it will get better, but that’s not the point :: a response to gene robinson, with my gay friends and the church listening in

October 16, 2010

I’ve been hurting and praying for the family of Tyler Clementi.  His death is deeply tragic.  And I believe that bullying is a big deal.  We ought to treat each other in civil society with respect, and we need to raise our children to treat other people with respect.  Even those we disagree with.  Especially those we disagree with.

This post will take a little time to develop, so I want to be clear about my purposes for writing it up front.

FIRST:  If you’re a student somewhere being bullied because you are gay, and you are considering checking out – just to escape the pain of it – please don’t.  You are loved.  I know that to my very core.  God didn’t screw up when he made you.  He wants to fill your life with purpose.  There are hundreds of voices on YouTube and everywhere right now sending you the message that “IT GETS BETTER.”  And if you can make it through this tough season of life, where you’re surrounded by jerks, you’ll soon come out the other side and enter a new phase of life – free from that kind of intense bullying that cuts you down.  So my first message to you is this:  HANG IN THERE, because you’re deeply valuable.  And I’m a Christian guy who believes that being gay is not God’s plan for you – I’ve written about this stuff before.  But listen, you are more than your sexual nature, and you matter to us and to God, no matter what your sexual orientation.  I hope you’re willing to keep reading this, and keep thinking.

SECOND:  Gene Robinson is an enemy of God.  He is one of the voices proclaiming the “it gets better message,” and I have posted his video below.  While I believe he means well, and many gay young people have been encouraged by his message, he is misrepresenting God, and God’s Church.  I do not hate Gene Robinson, and I do not oppose his message because he is gay.  Rather, I oppose his message because he is wrong.  More on that below…

You’ve maybe never read this blog before, so I want to help you put what I’m about to write into context.  Everybody has a foundational set of beliefs building the framework of their life story, even those of us who never think it through or put it into words.  Here are a few of mine:

With regards to Faith and Life:

(1)  I believe that God is sovereign, and His Word (the Bible) is perfect and authoritative on all issues pertaining to faith and life.

(2)  I believe that every single person on earth (myself included) has been born with a sinful nature, and is therefore condemned to an eternity apart from God.  We can’t fix it through anything we do. Period.

(3)  Jesus Christ died on a cross to save us from that sin.  He is the only road to forgiveness and a restored relationship with God.  Yes, that message is exclusive.  Jesus alone is our only hope.  That’s basic Christian doctrine.

(4)  God is a God of love and justice.  His standards are not flexible, because He is holy, and that means He is pure and “other than us.”  Our human minds cannot contain or explain Him in this regard.  But He also loves us with a fierce, protective, all-consuming, life-changing love that is not bound by the limits of even the deepest love of man.  Our human minds cannot contain or explain Him in this regard. 

With regards to homosexuality:

(1)  I believe that God’s Word makes it clear that homosexual activity is sin.  I know many believe they can explain away the several passages in scripture that make this clear.  But those arguments do not stand up to sound standards of Biblical interpretation.  Therefore, I reject the argument that “God didn’t really say that.”  He did say that.  People have the free will to choose to live set against His Word.  But it is simply not true that the Bible is in any way unclear on this matter.

(2)  I’m not sure what my Christian brothers and sisters would say to me in this one, but here goes…  I believe that the evidence of nature, personal witness, and common sense makes it clear that some people are born with a homosexual proclivity.  I am making a clear distinction here between homosexual nature and homosexual behavior.  The clear testimony of many homosexuals, including some of my friends, is that their very earliest memories of a sexual nature involved same-sex attraction.

So, now what…?

The two statements above create tension.  On the one hand, God is saying that acting on one’s homosexual feelings is sin, and a violation of His relationship with us – enough of a violation (actually, EVERY sin is enough) to separate us from God forever.  No heaven.  No hope.  Just regret, guilt, pain, fear and darkness.  On the other hand, some people seem to grow up with an attraction to people of their own gender.  How can this be?  How can God allow this?  It isn’t fair.  It is too much to ask…

I have a lot of empathy for those with a homosexual predisposition.  Some fight it.  Others embrace it.  Still others live in the middle ground somewhere.  At some point, to come to a degree of mental peace about this issue, a person with a homosexual nature has to examine what they believe about the morality of homosexual behavior.  If you’re gay, and have looked at the Bible and agree that it seems clear that homosexuality (expressed through lifestyle) is wrong, you must be either full of conflict, or you have chosen to reject the Bible as a valid authority in today’s culture.  If, on the other hand, you simply discount the Bible, being a homosexual today is much easier.

