Such a complicated and charged debate dividing all venues of our society; politically, families, sports and social clubs. Division is especially striking in church settings. A middle ground is yet to be found. The extremes are ruling the debate and the extremes seldom represent the true story. Both sides are too full of bias and subjective preference, what people want to believe apart from objective evidence and sense.
The first side expressed such a harsh judgmental lane straight out of puritan hyper-righteousness; anyone guilty of homosexuality are in the express lane to hell. Eternal torment is only fitting for such an abhorrent choice of lifestyle.
Then came the so called “politically correct” which pushed homosexual behavior into a different express line to heaven. Not only is the practice not their fault, that’s the way God created them and so they deserve a special entitlement. In our modern context we ought not to even mention the possibility there might be something wrong within the individual that motivates the behavior. It’s now a divinely programed character issue, and who are we to change what God has put into order?
But my Hegelian convictions urge me toward a third position which may be premature in 2014. I’m not sure either side will be able to tolerate this position. But let me present it in full knowledge it is politically incorrect and will gain the scorn of both sides, but in the hope it might be remembered when hostilities subside. Perhaps this third view might even temper the extremes.
Werner Hegel is credited (perhaps Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814) deserves at least a footnote in this idea) with the synthesizing of argument. First a thesis is proposed seeking enlightenment of some dark corner of human reasoning. Before long an antithesis will appear challenging the previous proposal. Be it the logical pursuit of philosophical truth or just plain contrariness is in the mind of the asserter. But Hegel’s goal derives from the debate and interchange of the two opposing ideals until the golden thinking emerges which he dubbed synthesis.
The synthesis holds the key values of both sides, with refined luster. Truth is never found in the extremes, rather in the streamlined qualities which both sides produced. The problem was that both sides immediately assumed their opinions rivaled anything Moses ever ventured to publish.
The modern debate of homosexuality has divided our senses. Pastors once guided by compassion and loud pleas for “grace as a free gift and never by any works of man” are now jumping to the other side of salvation issues with judgment and condemnation. Plenty of Christian worship services supposed to be focused on experiencing God’s loving grace apart from works are now engineered by the spirit of Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Not just articles, blogs and essays, but the whole worship service is somehow driven off courses to expose the slippery choice of sin plaguing our churches and priming us for God’s judgment, not because we are necessarily guilty of the sin ourselves, but because we have turned a blind eye to the abhorrent plague.
Yeah, it’s rather overplayed to say the least. Seekers under the impression of “invitation” to come and try out the good feeling of the gospel are surprised and rightfully offended by an attitude they have been seeking to escape in their own life. Might “false advertising” be true of such churches practicing such an ego driven power theme as God’s messengers of not just his will, but of his supercharged judgment?
But is the other extreme thereby excused in avoiding such an angry tone? Apparently in direct correlation to the judgment they have been driven to the other expression of entitled status for homosexuals. Churches can’t wait to be the first to host a “Gay Pride Weekend” (have they ever ventured a blessed equality by hosting a “Heterosexual Pride Weekend”?) They not only espouse the political spin of their context they enshrine a special status to counter the hostility. The entire Bible is altered through their narrow lens of homosexuality. God’s call upon Moses to approach the burning bush with naked feet and Jesus disciples “reclining” at the dinner table is selectively and imaginatively altered into sexual assertions. The extreme opinions draw them into extreme reworking alterations of what might otherwise be understood as simple cultural inclinations.
Some have explained this as the need to make up lost ground from all the exclusive and cruel pounding of judgment. They need compensated time to recover before they can stand on equal ground. Others counter that the churches are simply doing anything to gain new members. If the gospel fails to allure enquiries then perhaps the shock effect will do just as well to gain the attention.
Neither side provides a conscionable harmony of biblical truth with behavioral practice. The former embraces the Bible like a Pharisee with the Law of Moses. The latter minimalizes the Bible as soon as it confronts their deeper emotions, thus trumping timeless truth in the name of sentimentality.
There must be a better way through this tumultuous forest. Must we compromise our beliefs in order to maintain and enjoy family and social harmony? Could we ever truly believe in grace when judgment (and face it, ego) is motivating our thinking and even our worship experiences? Naturally, one will have to excuse themselves from the humanly devised trenches to seriously consider a better way. As always, extremes are cruel, but mostly they blind us to balanced thinking from a broader perspective.
Notice the way scripture itself tends to “highlighted” according to our various preferences. Such a contentious topic certainly exposes the old accusation that modern Christians tend to use the Bible to support their already established conclusions, instead of accepting the full teaching of God’s word itself to guide and inspire us apart from our personal opinions.
Romans 1:26-32 is the most charged teaching on homosexuality.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Granted, Paul’s point is quite to the mark, apart from rationalizations which try to presuppose what Paul “really meant.” These spins of assumption are comical at best, such as Paul was really talking about idolatry or of heterosexuals not practicing homosexuality. Such points are nowhere asserted in these writings, except in the contrived logic of the narrow perspective (on both sides) who already have their mind made up before they got around to seeing what the New Testament itself had to say. In seminary we humorously classified this as the discipline of eisegeis, instead of exegesis, for reading into the passage.
But please notice the whole context, apart from our modern social conditioning! We are picking and choosing the notable social taboo and overlooking what the passage has to speak to us. We have our mind made up and are only looking for verses to back up what we have decided. Please note the whole checklist of rebellious sins.
We are ready to cast out the homosexual for getting into this context, but please consider the full passage and the eventual point that the Apostle Paul is seeking to make. Even if the homosexual might be an offense, what of the one who disrespects their parents? How about envy? Arrogant and boastful? Are we ready to throw out these who vaunt themselves every Sunday morning? Slander and gossip? The Bible speaks of gossip as a sin in nearly 20 times as many verses. Why isn’t that sin lifted up to its full revulsion? What are churches tolerant of Bernice spreading harmful and divisive words that destroy lives and careers, and yet homosexuality is the chosen sin for expulsion and purging. Does it not sound like double standards being established? The reality is that all of these matters are equally repulsive to our Lord, but we have picked out our social taboos, while excusing the rest. If we would really suppose ourselves to be so righteous then let’s see some consistency in the charges.
The bold reality is that no one is allowed to come to the cross in a parade of personal acclaim and pomposity. Only those approaching the cross on their knees might be deemed worthy of such a trek. Humility is the key to spiritual regeneration and salvation. Entitlement is never the acceptable way of finding forgiveness of our sins. When we pick and choose righteous preferences, be assured that we have strayed off course of our quest for wholeness.
We all stand I need of forgiveness. Despite our humanly assertions to excuse chosen transgressions, we still are bound to the call of repentance and regret for our selfish ways. The gossips as well as the homosexual are obligated to the call of humble submission to Christ and his call. There is never room for personal agendas, preferences or disavowal of responsibility. We stand in need of mercy and grace, the unmerited forgiveness and favor of our Lord based on his love, not on our rationalized spin.
Eventually we must accept each other with our weaknesses and faults, rejecting the entitlement labels. As Morgan Freeman boldly asserted his place with racial tensions during a 2005 interview with Mike Wallace for television’s 60 Minutes news magazine program, the way to get rid of racism was to “stop talking about it.”
FREEMAN: I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until …?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You’re not going to say, “I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.” Hear what I’m saying?