‘Pray Away the Gay’ No More?

Late last week, Paul Burkhart jumped into the fray of online conversation surrounding Alan Chambers and Exodus International’s recent significant change in philosophy regarding ‘reparative therapy.’ On my personal site, today’s post will highlight some of his insightful commentary and what I called ‘a clear, balanced and transparent voice in the midst of this conversation where so many others are simply shouting past one another.’ It’s rather refreshing.

You see: this past week, nearly everybody was talking about it.

Scot McKnight called the shift ‘colossal.’ Not surprisingly, I said some things about it.  NPR.org ran a segment on All Things Considered about how much Evangelicals were fighting amongst themselves about homosexuality, highlighting Alan’s story.

Denny Burke’s readers had a lively discussion about the changes and Robert Gagnon called on Alan to resign from his position at Exodus.  Groups like the Ex-Gay Watch hammered Alan and Exodus on being vague with the change, in spite of multiple interviews with print and other media that Alan took while on vacation with his family.

Christianity Today ran an article on the theological disputes the controversy has stirred up. The NY Times featured the story.  Even Fox News got in on the action, tying the change in Exodus International’s philosophy to the upcoming vote in Minnesota on same sex marriage. MSNBC invited Alan Chambers onto Hardball with Chris Matthews.

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In short, this thing blew up.

The last time the church’s dirty laundry got aired with this type of excitement was in 2011 when Rob Bell was just about to release a book and let this teaser trailer slip:

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That three minute clip unleashed a slew of blog posts prior to the book’s release by people who hadn’t yet read it declaring that Rob Bell was a heretic (I don’t believe he is), claiming that he doesn’t believe in hell (he said in the book he does) and prominent church leaders tweeting dismissive and final things like, ‘Farewell, Rob Bell.‘ Rob ended up on the news, too.

Interestingly, the same week all of Christendom was abuzz about whether or not Rob Bell is a universalist (which he said he isn’t), a devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit japan, killing over 25,000 people and injuring some 10,000.

But we wanted to talk about hell.

And it seems, in the midst of worldwide pain and heartache in recent weeks – the Colorado fires, the Penn State abuse report, the Syrian massacres, oil tanker crashes, unrest in the China Seas or even Kobe lipping off about the dream team, that the Church of Jesus Christ would have plenty to not only talk about, but plenty in which we have an opportunity to participate with God in his redemptive plan for the reconciliation of all things.

But we want to talk about gay cookies.

I wonder — if the Jesus we claim to follow were visibly walking with us today, where would he be leading humanity?  Probably not into the ring to fight each other over this issue.

I think it may be time to hang up the gloves on this one, folks.  This fight is getting old.

What do you think?

—-
Michael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ.  Michael worships and serves on staff as the Communications Director at Richwoods Christian Church in Peoria, IL.

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About the Author

Michael Kimpan

Michael KimpanMichael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ. Michael works with The Marin Foundation in Chicago, a non-profit organization which works to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Church.View all posts by Michael Kimpan →

  • http://twitter.com/dcIfy Ify Nwabuje

    I think you make noteworthy points, esp. regarding what believers talk about and how we do so. Effective communication, esp. about matters as personal and complex as faith, identity & ways of living, require a lot more forethought than we tend to give it. Contention isn’t proof of speaking truth, yet culturally we’re habituated to that as proof of faithful living (from patriotism, politics, faith, etc.). I rather like the invitation to consider “if the Jesus we claim to follow were visibly walking with us today, where would he be leading humanity?” Certainly makes me pause.

  • http://bytheirstrangefruit.com StrngeFruit

    Beautify said. Our witness for the Gospel is being destroyed by what we focus on and how we conduct ourselves in public discourse.

  • Frank

    I agree that people should stop the ridiculousness of claiming that homosexual behavior is not sinful. It’s false, it’s deceptive, its hateful and it’s not biblical.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      interestingly, alan does hold the perspective that homo-erotic behavior is contrary to God’s perfect intent for sex and marriage (similar to tony campolo’s view); yet he’s still getting flamed in the media by christian evangelicals.

      curious, that.

      i wonder what would happen if we committed to dialoguing like christ? that’s what’s so refreshing about paul burkhart’s posts (which i highlighted and summarized today on my blog here http://www.mjkimpan.com/balanced/ ). he invites a critique of both left and right in the need to elevate this conversation above the simplistic ‘i’m right, and you’re wrong,’ and encourages both sides to think and behave christianly.

      i wonder how much more effective a witness we’d be (regardless of our personal conviction on this issue) if we were committed to following, sounding and looking like jesus, even in our disagreement with one another?

      • LRC

        I don’t think it’s possible to have a prohibitionist stance on homosexuality and look like Jesus. Sorry.

        • Frank

          It’s not possible to look like Jesus yet encourage sinful behavior. Sorry.

        • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

          @LRC there’s certainly a point to be made that the way in which the church has taken that (prohibitionist) stance has been hurtful, harmful and terribly UN-christlike. but i wonder if there is room in the conversation for differing perspectives – the same way, for example, that we treat inter-denominational disagreements over infant baptism or the more charismatic gifts of the spirit.

          if we’re open to dialogue in the midst of disagreement, i am convinced the tone of the conversation will change for the better. for example, the GCN has ‘side A’ and ‘side B’ perspectives…yet each are committed to worshipping together.

          does that make sense?

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

            Michael,

            In the interest of elevating the conversation…

            The examples of inter-denominational disagreements do not compare. There is no attempt to subjugate infant baptizers nor their opponents. (This was not always true, as the Anabaptists were severely persecuted by the church and state long ago.)

            As far as Justin Lee and the GCN reaching out and welcoming all LGBT people, whether Side A or Side B, is also not relevant. Those who have been victimized and ostracized need a safe place like GCN to come together and be affirmed, whether they’re arrive as Side A or Side B. Both sides are dealing with a lot of pain.

