“Coming Out of the Closet” With Thoughts on the Ongoing “Christian-Gay” War
Friends, this is another one of those blog posts I may live to regret, but I think we now live in the days when we as followers of Christ need to speak openly and plainly on difficult topics. We need more honest “thinking out loud” (even speculating, with the expectation of changing or modifying views upon further contemplation) and humbly challenging ourselves as well as others to compare our reflection (and its culture) to that of Christ. We need to attempt to rightly judge how well we resemble His mindset and mission, and the spirit of His priorities and values, while understanding the Gospels and words of the Apostles in that light. The ironic “coming out of the closet” title refers to the feeling a Christian believer in our culture often feels when they ask “questions that should not be asked”, and express sympathies for “unthinkable thoughts” and “depraved individuals”, knowing that they will be misunderstood, castigated, marginalized and ostracized as a result – leading them to sympathize with others who announce their personal views and convictions with the knowledge they will experience the same as well.
A very good Christian friend of mine included me in an email chain with an attached article from the Lousiville newspaper, as yet another article about the need for Christian resistance to the gay “agenda”, written by Albert Mohler Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, you can read the article here.
The following are a few “off the cuff” comments I have concerning the article, and the general (but very difficult) topic of how America’s Christian community might deal with the “gay” issue, and some other food for thought:
- First of all, I need to acknowledge who Dr. Mohler is, what is his foundational doctrinal belief and how it influences him on this issue. Dr. Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (the denomination in which I was raised and active for four decades) and other popular theologians such as John Piper and R.C. Sproul (and thirty percent or more of Southern Baptist churches, evidently) are prominent Calvinists. Any churches or Christians who claim to be “reformed” almost always embrace the tenets of Calvinism. In case you are not aware, Calvinists worship a demiurge-type god of mal intent (such as was acknowledged but resisted by the Gnostics) that intentionally created the majority of mankind to be sent without recourse eternally to the Lake of Fire, for His expressed pleasure – in essence, having the same desires and agenda as Satan himself. God intentionally withholds the lifeline of saving irresistable grace of salvation because He wants to withhold it. This is described as a “predestination” in which God irresistably foreordains the destiny of most people to eternal agony. The rest of Calvinism’s “TULIP” beliefs – including the irresistibility of man’s salvation of the “elect” (i.e., those eternally lucky enough to win the “pre-natal lottery” but having no merit OR even desire of their own), or their assertion that Jesus did not die with the intention or will to save “all men”, inevitably follows from this view of the “sovereignty” of God being a bullying bulldozer that programs all of us and the universe as automotons. This means that God made Satan fall and rebel, and Adam and Eve to fall, and all who obey such programming from God will be rewarded with a one-way trip to the Lake of Fire. This means that any challenge by God in scripture to “choose ye this day whom ye will serve” or any other decision posed ot man is a cruel joke from God that cannot be asserted, because man is unable to make such choices, his total fate having been already preordained; it also makes evangelism a farce amongst the masses of unchangeably pre-saved or pre-lost. This view of the “total depravity” of men rather than just being fallen (even though they are created in God’s image, and proclaimed “good” at the time) and the lack of any hope for the many “non-elect” helps such believers view suspected non-elect as animals and cannon fodder, because God has the same agenda and lack of value of them. For just one example, popular national Christian media host and Reformed pastor Kevin Swanson stated on air recently that God is “kind” to gays by giving them AIDS. They also insist that this view is the only way to interpret Scripture; in general, they tend to be argumentative and view themselves as more savvy with Scripture as its lawyers where doctrine supercedes mercy, and are very harsh in tone toward those who disagree or live differently, desiring to impose their values on others much as Calvin did upon pain of torture or death in his totalitarian rule in Geneva. In effect they make God “depraved” as the author of mankind’s wretched state and fate, to which I assert that the only “depraved one” is Calvin himself, and those who follow him. I believe that this doctrine is a fundamental blasphemy of the foundational character of God, “who is not willing that any should perish”. Having said this, I ask myself that if I believe that Calvinists, including Dr. Mohler, so misunderstand the fundamental character of God, His perspective on humanity and their state, as well as what the Bible reflects on these matters, why should I regard anything he has to say on this matter?
