Editor's Note: This article is part of the symposium, "What Is Progressive Christianity?" presented by the newly launched Patheos Progressive Christian Portal and in partnership with the Wild Goose Festival (June 23-26). Like us on Facebook to receive today's best commentary on Progressive Christianity.
On his well-trafficked blog, John Shore shouted this clarion call: "The bottom line on the whole gay/Christianity issue is that, in an astonishingly short period of time (yay Internet!), we have reached Ye Oldyee Tipping Poiynte. And that seesaw will only continue to further tip in the direction it is now. Which (let's face it) is to the left."
Before we can accept John at his word, let's shore up the evidence to see if in fact, he proves to be spot on or is spouting hot air.
So far, 2011 has proven to be a watershed year for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) rights and faith communities. A few highlights:
- For the first time in Gallup's tracking of the issue, a majority of Americans (53%) believe same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid.
- The same week that the evangelical social justice organization Sojourners rejected a gay welcome ad, the PC(USA) joined forces with the UCC, Episcopal, and ECLA churches by voting in provisions to allow for the ordination of non-celibate LGBT clergy.
- Chicago's Episcopal and Lutheran bishops unveiled new policies for those clergy wanting to officiate at same-sex civil unions, a conversation one finds transpiring across the pond.
- Over 1,900 people attended the 10th anniversary of the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, the largest trans specific event in the world. A number of sessions at this conference focused on religion and spirituality within the trans community.
- On a more anecdotal level, the Barna Group's observation in 2007 that 91 percent of young adults are leaving the churches because they perceive Christianity as "anti-gay" proves to be in line with the myriad of conversations I've had with people over this past year. (Note: I use Barna Group's stats with a bit of caution. Clearly they have a vested interest in pushing their products, which are designed to save a dying church. Also, they need to change the wording from "Christian" to "U.S. evangelical" as often their findings don't coincide with what's happening on the ground in global Christian contexts.)
With this cultural shifting toward acceptance of LGBT people among people of faith comes the understandable pushback from Reformed evangelicals like Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll. These missional men remain determined to stand up for traditional biblical values even though this "tradition" goes back to the Second Great Awakening at best. These cultural relativists base their analysis on a few select Bible verses that theologian James Allison calls the "clobber texts." They seem to be oblivious to the church's sordid history of employing very select Bible verses out of context to condemn women and people of color as inferior beings. Now anyone who espouses such outdated thinking gets called out on the carpet, and rightly so. Also, this worldview appears to disregard the myriad of discoveries from science, psychology, theology, and other disciplines that informed changing attitudes toward LGBT people.