            As privileged, white, heterosexual males, you and I need to begin by recognizing our “system” is set up to subjugate both Side A-ers and Side B-ers. That is a sin.

      • LRC

        I wonder if folks who supported slavery, lynching, banning interracial marriage etc ever said, “We should sound and look like Jesus in our disagreement with one another”?

        • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

          This is my favorite comment on this thread.

    • LRC

      Why do you think homosexual behavior is sinful?

      • Frank

        Why do you think its not considering the biblical texts and the sexual ethic all throughout scripture? Keep in mind I have studied every scripturally based argument for both sides of the issue. Those that claim that homosexual behavior in certain cases is not sinful rely on word play, obfuscation and ignorance of Levitical laws.

        • tarl_hutch

          As we do not follow most levitical laws, they should probably not be brought to the table, but it is fair to debate the other verses. I am sure you know the arguments regarding translation and context, so I will not go into them. Do you think it is possible to ignore said issue or is it something that would affect the chyrch negatively if allowed? How would it negatively affect the church?

          • Frank

            Well there are different types of Levitical laws and we would all do better if we understood that instead of posting in ignorance about shellfish and such.

            That aside it’s hateful to ignore sin, period. Sin is damaging to the person, everyone around them, their community, our world and especially the Kingdom of God, so no its not possible to ignore sin in any form.

          • tarl_hutch

            Okay, how then should the church interact with those who identify as Gay? What does that church do to say true to Christ in your eyes?

          • Frank

            Love them, live life with them but don’t lie to them. In other words treat them like every other sinner on the planet including myself.

          • anonymous

            I love that, Frank. I’ll just add this: I watch pornography, I lie, I don’t love my wife as much as I should. I could go on, but the point is that the church tells me all those things are wrong, yet I don’t feel ostracized within the church. The only reason for that is that my sins are more common, so others are less likely to feel like I’m a freak. With homosexuality, for some reason, the church has tended to label them as willful sinners and freaks, when really they just pick one particular sin that happens to be less common, but no worse than any I listed.

          • tarl_hutch

            Excellent point…thanks for sharing.

          • Frank

            Yes but no one ever suggest that those actions arenot sinful yet here we are in this day with people claiming that homosexual behavior is not a sin. It changes it changes the conversation radically.

          • Questioning

            This is a chicken / egg argument I think. If the church truly loved and treated homosexual sinners the way it does other sinners there would be no need for this claim or all the rancor it entails, from the perspective of the church. I understand there are other reasons as well. Many homosexuals hate themselves, for various reasons. Some because of their orientation. Some because their family has turned against them. All have experienced bullying, discrimination and marginalization. If one has never experienced this, it’s impossible to imagine what it does or how it affects. Naturally, they want to be able to reconcile that their orientation does nothing to diminish their self-worth and it shouldn’t. However, with most of the world telling them they are sub-human and despicable, and with the very people who should be stepping up and telling them they are loved children of God, telling them they are the blackest of sinners, it’s only natural that they fight back. Which came first? I have a suspicion, but it does not matter. The church should move first.

          • Frank

            So what would you suggest the church’s move be? Would the church have to stop teaching on sexuality and marriage? Would the church simply look the other way?

            The ONLY way to move forward is for all to agree that the bible says homosexual behavior is sinful and then move forward from there. There is no path forward without an agreement that homosexual behavior is sinful.

          • DrewTwo

            …and so my options are a) celibacy b) mixed orientation marriage. Now, these are presented as difficult but worthy choices by those who will never find themselves in that position. I know it’s a hard thing to put yourself in someone else’s shoes but I’d really encourage the average Joe (or Josephine) to try turning that choice on themselves and think long and hard about the implications of that and don’t just think of what that looks like for a few days, months or even a few years, but a lifetime, old age, end of life.

            I’m not saying that exercise will lead many to change their minds but perhaps it will lead those with a more orthodox (?) perspective to consider moving past unending discussions about firmly entrenched differences and start having different conversations.

            How do serve those who in our midst who believe that homosexual behavior is sinful but struggle with those feelings? How do we relate to those have reconciled their faith with their homosexuality? How do we all love and respect each other within that tension?

            I don’t know myself. I have serious issues with Islam and visceral reactions to things that I see and hear. But I also rub shoulders at work with a young Muslim who is intelligent, thoughtful and good humored. In short, I really like and respect the guy. Our relationship has really challenged me sometimes in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

          • Drew

            They are difficult but worthy choices. What you forget, though, is that most people have difficult but worthy choices to make in their life.

            All addicts (food, alcohol, drug, sex, gambling) will have to make difficult but worthy choices in their lives. I have yet to met someone that has said that giving up an addiction is easy.

            I acknowledge, sympathize, and when I can, empathize with all people that make difficult choices. However, that does not mean that I change Scripture so difficult choices no longer have to be made.

          • DrewTwo

            I appreciate that, Drew. I don’t think we’re going to change each other’s minds. I’m just suggesting “we” that use that acknowledgement, empathy etc. to start a NEW discussion about how we relate to each other in ways that are mutually beneficial. I think people need to be in relationship with each other on the local level, and for more than lunch once a month or a few minutes a week for that to happen though.

