The Hating Game

I’ve heard the standard Christian arguments. “Homosexuals hate Christians because darkness hates light.” “We have a righteous anger about immorality.” “We hate the sin but love the sinner.”

It’s relatively easy to justify our attitudes, but truthfully speaking, all too many professing Christians do feel contempt toward those in the GLBT community. In essence they despise those who embrace or promote homosexuality as a lifestyle. Contempt is rooted in self-righteousness and serves in many ways as the antithesis of love, being therefore a form of hatred.

On the other hand, conservative Christians are often perceived as the dreaded enemy and orthodox Christianity the evil empire ruled by the hate-filled  followers of a capricious, judgmental deity.

Of course, a certain amount of friction is to be expected between these two opposing camps (okay, maybe a lot of friction!). But the vehemence of the contempt and the harshness of the rhetoric have risen to scary heights. Why is this?

Fear! And in many cases, it’s a fear incited and preyed upon by leaders from both camps.

Experience teaches us that most people crave comfort and security. They’re looking for meaningful relationships, decent jobs, nice homes and an abundance of food for the table. Of course, entertainment and material possessions score high on the agenda. Much of this is oriented toward self. They may express concern about the goings on around them, but as long as the bad stuff is out there they have little motivation to do anything more than shake their heads as they mournfully discuss the sad state of the world.

Leaders see life differently. They often think deeply about issues and focus squarely on the ramifications of governmental actions and cultural trends. The always looming challenge for leadership is to motivate the rank and file with a vision to give and to serve.

Now tell me, how better to effectively motivate people than with fear? Fear has a very real way of grabbing our attention and compelling us to do something. If we can convince people that a particular group poses a threat to them and their loved ones, we are better able to motivate them to action.

Adolf Hitler was a master at appealing to what he called the unthinking masses by using propaganda to play upon their fears, in particular, their fear of Jews. Ever so skillfully his regime painted a warped picture of those evil Jews as the root cause of all the nation’s ills. We all know the painful results.

Such propaganda techniques are now commonly used for political leverage with little thought of potential repercussions. The more leaders can demonize perceived enemies, the more resources they will be able to garner for the cause. And while such scare tactics may help win specific battles, in the long run they damage lives by inflaming dangerous passions of hatred and contempt.

The more we allow these efforts to fuel the flames of hatred and contempt in our own hearts, the more we actually begin to resemble the evil enemies we are accused of being. The painted portrayal eventually becomes reality.

I once heard a homosexual activist with conservative Christian roots say that leaders from both camps regularly demonize those on the other side because it is an effective fundraising tool. The more evil and uncaring they make the enemy look, the more money people give.

Photo by mind on fire - CC BY-SA 2.0

Many GLBT leaders continue to stereotype conservatives as hate-filled, homophobic bigots and no small number of conservative leaders continue to portray all with alternative sexual orientations as openly lewd, hateful and militant. Simply add a heartbreaking story about someone whose life was painfully damaged or destroyed by the callousness of the enemy and the propaganda cocktail is complete.

It’s all a game of strategy, but in the end there are no winners. And much worse, there are some very big losers. In my next post I’ll talk about the plight of those caught in the crossfire between the homosexual and conservative battle lines. For some the pain is unbearable.

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37 thoughts on “The Hating Game

  1. Thanks for this very thoughtful post. This has been one of my biggest struggles moving from a more urban area to a more rural area. In urban areas different groups of people are forced into interactions with people who are very different from them. These forced interactions often turn into acceptance or at least tolerance.

    Of course, this is not always the case, especially in regards to the way urbanites view rural people in derogatory ways and bigotry is universal in all areas, just in different forms. However, in the city, I found just about everyone had a LGBT friend or relative, so, in most of my experiences I saw more acceptance than I have seen in my current area.

    Most of my time in my current area I have spent church hopping because of this. I have tried to work on it in the Churches I have been to, work with the pastors, etc., but in each case, it comes down to one question for me – could I bring my LGBT friends to a service with me and have them feel comfortable – and in each case, the answer has been absolutely not.

    I picture Christ spending time with lepers, tax collectors, sinners, the woman who washed his feet and I do not understand what I have been finding at the Churches that I have been visiting. I understand the rational they give, but I do not see it in Christ.

    Besides this, I teach approximately 250 young people a year. Time and again I hear the same story – I left my Church because they do not act like Christians – they hate gay people or some other group. I hear over and over – how can I go to the Church I grew up in when they would not welcome people I care about (friends, family, etc.). I do not think that Churches realize the harm they are doing – from my experience, I think millions of young people are fleeing Churches because of this.

    Luckily, I have hope that in time Christ will change minds, but I cannot help that it saddens me that people I love are being turned away – and because of that I have had great difficulty finding a church home for my family. Sadly, we are not alone. Over the course of the past few years we have met many people in the same predicament – so we always have Bible studies and good fellowship, but it would be a lot better if we could do that in a church on Sundays as well.

    1. Jeff, I really appreciate your heart of compassion. I think we all wish that life weren’t so complicated. Personally, I take a very strong stand for traditional marriage–some reasons for which I hope to share in future posts. At the same time, however, my heart breaks for those who have suffered so much unnecessary pain because of the propaganda battle that I just wrote about. My hope is to promote more meaningful dialogue among conservative Christians so that we can exercise more care in dealing with these issues.

