A Conversation at the Christian Book Expo

Following my panel discussion, about which I will report soon, I was approached by a well-dressed guy wearing name badge that identified him on the staff with the Institute for Creation Research, an organization with which I was not familiar.  Here’s how it went:

Guy: Did that other panelist say that you think gays can be Christian?

Me: I’m on the record on my blog. I believe that gay marriage is a lifestyle that can be biblically virtuous.

How can you say that?

Do you make women wear head coverings in your church?

Well, I’m not married and I don’t have daughters, so I’m not in authority over any women.

Seriously, did you just say that?

But if I were in authority over women, I guess I would.

Well, if you were a pastor or elder at a church, would you make women wear head coverings?

I have a friend who’s a pastor…

I’m asking you.  Not your friend.  It’s a yes or no question.  If you were a pastor or elder of a church would you make women cover their heads to pray, remove their braids, and not wear gold?

I guess I haven’t really studied that, so I don’t know.

Do you eat shrimp?

I don’t like seafood.

Ugh.  I mean, are you biblically prohibited from eating shrimp?

I don’t really follow you.

I’m just asking how you understand all of the different activities in the Bible that are called “abominations” and which ones you engage in and which you didn’t.

Well, I guess I haven’t studied about that.  But what do you think about creation?

You mean versus evolution?


I think that creation “science” (yes, I used air quotes) is laughable.  It’s not science.  It’s ridiculous.  But you and I can debate that for eternity in heaven, right?  Because me believing in evolution won’t send me to hell.

But believing in the wrong Christ will.

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  • Ben

    I’m assuming your transcript is close to accurate, because I don’t see how you could gain from pretending that you treated someone that way. Way to treat a fellow believer. I suppose that sometimes I forget that “they will know we are Christians by our contempt for each other”, hey.
    Obviously you disagreed with the guy on many levels. Did you have to treat him like a five year-old? I guess you feel like you out-intellectualized him, or perhaps out-theologized him, so congratulations on that.

  • Jason

    Good job! Way to divert the issue and not answer the question!
    At least the guy had the guts to tell you the truth, though–you do believe in another Jesus.

  • Korey

    The question from the ICR man is at the very least akin to asking how Christians can love sinners or, from my perspective, welcome the outcast. To respond with charity toward such an attitude is difficult if not unwarranted. The example Jesus set was not free from calling out hypocrisy and chastising Pharisees as white washed tombs.

  • Bo

    “I believe that gay marriage is a lifestyle that can be biblically virtuous.” Tony answered the question and talks about it in the blog post he linked to. I don’t think Tony is patronizing this guy anymore than the guy is trying to patronize Tony. That being said, I’m not sure where the appropriate sarcasm line is and if Tony crossed it, but honestly who can blame Tony when he’s constantly bombarded by these religious nutjobs who ignore science and decency, and of course I mean that in a loving way. Fundamentalists are hard to deal with. It’s so easy to fight against the practice of a sin you have no personal experience with…

  • Tony,
    Seriously? Red Herrings, horrible hermeneutics…come one…nice dodges…

  • Ben

    I agree largely with your comments Korey and Bo. I’m not really sure what else Tony expected though. It’s not exactly news that a guy in a suit from a creation science organisation has problems with his views.
    And hey, I’m all for Jesus throwing out the money-changers and dissing the Pharisees (like me). However, I’m not in a big hurry to equate the motives and discernment of Tony Jones, or any mortal man, with the Lords’. I happen to believe Tony is massively misguided on the homosexual issue (although I would firmly agree that of course, a gay person can be a Christian), and of course I know I’m not alone on that; if he and people who hold similar views want a hearing, they’re going to have to fight hard to maintain the irenicism with which they began this whole conversation.
    Of course, a massive swathe of conservative Christianity should be condemned for their arrogance concerning these matters. That’s their problem though.

  • nathan

    Lord, have mercy.

  • nathan

    Actually, Tony’s questions are totally appropriate and fair. He’s interrogating on what basis the man is cherry picking abominations for the day.

