from our Third World bretheren would be very severe.

    Many of the African provinces which are leading the charge are on the front lines with Islam, who IMHO is the LGBT community’s most dangerous enemy. The Christians in these countries cannot be seen as soft on this issue. Coupled with their own Biblical view, they have reason aplenty to take a hard stand.

  41. tanya
    March 31, 2008

    Don, thanks for your response. I definitely understand it’s dangerous to conflate different forms of oppression as they occur over time and I apologize I wasn’t more clear in my post. I was trying to point out that there are many texts that are just plain racist and some that are plainly in support of a system of slavery. Since our system of slavery was based on racism, the Bible became a valuable tool in finding a spiritual support for our system of slavery. I didn’t want to imply that the Roman system of slavery was somehow identical to the one practiced in America, only to highlight the prevalent and effective use of the Bible to support our system of slavery because of the contexts in which it was written.

  42. Emily
    April 1, 2008

    Tanya, you bring some powerful ideas. I think that being ‘the only black girl’ in a white CoG not too distantly removed (yes, I’m being generous to the CoG here) from racial oppression and bigotry, etc., etc. gives you eyes ‘to see.’ These nuances that you have picked up in the Scripture can be totally unseen by ‘white guys’ like me. There is no doubt that the bible, no matter what we have tried to make it, is in fact an offensive piece of work. I’m very glad you bring the eyes you have, though I don’t know at what pain you developed them! Anyway, I am saying that your premise that we have changed out thinking on a theme in Scripture that we had previously used in order to support racism, and that the theme of racism is much more pervasive than homosexuality, is a strong an interesting point.

    I had a conversation today with a friend who has been through a divorce. He said basically the same thing that you said about racism. That is, after his divorce, he felt compelled to read straight through the bible. He had no agenda. He just felt like it was something he wanted to do. He was surprised about how strong the language is in the bible about divorce. He felt like it was everywhere, and it was offensive to him in many ways. And he still does not know completely what to make of it. Now, this same guy has a brother who is gay. And another thing he noticed when he read through the bible was how little the bible really says about homosexuality. This too was a surprise to him. Again, very interesting.

    In terms of the biblical treatment that you briefly mention let me say a few things. You said ‘only three,’ but there are more than three passages that are normally considered. However, I agree about the ‘shaky case’ in Genesis. Nor do I consider the angry lot in Judges 19 to be about homosexuality. Leviticus is pretty strong, but applying Leviticus to our lives is complex. For example, I should be stoned by you guys for playing football according to Leviticus (touching the skin of a dead pig–and I literally mean stoned!). So, I do not see much in the Hebrew Bible that would make me feel the need to consider homosexuality a sin. Furthermore, there is the whole “old covenant/new covenant” deal that a lot of people (conservative and liberal alike) throw out there. Because of that, and despite the fact that the Hebrew Bible is a bit of a ‘first love of mine,’ the OT takes a bit of a back seat in mind in figuring out how to appropriate important issues like this one. (Also, I am biting my tongue not to start talking about certain passages, as the obscure (queer?) ones like the Ham curse are some of my favorites!!)

    So, that brings me to the NT. I give a primacy to Jesus, who never directly said anything about homosexuality. However, he did say that marriage is between a man and a woman (Mt 19:4-5; Mk 10:6-7). Still, that’s somewhat indirect to the question here. That leaves us with the final three: Romans 1 and ‘the lists’ in I Cor 6:9-10 & 1 Tim 1:10. And all of that means that we have narrowed this whole thing down to Paul.

    Now, I confess that it has been a while since I studied antebellum apologies for slavery, but I’m pretty sure that the passages used in the propaganda literature used to lend Christian support to slavery also fell almost completely upon Pauline texts. (And I say that without taking away my appreciation for how you or others might read Jesus’ treatment of the Syro-Phoenecian woman and other passages you mentioned!)

    I say all of that to say this: if you’re really interested in the questions that you have asked a couple of times “why can’t we make this hermeneutical shift?” I would propose to you that when it comes to conservatives who honestly want to know the truth on this matter (i.e. I mean people genuinely open to searching it out), it really all boils down to a few Pauline passages. And the difference between the race issue and the homosexuality issue is really as simple as the difference between prescriptions and proscriptions, as well as specific instructions and implications.

    Paul talks about slaves not looking for earthly freedom (1 Cor 7:21), for slaves to submit to their masters (Eph 6:5-6), and Philemon. These, as I kind of remember it, were the big three. (Although in a strange twist of irony here I believe that 1 Tim 1:10 was often misquoted by abolitionists–ironic b/c it is one of ‘the lists’ that includes homosexuality.) In these passages Paul seems to ‘sign off’ on the Roman slave system by ‘spiritualizing’ the mindset that slaves ought to take who find themselves within such a system. I find Paul’s statements on homosexuality to be in strong contrast, as he gives what appears to be a clear proscription against it.