But easy does not equal right.  It’s often the hard road that is the best one.  And doing the right thing comes at a cost.  That’s true in every area of life, and it really matters.  It’s easier to cheat on tests and papers in school.  It’s easier to follow the crowd into all kinds of bad moral choices than it is to humbly go the right direction.  It’s easier for any man, gay or straight, to chase his sinful sexual nature into multiple relationships, but committing to one for life through marriage is so much better – and it is the only moral choice, with the authority of the Bible making that clear.

Unfortunately, the evangelical Christian community has often handled our relationships with gay people clumsily – or with venom.  A mean-spirited approach to people with a homosexual predisposition destroys our ability to share the life-giving message of Jesus.  We have not, in general, loved gay people very well as a community, because (to some degree) we don’t know how.  But we do know that the Bible says “don’t do it,” so we point our fingers and feel justified in doing so.  It is possible, Church, to be clear on moral lines, and still love people well.  In his way, Gene Robinson is trying to tell gay young people that we (evangelical Christians) have failed to show love, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t loving.  In as far as that goes, I agree with Gene.

HOWEVER, Gene Robinson is not just a random dude on the street.  Gene Robinson is a Bishop – a “representative” of God and God’s people.  He is influential, and many outside the church see him as a representative of those of us who identify ourselves as a part of Jesus’ family.  For this reason, when he speaks on behalf of God, and boldly proclaims lies as the truth, he becomes an enemy of the truth.  He is working against God.  And he is working against you, too.

Here is Bishop Gene Robinson’s “It Gets Better” message:

Gene Robinson, I’m sure, wants to help and encourage you if you are gay and are facing hostility, bullying, or just differing points of view.  I respect people’s freedom to live as they please in this country, and I am grateful for free speech.  But that door swings both ways.  Gene is free to proclaim things about God and about His people that are not true, and I am free to publicly oppose that message as not just a little bit off base, but actually demonic heresy.  Gene Robinson is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He may be a nice man, but I will take a stand today against his message.

When he says that your Baptist parents’ message  that God does not accept a homosexual lifestyle is “flat out not true,” he is wrong.  God won’t stop loving you, but his moral standards do not endorse homosexuality.  That is a hard truth, but being hard doesn’t make it wrong.

Mr Robinson goes on to say that God wants you to “be the way you are,” and that God made you that way… that He doesn’t want you to change.  The hard truth is, sin in the world has corrupted men – every one – so that we want things that we should not desire, and we long for things that go against God’s will for us.  In fact, all of us have sinned and have a broken relationship with God.  That’s why Jesus came and died for us.  So that if we trust Him, he cleanses us from our sin and buys us back from the kindgom of darkness.

Gene Robinson is a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ by TITLE, but he is serving the wrong team.  If he were truly serving Jesus, he would tell the truth – that Jesus Christ died to save everyone because we all desperately NEED him to save us from our depravity.  Every sinner.  Gay and straight.  And Gene would tell you that God’s laws aren’t rewritten when they are hard to understand or seem too hard for us to live by.  God’s justice (His law) and His love (Jesus’ rescue) never change, even when the culture does.

So, if you are gay, and wondering what to do with it all, I want to tell you the truth in love.  Most Christians don’t hate you.  They (and I) may do a lousy job of loving you, but don’t write off Jesus for the failures of his kids.  We are all broken people.  We may not understand your struggles and desires, because straight people just haven’t been there.  But God does set a clear standard.  Homosexual behavior is sin.  And many, many, many people born with a homosexual inclination or nature have learned to fight that fight for love of God and the truth.  The message of the gay community right now is “It Gets Better,” and they are right.  This culture is making more and more efforts to affirm the gay lifestyle as a normal, healthy choice.  If you choose not to wrestle with the moral implications of a gay lifestyle, it will only get easier for you the older you get.  But there is grave danger in that choice.  Your life on earth is only a blink.  And then you face eternity. 