  • Joshua

    This conversation is really humorous. Not in a way that makes fun of either position, but that you and him were flying on two completely different wavelengths. Been there.
    I don’t know if I believe that a homosexual lifestyle can be God-honoring. But I do know that homosexuals can be Christians, and will be found in eternity with God, because I believe in the power of God’s saving grace; which for some reason can cover murderers, rapists, thieves, and a person like me, but according to conservative Christians, cannot cover homosexuals. What a weak Jesus.

  • Ann

    I’m still working out what I believe on the homosexuality issue. I guess I have that luxury because I don’t have any close friends or family who are homosexual. I don’t question that they can be Christians, but I’m not sure whether it is a biblically virtuous lifestyle. But if it is biblically virtuous, then do we also have to say that the same can be said about pre-marital sex? How do I explain the difference to my daughter? I think that is what scares me.

  • Joshua

    I don’t see this as treating someone as a five year old. We both know what would happen if he had answered a simple yes. This guy would have chastised him. This was a great response, to answer the question by engaging in a conversation that would lead to its own conclusions.
    Would you happen to have any links or resources you could point me to on a Biblical basis for understanding homosexual lifestyle as acceptable? I want to learn more. There are verses that I see as being misunderstood, but there are some that I just can’t get past to say, “Yes”. If you could post in comments, or if you have access to the email I put in to comment, send them to me, I’d really appreciate it.
    Main verses I’m struggling with:
    Romans 1:26-27
    1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    Jude 1:7
    Of course there’s several Old Testament verses, but I see right next to those other verses that contain commands that we no longer follow today (freedom from the law). It’s these New Testament ones that catch me. In the context of knowing that there are gay Christians, I don’t know what to do with these.

  • Proof people hear what they want to hear. Those who disagree with Tony read this and see Tony picking on someone and being cruel. Those who agree see him responding as best he can to a useless and antagonistic conversation.
    He answered the question and followed up with a question. Classical technique, nothing wrong with that. The guy is clearly unwilling to answer questions in return, but Tony pushes on to try to make his point about how problematic it is to pick and choose what we take literally. The guy is clearly just looking to pick a fight. He goes from hot button to hot button but either can’t or won’t state his own position on ANYTHING.
    I don’t see a single sarcastic word in what Tony said. I see a man exasperated by the fact that someone is blatantly picking a fight but insisting that Tony throw the first punch. If anything is offensive its that people like this are so comfortable condemning Christians with whom they disagree, and then their posse turns around and blames the person being attacked for showing contempt by simply refusing to stoop to that level.
    Proof that there is only one Christ and that we all simply see and know him differently and we need to get over it.

  • Your Name

    Creation science is laughable but hell isn’t?

  • Daniel

    I am still caught up on the whole head covering issue, this guy can’t be serious right? For the record, Creation science is not a joke, however the complete inability to acknowledge evolution is, much in the same way that (some) evolutionary scientists are unable to admit that God had a hand in creation.

  • Annie

    I don’t think the shrimp question is at all fair. Christians don’t keep kosher. Thanks for pointing that out. The prohibition against homosexuality rears its head outside of leviticus, you do realize. meanwhile, as for the head coverings, I wonder what you’d do if you met an Orthodox individual who answered an unproblematic “yes, women do cover their heads in my church.”

  • I guess my biggest issue with this is the last line:
    “But believing in the wrong Christ will.”
    What does that even mean? There is one God, one Christ. If I cry out to God and claim his promise of forgiveness, redemption and grace through the death of his son, Jesus the Christ… that’s it. That is “salvation”. How can that be the “wrong Christ”? Is this man claiming that there are many “Jesus Christs” available to us?
    God (at pearly gates): May I help you?
    Me: Yes, um, God… I’d like to enter heaven.
    God: hmmmm… Matty… nope, don’t see you here
    Me: but God, I’ve been praying to Jesus, he’s my savior… you promised.
    God: hmmm… let me check here…. oh, I see the problem
    Me: Problem? I’ve been reading my bible and praying and doing my best to love my neighbor through the power of Christ.
    God: yeah… it looks like you’ve been believing in the wrong Christ.
    Me: umm…
    God: yeah, you’ve been believing in the Christ with the Blue eyes… i’m so sorry, our Christ has Brown eyes…
    Me: sonovab*tch!
    Can someone explain this?