    So, whether that’s right or wrong, the perception that I believe that most conservatives hold, and a statement that you specifically responded to, is going to be that the hermeneutical gymnastics required for making this shift are indeed quite different.

  43. Jonathan Stone
    April 1, 2008

    Tanya, sorry, that was me that posted the previous comment, and not ‘my therapist!’ 🙂

  44. Jonathan Stone
    April 1, 2008

    David, I think that’s a great, and very doable idea. And no, I never dreamed that this post would spawn 40+ comments!

    And I really, really like this comment you made: “The only discriminations Christ made were against those who professed to know God and set themselves apart from the ‘sinners’ (and thusly, everyone not like them).”

    I would love it if you continued to think about specifics of a ‘collaboration event’ like you mentioned (e.g. what activity, who to ‘invite,’ etc.!!!) I would get behind an honest attempt at trying to pull something like that off!! Let me know.

  45. Jonathan Stone
    April 1, 2008

    Don…you old geezer you! You said a few things that really caught my interest.

    (1) You mention the third world dynamics. I think that this is quite pertinent, given the undeniably ‘flat world’ in which we live (thank you Friedman). “My therapist” and I were recently reminiscing about conversations with friends from other countries that we have had. We specifically remembered a conversation with an African couple with whom Emily attended seminary at the Mennonite school in Fresno. Her cross cultural class took a field trip to L.A. where they visited an impressively diverse group of churches. It included a Metropolitan church and a couple of ‘affirming’ mainline churches (including an Episcopalian church pastored by a female priest from the LGBT by the way). Anyway, this couple was very surprised to be introduced to the open debate on homosexuality found in the USA. It was not so much that they were offended by it. It was just that they had a hard time relating to it. They said that such a debate was just did not exist in Africa (I don’t know if that’s accurate mind you, just their observations). We have had similar discussions with other international students through the years. It makes me wonder how much of the current debate is limited to a phenomenon of American culture. Not that homosexuality is limited to American culture. But rather that the current divisions, demographics, talking points, etc. are driven by some important points that are ultimately ‘American’ in nature.

    (2) I am not sure if I had thought about Islam as a greater ‘enemy’ (though I don’t want to foster even more ‘us vs. them’ rhetoric like David mentioned) than American Christians. Still, in this global context I think that is an interesting observation.

    (3) The brief statement that you made that sort of contextualized the third world’s stand against homosexuality gave me a greater appreciation for their ‘hard stand’ as you put it. We have worked with ministers and missionaries in several Islamic countries (Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, to name a few), and the persecution that they face is mind-boggling. They literally face death on a daily basis.

    So, anyway, I find those points interesting.

  46. m.d. mcmullin
    April 1, 2008

    Wow – it’s really interesting to see how these comments move and touch different aspects of the issue. It’s like a vine that grows around a trellis.

    I agree with those who advocate having a few meetings “amongst ourselves” to air out some feelings about the issue. I suspect that most of the comments on this bored are far more tolerant and respectful than the typical CoG member would be comfortable with.

    To be honest I feel a certain level of awkwardness now. I would feel much more comfortable talking with a ‘queer’ person about movies, music or TV. I have an older brother who is gay. I did not grow up with him and so we don’t have that closeness that comes from living in the same house together.

    When we talk, we don’t usually talk about this. I would much rather hang out with he and his partner and talk about “normal” things as opposed to sexuality. We have talked about it before but not in any in depth way.

    Perhaps a helpful dialogue topic might be “how to talk to each other?” How should a family with differing perspectives approach each other? I would really value some insight from a person in the GLBT community on how to talk about the issue in a healthy, productive way.

    I feel like he and I have made some real progress on accepting each other and focusing on the things we have in common. Recently, it seemed like a really big deal to him that I wanted to meet his boyfriend. I knew it was important to him and I wanted him to know that I was glad he had found someone who made him happy. I kind of struggled with the whole thing. “Was I too accepting of his relationship?” I was questioned by some Christians who wanted to make sure that I shared with him that it was wrong and to make sure I didn’t give him my approval of his behavior. It just sounded ridiculous to me.

    It’s a tight rope we walk sometimes. It would be nice to have some input from others who walked it.

    Is it necessary to ‘air out’ all of our thoughts on the subject? Must we make sure they know what we think every time we see them?

    Is it dishonest to pretend as though we’re not thinking about the issue? Are we “bringing judgment on ourselves” by trying to make a gay person feel cared about and not giving an altar call?