            To be honest with you, I’d prefer to retreat to a comfortable enclave of like minded people. My motivation to be more than just civil, in these matters, is waning rapidly. I’d like to sink my limited emotional energy in to something other than this. I have a hard time not reacting with anger and disappointment (and so I often do) but I still feel obligated to do, well, something. Not quite sure what that looks like…

          • Questioning

            Sexuality and marriage? Really? The church already looks the other way every time we remarry someone who has divorced for reasons other than infidelity. I am going to expand on your comment a bit and look at the church’s teaching on sin in general. It’s a minefield and I guess it might depend on your church, maybe even your denomination. We tend to go back to some old safe favorites. Lying, stealing, slander, backbiting, and gossip is fairly safe territory. When giving is lagging the preacher knows it time to roll out the tithing sermon. When was the last time we heard a sermon on gluttony, or sloth, or greed, or adultery in ALL it’s forms. Most of the congregation would be squirming. Do it enough and many will go elsewhere. Whoops.. there go some of our best tithers. Homosexuals? Now that’s different. We don’t even like them, lets talk about that. We’ll preach the hell out of that. Only preaching and teaching about sin just leads to legalism.

            As an aside, generally, I think a lot of the so called teaching and preaching we do is wasted breath. We’ll all shout Amen and Hallelujah when we talk about how the government, that we elected, is ruining our country. We cry and moan about this fallen world and the culture when we see people who are not Christians, not acting like Christians. “They” are doing this and “they” are doing that. The most effective churches, in my estimation, are those that simply teach and demonstrate love, taking care of the less fortunate, protecting the innocent, and how to enter into and build a relationship with the savior.
            Whether or not homosexuality is a sin really should be a moot point. You say that it is. Fine. So now, the biggest issue with this particular sin is that it’s obvious. Yours and my secret sin is just as heinous. The biggest reason all the “homosexuality is a sin” rhetoric has gotten to this level is because we have backed them into a corner with no way out and I, for one, think the church is to blame.

          • Frank

            Well the churches I know of don’t pull punches. So yes I agree that churches should teach on all aspects of biblical sexual ethics. If there are churches who selectively speak out against homosexuality than they should expand that message to include other sexual sins as well as other sins. Wat hey should not do is stop teaching what the bible says: homoxual behavior is sinful in any form or context.

            And the blame is sin itself not the churches or the victims of sin. So sin should be the forefront not swept under the rug.

          • Drew

            Frank,

            Looks like we both posted at the same time and I said one of the things you said – depends on what Church you go to : ) In my experience, most liberal Churches are so focused on social justice that they rarely or never talk about sanctification or sin. It’s just a “good works” rally, which has its place, but should not be the exclusive focus.

          • frankfra

            Drew most liberal churches I know not only just focus on secular social justice issues but they also deny sin and hell entirely. Not all do that but many do. No wonder they are a dead end!

          • Drew

            I thank God that I was able to find a solid, Bible-believing Church and denomination that is the total package, and I hope that everyone is able to at some point in their journey.

          • Drew

            You are probably going to the wrong Church then. May I suggest a Bible-believing Church that does focus on all parts of the Bible? My Church has only mentioned homosexuality once the entire time I have been there (as part of a series of “hot topic” issues in the Church last month).

            Here is why homosexuality is focused on – 1) It is obvious, 2) It is one of the few sins people are saying is not a sin, and 3) It is often unrepentant, intentional, and celebrated.

            1, It is obvious and easy to talk about in the sense that it is clearly defined. It is much harder to talk about “intangible” sin or hidden sin. I’m not saying this is right, but just stating how I see it.

            2, Most of the sins you mention that the Church does not focus on people still think is a sin. I can’t think of anyone that is pro-gluttony or holding pro-gluttony rallies and fighting for pro-gluttony rights.

            3, It is often intentional and unrepentant and celebrated. This actually is a different category of sin, unrepentant, intentional sin versus unintentional or repentant sin. Unrepentant sin is dangerous territory because if Christ is with you and the Holy Spirit within you unrepentant, intentional sin simply cannot happen, or Christ is not with you and the Holy Spirit is not within you. The Bible is clear on this point.

          • Questioning

            Your right… I think I am going to the wrong church. The wrong denomination for that matter. It has never been mentioned in a service I have attended and it won’t be. It’s a minefield.
            1. Actually I think hidden sin is easier to talk about, as long as no one has to confess what their particular brand is.
            2. I don’t see anyone telling fat people that they have to lose weight before they can be accepted and affirmed in the church either.
            3. True, there are some who delight in throwing it in our faces, just like some heteros do, but here’s my point again; I firmly believe the church created the environment we are in, fostered it, and now we are blaming homosexuals for their reaction to that environment. Finally I am not undertanding your final thoughts. Are you saying you cannot be a Christian and sin? Or is it just intentional sin? What if the person is intentional but repentant? What is Paul talking about in Romans 7? This parable might be in order here….
            To some who were confident of their own righteousness(H) and looked down on everyone else,(I) Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray,(J) one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself(K) and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast(L) twice a week and give a tenth(M) of all I get.’
            13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast(N) and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’(O)
            14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”(P)

          • Drew

            Churches should be open to discussing all parts of the Bible and not just the parts that make attendance numbers go up and Church members feel good.

            1) Hidden sin is easier to talk about in a sense. However, hidden sin (thoughts, sins of omission) is more intangible and thus harder to pinpoint than obvious sin (actions, sins of comission). That was my point. In any case, I prefer expository preaching that covers all the Bible, which I am fortunate to hear.

            2) This is an argument I hear all the time but is not logical. Being obese is not a sin, gluttony is, and not all obese people are gluttons.

            3) Unrepentant sin is unrepentant sin. In your parable, the sinner was repentant – the sinner admitted he was in sin and asked God for mercy. In regards to Romans, read Romans 6:6-7. We should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. This is the danger of unrepentant sin; you are therefore still a slave to sin.