You need Jesus, because it is too hard for you without Him.  So do I, because in my way, resisting sin and earning heaven by living the perfect lifestyle is too hard for me, too.  Only in Jesus do we have any hope.  If you want to talk with me more about this, use my contact info and shoot me an email or call me up.  God does love you like crazy, and there is great hope in that truth.  But that isn’t to say we can do anything we want, and God will simply endorse it as a “no big deal” decision.  Love and justice.  Moral boundaries BECAUSE He wants the best for us.

Gene Robinson gets it ALMOST right when he says, “God wants you to live in the light of His love, and that light will take away all of this darkness…”

Unfortunately Gene is implying that we Christians, speaking the truth about God’s clear Biblical guidelines, we are the darkness.  He would seek to put a dividing wall between God’s love and “religious people.”  Gene is wrong.  SIN is the darkness.  He is on the wrong team.  One day Gene will answer to God for his life.  So will I.  So will you.  And on that day, the light WILL take away all darkness – all sin, of every kind will be eradicated.  Between that day and this one, we all need Jesus.  Thankfully,God DOES love us beyond our wildest imagining.  He loves us enough to show us the hard truth in His Word, and to send Jesus to do the impossible on our behalf.

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

21 responses to it will get better, but that’s not the point :: a response to gene robinson, with my gay friends and the church listening in

  1. I love you, Brother Josh, but we COMPLETELY disagree on this. I hope & pray that someday you will come to know that the six verses of scripture you feel you understand so well… well, that you don’t. Not when taken in the historical, cultural and sociological context of the time in which they were written. Not when taken in the context of scientific evidence that God has created homosexuality throughout living creatures across the globe. Kinsey had it right – “traditional” Biblical interpretation… not so much.

    I also hope & pray that nobody misunderstands your post – and there are unexpected consequences. Gene Robinson is a LIGHT in this world – and describing him as “darkness” is, in itself, hurtful and could backfire. I hope it doesn’t.

    Truthfully, I couldn’t get past that part. I didn’t read much of this post. I’m concerned enough to respond without reading it all… TOO MANY YOUNG PEOPLE ARE DYING because of views like yours. I know you think you’re reaching out – but they will still view your thoughts as condemnation, Josh. And that’s not helping.

    Anyway, that’s MY two cents. Like I said at the beginning, I love you – BUT. I believe you are flat-out wrong… and I believe Jesus weeps far too much over this issue…

    G.

    • Gretchen – thanks for your honesty and your friendship. I value both.

      To be clear – I did not say that Gene Robinson is darkness. I said that SIN is darkness. I did say that Gene Robinson is wrong and an enemy of the truth and an enemy of God. And I do believe that. He comes across as a kind-hearted man who wants to love people and wants to help young gay people through their struggles. But his solution is to tell them “It’s OK for you to live in sin, and God actually prefers if you do.” Gretchen, if I am going to have integrity, I have to lovingly tell people the truth as I see it. More to the point, as the Bible makes it clear. I have studied the “six verses” you mention. No ammount of neo-theology can explain away their clarity. We have different hermeneutical presuppositions here, and unless you or I change our underlying construct, the outcome of our scriptural analysis will ALWAYS differ.

      And were you talking about C. Dennis McKinsey (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy) or Alfred Kinsey (Sexual Behavior in the Human Male)? Or another Kinsey? If it was either of the two mentioned here, the depth of my divergence with their philosophical construct is too great to put into words.

      I also know that you believe that my point of view is sending young people to their death… I actually am begging for the opposite response. But if I believe that something is clearly identified as sin in the Word, I have to be consistent with that belief to have any kind of integrity. I actually believe that (1) the road to LIFE is in the truth of the Bible, and (2) that NONE of us can measure up because we ALL sin, AND (3) that Jesus Christ is the only answer – for ALL sin. For all of us. I’m not puting homosexual behavior into any special category here. Gays, straights, men, women, and every shade of every kind of soul needs Jesus. That’s it.

      I’m hoping that gay people (especially young people) who read this see me as a guy who genuinely loves them, wants the best for them in every way, and yet I still believe that acting on homosexual desire is wrong. That isn’t hate speech. It’s just being consistent. Every person on the planet has infinite value – I hope my gay friends actually hear me when I say that. Even you said in your comment that you didn’t really read all of it. Maybe you should Gretch. We will still disagree, but at least you’ll understand my context better.