    Sorry to be so personal in the middle of this complex discussion.

  47. Anonymous
    April 1, 2008

    (Nate again)

    Wow. There is so much to respond to, even since yesterday 🙂

    First I just wanted to say to m.d. (is it Mike?) that I really appreciated you bringing your own personal experience with your brother into the discussion. From my own context, it’s hard to understand how it would seem wrong to follow your instincts towards being “too accepting” of your brothers’ relationship, but it is helpful to hear how that feels, because it humanizes, for me, people who do feel the need to express their disapproval / ‘give the altar call’ to family and friends. In terms of the fact that you would feel more comfortable talking with queer people about movies or music or TV (I can’t let that go without mentioning that I love TV), that makes a lot of sense. On the one hand, I would say that I feel that way too — that where there is a disagreement about something at the level where change of opinion is unlikely, I’m not sure what can be gained by having the discussion over and over. You asked about how to talk about the issue in a healthy, productive way, and I have to admit that I’m kind of drawing a blank 🙂 I guess that I think one of the main things is that the discussion be a voluntary one — as this one is. For instance, in terms of your brother (and I hope I’m not being too intrusive), if you felt like it, you could ask him if it was something he ever felt like talking about more with you, or if he’d rather not get into it. At least if it’s voluntary, even if it’s awkward, there’s a desire on everyone’s part to be there, and no one feels trapped. I’ve never had any close family members/friends where issues of sexuality have caused real distance or disagreement, but if I did, I could imagine that I might want to have the discussion once or twice, so I understood what they were thinking, and then maybe only hear about it if their feelings/opinions had changed (and otherwise stick to other topics, things we connected over). But this is just a guess, and it’s just me.

    Jonathan, reading what you said, and what David said, I have been thinking about the idea of a collaborative activity/discussion. In college, there were two largish Protestant groups on campus, which (when I arrived) had been in the habit of butting heads. It was especially sad because the school I went to tended to be somewhat wary of religion, and to have members of Christian groups supposedly accusing each other of not being real Christians was just…yeah, sad. And I know that we thought about trying to do something together like a Habitat for Humanity project (no theology discussions allowed) as a way to start. It didn’t happen while I was there, but I always hoped it would. Part of the problem was that the other group was opposed to interfaith work, and my group found that troubling/offensive, and also that there had been hurtful things said that people hadn’t moved past. (There was, at one point, a conversation about homosexuality — it’s a long story, so I won’t go too far into it here — between the other Christian group (which understood homosexuality to be a sin) and the student queer union. I was the only queer “Christian” and I wasn’t even Christian yet. No one else from my group went — I think all/most of them were straight and queer-affirming, but I think it scared them. None of the people from the LGBTQ group who came identified as Christian. It was a hard conversation — it started with a talk by someone from the ex-gay movement, and then there was a period of conversation with him, and then there was general milling and conversation. There were tears, and there was hurt and a lot of fear, and maybe even increased wariness of Christianity, but (from my own perspective), there were also moments of healing, and some greater understanding of the ‘other’ on the parts of a lot of people.) All of which is to say that I think a collective project would be a nice way to start. It’s true that there are lots of opportunities to plug into different causes, but I think that the nice thing about working on/going into one together is exactly what you’ve said about being able to see each other as full human beings, and to let go of some of the fear and separation.

    Out of curiosity, what was it (to your mind) that made the ‘militant’ LGBT individuals ‘militant’?
    I do think that it makes sense to start with the queer Christian community (or even just groups of LGBT people of faith in general), because I can’t quite imagine a way for you to approach other types of LGBT communities without causing confusion/fear/offense. Not that there wouldn’t be a way…but it’s hard to avoid people thinking that you’re just out to convert them, or change their minds. (I think it would be awesome to reach out to the queer Pentecostal community as well — again, as long as they knew that the goal was not to change them.)

    Don, I;m not entirely sure how to respond to your comments, but I’m going to give it a try. I have to admit to being partly curious why the issue of homosexuality is so important to you / is so upsetting to you, as opposed to anything else which you might understand to be sin. (Of course, I might be wrong in assuming that it upsets you more, since this conversation is the only context I know you in.) Do you feel like, aside from this, the churches that trouble you name as sin everything that you see as sin? This may not ever be something I can quite get my head around, but I *am* curious. Do you feel that homosexuality stands out in some way, or is particularly troubling (as a sin)? One of the questions that a lot of people ask me (and I really don’t mean this to be offensive), is why Christian groups spend so much time talking about this issue, instead of talking about economic disparities and epidemic poverty and concerns for the environment and war and people all over the world dying of curable/preventable diseases, etc. I guess what I’m trying to get at is why this question is so important to you — because I do sense that you are as emotional about it as I am, and that is a little curious to me. In terms of segregating/separating out denominations based on this issue, I guess I have 2 responses: 1) There are always going to be kids growing up in the homosexuality-is-a-sin denominations who turn out to be gay/transgender, and so they are on my mind and 2) I worry that that would just lead to different sides that further demonized each other, and what would that mean for us as the (unified) body of Christ? I know I am coming from a really different perspective from yours, but that is also what’s intriguing about this conversation.