  2. I have reservations about the ‘love the sinner; hate the sin’ paradigm. I think chiefly, it bothers me because a sinner doesn’t typically feel loved after being told what they do is wrong. It is impossible to untangle the sinner from the sin, in the sinner’s perspective because the person is ‘living in the sin’. There is no way to make the distinction between sinner and sin. Any encounter I’ve had overtly with this view has come across as righteous judgment. Now, I suppose I can see the value in defining ‘sin’, but I wonder if it is a bit much for casual or first-contact dialogue. I hate to say it, but in this regard, I think Joel Osteen might be a good example because he ‘gets people in the door.’ It is unfortunate that what he follows that with is little more than prosperity preaching. So, that’s where I am. Any thoughts about alternate paradigms?

  3. Jason, I agree that Osteen’s get people in the door is great and agree that the prosperity doctrine that follows is disappointing. I think that one of the problems that I have experienced is that different sin is treated differently depending on the Church culture. For instance, I sat in group after group of Christians that would be complaining about gay people and say that they could not participate in the Church because their “sin” (I personally do not consider it sin, but that is for another day) is continual. Then in many cases, these same groups would talk about the sin of lust that they had been suffering with every day for years – or greed, pride, etc. For some reason, the banker that commits sinful acts everyday for his job (not every banker, I am just giving an example) is accepted, yet the person who is gay is not. For some reason the person struggling with lust or pride is accepted, but those that are gay are not. It tears at my heart how many gay people I have had cry on my shoulder that they are yearning for God and fellowship, yet the are rejected at every turn.

  4. Bob, as far as gay marriage – my personal philosophy is that the government should get out of the marriage business (as has been the case for a lot of history). The fact that the government picks and chooses who can and cannot be married is the problem (people that are divorced 10 times = yes, serial spousal abusers = yes, serial cheaters = sure why not, gay people = no way). It should be a civil matter for everyone with no government involvement, that way no one loses rights (there are currently 179 lawful benefits of marriage) because of who they can or cannot marry.

    Jason – One last thought on the Osteen philosophy (the first half – everyone come to hear the word) – this seems to me the model of the New Testament. When Jesus and Peter and others preached to crowds, no one was at the back of the crowd asking are you gay? A Pharisee? A Sinner? Or are you anything else… Everyone was invited to hear the Word of God. Now many of our churches have a metaphorical “gay people need not apply” sign – which, as I wrote in my previous response, not only turns away that person, but turns away their friends and family members as well – I would estimate millions in America alone.

    I know that I personally have been without a church home for 6 months now because of this and a group of about 10-12 people I meet with regularly for fellowship have had the same experience.

  5. I understand the struggles you guys are talking about and I empathize with the pain people are experiencing. Navigating this entire issue is such a minefield–so much so that for a long time now I’ve hesitated writing about this topic. I do have a couple of thoughts in regards to your comments.

    Without question I think that the church needs to do a much better job of reaching out to GLBTs. That’s why I broached this topic. At the same time we need to understand that the Gospel itself is inherently offensive. It sends a very loud and clear message that no person measures up to God’s standards of perfection and all are therefore in need of a Savior. It’s up to the church to present this message in as humble and loving manner as possible–something The Hating Game hinders us from doing effectively. At the same time, the greater GLBT community wants a stamp of approval on their behavior. For very sound reasons Bible believing Christians cannot give that. If we attempt to remove any offense from the Gospel, we totally lose its power to transform broken lives.

    Jeff, I also think that the government should be in the business of defining marriage between one woman and one man–and not necessarily for religious reasons. I believe that the traditional model of one man and one woman together in covenant is what’s best for the healthy function of society. (Thus, my motivations are based entirely on love and have nothing to do with any type of hate toward the GLBT community.) But that topic is mostly for another day!

    1. Bob, I understand your point-of-view, and I know you have all of the best intentions. But, if we flip around those words on any other group, I think it shows why people in the LGBT community could find them offensive. For instance, if we said any of the following, I think many people would find it offensive:

      Muslims / Hindus / Jewish people or Atheists should not be allowed to get married because that is not the way the Bible describes the covenant, and it is what is best for society.

      or

      Physically disabled people / people that are impotent should not be allowed to get married because they cannot procreate, so it is not what is best for society.

      or

      Caucasians should not be allowed to get married because the Biblical examples are all of semitic peoples.

      When we insert any other group into that sentence, it becomes obvious why LGBT people would find it offensive. This is why i think that the government should stay out of the marriage business and it should be completely a civil covenant with no laws attached that single out certain groups for losing 100’s of legal benefits. There are many harsher examples, but why should I get a huge tax break for being married, when my LGBT friends are then punished monetarily for their sexuality. Why should my spouse be able to visit me on my deathbed, yet a LGBT individual often cannot or needs to keep special paperwork on them at all times to do so? I have had a close friend that was with his partner for 35 years and was not able to see him in his final moments because he did not have the right paperwork. My main point here is that it is the government’s involvement in the marriage covenant and deciding that certain people get 100’s of legal benefits, while others cannot is what is creating the animosity. If the government were to stay out of our marriages, then there would be less animosity on both sides of the issue. Where in the Bible does it say that Caesar should control our marriages?

      1. Jeff, there is a huge difference between the groups you are trying to compare! Our constitution protects religious beliefs. To be Caucasian or black is an issue of unchangeable racial identity. Homosexuality is a sexual behavior and not an unchangeable identity (this I believe is a central issue). The government has always been in the marriage business because marriage between one man and one woman has always been at the core of our social order. Marriage is a privilege and not an inherent right that demands fulfillment for every American.

        What you propose is a slippery slope. Who’s to say that polyamory is wrong? Why not allow three husbands and three wives to form a family? You may laugh at the absurdity of the idea, but a case could be made to say that the proponents of polyamory are today where proponents of homosexuality were 40-50 years ago. When the bonds of traditional marriage are broken the entire society suffers–especially the children.