  • Annie, You’ve missed the point of the line of questioning. If someone does keep a consistent, literal interpretation, then great! The point of the line of questioning is to expose the cherry picking. To expose the fact that people are rarely as literal as they think they are or claim to be. If someone is as literal as they think they are and claim to be, there’s no problem.
    And of course the shrimp question is fair. The guy didn’t even know enough to simply say “Peter’s vision of the lowered blanket full of unclean foods frees Christians from having to keep kosher”. The point of the question was to expose ignorance and force the guy to take a stand on the very questions he’s insisting Tony answer, which he repeatedly refused to do.

  • Kenton

    A little context might help. I was at the panel discussion and Tony did and excellent job. (Tony, I was looking for a post on your blog to express my appreciation. I guess this is it?)
    At the same time, I think it would be fair to say that the discussion made everyone…oh, how should I say this…a little “pissy”, perhaps?
    I’m thinking the adrenaline was a flowin’, and this conversation was probably the last thing Tony needed.
    Tony showed me some grace that morning. I’ll show him some back. (Grace, friend.)

  • Tim

    Just two things:
    First, I don’t think either party is justified in the above dialogical exchange. Both Tony and his conversational opponent were engaged in a combative attempt to one-up the other person. I think it is unfortunate that both parties failed to engage in charitable dialogue–truly trying to understand the other person’s point of view by way of meaningful discussion. I am actually a bit confused why Tony would post this dialogical exchange on his website. In my estimation, it certainly doesn’t paint him in a positive light. It just suggests he gets a kick out of beating a conservative in a debate.
    Second, while the homosexual issue is certainly a controversial one, Tony’s hermeneutical reasoning is not without response. Regardless of where you fall with regard to homosexuality and Christianity, I think people (Tony included) ought to interact with opposing views in their strongest form. Even a quick overview of the different perspectives of this issue reveals that many people have responded to the kind of argument Tony presents. I think it is a bit silly to suggest that the argument Tony presents is somehow the definitive biblical position–or even the most hermeneutically accurate.

  • Your Name

    Perhaps you’re right; maybe “treating him like a five year old” wasn’t the best way to describe it. What I was really trying to get at was that “what? You actually believe that in 2009?” thing, underlying the expression of incredulity. (cf. “Seriously? Did you just say that?”, or calling the others’ position “laughable”.) If you disagree with someone, fine. Treat them with grace and respect as you try and argue your points, at least. It doesn’t matter if you’re right on the money with what you’re saying – if you don’t have love, then you’re wrong. You missed the point. You lose. Truth and love is not presented as a dichotomy in scripture – it’s a necessary both/and.
    It’s fascinating to me, the way you declared that the discussion was “proof that people hear what they want to hear”, and then proceeded to explain what was “clearly” going on. Are you are exempt from your own maxim?

  • Ben

    Bah… “Your Name” in the above comment is me. This blog commenting system sucks.

  • love this. well done tony.

  • cas

    You’re always good for a laugh. Now please enlighten me if I’m mistaken, but didn’t Jesus affirm the OT teaching on … everything, while Peter got himself a graphic vision about shrimp being a-okay.
    Shrimp eating would have been pretty shocking to his contemporaries, you could make a case with that, but what do you do with our man Jesus? I’m being snarky, but asking seriously.

  • Larry

    Jesus overturned the OT teachings on many things, for food see Mark 7:18-19 —
    And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

  • ben

    I think the ICR fella was trying to communicate something similar to Paul in Galatians:
    Gal. 1:6 – “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
    He’s not really affirming that there is another Jesus Christ, but that Tony might be trusting a different “Christ”, that is, one of his own imagination and/or distortion.
    About Shrimp:
    The New Testament clearly affirms both the sinfulness of homosexuality and the abolition of Kosher food laws. If Tony thought this particular guy was living an unexamined life, then he makes a fine point in showing this person that he can’t really explain why he chooses to follow some biblical teachings and not others. BUT if Tony is insinuating that there IS no valid response to his shrimp question, he’s badly mistaken. The “shrimp argument” only by those who refuse to acknowledge that evangelical theology affirms a complex, yet textually warranted, Old Testament-New Testament hermeneutic. Sure, not every layperson can articulate it well, but it’s clearly articulated by scholars and pastors.

