Friday, October 19, 2007

    Is the Church Anti-Gay?

    Yes, according to young people recently surveyed by the Barna Group. Reflecting on the study, the Religion News Service reports:

    Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay. What's more, many Christians don't even want to call themselves "Christian" because of the baggage that accompanies the label.
    The study also reports that an increasing number of young adults have concluded that modern-day Christianity is decidedly un-Jesus-like:
    "It started to become more clear to us that what they're experiencing related to Christianity is some of the very things that Jesus warned religious people about," [the researcher reported]. "Which is, avoiding removing the log from your own eye before trying to take the speck out of someone else's."
    I heard Jim Wallis speaking on the CBS News last night as part of a report about how the Republican party is losing religious conservatives. Wallis pointed out that many evangelical Christians are no longer two issue voters (e.g. abortion and gay marriage). They have turned their focus to such issues as Darfur, poverty, global warming, the war, and other justice issues. Perhaps this is the light at the end of the tunnel for a Church that seems locked in a medieval attitude about sexual orientation. Perhaps the day is coming when we'll stop fighting over issues that divide us and instead focus on the issues that we can work on together as part of God's mission in the world.
    Frankly, I think we are seeing the last vestiges of the Church's fixation on sexual orientation, at least in this country. The young people of today have a decidedly different attitude on this issue than the older generations and the passage of time will eventually see, I believe, the Church turning its energies from quarreling over who can marry whom, and back to things that really matter. Or am I being overly optimistic?
    --Brian

    16 comments:

    BenTing said...

    Truth doesn't change with time nor follow the latest cultural value.

    Homosexuality and same-sex marriage are simply wrong. Bible is crystal clear on that.

    However, I guess the media has casted the handling of the homosexuality in a less than truthful way. Thus, creating all sorts of erroneous misconception.

    The attitude of a church should always welcome the homosexuals or any sinners for that matter - and begin the process of healing & transformation through the preaching & ministering of the Word of God in love.

    Only when a homosexual receives truth & is ministered by the power of the Holy Spirit through the love of the church - will he be set free.

    But, should a homosexual shows no sign of repentance despite receiving much teaching & counseling. Only then shall the church consider the option to "let him go". And he won't be part of the church any longer until such a time when he repented.

    It is not about focusing on the "divisive issues". It is about truth. And I am sure the worldly media never consider the much behind the scene "healing process with love & truth" by many churches.

    If we, the Church, do not stand up for truth, who will? Are we not the salt of the earth?

    Brian said...

    Benting, I think your post illustrates the challenge we face. You assert that the Bible is "crystal clear" on the issue of homosexuality. I would just as faithfully assert that my study of scripture demonstrates that the Bible in fact says nothing about homosexuality. It is not that I ignore the texts you might point to or say that they don't apply anymore. Rather I would assert that any attempt to apply those texts to what we call homosexuality is a complete misunderstanding of their intent. And many other faithful and honest Christians would simply disagree 100% with your bibical interpretation. So where does that leave us? We are absolutely wrong and you are absolutely right, or vice versa? Is there not a degree of hubris in both of us assuming that we absolutely know what the faithful response to this issue should be? And while we fight it out, young Christians are leaving the church in droves.

    St. Brianstine said...

    The church should be anti-gay....is this post serious?

    Len said...

    to rephrase an old standby, shouldn't we be pro-sinner and anti-sin?

    To Teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness are still words we should use regarding beliefs and behavior.

    We have standards on sin and it's all sin, not just homosexuality that we should be against.

    If the young people suddenly overwhelmingly believed that Jesus was one of many ways to salvation, it wouldn't change that Jesus said he was the only way to the Father.

    Brian said...

    THanks to everyone for contributing to this conversation.

    It's always hard to "read" the inflection of posts on the net, but it feels like we are talking past each other. Should the church be anti-gay? The people of the church I serve would say definitively "No!" These are faithful Christians just as much as those who say the answer is "Yes."

