Michael Brown responds to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Are evangelicals obsessed with homosexuality?

On Tuesday, I posted a link to a column in the Washington Post by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about a debate he had with Michael Brown, head of the FIRE School of Ministry, regarding the topic: Is Homosexuality America’s Greatest Moral Crisis? I did not watch the debate since I read up on the Rabbi and believed I already agreed with him. I have had many discussions with Michael Brown and those affiliated with him and know we are far apart.

After I published the post, Dr. Brown contacted me saying that the Rabbi had misrepresented him and the debate. Just this afternoon, the Washington Post published Brown’s rebuttal and I agreed to post a link to it in the interest of fairness. I have no plans to watch the debate to fact check. Interested readers can read both sides and decide whether or not to invest the 3 hours. From Brown’s post:

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is not only “America’s most famous rabbi” and my frequent opponent in public debates. He is also a dear personal friend, which is why I was more than a little mystified to see his editorial, published one day after our November 1 debate.

The title of that debate, as proposed by Shmuley but not to my liking, was, “Is Homosexuality America’s Greatest Moral Crisis?” In my opening comments, I answered this question in the negative, stating that America’s greatest moral crisis was certainly not homosexuality but rather the lack of the knowledge and consciousness of God, because of which every area of society suffered.

I also explained that what two gay men did in private was between them and God and was certainly not our greatest moral crisis, and I stated emphatically that rampant heterosexual divorce had done more to destroy marriage and family than all the gay activists combined. I then addressed the church’s sins against the LGBT community, for which I have publicly apologized a number of times. (Those reading Shmuley’s report on the debate would not have a clue that I made any of these statements.)

Boteach made the case that evangelicals now put too much emphasis on winning the culture war against gays. Brown disagrees:

As to the alleged evangelical obsession with homosexuality (an accusation raised through the debate by Shmuley), I asked the almost entirely evangelical audience to respond to four questions: How many of them heard a sermon in the last year on the importance of marriage? Virtually every hand went up. The importance of devoting time and energy to the raising of their children? Same response. The dangers of sexual sin (and/or pornography)? The same response again. A sermon about gay activism? Not a single hand!

The truth be told, there is no “gay obsession” in evangelical churches, and, where pastors and leaders are concerned about the effects of gay activism, they are hesitant to speak up, lest they be branded intolerant bigots, homophobes, Hitlers, or jihadists, not to mention accused of inciting violence against gays.

While I mean no disrespect to his audience, I am not going to trust that they are a representative sample. I certainly disagree with Brown about the obsession of some evangelicals with homosexuality. Worldnetdaily is obsessed. Sally Kern said homosexuality was a greater threat than terrorism and certain evangelicals promoted Rallies for Sally. Brown’s contention seems odd when writing about a debate over homosexuality being the greatest threat to morality. About being labeled Hitlers, perhaps Brown does not read Bryan Fischer’s love notes to gays where he blames them for the deaths of 6 million Jews. In the name of Jesus, the American Family Association’s Fischer does some pretty good branding of his own. If such people are criticized sharply by gays, it is not hard to see why.

Here’s another example of how a focus on homosexuality has distorted social conservatism. The Family Research Council actually ran ads against LA Rep. Joseph Anh Cao, Vietnamese-American who voted against Obamacare because he was not convinced abortion funding was excluded from the bill. His pro-life position is firm and yet FRC ran ads against him because of Cao’s support for equal rights for gays. Guess who was elected in Cao’s district? His opponent, Cedric Richmond, a pro-choice Democrat. I wonder if NARAL sent FRC a thank you note.

  • http://www.askdrbrown.org Dr Michael L Brown

    Warren,

    Thanks so much for posting the link. I apologize in advance if I’m unable to respond to posts here, due to time constraints.

    I also encourage everyone to at least read the article in full, and better still, watch the debate, if possible, before drawing conclusions — and then have at it. (I’m sure I don’t need to encourage your readers to speak their minds.)

