January 26, 2006
Brian McLaren on the Homosexual Question 2: A Blogger's Response
Since posting Brian McLaren's commentary about homosexuality we've had difficulty keeping pace with the responses being written. Reading through the comments reveals why homosexuality is known as a "wedge issue" in our culture. Our readers appear divided between heralding McLaren as a prophet, and condemning him as a heretic. Below is one response we received by a blogger named Jeff who disagrees with McLaren's suggested five year moratorium on making pronouncements about homosexuality. But unlike many other critics, Jeff also writes about his very personal engagement with this issue.
1. To make the accusation that "we" (evangelicals or the church or the "religious right" whoever "we" are) consider homosexuality to be somehow "more sinful" than any other transgression based on the fact that we seem to be giving so much time, energy and attention to it at present is somewhat unfair. The church didn't have a secret meeting somewhere and decide that now is the time to take action against "those homosexuals." Our reaction has been totally defensive, forced upon us by court-mandated acceptance of homosexual marriage, the consecration of homosexuals to leadership positions in the church, the media's glorification of the homosexual lifestyle and the continuing actions of the militant portion of the homosexual community.
Just as abortion became a dominant issue for the church only after Roe v. Wade, so homosexuality has attained prominence in the aftermath of these significant events. Those "pronouncements" that Brian bewails are the equivalent of "raising up a standard against the enemy" who is truly "coming in like a flood."
2. I fear that Brian's desired "moratorium" is more likely to turn into a "surrender" than anything else. It will certainly be a unilateral one, for the voices crying for more and more acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle will certainly NOT be silent while we take our little siesta. We followed a similar path before in the areas of science, politics and education, somehow believing that if we ignored the problem it would surely go away, and those institutions are now almost exclusively controlled by the secular world view. Silence now in the area of morality, even in the name of reason and "seeking the will of God," would accomplish no more. Of course, if we're really not sure what to think about homosexuality, then this will help solve that problem without any undue exertion on our part ?
3. Many have suggested that the church does not speak out nearly so forcefully against such sins as gossip, gluttony and greed as we do against homosexuality, apparently suggesting that we take the same line with sexual sin as we have with these more common indiscretions. Is it not more correct to call us to speak with clarity and force against these sins as well? It is certainly not to our credit that we have allowed them to go unchallenged, and the condition of many of our churches today shows the results. The solution is MORE consistent preaching of the truth, not less.
4. We have already lost - or are badly losing - in the war against other sexual sins. When all statistics and surveys show that divorce, adultery and fornication are present among church members in the same proportions as in the world at large, that is the only conclusion that we can draw. Having begun by softening the edges of the Biblical position on divorce, the rest seems to be swirling down the drain along with it. Perhaps we have drawn this line to avoid giving the enemy a complete victory in the area of sexuality. For now, incest and pedophilia are still taboo; but once we redefine marriage and relationships to include homosexuals, can the others be far behind? That slope, indeed, is slippery .
5. Is the stand we are taking against homosexuality really so radical? In virtually all the states where defense of marriage propositions or amendments have appeared on the ballot, they have been overwhelmingly approved. Call it homophobia if you will; I dare to believe that there is still a spark of the divine image left in people that cringes at the thought of the word "family" being so radically redefined.
6. Could we finally put to rest that old saw about "hating the sin but loving the sinner?" Only God is capable of such a dichotomy; the rest of us all fail to some degree - some of us miserably! - on one end or the other. Words to the contrary notwithstanding, many of the responses I have read have either shied far from a truly divine hatred of the sin of homosexuality, or a truly divine love for the homosexual. In any case, we are not required to hate sin in order to speak out against it; all we must do is recognize it for what it is and what it does to the people who practice it. Leave the hating and vengeance and judgment and punishment to God, Who has done, does and will do them all well and properly. Let's concentrate on the love to which we are frequently and forcefully called in the Word - a love which both speaks out and is silent as led by the Spirit.
7. I wonder if the God Who said that the watcher on the wall is held responsible for those who die because of his failure to warn of the enemy's approach will accept a "moratorium" as our excuse for the thousands who will enter eternity in their sin while we consider our course?
8. One comment suggested that trying to help a homosexual find his or her way out of that lifestyle is equivalent to an "abortion of the identity." But our identity is not defined by our sexuality - no matter how much the homosexual activists would like us to think that it is - any more than our identity is truly defined by our jobs or our families or our past or our political affiliation. Our "sense" of identity may be bound to these things, but that is another thing altogether. Our true identity is exclusively defined by our relationship to Christ. Anything else that claims to be is a pretender.
9. Finally, as a person who struggled as a pastor for 17 years (though not currently) and as a homosexual for more than 40, I can only testify from my own experience that it is not more understanding from Christians that I need; it is more of Christ, and He comes with both truth and grace. But to receive that grace, I must first become aware of the truth of my situation. So is one more important than the other? In terms of preeminence, no; in terms of sequence, at least perhaps. Grace has no appeal, no meaning, to the person who feels or sees no need for it. Until I am confronted with the truth of who and what I am - not from a theological perspective, but from a Divine one - I cannot truly receive forgiveness for what makes me what I am. And ultimately, it is not homosexuality that makes me a sinner; it is sin which makes me a homosexual. It makes you something different, but it's still sin.
Personally, yes there are times that I wish I had a greater circle of initiated friends in the church to whom I could speak candidly about my daily struggles with my besetting sin. Not nearly enough Christians have come to grips with their personal loathing for this particular problem to the extent that they can be effective as friends, confidants or evangelists to most homosexuals. But as others here have put it, it is both grace AND truth that I and my fellow-travelers need. Either without the other is insufficient. I need the accountability of those who will hold my behavior up to the plumb line of truth and show me my erring; I need the support of those who bring God's grace to life by binding my wounds and caring for me when the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.
Perhaps someday, Brian, it will be your personal "favorite" sin that will be part of the newspaper headlines. It will be interesting to see if a moratorium is appropriate then.