      I wasn’t motivated to write this because of outrage over the “It Gets Better” campaign or due to any particular angst against homosexuality. I was motivated to post this because I see Gene Robinson simultaneously representing and dishonoring Jesus Christ. That deserves a response.

  2. “Views like (Josh’s)” is not what costs gay kids their lives. What does cost these kids their lives is living in a fallen world where selfishness, bullying and murdering exist.

    To have an opinion as to what is right and what is wrong is not equivalent to taking a weapon and striking someone to death. A mature person ought to still be happy with their life, even if not everyone likes all that you do. It surprises me how many gays and lesbians cry if another person doesn’t applaud every move they make.

    So what if I don’t like homosexuality! I am not going to kill someone over it. I haven’t had a desire for a man, so for me I can’t see it as a good thing, but I also don’t think that pizza with pig’s feet on it sounds very good and it is ok if I plug my nose and swear never to try it.

    It doesn’t bother me very much if my neighbors are gay and even if I could know that it is a sin, because the larger and louder message of the NT is that Christ is both the Judge and the Justifier of us all. That is good news.

    I know some people want to say that the only true Christians (and those who will be in heaven someday) are the ones who go back to try and fulfill the Law after seeing that Christ has already done it-In Paul’s day, they would have been called Judaizers of the Gospel-Don’t listen to these false prophets!-They lead people away from Jesus.

    God’s peace.

    • Thanks Jon. I’m glad you’re in on the discussion. The law of God points out our need for forgiveness, so that we will stop trying to earn our relationship with God and acknowledge that Jesus alone is our only hope. You are right to point out how dangerous it is to try to fulfil the law on our own power once we see that Jesus already has. We can’t ever measure up though effort. Only Jesus can stand in that gap for us – between where we are now and God’s perfect righteousness.

      But that’s a lot of religious talk. I hope that the heart of compassion and honest concern for people wrestling with their homosexuality doesn’t get lost in the church talk. And yes, I realize there are gay people who would tell me they don’t have to “struggle” with it because that’s who they are, and they are at peace with it. My intent isn’t to wound anyone, here, but to be clear… we ALL need Jesus. Desperately more than we realize.

  3. You’re welcome, but I came back to add these words to my previous reply:

    … But then again, what do I know? 😀

  4. Okay, Brother – I read it all. And I’m even MORE troubled…

    I was referring to Alfred Kinsey (didn’t realize there was another Kinsey that could relate to this conversation).

    It really bothers me that the ONLY well-known and publicly recognizable man of the cloth, Bishop Gene Robinson, who is stepping forth and affirming to gay youth that God made them PERFECT just as they are… you are basically saying is working for the devil. This is where my concern is that, while you think you are being affirming of WHO they are, it may come across as completely different from your intention. It is truly no different from the message of “love the sinner, hate the sin” – which has always come across to GLBTQ persons as a judgment of who they were created to be.

    I don’t know, Josh… we could debate this for hours – nose to nose and really diggin’ in… But again, this is a total dividing ground – and I hope you understand why I feel the need to respond the way I am. I once shared your beliefs, but after years of study, I simply cannot justify them on any level. 🙁 I wish it wasn’t such a division among God’s people…

    And again, you are loved, Brother Josh! You are one of the few people that I can completely disagree with, argue my points almost vehemently, and still find common ground, appreciation, and RESPECT. I appreciate you more than words can say – despite our areas of disagreement!
    G.

    • Thanks Gretchen. Likewise. Glad we can remain friends through the philosophical (and soemtimes theological) wrestling.

      I am sensitive to what you say… that the GLBTQ community may still feel like a judgment of “who they were created to be.” It is such a fine line to walk… And you and I both know that I have close friends who are gay, so this issue is very real-life personal for me. The line is this: stay faithful to what I beleive the Bible states clearly about the immorality of the act (a point that I understand we disagree on), while still treating the PERSON with genuine love and respect. I further believe that it is not my job, in any sense, to tell individuals what to do with their life in this regard, unless they are open to an honest discussion. I would never try to self-righteously tell a practicing homosexual that they need to change their life on account of my understanding of scripture. Instead, if they were open to look at the Bible and wanted to ask my opinion, I’d be happy to talk to them. But it is their choice… and again, I’m talking about the lifestyle. I do believe that the homosexual inclination or nature is not always something that a person “chooses.”

