[Response #1 from SEATTLE – Part 3 of “A Conversation between Seattle and Mississippi”, a chronicle of honest discussion between two friends.]
Thanks for your note! It is just great to hear from you guys. Tania showed me some pictures of your kids and I can’t believe how big they have gotten. Crazy!
Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. My life is a little hectic right now. Ministry is going completely awesome, but between all the work there and learning to be a dad it feels like I don’t have time to just sit down and “be” sometimes.
Anyway, your response was a little involved and in order to take it seriously, I needed a little bit of time to answer. This is really the first time I have sat down since I first read it, and had time to respond. So, all that to say, sorry it took so long. ☺
In regards to your concerns, I suppose I have a few thoughts. First, I think I understand where you are coming from in being confused with apparently opposing points-of-view. In fact, that is why I think these discussions are so important and that our views should be held with a degree of humility. These are very complicated issues, involving real people and not abstract theology.
I have read a great deal on the issue of homosexuality (from a biblical perspective and otherwise) from many different authors from many different backgrounds. And in that reading and research of my own, I have probably found myself more confused, not less. There are genuinely good reasons that people argue over this stuff. I used to think that the matter was rather cut and dry (homosexuality in all forms is sin), and like you, I assumed that those who argued against it were more motivated by political agenda than honest struggle with God’s truth. However, I now think it is more difficult than that.
This argument exists in large part because there are legitimate reasons (at least in my mind) for disagreement. For instance, there are word choices that the Apostle Paul could have chosen that would have made it much more clear (i.e. in Romans 1 and 1 Cor. 6:9-10, etc.), but unfortunately he didn’t. And the Greek words he did use carry more ambiguity than I am comfortable with. I encourage you to look into it yourself, of course, but I’ll be the first to admit that I end up more “confused” for the research, to use your terminology.
All that said and despite what I consider legitimate dissension, here is where I come out personally on this issue… I still believe that as best as I can tell, homosexuality in all its forms is normatively sinful. Hahahahaha! And you thought I was going all crazy on you!
Anyways, there are lots of reasons for me ending up here, but this response will be long enough as is. LOL.
However, even though this is my conviction (and what I will stand up for and teach), I have learned to hold that conviction with as much humility as I can. Philosophers speak of a term, “epistemological humility.” It means being humble about what you think you know and believe, because history it seems is full of well-meaning people who were passionately convinced on many issues (slavery or women’s rights to name just two), but on the wrong side of justice as we look back at them now.
And so, I live in this weird world where I hold to my convictions and teach them unapologetically, but try not to hold them so tightly that they define me more by what I’m against than what I am for.
Interestingly enough, most of my non-Christian friends already knew the troubling spots about homosexuality in the Bible before I did. And, in my experience, they have become much more open to my understanding of homosexuality since I became humble in my dialogue with them about it. It‘s as if they trust what I have to say more now that they perceive that I’m not just proverbially “drinking the Kool-Aid” of Christianity, but willing to think critically and openly.
And in that sense, I have learned to be a little less scared of the “slippery slope” theology that I think you expressed in your response. It’s that feeling that Christians today buy into little things that might seem harmless; things the culture tells them is ok, but in the end is a slow start to a fast decline in the righteous path of God.
Now, I do feel scared about that at times. But more often than not it is about things that are much more subtle, and in my mind, much more dangerous. Things like consumerism, misplaced patriotism that becomes synonymous with faith in God, or spiritual pride. That could be a whole response in itself! LOL.
And to some degree I think issues like homosexuality are like that as well. It concerns me greatly that a person would simply accept homosexuality as a normative behavior without wrestling with God’s word. But it also concerns me that someone would condemn it without doing the same diligent work. We tend to be lazy. Lazy in our study of God’s Word and lazy in our dialogue with God and each other about what that Word might mean. And in that sense, I think there are a lot of people out there that are sliding into either total relativism or total elitism, and I believe both slopes are equally slippery.
In terms of [The Mega-Pastor], I suppose I was a bit hard on him. I looked into the graphic that you mentioned. I actually didn’t put that in the blog myself; I had an assistant who did that for me (I’m not all that tech savvy). FYI — That photo isn’t from the [mega-pastor] protest, but is apparently a famous parody of those types of protests. And in that way, I agree it may be misleading. [Note to reader: I have left it posted as it was for the purpose of this conversation].
In any event, I talked with people close to [the mega-pastor] and I think I understand his point-of-view in holding the protest. I understand that he is protesting not the event but it’s placement in the educational system.
My problem with the protest was not with his concerns but with his methods. There is definitely some pro-gay agenda to that event. No doubt. But several things are important here, 1) it is an event put on by students, not adults coming in to “indoctrinate” them. Had it been a planned school event, hosted by the district or its employees, I think [mega-pastor] would have a better argument. And 2) the effective end to his method was all my non-Christian friends (and everyone in Seattle) seeing Christians standing up for what they are AGAINST again. All they saw was Christians protesting gay people. And in that way, [mega-pastor] could have been right—and even won the battle—but because of his methods, lost the war for those people’s hearts.
Now, maybe that isn’t what [mega-pastor] wanted to communicate, but I don’t think that really matters. That IS WHAT WAS COMMUNICATED.
So, how would I respond better? I’m not sure. I’m thinking it through for this year. But, what I think would be more powerful is for Christians to EARN the right to speak into these students lives by showing up and RALLYING around the parts of it that they can support—such as the protection of the weak and vulnerable. And even if they know there is an underlying gay agenda, to show up and demonstrate that they are FOR things like love, compassion, and grace too.
It’s an issue of language. [Mega-pastor] didn’t speak a language that reached those students or that community. He held a protest that made him and his followers FEEL GOOD about themselves and their convictions, but in the end, it didn’t reach a single person (that I know of) with a life-changing opportunity of faith in God. He stood up for his rights, when he should have laid them down. He asserted his beliefs by force, when he could have sacrificed his time and pride with unconditional love.
And in that way, I do believe that an act can be “violent” without actually being “violent.” Well, maybe that’s not the real problem. Maybe it was simply that it didn’t demonstrate “ultimate Jesus-like love.”
Listen, I know this is counter-intuitive. It seems like exactly the opposite of what we should do when culture presses in on us. It seems like we should fight back. It seems like we should protest and pass legislation and speak loudly. It seems ridiculous to be right but not ask for your rights.
But, I’m absolutely convinced that even though it makes no sense, it is the way of Jesus. I think what Jesus came to teach us is that the “power-over” model of persuasion belongs to the world and not us. In some strange way, it is the “power-under” model of love and sacrifice that wins the day. That love wins. Not protest. I mean, that was Jesus’ own life model, wasn’t it? He didn’t protest prostitutes, he loved them and forgave them. He didn’t pass laws on greedy tax collectors, he went and ate dinner with them. He didn’t even fight back when he was accused on trumped up charges, He choose instead to die for those who brought the charges.
Somehow, I think we have bought into the model of the world and tried to fit Jesus into it, rather than just follow the example of Christ. And when we do that, we may very well win the battle for being “right”, but lose the hearts and souls of many people as collateral damage.
Anyway, that is a long answer to your questions, I know. But you did ask, and I would feel bad blowing you off with some trite answers rather than the thoughts of my heart. I only hope that I have clearly answered what you were really asking.
At any rate, it is discussions like this that I think Christians would be best served having right now. Especially in light of new California laws and retaliations. It may be that we have much to still learn in how to live with this righteousness “not our own.”
Give my best to your family. I pray that you all are still enjoying Mississippi and of course that you will decide it isn’t for you and move back to Seattle! Have a great Thanksgiving!
Grace and peace,