- I continue with the following comments with the understanding that I do not believe Scripture indicates that God desires homosexual relations for mankind; He did mention spiritual covenants He acknowledges as marriage that describe those between a man and a woman (although same-sex marriage as opposed to their sexual activity was not addressed directly, to my knowledge), while New Testament writings allude to it being an analogy of the relationship fo Christ and the Church. Having said that, Dr. Mohler goes so far as to suggest that opposition to the gay lifestyle is the “the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. Is that a wee bit of a stretch? Is that the reason Jesus came to earth to die on the cross – to stop gay marriage? Is that what “sets men free”? In fact, beyond His opinion on the matter, do we have evidence that this topic is a “front burner” issue for God at all, as His primary concern? Is that the main message we want to send to a dying world about the Church – that our main focus is stopping people outside the Church from having civil rights such as gay marriage? Is this approach and reputation with its public emphasis really being effective in winning more people to Christ as “fishers of men”? If Christian leaders want to tell the world that this is the main focus the Church has, then they are being very successful with it, because that appears to be about all they talk about in the public, to the point that those outside the church see them as paranoid and obsessive. I understand why many Christian ministries would beat this drum, because scaring people about those who are different has always been an effective way to raise money and become quite a “war profiteer” in the process, whether it be a “culture war” variety or some other; however, in terms of the Church in America at large, their desire to “win” on this issue is a battle that has caused them to lose a “war” of their higher calling in their “ministry of reconciliation”, not by disagreeing on homosexual activity but rather their excessive hostility and desire to control what others do with their own lives, often by the the use of Caesar’s civil statutes.
- Regarding scriptural exhortations, I concede that there are severe measures in the Mosaic Law for such homosexual behavior (particularly since Jewish men at the time seem to have a proclivity for debased sexual behavior with the Canaanites and their other neighbors), on par with penalties for disobeying parents, but being under a New Covenant, law and priesthood I look only to the teachings of Christ and His Apostles for my authority, and I am bound to them alone (as since I violate much of the Ten Commandments (i.e. the Sabbath) and sacrificial and dietary laws, I myself would be subject to death as well as gays if I used such criteria to judge me (as well as rejecting Christ my priest)). Jesus interacted with many people involved in sexual immorality, developing relationships and interacting. He acknowledged that the Woman at the Well had a very serious and unacceptable track record with marriage as well, (as well as living in a sexual sin relationship at the time) but did not dwell on it or browbeat her; He rather dropped the subject and focused on offering her “living water”. Jesus did not condemn the immoral graft of Zaccheus, rather affiliating Himself and fellowshipping with him; in response, Zaccheus took the act of making things right as a result of exposure to Jesus’ holiness and acceptance. Regarding homosexuality, I don’t think Jesus ever mentioned it; is that consistent with it being the “essence of the Gospel”? Jesus did defend another woman charged by the religious leaders with sexual sin, and suggested that they were the problem and not her, while still afterwards privately speaking to her directly (and not through the mouthpieces of the religious establishment), directing to “go and sin no more” once the religious leaders no longer meddled or got between them. He spent most of His indignance and concern about the hypocricy of the Religious Establishment. I think Jesus would still do these same things today.
- I further concede that Romans 1 is probably the strongest New Testament passage used to condemn homosexual behavior, where men “left the natural use of the woman”. However, what is usually not pointed our in the context of this passage is that this occurs because God sent this persuasion amongst the people in question because they had previously rejected God’s ‘truth” in nature by adopting pagan idol worship of stones, etc. Is that the exact circumstances where we find ourselves today? Furthermore, Paul adds that the other equal sinful behaviors God sends as a result are “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful” (Rom. 1:29-31). Thank goodness we have purged all of these companion behaviors equally deserving judgment from the halls of our churches! Thank goodness our Christian leaders have rallied the nation and churches to stop the behaviors God equally hates such as “covetousness, envy, deceit, whisperers, boasters, without understanding, disobedient to parents, backbiters, etc.”, and worked Congress and lobbyists to eradicate it by statute to preserve the integrity of the Church and God’s blessings! We wouldn’t be playing “favorites” with opposing the sins we are least susceptible to, would we?