    (Tanya, it feels silly to respond to you since we’ve talked about this outside the blog, but I still want to say thanks for your comments.)

  48. Jonathan Stone
    April 1, 2008

    Mike, I too appreciate you contexutualizing your thoughts with your personal experience. And I too have an older brother who is queer. For me, a very significant part of the journey has been watching my parent’s journey. I have heard so many horror stories about children being asked to never come home again. I just can’t imagine that.

    In some ways I guess my parents have risked a lot and have put their love for their son first. When I say risked a lot, I refer to CoG administrators having to make decisions like welcoming their son and his partner to stay with them in a parsonage that was owned by the church. It seems like a small thing. But those were real struggles for them. I’m proud that they have made the journey that they have. I’m not saying that it’s all been ‘peaches & cream,’ and I’m certain that there are parts of the journey that my brother and my parents have allowed to ‘remain behind closed doors,’ not only their individual struggles, but also the conversations and wrestling that I am sure has taken place between the three of them.

    I have also watched family members deal with other queer family members coming out of the closet. Some have handled it better and some have handled it worse, in my estimation. But for the most part, all have handled it.

    Nate, you’re very blessed and fortunate to have had the experience you had with your family. As you know even more than I do, not everyone has that experience!

    I guess I say all of that to say that this whole issue evokes a lot of tender feelings in me. And I am glad to be able to have those feelings while I speak with each of you.

  49. Jonathan Stone
    April 1, 2008

    Nate, thanks for the comments and the Habitat for Humanity idea. I think that is a very practical possibility, and I just recently met the coordinator for Habitat in my area. So, maybe that’s a nudging from the Spirit!

    Also, this reminds me of another issue. Really we are talking about an issue of ecumenism. I remember asking one of my seminary professors (who has been heavily involved in ecumenical efforts) if he thought ecumenism had a future (we were about to go to a conference on Faith & Order where WCC & NCC members were asking this very question). His response always stuck with me. He said that he thought that ‘local ecumenical endeavors’ had a very bright future, but that he had become convinced that broad-level ecumenism was bankrupt. In some ways I think that we have come to some similar conclusions here.

    In terms of the ‘militant’ term that you asked about, it’s funny that you asked that. In a lot of ways the things that ‘I experienced’ as militant were exactly the way that Evangelicals have tended to respond to homosexuality. I felt that these individuals were intolerant. They would not ‘hear’ what I was saying. They would not respond to specific questions or thoughts that I had. They were rude. And it seemed that they only cared about espousing their position, and even ‘converting’ me along the way.

    Finally, it’s funny that you asked Don about why some Christians have picked homosexuality as a focus, while ignoring other ‘bigger’ issues. I don’t know if you read it or not, but I recently posted about Hezekiah. The thrust of the post is along these lines that you mentioned. It’s a question about why we are ignoring the most significant issues in our time–issues such as childhood obesity, adolescent violence, racism, water wars in Africa, poverty, small arms proliferation, conflict, peace, etc.

    And finally (and yes I know I already said finally, but I wanted to add one more thing), let me thank you for your very warm, open, and considerate tone in your two posts here so far. I know it’s not easy to be the minority on this particular page regarding this particular issue. I think you are a great ambassador of sorts, a great example of how the generalizations made by Evangelicals about the LGBT are so untrue. So thanks for that!

  50. Don
    April 1, 2008

    As far as Nate’s question is concerned, I addressed some of it in my original response to Jonathan, and would be glad to discuss this further on my blog.

    I do want to expand a bit on the social justice issue. I always say that, if I hadn’t become a Christian, I’d be a Marxist, and that’s reflected in how I look at things.

    Nate talks about focus. My first site was vulcanhammer.net, which is a site that disseminates free information for geotechnical and marine engineers and contractors. I could commercialise it more, but the whole idea has been for free dissemination of information for those who couldn’t afford it. You can see my rationale, along with many of the responses (including those from the Muslim world) here.

    I come from a profession (civil engineering) which is global and multicultural in nature. After advances in medicine, civil engineering has done more than any other secular pursuit to improve the quality and length of life on the earth.

    My hope has always been that this information would be put to good use in all parts of the world and, by doing so, reduce the economic disparities that we have in our world today.