  • ben

    Sorry, that sentence was supposed to read: “The “shrimp argument” is used only by those who refuse to acknowledge…”
    Also, here’s a recent and interesting article by a brother in Christ who acknowledges he’s been given same-sex desires that weren’t magically cured by his conversion, yet is striving to live a life faithful to the biblical prohibitions against homosexual practice in his Church community:

  • Joshua asked:
    “Would you happen to have any links or resources you could point me to on a Biblical basis for understanding homosexual lifestyle as acceptable?”
    Obviously I am not Tony – I think I am much better looking 😉 – but here is a great article on the subject by Walter Wink.

  • Although the “shrimp argument,” though it can be refuted with NT references, is still valid because it shows that things once thought ‘an abomination’ can be redeemed and permitted.
    For example, if one reads the creation accounts in Genesis, humanity is instructed to practice a vegetarian diet. It is not until Genesis 9 that we are given permission to eat meat, but with the stipulation that it does not have blood still in it.
    Move to the NT and we see in Acts 15 that the blood stipulation remains (perhaps it is referring to blood presented to idols but the grammar isn’t exactly clear). However, now it is permitted to eat a rare steak (still has blood in it)… or even raw (tartar).
    The shrimp question simply reveals that things once forbidden can and do change. Perhaps homosexuality falls into this category. Today, we understand that what ‘wires’ someone for same-sex attraction is not a conscious choice. If it is not genetic, then it occurs so early that the individual feels they “have always been attracted to members of the same sex.” This scientific fact was unknown (and would have most likely been anathema) to the writers of the OT as well as Paul. So should we limit members of our society based upon first century science, or should we allow for the concept that Paul could not comprehend a committed, monogamous, covenantal, relationship between people of the same-sex and thus allow our theology to continue to develop in light of new discoveries?
    The shrimp question is valid.
    Oh, and Jesus spurned the strict OT teaching on the sabbath on numerous occasions. Technically, he should have been killed for every time he ‘worked’ on the sabbath. Thank goodness that concept has been allowed to evolve into one that breeds freedom rather than bondage.

  • Rick C

    I have read the Walter Wink article and found it to be mostly conjecture since he provided no outside documentation to warrant his exclusion of certain clear biblical passages.
    Also, his statement that “It is not clear whether I Corinthians 6:9 and I Timothy 1:10 refer to the “passive” and “active” partners in homosexual relationships, or to homosexual and heterosexual male prostitutes” is highly questionable. The two Greek words translated by this phrase “μαλακοι ουτε αρσενοκοιται” refer to both the active and passive partners in consensual homosexual acts.
    Please do not get me wrong; I respect a person’s right to have an opinion that is different from my own. However, let us make sure that we do not pawn our opinion off as scholarly research without providing the necessary resources to back them.
    Grace and peace,