        I don’t discount the struggles of your friends (and of others) and believe that some amends should be made on their behalf. I refuse, however, to buy into the mentality that homosexual behavior amounts to an unchangeable identity that warrants marriage. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

      2. I think that is where we differ then. I believe there is plenty of proof that sexuality is biological and unchangeable without extreme conditioning that is harmful to the individual. There has been much documentation on the dangers of things like conversion therapy – high suicide rates and many other problems. Many of these programs have been closed down due to the extremely disastrous results.

        On the other account, you write that the “government has always been involved in marriage” – this is not even close to reality. Throughout most of history, it was considered a private matter and those involved in Churches could decide if they wanted to register their marriage with the church voluntarily. It was not until the introduction of Calvinism that the State became regularly involved in marriage rights. Even then, it was not extremely common until the Anglican church required it in the 1700’s. And legal rights coming from the state for marriage is a modern invention beginning in the 1800’s and in some places not popping up until the 20th century.

        Government involvement in marriage is a modern invention and I would argue has contributed great harm to the sacrament. And as long as Caesar is involved in marriage it will continue to cause harm as well as animosity between those – such as you and I that get the 100’s of rights bestowed on us by Caesar and those that do not get those rights like the LGBT community. For instance, the fact that we get paid each year in our tax code to be married should be an affront to every other tax payer in the country.

      3. I also don’t think the slippery slope argument is valid when you take Caesar out of marriage. When the government is not involved in marriage, then there are no special Caesar issued benefits for us to fight over. The Slippery slope argument only makes sense when you talk about bringing LGBT community into legal marriage (and many, like me, would argue it doesn’t even work then), not when you get Caesar out of all marriages.

        For example, not allowing LGBT people to get married has not made them disappear – they still exist, they just don’t get 100’s of legal benefits. And if you carried out the slippery slope argument, polygamists / polyamorous and others don’t stop existing because you don’t give them a tax benefit or visitation rights, they still exist either way – it is just a cruel use of the law that literally hurts people.

        So, when marriage returns to a covenant – sanctified by churches – with no Caesar benefits, marriage is still the same – I would argue better because the government is no longer involved and money is not being taken from single people and redistributed to people the government allows to marry. Why should money be taken from a LGBT person and given to you, me, or a person that is married that is a serial abuser? At the same time, people would’t lose legal rights that they should have (like hospital visitation) no matter what their sexuality is.

        The government’s role is not to legislate sin – otherwise adulterers would get a tax penalty, people who view pornography would no longer be able to visit relatives in the hospital, greedy or prideful people would lose inheritance rights, etc. The government’s role is to prevent us from causing harm to one another. In this case, the government is being used by one group to rob and take legal rights from another group. And that is why I believe Caesar is hurting all marriages.

      4. Jeff, I was speaking originally of the U.S. government, but I freely admit that my historical knowledge in this arena is weak. I can entertain a few of your arguments in this regard but by no means all of them. And my slippery slope argument certainly does apply–especially if “the government’s role is to prevent us from causing harm to one another.” The push for same sex marriage isn’t just about the rights of certain individuals to marry, it is also about an all out assault on Christianity and traditional values. (Check out the Wikapedia post for polyamory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyamory)) I’m not saying that’s the motive of every person involved in the GLBT community, but it is an integral part of the movement. We are beginning to see the evidence with unconstitutional religious discrimination against those who disagree with a homosexual lifestyle.

        Also, while I am admittedly week on my knowledge of government history, I do know something about scientific method. Based on scientific grounds I have no problem disputing the idea that sexual orientation is unchangeable. There are numerous real life examples to the contrary. That certain types of therapy do not work does mean that change is an impossibility.

        We’re not talking about real science with regard to this issue on the part of the GLBT community, but rather a massive (and often intimidating) public relations campaign–one the primary points I was trying to make in this blog post. I’ll write soon about those caught in the crossfire.

      5. Marriage and government has only been intertwined for a short period of history and has done tremendous damage. Once you remove legal individual rights from marriage it returns to what it should be – an individual covenant that should have nothing to do with the government.

        Polyamory is something that may scare people, but people that believe in that are going to exist whether or not we give them the same tax rates, inheritance rights, hospital visitation, etc. Those should be human rights – not just rights limited to marriages of any kind. I believe that polygamists should be able to see their loved ones in the hospital – I believe that polyamorists (?) should have the same tax breaks that I do. LGBT people should have property rights and inheritance rights.

        That is my point – what do those legal rights have to do with marriage? The only reason they are linked is because the government is involved in marriage, which historically has not been the case until modern history and has created a huge mess along with great animosity. If we unlink these rights and return marriage to where it was historically (a private matter that does not involve government), then the animosity will be erased.

      6. Jeff, at the core of the rights issue is an identity struggle. The animosity on the part of the GLBT community will never be erased so long as conservative Christians continue to call homosexuality a sin. If government control is gained through the gay marriage legalization, you can be sure that it will be used for religious discrimination against anyone who is considered to be intolerant of alternative lifestyles.

  6. Thanks Bob, although we disagree in a few places, I greatly appreciate your kind responses and your broaching of this issue. For some of us, that have lost our Church community because of this, it is a very tough topic, but unless we talk about it, with the love of Christ, it can never be resolved. So, thanks again for broaching the topic.

      1. Bob, I would be happy to – this has been a great struggle for Jess and I, as well as many of our close friends that we have fellowship with. I would definitely enjoy talking about it over coffee sometime. Thanks.

