Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The H Question:

Homosexuality, the H Question.

Because of the current levels of debate, there is no short answer to this question, especially for preachers.

But, I am going to put my perspective down in bullet points because I think you will get most of it in that framework. And, these are merely my theological, psychological and physiological understandings.

But before that, there are 4 terms I am going to use:

  1. Secular Modernity: The world view that only science and reason can answer our questions, religion is a form of naiveté that the age of science and reason will eventually conquer. It includes Secular Humanism and allows for Social Darwinism.
  2. Christian Modernity: The World view and apologetics that contrasted and strove for Christ and against Secular Modernity and its attempt to deny the existence of God. On the evangelical side the scripture behind it is Romans 10:14-15 or 2 Timothy 4:3 –both scriptures emphasize the importance of preaching true to the Word.
  3. Secular Post-Modernity: The predominant current world view that distrusts the Church, and most dominant faiths (by dominant, I mean “in power” like Islam and Christianity) because of their domination of others. It includes pluralism, neo-pluralism (My term –in my opinion it is actually part of the neo-pagan movement, which is not an “in power” religion, but a resurgence of Druidism. It is called Wicca. For a good look at its history in developing European culture, read the novel “That Hideous Strength” by CS Lewis.) and syncretism. It values relationship above anything else. It sees humanity as a Community  in various degrees, according to the individuals “taste.”
  4. Christian Post-Modernism: (My view) A world view that is highly Christocentric, even its description of salvation through Jesus Christ,  but is less interested in taking a stand against Secular Modernity and all its propositions and is more interested in bringing people into a relationship with God, who reconciled us to Him through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The defining scripture is the “gentleness and respect” of 1 Peter 3:15.

It is important to note that the imperative behind Modernity is propositions. The propositions of Secular Modernity and Christian Modernity clubbed each other over the head with their truths as they wrestled for domination in the ideological views of the Western Culture. The problem was, the clubbing each other over the head didn’t work at all, nations continued to fight, the Cold War ensued. Then the Church itself fell into this mindset and began attacking each other in its own subculture and became culturally irrelevant because it stopped doing the Work of Jesus. It was easier to argue than it is to sacrificially serve. Peter said: “Arm yourselves with a willingness to be like Christ.

In my opinion, this paved the way for Post-Modernity whose imperative is relational over propositional. This world view is not as fractured as the world view of Modernity, but then, it is just beginning (and some say is already dying in favor of Nihilism).

All of that is important for me to explain where I think the debate on the H word is currently at:

  • Modernity versus Post–Modernity on the question of Homosexuality. There is a fundamental difference in what the question even means:
    • Modernity, Is there a God?:
      • In modernity, the “propositions of truth” and “taking a stand for the truth” was necessary because Secular Modernity denied the existence of God, the moral judge.
      • In Secular modernity right and wrong, morality, was made up by the consensus of society.
      • Only in Modernity is the question asked: Is Homosexuality a sin?
      • Therefore Homosexuality from Christian modernity is described as sin.
      • Evangelism was propositional instead of relational and the Holy Spirit blessed the propositional preaching. It fit the need for the time.
    • Post Modernity, Who or What fills this spiritual space we all feel? (Notice, the fundamental difference in the question):
      • In Post-Modernity, we are no longer arguing (in apologetic fashion) the existence of God, we are discussing the nature of God.
      • It may be a fundamental understanding of the difference between whether or not God is a God of wrath, or a God of love?
      • The concept of right and wrong, or sin, are in context of “since there is a Spiritual reality what does and doesn’t describe sin, or moral verses immoral actions?”
      • And the question is not so much: “Is homosexuality a sin?” but rather “What does God do and think about the homosexual person?”
      • My answer is three-fold:
        • Jesus loves everyone so much he died for all, including me AND people with same-sex attractions (notice the name change).
        • Sin is either and both (at different times) a result of the fall (brokenness) and deliberate choices for disobedience.
        • Given the stigma and pain involved, I don’t believe that a person would choose a same-sex attraction as an act of rebellion toward God. (In that case, I would describe their “sin” as “brokenness.”) I can imagine a sinful choice to be bi-sexual as an act of rebellion, or a purely hedonistic desire for pleasure. In that case, I would call the action sin. Note: Brokenness is not God’s ideal or desire for humanity, it is a result of the fall.
      • To be clear, in my post-modern understanding of where the Holy Spirit is leading evangelicals like me, in most cases, same-sex attraction does not make one an unbeliever –you understand the difference being either a direct act of rebellion (sin/hedonism) or a result of brokenness (same-sex attraction).
      • Those who have same-sex attractions are loved even more by God, because He knows their hearts.
      • Evangelism is now relational instead of propositional, and the Holy Spirit is blessing those who do relational evangelism, it works according to His plan.
      • (I believe the only people arguing the question of whether or not homosexuality is sin are the people who are still addressing and reacting to evangelism from the mindset of the culture of modernity. But we are now in a culture of post-modernity.)
  • Does sin exist?
    • I believe the answer, in both Modernity and Post-Modernity is very similar, with maybe a “lesser state of sin” (brokenness) in Christian Post-Modernism.
    • In the debate over Homosexuality, the real question, and the reason why it is such an inflammatory issue is because it is a culture war between the concept of the inherent evil inside all of us, or the inherent good in all of us.
    • Modernity’s answer to “inherited and corrupt sinful nature” was Secular Humanism. In that concept the more a society progresses, it will have greater ability to address social problems and bring out the good in everyone.
    • However, most of Secular Post-Modernity seems to have accepted this Secular Humanism dogma as a working principle (probably because that question really hasn’t been discussed yet). It is a principle that is contrary to atonement theology.
    • The debate has been going in Western theater.
      • The iconography of science fiction movies seems to support both future scenarios. Contrast Star Trek (Secular Humanism) with Avatar (an inherited corrupt human nature). The narratives are polar opposites. The pre-industrial Native Americans lived in harmony with the world as they do in Avatar and the industrialized society refused to allow their moral compasses to mitigate their use of power. Essentially, if they can do it, then it it must be moral. This is the aspect of Social Darwinism that threw New Testament morality under the bus. Sadly, in Civil Christianity, when Christianity is the “in power” religion, the question of whether we can, or whether we should is asked less often, or asked only in the areas that justify ourselves. (I.E. Slavery, US border policy, the use of Nuclear weapons, the plight of Native Americans…)
      • This is contrasted with Star Trek’s invention of a WARP drive that ushered in an age of human prosperity that seemed to perfect us. Every civilization they visited that was less advanced had worse moral ethics and every civilization that was more advanced had better moral ethics.
      • Of course, Avatar leaves out the Christophanys of ET, Cool Hand Luke, and Braveheart where the protagonist is crucified and comes back to life in one form or another.
      • Star wars has a personal redemption theme without the atonement. Its perspective isn’t Christian, it is actually Wiccan in the way Vader redeems himself.