    Economic disparities, in a secular sense, are the key problem to solve in our world today. Frankly I find so much focus on race and the multiplicity of “gender” issues we are so obsessed with in our society to be a distraction from what’s really important: the means for personal economic security in this life and eternity with God in the life to come.

    I know that most Americans don’t look at things like I do. But Jonathan wanted a diverse discussion, and it looks like he got more than he bargained for.

  51. Jonathan Stone
    April 1, 2008

    Don, actually I got more than what I hoped for, and almost none of what I feared. I think you have brought a unique voice and perspective that has created more of the ‘healthy tension’ that I personally prefer. I have also come to appreciate your prolific writing, and very broad range of interests and experiences (as evident in your other blogs around the web). You don’t fit into the common ‘stereotypes’ that we tend to prefer to use for our own coveniences (by that I have in mind our desire to organize people and positions in a fairly small set of overgeneralizations). I also think that your gift for writing gives you a certain ‘force’ in your posts. And I would guess that that combination would mean that some have or will misinterpret where your coming from. As far as this particular discussion, it has been very positive in my mind.

  52. Anonymous
    April 7, 2008

    I didn’t have time to read all the posts, but did want to comment about the original post. I apologize if I repeat what someone else has said.

    The group you encountered in San Francisco with the hateful signs was not behaving in a Christlike manner. By the same token, we should not minimize the sin of homosexuality merely because we know people who are in that lifestyle. It does become difficult to call homosexuality a sin when we have friends who are homosexuals, and see that as their “identity” and something they can’t change. However, we must seek to please God, not man.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t buy into your “homospiritual” argument, and I don’t believe that is something that came from the Lord. Not only does the Bible does NOT call Christians fellowshipping together a sin, but it specifically tells us that is what we are to do. On the other hand, it is quite clear that homosexuality is a sin. To be honest, I sense that you are looking for a way to justify softening your position on homosexuality.

    Now, what about the argument that some Christians make that homosexuality is no worse a sin than any other? I would agree with that (although Paul does seem to put sexual immorality in a class by itself). However, the reason so many Christians are focused on the sin of homosexuality is because of the orchestrated attempts to have it recognized by law–all the way to same-sex “marriage”. We understand that each new law that is passed legitimizing homosexuality takes away more of our religious freedom and our freedom of speech.

  53. Jonathan Stone
    April 7, 2008

    Anonymous, thanks for posting. I would guess that it’s only you and I digging this far deep into the posts at this point.

    Yes, I am looking for a way to soften my ‘position’ on homosexuality. I would love nothing more than to be able to be ‘open and affirming’ of the lifestyle, as some of the closest people in my life live this lifestyle. To date, I have been unable to do so. But I would not shy away from wishing that this issue, which has caused such deep pain in so many, turned out to not be sinful in the sight of God–turned out that Paul was wrong, and that homosexuals could inherit the Kingdom of God. But like I said, I have not come to that conclusion.

    I understand your struggle with my analogy on ‘homospirituality.’ And I would not try to convince you that ‘it was from God.’ You should test such a ‘word.’ That’s between you and God in my mind.

    However, I do not understand your reasoning on how same-sex marriages (which is something that is beyond the scope of this particular conversation) would in any way take away from religious freedom and freedom of speech. Would you care to enlighten me on this?

  54. Don
    April 7, 2008

    I think that anonymous is conflating two socio-political issues that are related but not identical.

    The ostensible goal of same-sex civil marriage is to afford the same rights under law for opposite-sex married couples to same sex couples. A more straightforward way to level this playing field would be to abolish civil marriage altogether, but it’s next to impossible to convince advocates in the LGBT community of this. The reason for this, IMHO, is that the real goal of same-sex civil marriage is a method of legitimisation of the LGBT lifestyle in our sociey at large.

    That does relate to the constitutional rights issue, but not directly. The legislation that does affect that directly is hate crimes legislation. Both the LGBT and conservative Christian communities agree on one point: hate crimes (coupled with anti-discrimination) legislation would lead to the silencing of the LGBT community’s opponents, although the transitional effect would be to create a constitutional morass that would take years to resolve.

    These, of course, are socio-political issues that relate to the issue of homosexuality. I did my best to avoid bringing these into the thread, although I deal with them at length on my own site, which deals with political issues more than yours.

  55. Anonymous
    April 7, 2008

    Jonathan:

    Thanks for your response. I’ll cite a few of the dozens of examples of which I’m aware, though I have to admit I’m kind of surprised that you wouldn’t be up to speed on this. From reading your profile and other posts, it seems you are in some sort of ministry leadership position in your denomination, which seems to be somewhat conservative.