  • panthera

    Rick C,
    In the interest of fairness to those who are not quite>/i> as comfortable in Greek (me for one) as in other languages, here’s the passage in question:
    η ουκ οιδατε οτι αδικοι βασιλειαν θεου ου κληρονομησουσιν μη πλανασθε ουτε πορνοι ουτε ειδωλολατραι ουτε μοιχοι ουτε μαλακοι ουτε αρσενοκοιται
    Textus Receptus (The basic Greek, if you meant another, do give the source, please).
    An nescitis quia iniqui regnum Dei non possidebunt? Nolite errare: neque fornicarii neque idolis servientes neque adulteri neque molles neque masculorum concubitores
    Vulgate (Such a compact language, pretty!)
    Wisset ihr nicht, daß die Ungerechten das Reich Gottes nicht ererben werden? Lasset euch nicht verführen! Weder die Hurer noch die Abgöttischen noch die Ehebrecher noch die Weichlinge noch die Knabenschänder
    Luther, (1912 edition) (not my favorite German, but a period of great thought in, for instance, Denmark, give or take a few years)
    Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
    King James
    OK, do we see a pattern here? Why yes, we do.
    First of all, your assertion that “μαλακοι ουτε αρσενοκοιται” refers to both partners in homosexual anal intercourse is an interpretation. Personally, I think your interpretation
    may or may not becorrect, but you are applying a modern, American interpretation to words from another era and culture.
    Let’s do read on, tho’, shall we? Unless, of course you want to argue that only certain languages are permitted to be used for specific Bible passages. I’m fit in four of the most common and, tho’ it takes forever’, can work through the Greek, should needs be.
    Right, then, let’s see what the Vulgate has to say, shall we? “neque masculorum concubitores” Oh boy, we have us one whoppin’ big problem, n’est-ce pas?
    Why yes, we do.
    You ain’t supposed to be spending your grocery money on those gorgeous hunks down at the temple, but running home to spend the evening with your hubby, who is watching the soccer game on TV and might give you 2 minutes attention, later. Or not. Hubby applying to SSM and cross-sex.
    From an interpretation which is based on modern thinking (do, please, if you can, provide me the Greek texts defining homosexuality. From that time, of course. My modern Greek is a tad bit fresher and I can access materials from the 20th and 21 centuries by myself). Oh, right, there are none from that period because the concept had not yet been coined.
    Well, moving right along – let’s face it, all those hot Latin men in Italy really are mamma’s boys – we can look at the German.
    Now, I personally prefer the text from 1545, and I suspect some of my students would say this is because we always prefer things from our youth…
    9Wisset ihr nicht, daß die Ungerechten das Reich Gottes nicht ererben werden? Lasset euch nicht verführen! Weder die Hurer noch die Abgöttischen noch die Ehebrecher noch die Weichlinge noch die Knabenschänder
    But, whoops!, there we go again. No homosexuals, anywhere! Gosh, oh, golly, Luther, the man who gave us the non-Catholic Christian church, is talking about ‘Weichlinge’ and Knabenschänder, but you will have a long hard slog to turn Weichling into ‘passive role in anal-intercourse between men’.
    And, whoops again – Germans seem to have an aversion to people who prey on young boys, whereas the English language version (rather conveniently, considering the goings on in the Catholic church, no?) somehow completely ignores them. There might be another translation up there which doesn’t venture in that direction, either. Probably just got lost in my cut and paste, errare humanum est…
    Well, moving right along through time, I was shaving almost every day by then, we have the King James – the only English language Bible I am willing to accept, the fundamentalist Christian translations being abominations. Shall we repeat the verse? Rather a long posting here, I do confess:
    Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
    So…abusers of themselves with mankind certainly could span to cover abusive gay sex (or even abusive straight sex), but there again…no discussion of homosexuality and all those pesky German negative vibes towards abusing young boys stripped away!
    Look, I see where you are going with your argumentation and if you want to get into a linguistic, um, spitting match about this, I have the academic credentials to happily oblige. But let’s be honest.
    I genuinely don’t care whether this was a condemnation of the perversions those folks indulged in at that time (and there are strong arguments to support this) or whether your interpretation on anal sex between men is correct. My belief in God and my salvation through Christ is not determined by what Paul said.
    I have lived in a monogamous, true, committed relationship for the last 24 happy years, the last several of which happily married. There is nothing you can say or do which will change that nor can you mount any arguments which would make me believe that Brittany Speers 55 hour marriages are somehow what God wants whilst our quarter century of love and mutual support is against his will.
    Try learning some modern biology and medicine instead of applying modern interpretations to ancient text. But if you really want to get into it, I shall be more than happy to oblige.

  • Joshua

    @Dave, thanks. I’m not going to comment on your appearance in light of the subject matter 😉 Ok, dumb joke.

  • panthera

    I will!
    I think it’s only fair we get to admire Dave’s pulchritude.
    Personally, I think Tony’s kinda cute, tho’ I really admire and respect him for his brains.
    (Before the humorless conservative Christians all flip their wigs, this was a joke. Well, Tony is cute, but anyway.

  • Pat

    Matty wrote “God: yeah, you’ve been believing in the Christ with the Blue eyes… i’m so sorry, our Christ has Brown eyes…
    Me: sonovab*tch!
    Can someone explain this?”
    It seems to me that it is a question of whether christ is radically loving and best pleased by our being radically loving, or radically committed to righteousness and planning to condemn those of us who don’t follow the laws to an eternity in hell. It’s a little unbalanced in that if those of us who worship the loving christ are right, those who worship the other will be fine; while if they are right, those of us who worship the loving version are probably screwed.
    OTOH, I wouldn’t want to spend eternity with their version of christ, nor to become like him. I don’t see how so many good people can be content to worship an evil god. You have to give them credit, though. If I worshipped an evil god, I think I would become an evil person myself.