    The link to the debate is here:

    Michael

  • http://www.askdrbrown.org Dr Michael L Brown

    In case the link didn’t show, it’s here: http://askdrbrown.org/index.php?option=com_content&id=210.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Truly a waste of time and space, both here and in the Post. Brown is a master of doublespeak and obfuscation, which renders his debates unproductive and curiously boring. I guess I can sort of understand your desire to be “fair” by linking to his requisite rebuttal, especially since he would bug you to death via email if you didn’t.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Truly a waste of time and space, both here and in the Post. Brown is a master of doublespeak and obfuscation, which renders his debates unproductive and curiously boring.

    Worth repeating.

    Look, for example, at:

    How many of them heard a sermon in the last year on the importance of marriage? Virtually every hand went up. The importance of devoting time and energy to the raising of their children? Same response. The dangers of sexual sin (and/or pornography)? The same response again. A sermon about gay activism? Not a single hand!

    Sure that sounds impressive until you look at what is actually being asked. Have the congregants IN CHURCH heard sermons against homosexuality? No.

    But let’s ask a different question – the relevant question:

    How many of them heard a religious appeal to legislators or voters in the last year on the importance of marriage? The importance of devoting time and energy to the raising of their children? The dangers of sexual sin (and/or pornography)?

    The answer would undoubtedly be the same. NO political or social activism on these issues.

    But an Evangelical making a political or social appeal about gay activism? Everyone has heard one recently, probably today.

    But Brown’s real beliefs show right through. As opposed to “issues such as divorce, promiscuity, or materialism”, he believes that “Gay activism presents a serious moral threat to America in that it seeks to undermine the traditional family.”

    And it is this skewed priority, the bizarre blaming of a tiny percent of the population for the flaws of the vast majority that proves to any objective observer that Micheal Brown, at least, is truly obsessed by the issue of homosexuality and so much so that he has lost the ability to be objective as to its importance.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    I’m going to view the debate first.

    Sorry, I think that’s not optional, if I’m going to comment, it’s mandatory. Not only that, but I will try not to be prejudiced by Warren’s article. I may fail of course, but I have to try my hardest, or betray my own principles.

  • Jayhuck

    Zoe,

    Just so you know, some of the people on this blog have had endless talks, debates, what have you with Mr. Brown, to the point they could probably tell you word for word what he will say in the debate.

    I commend you for our principles – I really do. I would honestly need to see it myself before trying to make any sort of substantial comment here. But I also believe that some of the people on this thread – I won’t name names ;) – probably don’t need to hear Dr. Brown speak – yet again – to know what he said and/or why he said it. And I don’t blame them.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    I’ve just seen the debate, and have been reminded once again why I’m not a Christian.

    You see, if I were, I’d have to agree with Dr Brown. My reading of scripture is largely in accordance with his – and that leads to absurdities, cruelties, and fanaticism, all with the best of intentions. In fact, I’d go further: 1 Timothy 12 clearly states the inferiority of women, and Dr Brown doesn’t go that far – an inconsistency. I find his reasoning there flawed, because it’s the exact opposite of what he preaches regarding homosexuality. Other verses countenance slavery – similar deal. As for the Cosmology of the Old Testament, it’s mere superstition.

    It’s obviously possible to be Christian and not keep slaves, or suppress women, or even condemn homosexuality. Many manage all three, all but a handful at least the first. They pick and choose which parts of scripture to adhere to, and which to discard, based on some convoluted apologia – excuses for the gnosis they have – or just the plain gnosis itself. Muslims have to do the same, only more so. As do Jews, for much of the Talmud is humanising the inhuman demands of a vengeful G_d who’s like a spoilt brat.

    “By their fruits shall ye know them”, and I’ve met good people who believed the most outrageous nonsense, from Mormons to Hare Krishnas, and have made the world around them a better place, by such picking and choosing – not that many would admit that.

    Yes, the literalists do look like Fanatics. That’s because they are, they have to be, as would I in their shoes. But I made the choice: to either be like that, or to adhere to just two texts: Matthew 22:39-40, and 1 Corinthians 13.

    What’s important is not what the world thinks, nor whether one will win the battle of ideas. What’s important is Integrity, to be correct. In that respect, I’m a Fanatic too, just as inflexible as the most rigid Calvinist.

    That’s scary. I hope I do no harm because of it.