- Furthermore, Christian leader alarmists do not continue Paul’s continuation of thought from the end of Chapter 1 to the beginning of Chapter 2, where he confronts the Roman church Christians with this list and says, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:1, 3-5). I understand this passage to be about Paul exposing the hypocrisy of church members who condemn others for these things, and then practice similar unacceptable behavior of their own kind itself; Paul says that a “hardness and impenitent heart” is the motivation for this, which is what I view in Christian media and on the Internet today, and God says that in addition to their punishment for thier sins there will be added for their hypocritical, judgmental behavior and attitude.
- God is not implying that the behaviors that are listed are acceptable, including homosexuality, and neither are they to me nor should they be to you, but the key verse is verse 4, that people mired in such behavior are graciously subject to the “riches of his goodness and forebearance and longsuffering”, with such “goodness of God” leading to eventual repentance, which the Church members having had received from God before, but are unwilling to grant to others. Words such as “forbearance and longsuffering” are not in the vocabulary of most American evangelicals today; some good translations even use the world “tolerance”, which is anathema to conservative Christians but is described as an attribute of a supremely holy God, and one for which all Christians have had their “fat saved out of the fire” previously. Christians today seem to think that God either “accepts” or “rejects” a person in their state today, with no “shadow of turning”, but scripture shows that God does a lot of tolerating of us and our behaviors that He hopes to see changed in time, and for which He gently and patiently helps us with. For example, God permitted writs of divorcement even in the the Mosaic code, because of the “hardness of men’s hearts”, and commended kings even when they took multiple wives or did not tear down all strongholds, and even “winked” at man’s idolatrous worship (Acts 17:30); Jesus had a disfunctional apostle group (including a leader who denied Him), and disfunctional churches then and now, but He accomplishes His mission even with their shortcomings that are not resolved. As such, there are rare behaviors and strongholds for which I do not believe we as a Church have to take immediate actions toward others, and thus give active “blessings” or “curses” against, but rather take a “third way”, exhibiting patient forebearance, encouraging them to draw close to Jesus and His word, while God works behind the scenes to guide and deliver. If any of the churches I have attended had said that liars would not be tolerated and allowed to participate, I would have been out of luck, because I have told an occasional whopper, justifying it all the way, even as an adult. Have you? Hopefully God has helped me with the strongholds in my life, while I was in fellowship at church, and they never did protest me once. Sometimes it was for things that I did not recognize as wrong for a long time, but in time God showed me the light, all while I was in church fellowship, and I was welcomed and nurtured during that time. Has that happened to you?
- I think it is important (but even more controversial) to make a note concerning the argument from Christian leaders and pastors that the purportedly pervasive “gay agenda” will one day force churches to compromise scriptural passages on the topic of “Biblical marriage” in sermons, and modify the operation and state of the “family” from its “scriptural norms”. Well, I hate to tell them, but “those cows have already left the barn”. I’m sorry, but I can’t help but see such arguments of Christian groups as hypocritical, since they have already allowed feminism to accomplish all these “worst fears” to change the home and church far more than homosexuals ever will. The feminist movement of the mid to late twentieth century has caused pastors to talk around Bible passages, from the same Bible books and authors that they quote on homosexuality, that guide women to be silent in church, asking their husbands for spiritual insight, and following his guidance as “unto the Lord”, seeing such subjection and obediance as obediance to God, and expecting God’s direction through their husband, possibly even more than through prayer itself. I have witnessed countless sermons that in effect derived nervous laughter from pastors and statements to the effect of, “what God really meant to say was…” on female subjection, rather than sticking with the plain text, such as they do with veiled references to homosexuality. I have witnessed Christian women, including pastor’s wives, demean their husbands at church and elsewhere, mocking them and intentionally disregarding their views or superceding them on matters large and small – a state that would shock Christ and the Apostles if they were to hear it, as being of far more concern than a stray homosexual