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Saturday, July 4, 2015

40 Answers about Rainbow Flags

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Kevin DeYoung has an article at The Gospel Coalition called 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. I do not have a rainbow flag, but I guess I am going to answer.
If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.
Wait... you're writing these questions because you think pro-marriage-equality Christians haven't thought about "what the bible says" before? Ai ya. The intention of the questions is for me to realize how completely baseless and wrong my perspective is?

You know what, it doesn't matter. I'm not answering because of Kevin DeYoung- his position as a writer and pastor at The Gospel Coalition is 100% dependent on his continuing to assert, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that it's impossible to be a Christian who loves the bible and supports LGBT rights.

Instead, I'm writing this for Christians who are actually willing to listen. Maybe you're like me a few years ago. You really love God, love the bible, love people, and it just tears you up how everyone seems to think Christians are being all "homophobic" and "hateful" just because you can't agree with that lifestyle.

Here are his questions, in bold, followed by my answers:

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated? 

I think maybe since 2012?

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind? 

The biggest thing that led to me changing my mind was this argument from Justin Lee at the Gay Christian Network. (I also recommend you read his book, Torn.) As far as bible verses go, he cites the 6 clobber passages and explains why they were not referring to committed, consensual, same-sex partnerships. But the main point of his argument is Romans 13:8-10, which says this:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not covet," and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
In other words, we don't have to hunt around for specific meanings of obscure Greek words, we don't have to search the bible for rules on a particular topic, we don't have to find a biblical scholar with the most credentials. We can know right and wrong just from this: Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

I guess it's because of this that my definition of "sin" has changed. Before, I thought some action or thought was a "sin" because God said it was, and there must be a reason why God said it was- maybe an obvious reason, or maybe we'll just never know- but really, the reason didn't matter. God said it's a sin, and that's that. (So we have to read the bible with a fine-tooth comb and compile a list of rules, then we have to do a lot of interpretation to figure out which ones still apply to us nowadays, we'll hem and haw over super-theoretical issues of historical context and biblical exegesis for a long time, and in the end we'll end up with a list of absolute commands, which may or may not seem completely arbitrary but hey, that's what God said. Deal with it.)

But now I believe in the definition of sin given in Romans 13. (Hey, if y'all gonna talk about the "definition of marriage given in Genesis 1" when there is no such thing, well, two can play that game.) Sin is treating people (including yourself) in a way that's not loving. Sin is doing something that hurts someone.

Who does same-sex marriage hurt? No one. Who does opposition to same-sex marriage hurt? How about all the LGB children who are taught by the church that they are not good enough and they need to change in order for God to accept them? How about the LGBT kids who are kicked out of their homes and make up 11 to 40% of the youth homeless population? How about the LGB youth who attempt suicide at a rate 4 times higher than their straight peers?

Love does no harm to its neighbor. The bible is clear.

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated? 

See above. 

Okay wait wait, I'm sorry. I don't want to be too snarky here- I actually want to write something that would be meaningful to someone in my position a few years ago. And I just realized that my above statement "Who does same-sex marriage hurt? No one." needs to be explained a little more.

You may be thinking that if one is in a same-sex relationship, one is hurting oneself, because there is no way such a relationship could be healthy.

Let's back up though. Because for me, this is very much tangled up with purity culture. So I need to explain about that.

I'm a woman who is interested in men. And Christian purity culture taught me that my desires are good and God-given, but also INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS and must be subjugated at all costs. Yes, I'm supposed to like men, and then sometime in the distant future- no one knows when, but God has it all planned- I will get married to the one special guy that God has chosen for me, and until then, NOTHING. Until then, I MUST NOT have a crush. I MUST NOT date anyone. I must not feel.

I spent a long time totally terrified of my own attractions. I was sure that I was going to ruin my life by liking a guy "too much". Which is not a euphemism for anything. It actually just means liking a guy too much.

(And I mean, can you imagine what it must be like to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual and grow up in purity culture? Wow. So much worse.)

Anyway, the point is that I imagined all romantic relationships to be horrifying vortexes of destruction, unless the relationship had been specifically okayed by God at its beginning. Within this ideology, the idea of a healthy same-sex romantic relationship was unimaginable.