      What makes it even more sensitive is the fact that this “It Gets Better” message is aimed at troubled young people… And young people may have even MORE trouble discerning my stand on homosexuality from a blanket statement of judgement about “who they are.”

      And yet…

      I must speak the truth – IN LOVE. Not like a clanging gong, but in love. And here is where our theology divides, Gretchen. I don’t believe that God intentionally “created anyone to be” homosexual. Rather, because of the sinful world that we are born into, and the brokenness of sin that every man carries with them at birth, some people are born with desires that go against His will. And that, right there, is a puile of theological presuppositions that must be held in faith. I can’t convince anyone to believe in Biblical inerrancy, original sin, absolute truth, etc. It’s a matter of faith. Yet, it builds a framework for discussion of why some people are born with a nature they are called to resist – and ONLY, by the way, in the strength of Jesus Christ.

      Some (straight) men are born with an unusually strong sex drive, for example. They must fight their nature if they are to satisfy that within the context of marriage and a one woman relationship. yet they were made with the nature they have, AND God’s standard is clear, right? Moreover, there is so much more to a man (or woman0 than their sex drive. SO MUCH MORE. We are not what we crave. We are not what we do. We have God-given value. THAT is what I want young people to hear. They are PRICELESS.

      The Holy Spirit can bring resolve to the human being that is simply not possible without him. And even so, I have great compassion and empathy for the magnitude of this command. I empathise, but I cannot compromise what I believe is the clear Word of God on this issue.

      Lastly Gretchen, I understand that it is inevitable that all kinds of issues are raised in a post like this. I would have gladly left the issue alone, along with the “It Gets Better” message (which i think is a GOOD thing, BTW, even though I don’t endorse homosexual behavior), if it weren’t for the message of Bishop Robinson. I couldn’t sit by on this, and watch him insinuate to young people that they should avoid the darkness of their conservative Christian parents stand for the Truth of tyhe Bible. he’s leading people happily into sin, into judgment, away from jesus, and away from heaven. It was to HIM I responded – not because I felt a strong call to make a statement against homosexuality.

  5. You know why gays are terrible at telling jokes?

    A: Because they can’t keep a “straight” face.

    I don’t think I’d say Robinson’s message is demonic or even that he is a “wolf”, but I find it peculiar that he doesn’t speak about sin or the good news of Jesus Christ. To say that God loves us the way we are is short (far short) of the truth. I think he has the right idea if he were to add the words “because of Christ”. Is God pleased with us? Is He happy with us? Because of Christ, the answer is “yes” to both.

    Can we make Him less pleased or less happy with us? The answer is “no”. We might be unhappy or displeased with ourselves or with each other because of our choices, but God’s view of us NEVER changes, because His covenant is with Himself (a uni-lateral covenant). We are not loved because we entered into an agreement with God to love us and we are not saved because we made a covenant with God in order to be saved. Neither of these teachings come from Scripture.

    One thing Robinson says that we can “Amen” to, is that “Things WILL get better”. My grandfather who died roughly nine years ago, used to say “Better days are coming”. I believe that this is true.

    • Jon, I love having you in on the discussion, but to be clear, i think your theology is dangerous. i know we still need to sit down over coffee on this one, and I speak to you as a friend here, but Jesus death on the cross did not just “make God OK with everyone,” carte blanche, as you seem to be suggesting.

      To those who receive him… yes.

      There is a clear dividing line in scripture, and although His love for us may very well be unshakeable, His promise of salvation is for those who believe. So to say because of Jesus he is “happy with us” is to over simplify. What about the grave warnings about those who know the truth and yet “keep on sinning?” To say that because Jesus died on the cross, what we do doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things seems very dangerous theology, indeed.

      Maybe I’m reading you wrong?

  6. Josh, thanks for your courage and compassion in writing this article. I felt that your goal was to express the truth with love and compassion, I felt you achieved that goal. Jesus told us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Far too many Christians read this as wise as serpents and aggressive as an unfed mountain lion. They are ready to rip to shreds anything they view as sinful that they don’t do themselves. This is a great failing of the church. The truth must be proclaimed but the Apostle Paul stressed the importance of charity or love in our presentation of the truth.