          • Questioning

            I never said obesity was a sin. I was responding to your pro-gluttony rallies comment. However, if we did clamor for gluttons to clean themselves up before acceptance in the church, it would be these obese people who are the most offended, so the correlation stands.
            Repentance and being free from sin are two distinctly different things. We might sin today and be sincerely repentant and do the same thing tomorrow or next week. The flesh is weak. We can never be free from sin while we are in this flesh. Oh we try, but we cannot succeed and only continue to struggle. God sees what we cannot see and He will judge the hearts of men and women. If He looks at us and sees the blood of Jesus covering that sin, then we are forgiven. That promise is to all and not ours to withhold, or put conditions on.

          • Drew

            100% false that we are not set free from sin.

          • questioning

            Never said we are not “set” free, I said we cannot “be” free while we inhabit this flesh, physically or mentally. That’s the point. If we could be free, we would not need the blood, but I know you know this. It’s just gaps in communication and understanding.

          • Drew

            This is a lengthy theological discussion that will probably not be resolved due to lack of time and either your poor theological understanding or difference in theology.

            I am well aware of sola fide, but it needs to be put in full context. Once you believe and confess, you are justified. Then the Holy Spirit dwells within you. Then you are no longer a slave to sin but a slave to Christ. You become sanctified, you produce works that God has set out for you from the beginning of time, you bear fruit.

            How do we know someone is saved; how do we know someone really believes? It is because their life follows this pattern. If they bear no fruit, if they are unrepentant sinners, if they do not live like they believe, there is at least a chance that they never really believed in the first place.

            Unrepentant sin does not jive with bearing fruit and desiring God and becoming sanctified and being set free from slavery to sin. It just doesn’t, not matter what way you cut it.

            That is my point.

          • Questioning

            Insults aside, WE don’t know, ever… if someone is saved. Only God knows. What if we see a life bearing fruit, for years, decades, and all of a sudden we learn that person has been living a hidden alternative lifestyle all that time. Need some examples? They are not hard to find. Now according to your definition this should not be possible. They were bearing fruit so they must be saved, but wait they were also unrepentant sinners. And who decides who is bearing fruit and what it looks like. Again that’s not always our call to make. We can look for the fruits of the spirit in a persons’ life, but beyond that, many people, rightfully and biblically, prefer to serve humbly out of the limelight. If we see no fruit, it does not mean it’s not there. Unrepentant sin will lead to conflict in the heart and life of a bona fide Christian, but the two things are not mutually exclusive. Finally, we should not be in the business of trying to decide who is saved and who isn’t. What if we’re wrong?

          • Drew

            This is where reading carefully comes into play. I never said we knew. All I said is that unrepentant sin is dangerous territory. You seem to think it’s not that big of a deal. That’s why I said you either have poor theology or very liberal theology.

            Maybe you just have poor theology. In that case, you need to read Romans 6:1-14 a few times and really soak it in and contemplate it. Read it, study it, pray on it, and then get back to me.

            Or maybe you subscribe to liberal theology. In that case, read Matthew 7:14 and Matthew 7:21 Not only is the gate narrow, but the path is narrow too. Not everyone who says they believe will be in heaven. This is completely lost on this generation, especially among liberals, who believe the gate is wide, the path is wide, that everyone will be in heaven, that sin isn’t that big of a deal as long as we fight for at least one social cause.

            Jesus did not say this to condemn people but to save people. That is the attitude I have, Questioning. I’m not saying unrepentant sin is dangerous because I want people to go to Hell or I think they will go to Hell. I have no idea. I just know that unrepentant sin in particular is dangerous and I don’t want anyone to take the chance and think that Jesus will look the other way and say it was okay.

          • Questioning

            I understand your interpretation of Romans 6 and I do not disagree, but let’s circle back to the blog. Here’s a leader of a widely recognized gay therapy organization saying that the therapy does not work. Most psychologists agree. The success rates are abysmal and no one can agree on what they really are. These are not alcoholics and drug addicts, but Christians desperately trying to “set themselves free” from what they have been told are sinful desires and relationships. There is something different going on here.

            We are foolish even debating the topic, because we have no real point of reference. Until the day you or I choose to turn homosexual we might as well be clanging gongs, but consider this world: I love my wife. I don’t question why I was attracted to her, I just know I was. She is my companion and truly my better half. We are true and devoted to each other. Now let’s say I become a Christian and all of a sudden my “loving” brethren start telling me I am living in sin and that I need to repent and turn away from my wife. Why I say? Because it says so here in the book. Where I say? Here, here and here. But isn’t this a translation I say? What if the translation is flawed somehow I say? Are you sure that’s what it says? Oh yes…. How can this be true I say? I love my wife. How can that be wrong? I am going to look into this I say. It’s very simple how we got where we are. Course none of this will make sense if you believe homosexuality is some kind of conscious choice.
            Now tell me true, assuming you are married, what would you do? Try to imagine yourself in that position. And don’t tell me marriage has anything to do with being true and being in love. It’s evidence of it, or should be, but not a requirement. You see we were made to love and be loved. We were not made to be alone… God’s word even says this. I know what I would do and I bet it’s what you would do to. Hopefully you would continue “living in sin” and continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You also might possibly just give up on it, or at least the church, altogether.
            All this straining over scripture and interpretation always leaves out one thing. What only God can see in the heart. As far as the narrow way, how is standing up for the rights, the feelings, the protection of the marginalized, the oppressed, the bullied, the despised and hated not walking the narrow way.

          • Drew

            You make a great argument based on raw emotion, and I understand where atheists and secularists are coming from when they make arguments based on raw emotion. However, as Christians, we live according to God’s Word in the Bible, and not on our own raw emotions and lusts. Imagine if everyone just made arguments based on “this is what I feel, like, desire, want, love.”

            People like to think homosexuality is the only tough teaching in the Bible, but it is absolutely not. There are lots of tough teachings in the Bible. Jesus told the rich man to sell all his possessions and follow him and made the man cry.