  7. Bob, I applaud your stand and your conviction. I know you as a man of God. We do disagree on a few points but I trust that the love of God which lives and flows between us is beyond any real challenge. I actually think we agree on the key point that the Church has missed the mark in singling out and excluding the LGBT community. In interest of the discussion you’ve started, I’ll weigh in as someone who knows both sides of line that has been drawn in the sand.

    On Gay marriage, I think it isn’t the government’s business to decide who can choose to commit their lives to one another and it is out and out discrimination to say that one commitment between two consenting adults is more valid than another. Flat out, discrimination. No church would be forced to marry people they didn’t think fit its definition of marriage. And to think it is the churches role to define society from any level but the ground up is to be like Judas Iscariot who tried to force the hand of God to seat Jesus on a physical throne and depose Rome. Clearly not what Jesus intended then or now. But that’s just my opinion. You vote your conscience as I do mine.

    On the issue of a stamp of approval. They gay community at large doesn’t want the approval of Christians at all. (They may be less likely to embrace the gospel because of the attitude of Christians.) In society, they will fight for their rights and as God has demonstrated through many biblical examples when the people of God have gone their own way, the gay community will probably win but that has little or nothing to do with the inner workings of the body of Christ. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Constantine in 325 AD decided to partner with the Christians and in accepting the offer–after 300+ years of persecution, the church has been compromised and has suffered ever since it climbed into bed with him at that now fondly remembered council.

    The people who clamor for change in the church are Christians first, gay second. As a Christian and a person bearing the label LGBT, no one has the right to qualify, characterize or even perform quality-control checks on my walk with God. Jesus taught us that we know a tree by its fruit. Yet whose looking at fruit? The biggest difficulties members of the LGBT community have in walking with God is the way many Christians have chosen to stand against them because of fear of the label with little or no understanding of what lay behind it.

    Admittedly, the fruit born by the tree of the gay community is as vile and distasteful as any other worldly organization on the planet. On the flip side, their work with charity, particularly in the areas of AIDS, but in many other humanitarian efforts is not only admirable it is often unparalleled. But that is really just worldly human achievement. It’s the Christians who are gay I want to talk about.

    The fruit of the tree of Christians who happen to be gay has been distrusted and ignored not by Jesus but by well-meaning, gospel-defending Christians. How then are they to judge when they aren’t really looking at the fruit? I am a Christian first and foremost. I am also gay. Gay does not define me as does being a Christian but it does label me. I have been with my partner in committed relationship for 11 years. We don’t sleep around. We don’t cheat. (50% of heterosexual Christian couples cannot make the same claim.) We don’t recruit children nor do we know any gay person who does. We aren’t out to destroy anyone’s marriage or family, nor do we know any gay person who is. We love one another and have committed to sharing our lives to one another. We attend church and host a group of Christians, (only 50% of them are LGBT) in our home once or twice a month.

    Even if we assert that homosexuality, as I have described it, is a sin, how are we different from any other couple? This is not the place to discuss the pertinent verses in the original languages and contexts and neither am I talking theology. I understand your theological position but if the church were to scrutinize every couple the way Elihu and I have been scrutinized, I dare say the pews would be empty.

    By way of example, I can sit with brothers and sisters and fellowship and during that agape love fest, we can rejoice together in the love and grace extended to us. Unfortunately, the minute they meet my partner and realize that he has the “wrong parts,” often their faces glaze over and their minds and hearts leave the conversation. The fellowship we have shared is too often eclipsed and even invalidated by that subtle shift in understanding and the opportunity to continue fellowship is withdrawn.

    I am human. I sin. I have been presented the gospel of salvation delivered by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and I have seen him in my life and in yours. I choose, mind you, choose,, to look at him in you and in every other Christian I meet rather than defining them by their sinful nature. I see and hear the same sentiment in your voice and in your words, though I may take issue with some of words. What are our disagreements in the face of an infinite, all righteous, all loving God? I agree with you but say it in just a different way. The Holy Spirit is grieved by the way the church has historically acted toward the LGBT community.

    There are some of us who choose to conform and submit to that conformation, choosing to divorce ourselves from our humanity by becoming figurative eunuchs choosing to lead celibate lives. This should decision for celibacy, not a decision against sexuality. (Easier decision at 60 than at 20 but possible. I was one until I was 28.) There are others who like me have come to see sexuality as part of the human experience. I am God’s handiwork, his masterpiece of creativity. He is the potter and I am the clay. I know that I must submit to his formation, his choice, his embellishments and I embrace them. It is in light of this that I say, if and when he chooses to alter what he has done so far, I as his clay will conform. Perhaps not without resistance. I am human after all, but I will conform because of the fundamental work he has already done in me. It is not for me, or any other Christian to point at any perceived flaw in the design and remind him of it. That is the job of the accuser.

    I know that such flaws exist in every brother and sister. In learning to become like Jesus, I choose to see his mantle of grace and forgiveness and like him choose to see his salvation rather than any perceived flaw, knowing that I have enough flaws in my own life that need my attention under the gentle but persistent direction of the Holy Spirit.

  8. Thanks for sharing your powerful story Joseph, I am firmly convinced that if my fellow Christians who reject gay people heard a fraction of the stories that I have heard from my LGBT friends, their minds would change. Unfortunately, many churches have taken a blind eye and deaf ear to the pain they are causing (which is one reason I appreciate Bob broaching this subject). I have seen pain in so many faces of those whose church that they had spent their entire lives in rejected them when they came out. I truly believe that the only way we can find common ground is by sharing our stories as you just did. Thank you and I hope you keep sharing.