And thank Jesus I don't believe in that purity culture stuff anymore. I'm not afraid anymore. We don't have to be all freaked out and terrified over our own desires. It's fine. The world's not going to end. You're not going to ruin your life.

People have healthy relationships all the time. Based on things like trust, honesty, and communication. Not based on "did you pray about it REALLY REALLY REALLY hard and worry and worry and worry before even saying anything to the person you liked?"

I promise you, there are LGB people in healthy same-sex relationships. Go do some googling and read about their experiences. And I pray that you will be free from purity culture.

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church? 

What even is this question? Why are complementarian Christians so obsessed with forcing every marriage to "depict Christ and the church"? Who cares?

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship? 

Back when Jesus was on earth, that wasn't really a thing, so I have no idea if he would have "been okay with" it, or what it would have meant in that culture.

But today, in modern American culture? Yeah sure. But Jesus is probably way more concerned about how we're treating those who are poor or oppressed. (There are many issues affecting LGBT people besides marriage equality.)

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman? 

Please show me where the word "marriage" appears in Genesis 1-2 and then we'll talk.

(Unless you're talking about elsewhere in Genesis, where Abraham's wife [ahem, sister] convinced him to sleep with his servant? Or when Jacob married both Rachel and her sister Leah, and also their two servants? Which definition of marriage were you referring to?)

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding? 

Well like I said, I think "sin" means hurting people, so he probably meant using sex in a way that hurts people. Rape, abuse, trying to manipulate someone using sex, you know, that sort of thing.

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful "exchange" Paul highlights in Romans 1? 

Yeah, Romans 1. To be honest, I don't know much about this argument- I recommend you go read Matthew Vines.

I've heard that Romans 1 is about sex in pagan temples, not committed, monogamous relationships. I've heard that Paul's use of terms like "unnatural" is the same as in passages where he says it's "unnatural" for a man to have long hair, so take that with a grain of salt. I've heard that the whole second half of Romans 1 is just a set-up to get Paul's Jewish readers to judge those perverted pagan people, and then Romans 2:1 hits them with "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

All of these points may have some merit, but honestly, the nuances of interpretation of Romans 1 don't really matter to me. As mentioned above, Romans 13 says love is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus said so too. And I believe the best way to love people is to actually listen to them talk about their lives, and believe them when they tell about their own experiences and their own needs. Rather than drawing conclusions about them based solely on my interpretation of a translation of an ancient middle-eastern text.

("I didn't choose to be gay." "Yes you did, it says right here in Romans 1, they abandoned natural relations with women." "..........wut?" This is legitimately the argument that the conservative Christian side expects to be having.)

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven? 

Ai, things that may or may not keep people out of heaven, now that is a very serious subject. I'm not even going to speculate on that. But I will say that sexual immorality is totally a sin and is totally bad, and by "sexual immorality" I mean immorality that also involves sex. Immorality is like lying, stealing, hurting people, etc. It doesn't have a magically different meaning when you attach it to sex.

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to? 

Rape, abuse, human trafficking, child molestation, etc. Like I said, things that hurt people, and also relate to sex.

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp? 

I... wha? Well bravo on your very pointed question. You must be so proud of yourself. But no, I don't think I understand the bible better than other Christians from history. I think what's different is our modern understanding of marriage.

The idea of marrying for romantic reasons is sort of new.  The idea of men and women being equal is sort of new. The idea of even having a sexual orientation is very new. In the past, marriage was, more or less, about a man owning a woman, and it was arranged by the families. In that sort of context, you wouldn't have same-sex marriage because it didn't make any sense- who was supposed to own whom?

But nowadays, people date and choose their own marriage partners, and marriage is generally understood to be an equal partnership. (I'm referring to American culture here.) That's why the issue of same-sex marriage is just coming up now.

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned? 

Well as luck would have it, I live in China. I don't feel the need to go around and argue with Chinese Christians about this though. Why do you?

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman? 

No. I think they just had some mistaken ideas about LGBT people, based on some hateful stereotypes. Stereotypes which conservative Christian organizations are still actively proclaiming.