    OK, first example (and, by the way, some of the loss of freedoms is already occurring, even where same-sex “marriage” isn’t legal).

    Same-sex “marriage” is legal in Massachusetts. Catholic Charities of Boston ran one of the oldest adoption agencies in the country, specializing in hard to place kids. However, they were told they had to start placing kids with same-sex couples. Because of their religious beliefs, they refused. The state revoked their license and they are now out of the adoption business.

    In Massachusetts schools, homosexuality is pushed on kindergarten students, and parents are given no advance notice, nor are they allowed to opt their kids out of the class.

    A photographer in New Mexico was hauled before that state’s human rights commission for declining to photograph the “commitment ceremony” of a same-sex couple, because of her Christian beliefs.

    The Philadelphia council of the Boy Scouts of America lost the lease on its historic premises for its refusal to bow to pressure from the homosexual lobby to accept homosexual members and leaders. The city had told the Scouts they would be evicted if they weren’t able to come up with US $200,000 a year “market value” rent for the land on which their building sits. Until now, the Scouts had paid a nominal $1 per year lease fee although the youth organization had originally owned the premises in 1929. The building was built and paid for by the Scouts, and turned over to the city with the understanding that the Scouts would be allowed to remain in it rent-free “in perpetuity.”

    In Philadelphia, a group of Christians was witnessing to the crowd of people attending the outdoor Philadelphia OutFest event and displaying banners with biblical messages. After a confrontation with a group called the Pink Angels, which was described as a militant mob of homosexuals, the eleven Christians were arrested and spent a night in jail. Eight charges were filed against them, including three felonies and five misdemeanors. The charges were: criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, and obstructing highways. Two of those arrested were grandmothers in their 60’s or 70’s.

    In Arlington, VA, the owner of a film and video lab–a Christian–declined to reproduce two pro-homosexual videos. A complaint was filed with the county human rights commission, which ordered him to either reproduce the videos himself, or to find another business that would do it, and he would have to pay for it out of his pocket.

    Shall I go on, or are you beginning to understand what I am talking about?

    Don is right that the ultimate goal of the LBGT activists is total acceptance (through force of law) of the homosexual lifestyle. Legalizing same-sex “marriage” is the most effective way of accomplishing this goal. However, while he is correct that hate-crimes legislation is probably the most insidious attack on our religious freedom, it is not the only way to silence Christians.

    Anti-bullying/anti-harassment policies in schools prohibit saying anything that would be offensive to homosexual students (some policies even define a “mean look” or talking about someone behind their back as “bullying”!), while allowing them to push their agenda and beliefs on students and staff through the “Day of Silence”, Gay-Straight Alliances, pro-homosexual speakers and videos, etc. Ask a Christian teacher at almost any public high school in this country and I think your eyes will be opened. Worse yet, some states are even forcing Christian schools to include “sexual orientation” in their anti-bullying, anti-harassment policies. Before long, they will require homeschool parents to teach their kids that homosexual relationships are normal and as moral as traditional marriage. That is, if they don’t outlaw homeschooling first!

    Also, anti-discrimination laws restrict our religious freedom, especially for business owners. In some states, you might hire a man for a job, and the next day he could come to work dressed as a woman, and there is nothing you could do about it. I cited cases above where Christian freedom is being trampled by anti-discrimination laws.

  56. Jonathan Stone
    April 7, 2008

    Don, thanks for chiming in and teasing out some of the issues as you see it.

    Anonymous, I am awared of the ‘dynamic’ that is growing as well as some of the specific cases you mentioned. However, I honestly had no idea to what you were referring when you made the original statement.

    Do not be surprised. There are many, many other things that I am not ‘up to speed on.’ Also, a point of clarification, I am not a ‘leader’ in my denomination. I am a licensed minister who has served in various capacities. My influence on the denominational level would not extend much past something along the lines of ‘I know a few people.’

    I am currently, interestingly enough from one of your comments, a middle school teacher in a public school. I would say this, our public school system is in deep, deep trouble. However, very little of that trouble has to do with the agenda of LGBT ‘activists,’ or the issue of homosexuality in general. I would point to a more general breakdown in society that includes: a greater breadth of issues among the population of students, and a greater depth of problems in individual cases. In turn, schools are forced to be a ‘full service school’ for a greater number of students who show up with a disturbing and complex set of issues. Certain policies (especially NCLB) have exacerbated these problems in some cases. Our schools are currently overwhelmed with these demands, and the over-regulation (which I would agree with you on in general terms, but would not see sexual orientation as a very significant part of the issue) that continues to mount only restricts school systems from being able to effectively deal with the mounting problems.