    On another note, I completely agree that the moment that Christianity merged with government, it changed Christianity in a way that is nearly impossible to disentangle today. Most of the churches that I have been trying over the past few years are so infused with politics, and because it is integrated into their culture from such a young age, they do not even see it. I feel the same way about marriage – the governments’ (many of them) involvement in marriage has watered down the sacrament to the point that it has done an enormous amount of damage. I do not want Caesar involved in my marriage and think that it is sad that Caesar is deciding who can marry who in our country.

  9. I am reading all of your comments and applaude the openness and dialogue. The first step in any hot topic is getting people to “talk” without fear of being condemned for their opinion or stance.

    As for me, I find myself struggling with the idea of LGBT relationships. Having friends and family that are part of the LGBT community, I am torn about my love for them and the way I read the passsages in the bible that seem to speak against this life style.

    I know that any “sin” (whether true or just perceived by others) doesn’t define a person and that reality enables me to love people who are created in God’s image.

    I never did like the phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”.

    I rather prefer, “Love the person and let God deal with their sin.”

    As with all theological matters that trouble me (divorce, judging Christians, judging the world, death penalty, justifiable wars, etc.) I need the support and input of other Godly people to form correct and Godly opinions. But, I also realize, there is something more needed if I am to be honest and correct. (my equivalence of grace and truth)

    I need a standard by which I interrpret the scripture that is consistent for all of these issues. In other words, on topics that I am steeped in culture or traditional biases, I need to apply the same standard of rules of interpretation, as I do to the ones I am less passionate and knowledgeable about.

    When we are coming at a topic with passionate feelings, it is easy to “justify” our stance by looking for scriptural passages that help add weight to our cause, but then adandon those stances whenever they argue against us.

    My fault has been to use inconsistent rules to help justify my position. Instead of letting the “Word” change my attitude and opinion of difficult topics, I attempt, at times to change the “Word”.

    I believe, (Bob), you have done more to help people understand and get free from these trappings through your SfM study than most ministers of the Word that I know. The gospel does indeed offend, but the double edged sword also cuts in a way that ultimately brings life.

    So, concerning the topic of LGBT relationships, I am trying to apply the same rules of interpretation to the scriptural passages that talk about this as I would to the ones that pertains to: say divorce, or war, or social involvement by the church, or……..

    Am I consistent in letting the Word change me, or am I attempting to change the Word to support my opinions?

    Thanks for letting an old guy ramble.

    And thanks to Jeff, Joseph and Bob for starting to tackle the really hard questions.

    God help us all to remain open to His work of transformation into Christ-likeness.

  10. Joe, I hear your heart and continue to appreciate your openness and sincerity–and to affirm you as a friend who I appreciate and enjoy. However, I do think you err in your understanding of the Scriptures on this issue. I wholeheartedly admit that as a whole the church has handled this issue poorly, but there are valid theological reasons to have serious concerns about a homosexual lifestyle. In other words, I don’t think the church has it all wrong. Hopefully we’ll have more opportunity to dialogue about these things. I’m not sure if I’ll post them in this blog series or not, but I am putting some of my thoughts on paper.

    Bob, thanks for joining the discussion! Sometimes I really enjoy your ramblings!

    Jeff, we’ll have to put coffee on the agenda!

  11. I too applaud the discussion and applaud Bob for allowing it to take place. Individually we can only extend our understanding to what we have from the bible and perhaps from history. I have no intention of convincing anyone that homosexuality is or is not inherently sinful. I’ve read compelling and scholarly arguments on both sides of that fence, pulling apart the Greek and Hebrew, deconstructing the culture, the environment and even possible sociopolitical motivations behind those individuals and factions in or vying for authority and power. I think my own position must be at least indicated if not overtly stated but I have chosen so far, even with those who seek my advice on the topic, not to public ally debate that idea, though, Bob, I look forward to a good dialog about these things.

    When counseling someone who truly struggles with reconciling sexuality and their relationship with God, we always focus on the relationship with God. I find that for most people the question that keeps coming up is a notion of “Am I a real Christian?” In their attempts to learn to walk with God, they are tripped up by this idea because on the one hand they Love God or think they do and on the other hand there is this thing that God, despite apparent biblical promises, refuses to change. That lack of change is seen by many Christians as a lack of submission.

    No amount of Theological wrangling or biblical debate is going to resolve this conflict for anyone who is struggling with their own sexuality or the spiritual condition of some LGBT person about whom they deeply care. It is my philosophy, (note the choice of word), that if an individual is allowed to experience the full, unconditional love of God, and is allowed to walk and fellowship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, that person will undoubtedly be cleansed, restored, renewed and changed irrevocably in favor of the person Jesus Christ and will increasingly embody His teachings and life-example lessons. Whether that person becomes heterosexual, becomes a eunuch, or simply keeps their sexuality in perspective is a matter between them and the Holy Spirit. If you catch me cheating on my partner–there’s a sin. If you catch me stealing from the collection plate–theres a sin. If you see me abusing my family–there’s a sin. If you see me dealing underhandely with by brother on the church council, theres a sin. But if you have to peep through my bedroom window to find a sin, you’d find one quicker if you looked in the mirror.

    1. “In their attempts to learn to walk with God, they are tripped up by this idea because on the one hand they Love God or think they do and on the other hand there is this thing that God, despite apparent biblical promises, refuses to change. That lack of change is seen by many Christians as a lack of submission.”

      Joe, I find this statement to be especially interesting. I have found the latter part to be absolutely true with many issues that don’t fit the norm of Christianity. Very troubling! Let me say, however, that the idea “that God, despite apparent Biblical promises, refuses to change” strikes me as missing something in this case. I have found in my own life that I have had prolonged struggles in certain areas of life because I did not understand (and therefore properly address) root issues that were at work in my life. Upon understanding, and therefore adjusting, I have seen considerable (but not yet total) change in these areas of my life.