Lying is a sin, you know.

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father? 

Geez, this whole "children deserve a mother and father" argument has never made any sense to me. Even if it's true that two opposite-sex married parents is the "ideal", so what? Everybody's family has problems. No family is "ideal."

How can you use the gender of the parents as some kind of universal standard, and say nothing about having a loving environment, no abuse, etc etc? Those are the things that children really need.

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion? 

I don't know, go google gay parenting or something. I'm sure they really love their kids. The kids will be fine.

16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad? 

Do you believe children do best in an environment which doesn't tell them something is horribly horribly wrong with them if they are LGBT?

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment? 

Eh? I don't know, I'm not married. Maybe it could be different for each person.

(I know the answer you're looking for though. It's totally about Christ and the church. Or glorifying God. Or showing the gospel by having sex. Am I close?)

18. How would you define marriage? 

When two people love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives building a new life together.

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?

No. Also, why are you asking me? Am I in charge of this?

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people? 

Ai ya. Well some people are poly, which means they want to be in more than one romantic/sexual relationship at a time, and they are honest about it with their partners and everyone is okay with it.

I honestly have no idea how that would work. I am not poly. I am monogamous. To me, it sounds like a terrible idea, but I guess for some people, it works. So, good for them!

So maybe marriage could be for more than two people. Sure. Not for me though.

(I know, now you're going to say I've totally lost track of the bible. No no. Remember what I said about love? Love means listening to people and believing them when they talk about their own personal lives and needs. There are polyamorous people who say this is what works for them, and it doesn't hurt anyone. It's their life- I believe them.)

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married? 

It's not my job to say who can or can't get married.

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license? 

Geez, why all these questions about legal stuff? Yeah there should be an age limit.

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage? 

Not "any meaningful relationship" but if it's a partnership between two consenting adults, then sure that sounds like marriage.

24. If not, why not? 

n/a

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion? 

Well. Hmm. I'm gonna go with no.

See this is a really really tricky thing. There are Christians who believe they are acting in obedience to God by treating LGB people as nothing more than symbols of sin. This is such a tough issue, because I get how those Christians feel. I know what it's like to "stand up for what's right" even when everyone's against you, even when it seems to make no sense- to follow what you believe God is saying, regardless of the evidence, regardless of the results, because that's what faith is, right?

(Note: no, I no longer believe that's what faith is. Or that that's something to be commended.)

The bright side, though, is that those Christians are wrong. We actually don't have to wrestle with the issue with how to be loving while still preaching the gospel because THEY ARE NOT IN OPPOSITION. Christianity is good news, y'all. Do you believe it?

So I guess I want to say I care about those horribly-mistaken anti-LGB Christians, but actually what's more important is caring about the LGB people who are discriminated against, who actually are an oppressed demographic within society. That's who I'll stand up to defend.

In my opinion, there have been cases where somebody's anti-marriage-equality comments get blown way out of proportion, and the media is all over it, and the person ends up losing their job, etc. I don't think that's fair, because I understand where those (sadly mistaken) Christians are coming from. I know what it's like to hold those beliefs and try so hard to word things in a way that doesn't sound hateful.

I blame the conservative Christian organizations who have been pumping out bullshit anti-LGBT propaganda- lies against people made in the image of our God. I'm looking at you, Alliance Defending Freedom. World Magazine. The Gospel Coalition. Focus on the Family. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin. Such things must come, but woe to those through whom they come.

Well we've strayed pretty far from the original question, about anti-LGB Christians who want to "exercise their beliefs." From a rights-of-American-citizens perspective, you should totally be allowed to have whatever religious beliefs you want, as long as they're not hurting other people. (That doesn't mean you have the right to be free from criticism for those beliefs.) From a Christian perspective, ai... I mean, I get it. But I wish they knew they didn't have to live that way.

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue? 

Will you speak up for LGB Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics? 

Yes. And will you acknowledge that LGBT kids get bullied way more than anti-LGBT Christians supposedly do?

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles? 

First comes the destruction of purity culture. I'll get back to you on this after I've finished that.

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline? 

No, I don't think the church should get involved with judging and punishing people for their romantic/sexual choices. The bible is not as clear as you say it is.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage? 