  • Panthera,
    Thanks on all counts.
    Also, thanks for the walk through the languages. I was prepared to respond about the Greek (and I was even going to discuss the Vulgate too!) but the German! You are quickly approaching hero status in my book.

  • It appears as though you encountered a convenient straw man, roaming the hall. Good thing he didn’t challenge your ideas in any serious way, cause that wouldn’t have made for a good blog post.

  • panthera

    I agree with you that the conversation could not have gone other than it did, I’ve been through enough similar conferences in my field to know that there are always a few folks around who are bound and determined to accost and bring this that or the other speaker back to the ‘right side.’
    Where we disagree is, however, far more important (at least I think so) and that is on the question of whether being gay conflicts with being Christian.
    All rational conservative Christians have long since accepted that medicine and science maintain sexuality is not a choice. You are heterosexual, I am homosexual, neither of us can change that.
    The only arguments left for conservative Christians who don’t want gays to be Christians, fall into basically two groups.
    The first group is, ‘OK – we won’t stand on Leviticus, ’cause that means no more cashmere-silk sweaters, back to garters for our socks, no more shrimp and all that other hard-to-live-by kosher stuff. But we will stand on Paul. His word is literal and final.
    Fine – and that is all Tony was asking the man – since you have decided that Paul wasn’t talking about an idolatrous faith, but really about good ol’ Panthera, personally, then as the day follows the night, you must also follow all his other dictates. Women must keep their heads covered in church, they must shut up, they may not wear gold, they can’t teach a man anything…
    That is a perfectly reasonable question to ask of someone who demands we take Paul’s positions both literally and, of course, accept that the translation of modern day American fundamentalist Christians is the only true translation possible.
    The other avenue left for conservative Christians who are too intelligent to argue conclusive medical and scientific findings and who not only like wearing polyester/cotton blends, and having toilets inside the city limits is to go down the community of faith line. For some reason, God has appointed one man after the other to evidence his will to the rest of us. The fact that these men frequently contradict themselves – and decisions made by the men who went before them is only proof that God’s will for us changes. Frequently, mercurially, and with a remarkable similarity to making a solid profit, but never mind. Just as the LDS suddenly was ‘permitted’ to stop discriminating against blacks by God, so were priests suddenly not permitted to marry, unless, of course, they already were, but that only counts in those obscure places, far, far away.
    I guess there is a third argument – the, well, salvation isn’t really for ever, there is only one class of sin for which you can lose it, and that is being gay. But that one is so badly handicapped by it’s illogic, we only see it taken by those folks desperately grasping for straws.
    You’re not on a hostile blog here, even tho’ people like me are welcome. But the knee-jerk responses which pass for conservations on some other blogs we both participate in don’t work here. I get regularly lambasted for insisting that 17 year old people are still children, for instance.