  12. Wow! Is that what you think? Is that what people are afaid of? “The push for same sex marriage isn’t just about the rights of certain individuals to marry, it is also about an all out assault on Christianity and traditional values. (Check out the Wikapedia post for polyamory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyamory)) I’m not saying that’s the motive of every person involved in the GLBT community, but it is an integral part of the movement. ”

    My brother, this is as absurd as recruiting children and trying to convert straight people. The notion of a polyamorous relationship exists in society but it isn’t a creation of the gay community–consider the partriarchs, for example. But and hear this, because it is ignorace to suggest that gay people want to establish a standard of polyamory. I’ve met people who thought that way both gay and straight but the vast majority of people I know who have found someone to “marry,” live committed lives which are sexually exclusive. Let me put your mind at ease on this. I don’t know who put that thought into your head but it doesn’t represent the gay community at large nor at all for that matter.

    1. Joe, I am sorry if my comments came across as offensive–it certainly wasn’t my intention. My statements were not intended as a propaganda tool, but rather to illustrate something to Jeff.

      This is the problem I have with this type of dialogue and I’m beginning to regret even posting about this issue. In a face to face conversation we have more freedom to explain our perspectives so that others understand what we are saying. I hate the idea of having to examine my every comment with a fine tooth comb.

      I realize that I don’t see from your perspective, but neither do you see from mine. I’ve been related to a university environment for 30 years and I’ve watched the efforts from many different directions (including the gay community) to squelch a conservative Biblical perspective. I am not saying that polyamory springs from the gay community, but that as soon as we attempt to redefine marriage, we open the door to an anything goes mentality–and those agendas will be pushed. We’re kidding ourselves if we try to think differently. For years there have been efforts to bar Christian groups from meeting on college campuses because they won’t allow people who engage in homosexual behavior to become group leaders.

      I don’t have the time or space to thoroughly explain, but the marriage covenant of one man and one woman together in sexual union is an integral aspect of the Christian faith–especially the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-23). Efforts to redefine family, values, morality, etc., do strike at the heart of Biblical Christianity regardless of whether or not that is the individual intention.

      I’ll be glad to talk in person over a cup of coffee, but I’m going to start winding down this discussion. It’s turning argumentative, which is the opposite of what I am trying to accomplish with this blog.

      1. Bob, just two points – I have had many LGBT Christian friends (many more when i lived closer to a city), so those that are trying to get you kicked off campus aren’t representative and i think may color your perspective (which our experiences shape us all – the cruelness I have seen in Churches here regarding LGBT has shaped my opinion greatly).

        The second point is that you are right – the marriage covenant is beautiful – between Christ and his Church… Notice it is not between Christ, Caesar (the government), and his Church. Caesar getting caught up in this relationship is stepping in between Christ and his Church – which I believe, is the societal sin that is causing all of this pain and hardship. The Church has let Caesar get in the marriage covenant – we do not do this with any other sacrament, so why marriage?

  13. Joseph, no surprise here, but I completely agree. I think this is what happens when the Church and LGBT communities segregate from each other – there end up being a lot of stereotypes and misinformation and it is a lot easier to demonize each other when that happens. This is one reason that I have always tried to bridge the gap – I grew up in a very conservative family, yet I have been lucky enough to have many friends in the LGBT community. I have heard crazy stereotypes on both sides – that social conservatives are all crazy redneck gun nuts (need i go any farther?) and on the Christian side – things like recruiting children, that people are just “choosing” it because it is popular, slippery slope comments like it will lead to bestiality (or polyamory here), etc.

    I remember having a lesbian couple over for dinner and they saw the Christian books on my shelf and they asked me why I would hang out with them. The gave me example after example of the hate that they had gotten from Churches and how the one got kicked out of the church she grew up in when she came out of the closet. She told me she still believed and had strong faith, but felt that her walk with God was in really rough shape because Churches could never welcome her and that this created anger in her that she struggled with. I tried my best that night to convince her to keep strong, keep praying and keep trying, but in the end, she asked me if I could recommend a church in the area that would accept her. And I could not. – That is why ever since I have been pushing the local churches I have been in to work in this area – I never wanted to be in that situation again where I couldn’t say to her – come with me to Church tomorrow.

  14. I think that regardless of political climate, parents are going to raise their children how they see fit. So, I don’t see how legal gay marriage would ruin heterosexual marriage. If parents are really concerned, it just means they need to stay on top of the issue with their kids. I wonder if there is a fear that the arm of the law will reach into the church and demand it perform gay marriage? If that is the case, I’d say it’s hardly a likely possibility.

    1. J, I hear what you’re saying but I think that the issue is much more complicated than how some parents raise their children. The problem is that with broken homes, changes in technology and cultural trends all too many young people grow up with very poor parenting. The lack of healthy father figures among other factors leaves them lacking in a secure identity. Check out some of these statistics about fatherlessness for example.

      The general breakdown of the nuclear family is wreaking havoc with our society. People are often confused about their identity and thus easily influenced. ABC ran this clip a couple of weeks ago that I found to be fascinating and relevant to our conversation. Another factor at work may be the increase of chemicals in our environment that mimic the influence of estrogen.

      My overall point is that there are a lot of cultural and environmental factors contributing to the breakdown of the nuclear family. I believe pretty strongly that they key is to strengthen the integrity of the traditional nuclear family. All of this is without even mentioning the Biblical perspective of this issue. Folks may not agree with my perspective on all of these issues, but there is a credible scientific foundation for the things I am saying.

