Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vince Malum Bono

Overcome Evil with Good (Romans 12:21)

What We Should Do As Gay Christians?


How do we move forward from here?  First of all, we must realize that not all heterosexual Christians hate us.  Yes, there are fundamentalists who will always hate us, and not much can be done to stop them.  Their answers are not for us. There is no need to pretend to ourselves and others to be straight.  There is no need to turn to celibacy, especially when we are in a committed relationship.

Dr. Randall Maddox, a professor at Pepperdine University, makes some great points about the Bible and homosexuality.  In an article in the Pepperdine student newspaper, Graphic, Maddox states:
As I understand it, the Bible says nothing about homosexuality as we use the term today.  It neither accepts nor rejects it, and, yes, I am very aware of the biblical passages that appear to address the issue.  To decide what we should do with it, I believe we must look to broader biblical principles that might seem unrelated on the surface. 
This should not be disconcerting, for we have already done this on a number of issues.  Slavery is an issue about which we have drawn conclusions that contradict the accepted practice of all societies in scripture and effectively dismiss some of God’s specific commands.  To condemn slavery requires that we call on scriptures that do not address it, and discount those that do address it by appealing to overriding biblical principles. 
There are many other such questions, past, present and future.  Interracial marriage, whether women must wear veils in church and whether they are allowed to speak, whether men may have long hair, divorce and remarriage, when life begins, genetic engineering and cloning, environmental issues, the pros and cons of a capitalistic economy, globalization, poverty, genocide, and how we should relate to extraterrestrial life if we ever encounter it — all these are examples of issues that are either not addressed in scripture, or are very muddy.  We would shudder if someone suggested we follow the clear scriptural teachings and examples on such things as women’s issues or genocide.  We must not approach any of them simplistically.
For a mathematics professor, he makes a lot of sense.  (Lame attempt at a joke; I never was great at math.) The truth is, our interpretations of the Bible have changed.  We just need to be logical and knowledgeable about the Bible.  If we are able to answer their rhetoric we can make convincing arguments.  Those who do not have faith will find it difficult to debate religion with authority because they do not hold the faith that we have. Even though many non-believers are very knowledgeable about religion, most religious people will not take credence to their words merely because they do not have faith.  Therefore, we have to speak the language of our persecutors and know how to refute them.

So I want to end this post with a few last thoughts from Professor Maddox in his response to another article by Pepperdine Accounting Professor Marilyn Misch, who had written an article stating that homosexuals should remain celibate. (The entire foundation of Dr Misch’s article lies in the following syllogism:  All sexual relations outside of marriage are sin.  Homosexual relations are (by definition) outside marriage.)  Here are Professor Maddox’s final remarks:
[First,] the reality of homosexuality is very difficult to sort out in the context of faith, even if one is forced to face it in a loved one, or in oneself.  Many faith traditions are addressing the question, are at different points on the journey, and are drawing different conclusions as they go.  I am not claiming here to present definitive answers to the biblical questions.  I am merely proposing that Dr. Misch did not present them either. 
Second, it is against my nature to write as I have written here, especially when I realize how incompletely I have addressed a complex issue.  The reason I must write is that I feel for the many readers of Dr. Misch’s article who are struggling with the reality of homosexuality in the context of faith, only to find their situation, indeed their entire selves, reduced by her article to a simplistic and faulty syllogism, implying that their entire sexual and romantic natures are nothing more than an inclination to sin.  Such undiscerning judgment has done much damage to struggling Christians.
This judgment has reduced many people to despair and led to their ultimate suicide.  And it was not because they lacked a support structure to resist temptation; it was because the romantic attraction and, yes, the love they felt for another was called sinful, and absurdly compared to such things as the addiction of alcoholism, the predatory abusiveness of pedophilia, or the birth of a retarded child.  In their hearts these struggling people wondered if their love was really like these tragedies. 
Furthermore, I know of many deeply religious people who threw away their faith, either because the dichotomy produced by simplistic exegesis was the source of irreconcilable internal contradiction, or because they tired of the naïve and undiscerning arguments presented by those who clearly could not understand their situation but claimed to represent God. 
Finally, I do not want us to be polarized by the issue of homosexuality.  Simplistic arguments in black and white can only polarize a community.  Life and faith are much more colorful and complex than Dr. Misch’s article suggests, and there will always be questions to which we do not have completely satisfying answers.  As a mathematician, I find such inconclusiveness disconcerting.  But I believe we must be willing to live with some inconclusiveness, even on matters as volatile as homosexuality, and even when it produces dissonance within our own hearts and disagreements between us. 
We all have much to learn, and much we have never experienced.  I accept that some questions do not have clear answers, and I have learned to live with the dissonance, not because I am content with it or because it allows me to live how I please, but because I am on a journey of faith.  God is leading me somewhere, and I am doing my best to follow.
The next post will be my final post in this series on Religion and Sexuality, and after that, we will return to our regularly scheduled program.

7 comments:

becca said...

very interesting post i learned alot thank you

Everyday Life

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Joe.

I have been looking forward to today's installment all morning. You did not disappoint!

I had to read several times Maddox's line that begins "The reason I must write." I wanted it to be etched into my brain, at the ready for when I need a reminder that what I hear from the religious right is nothing but garbage.

Maddox's comments are so compassionate, so affirming, exactly what many of us need to hear often but rarely do. Thanks for passing them along.

Good holiday weekend to you.
Dan

WranglerMan said...

Good one, my friend!

fan of casey said...

Joe: I think the more enlightened view is to draw from the principles in the Bible, rather than specific rules, to try to fit religion into today's world. Also as you have tried to convey as an overall theme, love is paramount, and one must also decide when principles clash, which one has priority over others.

I also liken the attitudes people bring to religion to two basic categories: the positive, optimist, that view situations thru the glass-is-half-full vs. the negative, pessimist, half-empty. Some people try to encourage and look for the best in people. Others take the I am holier than thou, and enjoy the path of condemning others. Just as some people find joy in others while others need to build themselves up by tearing others down, people need to decide which approach is best and consistent with the teachings of Christ.

Uncutplus said...

In your post, Dr. Maddox said: "Furthermore, I know of many deeply religious people who threw away their faith, either because the dichotomy produced by simplistic exegesis was the source of irreconcilable internal contradiction, or because they tired of the naïve and undiscerning arguments presented by those who clearly could not understand their situation but claimed to represent God."

I begin to wonder, is that describing me? Being gay may have added some doubts about my faith, but I have been asking questions since I was a teen, began thinking for myself, and having doubts:
-Who made God?
-Jesus was a great teacher & example,
-but was he divine?
-really born of a virgin?
-ascended into heaven alive?
-will return sometime (?soon) for the rapture?

Sorry, but my mind, which tries to apply the scientific method for proofs of truth, just cannot wrap itself up into this package called "faith."

I think no less of you and others for your faith, but it just does not work for me.

JoeBlow said...

Thanks, Becca and WranglerMan.

JoeBlow said...

Dan, I am glad you enjoyed it. Dr. Maddox does make a great deal of sense in his article.

FOC, I agree, I think it is most important that we look at the positive. When we look for the positives first, whether it is in religion or in life, we are much happier people.

Uncutplus, I understand that faith is not for everyone. Some people need concrete answers. I learned a long time ago with my study of history that few concrete answers exist, especially when it comes to the humanities.