    For fourteen years I taught the children of my church while the adults were sitting in morning services. One little fellow stands out above all the children I had the pleasure to teach. For privacy sake I am going to change his name to Joey. Joey on occasion kept me teaching. No matter how rowdy and inattentive some of my kids became I could always count on this one little fellow to be sitting there learning, hanging on every word. He was one of our bus children. His parents didn’t attend church. He was from a very financially poor home and his parents weren’t Christians. He had a hard life away from church and church seemed to be an oasis for him. Had something happened to his parents I thought enough of this child to have raised him as one of my own. With this background set the years passed and Joey came to see me one day. He was moving out of state and wanted to tell me good-bye. He was leaving within a week or two. We had not talked much for several years and by this time he was about eighteen or nineteen years old. Joey had been disowned by his parents and even his brothers. He was totally estranged from his family, had been suicidal, and had spent time in a mental facility. He still thought enough of me to confide these details. He said that he had came out to his family and didn’t know what my reaction would be but that he was gay. His news did not erase the bond of Christian love I felt for him. I told him that in good conscience I could not approve of the gay lifestyle, but he was welcome at my home and could call on me anytime he needed to talk. He had respect for my position and did come by several more times before he moved. We found each other on facebook after several more years passed. I certainly do not hate my young friend. I pray for him often. I want only the best for him. I also do not believe God’s perfect plan for his life is to live a gay lifestyle in light of the Scriptures. It is possible to speak the truth in love. I have seen several talk shows recently on the subject of bullying. Having been a victim of bullying for being a little nerdy character I can relate. I do not believe that gay young people should have to endure bullying and plain mean spirited treatment. Like you I believe Jesus is the answer to the best possible life for these individuals. More prayer and less condemnation may prove a better course. I cannot apologize for my basic beliefs and feel the glorification of the gay life style is wrong and may encourage experimentation that should not be. I just felt you might need a word of encouragement having addressed such a controversial subject. Stay true to the Word and continue proclaiming it in the light of His love.

    • Thanks much, Paul, and yes, I did read this an encouragement. I couldn’t agree more that NO ONE should have to endure mean-spirited bullying. I actually think the “It Gets Better” campaign in general will most likely save lives, and that is SO GOOD. I am also glad we live in a country with a great deal of freedom – we could always use LESS government intervention, but I still recognize our GREAT advantage as Americans to choose how we want to live. Everyone has the freedom to choose. That’s good.

      If a young gay person is reading this right now, I agree with Paul in this: we need more love and less condemnation. Sure, I have clear beliefs about what the Bible has to say, but I will say this over and over and over again – YOU are PRICELESS. People are far more than their sexual orientation. You matter to Giod, you matter to the people you are growing up with, you matter to the world, because you have a full life ahead in which to leave your mark. Don’t miss that opportunity. Stick it out. There will be plenty of time to sort out what your sexual nature means, and what you’re going to do with it. For now, hear this message: YOU are LOVED.

  7. Eavesdropping on conversations like this are the real reason I participate in forms such as this because the primary political issue that I advocate for is actually marriage equality. My goal is to get politically conservative Christians to think “Even though I find homosexual behavior absolutely morally repugnant, there is no reason gay people should be subject to bullying, harassment, discrimination, or denial of the same rights that I have, including marriage.” For Christians who interpret the Bible such that they believe that homosexuality is not immoral, this is not overly difficult. Josh, I suspect that you might agree with my proposed statement or (at least agree with it up to “including marriage” since that’s really the sticking point for lots of people). I really don’t understand why there needs to be a debate about if it’s ok to harass and bully people, particularly children. It just isn’t, and I actually think that most everybody (Christians and non-Christians alike) agrees with that. The more subtle issue, to me, is the question of if the condemnation of someone’s sexual orientation, which they believe is an inherent, in-born characteristic of them, constituents harassment or not. I would like to think the answer is that it doesn’t have to be, or at least it doesn’t have to be between adults. As two adults, we can interact and you can disagree with the lifestyle decisions I make (I’m sure you’d disagree with my decision to spend all last weekend in your home state campaigning against Michelle Bachmann, for example) and I don’t interpret your beliefs or actions as a threat to my beliefs or actions or as harassment. I think the question is a lot harder when we’re talking about kids or teenagers. I don’t know that kids can understand the subtly of condemning their behavior without condemning them. I don’t know at what point they have the neurocognitive ability to appreciate that kind of cognitive dissonance. I don’t know what Christian parents should be teaching their kids about how to interact with other kids whose lifestyle they consider morally wrong. I can’t tell Christian parents or any other parents how to raise their kids to insure they interact with other people respectfully. I think a lot of parents of all persuasions would love to know how to do that reliably, and I’m sure they struggle with these types of issues. I am not going to try to convince conservative Christians that they are somehow reading their Bible wrong and that homosexuality is not actually immoral. That’s not going to get us anyway, anymore than you arguing with Gene Robinson about theology is. We need everybody, Christians and not, to embrace an overall attitude of respect towards people you disagree with and create and environment where harassing those people you disagree with is absolutely unacceptable. That’s the viewpoint I advocate, and I think everybody, conservative Christians, liberal Christians, non-Christians, those spiritual but not religious people, EVERYBODY, can be part of that kind of solution.

