9.5 Theses for a New Reformation

4.  Even the Reformers did not treat all biblical verses as having the same interpretive weight. To me, sola scriptura means that all things necessary for salvation are contained in Scripture, but our Reformation ancestors never intended for all verses of the Bible to carry the exact same interpretive weight as the others. For example, Luther described the Letter of James as an "epistle of straw," and even Calvin recognized that the ceremonial law has been "abrogated" in use. Thus, I do not understand why anti-gay evangelicals are so obsessed with the half-dozen or so passages in scripture that purportedly prohibit same-sex acts (e.g., Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1), when there is so much richness throughout in the Bible that affirms the goodness of the self-giving love -- including deeply loving relationships, both sexual and non-sexual -- that I have seen in a decade of ministering to the LGBT community.

5.  True proponents of "family values" would not preach and teach values that drive families apart. Although evangelical Christians often profess that "family values" are at the heart of their Biblical ethics, the fact is that their anti-gay preaching and teaching continues to tear families apart by driving a wedge between Christians and their LGBT children, siblings, parents, and friends. This is especially true with families of color (e.g., African American, Latino/a, and Asian American families) in which the Christian faith is a central aspect of their culture and day-to-day existence. For example, in my own ministries with LGBT Asian Americans who grew up in a Christian household, I have seen an incredible amount of pain within such families that is attributable to the anti-gay evangelical condemnation of LGBT people. If family values are so important, then why can't we take families more seriously by encouraging families with openly-LGBT members to stay together and not break apart?

6.  If the uncircumcised and unclean Gentiles could be accepted just as they were through the work of the Holy Spirit, then so can LGBT people. A main theme (if not the main theme) of the Book of Acts and Pauline letters such as Galatians and Romans is the evangelization of the Gentiles in the early Church and the amazing breadth of God's love for all people. I think that anti-gay evangelicals often forget that many early Christians were scandalized by the fact that uncircumcised people and those who did not follow the Levitical dietary laws could be Christians. In fact, we modern-day Christians often forget that we are the heirs to Peter's and Paul's outreach to the Gentiles through the work of the Holy Spirit. So why are not LGBT people simply a new kind of Gentiles? Why can't we treat same-sex acts in the same way that Peter and Paul treated circumcision and the dietary laws? Perhaps it is time for a new Council of Jerusalem, which was the apostolic council held around 50 C.E. and described in Acts 15, that concluded that neither circumcision nor adherence to the dietary laws was necessary for Gentiles to be saved.

7.  True repentance only occurs as a result of understanding how deeply we are loved, yet Christian evangelicals often fail to show that kind of love to LGBT people. As Christians, we know that we cannot understand the depth of our sinfulness -- that is, the degree to which we turn away from God and neighbor -- until we realize how much we are loved in the first place. Only in knowing that we are loved by God, through revelation and/or reason, are we able to experience true repentance or metanoia. It seems to me that there is plenty for all of us to repent for beyond same-sex acts. In fact, by treating same-sex acts as a litmus test for Christian faithfulness, anti-gay Christians inadvertently place a stumbling block before LGBT people by failing to show them the unconditional love that leads to true metanoia.

8.  Focusing on the "sinfulness" of same-sex acts obscures the true meaning of original sin. To me, the heavy emphasis on the sinfulness of same-sex acts actually cheapens the doctrine of original sin and the fallenness of all people. In other words, it seems to me that anti-gay evangelicals fall into the exact same trap that Paul sets up for the Jewish Christians in Romans 1. Anti-gay evangelicals are so busy condemning LGBT people that, just like the Jewish Christians to whom Paul is speaking, they fail to see that all are fallen, which is the point of Romans 2 -- and the primary point of Paul's theology of salvation by grace. I believe that focusing less on the sinfulness of same-sex acts and more on the universality of original sin would actually honor the doctrine of sin as understood by Augustine, Calvin, and others in the reformed tradition.

9.  In this case, hating the "sin" is hating the sinner. I have written elsewhere about the fallacy of "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" with respect to LGBT people. For most of us, being LGBT is such an important part of our identities -- especially given how we experience God's love most strongly through LGBT people and relationships -- that to condemn our sexuality is the same as condemning the individual. Imagine being straight in a gay world but never being able to admit that you are sexually active or that you desire and/or have an opposite-sex spouse, straight children, and other straight friends. Would you experience that world as merely hating the sin or hating the person? I suspect most people would experience the latter.

4/26/2010 4:00:00 AM