    What a wonderfully infuriating man, who does so much unwitting harm while seeking with his whole heart to do good. In so many ways an inspiration to me, yet like a bull in a china shop.

  • Debbie Thurman

    Zoe, you probably have more patience than any of the rest of us. I honestly don’t think I can find three hours to watch that debate. Would it even be worth it to watch any at all? Sigh. I think many of us are pretty sick of debating, anyway.

    You have made some astute observations, I think. If Christianity is so hard to grasp by a believer and a follower of Christ, how could anyone on the outside hope to grasp it, either? There are seeming contradictions in Scripture aplenty.

    What’s important is not what the world thinks, nor whether one will win the battle of ideas. What’s important is Integrity, to be correct.

    Yes. Quite true.

    Woe unto the person who tries to follow me, thinking he/she is following Christ! As long as I point others to Christ, himself, I am doing all I can. Otherwise, I am a miserable failure.

  • http://www.askdrbrown.org Dr Michael L Brown

    For the record, the debate is under two hours in length.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    I also think it’s worth watching, and that without watching it, going to the primary source, one’s comments have to have far less value.

    Look at what was said, not what I or anyone else said was said.

    I do wish a written transcript was available though, so I could easily quote from it.

    I think that’s what is needed is to stop talking past each other. Dr B makes some points that need addressing. We should address them.

    He also ignores all the points we make though. I can’t blame him if we do the same. What is most vexing is that, while making good points about freedom of religion, he completely ignores the continuing political persecution by evangelical “christians” (scare quotes intended) that outweighs it by 1000:1. He strains at a gnat (a very real gnat that should be dealt with) while swallowing vast herds of camels. In order to get him to see those camels, we need to deal with the gnat first. Then, hopefully, he’ll “get it”. That what he’s doing out of blindness is completely against his own principles.

    At the same time, we must keep open minds ourselves. What if it is we who are wrong? We should not make it an “us vs them” deal. If I’m so very correct, then the mountains, the whole continents of evidence will show that. Perhaps by showing such open-mindedness ourselves, we’ll get others to do the same. We’re bound to learn something, anyway.

    Ok, I’m tilting at windmills. But I wouldn’t try this on some – Peter LaBarbera for example, or George Rekers.

    And it is only 2 hours not 3.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    When I started, back in 2005, with my unusual transition, I firmly believed in a gender binary. Just as many who haven’t had any formal education believe that the Earth is flat. That’s what everyday experience says.

    The evidence though doesn’t support that hypothesis. All the conclusions I’d come to regarding “Men are men and women are women”, all my right-wing political beliefs based on that, were confronted with facts that contradicted them.

    I took a lot of convincing. I’m not a weathervane, blowing willy-nilly. But there was too much to ignore, and since then, far more still.

    I’d really like to be in the HBS crowd, asserting my “true” womanhood in a binary world, as opposed to all those icky transgenders, queers, cross-dressers, fetishistic transvestites, and gay men. Living in a black-and-white world, with no shades of grey, that is so much easier and more comfortable.

    Biology is not like that though. While I fit quite neatly into a gender binary, biologically I shatter the concept, I don’t just bend it. While certain parts of my brain are utterly feminine, more so than with most women, other parts are more masculine than most men, and other parts still just plain weird, the same as with many transsexuals, even though technically I’m Intersexed. That’s what the data says, like it or not. I’m not real thrilled by it, but facts are facts.

    This is a very personal issue to me. I defy anyone to have their body naturally change from looking like one sex to looking like the other without facing some really challenging questions about their personal identity. It was only because I never for a second truly believed, deep down, that I was male, not since age seven, that I coped with it like a duck taking to water. If I hadn’t been transsexual, and strongly so, I think I would have died.

    I’m just not a very female female. A Geek girl, a tomboy. All the grace of a baby hippo.

    Anyway… when someone quotes scripture about “God made male and female”, asserting a factual basis for a strict gender binary, from scripture that also states the stars are affixed to a beaten metal shield keeping the waters above out…. then as both a Rocket Scientist and a researcher on the science of sex and gender, I can’t let either pass.

    As a human being whose mere existence shows a strict gender/sex binary cannot be true (much as I would like it to be), then just by existing, I’m an Activist. As the strict binary is the whole basis for the theory of why homosexuality is wrong, sinful etc, I undermine that belief merely by being.