couple that has wandered in the flock. The family and sanctity of marriages has taken a big beating as a result, and in fact the divorce rate for Christians is about the same as outside the Church – are they to be talling the world that they are the “experts” om marriage, Biblical or otherwise? The irony is that in ignoring this clear guidance in scripture regarding Biblical male-female marital relations, these Christian leaders have evidently decided that the “sky will not fall in”, and they comfortably proceed along with their mission while disregarding or explaining away specific scripture guidelines; so then, why are they panicked about doing the same on the homosexual equation? I certainly do not recommending going to some state of tyrannical domination over females or cruel subjugation, and I believe that God can bless marriages to a degree that are more egalitarian, even if a departure from His Biblical ideal (because of His “forebearance”), but I suspect that the greatest blessings are for those couples who conform to the Biblical model, which would make them a rarety in most churches, and subject to a lot of criticism from its prominent members. So why are they so rabidly aggressive and paranoid regarding gay relationships? I now suspect that the masculine insecurity in Christian men today probably makes them overcompensate in being repelled by homosexual behavior, after seeing themselves as less masculine while inside today’s “feminized” Church. They see shadows of themselves, and a subconscious mandate to compensate by being “macho” in the face of it, to the point of being “homophobic”. That is a popular charge by those outside the church, and our general cultures also contribute (I know, coming from the South) but it is hard to explain otherwise the irrational paranoia expressed publicly from church officials and their followers, which makes the issue “front burner” rather then more legitimate menaces. They do act such that if a homosexual person or couple would be permitted in their midst, their sexual preferencet would thus spread like smallpox amongst the flock, and engulf their youth; that’s why many choose to homeschool rather than being exposed to others who are different. It reflects an insecurity about one’s own gender identity and the strength of traditional values in the face of others, and a senseless suspicion that the masses might discover they prefer the “alternative”. I for one do not plan to change my heterosexuality regardless of others. If parents are so concerned about the choices of their children, then they need to start to demonstrate healthy husband-wife relationships in their own homes to model – is that too much to ask?
- The talk I hear amongst Christian leaders and officials is that a “militant gay lobby’ (which I have yet to see, but maybe exists in California and some strongholds) wants to take over every church, and probably will soon. I am not surprised to find out that almost all of these Christian decision-makers have no gay friends; probably because they are terrified of them that it would rub off, and that they would be rotten, preachy friends tp them anyway. While my circle of gay friends is also sadly limited as well as my knowledge, I find the knowledge of these Christian church leaders to be based solely on profiteering Christian scaremonger demogogues in the Christian media and Internet. You will find almost universally that Christians who have some number of gay friends look at addressing this issue completely differently, even if they don’t condone the behavior, because they know these are real prople of substance and worth, and do not have horns. These paranoid leaders never seem to ask themselves – what if some gay group gets a church – what would they do with it? Honestly, even today any Christian, leader or otherwise, can retain their own views on the matter, if they are willing to pay the price for it (which now is basically nothing, and may never be on this issue). However, the real issue is in trying to protect the “stuff” of the church – real estate, bank accounts and paychecks – which they think are worth fighting for from lawsuits. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. If churches met ad hoc in rented spaces of homes, without fat assets to protect from rivals, sending their collections right out the door in total to serve the field, this would not be an issue. Could it be that God sends threats like this to liberate church people from the assets that weigh them down, and take up all their time to manage rather than minsiter? Has this prospect (which has occurred in Israel and in the Church historically many times) ever crossed their minds? Meanwhile, while the church is obsessed with fighting the gay boogeyman and in protecting their stockpile, destitute refugees from the world’s war zones have left all and have no where to lay their heads, black kids are gunned down in the streets, the gulf in the superwealthy and those barely surviving continues to grow, and the church has no such alarm or even time for these issues.