    At the core of the issue here is how we read the biblical texts and what we understand those texts to be. Some in Christendom insist there is only one way to read the texts (and conincidentally, it happens to be the way THEY read the texts). Others would say the texts are open to a variety of understandings and everyone's understanding is always limited by their own particular location in time/history/ethnic group/economic status/upbringing/psychological makeup etc. This is where I think we start talking past each other: on one side are the folks insisting the meaning of the texts are obvious and clear. On the other side are those who say our understanding of these texts will always be filtered through our own cultural lenses and thus no one interpretation can be definitive. Can these two groups talk to each other and actually listen to one another? I'm not so sure.

    shay said...

    i just discovered your blog. man, where were you folks when i was a youth pastor? i sure wish i would have had you all to talk to. thanks for the good work you're doing. keep the faith.

    BenTing said...

    and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
    (Rom 1:27)

    I wonder how many interpretation one can make out of the verse above?

    Brian. U are a Pastor. And as such, u have much responsibility to guard ur flock against wrong teachings and erroneous doctrines. May u not be numbered among those below:

    and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
    (Rom 1:32)

    For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
    (Jud 1:4)

    Young ones are leaving the church in droves cuz they are hungry for the truth but may be the church didn't feed them with the solid biblical teachings? But I am happy to report churches in Asia are booming. Droves, young & old, are coming to churches to worship the Lord and to receive biblically sound teachings.

    Seek the answer from Jesus, Brian. Don't seek it from the world.

    St. Brianstine said...

    amen Benting! Well put.

    Brian said...

    Shay, thanks for the kind words.

    Benting, I appreciate your willingness to enter into dialogue on this issue. However, in my opinion, the hermeneutic challenge here is simply too great to be dealt with through postings on a blog. Case in point: You ask how many interpretations there could be of Romans 1: 27. My answer is that it depends on such factors as who wrote the text, who were they writing it to, when was it written, what was the cultural/historical setting of the writer, what was the intent of those who included this text in the canon of scripture, and how do our 21st century "lenses" color the way we read the text? Each of these variables can produce a different reading of the text.

    I realize there are Christians who read that text and conclude "It says what it says." I stand here as a faithful Christian who says "It's much more complicated than that for me." And part of the complication is that in all the biblical citations you offer, none come from the gospels and none are attributed to Jesus. What are we to make of that?

    Jesus is depicted in scripture as dealing with people -- with intimate human need. When the Church stops dealing with the "issue" of homosexuality and instead starts relating with compassion to persons who happen to be "gay" as part of their identity, when the Church starts focusing on mercy over judgment, I think we might be one step closer to the kingdom.

    In the end, I think it's likely that we may have to admit to ourselves that while we both follow a belief system called Christianity, we may be in fact practicing two different religions.

    Dan said...

    Brian,

    There are some people you just can't talk to. They know all the answers, even the ones the Bible doesn't.

    Don't worry.

    You are not "numbered among those below."

    BenTing said...

    Brian. U sure u are a pastor? From a church built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ?

    I have serious doubts based on ur replies. I mean how many true man of God doesn't know Paul's epistles are Holy Spirit inspired???

    Probably u don't believe Jesus came as God incarnated, died, buried & rose on the 3rd day, too? Do u?

    Brian said...

    Well, I think this conversation has started to repeat itself, but it does, I think, illustrate my point that our two understandings of the Christian faith are so fundamentally different that it is as if we are practicing two different religions that happen to have the same name.

    To those who have been reading the back-and-forth of this conversation, my suggestion would be to start back up at the top now and just read it over and over as an endless loop. Peace to all! : )

    Brian said...

    One more thing: Thanks Dan!

    Josh said...

    There are those of us who do not consider the Bible to be THE unique revelation to humanity. I am curious to know which version of the Bible's English translation everyone here is using, as I am not competent in Ancient Hebrew or Greek.

    Jesus did not require that the tax collector stop collecting taxes or the prostitute stop prostituting herself before he would eat with them. His actions seem to say, "love the sinner." Nothing else. That "hate" word, as in "hate the sin," seems to be a poor descriptor for any aspect of Jesus' ministry.