            Homosexuality can be a conscious choice, but most often it is not. However, the decision to have sex is a conscious choice.

            You think the “narrow” way is social justice Jesus, and I don’t blame you – that’s what liberal Churches preach every Sunday. However, that is only a part of Jesus, and that was not even his primary mission or our primary mission.

          • Questioning

            The comments are more than emotional, their reality for homosexuals wanting to enter most churches. I noticed you did not answer my question. This is the decision the church is asking homosexuals to make. Again, could you make that decision? Is this the way we would describe our marriages…. raw emotions and lust? Jesus also said “all things are possible with God” after his discussion with the rich man.
            Your comments further marginalize gay people. Do you really think it’s just about sex? I am talking about a monogamous, loving, caring relationship between two people who are quietly going about the business of life, not the hootchie kootchies from both the hetero and homos sides the media likes to plaster in our faces. “Homosexuality can be a conscious choice?” Are you serious? How do you know this? Did you decide to go that way for a while? That’s the only way that comment has any validity at all. How many liberal churches have you attended? I’ve never been in one and I have no idea what these “liberals” are saying and who, exactly, is social justice Jesus? Apparently you know more about me than I know myself. Sorry, but sometimes your arrogance is astounding. Remember, throughout history, Christians just as convinced as you of their righteous correctness, have rationalized slavery, war, genocide, and all manner of hate.
            Telling homosexuals, we accept you but not your lifestyle, is the same thing as telling them they are not welcome in our churches. Oh you can come in, but you can never be part of the club. If that is what you and your tribe see as love and makes you comfortable then you will remain comfortable, because you won’t be seeing them darken your church door. Look at it this way… Why aren’t we having this discussion about prostitutes? Why aren’t they clamoring to come into our churches and have us accept their lifestyle? Because they did make a choice to do what they do and they know it is wrong. Again, and let me emphasize, homosexuality is not a choice. I think many homosexuals are desparately looking for answers, looking for validation that they have worth, many are looking to the church which can only mean that God is drawing them. What is our response? Go away we don’t want you…. You say they are inviting judgment by their lifestyle, I say we are by the way we treat them. In which response do you see your Jesus?

          • Drew

            This is where reading carefully comes into play. I never said we knew. All I said is that unrepentant sin is dangerous territory. You seem to think it’s not that big of a deal. That’s why I said you either have poor theology or very liberal theology.

            Maybe you just have poor theology. In that case, you need to read Romans 6:1-14 a few times and really soak it in and contemplate it. Read it, study it, pray on it, and then get back to me.

            Or maybe you subscribe to liberal theology. In that case, read Matthew 7:14 and Matthew 7:21 Not only is the gate narrow, but the path is narrow too. Not everyone who says they believe will be in heaven. This is completely lost on this generation, especially among liberals, who believe the gate is wide, the path is wide, that everyone will be in heaven, that sin isn’t that big of a deal as long as we fight for at least one social cause.

            Jesus did not say this to condemn people but to save people. That is the attitude I have, Questioning. I’m not saying unrepentant sin is dangerous because I want people to go to Hell or I think they will go to Hell. I have no idea. I just know that unrepentant sin in particular is dangerous and I don’t want anyone to take the chance and think that Jesus will look the other way and say it was okay.

          • DrewTwo

            This is so right on.

          • Questioning

            This is a chicken / egg argument I think. If the church truly loved and treated homosexual sinners the way it does other sinners there would be no need for this claim or all the rancor it entails, from the perspective of the church. I understand there are other reasons as well. Many homosexuals hate themselves, for various reasons. Some because of their orientation. Some because their family has turned against them. All have experienced bullying, discrimination and marginalization. If one has never experienced this, it’s impossible to imagine what it does or how it affects. Naturally, they want to be able to reconcile that their orientation does nothing to diminish their self-worth and it shouldn’t. However, with most of the world telling them they are sub-human and despicable, and with the very people who should be stepping up and telling them they are loved children of God, telling them they are the blackest of sinners, it’s only natural that they fight back. Which came first? I have a suspicion, but it does not matter. The church should move first.

          • Drew

            We follow some Levitical law and we do not follow some Levitical law – why is this? Non-Christians and some liberal Christians think this is because we are raging hypocrites. The reason why we follow some and do not follow others, however, is because some of the laws were specific to Israel and some laws were transcendent moral laws meant for all times and all peoples. Leviticus 18, the entire chapter, is fairly clear on this point. In fact, we can even identify who is serious about the Bible and who is a clown by whether or not they bring up shellfish and fabric into the homosexuality debate. If they bring it up as a valid reason to approve of homosexuality, they don’t have a clue.

          • tarl_hutch

            You ruined my next argument and now I have to change my shirt. Ha.

            Seriously though, thank you guys for homing in on that point and taking it more in depth. As I am not as fluent on the levitical laws, too much time in the NT, I am curious how we know some are specifically for Israel and some are transcendent? I don’t think we are hypocritical in regards to these laws, just that many do not apply with the sacrifice and transformation provided by Jesus. Or at least, we are not slaves to this law.

            How did the church come to such a bitter divide over half a dozen verses and how to treat people? How did we turn against each other, while both fighting for what is “right”? I know you will include liberal secularism in the answer, but could there be more to it?

          • Drew

            I have heard it explained to me and have read about it but am not sure if I could accurately explain it to you.

            I think Michael’s link to Paul’s blog (I think I have that right) is very informative. Liberals see this as a fundamental “justice” issue while conservatives see this as a fundamental “gospel” issue. Liberals read the Bible differently (more loosely) and their interpretation leads them to this, while conservatives read the Bible differently and their interpretation leads them to this.