- A last point to make is that this topic is yet another one where the church and its (I hate to say it) incompetent leadership shot itself in the foot yet again, by not encouraging secular “civil unions” long ago, to give others similar civil legal rights of inheritance and property transference, tax treatment, visitation rights for the ill, etc. Their “holier than thou” attitude could not exhibit the Golden Rule, which is way down on their list of spiritual imperatives, and did not care about these civil injustices. In effect, they insisted on making what had been a sacred concept of “marriage” into a “government issue”, and then reaped the inevitable whirlwind for their lack of wisdom and foresight. To be real honest, to a large extent even the Church should not be in the “marriage business” – marriage existed long before the Church, and is a covenant between two and God for which the Church has no Biblical say as to its legitimacy. In fact, there is no Biblical citation for church weddings, or church “blessings” of them, and in particular pastor’s functioning as State officers in signing marriage licenses within the church itself. These same enlightened Christian “leaders” not long ago said it was unbiblical for those of difference races to marry, or different social standings. If pastors did not officiate church weddings, contrary to scripture but only in obedience to cultural tradition, they would otherwise not have to wring their hands over whot to marry, and who to restrict, gay or otherwise. I have seen churches “bless” many a marriage which looked like a bad idea from the start, and many more for whom the wheels come off soon thereafter. So are they the real experts on the matter? For that matter, these are the same Christian leaders on a local or national scale (many of them) who have led us to nominate some of the most dumb, incompetent or crooked politicans – like many of them. So why do we trust their spiritual insight on all of these harder things? I recently read a paper from 1834 from the head of the South Carolina Baptist Convention to its governor, showing from scripture alone that slavery was acceptable to God, along with practical reasons why enslaved blacks were better off. You better beware when religious leaders string up arguments with a daisy-chain of scripture, using “sola scriptura” to bully us into positions that run counter to and violate our own consciences – which God says He placed in all of us in nature as just a reliable a witness (if not better) as these Bible-slingers. If you cannot look at the victims of these purported “Bible policies” in the eye and defend them and practice them in their midst, then it is probably a wrong thing to do, and these spiritual “experts” may not be hearing from the Holy Spirit.
So that’s my rant for now. It’s all stream-of-consicousness and I am sure the activists out there can pick apart any of the ideas expressed herein, but I sure feel better getting it off my chest. There is much more to say on this matter, and I may add to this or post further on it as circumstances permit.
To God be the glory.
After having uploaded this original post, I have noticed from some of the comments and commenters, even though it is a mixed bag of supporters, detractors and mixture, that some have taken great offense to my initial comments concerning my deep concerns about the influence of Calvinism on how some Christians look at others, and how it might influence Albert Mohler who wrote the article on homosexuality that I have commented on. I am sorry if I offended any of you fellow Christian readers – I did not intend that. I know I expressed strong words, but I am sure I have been influenced by my studies for the current book volume on church history as it relates to holy wars I am writing, and in particular the section I recently finished in commenting on the era of Calvin and the aftermath. I could not help but observe that when Christians accept the idea that the majority of mankind has been hated by God before they breathed their first breath and will forever be hated with no recourse they have, it seems natural that such people will pursue a theocracy like Calvin’s Geneva to impose their will using a similar irrestible force they claim God uses on people per Calvinism doctrine. Per the writings I have read from Calvin and his apologists, it accordingly seems shy of mercy, empathy, and the subjection to the Golden Rule, which still applies even toward the “damned unelect”. Not only did this create an era of tyranny even against other Christians, the killing of Baptists like me and others, but also fueled the demeaning and genocidal treatment of Indians by the Puritans, by giving spiritual sanction for their eradication. I did not invent these observations; they have been pointed out by large numbers of prominent conservative Christian thinkers and historians. It is also clear that it fuels the current Calvinist-based Restoration Movement which seeks to establish a modern theocracy in America, and according to Gary North intends to eliminate the “heresy” of religious liberty.
I see how people with some degree of connection or empathy to Calvinism have become offended and taken my comments personally, and I did not mean to make it personal. However, while I have been called many bad names, having bad motives and distorting the issues, I still have not heard any direct refutations of the major tenets of Calvinism concerning God’s intention to create the majority of mankind merely to send them to Hell for His pleasure, with the other tenets of TULIP inevitably extending from it. I understand why Calvinists would not want to dwell on this, as well as the obvious conclusion that this motive matches Satan’s, and would like to re-frame it. I do not need to be held accountable for this statement; the people who believe this should be held accountable. If they deny this central aspect of predestination in Calvinism, I don’t see why they would even bother calling themselves Calvinist, because not much is left.
I also want to clarify that I do not have contempt for the little old lady who brings her covered-dish entree to the local Presbyterian church, serves her fellow members and community, and loves God the best she knows; I rather hold accountable the church leaders and other men who I believe should know better, and for whom I would like some answers on how they justify this conviction while saying that God is love and that they love their fellow man. I may have bitten off too much in explaining Mohler’s harsh position against the homosexual community as being at least partially explainable given his Calvinist connection within one post, but I still believe that a danger of considering a “damned without hope” class of people leads one to take a Pharisee-like hard line to those outside their ranks, with little empathy or mercy in many cases.
My only intention is to give food for thought and contemplation – and dialogue.