  15. It’s a little late in the game to add another comment to this discussion, but I just came across an applicable post. I admit I don’t get out much so when I followed someone’s link to the “Huffington Post” I was surprised to see a “Gay Voices” menu item. I decided to check it out and what popped off the page? An article titled, “Are There Benefits to Being Poly?” The author went on to espouse the value of polyamorous relationships as opposed to limiting love in a monogamous relationship.

    I realize that this isn’t just a gay thing, but my slippery slope argument is valid. The following 2 year old post gives an interesting overview of the polyamory movement: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/07/28/only-you-and-you-and-you.html

    1. The problem with the slippery slope argument on LGBT and polyamory is that it is a non sequitur. Here are the reasons these issues are not related and absurd to compare:

      1. There are between 1-2 percent of the population that identifies as LGBT. The amount of the population that identifies as polyamory is less than .1 percent. It is statistically not comparable. LGBT populations have been standard at approximately 1-2 percent throughout most cultures throughout history, so it is not just a popular trend as many argue.

      2. Polyamory is not related to the LGBT community. The vast majority of people that identify as polyamorous are heterosexual. Therefore, it would make much more sense to say that heterosexual relationships are more likely a slippery slope to polyamorous relationships (which is still ridiculous). The LGBT community has less of a relationship to polyamory than the straight community does.

      3. If we were to turn around this kind of non sequitir on heterosexual relationships, it would look something like this: Heterosexual people are much more likely to molest children. Therefore, we should be afraid of heterosexual relationships because it leads to the slippery slope of child molestation. The same can be said of rape. We should put a stop to heterosexuality because it will obviously lead to rape. Both of these arguments are completely ridiculous – which is obvious when we put it in terms of heterosexuality, but for some reason comparing two completely unrelated things like LGBT and polyamory makes sense (the only thing that connects them is that the majority of the population does not identify as such).

      4. By percentages only (I am not relating polyamory to these issues), there are more people that molest children, participate in bestiality, or are in polygamous relationships / marriages. All four of these practices have been connected much more to heterosexuality than homosexuality – we do not fear heterosexuality because of these very rare practices, so we should not fear homosexuality because of these very rare practices.

      —– Though, as always, I still say the problem is that Caesar is involved in our marriages in any way. I still have not seen a good biblical argument as to why we allow the government to be involved in our marriages. I argue that that is the root of our problems – Caesar has been standing between Christ and the Church for the last few hundred years perverting marriages more than any other group has. I want the government out of my marriage, yet the government does not allow me to do so (and still have the approximately 200 rights and 200,000 dollars in tax credits that come with marriage).

      [As always this is debated in respect and brotherly love :)]

      1. Jeff, I may not have been sufficiently clear in my last comment. One of my primary concerns with regard to the slippery slope argument is the attempt to redefine marriage. Once the traditional definition of one man and one woman is erased, there is not much of a standard to say that polyamory shouldn’t be accepted.

        While I agree that the current polyamory movement is probably primarily heterosexual, it is still a voice in the gay community. More importantly, the language for a “new morality” and a “new definition of family” is evidenced by both movements.

        The redefintion of both marriage and morality is what I believe is at the core of the slippery slope issue.

        Thanks for the love and respect! 🙂

  16. Bob, the one thing that I have never heard a good argument from on this issue is what is the Biblical basis for allowing Caesar (the government) to control marriage in the first place. The Bible clearly states that it is between Christ and the Church, not Christ, Caesar, and the Church. Is there a Biblical argument that I am not aware of saying that the government should control marriage? Honestly, I have never heard a solid Biblical answer to this and believe it is at the heart of many marriage problems. I believe we let Caesar have way to much power when we let the government get between Christ and the Church in marriage. Personally, the last thing I want is the government involved in my marriage at all, yet I have no choice on this issue in America.

    1. Jeff, your question is a difficult one because of the context of Scripture. Most if not all Scripture was written with a monarchy or empire as the governmental reference point. A couple of passages in Romans and Peter tell us to be subject to our governing authorities (we’re not talking about absolute submission).

      Our situation in the U.S. is unique because we have a voice that those who penned the Scriptures did not. Thus, I think it’s up to each person’s conscience to pursue an influence on our government as he or she thinks best.

  17. Thanks Bob, For me this is the spiritual heart of the animosity over marriage in our country – we have let Caesar invade the most precious of spiritual covenants – I firmly do not believe that the Bible tells us to submit our marriage to Caesar and I have never read anything in the Bible that suggests we should. Why would we submit this sacrament to Caesar, but not any other? To me, this societal sin, submitting the spiritual covenant of marriage to Caesar is at the heart of this issue. Until we rectify that societal sin and take our marriage back from Caesar, there will continue to be enormous division.

  18. Also, a little more on what I mean, when I say that the slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy. In philosophy (and logic), slippery slope arguments are highly distrusted because it takes an enormous degree of evidence to justify this argument. Wikipedia actually does a good job explaining this:

    “The heart of the slippery slope fallacy lies in abusing the intuitively appreciable transitivity of implication, claiming that A leads to B, B leads to C, C leads to D and so on, until one finally claims that A leads to Z. While this is formally valid when the premises are taken as a given, each of those contingencies needs to be factually established before the relevant conclusion can be drawn. *Slippery slope fallacies occur when this is not done*.”

    Basically, a slippery slope argument is often used and almost never correctly. In this case, you are using “Allowing Gay Marriage” as your A and “Polyamory” as your Z, but that is an enormous logical jump with no evidence for B through Y and no connection between the two concepts. This is why Logicians almost always reject slippery slope arguments, there almost always is an enormous jump of logic at somewhere between B and Y.