    • That brings us to atonement theology.
    • We cannot forgo the importance of the cross (the last three days of Jesus’ incarnation) and we cannot forgo the importance of Jesus’ teachings (the first three years of Jesus’ teaching). BOTH are equally important. John 17:4, Jesus prays “I have accomplished the work you sent me to do…” This is before the cross. Jesus, as God’s representative finished the imperative of His teaching. But then, as the representative of Humanity, He became the sacrifice for our sins.
    • Because of the questions: “does God exist?” and “is there such a thing as sin?” Christian Modernity focused mainly on the last 3 days of Christ’s mission on earth.
    • The culture of Post-Modernism sees the inequitable balance in Jesus ministry and begs the question: “Is the Church genuine and authentically following Jesus?” Many rejected Christianity, but not Jesus, or at least the idea of Jesus.
    • So, in Christian Post Modernity, the narrative of atonement hasn’t changed, but the narrative of Jesus’ life on earth as the representative of God, His passion for justice, love, mercy and compassion has been added. Praise God! It is a step away from Civil religion into NT Christianity.
    • Peter Gomes, in his book “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus” describes, in the eight chapter, what I call the “neo-social justice gospel.” During the height of modernity, Christians were either into social justice (the first 3 years) or saving souls (the last 3 days), but now, Gomes himself holds to the gospel of Jesus that includes social justice and personal salvation.
  • So, from this perspective of Post-Modern Christianity, is Homosexuality a sin?
    • Yes and no. (And I am not waffling on the fence).
    • Same sex attraction is not a choice made as an act of rebellion against God, therefore it doesn’t fall into the category of “not loving God with all our heart, and not loving our neighbor as ourselves.” In the case of the deliberate choice to go against heterosexual attraction, then yes it is a sin.
    • What about same-sex attractions? Are they a sin? No –not in the concept of rebellion against God. But it is brokenness. It is less than God’s ideal. But for those who have it, and didn’t want it, it isn’t sin to them. It is similar to my diabetes. I didn’t choose it, but it is less than God’s design. Does that mean that Homosexuals are diseased? Not quite. I wince at the pejorative implication in my metaphor, but I just don’t have a good metaphor except the brokenness of the fall. (Help me, please!) Except maybe in the concept of cancer (which is not a sin). Cancer is excessive production of the wrong kind of cell. Cancer is amoral. But the point is, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, ulcers, skin problems and even obesity are all a result of the fall AND THEY AFFECT BELIEVERS AND UNBELIEVERS ALIKE.
  • So, how do we answer the question is homosexuality a sin?
    • To the Secular Modernist and Post-Modernist: “I am a sinner. H, if you want to, you may call it sin. But in this context I will call it part of the universal brokenness. It is no less or no more than my brokenness and sin. I need a Savior. Jesus loves H as much, if not more, than He loves me.” (Because He is specially tuned to the outcast and marginalized in society.)
    • To the Modern and Post-Modern homosexual: Jesus loves you and wants you in His family. He is the one who will walk with you either in, or out, of your lifestyle. It starts with Christ.
    • To the Christian Modernist: “I am going to deal with people who have same sex attractions exactly the way Jesus did, I am going to treat them as a neighbor.” When they press me for a definitive answer on whether or not they are sinners, I will walk away. (Because, in my view, it is the propositions of modernity clubbing one another and that has proven to be ineffective.)
    • To the post-modern Christian: “Open your arms and invite them into the family of God; enjoy their presence in this great adventure!”
    • To the Homosexual Christian Post-modernist: “what can I learn from that will help me on my own journey?”
    • To the Homosexual Secular Modernist: “I am sorry for the way you have been marginalized, I hope you can see in me, the Jesus that loves you and accepts you just the way you are.”
  • Taking a Stand –how the propositions of modernity failed (and are still crippling our forward progress). I alluded to this in the introduction:
    • Because Modernity was a propositional argument about the nature, source and even existence of absolute truth (Secular Post Modernity is still wrestling with that), both sides did well in delivering their propositions. And every proposition was a reaction to the other side and the propositions became more and more insular and divisive.
    • Today, the pro-H groups are doing a very good job of making it a relational issue and are moving away from the propositional arguments. They are making people think about whether or not God loves the H.
    • The worse part of this, is that in Christian Modernity, verses all three other categories (Secular Modernity, Christian PO-MO, Secular PO-MO) the propositions became so important they were “an end unto themselves.”
      • The preacher, church, or denomination that had the stronger stand against “equated themselves to be more righteous than others.”