  • Basil

    I love your posts and your warnings about literalism. My limited experience with reading religious texts is with the Quran (my second language is Arabic). Fundamentalist Muslims make the same argument — that the Word of God, as written in the Quran, is clear and of course supports whatever ridiculous social or political points they want to make. Of course all of this excessive literalism horrifies trained Quranic scholars who sift through centuries of commentary, and linguistic analysis (Arabic grammar being extremely complex)….but I digress….
    I think one can be a religious literalist, and still support same-sex marriage or gay rights, etc. The problem isn’t literalism, or the pronounced tendency of today’s “literalists” to cherry pick and support the literal word as written only when it is politically convenient (although the latter certainly is a problem). It’s an issue of intellectual laziness. It is one thing to say you are fluent in a language, be it Arabic, or Greek or Latin or Aramaic. It is quite another to say you can understand the connotations of what you are reading. What are the underlying cultural concepts behind the words in a text. Even if those same words are in still in use, have their connotations and denotations stayed fixed over 500, 1000, or 2000 years??
    For example…look at the word “marriage” — in the Old Testament it was understood by a semi-nomadic Semitic peoples as being a mechanism through which to secure tribal alliances within a patriarchal, clannish society. Polygamy was legitimate, and women were property of their respective tribes/clans — bartered to other tribes/clans, as a means of securing alliances. And if you travel today, to the more rural, isolated parts of the Middle East or Africa, you would see that the same system still holds true, even though the people (semites — in this case Arabs) and their religion (Muslim) is theoretically different. Marriage, in this cultural context, has an implicit (and even explicit) subjection of women to the needs of men. Morays and values about marriage are changing in the Middle East as well as everywhere else in the world, even in more conservative and rural areas. Modern media has spread, literacy rates are rising (particularly for women), and more young people have moved to cities and take up non-agricultural employment. Similarly, our social values have changed immensely — young people getting married today tend to see their marriages as a union of love between two equals. How many women today have “obey” in their wedding vows? Would any of this have been true, even 100 years ago? 50 years ago? 25 years ago?
    Language fluency is not enough — it must be accompanied by analysis of history and anthropology. Otherwise, our attempts to understand the literal meaning of ancient texts are for naught.
    But I digress…
    My bigger (but briefer) point is this: What exactly is the “gay lifestyle?” I’m gay, and I keep hearing and reading all these references to it, and it sounds mysterious, alluring and intriguing. My lifestyle tonight consisted of cooking dinner for my partner, while he works feverishly on his grad school coursework in public administration. In the morning, we’ll both get up, and go to work as mid-level professionals in suburban Washington DC. My friends … not so different. Maybe we’re just not gay enough???

  • Panthera

    Oh, Basil, sugah – how often have I heard that. From both sides.
    The irony of being attacked here because I am a gay Christian in a nearly quarter-century monogamous, faithful, true partnership that is now a legally recognized marriage (in the Civilized West, of course) has not escaped me.
    Until everybody hit forty or so, I got just as much nastiness from many folks on our team who considered marriage and monogamy something which only boring people did. We have to be fair and recognize that there was a lot of hostility, especially among the intellectual gays towards those of us who are monogamous and desire marriage. That has faded (funny what getting older and surviving an epidemic will do), but the religious Conservatives refuse to acknowledge anything but the most flamboyant Castro street excesses…pretending, of course, that Ms. Speers and Bourbon Street don’t exist.
    Sigilaris posted a very sad and very brilliant commentary on this a few weeks ago. It is, as you so aptly note, a case of those who abuse the Bible and Christianity to maintain domination. They have lost on women, Negros, the geocentric world view, the flat earth, torture being a useful adjunct to war, the imperial presidency, the chastity of priests…
    So now we are their line in the sand, if I may metaphors mix.
    (That was a joke, dear anal retentive types).
    I keep waiting for Rod Dreher to finally elaborate his views on just how, exactly, two men or two women or transgendered living together in faithful, loving, monogamous, true marriages (like mine!) are nihilistic and the ultimate culmination of the leftist-sexual-revolution.
    Beats me. My gay lifestyle involves teaching, grading, reading, cleaning house, cooking, taking care of the animals (I love that stereotype most of all – the one about how we are all effeminate prissy sissies. I wonder how long the conservative Christians spewing their hatred over post after post after post here would survive holding someone’s leg while their hoof is being scraped and this 17 hand someone thinks you are the most comfortable place to lean their weight they’ve ever known…)
    Its sad. It’s false witness. It is a useful lie, just as the one we see around here frequently that women are responsible for getting raped.
    Far more serious, however, is the charge that you can not be gay and a Christian. This wrong on so many levels. Usurping God’s authority for oneself is a pretty big sin, to put it mildly. Second, this lie has been the justification for all the horrible things Christians have done to women (witches!), Jews and gays throughout the centuries. The Nazis built their hatred on exactly the same basis, I see no difference, except that the American conservative Christians weren’t quite able to see the power. Almost, but not quite.
    Context matters. I have lived my whole life between two cultures – when some fool here lectures me on how I don’t understand life in the Deep South, I just want to say, “bless your heart”, God made you yankees, too. Living in a country which grants women, transgendered and gays human rights (such as marriage), and seeing that we have a lower abortion rate, crime rate, fewer children growing up in poverty and our divorce rate is lower than that of American Evangelical Christians, I do, again wonder, just what part of our society is nihilistic and destructive?