    I think you are correct that these socio-political issues are one of the reasons why some Christians have ‘focused’ on the issue of homosexuality. IMO, this is part of the problem with how Christians, as well as the church in general, have dealt with and/or not dealt with the homosexual community. I am not against Christians becoming socio-political activists. However, I am against Christians making blanket statements that attempt to (1) conflate the issues and (2) give the appearance of Christian consensus about an extremely complex set of issues that our country is facing regarding public policies and individual rights.

    This is my fear: that Christians would contribute to a spirit of bigotry that currently pervades our country, and fail to become the children of light we are called to be in doing so. Nothing feeds the ‘principality’ of bigotry/racism in my opinion more than generalizations about a whole group of people that actually only reflects some of their most extreme elements. So, I am concerned that when we talk about ‘the agenda’ of the LGBT community that we are doing exactly that. Of my long list of friends and family that are apart of the LGBT community none of them are politically involved, none of them are attending secret meetings about public policy, and none of them have ever expressed much concern over civil unions, or really even anti-discrimination in general. However, many of them have enlightened me on the deep pain they carry from being hated by a fairly large percentage of our population. So, from where I am standing much of the talk from Christians about what ‘homosexuals are trying to do’ is birthed out of fear, and not love (which casts out all fear), and is characterized by a spirit of hate and bigotry.

    Mind you, I am not saying that about you, as you have mostly answered questions I have specifically asked. However, in my mind these issues need to be clarified and separated in the church, and currently they are not.

  57. Anonymous
    April 7, 2008

    I agree that the LGBT (didn’t it used to be GLBT?) issue is not responsible for all the problems in public schools. However, other than possibly the misapplication of the “separation of Church and State”, it is the issue that most threatens the rights of free speech and free exercise of religion in schools, as well as threatening parental rights.

    To be honest, I don’t see the “spirit of bigotry that currently pervades our country” to which you refer. If anything, our country has become too comfortable with, and too accepting of, the homosexual lifestyle. And other than the Fred Phelps group, I have not seen any Christians express hateful or bigoted attitudes toward homosexuals. T think that is a blanket statement that has little basis in fact.

    I certainly stand against the hatred and vitriol that comes out of Fred Phelps and his “church”. On the other hand, that type of behavior is the very rare exception–I would almost go so far as to say they are the only group that calls itself “Christian” that behaves that way. Some have even suggested that they are actually a pro-homosexual group that uses tactics so heinous that most Christian would be unwilling to say anything negative about homosexuality, for fear of being identified with such a hateful group. If you think that sounds far fetched, I suggest you get a copy of the book, “After the Ball”, that was written by two homosexual activists about 20 years ago, which outlines the strategy the homosexual lobby should use to gain total acceptance. And this “playbook” has been followed very closely. One sentence from the book reads, “The objective is to make homohating beliefs and actions look so nasty that the average Americans will want to dissociate themselves from them.” It goes on to elablorate. I think this book would open your eyes to the “victimhood” of homosexuals.

    The problem I see is not that churches and Christians speak on this issue too much, but that they speak on it too little. The Church used to be the moral conscience and voice of our society, but no more. We are expected to keep our opinions out of the public square. We are (for now) allowed to call homosexuality a sin from the pulpit, though fewer and fewer preachers are willing to do this, and I think it is only a matter of time before that will either be considered “hate speech” by law, or will be considered as socially unacceptable as making a derogatory comment about someone because of his race. The problem is not that the Church today does not demonstrate enough love; there is plenty of that. The problem is the Church does not speak enough truth. Forty years of emphasis on love over truth has brought our society to where we are today. And while the Bible says things will continue to get worse as the end nears, God expects His Church to be faithful, and not help accelerate the demise of our culture.

    That brings me to another point. What other sin are we afraid to call sin because it might offend someone? The reason we are afraid to call homosexuality a sin is because we have bought into the claim that homosexuality is an “identity”, rather than a behavior. The homosexual lobby has done a good job of brainwashing a lot of people into thinking that if they call homosexuality a sin, then they are being hateful toward homosexuals.

    There is no evidence for a “gay” gene, but even if it could be proven that same-sex attraction is something people are born with, that does not mean they have to act upon their urges, any more than a single heterosexual person has to act upon his sexual desires. We have a sin nature, and we all have sinful desires, but we choose whether or not we are going to act on them.

    In regard to your statement that none of your homosexual friends or acquaintances are actively involved in pushing the homosexual agenda, and your concern about generalizations, you will note that in my last post I said it is the goal of the homosexual “activists” to gain total acceptance of the lifestyle.