          • tarl_hutch

            That’s the tough part about the whole thing, one side is thinking on a more human/emotional level and the other from a tradition/theoretical view. This is a generalization of course, as both sides have a bit of both, but there must be a way to find a middle ground. That is the big idea, and what I think the article is about, what if the church doesn’t fully affirm homosexuality as fine, but it then too doesn’t concern itself with crusading against it. Or as Micheal said, a grace that still includes those who think differently about the issue. Do yoi think there could be a middle ground, or is it one way or no way?

          • Drew

            Ask Ric if there is a middle ground.

            If this fight was about rights, it would be over already over and the LGBT community would win and I would be happy. However, this fight is not about rights. It is about 100% acceptance, affirmation, and celebration. I’ve been told many times that a civil union is unacceptable, even if it has the same exact rights as marriage, because the word itself is different.

            What will happen is that people will begin to reorganize – conservatives will leave liberal Churches and liberals will leave conservative Churches, and both sides will become entrenched.

          • tarl_hutch

            I hope that doesn’t happen, but you are probably right. I for one can tell you it is difficult to try and be a bridge builder and a peacemaker. As you can see, I get flak from both sides, because I am trying to advocate a muddle way. This is where I hope the grace and peace of Jesus can heal the divide. I think most of us are more in the middle then we realize. We have been taught that it has to be “this” or “that”, that there is no middle ground and compromise is a dirty word, but to go forward without tearing the church apart, we must find some common ground to work from.

            We need to find a way to recognise, love, and respect those who are gay, while leaving room for some theogical diversity. I am still a proponent for welcoming and to a certain level affirming gay folk, while preaching Christ and allowing him to convict and change if that is what he indeed wishes to do. When we make such a huge deal about it we create unnecessary division and attempt to do Christ’s work ourselves, while sometimes ignoring other issues that need the work of the church. There is still room to figure out how to accomplish this, but if we just fall back on the party lines we Damn ourselves.

          • Questioning

            Tarl, your slip of the typing finger was pure serendipity. The “muddle” way. LOL!

          • tarl_hutch

            Haha…the lord works in mysterious ways.

          • tarl_hutch

            Haha…the lord works in mysterious ways.

      • Frank

        What makes you think its not? And I have studied quite extensively all the arguments and they amount to wordplay, obfuscation and secular reasoning.

        • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

          @df1bf231f3a0372ba589a7d61e067f2e:disqus two quotes in the article from paul burkhart. i’m interested in how these relate to this current discussion ::

          the first –

          ‘Life is much more complicated than those simplistic categories of “willful”, “deliberate” and “persistent” (and “sin,” frankly).What do you do with pastors that are irresponsible in their preaching and “pastoring,” and even in light of SO many other believers telling them they are wrong, disobedient, harmful, and sinfully relating to their people, they “willfully persist” in that? What about all of us Christians that “willfully persist” in driving even 5 mph above the speed limit?’and the second –

          Long-story-short, the church’s primary biblically-revealed task when it comes to its corporate sexual life, talk and behavior should be marked by cultivating healthy heterosexual marriages and communities embracing celibate individuals, more than about cultivating antagonism against alternative sexual expressions.

          this does not amount to the conservative fear of ‘being soft on sin.’ in my opinion, the sin we’ve been too soft on is the rejection of grace in this conversation.
          when *anyone* feels unwelcome in a church, i have to question whether or not we’re acting like christ. it seems to me that the people who were most uncomfortable with jesus were the religious leaders of his day. the ‘sinners’ seemed to actually like the guy.

          i wonder what would happen if we were as predictably gracious in our conversation as jesus was.

          • Frank


            the church’s primary biblically-revealed task when it comes to its corporate sexual life, talk and behavior should be marked by cultivating healthy heterosexual marriages and communities embracing celibate individuals, more than about cultivating antagonism against alternative sexual expressions.”

            I agree completely with this!

            From my experience it is always the gay Christians who refuse to not be accepted fully and affirmed in their relationship, not the church rejecting them.

          • Frank

            That last paragraph is worded poorly. What I meant to say is from my experience it is not the church that rejects gay Chrsitians it is they who reject the church that does not fully and affirm their homosexual relationship.

          • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

            thanks, frank. are you open to the possibility that your experience (as a heterosexual male) is not necessarily the experience of others?

            for me, that shift has tremendously impacted my posture in this conversation. as i realize more and more the position of privilege i have (as a white, middle class, heterosexual male) in this conversation, i am continually made aware of the necessity of being willing to listen in compassionate humility as i validate the experiences of others who may have a different perspective on ‘the way things are.’

            the more gay friends i have, the more i realize the ways in which the church has been hurtful – sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally – and am made aware of the need to elevate our conversation.

          • Frank

            Michael I never assume my life experience is exactly like everyone elses however humanity has a commonality. We all struggle in some way sexually and with sin. So I don’t think that saying that “other people have different experiences so we are unable or should not speak truth about their lives” is valid.

            Gay people are no different than any other person. As humans we all struggle in basically the same ways, the circumstances may differ but at the heart its is exactly the same.

            I also have known and loved gay people for most of my life. I have gay family members. So its not that I haven’t heard their stories or do not have a great deal of compassion for them. I have and I do. And its because I indeed do love them that I want what God wants for them and homosexual behavior is not it. No amount of conversation is going to change that eternal truth.

            Now I agree that “the church” has, more often than not, treated gay people poorly but the answer is not to deny Gods word to make them feel better, the answer is to treat them just like every other sinner is treated.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

    As long as an entire people are subjugated and oppressed simply for being different, the struggle, the fight, and the gloves are all on. Some days those fighting for *these people* (not *this issue*) will look very unchristlike and others days extremely Christlike.

    As LRC’s comment below points out, worrying about whether everyone is behaving Christianly enough is no where on my list of concerns while people are still being treated as second-class citizens and even sub-human.