    • And one more thing…. I also work with plenty of Christian leaders who say that they can’t abide by this wishy-washy, i’m ok, you’re ok kinda viewpoint because they speak the truth and they can’t have that truth diluted just because I want everybody to get along. To them I say, consider how your methods help you achieve your consider your goals. If you are trying to “go forth and make disciples”, don’t you think you’re going to be a lot more successful in that commission if you approach people with respect instead of with contempt?

      • Ashley… this is what I’m saying. this is the drumbeat of my heart for ministry right now. We are called to make disciples, not to tell people they are kindling. Self-righteousness breaks my heart. I’m with you.

    • Ashley – AMEN! I agree with you on this. Well said. A couple thoughts to respond:

      A) I don’t disagree with your campaigning against Michelle Bachmann – that’s a sign of a robust democracy and a free society, baby! Bring it on! 🙂

      B) I agree with your statement for the most part, and, you’re right… up until the “including marriage” phrase (but that is an entirely different post). The only qualifier is that I would hesistate to use such strong language as “absolutely morally repugnant,” because feels like it is somehow communicating a disgust with people. I won’t do that. Further, I think the Christian community has shot themselves in the foot in our cross cultural mission work (so to speak) to the gay community, because we have had often singled out THIS sin as so much WORSE than regular everyday sin… as if there is some sin that isn’t really a big deal, but THIS one is “morally repugnant.” That kind of language will shove people away, not start a conversation. The only way I would use that kind of language was in a setting in which I was labeling EVERY sin as “absolutely morally repugnant…” And in God’s eyes, I suppose, that is true. But right now, in everyday life I wouldn’t slap that kind of label on speeding, or fudging your work hours a little on your timecard, or telling a friend you have plans for the night when in reality you just didn’t want to go out with them for the evening… I would simply call those things “wrong.” I would call them “sin” and leave it simply at that. I think we need to use that kind of un-inflated, non-inflamatory language in talking about homosexual sin, as well. Does that make sense?

      C) Lastly, you cracked open the door just a sliver on a conversation about the role of governement in determining moral issues… You said “The more subtle issue, to me, is the question of if the condemnation of someone’s sexual orientation, which they believe is an inherent, in-born characteristic of them, constituents harassment or not.”

      Ashley, you might expect this of me as a conservative, but I truly believe this is exactly the kind of issue that shows the immoral nature of big government. Yep, immoral. And this isn’t a political thread, so I’ll be brief… The governement’s role is to protect the common good. It cannot step into the role of moral mandate in issues of faith. When the government tells pastors they are no longer free to teach what the Bible says, that is a bridge too far, in my mind. I agree that (especially for adults) two people ought to be able to have differing viewpoints on a moral issue, and even discuss and passionately defend their viewpoint, without one or the other person being “harrassed.”

      And yes, I agree with you that this is a much more subtle issue in dealing with young people. But schools have the authority to REMOVE bullies from the school environment, and I think they should be quick to do so. This is really an issue for individual schools – setting policy at the local level – and helping parents raise respectful kids. (Wow – THAT is a tall order. I realize that, with 5 boys of my own at home.)

      Thanks friend. Appreciate your thoughts always. Take care and God bless.

  8. I’d considered posting right after reading this, but didn’t have time and am now coming back to it.

    I appreciate that you think you are balancing compassion with a stern reminder of consequences. But I don’t think you can have it both ways, Josh.

