Responding to Pro-Gay Theology
Major denominations ordaining homosexuals, priests and clergy presiding over same-sex weddings, sanctuaries invaded by boisterous gay activists, debates over homosexuality ripping congregations apart-who would have guessed we would ever reach such a point in church history?
A vigorous debate between Christians and homosexuals shouldn't be surprising in and of itself. If author and commentator Dr. Dennis Praeger is right when he says the Judeo-Christian ethic is responsible for the Western World's disapproval of homosexuality, then conflicts between the Church and the gay rights movement are not only understandable, they are inevitable. (While acceptance of homosexuality in ancient cultures is well documented, the past 2000 years of Western thought have, by and large, rejected it, and the influence of both Old and New Testaments can be credited for that.)
What is surprising, though, is the current trend in which these ethics are not only being challenged, but rewritten as well, most notably in the form of the pro-gay theology.
The pro-gay theology is much like the broader gay rights philosophy, in that it seeks legitimization (not just tolerance) of homosexuality. Gay spokesmen have made no secret of this as being their goal in secular culture; activist Jeff Levi put it plainly to the National Press Club during the 1987 Gay Rights March on Washington: "We are no longer seeking just a right to privacy and a protection from wrong. We also have a right-as heterosexual Americans already have-to see government and society affirm our lives. Until our relationships are recognized in the law-in tax laws and government programs to affirm our relationships, then we will not have achieved equality in American society."
But pro-gay theology takes it a step further by redefining homosexuality as being God-ordained and morally permissible:
"I have learned to accept and even celebrate my sexual orientation as another of God's good gifts." -gay author Mel White
When God is reputed to sanction what He has already clearly forbidden, then a religious travesty is being played out, and boldly. Confronting it is necessary because it (the pro-gay theology) asks us to confirm professing Christians in their sin, when we are Biblically commanded to do just the opposite. As Christ's ambassadors on earth, we unfaithfully represent Him if a professing believer's ongoing sin has no effect on our relationship with that believer...which is, in essence, what Paul told the Thessalonians:
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thes 3:6, 14- 15)
Likewise, when Paul heard of a Corinthian church member's incestuous relationship with his stepmother, he ordered the man be excommunicated (1 Cor 5:1-5), then explained the principle of confrontation and, if necessary, expulsion from the community of believers:
Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast. (1 Cor 5:6-7)
A healthy body purges itself of impurities; the Body of Christ cannot afford to do less. Error, like leaven, has a toxic effect.
The pro-gay theology is a strong delusion-a seductive accommodation tailor-made to suit the Christian who struggles against homosexual temptations and is considering a compromise. Some who call themselves gay Christians may be truly deceived into accepting it; others might be in simple rebellion. What compels them to believe a lie we cannot say. What we can say is that they are wrong...dead wrong.
But even as we say so, the caution of a proper spirit is in order. When we answer the pro-gay theology, we do so as sinners approaching other sinners, nothing more. Rev. Andrew Aquino of the Columbus Baptist Association expressed it perfectly during a recent interview:
My message to the homosexual is: We love you. Come and struggle with us against sin. Don't give in to it.
The Pro-Gay Theology in Brief
Exactly what do the "gay Christians" believe, and how did they come to believe it? The first question is more easily answered than the second. Explaining what a group believes is not hard. Explaining how they have come to believe it is another matter.
We cannot read minds or motives. That, I am sure, is one reason Jesus warned against judging (Mt 7:1). We can be certain the teachings themselves are false; why people have accepted them is something we cannot prove one way or another. Yet the Bible offers clues, and testimonies from members of the gay Christian movement are also enlightening, in helping to understand what the gay Christian movement believes, and what personal and spiritual factors may have influenced their beliefs.
The pro-gay theology is the cornerstone of the "gay Christian" movement (which is comprised of whole denominations, like the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, as well as gay caucuses within mainline denominations) just as the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds are the foundation of most Protestant's beliefs. The movement is diverse; some of its spokespersons-Episcopal Priest Robert Williams and Bishop John Shelby Spong, for instance -promote flamboyant and blatantly heretical ideas. But most groups within the gay Christian movement ostensibly subscribe to traditional theology. (The Statement of Faith of the Metropolitan Community Churches, for example, is based on the Apostles and Nicene Creeds.)
Although the pro-gay theology claims a conservative theological base, it includes additions and revisions to basic, traditional ethics. First, homosexuality is seen as being God ordained. As such, it's viewed as being on par with heterosexuality. Gay author Mel White points out, quite accurately, that "if you don't see that premise (that God created homosexuality) then gay marriage looks ridiculous, if not insane."
But to be seen as created by God, the traditional understanding of homosexuality needs to be discredited. This is done four basic ways within the "gay Christian" movement. First, prejudice against homosexuals is blamed for the understanding most Christians have of the Biblical references to it. The founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches, Rev. Troy Perry, asserts this is his writings:
To condemn homosexuals, many denominations have intentionally misread and misinterpreted their Bibles to please their own personal preferences.