    Regarding your list of injustices that we should be more concerned with, I could provide a list of equally tragic anti-gay crimes and injustices. Equating the systematic subjugation of the LGBT community over the centuries to theological musings on hell is simple another way to de-humanize their pain into merely an issue.

    • tarl_hutch

      Hey Ric,

      As you know from my other posts here, I am with you on my intent to change people’s opinions about the LGBT community, but I think you may be getting up in arms for the wrong reason here. My understanding of what Michael is trying to get at is the overly confrontational approach many on both sides have been taking and the overall focus strictly on the theological aspects of this debate.

      One thing I have noticed, as I am sure you notice too, is the intense reaction and anger that erupts whenever anyone begins talking about this. The problem being that arguing will not solve anything. You may not see Christ in conservatives, but like it or not he is there too. Neither side has the market cornered on Jesus. We may not like the things they say or see Christ in some of their actions, but they say the same about us. This can only be solved by building relationships, by meaningful conversation and living life together. Does this mean we abandon those who are being oppressed? No, but it does mean we don’t turn into oppressors ourselves.

      I think that is the point of this article, doing this the right way, the way of Jesus. Standing up for others, but not by beating back the other side, instead by showing them another way is possible. Building these bridges are the only way to show those who are oppressive the humanity and indwelling God of the oppressed.

      Sorry for the short response, will respond more later if neccesary. Thank you for your Passion and continued fight, but maybe we need to change tactics, and Do more building and less tearing down.

      • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

        well said.

      • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

        Tarl,

        We certainly to not want to become oppressors ourselves. However, as the minority, we are a long way from being in an oppressive position (oppressive minority is an oxymoron).

        Fighting for justice is usually difficult and messy. I seem to recall some of the names on the contributors list to the left being at odds with the mainstream church, going to court, being detained and/or arrested, etc. Not exactly coffee and donuts in the fellowship hall type of disagreements. Why would this social justice issue be any different?

        • http://bytheirstrangefruit.com StrngeFruit

          Just to be clear, oppression comes from influence, not necessarily larger numbers. Though the two often coincide, there are many instances in which minority groups with power/influence oppress members of the majority population. Apartheid South Africa is an obvious example. Just saying…

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

            Good point. Oppressive marginalized-group is an oxymoron.

        • tarl_hutch

          Civil protest is fine, that is completely different than arguing with another person. That is showing another way and standing for your beliefs with your life. This can be done without belittling and disregarding those who disagree with us. While Jesus did confront the beliefs of others, sometimes more nicely than others, he still attempted to change minds through discourse and non violent protest. I am with you, that something needs to change, but I think we can do this cooperatively, as opposed to forcing others to change to our beliefs.

          In regards to oppressors and the oppressed, it is only natural to fight oppression, but far to often after victory the oppressed become the oppressors. This is what we should avoid, as the end does not always justify the means. Sorry for the cliche, but it fits. Do you think that is even possible? How can we get there?

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

            The discourse, as far as my input is concerned, is extremely measured already. I do call a spade a spade, speaking of cliches. I don’t think online discussions or even arguments are necessarily bad.

            If people are offended by reading measured words on a screen and feel they are being “forced to change”, my advice to them is grow a little thicker skin. LGBT people have had to weather a LOT worse than measured criticism. And, unfortunately, still must do so…

            And it is kind of, well … ridiculous to imagine that the LGBT community might take over and begin oppressing the heterosexual community.

            I’m not sure what you’re asking at the end of your comment. Is what possible?

          • tarl_hutch

            Sorry my brain skipped my fingers. I don’t quite remember what I was getting at, possibly if we can find a way to work together, libs and conservatives and all inbetween, to come to a solution that recognizes any wrongs that have been committed and stays true to offering grace for all.

            But now I am more interested in your ideas of how the church should right its wrongs and how to get there? I know this is but an online comment section, but I am very interested to hear your thoughts on how to accomplish this and what it would look like.

            Oh, I was not meaning that the LGBT community would oppress the “straight” community, more like liberal christians lording over more conservative Christians if the tide turns. Obviously, homophobia should not be tolerated, just as racism is scorned, but my hope is that we can manage to work together with all sects to find a God inspired solution.

          • tarl_hutch

            And of course I am referring to the actual debate between people and churches, not specifically online. I agree people should not be quite as sensitive, but neither should we let our relative anonymity encourage unnecessarily outrageous statements.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

            It’s impossible for me to imagine giving up this fight as long as there are key church leaders subscribing to a theology that condemnes an entire group of people to hell.

          • tarl_hutch

            I am in no way suggesting that we should give up, but instead should attempt to forge a better way even with those who currently disagree. It helps to remember that most Christians against homosexuality are doing so because of a desire to stay true to the message of God as they see it. Sure, some are motivated by politics or homophobia, but most truly believe that they must object to be true to God. This is why overly impassioned, overly confrontational argument gets us no where.

            Think about it, do you think any angry protest or divisive argument has really done anything to change someones mind? Typically, it only serves to put someone on the defensive and entrench their beliefs further. I am not saying for sure, that my way works any better, it is very difficult to change a persons mind, but it serves to plant a seed. If we actually work together and remain humble and loving, just maybe we can inspire change. We must display the fruits of the spirit to call our Christian family forward. Keep fighting, but be aware that we stop must act as Jesus and show that a better wau is possible.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

            Tarl, I come from the conservative, homosexuality-is-a-sin background. I have many Christians friends who remain intrenched in that theology. I no longer respect that belief. I’ve repented for my part in tolerating and advancing such harmful and sinful theology. I know all too well what I’m up against.

            I don’t know how to change anyone’s mind. I suspect the Holy Spirit will have to intervene as he has done with me. I am interested only in moving the hate that has grown from the bad roots at the center of our mainstream faith off to the margins. Those who cling to that flawed theology will feel uncomfortable with this and will no doubt express their discomfort in various ways, some Christlike some not so much.