  58. Jonathan Stone
    April 7, 2008

    Anonymous, I love the Truth. And I seek to continue to know the Truth. Perhaps the church once held this honored position of society’s moral consciousness that you speak of, I don’t know. However, neither do I care to pursue that. The church has had it’s greatest strides during times of persecution. If anything, being respected by our society has been one of our stumbling blocks.

    I hope all Christians love and seek the Truth. This too can be a great light in our world. However, it’s love that never fails. Perhaps you are choosing truth over love because you have in mind people who are compromising principles in the name of love. But that’s not love, that’s seeking the praise of men and women. If you are defining truth as calling homosexuality sin it should be noted that I have never said that homosexuality is not a sin imo, but that we are hypocritical in the way that we deal with this particular sin.

    People do a lot in the name of defending truth. And they use Scripture to do it. The Holy Scripture is a powerful spiritual weapon. Unfortunately, many are careless with it. When Christ was being arrested Peter stood to defend Christ with his weapon, a sword. This seems like a noble thing to do, yet Christ rebuked him for it. In the process a man lost his ear. Luckily, Christ was there to heal him. Likewise, we have this sword of Scripture that we use to defend Christ and the truth. Yet, I believe that Christ will rebuke us for many of the careless ways in which we have used that weapon, as well as the many ears that have been lost in the process. Unless Christ heals those ears, they will not be able to hear the Good News that we have to offer.

    So, I’m talking about the carelessness by which we choose our words. And that is what I was talking about in my reference to the spirit of bigotry, which I think you misunderstood. My point was to note that this tendency of making generalizations about an entire group based on the characteristics and actions of its most extreme elements feeds this destructive spirit. You’re example of Fred Phelps is a great example. No matter who is behind it, the utlimate source is one of the dark powers of this age, and many have viewed all Christians through the lens of this small fringe group.

    So, I try to avoid using phrases like “The homosexual lobby has done a good job of brainwashing a lot of people…” Perhaps this is important where you live, work, and minister. But I have yet to find anything fruitful from such phrases in my neck of the woods. I also try to carefully ‘separate’ the issues instead of ‘conflate’ them. But that’s difficult to do when the person you are talking with wants to continue to bring in side-points that only serve to thicken the rhetoric. In this case, things like the so-called “gay gene” have little to do with the specific thing we were talking about. And it moves away from getting specific and teasing the issue out and trying to hear one another…and moves in the direction of getting general, confusing the issue, and trying to beat one another.

    I’m sure you probably do not see it that way. But the circle of arguments that are typically found between “conservatives” and “liberals” on this issue is bankrupt in my mind. I am searching for a new way. And I think that many others are as well.

  59. Anonymous
    April 7, 2008

    It is not my intent to conflate the issues, nor to bring in side points, nor to get too general. All the points I’ve raised, I believe, impact how the Church should view the issue of homosexuality. They are all interrelated, and I think you have to be willing to discuss all these things if you want to understand why some Christians view homosexuality the way they do.

    I’m not sure why you feel you need to find a “new way”. I think it’s all right there for us in Scripture. Trying to find a “new way” is what has given rise to the Emergent Church. So much emphasis is placed these days on trying to find a “more effective” way of reaching the unsaved, without offending them. However, God’s word tells us the Gospel is offensive. What is really happening, I believe, is a greater reliance on the “wisdom” of man, and less on the power of God. Many seem to believe that if people aren’t responding to the Gospel message in large numbers, but instead are getting “turned off”, then we must be doing something wrong, and we need to change our methods. Yet, the Bible tells us that is exactly what we should expect. Again, it is a case of man’s reasoning trying to trump God’s wisdom.

  60. Anonymous
    April 7, 2008

    “The church has had it’s greatest strides during times of persecution. If anything, being respected by our society has been one of our stumbling blocks.”

    I would agree with that.

  61. Jonathan Stone
    April 7, 2008

    Anonymous, thanks. Perhaps we will just see these issues differently. I suspect we would just find ourselves on a neverending merry-go-round from here.

    I genuniely offer my thanks, because as differently as we see this you have been respectful. I hope you have experience me in the same way. If there is something that you really want to pursue more I am open to discussing it further with you. But if not, I assume this might be a good time to concede to the old “agree to disagree” maxim. Blessings to you.

  62. Anonymous
    April 7, 2008

    OK, thanks, Jon. I might have a question or two for you, but I think I’ll read the rest of your posts before asking, in case you’ve already covered that ground.

  63. Jonathan Stone
    April 8, 2008

    Alright, sounds good!

  64. Pingback: Positive Infinity » Blog Archive » Reply to Jonathan Stone on the Possibility of Dialogue between Pentecostals and the LGBT Community

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This entry was posted on March 26, 2008 by in faith, issues.
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