I don't think sex outside of marriage is a sin. I believe sexual immorality is a sin. Which means immorality that has something to do with the topic of sex. Like when you use sex to hurt people.

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found? 

I don't know, man. I'm not in charge. I sure hope it's different from all the shame-based/ fear-based stuff I found in evangelical Christianity.

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love? 

Ah, yes, this is really important, because my definition of love is one of the biggest things that has changed. I've already said a bit about what I believe love is, so how about I tell you what it is not.

I used to believe that, as a Real True Christian, I knew all the right answers for other people's lives. I knew that everyone needed to become a Christian or else they could never be truly happy. I knew that people would always regret it if they had sex before marriage. I knew that gay people should just submit their lives to God and they could live just fine without a relationship. (All of this was based on what the bible supposedly said. Not based on any real-world evidence.)

I knew all these things that other people needed to do, and the horrible pain and hell that would befall them if they didn't do it. Therefore, because I loved people, I needed to force them to do it.

I loved people so much, and it meant I didn't respect their choices. Because I knew what was best and they didn't. I loved people so much, and it meant I wasn't honest. Because if they knew my goal was to manipulate them- by any means necessary- into becoming a Christian, then they definitely wouldn't give me a chance.

This is what love must mean, if hell is real, and if it's true that people's sinful natures have rendered them all unable to actually know what's good for them. It's a "love" that comes across as hate. And I am SO DONE with that.

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition? 

Romans 2:14-15

Genesis 1:26-27

Humans are created in God's image, and have a conscience. I am done with applying the word "love" to actions that I can only perform after I've tranquilized my God-given conscience.

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love? 

Can I ask you a question? Does love shape the way you read the bible? The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make? 

Yes. 

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith? 

I've told you already, and now you want me to tell you again. Why? Do you want to become an ally too?

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost? 

I'm not really an evangelical anymore. You lost me at the World Vision debacle in 2014.

As for all that other stuff- if I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples? 

Yeah I don't go to church because they all seem to be full of people who want to give 40-question-long quizzes to see whether I qualify as a "real Christian."

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead? 

Yes, definitely. ^_^

... wait.

What are you trying to say with this question? Do you hope to become more committed to the church/Christ/scriptures too?

40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind? 

Wait, how are we back at Romans 1? Like I said, I'm not too concerned with the specific interpretation of Romans 1, because I already know the greatest two commandments, and I know nothing will override those.

How about I ask a question instead: How do you interpret Peter's statement in Acts 10:28 "But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean"?

Or how about Jesus' statement in Matthew 7:18 "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." How about you go find out what LGB Christians have to say, and then tell me about the fruit of your preaching against marriage equality. Can a good tree bear bad fruit?

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All right, that's the end. And I want to say I understand how hard it can be to be in that position, where you really care about people but really believe God can't approve of same-sex relationships. (It's hard, but nothing like what LGB Christians deal with. So don't complain too much.) If that's you, I recommend you continue to learn about this topic. Seek out more information, read people's blogs and personal stories. And love your neighbor as yourself.

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Please also read Matthew Vines's list of 40 questions for Christians who oppose marriage equality. These are really important questions.

And this response by R. L. Stollar.

And this one from Buzz Dixon.

3 comments:

  1. Question 12: Living in India, I saw that many church denominations there were having conferences about whether or not it was sinful, how to treat the LGBT people already in their church (most churches are welcoming). DeYoung's question is based in ignorance of the global church.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I mean, I would say the church in India is similar to the church in the US in that some are affirming (despite the country's laws), some are not. I actually had a gay student (who was from another South Asian country) ask me about colleges in the US and when he mentioned maybe going to a church, another student commented about the hate in American churches for LGBT people, and this student shook his head and said "No, it's only the crazy fringe churches who won't support people like me, right Miss?" I wanted to cry. (That really happened.)
    I get so frustrated by American Christians assuming they know everything about how the church functions around the globe. They don't, and I'm sick of their patronizing attitude.

    ReplyDelete
  3. TRUTH.


    And oh my goodness, that is really sad.

    ReplyDelete

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