These are the phrases that I heard yesterday. They were descriptions of gay people from the mouths of Christians with a “traditional” sexual ethic.
They came from two different sources. And as I listened to each the damaging message of traditional Christian sexual ethics became more clear. So let me be so bold as to speak for God.
God does not see you as a defective purchase. God is not hoping that the warranty is still good so that He can swap you out for a better model. God is not frustrated that your wiring is keeping you from running properly.
When God looks at you God does not see a problem to fixed or a broken machine to be returned. God sees God’s own face reflected in yours. God sees a beloved child.
Q: When a Conversation Isn’t
Over the past week or so I have been listening to the Q podcast on “The Gay Conversation.” Like many others, my expectations were set by the cast of characters they promised to be giving voice to. Justin Lee and David Gushee would be joining the traditionalists.
Not so much.
The first big clue that the podcast was going to be a pep rally / apologetics course for traditionalists was that the show is co-hosted by two straight white guys with traditionalist sexual ethics. That clue has played out in spades.
There is no presentation of competing views that’s not immediately met by a deconstruction and assurance to the faithful that “what the church has always believed” is still the Christian position.
There’s no engagement with the fact that there are now different Christian positions.
But here’s the really insidious thing about it: the hosts have postured themselves as offering a kinder, gentler traditionalist position. Have gay people been wounded by the church? Yes of course–that’s why we need to hold our position with more grace!
Nice guys who go on to say that Gene Robinson has no business being personally offended that the Catholic church says he is inherently disordered. “We’re all inherently disordered,” chuckles your straight white dude host who has never in his life been excluded from any position of church leadership due to his alleged sharing in this common human condition.
The episode I listened to yesterday finished with Tim Keller’s fundamentalism leaking out from his nice-guy statesman suit. What do you do when a gay couple want to join your church?
Well, this is a matter of serious “pastoral” concern. Hopefully you haven’t made being anti-gay your church’s main message, but if someone comes to the point of joining and doesn’t know yet that you’re anti-gay, then you haven’t done your job!
In other words: you can’t join if you a partnered gay person.
In case you don’t know what this means for someone in a Presbyterian (PCA) church it’s this: You’re not a Christian.
I got to the end of that episode, with Keller suggesting that God demands that families be broken up in the name of Jesus, and my gnawing suspicion could stepped into clear light: the traditionalist position is inherently destructive to gay people.
The straight white guys in suits don’t offer a kinder, gentler alternative. In the end, they will never tell you the most important thing that God has to say about you: You are God’s beloved child. Or if they do, it will be with some sort of qualifying footnote.
Julie Rogers: No Longer Celebrated
Yesterday Julie Rogers told her story of being resigned at Wheaton.
(Aside: Phil Ryken, the president of Wheaton, has been instrumental in creating a culture of forced resignation at Westminster Seminary, my alma mater. It happened there so much, starting with Pete Enns, that a few of us decided that “resign”(sometimes “retire”) needs to be deployed sometimes a transitive verb. It’s what bully administrators do to troublesome (read: intellectually and/or socially competent) faculty.)
The story was as gracious and incisive as it was painful.
The short version: Wheaton hired her because they wanted someone who was gay, who would also uphold their community standards, who would be able to minister to sexual minorities.
The whole set up reminds me of something a black friend of mine once said about a church I was attending: “The pastor wants this to be a multi-ethnic white church.”
Wheaton wants to be a multi-ethnic white Republican school, as we learned over the past couple months with Dr. Hawkins. And now we learn that Wheaton, for a few moments, wanted to be a multi-sexuality straight school.
It’s not enough that someone agrees to live by a certain sexual ethic (despite the fact that this is what such codes will say). A person has to adopt the entire, conservative, heteronormative script.
What script is that?
If you’re gay, don’t talk about it.
Don’t use “gay” as an adjective. (Heck, that’d be like a straight white dude going around saying, “I’m a porn addict Christian,” right? Because the desire for a lifelong committed romantic partnership is like getting off on pictures on my computer or stealing from the corner liquor store or killing babies.)
In fact, since you’re gay, don’t talk. At all. Well, at least where no one can hear you.
Pray for healing so that you can live the “normal” life “God” wants for you. You’re broken. Let’s hope there’s a warranty repair in your future.
Straight traditionalist white dudes, however nice they might come off in personal conversation, showing that they are incapable of life-giving posture toward even a celibate gay person. And showing, as Rogers rightly concludes, they demonstrated that they did to just fear “the sin” they feared the person.
Love needs to cast that out. Those students she was called to minister to?
These students do not need to hear there’s a chance they might be tolerated. They need to be celebrated.
Yes. That. They do not need to hear that God has them back in the bag to take back to the store in hopes of something better. They need to hear that they are beloved and celebrated members of God’s family.
But what about all those other gay Christians who are living their celibate lives and finding life there?
First, Christ who went to the cross calls us to follow on that way. What this means is that it is never my place to tell someone who is following Jesus in the way of death that they are wrong to do so. If that’s Christ’s summons for a person, I am there for them, to support and celebrate that decision and help make the impossible possible.
But what this also means is that it is never my place to put that cross on someone else. Even though the result might be the same, there is all the difference in the cosmos between playing the part of the crucified Christ and playing the part of the crucifying centurion in this script. It is the difference between heaven and hell, between the divine and the satanic.
Second, the fact that some people thrive in a situation of oppression is no argument for its continuation. I know hundreds of women who find their way around patriarchal churches with their spirits uplifted and hands put to good work. And yet I believe that any church that requires male leadership is dehumanizing to both the caged women and the exalted males.
I have heard too much, I heard too much yesterday, to trust that the church as a whole is capable of being the kind of place that can be the good news to gay people while clinging to the idea that the gender of their desired partners is inherently disordered and broken.
Because the word of God to humanity must first and always be, “I love you.”
The narrative that says, “God so hated the world that he gave his only Son because he couldn’t stand to look at us” is no good news. It’s no good news because it creates a people who look at one another and, having learned from God, hate the world in their own turn. In theory it means we’re all hateful.
In the real world where some have power others don’t, it means that those who are not like me are stuck in that hate while my people get to rest in the words of comfort.
In the real world it means that my people are working well enough to have the desires of their heart.
In the real world it means that I get to pay lip service to “my own sexual brokenness” while nonetheless indulging my sexual appetites all the while seeing to it that your sexual brokenness keeps you from indulging yours.
In the real world it means that God carries me in God’s arms to show me I’m loved and takes you up for a trip to the exchanges and returns counter.
That’s not my God. That’s not my story.
I would rather stand on the outside with my gay sisters and brothers than be wrapped into a family like that. If dad’s raging mad, then we kids need to stick together.
But I also think that when we start counting noses out here in the cold we’ll find that Jesus is where he always was: on the outside with the outsiders. Confirming that the most maligned are the most dearly loved. Reminding us that whoever that is guarding the walls and keeping the house safe, it sure as hell isn’t his Dad or ours.