    This is why I used the example of child molestation and heterosexuality. To make a leap from A to Z there with no support is the same as making the intuitive leap from gay marriage to polyamory – there is no connection between the two concepts, therefore, it is a logical fallacy.

    1. Jeff, I’ll respond to your last two comments with one post.

      You are technically correct in saying that the slippery slope argument cannot be proven. Even in retrospect this is difficult to do because there are no experimental controls to prove cause and effect.

      But that doesn’t mean we can’t see where things are heading. With a few bright exceptions toward a healthy direction (e.g. the civil rights movement), we have been systematically removing the moral foundations that make a society strong. Then we collectively throw our hands in the air in frustrated amazement at the degradation of our society. Usually our answer is to pass more laws

      Part of our confusion with the marriage issue is that it transcends two arenas of our society. As a Christian, marriage is a sacred institution established by God for the benefit of my family and the promotion of the Gospel. As an American, marriage is a government sanctioned institution that serves as an essential foundation stone for a healthy American society. In other words, from a societal perspective, marriage is about much more than religious beliefs.

      Because we care about our society, and because the nature of our constitution gives us a voice in such matters, it makes perfect sense to me that Christians would work to keep traditional marriage as a part of our legal framework.

      Regardless of what we call the argument, if the foundations are removed, the building will collapse. You are free to disagree with this assessment of things, but this is the way that I (and many others) see it.

      I also agree that this particular issue has some impact on the animosity of those involved with a homosexual lifestyle, but I don’t for a second believe that allowing two individuals of the same sex to marry will alleviate all of that animosity. Conservative Christians will still say homosexuality is sinful and that will be perceived as an attack upon “gay identity.” There will also be the issue of Christians who lose their jobs because they refuse (for conscience reasons) to perform or process gay marriages. Although it is a contributing issue for sure, the animosity of which we speak is more far reaching and more complex than the issue of governmental influence on marriage.

  19. Bob, I did a lot of thinking / praying about our conversations over the last week and after your response here, I think I understand where the heart of our difference lies. You wrote:

    “But that doesn’t mean we can’t see where things are heading. With a few bright exceptions toward a healthy direction (e.g. the civil rights movement), we have been systematically removing the moral foundations that make a society strong. Then we collectively throw our hands in the air in frustrated amazement at the degradation of our society.”

    I think this draws a bright line of difference in our way of thinking. Personally, I believe that ever since sin has entered our world, it has been constant that just expresses itself in different ways. Throughout the Bible people decry the degradation of society and how their time has been the worst time – Paul even writes that it is so bad that the end must be near.

    I don’t see American society as degrading. I see there being sin from the founding to now that has expressed itself in different ways, some better, some worse, but I in no way think we are living in the worst time. Our country was built on burning witches, hanging people that were not Christian, treating woman as objects, with slaves treated as animals, etc. Were there good things during our founding? Of course. Was there horrific sin? Of course.

    I could look at every period in our history and discuss some horrific sin and some positives as well. However, I think our culture perpetuates this white-washing of history – or what I like to call disneyfication of history. For instance, if we watch shows from the 1950’s or portraying the 50’s it seems like the ideal world. In reality, women were horrifically beaten and had no place to turn because domestic violence was swept under the rug – most police departments would even cover up women who were killed by domestic violence.

    During those same “good ole days”, African Americans were hung in the streets with thousands of smiling white faces surrounding them. Gay people were hiding in the closet for fear of being killed. Experiments were done on African Americans and Native Americans by the government that left 10’s of thousands of women sterile or worse. And I could go on…

    And the same goes for now. As you know, I decry the corporate influence on the government, the treatment of the poor, the treatment of gay people, etc. However, there are some amazing things happening now as well – for instance, many of the things listed above are happening less or not at all. Also, my students are a constant source of encouragement towards the future – the vast majority of them are caring, compassionate, creative individuals. Every semester, i get more encouraged about the future, because I know they will be leading it. Of course, there will be different forms of sin then, but I think it will be similar to now – until the end of time.

    Also, usually people note marriage (or divorce) as the symbol of our declining culture, but I have done a large amount of research on this subject and I really think it is over-stated. I have traced marriage back every 10 years into the 1700’s and when all statistics are included, like women getting killed by their husbands, going missing, or moving to a different location, the rate of divorce has only increased slightly. Even though that is the case – I would argue that it has more to do with the modern idea of Marrying for love. Pre-1900 marrying for love was nearly unheard of. Your parents often arranged your marriage, there was a transaction of some kind involved, or at the very least, you had to be of the same class. Because women were viewed as property and marriage as a transaction between families, there was less official divorce because it would have shamed the family, nullified the transaction, etc.

    Even up into the 1950’s most marriage involved a transactional aspect and definitely a class aspect. My mom for instance was forbidden from getting married to my brother’s father because they were from different social classes. They tried to push his parents hand by getting pregnant, but his parents took him across the country instead.

    So, i argue, the upswing in official divorce rates stems from three areas: 1. We are still in the toddler stage of marrying for love, so we are still learning how to do it 2. Women are no longer staying in marriages that they are horrifically abused in 3. Because it is not a transaction and women are not property anymore, there is less familial shame in divorce.

    Basically, I think that our different philosophies stem from that basic assumption – that you seem to view our culture as degrading, while I view our culture more in a constant state, where there is always sin, it just manifests itself in different ways. Of course, there are moments that transcend this (the holocaust, slavery, the crusades, etc.), but even in those things – they are still happening, just in different parts of the world.

    I am curious if you would agree that this is probably the basis of our different views on culture?

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