      • So, denominations divided, argued over forms of baptism, tongues, versions of translation, eternal security, and etc. All of this was to prove to God they were faithful.
      • It became a sort of Christian competition, and the secular world laughed, ridiculed and worse, ignored the Church as irrelevant.
      • In fighting Modernity, we fought amongst ourselves in order to prove something to somebody (who?).
      • We fell victim to our own significance and lost our seat at the table in Modern World view.
      • I believe that since the last election, provocateurs have resurged some of that old debate in order to manipulate POLITICS with fear and rhetoric. How sad. The more this goes on, the more we all will be marginalized.
      • I believe this is the biggest reason why youth are leaving the Church.
  • What about the fact that Jesus didn’t mention H?
    • The Modernity debate has used that as one of its clubbing points.
    • One side says: “Since Jesus didn’t mention it, is must be okay.”
    • The other side says, “Of course He did: `A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife…’” as a proposition for hetero relations only. And then, of course, there is Sodom and Gomorrah, Romans 1 (a result of judgment, not the cause as Conservative Christian Modernists claim –same with Sodom and Gomorrah, Ezekiel 16:49-50).
      • The argument from Conservative Christian Modernity –that God will judge us for allowing the gay agenda- has it backward.
      • Materialism and Consumerism are the sins, and terminal sexual deviations (which results in the failure of a society to reproduce and survive) is the judgment.
      • And again, I am not saying that H people are under a special and worse curse. They share with everyone in the broken nature of this world. And I believe this: “At the point of our brokenness, the place where we are the most afraid that Jesus would appear, is exactly the place that He loves us the most.” We are saved by grace.
      • So, the “gay agenda” rhetoric published by the religious right is merely the work of provocateurs who exploit our fear in order to raise funds for their “righteous defenses” of God. It isn’t a slippery slope to perdition, it is grain elevator pumping more and more money onto their piles of gold. 
      • When Jesus didn’t mention it, it wasn’t because He was endorsing brokenness. No. Jesus didn’t mention it because it wasn’t important enough to fight over.
      • He was soon to provide the atoning sacrifice to restore the broken to Him.
      • Jesus was and still is about redemption, restoration, healing, and reconciliation between God, man and each other.
    • Then there is the whole imperialism, kingdom to come instead of the Kingdom here and now issue.
      • Post-Modernity distrusts “in power” faiths because of the way they have achieved and maintain control.
      • That is why Nihilism is emerging.
      • Nihilism is a reaction to the abuse of authority. It is: disestablishmentarianism taken to the up to the level of politics and national leadership.
      • Post-modernity perceives (whether or not it is true is still a debate, the perception is real to those who hold it) an historical connection between religion and the abuse of power. I suppose in the Christian context, it began with Constantine and his refusal to allow his sword arm be baptized when he “converted.”
      • He believed that his religion gave him the power to subdue others, after all they were/are merely pagans whose destiny is perdition.
      • I think the controversy right now about the “Ground Zero Mosque”, and the systemic perceptions behind 9/11 –right or wrong- indicate the fallacy of having a civil religion (like American Evangelical Christianity, or the theocratic nature of some of the more radical Muslim countries).
      • How does this relate to the H question?
      • If we are allowed to marginalize the H people, then we can also marginalize and abuse “the other” -anyone who isn’t like us.
      • Post-Modernity wonders if Christian endorsement (from the beginning of the slave trade to the election of President of Obama and beyond…) of racism and the current increasing-in-popularity evil  Christian Identity movement is any different from the reaction to the gay agenda? Without the framework of scripture, it appears to them to be the same imperialistic viewpoints.
      • And here is the worse part about it: Taking a stand against the SIN OF OTHERS to prove your righteousness while you allow suffering, injustice, marginalization of others is a far cry from the righteousness that Jesus described by “taking up your cross and following Him.”
      • “Taking a stand against” is a sacrifice that costs us little in comparison to taking up our cross. In the mega-church hysteria and manipulation for profit by the national Christian media, that “supposed sacrifice” is actually a benefit because it gains the applause of others in the Church and increases the coiffures by creating an enemy out there. In essence it is no different than Goebbels  demonizing the Jewish race in order to garner support for National Socialism.
      • It is not a real sacrifice- not while believers continue a life of over-consumption and going to church to get a commodity instead of  taking up our crosses to follow Christ. Remember, that was the downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

