Part 3 – The Barna Group’s Research on GLBT Spirituality

Fresh off of our riveting discussion about my responses to Barna’s research (here is Part 1 and Part 2), this is the actual article for which I originally answered those questions. Also quoted in the article are:

Dr. Warren Throckmorton (see my Blogroll to the right)

Dr. Russell Moore (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Alan Chambers (President of Exodus)

Dr. James Tonkowich (Institute on Religion & Democracy)

I was wondering what are your thoughts about the conclusions from each of the individuals quoted. From what I see there is a clear delineation between the different commentors thoughts: Spiritual desire vs. Doctrinal beliefs. 

What do you think?

Much love.

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  • Frank B

    P.S. Andrew, what other articles have you read responding to Barna's research? I would be curious to hear your perspective on some of those.

  • Frank B

    I did not feel that most of those quoted brought anything productive to the conversation. Dr. Moore, Alan Chambers, and Dr. Tonkowich all put forward the same opinions which for decades have done nothing to further the conversation.

    Dr. Moore implies that gay Christians are simply practicing “self-deception,” and explains, “We…think that our particular area of rebellion doesn’t affect my sense of relationship to the divine, when in course, it does…. I think Christians should have a great sense of compassion upon their homosexual neighbors in their lostness, because it is not a different kind of lostness than all of the rest of us previously experienced before we came to know the Lord Jesus.”

    Alan Chambers, considered notorious by many in the gay community, adds, “…if you adopt a gay worldview or a gay identity, you’re going to have to throw out the Scriptural mandates in regard to sexuality or the Scriptural context with regards to sexuality.”

    And I enjoyed Dr. Tonkowich’s first paragraph about the wrong approaches, but he went on to say, “We need to articulate a biblical understanding of what it means to be human, what it means to have a body. What marriage means and how that fits not only into life in the 21st Century, but how marriage goes all the way back to the beginning – to creation.”

    In summary, they have said 1) gay Christians practice self-deception, 2) adopting a gay worldview distorts the Bible, and 3) according to the Bible, being straight is “what it means to be human, what it means to have a body.”

    Now, I don’t think it would be productive to the discussion for me to counter these arguments–especially since to some degree I do agree with them. But are these men operating under such a self-deception as to believe that their voice is productive? Of the three, at least I know that Chambers is out there wrestling with the subject and talking to people; the other two give me the impression that they don’t have many interactions with gay people (but I have done no research; I am merely making an assumption based on their occupations and responses). This research opens up such a floor for productive dialogue that it’s disheartening to read such an article closed to discussion.

    It is frustrating that the article has such a conservative bent. McCabe quotes Dr. Throckmorton early on in an attempt to appear balanced, but goes on to quote three opinionated conservatives and then merely ends with Dr. Tonkowich’s quote instead of providing a balanced conclusion which might have led to deeper reflection. This lack of conclusion was my greatest frustration.

    The picture of a stereotypical short-haired woman at the top did not help curb my frustrations either. At least it wasn’t a garishly dressed man.

    And that Marin guy she quoted? He’s just a weirdo 😉

  • Frank – One of the things that I focus on so much is being productive. And I think you brought up such a great point about what it means to speak productively. This might be just my understanding, but, the gay community knows exactly what conservative Christians think, feel and believe. I know, profound, right? And if that is true (which I believe it is), then why do conservatives always, in very public forums, continually have to try to remind gays and lesbians that there is a clear divide in worldview/theology/etc, like one day the GLBT community is just going to forget what conservatives believe if they don’t keep throwing sin and sexual behavior it in their faces! At what point do we finally get to stop the madness (from both ends – because don’t get me wrong, the gay community repeatedly speaks about the exact same stuff in the media as well)!

    As for the structure of the article and it’s intro vs. conclusion, I didn’t notice it until you pointed it out. I think your assessment is dead on.

    Here is a response that I thought worthwhile from a lesbian clergy member:

    From the conservative side, I was actually quite surprised about the lack of coverage (relatively speaking) for their research. Most of what I read was blogs and the like. Many of the big-boy Christian media outlets didn’t touch it. I’m guessing that was Barna’s plan though, more viral to lessen the potential backlash. Because let’s be honest, if Barna wants some coverage, he can get some coverage. Interesting…

  • Audrey

    Perhaps conservatives just need to do surveys for other conservatives to read. I don't think Mr. Barna's questions in this survey are all that interesting from a nuanced lesbian perspective. It's kind of ignorant and naieve, and reminds me of awkward portrayals of black people on 1960s

    TV shows, "Julia" comes to mind.

    There are plenty of resources for understanding christian lesbian america, christian gay america etc. In fact, we have over 40 years of vital information on this subject, and lesbians and gays who have been in ministry for almost as long as I have been alive. You just have to do the reading and the homework to come up with the good questions, and most conservatives are rather lazy in this department.

    I have yet to meet even a straight man who can quote Mary Daly!

    It's a good first try, and can obviously be revised and improved upon. Basically, it is good to get the message out that there are so many lesbian and gay christians running around town, and that we have a lot to contribute to the world, and a lot we are contributing to the life of the spirit.

    We just don't spend much time hanging out with conservatives who don't get us, and aren't up to speed on the mountains of already published information. Get reading conservatives, I'm looking forward to discussing our master pieces of spiritual writing with you, our incredible ideas, our great innovations in worship. We welcome you all to our churches. Many straight mothers found a church home with our communities when their sons were dying of AIDS, and these mothers became some of our most powerful advocates in America. Don't mess with the mothers… Matthew Sheppard's mother, Ellen's mother, or Troy Perry's mother. Mothers are huge and loved by gay men and lesbians.

    So come on over, get to know us, read the books. I'm really looking forward to conversations that go beyond "gay and god 101." Hey, I'd love to go beyond lesbian christian feminism 101 with you too 🙂 Am I asking too much? Do people read anymore? 🙂