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Friday, October 24, 2014

Is The Conservative Church Nuance Impaired?

This article is written for the daughter who brought John Pavlovitz's article to our attention by commenting on it on social media. She has for a long time been sensitive to the plight of those who are marginalized in society.

An important article to read is written by John Pavlovitz on the Church and the LGBT community (click here or there). The article first appeared on his blog and was then picked up by the Huffington Post. The article is important because of how those in the LGBT community and the reputation of the Gospel are suffering by our treatment of them.

What's causing this suffering? According to Pavlovitz, one cause is how we translate the Christian theology on homosexuality into how we speak the truth. 

Pavlovitz starts with a somewhat gruesome list of ways Christians show their disapproval of the LGBT life. These ways include beatings, bullying, shaming, ostracizing, marginalizing, and so on. In essence, the Christian community acts to "dehumanize" those in the LGBT community. This results in causing some people to want to do more than just "shoot the messengers." And who could blame them? Don't the messengers also represent the message?

Another result is that gays cannot feel free to worship with us. And to add insult to injury, we bid them good riddance when they leave.

In short, there is something about the sexual views and practices of the LGBT community that leaves those of us in the Christian community discontent with merely tackling the sin of homosexuality, to use football terminology. We feel both bound and free to pile on, spear, and target those in the LGBT community. We feel bound because we must show the proper level of righteous indignation in order to prove our love for God, our Christian street cred. But we also feel free because the transgressions committed by the those in the LGBT community have given some of us permission to release our own pent-up hostility. This means that the sins of others can be to us Christians what hot water is to a teabag. As the hot water simply draws out what is in the teabag so the sins of those in the LGBT community have drawn out our true colors.

Though not mentioned by Pavlovitz, if how we treat the LGBT community in Church is not enough, we insist that society must follow our example by punishing and stigmatizing homosexuals and the transgendered as well. Much of this punishment revolves  around denying homosexuals equality lest they escape stigmatization and are counted as normal. 

The overall theme of how many of us Christians treat the LGBT community is that those in that community must know their place. Many of us want them to think that they are not only not up to our standards, they are a threat to us, to our society--and that is despite their many personal and historical contributions. And after we call on society to punish those in the LGBT community, we have the audacity to wonder why we get push back. We wonder why people not only disagree with our views of sex, they question our religion. And though we, in our usual self-flattering way, want to view their resistance against us as resistance against God, we need to realize that not only have we hurt fellow people who are made in the image of God and fellow sinners, we have harmed the Gospel's reputation by not speaking as Jesus would have. This is the point of Pavlovitz's article.

Pavlovitz prefers to finish with a question rather than a suggestion or two. So to try to answer his questions might require that we return to the drawing board. The most immediate solution would be to change our theology. We could rewrite it to accept homosexuality. But to do so would be to betray the Scriptures. For while some LGBT apologists want the Biblical debate on homosexuality to revolve around the definitions of a couple of words, the scriptural passages in Leviticus and Romans, both of which condemn homosexuality, remove the issue beyond the reach of individual definitions by talking about the concept and how it falls short of God's design.


Therefore, changing our theology about sex is not an option. So we must, for the sake of some who are made in God's image and the Gospel, look for changes in how we communicate our theology for the solution. And if we listen to the complaints raised by those in the LGBT community, it will not be too difficult to solve some, but not all, of the sources of contention.

What many in the LGBT community seem to be saying is that we are overstating our case. We are, to repeat the above football references, doing far more than just tackling the sin; we pile on, spear, and target the people involved. And we do so while being blind to our own sins. In short, we come across as the pharisee in the parable of the two men praying (click here). The sins of others have given us delusions of self-righteousness. We forget that while Paul associates the sin of homosexuality with the Gentiles in Romans 1 (click here), he then goes on to describe the sins of the Jews in Romans 2 (click here), and then finishes by stating that no one is better than the other in Romans 3:9-21 (click here).

Thus, our ways of speaking to and treating gays have shown that we have not only exercised bad bedside manner when telling homosexuals about sexual sin, we've made matters worse by not treating them as equals both as individuals and as people in society. And until we change that, much of our teaching about Biblical sexual morality will be lost in translation and we will become stumbling blocks rather than preachers of the Gospel.

All of this starts with how we want society to treat those in the LGBT community. For we cannot expect to have the Church be more loving toward those in the LGBT community when we require, in varying degrees, that society marginalizes both homosexuals and the transgendered. So how we want society to treat those in the LGBT community is where it starts though it isn't where it ends. And we must also realize that because of the past unjust suffering, the sensitivity of some in the LGBT will prevent them from distinguish those who preach in love and those who don't.

Yes, we must be firm in holding to Biblical moral standards regarding sex. But that doesn't preclude us from being gentle with those who do not meet those standards and speaking to them as equals, as fellow sinners.


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