    The church is the people that make it up. How can I love someone, but exclude them based on aspects of who they are? Perhaps, through my love for them, I may want to change some of their behaviors, but I cannot see the church having a role in being "anti-."

    To cast the point in a different light, the church should not support racism, which explicitly denies love to certain individuals, but is required to love the racist. Certainly, renouncing racism would not be required to be welcome at our table. Such is the challenge of Jesus' ministry of love. We are called to be inclusive, not exclusive.

    As an aside, I have visited BenTing's own blogs. Clearly, BenTing is an individual who is very passionate about their faith. I pray that I might be similarly passionate. But, BenTing, you should stay away from statistics.

    Brian said...

    Good points, Josh. They remind me that we do not have a gospel depiction of Jesus saying "Change this about yourself or ascribe to these particular beliefs and then I'll welcome you." It is the welcome itself that is transforming to the lives of people. The Church often forgets this.

    Kwinn said...

    I want to show some inviting scriptures that Jesus did require much of people.
    Matthew 19 16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good[a] Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
    17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good?[b] No one is good but One, that is, God.[c] But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
    18 He said to Him, “Which ones?”
    Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’[d] and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”[e]
    20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth.[f] What do I still lack?”
    21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
    22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

    Why did he go away sorry? I believe, because He couldn’t follow Jesus, because he couldn’t let go of the one thing that was keeping him from following Jesus. I do think Jesus was saying… change this about yourself then come follow me.
    John 8:10-12 (New King James Version)
    10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her,[a] “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?[b] Has no one condemned you?”
    11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
    And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and[c] sin no more.”
    12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
    Go sin no more is a huge inviting but challenging request.
    Luke 9:58-60 (New King James Version)
    58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
    59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”
    But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
    60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
    This guy had not actually died yet, but he was waiting for his father to die so he could inherit all of his fathers belongings, then he would be set and could follow Jesus, and Jesus was saying… who cares about the things you desire… don’t make excuses… you come follow me.
    I’m not sure, but this next scripture looks very inviting… it’s like Jesus was saying die to yourself and live to Me… that is a request.
    Matthew 10:39
    He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

    I’m not putting much dialogue… Brian, I think you know where I stand, but Jesus did love all people and invite all people, but He did require much. Many parables Jesus spoke talked about counting the cost. He did ask his followers to deny themselves take up their cross and follow him. He did tell the rich man if he would sell all he had, the one thing keeping him back from following Jesus, that he would have true treasure in heaven. I agree with you guys about inviting and loving all kinds of people no matter their spiritual or sinful state. I do believe you can do that and not compromise the truth though, and we have the best example of that in Jesus Christ. He never watered down or compromised the truth. He did however go off on the Pharisees, but that was because they thought they were perfect. Anyone who is a Christian fully understands they aren’t perfect or they would have no need for a Savior. God doesn’t save people who think they aren’t sick. A doctor can’t help a patient who thinks nothing is wrong. What is wrong… sin… separation from God… whats the answer… Jesus! Some how we have to get to the point of saying, we are sinners and we need a Savior. That will never happen if we totally ignore sin. I love… I mean love, when I do something wrong and a brother or sister in Christ correct me. All through proverbs it say’s a wise man loves correction. Why? 1 John 1:9 (New International Version)
    1 John 1:9 below
    9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
    Now, there is a way to correct someone or lovingly show them their error. I love my daughter, so I correct her in a loving way. Hebrews says God chastens those he loves. That sounds like if you don’t correct your brother than you don’t really love him.
    Check out Jude chapter 1 as far as hating sins and telling people the truth.
    22 And you must show mercy to[h] those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others,[i] but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.[j]
    Are we not supposed to hate sins? We know we are loving our brothers and sisters if we correct them, now we have to decide what is sin. We love all people no matter the sin, but how do we find out what is sin or not? You all guessed it… the Bible.