Seeing the Light in the Battle for LGBT Rights
With this cultural shifting toward acceptance of LGBT people among people of faith comes the understandable pushback from Reformed evangelicals like Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll. These missional men remain determined to stand up for traditional biblical values even though this "tradition" goes back to the Second Great Awakening at best. These cultural relativists base their analysis on a few select Bible verses that theologian James Allison calls the "clobber texts." They seem to be oblivious to the church's sordid history of employing very select Bible verses out of context to condemn women and people of color as inferior beings. Now anyone who espouses such outdated thinking gets called out on the carpet, and rightly so. Also, this worldview appears to disregard the myriad of discoveries from science, psychology, theology, and other disciplines that informed changing attitudes toward LGBT people.
Some progressive evangelical leaders like Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, Ron Sider, and Jim Wallis, who hold traditional views about marriage and ordained clergy remain committed to eradicating poverty and other very noble social justice causes. They fought gallantly to rescue the word "evangelical" from the clutches of their more conservative brethren. Yet, they continue to champion themselves as "progressives" even though, as Sarah Posner wisely noted over at Religion Dispatches, their brand of progressivism no longer speaks for many people of faith.
Yes, I understand that some progressive evangelicals have theological reservations when it comes to "homosexuality." As a direct descendant of Roger Williams, I do not wish to force anyone to go against their conscience by forcing them to endorse a given cause.
So, rather than continuing to battle each other over this issue, I'd like to propose a compromise. Why not designate those "progressive evangelicals" who do not feel called to champion LGBT rights as "traditionalist progressives"? (The term "conservative progressive" appears to be quite the oxymoron.) That will distinguish them from those religious progressives from mainline and spiritual but not religious circles who are advocating for women's rights and full inclusion of LGBT people. Such a distinction will allow for funders and followers to have a clearer scope of the organization's mission, so they can ascertain if this ministry is in line with their values. Also, this shift would be a start toward educating the media and the public at large about the growing multicultural nature of religious progressivism.
Becky Garrison's books include Jesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ, Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church, and Ancient Future Disciples: Meeting Jesus in Mission-Shaped Ministries (forthcoming). Her additional writing credits include work for Killing the Buddha, The Washington Post's On Faith column, the Guardian, The Revealer, and Religion Dispatches.