          • tarl_hutch

            I feel you there, Ric. I too came from a similar background and it is hard for me to hang around many of the people I used to be friends with, not because they are bad people, but because our views are so different they look at me differently. In fact, I have had some of the worst arguments with my parents on this very issue. I live in NC and the amendment 1 debacle brought out the worst in a lot of people. That said, i stuck to my beliefs while trying to respectfully discourse with those around me. Some people softened their views and some fought me with every weapon they could think of, heresy being the word of choice. But I am commited to building brings and planting seeds, that as you say, only God can grow.

            I am still interested in what this fight looks like to you and what you think should be done to solve it? What does it look like to marginalize those who hold to the “gay=sin” view? What about those inbetween, what happens with them? Curious about your thoughts and want to see what solutions you might offer. Thanks, Ric.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

            I’m not interested in marginalizing people. I only want to marginalize a belief. If people choose to cling to that belief and ride it to the margin, they do so by choice. WBC is a great modern-day example of this. The KKK is another. There ideas/beliefs are not mainstream.

          • tarl_hutch

            Gotta agree with you there, my friend, but how do we get there?

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

            Leaning in. Of course, this will be seen as keeping up the fight. Change is necessarily confrontational. Women did not gain the right to vote by being quiet, submissive housewives. And the Civil Rights Act was not passed by African-Americans quietly going to the back of the bus after calmly reviewing the theological errors with the privileged, white patron.

            We were handed this flawed theology from past generations. We are not the first generation of the church that has had to deal with the problem of clinging to our father’s theology or expend the extra-energy to learn for ourselves where we’ve got it all wrong. Before Luther and since, generations have discovered that their previous generations had it all wrong in many different areas.

            As in the past, people are suffering and in many cases, dying, as a result of flawed theology. If dialog (the good, bad, and ugly) about this latest theological flaw makes some people uncomfortable, they need to realize that they are merely feeling uncomfortable, which (should go without saying) is not our biggest problem here.

          • tarl_hutch

            Beautifully put, my friend. We are ever growing and ever changing as the spirit leads us. But I think you are missing me a bit here. I am curious as to what actions you think we should take to bring about change? If debate is the answer, you are just saying what I am saying, so there must be some other action you want us to take. Can you flesh it out for me if you have some odeas? I am interested to hear some suggestions to add/compare with my own.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

            I don’t know what *we* (collectively?) should do. I know what I am doing.

            I need to keep the dialog going, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem. So, debate might be the word but in my mind, there is nothing to debate really.

            I need to stop financially supporting any church or ministry that subscribes to a flawed theology that subjugates a people simply for being different.

            I need to support ministries that make it a point to actively, consciously, and unashamedly reach out to and stand with all the marginalized.

          • tarl_hutch

            Good plan so far. How have the conversations and “debates” been going so far? Any headway or pretty firm entrenchment?

            I definitely agree we should only consciously support ministries interested in furthering growth and love.

            I am getting from you that much of the problem stems from ignorance and holding to outdated beliefs, is education then, the big issue and how we should focus for change?

            Is there any form of compromise you would be willing to make, or is it one way it no way?

            Sorry for all the questions, trying to keep the conversation going.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric

            Most conversations end with someone pledging to pray for me.

            Education is obviously key in my mind. Experience is a good teacher … maybe start by having dinner with an outcast

            No attempt at compromise that maintains homosexuality-is-a-sin or the even more ridiculous, homosexual-behavior-is-a-sin is worthy of my time. If there is a compromise that maintains we do not know, I *might* give that one some time.

          • tarl_hutch

            Haha…yeah, I have quite a few people praying for me as well. Which I guess is a good thing.

            I too, believe it is vital to actually befriend and talk to gay folk. Through hearing their stories we see their humanity, if we didn’t already, and see where the church has failed them. Though I know for many peooke, the personal and subjective does not overcome their desire to be true to their understanding of the bible. At the very least, I would hope we can become open and affirming of the Christ we see in others. I am not sure how best to find the way forward, but will keep pressing on and working with all believers to solve this issue. Thanks for your suggestions and voice.

          • Frank

            Neither is sinless homosexual behavior. The people who seem to be riding a belief to the margin are those denying Gods Word over sexuality and marriage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kvestal Kathy Vestal

    Chambers’ resignation would not fix this. Anyone with Google or YouTube can see that Exodus leaders, past and present, with the same message, are everywhere and have speaking out for a long time.

  • W. Sansing

    for me, these “fights” grew old long ago…at the risk of self promotion, I wrote about Bell before –
    http://thefaithlab.info/?s=sansing

  • Heidi Fischer

    Thank-you for this post. Yes, the fight is very old and I’m over it. At least I want to be. I love LGBT people, God loves LGBT people. Let’s move forward.

  • keith

    The fight has just begun. The more progressive christians give in and push for acceptance, the more they wake up the ones who usually would rather just ignore the issue. No more sitting on the fence as you force the conservatives to fight for what they believe in. Why would Jesus even bother to talk about sin if it didnt matter?? Do you really think he would just say “OK, lets just forget that one and just discuss love” To do that would suggest that Jesus died for NOTHING. Hell has no meaning. Why not just tell everyone that “hey, just live like you want because no one can cast the first stone” If that were true then Jesus would have told the woman at the well to go and sin as much as you want…because every body sins. It does matter and when asked should be addressed, One thing is an absolute….YOU CAN NOT LIVE IN SIN AND WALK WITH GOD. I would be very careful trying to corrupt the word and message of our Lord. I believe that you will be held accountable for misleading people in the name of Jesus. See you at the fence, but I wont be riding it :)

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