So, if you ask me “is H a sin?” My response is “why do you ask?”

That is nor a pejorative response. If  you truly want to know how I think the Holy Spirit is leading the church in its reaction to this debate, then praise God! I applaud your willingness to seek God instead of merely listening to the rhetoric. Search yourself and inform me as well. I don’t have all the answers.

However, if one wants to prove to himself or  herself that I am either less or more biblical or spiritual than them in my ability to take a stand… …well, I won’t say it and I will repent for the temptation to think it, instead I will say in complete sincerity, without mockery: “God bless you.”

Phil Reynolds is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. He considers himself Bible Believing and still identifies as an Evangelical, but has distanced himself from the American Evangelical movement because he perceives that it has become a Political entity, manipulated by provocateurs, that has exchanged New Testament Christianity for Western Civil religion.

I have two people who I have to apologize to because I realize that I have left you completely out of my categories. I just don’t know what to do with you yet. One is a good friend and I love her dearly: SQM: “You have taught me more than you can imagine. I deeply respect the sincerity by which you have achieved your world view. I am sorry I haven’t figured out a response to the Christian Post-modern who does not see the atonement as crucial to their faith. So, I ask you to forgive me for leaving you out of my categories. When I figure out how your integrity and sincerity fits into my narrow world-view, I’ll figure out a way to include you in the categories. Again, please forgive me.

And to another man, JWB: “I deeply respect your perspective. I have  learned a lot from you. I see you as moving from Modernity to Post-Modernity in the way that you speak more of the human cost that the H controversy creates than the propositions that kept us all divided. I hope to someday visit with  you and become your friend. I hope you know that I love you. Really. I just want to hug you, and figure out a way to get through this together.”

I mentioned Gomes Book: “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus?” Gomes, an H person writes of what I call neo-social justice Christian. He decries the lines that separated the liberals from the conservatives in the age of modernity and sees a genuine revival taking place that is both Christocentric and also Just. It is a Kingdom here, and a Kingdom to come, enjoined together.


Alan said...


Your struggle with this question mirrors my own. Thank you for putting your thoughts into words. I think you said it far better than I could.

I sometimes (perhaps cynically) believe that every generation looks for some issue over which to quarrel. Will believers 100 years from now be looking back and asking, "Why was there so much controversy over that?"

In the meantime, we love, we learn and we try to follow Jesus.


Revnerd said...

I posted that blog on the H word in order to facilitate a discussion that might actually lead us to a point of... consensus? ...understanding? ...respect for the sincerity of another's views? ...but I am missing a word here. I am missing a word that means a place where we can have a win-win, an actual place where we can come together without having to give up our own deeply held passions. Two different things seem to be at stake here: From the H side, they want everyone to know that whatever choice we make, we make that choice based on a human element. Now for me, the issue isn't about H, it is about the cross of Christ. I could say it is the divine/human element of Jesus, but it really is a point of doctrine. We are discussing two different things. Doctrine verse how can we apply doctrine in a Christ like manner? It seems to me that in modernity, the only solution was to either throw out doctrine, or throw out the human element, personal nature of how doctrine is applied and our values of "no force in religion."

That debate was no winners. However, if we move the discussion away from the 1983 paper and take it back to the 1979 paper on Biblical authority the whole discussion loses its human component. It is less personal, and more academic. But then, is it any more important in the grand scheme of life, universe and everything than how many angels can sit on top of a pin? I mean, if theology isn't practical, then what is the use? There is always going to be an human element.

The 1979 paper is broadly diverse. It makes room for the way the 1983 paper was originally written. And it opposes in principle what the 1983 paper actually became. I am told (I wasn't there yet) that the word "not" was added to "the homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable...."
Technically, if we embrace the 1979 paper, then we must change 1983 because it denies a theological subset that we already provided for. We were Indian givers. Before 1983, when it was merely doctrine, we found a place where we could sit at the table together.

However, when the ramifications of the human element were added in 1983, the debate became about two different things and there is no way to resolve the difference.

I wonder, and perhaps a COB historian can fill me in because I didn't join until 1986. I wonder why we needed 1983? Wasn't 1979 enough to allow the diversity that 1983 was shooting for? Was 1983 really the so called pushing of the Gay agenda? (I shudder to admit that thought. Forgive me. But maybe it seemed necessary at the time. you know what I mean: that time during the ancient age of modernity.)

What if the 1983 paper had begun with the same diversity as the 1979 paper? You cannot fault the side that won the vote for making losers and winners because the paper itself drew the line in the sand. We brought this on ourselves when we decided to fight over it. Neither side was innocent. If that paper had respected the diversity from the conservative side that the 1979 paper had, then it wouldn't have backfired into the fiasco for the liberal side that it became.

Here is an idea, throw out 1983 and make no more response to it. Replace it with "the statement of confession" that Standing Committee read in 2009. (You know, that really is a pretty good idea.)