    Rhetoric like this is hardly different than the fundamentalist crap that fuels terrorist-thinking and action. You could replace gays in your arguments with “Christians” or “Americans” or “Jews” and it’ll be no different.

    The arguments in this post are an example of why I am proud to be an atheist. I don’t wake up and feel the need to condemn someone to an eternity of fire. Instead I focus on being a good person and raising my kids to love everyone. And that love comes with no asterisks, like I love you despite the fact that you are an enemy of god and you can look forward to an eternity of hellfire.

    Sorry to say, Josh, but I’m afraid you aren’t supporting anyone who is homosexual with your “You are loved” line when you follow it with righteous damnation.

    • Josh – seriously thank you so much for your honest response here – and for coming back rather than letting it float. I’m full of thoughts right now.

      I’m trying to have an ongoing discussion about what I honestly believe to be true, but I want to do that in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily offend people. Because what I belive is offensive to non-Christians all on its own. The bible says that will be the case.

      So I try to walk a fine line. There are tons of examples of Christians just being jerks to the world. And self-righteous jerks at that. I’m a mess, and I know it. I’m sure I will make huge mistakes in talking about what I believe. But I’m trying to walk that line.

      Josh, your comment tore my heart out – and that’s totally OK. I’m seriously glad for your honesty and your challenge. Maybe you’ve lost respect for me over this post – but I have gained respect for you.

      I’m literally not sure if it is possible for Bible-believing Christians to engage ideas honestly with non-Christians and not be offensive. It may be impossible. And I’m sure I’ll screw it up – not all the time, but at least some of the time. I guess I’m a work in progress, too.

      I still think somehow it must be possible for the Church (and for me) to hold biblical convictions about morality and eterninty and STILL communicate deep love to everybody we come in contact with. I don’t know how, but I’ll keep trying.

      Josh, most people in your shoes would have read this post and left frustrated or angry without engaging the conversation. Thank you for engaging. I hope we can continue to connect. As long as you maintain your atheism and I maintain my faith we will obviously view the world through different lenses, but I still value the connection with you very much. I’ll be thinking about your comment for a long time.

  9. Hey Josh, I am no stranger to having passionate disagreement with people with whom I am still able to find common ground with. We’re both still dads and dudes who share all of the associated challenges, so I still think well of you and plan on coming around here from time to time as I have.

    I do think it is hard–if not impossible–to debate an issue like this from such polar opposites and not take (and receive) some bruising.

    I wouldn’t dispute that you can hold biblical convictions about morality and eternity and still express deep love for everybody. However, I would argue that no intended recipient of that expression of love will find any meaning in it. And really, doesn’t that render the entire endeavor useless?

    It’s kind of like the tree falling in the woods… If you tell me that you love me, but also tell me that I’m morally bankrupt and destined for hell, do I really find any comfort in your proclamation of love? No way. Was the expression authentic on your part? Maybe.

    But I argue that if you scratch a dog’s ear with one hand and smack him in the face with the other, he’s only going to remember the beating. Have I used enough metaphors yet? 🙂

    I definitely didn’t want to come into your space and tear out your heart or anything with my comment. I have to say I am impressed by your thoughtful response. Clearly, we’re on very opposing ideological ends of the argument, but are finding ways to be respectful in our disagreement. And I dig that. Let’s keep at it.

    Cheers!

    • Yes – let’s keep at it. Mutual respect is good. Dialog is healthy – and I’m actually OK with disagreement. Your thoughts helpo refine mine, and maybe likewise.

      As to whether expressing love to someone while holding a biblical moral belief that stands in opposition to their life choices “renders the entire endeavor useless…”

      No. 🙂 It doesn’t. Dialog about faith is good, and I’d rather walk the good hard road than the easy, safer, less relationally engaged path. Like I said, however, I’m a work in progress.

      Thanks for your grace. I didn’t mean to sound hyperbolic with my “tore my heart out” comment. However, your comment did get my attention on an emotional level. Like I said, though, it was GOOD and WELCOME and appreciated.

      To quote Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets…”

      “You make me want to be a better man.”

      BWAAAHAHAHAHAAA. 🙂 Thanks Josh. Take care.

      • Heh, well said. My favorite quote from that film is, “Sell crazy someplace else, we’re all stocked up here.” That probably fits all around! 🙂