So, according to Perry and others, not only are most Christians wrong about homosexuality, but many or most are intentionally wrong- deliberately reading their prejudice against gays into the Bible.
White goes even further, stating that major leaders in the Christian community-Jerry Falwell, James Kennedy and Pat Robertson-take public stands against the gay rights movement for the sake of raising funds and increasing their visibility.
Casting doubt on the motives of conservative leaders, and numerous denominations, makes it easier to discount their Bible-based objections to homosexuality. No wonder this tactic is so common in the "gay Christian" movement. Others within the movement contend the scriptures we understand to condemn homosexuality have actually been mistranslated. According to this view, the Bible should be taken literally in its original language; the problem with most Christians, they say, is that they don't know Biblical Greek and Hebrew well enough to realize our modern translations on homosexuality are all wrong.
Another claim pro-gay theorists make is that the Bible verses (Lev 18:22 and 20:13; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:9-10) which seem to prohibit homosexuality have actually been yanked out of context from their original meaning, or that they only applied to the culture existing at the time they were written. (Professor Robin Scroogs of Union Theological Seminary, for example, claims, "Biblical judgments about homosexuality are not relevant to today's debate.")
These arguments do not sit well with most serious Christians. The scriptures mentioned earlier are so clear and specific they defy interpretation of any sort. "Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman" requires no more interpretation than "Thou shalt not kill." It is intellectually dishonest to say conservatives "interpret" such verses out of prejudice against homosexuals. Those same "prejudiced" conservatives (Falwell, Kennedy, Robertson et al) also take scriptures against heterosexual sins quite literally. If they only prohibit homosexuality out of their own prejudice, why on earth do they, as heterosexuals, also condemn heterosexual sins? The argument makes no sense.
Neither does the "mistranslation" argument. We can allow some discrepancy in minor areas of translation, but, on something as important as sexual ethics, are we really to believe the Bible translators we rely on got it wrong five different times, in two different testaments? And only on the scriptures regarding homosexuality? (Pro-gay apologists seem to have no problem with the other scriptures condemning sins like adultery and child abuse.)
Equally poor is the "out-of-context" argument. The fact is, in Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, homosexuality is mentioned in the context of sexual and immoral behavior! The context is quite clear-a variety of behaviors are prohibited; homosexuality-along with adultery, fornication and idolatry-is one of them.
The "cultural" argument fares no better. In some cases, a scripture may seem culturally bound (injunctions against long hair on men, or women speaking to their husbands during church.) But again-five times? Five different scriptures, from both testaments, addressed to highly different cultures (from the Hebrew to the Roman) are obviously not culturally bound. The cultures they address are just too different.
All of which leaves conservatives highly skeptical of the "gay Christian" movement's claim to respect Biblical authority. It takes mental gymnastics to accept these inadequate arguments; those not having a stake in accepting them are unlikely to do so. But those having a personal interest the pro-gay theology are another matter. Twist the Scriptures hard enough and you can make them appear to say anything you please. Author Paul Morris raises this very issue when he warns:
But if I were a Christian homosexual, I think this one question would disturb me most: Am I trying to interpret Scripture in the light of my proclivity; or should I interpret my proclivity in the light of Scripture?
An unfortunate pattern of doing the former can be seen in the "gay Christian" movement's testimonials. Rev. Troy Perry writes about having already decided homosexuality was acceptable, then searching the Bible to equip himself to answer conservatives. Mel White alludes, in his book, to some earlier studies of the destruction of Sodom but his turning point seems to have come not from a careful, prayerful study of scripture, but from a psychologist who encouraged him to accept his homosexuality and find a lover! And gospel musician Marsha Stevens (composer of the beloved song "For Those Tears I Died" and now openly lesbian) gives a lengthy account of her acceptance of homosexuality without once explaining how she reached the point of believing homosexuality was scripturally acceptable. (The closest she comes is in telling how she prayed one night for confirmation that lesbianism was okay; the next morning someone gave her a pin saying "Born Again Lesbian.") Considering the background and theological training of the above-mentioned believers in pro-gay theology, their acceptance of it is astounding.
Or maybe it is not. Paul predicts an abandonment of truth for the sake of personal fulfillment:
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4)
Self over truth, man over God-can a Christian be so deceived? Evidently- Paul referred to the Galatian church as having been "bewitched" (Gal 3:1), and Jesus warned that a prominent sign of the days before His coming would be an increase in deception (Mt 24:14). To confront the pro-gay theology, then, is to confront a deceptive element of our time- the tendency to subjugate objective truth to subjective experience.
That is one reason confrontation is not enough to change a heart. Being knowledgeable enough to dismantle all the "gay Christian" movement's claims will not be enough to persuade a homosexual to repent. The heart, having been hardened through deception or rebellion or both, has to be softened. And that is the work of God alone. Ours is to simply speak the truth, trusting Him to quicken it to our hearers.
To that end, this three-part series will address the pro-gay theology by dividing its arguments-or tenants-into three categories: social justice arguments, general religious arguments, and scriptural arguments. A brief description of these arguments will be provided, followed by a response/rebuttal to each.