    In order to maintain that belief, people have to ignore my existence. I get put in the “too hard” basket. Even by Dr B. I, and people like me, have to be ignored, with mumbles of “consequences of the fall” or some other such thin apologia.

    Ironically, I look on myself as being just another woman. Not androgenous, not neutrois. But I know many people far less biologically mixed than I am who are androgenous, or neutrois, or who are women with male bodies, or men with female ones.

    It’s not as if scripture doesn’t mention people like me, in the first line of Matthew 19:12. It’s not as if there aren’t whole tracts in the Talmud about Androgenous and TumTum, and the arcana of deciding the “true” sex of the latter.

    And it’s not as if St John Christosoam didn’t use the word controversial word “malikoi” – not in his homophobic tracts, but in ones about the unManly, cultured, Metrosexual Jews. Those who treated their wives as equals, not cattle as “real men” do. It means “Fop”, “Dandy”, adorned. “Gay” only in Chaucerian terms, not today’s.

    For to tellen yow of his array

    His hors were goode but he was nat gay.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Zoe

    They pick and choose which parts of scripture to adhere to, and which to discard,…

    Yes, or at least which parts to prioritize and which to minimize. We all do it. As, indeed we should.

    Christians do not worship the Bible – or at least should not worship the Bible (many do) – but rather worship God. The Bible is a tool to get to know God. And like all tools, it can be applied usefully or it can destroy.

    I think the important thing is to distinguish between those who know that they use the Bible as a guide and an instruction (but not a textbook or rulebook) and those who have convinced themselves that they are “Bible believing Christians” while they jump in circles trying to be consistent.

  • Debbie Thurman

    Zoe and Timothy, I didn’t come here early today expecting to see these last two comments. But I have read them carefully. They are well worth reading and taking to heart. And Zoe, you even found my Chaucerian soft spot. :)

    Zoe, I am not aware of anyone like you speaking up on these issues today. Thanks for what you’ve shared here. There’s nothing wrong with having our paradigms stretched now and then. We tend to accept whatever foundational beliefs have meaning for our lives (as Timothy implied). Yet the universe is vast and often mind-boggling.

    I think anyone who is truly honest about the vastness of it all eventually comes to a place where the need to have every question settled simply vanishes. Meaningful relationship, primarily that possible between man and God (for Christians through the person of Christ), then, becomes the chief aim of life. Illumination comes bit by bit. But seeking him and knowing him overrides all other needs. At least, that’s the way is is turning out for me. The inner life grows sweeter with the passage of time. It’s the one frontier that beckons irresistibly.

    Meanwhile, here in the metaphorical demon-possessed valley of day-to-day existence, life never stands still, and we must contend with it as best we can. I hear my savior saying, “Come higher.” It’s a process. For many years, he could only say to me, “Come to me just as you are.” It was so very hard at times. I hated who I was.

    Now, all I can say for certain is Jesus is real and I love him. I contend with “truth.” I try to sort out the wheat from the chaff, as we all do. When you read the Bible with much of life behind you and through the Christ-relationship prism, it reads differently. It speaks resoundingly at times. And it’s an individual thing for us all.

    And yes, I too believe Jesus had valid things to say to you, Zoe. I think he wanted us to contend, in a thinking way, with the truth. But he gave us so much more to do it with than mere human tools.

  • Jayhuck

    Wow – I just watched the video and I have to say the Rabbi was wonderful. He laid the blame, the ENTIRE blame for marriage as an institution failing at the feet of heterosexuals. His voice was loud and passionate, but his arguments were wonderfully convincing! Its hard not to see how Evangelical Christians are not obsessed with homosexuality – not to mention all the reasons Warren pointed to above that point to the same conclusion

  • Jayhuck

    Debbie,

    Now, all I can say for certain is Jesus is real and I love him. I contend with “truth.” I try to sort out the wheat from the chaff, as we all do. When you read the Bible with much of life behind you and through the Christ-relationship prism, it reads differently. It speaks resoundingly at times. And it’s an individual thing for us all.

    I could not agree more! Wiser words….

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